Life Notes 2


August 20, 2017

Joined Dav, Louis, Millie and Sue for brunch at COOH, an organic restaurant in Alexandria. While the others had variations on bacon, eggs, zucchini fritters and the like, I went for rose scented rice pudding, served with poached pear, pomegranate and pistachios and was glad I went for it, lots of favourite flavours in there. Went back to Dav’s for a while, then on to see Wind River, a chilly snow-filled crime movie set in an American Indian community. We went to Black Star to pick up a couple of quick things to bring home for dinner and ended up giving half to a man sleeping rough in a cold doorway on King St. His reply to the offer of food was ‘as long as you can’t eat it’ which I thought was generous in the extreme, sadly reflecting the fact that he only felt deserving of what we didn’t need.

This blog post has had to be renamed Life Notes 2 as its earlier version has apparently reached its limit and wouldn’t accept another word, but my blog wizard sussed out the cause, I gave it a rename and hey presto. Gosh it was 80,000 words so I guess that seems fair. 

August 21, 2017

Another milestone reached today, John drove his car for the first time since June 15 when he got sick this time. He went up to see Bob, who told him the latest CRP is 63, one more than I predicted last week, but still 28 points down on the last test a week ago. Bob is all in favour of John avoiding surgery if at all possible. He then went to see Dunkirk, which I avoided due to the good chance of my getting sick watching all those scenes of small boats on choppy seas. I spent the morning making cumquat marmalade, six bottles thereof, from the fruit I was given by the antique dealer in Jamberoo, pity I can’t give him a jar. Kenneth rang from Halifax tonight and twice suggested I was overdue for a visit, I know, I know.

August 22, 2017

Great lunch at The Grounds in the City in George St with our New Zealand pals Mary and David who are over for a few days. The food, atmosphere and company were all tops. I was enamoured of the cake trolley that they were wheeling around and was planning on a dessert but they didn’t bring it while I was having my pot of tea, obviously and correctly deciding that I had had well enough lunch already. It is a pity we are so far apart as I love them dearly, but it does make the times we get together extra special. We went in on the bus and John coped ok but was pretty tired at the end of it, we will try going in to the hospital the same way on Thursday. Toast for tea tonight I think.

August 23, 2017

One of those days when you are discombobulated and can’t quite work out why. Well, I can partly work it out, in that we tried again to get my printer to work after months of its non- cooperation. A trip by John to Cartridge World where I bought it resulted in a decision that the cartridges had dried out over those months and if I replace them, at some cost, the thing may not work anyway……but I could get a new one for $89. Stuff it, how often do I print now anyway? Hardly ever, so I decided not to have one at all. I just lose one more piece of nuisance-causing technology, that’s a bonus I decided. The other annoyance was setting up the invitation template for my 70th party and feeling very clever, only to have it revert at the end to the details on the sample, Audrey is having a 60th party in August isn’t a lot of help to the invitees. Small cheese, I know, but two tech problems in one day are two too many. Anyway I made a cake to put me in a better mood and it worked, an upside down cake with raspberries in the bottom, or on the top, depending on when you look at it.

August 24, 2017

John felt well enough to go to town on the bus, a much more relaxing journey when we were going out tonight as well. We saw Ian Wong and he was pretty pleased, though the CRP result wasn’t in yet from pathology. He said he is ‘afraid to reduce the strong antibiotics yet, just in case’ and gave him another month on the high dose before he starts to taper it down, assuming good progress of course. We feel he is on our side re avoiding surgery and will continue to do his best.

Then we had dinner in town before going to the City Recital Hall to hear Bob singing in the Philharmonia Choir. It was a program of Ralph Vaughan Williams, not one my favourite composers I have to say, but the orchestra and choir were excellent. As much of it was in old English and the program didn’t give the libretto, it would have been useful to have surtitles like the opera, but I will attempt to find the libretto online. I did grasp one piece about a funeral service for a pet sparrow killed by a cat, so that’s a start. Bob organised us a ride home to the door with him and two friends, so that was a big help as by then John had had enough of walking.

August 26, 2017

What to say about yesterday? I discovered that my discombobulation of earlier in the week was not with technology in general but with the party invitation in particular. I worked  this out when John asked in the morning if I would like him to speak at the party and I froze at the thought, then wasted the rest of the day under the bell jar, only to emerge once I’d ‘decided’ to cancel the party altogether. This function represents a mine-field of conflicting emotions which I currently feel ill-equipped to handle. Then he brought in the single piece of mail, a letter from the Benevolent Society, the government appointed body for all things to do with adoption, which prominently featured their help line number. I  got a sudden insight into what could be going on and rang them, only to be told that the problem is a common or garden one for them, almost to be expected ‘What’s to celebrate about being born and immediately given away?’ as she put it, ‘That baby is still in there crying for its mother’. The bigger the birthday, the bigger the problem apparently. So next week I have an appointment, after all these years, to try to work the conflicting emotions into something positive. They have moved from Bondi, where I last saw them almost 20 years ago, to Hurstville. Where the dickens? Anyway, I will find them no doubt and only hope something positive emerges, and soon.

After making this appointment it was as if the bell jar were lifted by a giant hand, so late in the day I managed to make Parmesan Gougeres with a mushroom stuffing, which turned out looking fine but were strangely bland in the eating, despite lots of goodly ingredients. Michelle picked me up for book group with said gougeres and I tried the old ‘fake it till you make it’ routine which mostly worked and I had a great night discussing Tim Winton’s latest with wonderful friends who accept me, crumbling or not.

August 26, 2017

Planned to go to Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands today but my body had other ideas. Started to feel ill and got diarrhoea which has lasted all day, something I used to get regularly when I attempted to deal with adoption issues, that and migraine, which was banished by a few sessions of hypnosis 20 years ago. Perhaps I should have told the hypnotherapist about the diarrhoea at the same time, ha. Friends at Adoption Group used to congratulate me if I got half an hour into a meeting without getting one or the other, though over time it all resolved. Anyway I cosseted myself for the day and John cooked a lovely dinner tonight. Where on earth did I find this beautiful man?

August 27, 2017

Feeling pretty drab this morning but got my act together to go to Boris’s 80th birthday party in a function room at Macquarie Park. Caught up with Stephen  and sat with Teresa and her Stephen for lunch. Mostly Boris’s family, all his children and grandchildren, his sister Nina and all of her brood with a few Murrays thrown in. Jane asked about food for my do and offered to help, I didn’t disclose that the party is on a picket fence and balancing at the moment, but it is good to know that folks would be happy to help. I would like people to be here enjoying themselves, even if I need to do a bolt! Don’t think till Tuesday, that’s what I was told and what I keep trying to do, not always successfully.

August 28, 2017

John got a text last Friday reminding him of an appointment today for a 5 hour transfusion of immunoglobulin at Kinghorn, it was news to us. Apparently he is to have it monthly but no-one told us that, we had assumed the last time was a one-off. Yesterday we were talking to his niece Teresa, who has immunoglobulin for an auto-immune condition and she commented that she was glad her bottles were marked CSL, the Australian company, so she could be sure the blood wasn’t imported. Now tonight we settled down to watch 4 Corners, to our horror it was about poor Americans, mostly black, selling their plasma twice a week for $20 a pop, for conversion to immunoglobulin for export. Right there in Cleveland Ohio was the CSL collection centre, with its queue of hopeless black faces out the door. Another win for privatisation, making those whose lives are saved complicit in this filthy trade. In government hands this could never have happened. Sometimes you just want to sit down and sob, first for those poor souls and then in anger at those who make millions from their misery.

August 29, 2017

Took the looong drive to Hurstville to see the PARC counsellor Tricia, who looked very like my friend Michelle. She went over the well-known negative effects of adoption but said that I had found coping mechanisms at every age and will do again once I get over this hump. I have homework and a book to read ‘Adoption Healing’ by an American doctor who was himself adopted and specialises in helping others who were. She said we can talk over the phone next week and has scheduled another appointment in a fortnight, by which time a decision will have been made about the party of course. Hurstville was an eye opener, the main street hasn’t a single business without Chinese signage, sometimes exclusively, it was like being a tourist John said. I am not sure what the specials were at Lot Fuk supermarket, but we passed on them today.

August 30, 2017

Well something worked yesterday, because I suddenly said to John this arv ‘I think I will send those invitations out’ and did it before I had chance to change my mind. I will be fine on the night, or the day in this case, thanks to good friends and the initial hour and a half with Tricia.

I have loathed certain tastes my whole life: beer, gin, tonic water, coffee, dark chocolate, licorice, grapefruit etc etc. Reading an article this week about something altogether different, I discovered there is a genetic mutation on chromosome 7 which causes a violent reaction to certain chemicals such as N-Propylthiouracil in these foods. There is a test for it which I am now trying to procure online, filter papers impregnated with the chemical which you can either not taste at all or find ‘unbelievably vile’. I actually threw up at a dinner party decades ago when served a glass of Sambuca for the first and only time, if I test positive it will go some way to lessening the guilt of that memory! The folks with this mutation, that gave heightened sensitivity to bitterness, stood a good chance of avoiding death by plant poisoning and could warn others what to avoid. The test instructions say that if you are positive you should not repeat the test as it may have negative effects on those who react to it. Interesting in the extreme, at least to me, and too specific in the foods listed to be a coincidence I think.

August 31, 2017

One year today since I closed my shop down, it was 27 years of my life but strangely it feels as if it didn’t exist at all. Just memories of the people persist, hardly any of the many thousands of pieces that went through my hands. Though I miss many of the clients, I am so glad to be rid of Robert, the schizophrenic man who overstayed his welcome way too many times over the years and often threatened me on his bad days.

Met up with Michelle to go to a wonderful afternoon concert with the Sydney Symph at the Opera House. A terrific modern piece by John Adams was followed by the ‘Rach 2’ played by George Li who looked about 12, but is 22, and then in the second half by Symphony No. 5 by Prokofiev. You’ve got to love the Russian composers say I, harking back to the Tchaikovsky obsession of my youth. He and Tolstoy were primary reasons for travelling to the USSR in 1973 when I was lucky enough to visit his house and sit at his piano. We were in the choir stalls so had a very close view of the percussionists, of which there were six, who are very active in these pieces. I particularly love watching Richard Miller the kettle drum timpanist as his body language pre-empts the upcoming phrases of the music, so I shook his hand and told him so, one of many benefits of choir seating.

September 1, 2017

Put some party planning in place and talked again to the patisserie who are making the tiny tarts for me. It is fun now, but I know things could become difficult again, so I am making plans while the sun shines with some strategies in case of rain. Apart from that I just did a Windsor trip, visited Brian and then hooked up with my old Windsor librarian pal Mark, whom I don’t see nowadays as he was always on after I left the shop in the evening. He helped me source some Georgia Blain books, one I brought home and the rest on inter-library loans.

September 2, 2017

Pleased with myself for sorting some old shop leftovers in the store room, funny that I suddenly got enthused to do it exactly one year after I closed. I will take them to auction next week along with my 65 year old Sunbeam Mixmaster. More interested in getting new homes for them than earning any money.

Made a bread and butter custard with home made brioche to take to First Saturday at Michelle’s, the talk was on Sydney’s stained glass windows and was very interesting but somewhat affected by technical problems with the pictures. However it was great seeing everyone and it was a small intimate group which I always prefer.

September 3, 2017

John has decided to try moving back to Lane Cove to see how he goes. He is very keen to install the lighting system that he bought for his figurine cabinet just days before he got  septicaemia back in June. At least he has his neighbour Ann to help with any small tasks he can’t manage and I am only a phone call away. He dropped me off at Castle Hill so I could spend some time in the library and then walk home. I had cause to walk past Bob’s new surgery and realised how much I dislike it. It has a very long, slick, shiny, white and silver façade that makes it look like the home of one of those sleazy cosmetic surgeons with over-white teeth who feature in ads at the movies. The designer totally failed to match the façade and décor to the character of the practice, which serves families, the elderly, a cross section of Castle Hill folk. One would assume the clientele came with stilettos, Botoxed lips and triple D cups if taking a guess.

Frustration at the library when I tried to access my email on their computer only to be told by Hotmail, as I was last time in New Zealand, that I needed to prove my identity as I was on a different computer. After multiple tries I gave up, despite correctly answering my black cat’s name and numerous other questions. ‘You have failed to prove your identity’ it said. So, identity-less I am making garlic prawns for dinner, first time for 3 months as John doesn’t eat them, that meal soothes all things.

September 4, 2017

I woke this morning to another blackout, the third in as many weeks. Last one was many hours long so I decided to hop on the bus to town and was glad I did, as a message from my security company indicated power was still off at nearly 11am, I’m feeling like I’m back in India.

It was a good call as I spent the whole day at the Supreme Court at a fascinating murder trial. But before that, I headed over to the Federal Court across the road to see what was going down there and it was endless Obeids, must have been 9 or 10 of them, versus the Taxation Commissioner. No doubt there wouldn’t have been an Obeid in sight, but the court would have been full of their lawyers, so I decided it could be a bit dry. Then to the Supreme Court to sit in on the trial of three people for a drive-by murder, one who allegedly commissioned it and two as accessories, the shooter has been tried and convicted separately. It was so legally interesting that I stayed for the afternoon session as well. Justice Stephen Rothman, sitting alone, doesn’t miss a trick and bent over backwards to be fair to the witness who admitted serious drug-taking. She was a poor damaged soul and I could have folded her in my arms when she explained that she hadn’t reported her friend’s plan to kill the victim, ‘because I hate the police for beating me black and blue once when I was arrested for drugs’. No-one doubted that she was telling the truth.

September 5, 2017

Offloaded my items for sale at Bargain Hunt Auctions and now they are someone else’s problem. Unfortunately most of the remainder is just ‘box lots’ of oddments that will bring very little money and might be better given to the Sallies. I went on from there to Martha’s house just a few blocks away and spent the morning making flowers and leaves in buttercream icing. She had asked me months ago to go with her to cake decorating classes, but when they started John was too sick for me to leave him, so regretfully I had to pull out. Martha is generously teaching me the highlights of what she has learned and I came away with two cupcakes decorated with my best efforts.

I was thinking today about the trial I attended yesterday and how similar it was to the famous Medich one I followed months ago. In both of them there was an instigator who paid a hit-man to murder their victim, with a few accessories thrown in. In both, the shooter was quickly caught and rolled over to implicate the instigator. Medich managed to get a hung jury and will be re-tried next year, but I suspect this one, tried by a judge alone, will not be so fortunate. In the Medich case the hitman earned $500,000, but in the current one the killer only got $4000, the difference in value of a Mosman life over a western suburbs one I guess. Who needs a crime novel?

September 6, 2017

Yesterday was a big anniversary for us and we were going out to dinner tonight but John woke up with a cold and I feel as if I am (so far) successfully fighting one off, though I got so cold late this arv that I needed a hot bath. I emailed the restaurant to cancel and got a reply saying ‘I hope your husband get butter soon’, they must know how he takes his toast, a heart attack per slice. Started reading ‘Olive Kitteridge’ for book group and had three bouts of tears in chapter one, wonderful writing and sensitive empathetic depictions of character. Can I write like that next life please?

September 7, 2017

JMM woke up early with the shakes to the point of not being able to hold the phone, so what to do? Assume lymphoma and go to hospital? Assume infected knee and go to hospital? Consider it could be his cold and go to the doctor? We decided to be optimistic and do the latter, but with Bob away all this month we had to see one of his compatriots, happily a good one. The diagnosis was probable Influenza A or B and the treatment, a course of the antiviral Tamiflu, but the three local pharmacies we tried were out of stock, as the doc suggested they would be. He had told us to try Norwest Private Hospital and we scored there (traipsing from one drug dealer to another, it occurred to me how an addict feels). We got the last packet they had and I felt some guilt for the next person who turns up to be told ‘gosh, we just sold the last one’. Apparently if the flu test comes back as he expects on Monday I will need to take the damned Tamiflu as well, whether I have symptoms or not, but where I procure the stuff is anyone’s guess. So I packed my nurse’s apron and cap away a little too soon, but I told John he will look quite fetching in it if our circumstances are reversed next week.

September 8, 2017

Had a house day but a good one as the Tamiflu seems to be knocking JMM’s illness on the head and I am feeling ok so far. I cleaned the oven, virtuous I admit, finding the job not nearly as bad as expected and then was waylaid once more by Olive Kitteridge, reading great swathes out to John who isn’t up to reading himself as yet. Late today Dav and Louis were successful in a bid on an apartment in Erskineville, at the death knock before its auction tomorrow. Yippee Millie has a new bedroom, not to mention a courtyard to learn to ride a bike. LG, life’s good.

September 9, 2017

Sir continues to improve so life can start getting back to normal, whatever that is, I can’t remember. Spent some time in the library at Castle Hill and then went out to Windsor and did a shift serving dinner with Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands, the first since June. I was surprised when our boss lady called me by name and welcomed me back.  Generally speaking they are not a very congenial lot, you go there, do your shift and come home, no conversation. It was always thus, which I found surprising at the beginning, but now just accept. Luckily the clients are always friendly and will chat, tonight we had 38 men, women and children. One man complained to me that his birthday was last Wednesday and ‘I haven’t had a cake yet’ but I guess if you are homeless, as he is, it is a really big deal if you have seen others celebrated but you miss out. I hope someone does a cake for him tomorrow night.

September 10, 2017

Bussed in to the marriage equality march on my Pat Malone and stopped at Caffe Cino in the foyer of the Hilton for a snack as I know an army marches on its stomach. Each month they feature one ingredient and now it is asparagus, so I had a lovely asparagus and feta muffin, warm with butter, big enough to call it lunch for 6 bucks, with a pot of tea it was top value. I am always surprised that this little spot gets overlooked, it is a peaceful haven to read the papers, with friendly table service, nice simple food, people must see Hilton and equate it with expensive. Town Hall Square was packed and we stood for an hour supposedly listening to speeches but I couldn’t get close enough to hear, except for Bill Shorten who gave an old-fashioned loud tub-thumping speech. Huge crowd, estimated at 30,000, then a walk to Circular Quay and not a single counter-demonstrator in sight. Warm convivial crowd, as you would expect. YES !!!

September 11, 2017

Woke at 4am and slothed in bed till 5.45, getting up in the dark doesn’t do anything for me, but I was on the bus to town early as a result. Went to the Supreme Court for some more of the trial I am following but got a bit frustrated with the cross-examination which was nit-picking in the extreme, this is what barristers do when their client has no real defence, they just try to find minor irrelevant mistakes made by the witnesses. I didn’t grow up with Perry Mason without learning a trick or two! Later I went to the State Library and had a mosey around, upsetting an official on my way out when he searched my bag and found my water in it, but it was a bit late to get upset then and he should have been thankful it wasn’t a few rare books. It always amazes me walking past Chanel, Prada, Givenchy and the like that people are actually in there buying stuff, hell would freeze over before I did more than look in the window. Though I am not a brand-conscious person, I want something for next to nothing that looks good. Having said that I love my Prada glasses but I bought them because they were by far the most appealing ones in the optometrist’s shop, not because of the brand, in fact it was a bit embarrassing when I saw they were Prada.

September 12, 2017

It’s official, John has influenza A, so no wonder he is far from better yet. The doc he saw wants me to take the Tamiflu now and he did a script, but I am hesitant. You have 48 hours from start of symptoms to take it and I would do so immediately, but I would prefer to wait and hope I don’t catch it at all, rather than take a potent anti-viral for nothing. I have various commitments this week that he planned to be part of, but he needs to stay home and rest for now.

I got a parcel from Kenneth for my birthday with two books and two cards, one to Jean and one to Maureen, is there any wonder I’m a bit schiz with a choice of two names and then being a Libran on top? The books are ‘Yorkshire Dialect: A Selection of Words and Anecdotes from Yorkshire’ and Richard Dawkins’ ‘The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True’, neither of which I have read. Good choices K. my sweet.

September 13, 2017

Sydney traffic is getting to be so ridiculous that I can’t keep going places at peak hour, it really does me in. Yesterday I left at 8am for an appointment in a far-flung suburb and arrived late at 10.10am after a nightmare journey, today I left at 8 to go to Dav’s to mind Millie, it took 90 minutes, arriving at 9.30. Both places would have taken longer on public transport though, unlike going to the city which is a breeze. Millie greeted me casually with ‘oh, hello’ as if talking were an old skill she’s had forever. Dav is busy decluttering now they have exchanged contracts on a new apartment, they must get theirs ready for auction. So my car is piled high with ‘stuff’ that must find homes, clothes, baby gear plus a vege spiraliser and a pasta maker, both of which I have put first dibs on. Hopefully much of it will go via HHH as we often get women with babies needing help.

September 14, 2017

My friend Michelle came down and in a chat over a cuppa I realised once again what a generous accepting person she is. Some of her workmates are prisoners from Windsor Gaol, getting work experience before release and she speaks of them so fondly, without a hint of discrimination. She had been asked by her boss if she was afraid of a particular fellow who has ‘anger problems’, but she said no she was fine with him, so she got the job of teaching him the ropes. It sounded as if the boss was a wee bit scared actually. When I gave her a bag of clothes for her daughters to sort through she said she might take the rest in for ‘the girls’ to try on. An admirable woman with three equally admirable daughters, not a bad achievement.

September 15, 2017

Spring has well and truly sprung. The kids are leaping into the pool next door (brrr) and all my deciduous trees are covered in newborn leaves. After such a dry winter I find it hard to believe that they can find enough moisture to produce any leaves at all, but there you are, they have ways.

Today I decided to clear up some annoying little odd jobs so I went to the bank and asked them to remove an overdraft I don’t remember asking for, but perhaps did when the business was shaky, but when was it not shaky? Then to Optus to find out why I haven’t been able to get into my Optus email for the last two months, it was a mystery to them but they solved it eventually after a protracted call to head office. Searched for and found my pathology request for about 30 blood tests, this seems to happen every six months when I am due to see Dr Reeves, the path form is always missing in action. After such mundane pursuits I refreshed myself by making a peach, cumquat and coconut tart in time for afternoon tea and I must throw humility out of the window and say it was superb.

September 16, 2017

More overdue jobs knocked for six. Visited my friend and old employee Meriel at her retirement village, she is well over 80 now yet I found her gardening when I arrived, she was always a doer. Then bought a few herbs to renew my pathetic herb garden, perhaps if I watered it occasionally it would help. Organised my friendly moving guys to transport John’s Lay-Z-Boy chair down to Lane Cove, it is a hard call as he only ever seems to stay there for a short time before something brings him back, but I am looking on the bright side that he won’t get sick again now it is spring. I didn’t sign on for service at HHH tonight and there wasn’t really a good reason why, but then Dav rang and asked if I could come and stay the night to give them a chance to work on preparing the unit for sale tomorrow while I mind the princess who has come down with croup, so the universe had a reason up its sleeve. So here I am sleeping in Erskineville, once the lowest of low suburbs and now a mecca for the young and hip.

September 17, 2017

Couldn’t get to sleep till 2.30am for reasons that had nothing to do with comfort, I am just not good at getting used to new sleeping quarters. Up early and took the little miss for a walk in the pram, stopping at a park where she announced ‘me swing’, so me did. Beth arrived and we all got into huck-out mode while Millie slept, getting Davina’s place ship-shape before the photographers come. We four workers made quite a dent in the tasks to be done, first open house next Saturday. Grandma now beat.

September 18, 2017

The carriers came dead on 8.30am as forecast to take John’s chair, they are such reliable men. I was down revamping my herb garden when they came and they found me on hands and knees gardening, which gave them a false impression of my diligence but all to the good. I am so into spring at the moment, getting up much earlier than usual, I even sorted all my makeup and toiletries out today and put them neatly back in the drawer in little plastic boxes, deciding I need to finish one tube of moisturiser before opening another. Most were gifts and I have to try them, so I end up with heaps open and none finished, at least now I can see what I have.

Went over to Martha’s and offered her some of Millie’s baby stuff for refugees, something she eagerly accepted. Heaps more in my store room which I will find good homes for over time. More communication by email from Tricia the diligent counsellor who suggested another appointment in October, which I’ve agreed to but this time I am meeting her in the city which is a huge improvement over Hurstville.

September 19 and 20, 2017

Got sick suddenly on Monday night and thought I had swallowed a packet of Gillettes. John came over Tuesday morning armed with throat spray and gargle so with those plus cold and flu tablets I am surviving, though I spent yesterday in bed. Millie’s cold and not John’s flu is something to be pleased about for sure. Today I spent a few hours up but doing nought. The weight loss will be a nice side effect. Sniff, moan, groan, bed at 8.30pm and lucky to last that long.

September 21, 2017

Another wasted day, slothing in bed but it can’t be helped. Michelle C. came over with some pumpkin soup this arv and left it on my front porch, bless. I hadn’t eaten at all today so I had the soup for my lunch cum dinner at 4pm and it was the bestest pumpkin soup and thick enough that I could easily drink it out of a mug in bed. Stephen rang and we had a brief chat. John went to Dr Wong alone and he was pleased that his CRP has gone down to 38, the best yet, so he is now going on to 4 antibiotic tablets a day instead of the usual 8. Small mercies always welcome here.

September 22 and 23, 2017

Spent Friday abed once again, though I did get up briefly to speak to John the gardener, lest he think I were decaying inside the house. He had brought me a music CD after speaking to Michelle the day before and discovering I was at home ill and not out after all. I was pleased to see two particular emails amongst the dross, the first from Tom, my friend in Northern Ireland who was worried that I hadn’t been in touch for a while. We had planned to spend some time with them in Limavady on our way to see Kenneth this year, a journey that failed to take place due to John’s ill health. See you next year he said.

The second email was from from Lu (gender undetermined) a scientist I have been communicating with in Arizona for a few weeks regarding purchasing a test kit for propylthiouracil or PROP, the substance which will determine whether I have the TAS2R38 gene, also known as the supertaster gene. Emails have gone back and forth as the test kit seems unobtainable in Australia. I asked Lu if he/she could help me get one from the US and, bless his/her cotton socks, he/she is insisting on sending me one for free and is paying the postage, despite my protestations. He/she is convinced I have the gene and is interested in the result. As well as sensitivities to the taste of all sorts of foods and drinks, the gene concentrates the taste of other substances like salt and allows the person to taste otherwise ‘tasteless’ chemicals.

Went up to the doc’s today as I feel no better really and he thinks I have influenza, the definitive test will be back Tuesday. I sense slight improvement in the fact that I can relay that the doc was young and extremely good looking, now I wouldn’t notice that if I were close to moribund would I? Yes I probably would actually.

September 24, 2017

Must be improving as I was out of bed for the whole day and ate a slice of toast for both lunch and dinner. John came up and we sat on the front porch in cane chairs like a pair of olds, chatting but not doing anything. This has been the longest time we’ve been apart, due to his fear of infecting me, and it was like having a gentleman caller. He goes for transfusions all day tomorrow and it is the first time he has had to go there alone. I hope the next few days clears us both so we can get back to normal and actually do stuff. I have plenty to do but not the energy to do it, tomorrow onward and upward.

September 25, 2017

Flu? Poo! Starting to feel like a human again. Went up the street to buy my 6 king prawns for the usual Monday night dinner of garlic prawns, then didn’t cook them as it all seemed too much like a meal and had icecream instead. They will keep till tomorrow night. Good day, with a long call from Jane in the morning and a long visit from Heather in the afternoon, also a lovely card arrived from Eileen in America. Then saw that one of our homeless clients at HHH, in fact the one whose plight started the whole organisation, has finally been given a home at Plumpton this afternoon. Should I be happy that he got the home or angry that it took 6 years? Both I think.

September 26, 2017

It turns out the HHH client got a place in a boarding house, so not as home-like as first thought, but it beats the river. I sit here warm and safe counting my blessings. I seem to have gone backwards today, everything seemed to need more energy than I have right now. I see Georgia Blain’s latest book comes out next week, the one she wrote in the year before her death from a brain tumour, knowing her it will be a wonderful read.

Thinking a lot today about those who won’t be at my party, the many gay boys who were my whole social circle in my teens and 20s, all but two of whom didn’t survive the AIDS epidemic. Remembering our regular daytrips in a hired trailer bus (so the driver couldn’t hear our silly carry on, the boys were outside the law then). There were 25 boys and me, I was jokingly called the social secretary, setting up our trestle tables to share a potluck lunch, though camp pie and fairy cakes always sat at the centre, someone heading off to break a few branches into an artful table decoration. On the way home, tired and happy, we sang and sang and sang, usually operetta, never knowing what was just around the corner for us all.

September 27, 2017

Yea for feeling (nearly) normal. Got up at 6am and set to my list of tasks to prepare for Sunday, thankless ones like removing cocky poo from the deck rails and outside chairs to neat ones like buying the grog. My old shop bar fridge has swung into action to take some of the supplies. Achieved more than I expected over the day, with John here for practical and moral support. He is looking and feeling well at the moment, so perhaps we have turned the corner.

September 28, 2017

Got up at 3am intending to spend half an hour on the internet to tire myself and then going back to bed but soon it was dawn, sleeping is such a random thing. I think stirring up memories of the boys, plus other emotionally charged issues, kept me awake. I think the bile that passes for comment on gay marriage is so sickening and disheartening that it saps one’s spirit and certainly reduces faith in human nature. News that Phil is ill is concerning too, we can only cross our toes and hope, we are all travelling through a dangerous age health wise. Michelle W. and John D. came in the afternoon, it was the latter’s birthday, he is a good soul, working away on my garden despite the date.

September 29, 2017

Early up to the shops, so early that the pharmacies were still shut and more importantly the sushi bar hadn’t made any eel nigiri, nor any other sushi come to think of it. Anyway the rainbow trout on bread made a lovely lunch instead. Carly arrived late morning and set about finishing ‘Olive Kitteridge’, our book for tonight. I pottered with little jobs all day but didn’t have a rest so I ended up pretty tuckered out by the evening. Made coconut brownies to take tonight, I had to do something simple as I was tired, but they looked more CWA than Cordon Bleu. John came over and the three of us went to book group at Jane’s, JMM going out with the men for dinner at The Ranch. Great meeting with enthusiastic discussion and camaraderie. What a wonderful supportive group, I am a lucky woman.

September 30, 2017

Did our food shopping for tomorrow, though it wasn’t a lot as the caterers have most things covered. Dally Messenger rang and happens to be in Sydney as a VIP for the football grand final tomorrow, so he will try to come to the party for at least a while. I’ve had a few cancellations but a few people added on, due to changes in their circumstances, so all good. After lunch Heather arrived with the flowers…..and flowers…..and flowers, what we originally discussed plus a whole lot more, they look divine, they are ensconced in the bath overnight. I collapsed onto the bed for a rest about 4.30pm and missed calls from the cake baker and my friend Mary from New Zealand.  Carly and I are taking it easy tonight as if we have worked hard all day, which we really haven’t.

October 1, 2017

Late putting this post up, the editor will have my guts for garters. Hang on, I am the editor, so I’m safe. What a day!! Everything went to plan foodwise, John picked up from C’est Bon and Dav and Louis from Andy Bowdy Pastry and I was well pleased with the results. Margaret and Bob Fagan arrived first, as expected, and surprised the girls who didn’t know they were even coming, never mind  singing. Dally managed to come and still fulfil his obligations as a VIP at the rugby league grand final, I would rather stay for cake than watch football but we are all different. Others followed in quick succession and soon we had a house full, many ignoring the ‘no presents’ rule. What a warm, wonderful occasion it turned out to be, mixing people from different parts of your life is always a gamble, but one that paid off in spades in this case. There were guests from Caves Beach, Wentworth Falls, Melbourne, Newcastle and Callala Beach as well as locals. Carly gave a speech which thankfully skirted my short-comings and I responded , though forgetting a few things I intended to say. The house is full of flowers and sweets, a good place to be.

October 2, 2017

The kids left mid-morning and we pottered around getting the house back in order, but were both tired and decided to just take it easy today. I had to smile that someone who wasn’t invited to the party left a comment on photos put on Facebook by others saying that she wished she had been there too, but there were another 45 people I would have asked if I could and it is a hard call on where to draw the line. I opened my many presents and cards and one was the wonderful new book on Queen Victoria by Julia Baird, but it had come adrift from its card so I don’t know who to thank for it. Next part of the celebration is lunch with the girls in early November at Quay, can’t wait. A funny gift was a photocopy of the restaurant certificate for The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay that we gave Robert for his 70th, so we will all go together for our joint 70ths, which I will love. John gave me a gorgeous necklace which I had admired in an antique shop in Jamberoo months ago. I was a bit concerned that his knee pain returned today and he had trouble using the clutch when driving, just a week since the doc halved his antibiotic dose. Please not again.

October 3, 2017

It appears there is life after 70! I decided to do a bit of cooking to use up the four opened but hardly used bottles of red wine. We ran out of white altogether, though I found another bottle of French bubbly that people had missed, so I must remember to slant towards white next time. I thought 60/40 white to red should be ok, but no. A magnificent pink flower arrangement arrived from two friends who weren’t invited to the party, not accompanied by any hint of sarcasm such as appeared on Facebook from someone else, but it made me feel guilty all the same. I should have been a Catholic, guilt is my default position. Finally started a book I got last December when it first came out, but haven’t been able to face. It is How to Survive a Plague: The story of how activists and scientists tamed AIDS and it is bringing back lots of memories. It is written by a journalist who was active at the time in trying to bring the plague to the attention of government, when they were determined to ignore it. I am reading it at exactly the right time I think, forty years after the start of it all. John went to the heart specialist who was pleased overall but said he must have done something really bad in a past life to have had this last year thrust upon him. Kenneth rang from Halifax to wish me a happy birthday.

October 4, 2017

Went in on the bus/train to mind Millie as I didn’t want to drive home in peak hour. Took 2 hours 10 mins going and 2 and a half hours coming home, traffic on the M2 was shocking and there is only a bus lane for a small part of the trip but at least I can sit back and think, rather than being stressed driving. I was the only one on the bus just thinking, everyone else was on their phone, literally, I looked around to try to find someone else like me, but no, they were all either talking, listening or watching.

October 5, 2017

Went up for my 6 monthly blood tests, 30 something in all, and they decided to charge me $80 for one and do the rest on Medicare, despite the fact they’ve been done every 6 months for 5 years at no cost and I wasn’t even on a pension then. I decided to remove that one from the request and ask Glenn at my appointment next week if it is really necessary, and if so I will cough up the 80. I think it is a mistake and he should know if it is on Medicare or not. Went over to visit Martha and Phil and dropped off some wine and a dish I made with leftover red wine from the party. She asked if I could drop some empty boxes off to a refugee in Parramatta who is moving tomorrow, so we filled up the car and tootled off there. John had a big sleep again in the afternoon, he isn’t feeling great at the moment but we don’t know why, tiredness that sleep doesn’t fix, also his knee is hurting again. We were planning to go out to lunch one day this week, to a place which has been recommended in Roseville, but he asked if we could put it off till next week so I hope he is better then.

October 6, 2017

Had a quiet one catching up on a few jobs around the house and yard. John seemed a little better today, so hopefully that will continue. My PTC test kit arrived from Arizona today, I was half expecting the Border Force to arrive wanting to know what the drugs were that I was importing, but it was delivered without problems. Then to test! John acted as the control first and tasted nothing, zip, diddly-squat, then I tried it and it was disgusting, vile, foul and poisonous tasting. So he is a non-taster and I am a supertaster according to the literature, absence of a gene versus two doses of it. Now I must think of a little gift to post to Lu in Arizona as a thankyou.

October 7, 2017

Was at Windsor CWA rooms from 9am to 12, to do a stint accepting donations for HHH as is usual on Saturday mornings. Got lots of food, dog food, nappies and formal dresses, people are so generous, including a lady with a small baby who gets a couple of extra things each time she goes shopping. Then had a sushi train lunch with Brian which was super yummy and picked up a piece of plate glass to use in the making of my ‘free library’ to be set up in the front yard. I must be getting old as I was buggered by the time I got home at 2.30, oh that’s right I’m 70 now.

October 8, 2017

Up early so I checked the volunteer site to see if there were any important messages, there used to be one or two messages a day to the volunteers, now ten is a good day. There was one from our boss lady saying there was a family who had been eating only Weetbix since Wednesday and she wanted to go there with a heap of food today, but needed help to both pick up and deliver it as she has done her back in. I volunteered before 8am and spent the next six hours checking the computer periodically for instructions, but none came. No-one else appeared to have replied to the call, so god knows what went on there. I hope the food got to them, but how I don’t know. These frustrating small things make the work more difficult than it should be and I know there will be an email soon complaining of not enough help being offered. Grrrr.

But the day proved fruitful while I was waiting, with some general housework completed and some rock cakes baked. I was forced to eat four over the day to ensure they were up to scratch, but still a dozen left. Making a small, simple vege stir fry for dinner to atone for the four rockies.

October 9, 2017

Had a 11am appointment with Tricia the counsellor from PARC, this time at the city office which is so much easier to get to. Came out just on 1pm, during the time we discussed hypervigilance and she suggested a course of EMDR therapy might be useful. It is a type of psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, that attempts to minimise the effects of distressing memories, it is a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. She is in no rush and thinks it may be unnecessary to begin it while I am feeling ok, but something to keep in mind if I start to slip south again. The downside is that you are forced to look in depth at those things that you have been avoiding thinking about. We shall see. Popped in to see Carol at her office before bussing home. Posted a tacky fridge magnet of Sydney with two postcards to Lu in Arizona in thanks for the supertaster kit that was sent to me gratis, couldn’t think of anything better to fit in a normal envelope.

Checked the volunteers website and still no answer to my offer to take food to the family without any and nothing regarding a later offer of bringing food and serving at Wednesday lunch. It was suggested that photographing the donations of food and goods delivered to the CWA was a good idea, I did so and took first names of the donors, telling them to watch the Facebook page, thinking they might like to get a bit of kudos, which they seemed chuffed about. I sent in the pics and descriptions by 3pm Saturday, yet they haven’t appeared. Is this a cliquey bunch I am wondering, not for the first time?

October 10, 2017

Sort of had a plan to go out today but ended up in my jamies talking to Phil for some time about his treatment and what the docs said and suddenly it was mid-morning and I was still in the jamies with dead flowers everywhere and washing up to be done and ……….I didn’t go out. But I felt virtuous once the cleaning up was done. Then thinking about the Abhorrent Abbott (well there are two of them actually, so add an ‘s’ to that). Their parents must somehow have imbued them with the idea that they were more important than everyone else, they both have that superior, know-it-all annoying bloody personality that makes Astro Labe’s decision to clunk nuts with him totally understandable, if not acceptable.

Also thinking about the fact that we are in a world where the best has passed and we are living in the aftermath. No wild African animals to speak of, no wild and untouched Amazon, reefs on the way out, the Arctic threatened. All those things we knew of as wild and wonderful as kids didn’t survive until we had the wherewithal to go and see them. Sure we have amazing technology, but is it enough? Joni Mitchell had it right in 1970: “They took all the trees and put ’em in a tree museum, And they charged the people a dollar and a half to seem ’em”. We are almost there I think, so sad and so unnecessary.

October 11, 2017

Decided to take a bit of a stand with Helping Hands, so I put a message on the closed volunteers page at 9.15am to say I had offered to cook and serve for lunch today but had had no reply, so if I didn’t get one by 9.40 I would assume I wasn’t needed and do something else. Immediate apology was forthcoming, but they had enough volunteers and food organised so I had the day to myself. In for a penny in for a pound, I then pointed out that I had offered to pack and deliver food hampers last Sunday with no result then either, more apologies, they ‘missed the message’. Point made, hopefully it won’t happen again.

Bussed to Parramatta, a place I rarely if ever go, to see the new towers going up and have a general look-see. Calling in at Riverside Theatre to get a programme for the rest of the year, I was well looked after by a Downs Syndrome man who couldn’t have been more efficient or welcoming. Then wandered to the court complex to see what was on and in one of those lovely serendipitous encounters I was approached by a suited man (a solicitor? not sure) who asked if I needed help at the court list board. I thanked him but said no, I was just observing cases and he said ‘oh well you must go to the Drug Court, which sits today’. He gave me a glowing rundown on how it works and offered to introduce me to a woman in Health Dept uniform who was intimately involved in its running. She showed me where to go and then sat herself at the bar table. It was informal, friendly, supportive and we all clapped each time someone reported a positive week without drugs, sort of like at an AA meeting. The magistrate was caring, genuinely sad when she had to tell one of the many people there to empty his pockets to be taken away to gaol for an infringement of the rules, leaving a wife and small child behind. A wonderful process which I got to see by pure luck. Idly thinking about getting back into prison visiting and court support volunteering as I used to do in the 90s. It might be a bit late for me to do either medicine or law, haha, but not too late to try to make the system a bit more humane and manageable for those who need to go through it. I will see how HHH pans out now, but perhaps I could do both, we shall see.

October 12, 2017

My voice got very croaky yesterday and today it is worse, plus I feel below par, surely not another bout of a wog. John was going to see Bob E. this arv for a routine visit and I went with him as usual, with Bob commenting on my almost total lack of voice by then. I had a temp and he does think it is a virus, bugger. John has gone out with the boys tonight to see some ghastly sounding movie which is three hours long, he is welcome and I am just as happy not to have to talk.

October 13, 2017

It was the 6 monthly visit to Professor Reeves today and we headed off on the bus to Epping Station at 8.45, then trained to Gosford as usual. Now I have virtually no voice at all but the Prof, gem that he is, began by querying John’s weight loss! His memory is astounding and he is happy to weigh in on matters outside his brief, always hitting the nail on the head. He asked him what had been happening and in his recorded summary about me to Bob opined that John’s knee infection and flu were caused by his depressed immune system due to chemo and his recent diarrhoea was caused by all the antibiotics he is taking. Seeing I am the patient he did get round to me eventually and said my aphonia is either viral laryngitis or a return of the dreaded vocal cord dysfunction, time will tell. Apart from that I need to eat bananas for depressed potassium levels, happy to oblige there. Had the best smashed avocado I’ve ever eaten for lunch, so big we shared it, at Frangipani Café. It was topped with feta, almonds and dukkah, mmm-mmm. But the big hit of the day was being in the company of the delightful Glenn Reeves for half an hour, superb diagnostician, caring physician and all round wonderful human being.

October 14, 2017

Made a snap decision to go to Canberra on the train tomorrow, so that threw the day into busy mode. Michelle had rung me last evening to say that she saw my friend Geoff Crawford’s obit in the Sydney Morning Herald and I found others in the London papers online. I still retell so many of the stories from his career as a diplomat in the Middle East, then as private secretary to the Queen and Princess Diana, living in an apartment in Buckingham Palace. I hadn’t seen him since he moved to Bowral a few years ago and I am sad we lost touch. I missed his funeral last Monday in his father’s church, All Saints in Parramatta. Vale to one of nature’s gentlemen.

Made a layered chocolate cake filled with cream and topped with a punnet of strawberries to take to First Saturday tonight. Listened to a good talk by Melvin about the airline industry from the 60s to the present. Love hearing everything aeronautical, despite not wanting to fly. His obvious joy in flying made me wish I could feel that way too.

October 15, 2017

John dropped me in to Central to catch the train, with a diversion to his place to take a box full of food there from my fridge. We always seem to be loading each other’s fridge for some reason. The train took off 8 seconds late and arrived in Canberra on time. It was full and about 8 young people left the carriage at Goulburn, going back to the Police Academy after the weekend. My seat mate was one and he had been going over his notes on the way. Carly met me on the platform and then we wandered down to Kingston Foreshore and had a drink by the lake at Betti Bravo’s, mine a celebratory cocktail of prosecco, Chambord, blackcurrant and mint, mmm. Caught my first Uber to Carly’s and by then I was tired and tired of coughing! We wandered up to Darbar in Braddon for a superb Indian meal, the good news is that they have another restaurant in Wentworthville which I will definitely be taking John to. Shared spiced salmon on potato with a herby sauce and some soft shell crab.

October 16, 2017

Sometimes it is lovely to have the freedom to let fate determine your day. I walked into Civic planning to go to Parliament House but then a bus came which was headed for the Museum so I decided to let fate lead and went to the Songlines exhibit, which I enjoyed. It confirmed my opinion that apart from a few academics the community knows next to nothing about Aboriginal culture, which is missing entirely from our school curriculum, unlike in New Zealand. Had to bus back to Civic to get to parliament so I wandered around the city for a bit and stumbled on the Red Cross shop where for a total of $26 I got a lovely top and a dressy 2 piece suit. Then along came a bus to the High Court so I hopped on to get some idea of when the citizenship decision is coming, but no luck there, they simply don’t know. Walked in the sun to Parliament House and got there for Question Time and then spent some time in the Senate until Michaelia Cash spoke — I can handle most things but not Ms Cash’s grating vocals and worse opinions, so I left then and bussed back to Civic prior to a walk home to Braddon. Had a long talk to Deborah who rang as I got off the bus and we talked till I was sitting in Carly’s loungeroom. Had a lovely dinner in and watched the interview with Hillary Clinton on the teev.

October 17, 2017

Lovely day from go to whoa. Bussed to National Library to see the amazing photos of  Tasmania by Peter Dombrovskis whose early death was such a sad loss. They seem hyper real, apparently due to the rare type of camera and film he used. Then walked again to the High Court, no news there, so on to the Portrait Gallery for a while. Bussed to Kingston where I had lunch at Silo, obligatory when in Canberra. I stood on the bus stop for quite a while in 30 degree heat before deciding to cab it back to Carly’s. I am so glad I did as I met a Chinese driver, almost the same age as me and we chatted about all sorts, but of particular interest were his comments on how populations change due to different foods etc and we talked about how gene expression can be modified without alteration of the genetic code itself. I talked about how Lamarck’s theories were once ridiculed but now are accepted in the study of epigenetics and lo and behold from the seat pocket he pulled a book on genetics, which he was reading during down time. He turned off the meter before we arrived and we sat chatting for a few minutes, what a lovely man he was. It is a pity it wasn’t a longer journey, I so love these ‘ships that pass in the night’ encounters. Had dinner at Italian and Son nearby in Braddon.

October 18, 2017

Had another day floating on the wings of fate. Got the bus back to the National Library to see the film that goes with the Dombrovskis exhibition. Bought 7 lovely books for Millie there, some are a little bit too old for her, but she can have them over time. Yesterday I bought books as gifts for Carly, Davina, John and moi, so Canberra has proved very productive in the book department. Walked to the National Gallery to see the Hyper Real exhibition, but it doesn’t start for 2 more days, later I got the bus to Kingston, then eventually another to Manuka and then on to Parliament to go to question time again. Another bus to Civic and then yet another to Braddon I am really getting the hang of the buses this trip.  Many fares are free due to a trial of no cost bus travel for 2 months. Carly texted that she was having a busy day and would meet me in a restaurant called 86 in Braddon for dinner at 7.30. Amazing meal, shared miso barramundi entree, Sichuan duck main and banoffee pie for dessert, the caramel hung in luscious sweet and salty threads from the spoon. Spoilt.

October 19, 2017

Had a bit of trouble getting my book purchases into my luggage but got there in the end, 8 kilos when I came and 13.5 on the way home. Got the free bus to Civic then a taxi to the station and settled in for the 4 hour journey to Sydney, perhaps the Nullarbor would be a little long for me these days, despite my love of train travel. My seat companion, who was not a talker, had the Murdoch papers, plus financial ones from the US, so as he finished each one I inherited it, a tidy arrangement. A packed lunch meant I didn’t have to partake of the railway offerings, a real bonus after the lovely food I have eaten in Canberra. John was on the platform waiting and my house was intact and welcoming. Life’s good.

October 20, 2017

Aaah, a rainy morning, is there anything better? I spent some time looking at the new cookbook I bought in Canberra, before making Very Tangy Lemon Bars from it. The taste is sublime but I didn’t do too good a job of getting them out of the tin, too eager as usual. It looks as if the auction of Davina’s unit will be cancelled tomorrow due to lack of interest, the sudden downturn in property sales is biting. Made an interesting dinner of baked pumpkin wedges with cayenne pepper, honey and cashew nuts on top, with some peas and shallots. Simple, tasty, goodly. I noted the menus in Canberra often had almost single ingredient dishes, for example, roast shoulder of lamb or crumbed chicken, that’s it, no accompaniments. Sharing plates of salads or veg dishes can be added, making it easy for vege minded folks to assemble a varied meal. I need to focus on this idea in my cooking, making multiple serves for later or for freezing.

October 21, 2017

Went in to Erko to see Dav and Louis’ property go to auction. Six couples and a single turned up but no bidders. According to an article in the Tele today prices in St Peters have dropped by 9%, taking a value of $840,000 down to $764,400, so we shall see where the price ends up when an offer is made. (I would never buy a Murdoch rag, but happy to read any I come across by accident, even if only to see what propaganda they are running). Disappointing for the kids, but particularly worrying as they have already bought. Picked John up at his house and headed home via the shops, where I mistakenly bought half the ingredients for one recipe I wanted to try and half for another, so I settled on a third one and it was lovely.

October 22, 2017

Had a look at John’s mock-up of my new free library cabinet for out the front but decided it was way too big and imposing, so it is back to the drawing board. Went to Michael and Bronwyn’s for lunch, an Ottolenghi recipe of Mushroom Strudel with his spiced baked veges followed by meringue shells with strawberries, yum. We sat at the table all afternoon and suddenly realised it was 5.30pm and we were still at lunch, always plenty to discuss with them though.

October 23, 2017

Had a funny morning, appointment at Bob’s surgery for 10.15am so I arrived at 10 and logged on to the touchscreen which records bookings. Sat down to wait and noticed all the magazines had disappeared, the one time I didn’t bring a book, and asked at the desk where they were. “They have been removed for infection control reasons” was the reply. Mmm, must tell that to John’s infectious diseases specialist who is treating AIDS, hepatitis, TB etc………with a waiting room full of good magazines and books. Anyway I sat back down and waited and waited and waited but Bob kept calling everyone bar me. Eventually at 12.15 !!! I went to the counter again and explained I had waited 2 hours past my appointment and all the other patients had been called. Oh no she said, did you use the touchscreen? All the computers are down and he doesn’t know you are here, we’ve been putting post-it notes on the doctors’ doors to tell them patients are here. Technology, you’ve got to love it. Sue arrived at 2pm for a cuppa as planned and we chewed the fat for some time before she had to drive back to Killcare. We arranged our lunch date for the four of us to The Boathouse for next Tuesday so I am looking forward to that. We had given Robert a meal for two there for his 70th and they gave me the same for mine so we will all go together.

October 24, 2017

Got the bus to The Epping Club to meet Martha and Becky for a Cancer Council fundraising morning tea. I loathe clubs as a rule, but the Epping Club is the least unattractive one I’ve been in, any other venue might have put me off. The exterior is pleasant and the massive foyer chandelier is outstanding, but they let an understated tasteful décor do its thing, without trying to compete with the chandelier. For a club, a nice relaxing vibe, of course I’ve never been on the gambling floor, I guess it is as ghastly as all get out, but at least they are trying. It was a sea of pink, from guests’ clothes to food to decorations. Then went up to get an ultrasound on the lump in my leg which I saw Bob about yesterday. It is a harmless lipoma, rather than a cancerous sarcoma, which was the other option. I hadn’t panicked over it, but a nice result anyway, now I can tell John what I’ve been up to, as I hadn’t wanted to worry him.

October 25, 2017

‘Bugger, bum, poop’ as my friend Lenny from the 60s used to exclaim often. Last evening I got a very sore throat which quickly turned into another rotten cold, so I have spent the day in bed, rising at 4pm to have some soup which John made for me, ‘pumpkin soup a la Michelle’ as he called it following her similar donation last time I got sick only a few weeks ago. I have events happening on the next three nights so bad timing. Finished the book group book yesterday, Deaf Sentence, which I very much enjoyed, a novel in the form of a diary or blog. I am sad I’ve finished it, always a good sign. Back to bed I think, groan.

October 26, 2017

Feeling a bit better so it looks as if it is not going to be the flu again (flu test a few weeks ago was negative, but my doc is sure it was a false negative). John ran me down to the library as I had finished the last library book, yet there is a pile of non-fiction books here awaiting attention. Soon, soon, I tell them as they look over and try to make me feel guilty. One good thing about today was seeing Michaelia Cash squirm, what a horrible individual she is. Pauline Hanson, as thick as ever, asked her in senate estimates if her problems were all a union plot. So the union got into her office, forced her advisor to leak to the press, then forced Cash to lie to the committee. Good one Pauline, I so wish you’d stayed in fish and chips. Tomorrow should be fun with the High Court coming in with the citizenship decision, I shall make a cup of tea and watch it live, here’s hoping……

October 27, 2017

Just made myself a cuppa and had a piece of delicious lemon slice as I watched the High Court judgment on the seven parliamentarians accused of being dual citizens and therefore not allowed to sit in parliament. Five out and two in was the decision, and I let out a hoop of joy that Malcolm Roberts, he of the 77 votes, is on a slippery slide to ignominy. Perhaps there is something in that karma business after all, but no, Matt Canavan survived, so that idea goes up in smoke.

It occurred to me this week that we are unlikely to be able to stray too far from home in future, bearing in mind that I told John months ago that I would take him out to lunch the following week yet it still hasn’t happened, so far two restaurants have been booked and cancelled, due first to his not being well and then due to my flu. This on top of cancelling train trips and hotel accommodation recently for the same reasons. We are going to try again in a couple of weeks but I am not hopeful. Malcolm Roberts having gone has to partly make up for that though, it makes up for a lot of things, oh happy day.

October 28, 2017

Last night was a great book group and I rose to the occasion and felt fine, however I decided that feeling fine justified not taking cold and flu tablets every 6 hours as I have all week, so I stopped. As a result I have had to cancel going to a charity twilight cocktail party at Watsons Bay tonight that I was really looking forward to. However in a stroke of luck, Michelle’s neighbour jumped at my ticket so I didn’t lose the (gulp) $120 I had ambitiously invested. Wasn’t I just whinging yesterday about cancelling stuff due to illness, yes I was! John’s leg is worse today, I think the lower antibiotic dose isn’t working well enough, he is really limping. Lucky we see Dr Wong this week but we may need to brace for bad news. Can we have our old life back please? Pretty please? Neither of us could get over the doldrums today I’m afraid.

October 29, 2017

Did some initial searching regarding having a holiday next week, pending Ian Wong’s approval on Thursday. We would like to go up to the north coast, then of course we could consider using our free train passes, but if we were to go to Coffs say, the train gets in at 9pm so we would have to book accommodation. Car is more flexible with no bookings needed, but neither of us likes driving long distances, the first world problems just roll on in. Cheese and herb biscuits and passionfruit sponge made in the meantime, sponge looks strangely yellow because of the rich home eggs I was given, but it just looks wrong.

October 30, 2017

Did a bit of research on accommodation in Sawtell as John prefers a smaller town than Coffs. Found a lovely little one bed apartment, with views! and 5 minutes walk to town. Now do I book it and risk losing big bucks if we can’t go? Or do I just jump in as they only have 3 nights available in the next fortnight? Michelle just popped in for a cuppa and a gos, so I was glad I had baked yesterday and was able to send Kev a slice of cake too. Reading an interesting book on Sth Korea and its recent history of military rule, centring on the massacre of workers in 1980 known as the Gwangju Uprising and discussing the recent 2013 inauguration of the culprit military strongman’s daughter as president. The logic seemed to have been: they are unionists, therefore communists, therefore Nth Korean agents, so we can kill them. But of course as great friends of the US, nothing much is said, a la the Malayan disaster in the 60s.

October 31, 2017

Decided finally that a trip to Sawtell for just 3 nights was silly and accommodation for the weekend following on wasn’t so easy to come by so we are back to the drawing board. I am quite below par at the moment and hoping it is just residual from the cold, given a choice between cooking or reading in my spare time today I did neither, just haven’t got any enthusiasm at the moment. Despite knowing there was an interesting trial on at the Supreme Court yesterday I couldn’t get the mojo to walk to the bus stop. It is not that I am sick, just demotivated. Luckily the cold and flu tablets act as uppers on me, so I took a couple before heading in to Glebe to meet Robert and Sue for our celebration dinner at the Boathouse. Great Tasmanian bubbly, great food, great conversation, it certainly lifted my spirits. My main of Roast Groper with Sweetcorn and Spanner Crab was excellent. Sue loved the idea of the Street Library John is planning to build for me, so he is going to do one for her as well.

November 1, 2017

Lucky we didn’t book Sawtell as now John has come down with another cold. I minded Millie while the unit had another open house and Dav had an appointment, not a single potential buyer turned up. The pram tracked in a bunch of dirt on the wheels so I got out the vac and started to clean it up but Millie was looking disgruntled. Finally she went to the cupboard and got out the vac head, which I hadn’t bothered to put on, handed it to me and then showed me how to attach it, once I did that she was fine, I was amazed. Oh, she can count to ten as well, I can’t remember when my girls could, but 20 months seems early to me.

November 2, 2017

Well we can always rely on Dr Wong for straight answers, unlike a certain other lady John attends. He told us today that the state of John’s knee is pretty much as good as it will get. He will be on this dose of antibiotics, 4 a day, for life now. So he doesn’t need to go back till March as the doc thinks his condition has stabilised, which in one way is good and in another isn’t, when you consider he has stabilised with a limp, a painful knee and on a lot of drugs forever….  At least now we know where we are though, which is always preferable. We went to the coast and did part of the Sculpture Walk in the afternoon, not as many favourites as some years, but some really good ones all the same. I love looking at the small sculptures which are for sale, many of which are trial models for the bigger ones. We parked at Bondi for a while and fell asleep in the car overlooking the ocean.

November 3, 2017

Decided to stock up on shopping seeing it appears we won’t go away next week. Pulled up at my go-to place, Harris Farm Markets, where I get all fruit, veg, cheese and some other goods………and it was gone, disappeared, empty, a black hole. Enquiries found that despite their apparent busyness they went broke from the high rents, so thanks for nothing Stockland Mall, I hope the shop stays empty for a year as a punishment. No, two years or why not permanently. Forced to go to the dreaded supermarket or else drive 20 mins to their other outlet now. Started two new books I picked up from the library and abandoned each after one chapter. Finished Human Acts by Han Kang, on the lack of human rights in Sth Korea and particularly about the Gwangju massacre in 1980. Even disputing the death toll of students and unionists at the government’s hands is enough to send you to gaol. Why do we back these appalling governments? Oh that’s right, they are anti-communist, I forgot.

November 4, 2017

Decided to make scones as Brian was dropping in this afternoon after yet another funeral. I did the recipe from Betty’s in Leeds and decided to follow method and ingredients to the letter, not to be slap-dash because it was only scones. They were light, buttery and perfect and tasted just like Betty’s, made half plain and half sultana. Thinking about going to see Jackie at Caves Beach on Monday and calling in to Killcare on Tuesday to look at the design for Sue’s street library. She is thinking of having a rustic one made from fence palings which should look good. I wonder if I should have a street cake shop, then I could put stuff in it when I bake and folks could take home a few scones or cupcakes? Ants, Maureen, ants, don’t be stupid, not to mention 40 degree days. Just had the Mormons for the second time recently and I was able to talk kindly, put my views patiently and wish them both well. I would happily have given them tea and scones if I could trust them to talk about anything but religion.

November 5, 2017

What a lovely belated birthday celebration: lunch at Quay with my girls, in the glass tower overlooking the Bridge, great table and even greater food. After a glass of Pol Roger champagne, I ordered the abalone, followed by the duck and the famous strawberry snow egg for dessert, though we shared some of all the nine dishes we had between us. Then they brought out a cupcake with candle at the end. Superb. Roll on the 75th or perhaps my girls’ 40th? Or next weekend?

On the bus on my way home I commented to the Vietnamese man alongside me that the clocks on the bus always seem wrong. He beamed and said ‘I not talk  person on bus, but you want talk me’. From then on we prattled all the way home while he explained how hard it is to learn English in his 50s and how unwilling most people are to talk to ‘people like me’. How sad it is that a person is unwilling to engage because he feels like an outsider. I hope we cross paths again Tao.

November 6, 2017

Drove up to Caves Beach to spend some time with Jackie and Carl. Had lunch on their verandah looking out over the ocean, but no whales graced us today. Great to catch up and hear of Jackie’s help to other cancer patients in their struggles with the government to bring in Rigvir, the Latvian treatment she has been on now for some time and which reversed the downward trend of her health. It is a live virus which promotes the body’s natural systems to fight cancer and getting it into the country is problematic for obvious reasons, though with her help more people have been successful. Left about 4pm to head south to Killcare where we spent time with Robert until Sue arrived from Sydney. We stayed overnight with our friends but by then I was struggling to keep awake and I don’t think my conversation was scintillating.

November 7, 2107

Robert left in the dark to go to ‘grand rounds’ at Hornsby Hospital while we settled down for a casual breakfast, each of us having a different meal. Had a conflab about Sue’s street library and lighting for the driveway, the library design was then drawn up by John while Sue and I headed to The Fat Goose for morning tea. I stocked up on their wonderful bread to freeze and we were soon joined by Robert, back on the train from Hornsby. Sue’s library will echo the shape of the front panel of the house, but be clad in hardwood fence palings to fit in with the treed environment. John is rapt that he has two wood-working projects on the go, I told him if Sue can have cladding, mine should be covered with tiny shaped weatherboards, but I got no reply. After a great salad lunch, featuring a Snowy Mountains trout and lots more talk, we headed off home after a well spent couple of days.

November 8, 2017

Spent quite a while at the library, using their computer to put five book reviews on Goodreads as well as looking up some bits and bobs. I had two days off the computer while we were away and it is amazing how stuff banks up. Went at night to Killara to attend a new adoption group I was invited to join. Ten women came and had the usual heart-breaking sets of issues. Sometimes I just want to let it all go, but every now and again it comes up from behind and grabs me, so I don’t know which is best, denial or trying to work through it. But after 70 years I am losing faith that it can be successfully worked though at all. The 74 year old crying at the meeting tonight seems to confirm this.

November 9, 2017

Spent the night at John’s after the meeting last night and stayed for porridge this morning. Decided to put my name down for cooking and serving on Saturday night at HHH. I will do a big trifle for 50, but last weekend they had 80 people come to dinner against the usual 25-30. There were no vollies down for service this Saturday night, though a few names were down for Sunday, so I changed my plans to accommodate cooking and a trip to Windsor. They also wanted a volunteer to speak to the children at a kindergarten where the parents had collected some food, to explain to the children what we do, but though I offered to go on Monday or Tuesday next week it didn’t suit as the kindergarten wanted the food picked up today. Amazing how two days away can make such a difference to how I am feeling, couldn’t have done HHH last week.

November 10, 2017

We went to see the excellent play Diving for Pearls at Riverside Theatre after an early dinner at home. Though all the actors were very good and the lead man superb, the applause was only polite and there was no encore. He had put his heart and soul into it for two hours but the audience obviously didn’t like it as much as we did. Later I approached the lighting boffin and asked her to pay our respects to the cast and let them know how good we thought they were. She said they were getting standing ovations in the city, so it was the westies who didn’t appreciate a story about the working classes of Wollongong, let down when the steel mills were privatised and then closed. Unionists would have filled the theatre back in the day, but the unions are gutted now, more’s the pity.

November 11, 2017

Went to a fascinating talk at Western Sydney Uni by Prof. Jenny Hocking, the author of a book on the dismissal of Gough Whitlam. She has proof from the archives that the palace was involved in the coup, with Kerr recording conversations with Prince Charles as early as October 1975. Apparently Kerr was obsessively contacting the queen during his tenure, sometimes 3 or 4 times a day! Also the author approached Sir Anthony Mason, who admitted actually writing the document which informed Whitlam of the dismissal. There are smoking guns everywhere in the archives and I now have the book, so looking forward to getting even more detail as I read it.

Came home to make a big trifle for HHH, though I did the jelly yesterday, and then went up to service, not really in the mood, but it was lucky that I did as there was only Lyn, me and our boss lady present and 50 people turned up to be fed. I sometimes think the organisation has outgrown the number of volunteers, 40 in total but most work is done by a core few, as is the case in most organisations. I need to do more.

November 12, 2017

Went to Carol’s today to give a tiny help with the making of the 2000 small Christmas cakes and 1700 stuffing balls she does for the Wayside Chapel and Exodus Foundation for their Christmas lunches. I remember years ago when it was 300 cakes and that seemed huge, I can’t even get my head around this year’s numbers. I am dying to get my head into the Jenny Hocking book on the dismissal but being very good about getting all my jobs done first. Put out some things to add to my neighbour’s council cleanup pile and felt very virtuous as I always do when I divest.

November 13, 2017

Got up at 5.30 am, rare for me, to finish reading Jenny Hocking’s book on the dismissal. I am outraged by the lies of John Kerr and his cur Malcolm Fraser, and especially about the interference from the palace. A large issue appears to have been Whitlam’s plan to introduce one vote, one value which would have cost about 5 Nationals their seats, so the born-to-rule club had to stop him at any cost. Bastards all.

Another day of political upheaval with the new One Nation senator jumping ship on his first day. What a rubbish bag of people Pauline manages to dredge up but this one takes the cake. I was looking forward to last night’s 7.30 Report but was disappointed with the depth of the coverage and analysis, I thought at least we would get a background on who this person actually is. Seeing we now have a senator who only got 19 votes, perhaps we should start appointing a few pollies. Think Laura Tingle, Barrie Cassidy, Jonathan Green, David Marr, all commentators with more sense than most politicians. Ah, Laura, so beautiful and so so smart. The fact that I couldn’t stand her father gives me hope that Cory Bernardi’s children may refute everything he stands for. Derryn Hinch mocked the idea of the objections to making wedding cakes for same-sex couples ‘what if I objected to making them for blacks or jews’ he said. Sometimes Derryn hits the nail on the head, bless.

Walked from my appointment in the city to the Quay via Angel Place, such a lovely little lane which I could linger in for quite a while, watching the pastrycooks at Lorraine’s Patisserie in their open kitchen till I decided they may think me some sort of weirdo glued to the window and moved on. Had lunch with Carol at La Renaissance. Good day.

November 14, 2017

Bumped into Heather at the library carpark and we discovered we share the same dentist, whom I have been going to since he first graduated and couldn’t afford to have a nurse. Sadly she reported that his wife has just died in her 40s leaving behind twins who can’t be more than 9 or 10. How lucky we are not to have faced losing a mother at that age, or losing a partner and having to go on alone, yet with huge responsibilities.

November 15, 2017

Finally, finally some semblance of justice for same sex couples. I am so happy with the result, but sad that 1 in 3 people still don’t get it. I was in CAMP, the Campaign Against Moral Persecution, from 1971 and it was what we were fighting for back then. Sadly one of the founders ‘Bon’ died in May and didn’t get his wish ‘to die married’. Here’s to you Bon and all the work you did over 45 years.

We went to Bunnings today to buy all the myriad things needed to build two street libraries, one here and one for Sue. Who knew there were 1000 types of screws and we would need to look at them all? I thought half an hour would kill it, but no. We left here at 2pm and got home after 4pm and the shop is only at Castle Hill. Somehow Bunnings beats IKEA in the ‘I don’t think I will get out of here alive’ stakes. Perhaps it is because the stock is so rivetingly boring (pun intended).

I suggested we go to a Reconciliation event at a church hall in Wentworthville tonight, not my best idea ever I’m afraid. Despite the best of intentions by the well-meaning organisers, it just underlined the shattering of Aboriginal society and the lack of any meaningful solution to the many issues they contend with.

November 16, 2017

We discussed this morning why we were so keen to get away from the Reconciliation function last night and decided it was twofold. Firstly we were coming off a high of the Yes vote and then plunged into an intractable problem for which we had little solution. Secondly the event was so amateurish we both felt as if it was a return to a church hall meeting in the 50s. In this particular case we agreed going to Oxford Street and partying wildly would have been a better option, leaving the enormous problems of Aboriginal society for another day.

Carted a station wagon load of wood and fittings down to John’s so he can start work on the street libraries next week. Then met Terry and his new squeeze Meg at Pilu Barretto, the kiosk attached to Pilu restaurant, for lunch. Shared calamari and zucchini chips with J and we both followed up with their wonderful caramel slice. Spent a couple of hours catching up with Terry before he flies home to Perth.

November 17, 2017

Last week I was whinging about the closure of my local Harris Farm Market and the huge effect that has on my food shopping. Now I see that the local 7-11 has closed (I have never used it) and more importantly my local corner shop, within easy walking distance, has folded too, all within a week. The latter I used regularly for a newspaper, milk or when Harris Farm was closed. Obviously that was all that many others were doing as well. The shop was here when I came to the area over 40 years ago and only had three owners in that time, an Italian family, then an Iranian one and latterly an Indian Sikh family. The husband of the first was well known for groping young girls who went to work there, the second I became friendly with and the last extended the range to convert it into a comprehensive small supermarket as well as keeping the original liquor shop. Their faces told the story that perhaps their big investment sadly hadn’t paid off.

November 18, 2017

Had a wonderful day out in the Bentley with Nancye and Bob, celebrating the birthday that never ends. They took us to the Hydro Majestic at Medlow Bath for high tea and what a high tea it was! Tiny sandwiches, wraps, blinis, savoury and sweet tarts, cakes and scones, all in the wondrous surroundings of the rejuvenated Hydro. Nancye had the interesting Oriental version with dumplings, spring rolls, pork belly plus mysterious Asian sweets. It was cloudy, then foggy, then raining, so a beautiful day for the mountains. We came home and all had afternoon tea here and they stayed to chat till 6pm or so, so a super day altogether. This birthday has been a ripper.

November 19,2017

Busy day began with a few hours at Carol’s making fruit cakes and stuffing balls, then we went into town to a discussion of the book The Show by Mark Aarons, about B. A. Santamaria, that scourge of the left in the 40s, 50s and 60s particularly. Mark was a brilliant speaker and was accompanied by a long-time operative for Santamaria’s National Civic Council who was able to give us an opening into that murky world. The members were co-opted into a massive secret intelligence operation spying on communists and leftists and reporting back to the bishops, ASIO and eventually the CIA. This involved following suspects, infiltrating organisations and particularly fielding right wing candidates in the union movement. Many of the audience fessed up to having been members, not surprising perhaps when the talk was at the behest of the Catholic Historical Society and the majority of the listeners were historical indeed. Fascinating first hand accounts of the people we on the left were fighting all those years ago, in fact Mark’s father Laurie Aarons, one of Santa’s main targets, had a profound personal influence on me in the 60s. He was a man of great principle and worked his whole life for an end to war, Aboriginal land rights, equal pay for women, protection of the environment and much more. Vale Laurie.

November 20, 2017

My trusty gardener turned up and continued to attack the Plumbago that dominates the front garden. It needed to be done years ago and is a huge job, but he is patient, bless him, seeking out every last runner as if it were an evil overtaking the world. I set myself to a bit of cooking and made cheese filled focaccia, I must say it wasn’t a resounding success, though perfectly edible. Also did a big pot of creamed rice to use as a breakfast cereal, now both Woolies and Coles have deemed Sanitarium Granola isn’t worthy of a place on their shelves. You can always see when they are edging a product out as it gets lower and lower on the shelving, usually replaced by their crap alternative. Livid to see the Libs trying to attach ‘religious freedom’ legislation to the marriage equality bill, they are as crafty as all get out and it is a joke to call them ‘liberal’.

November 21, 2017

Another volunteer at HHH bit the dust today and a high profile one at that. She sent an angry email around criticising the boss’s ‘dummy spits’ over not getting enough help and reminded her that you can’t keep setting up more and more services and just complain that the vollies aren’t doing enough. Despite all that I’ve put my name down for the free formal wear hire service on Saturday and food for evening service the same day. It is the patrons not the politics we need to worry about, they can’t be the victims of bad management. A post today asked for someone to go to Bligh Park to help a woman with no licence who has disabled children and no milk in the house. ‘They won’t go to sleep on just water’ she says, also that she has the money to pay for the milk, only needs someone to buy it for her. I wish I had been in a position to do that one, but I know it would have been done, by the boss lady if no one else could go.

Went to Roseville Cinema to see The Midwife with the film group and had a good meal next door where Hux Dining was, now an overflow for the renowned Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg. Food is a very hard game.

November 22, 2017

Finally! Dav and Louis sold their unit last night and can now look forward to their move to the new one in 10 days. Spent the day down there packing with Dav. Millie kept saying ‘ha googie’ and I asked her if it was a chooky egg she was talking about, but it turned out to be something much more modern, it was ‘hey Google’!

I am mystified that neither the ABC News nor the 7.30 Report had one word to say about the euthanasia bill passing in Victoria today, surely a major shift in public policy? Two of my hobby-horses have had victories within a week, now we need refugee welfare provisions enacted and farm animal cruelty legislated against and we might just be living in a country I can be proud of.

November 23, 2017

I see the government has put Philip Ruddock in charge of an inquiry into ‘religious freedoms’. I have joined a new religion which requires me to go naked and publicly kill a goat on my front lawn each Saturday morning, but it is ok folks, as I am entitled to do both under the heading of ‘religious freedom’. What poppycock. I well remember going to a public function at Dural Country Club where I asked said Philip a few curly questions about the Iraq War. He was polite, as he always is, but his wife followed me into the toilet afterwards and verbally abused me to the point that I fled in case she got violent. Now I would stand my ground, but then she really freaked me out and I reported the abuse to the very obvious, though casually dressed, Federal Police contingent. Lovely lady. Will her influence be felt in his report, would he dare do otherwise? On another occasion, at the memorial gathering for Leone Healey, his neighbour and political nemesis, he was again polite and friendly. His dear wife arrived later and loudly discussed her right wing politics to the chagrin of Leone’s family and friends. Lovely lady as I said.

November 24, 2017

Had a fun cooking day for us, the book group and HHH. Went to our book group Christmas/Thanksgiving dinner at Carol’s and it was a fine festive evening with wonderful food, wine and great company. I tend to celebrate anything that’s going, be it Eid, Chinese New Year or Hannukah as long as there is good food, wine and friends but John has a real problem with American celebrations being imported, though he was happy to just call it a Christmas turkey rather than a Thanksgiving one. We all read something and my contribution was a Betjeman poem, Diary of a Church Mouse. I have been reading the same books of his poems since the 60s and yet they are always fresh with something to say, no matter how many times I have read them. Robert Frost and Betjeman, my two desert island poets.

November 25, 2017

Up early to get to Windsor and run the HHH Formal Wear Hire program for the day. I initially went to the wrong club, the RSL instead of the Leagues Club, where they are lending us a hall. Lyn came in at 9am to let me in and Linda to show me how to lock up at the end of my shift, so now I could do it alone if need be. But once that was sorted I was able to jointly look after the formal wear while accepting donations from the public, getting backpacks, food and nappies in good quantities today. Took up the two tents I had acquired for the rough sleepers as well. I discovered that the lady who runs HHH is entitled to pay herself a wage but never does so as there is no money spare, this for a 7 day a week job. Was happy to tog up a lovely year 10 young man for his formal, with a suit and shoes. He said the shoes felt ‘funny’ and I discovered he had never had leather ones on before. His mum had got hire quotes for $165 for the suit and $40 for the shoes, something she could not afford. Cost to them here? Zip, gotta love this charity.

Then home to have my favourite dinner of garlic prawns while watching the Queensland election results coming in. Love elections, love Antony Green, love his passion as well as his website, love the commentary, love the tallies and the projections. Hate my side losing though, so it better be a good result!

November 26, 2017

Looks as if Labor will hold Queensland thank goodness. In my younger days watching elections meant a pile of fresh prawns and a bottle of champagne, it hasn’t changed a lot, garlic prawns and water was just as enjoyable. I have made the mistake in the past of going to election parties but it doesn’t work for me: people want to TALK! Missing the tally in Bullamakanka is so annoying that I end up going home and getting a reputation for being unsociable.

Mislaid my mobile phone in the house today so I rang it from my landline and thought I could hear something, but I couldn’t track it down. Ended up it was on the front verandah, just metres away with the door open, yet I couldn’t hear it. My hearing is heading south I am sure, will go back to Macquarie Uni’s Hearing Hub in the new year and get them to check it again.

November 27, 2017

Very interesting to hear the media reports today about Don Burke. My friend Joan used to own a restaurant and Don Burke lived nearby and was a patron. She once asked him not to smoke on the verandah and he went nuts, screaming abuse and threatening to destroy the business through his contacts in the media. She always said he was the worst person she’d ever dealt with in her life, through her many antique and restaurant  businesses, but people found it hard to believe because ‘he is so nice on TV’. So I emailed Kate McClymont and gave her a brief description of the event. She replied immediately saying I was the second one this morning to report a ‘meltdown over his smoking’ and asking if I can get Joan to contact her. I would love to, but I lost contact with her a few years ago and have tried many times to find her since without success. However by various means this morning I got a contact for her ex-husband and have left him a message, hopefully it will result in finding Joan again. Her generosity of spirit, outrageous laugh and foul language will be all be welcomed back into my life.

November 28, 2017

Apparently my eyes have caught up with the fact that I turned 70 recently as all of a sudden I can’t read print on the TV, for example the running news feed on channel 24. A chat with the optometrist elucidated the fact that getting to my age without this issue was a pretty good feat so it looks like new glasses are on the horizon, a shame as I didn’t want to go into bifocals, but there I am. It can wait for the new year.

I had organised tickets months ago to a lecture tonight at Sydney Uni on the results of CAT scans by archaeologists on the victims of the eruption in Pompeii. Really looking forward to it so we set off about 4.40 to go by car for a 6pm meeting. But there was a problem in the under harbour tunnel which backed up the bridge traffic and at 6.30 we were still sitting on the freeway at North Sydney. Accepting that the universe didn’t want me to find out about those poor souls, we changed tack and went to Glebe Point Diner for dinner instead. Lovely ambience and excellent food, mine: 6 Pambula oysters and groper (or Don Burke as I christened it) with snow peas and cuttlefish. A glass of French Champagne replaced a dessert, but I will have one next time for sure.

November 29, 2017

My gardener John is chopping down a big privet I had allowed to grow in my back yard to screen out an ugly house (and busybody neighbour) behind me. I had decided to plant a lovely Cape Chestnut there instead. So today I went to three nurseries to get one, but each informed me that they haven’t been available for years, no one is growing them apparently, choosing to cultivate easier trees at the wholesale nurseries. Now I have a huge gap and an ugly outlook to fill, so back to the drawing board.

Yet another book launch, this time for ‘Trapped in a Closed World: Catholic Culture and Sexual Abuse’ by Kevin Peoples. He was such an impressive speaker and impressive man, describing how the ‘god’ he was supposed to worship in the seminary was a god he didn’t even like, harsh, unforgiving and misogynistic. The priests that were turned out reflected this attitude, seeing anything feminine as evil. There were many former and current priests present who seemed to share his view. We went for dinner with Terry and Jude afterwards, to Despana where we shared some tapas and were later joined by a funny fellow called Jack, whom we had all met at the launch, who cadged a glass of wine and regaled us with his stories of seminary days. I think he was three sheets to the wind before he walked past and saw us in the restaurant and decided that a bit more free booze was in order, not that we minded really. Clerics are great gossips I’ve discovered. Can’t wait to read the book, it sounds fascinating.

November 30, 2017

In discussion about last night John pointed out that they were led to understand in the seminary that they never needed to put their hands into their pockets as priests, everyone else would always pay, many kept to that idea forevermore, despite leaving the priesthood.

Discovered that my corner shop didn’t go broke after all. The landlord wouldn’t renew their lease so they offered to buy the building, which he refused, then they offered to pay up to double the rent and he refused again. He gave them two days to remove a mountain of stock, fridges and equipment and the family had to work around the clock to comply. He has rented it to IGA who are now fitting it out. Locals are pretty peed off with the landlord as he apparently treated the previous family badly and caused them a huge financial loss. Sad, as Donald Trump loves to end his tweets.

December 1, 2017

I noticed there are now only 37 registered volunteers on the closed HHH volunteers’ website, down from 42 just a couple of weeks ago. I knew of a couple of very public resignations but obviously there have been 3 other quiet ones. I am starting to wonder if my role should edge more towards supporting Linda than being a cook and helper at service, though I can do both of course. She is overworked and underpaid, not paid at all in fact. Perhaps I need to focus on some of the boring administrative tasks she shoulders, though I know my strengths lie elsewhere. More thinking needed.

December 2, 2017

Set off at 6.30am to go to Dav’s to wrangle Millie while the furniture movers shift them to their new abode. As I walked in their door the phone rang and it was the movers reporting that the truck had broken down. Louis went off to hire a Go-get van, but it wasn’t back from its previous rental, another was faulty, so he ended up with a Rav 4 which could only fit boxes. The movers finally arrived after 3pm, just as it started to pour, and only did the big furniture because it was so late, leaving poor Louis to do the remaining boxes, mirrors and pictures tomorrow. I arrived home later than planned about 7.30 to pack for our holiday, had to leave them in a huge mess, but they are in.

Millie was a treat today (when she wasn’t angry or crying miserably, moving is so confusing). She accidentally knocked over a large empty suitcase and said ‘oh dear I’m sorry’ to it, then stood it up again and asked it ‘are you okay?’, clearly believing that inanimate objects still deserve concern. I gave her a bath before leaving and when the plug came out she peered down the hole and said ‘bye-bye water’. She is at the age when everything she says is too cute for words and she is keen to count to ten for you at the drop of a hat, 21 months going on 7.

December 3, 2017

Bussed off to town and shopped at Town Hall for some train food goodies. The stuff they pass off on the train as food is a concoction of chemicals when you read the fine print and it tastes like it too. So we boarded at Central with sushi, bread rolls with salad and some Zumbo cakes. The journey was sooo relaxing, spent it looking out at the bush and green fields of northern NSW, reading the Saturday papers and counting ourselves very lucky not to have driven. We detrained at Kempsey due to track work further north and it was a hoot when the announcement kept coming over that ‘buses waiting at Kempsey will take you to your final destination’. After a good laugh I stopped to think of the Kempsey bus crash where many were killed, something that hadn’t crossed my mind for years. The bus trip went through my old haunts of Macksville and Nambucca Heads so I was really glad to have the opportunity to see them again. Chatted on the bus to a man from Bowraville and he brought up the topic of the Bowraville murders of three Aboriginal children there 20 years ago. The suspect has been tried twice but there are moves afoot to try him again, overturning the double jeopardy laws. Arrived at Sawtell station at 9.08 pm, where our host was waiting to drive us to our beautiful creekside unit, with a view of the ocean from the bed. Ah bliss.

December 4, 2017

What a place to wake up in! Watched the sun rise over the ocean from my bed, while the tide rose in the creek and the waterbirds hunted fish there. After breakfast we walked to the lookout at the end of our street, the hill was problematic for John but he got there. Later I walked back to the swimming spot and had a dip, deciding on the creek at high tide rather than the other choices of an ocean rock pool or the surf, it was just near the opening to the ocean so it was salt water anyway. Later we walked to town and had elevenses there before doing the town over, up one side of the main street and down the other. No big shops, just a little corner supermarket, so shopping is restricted but we managed. Reading took up most of the late afternoon and evening, really enjoying the book Trapped which we bought at the launch last week. Conditions inside the seminary were almost unbelievable, John will have a hard time reading it I think, too many bad memories. It really was just like a mediaeval monastery, I would have lasted a day, maybe two. But I was very lucky to see religion as a man made edifice by the time I was out of my teens, it has saved me a lot of grief in life.

December 5, 2017

Our wonderful host Leonie offered to drop us in to Coffs Harbour, firstly so I could use the library computer and secondly because the National Still Life Awards exhibition was on next door at the gallery. It was an amazing exhibition, still life being a very favourite form of art for me. Luckily my favourite painting, of a crystal decanter holding a single head of hydrangea, was already sold. It was very reasonably priced and the artist tied for the people’s choice awards, so he sold the picture for $1250 and then won himself $2500 on top. He is a 23 year old local called Ben Fayle and we will see much more of him.

We waited an age then for a bus to The Jetty but it was worth the wait. Walked along the foreshore and planned to walk out to Muttonbird Island along the breakwall, but we breathed a sigh of relief when it was closed for an upgrade, we had pretty much walked ourselves out by then on a hot day. Waited in the park for the longest freight train I have ever seen to pass in front of us at a pedestrian crossing, the station is quite close by. I love all things railway so seeing one up that close was amazing. Bussed back to Sawtell and cooked some salmon spread with pesto in the microwave, served with salad, easy and very tasty.

December 6, 2017

I suggested we walk to town, cross the creek at the bridge and walk down to the water on the other side. The mission was easily accomplished, on a full tide going out as it happened, but I still decided to have a swim. Close to the edge was quite ok but when I tried to go out just a little I was swept along by the fearful current so I stood up to get some purchase on the sand. The current dragged me standing! Pity about the rocks and oysters though. I got out of the water bleeding from under one foot, but luckily John had a washer with him that he tied into a bandage over the cut and a big scrape. The walk back was not fun. So now I am limping with a makeshift bandage of four giant Bandaids. At night we went to the local Indian which was fine but not exceptional, however I had stomach pains all night and wondered if the ulcer is not quite healed or has come back as it was in just the same place as before. I will leave Indian alone for a while I think. Loved watching the creek at night, what a wonderful place we have here.

December 7, 2017

I just love living on this creek, every hour it changes, the creek rises or falls, the birds change, waterbirds diving for fish, kingfishers, black cockatoos, wattlebirds, koels, ravens, scrub turkeys, whip birds and many more I can hear but not see. It makes home so boring by comparison. And the reason I live in Baulkham Hills is ……..? Because I am too old and too lazy to pack up my whole life and move it somewhere else. There are some great things about Sydney, but living immersed in nature as we are now is wonderfully relaxing. When I was young it cost as much to live in the seaside or harbour suburbs as it did in the west, unlike now, but I had only ever lived out west so I didn’t take the plunge, I was an idiot. We are discussing coming again, I suggested a week next time, John asked ‘why not two?’. We had an early swim as soon as high tide came and the water was divine. Wandered up to town and splurged on our last day on lunch at local cafe Treeo, Tripadvisor’s number one recommendation, and they are not wrong. We shared the best ever corn fritters with avocado followed by amazing pancakes with mejool dates cooked into the mix and topped with seared banana and home made salted caramel sauce, 10/10 for both. Just salad for tea! John went to a late afternoon movie (yes there is a sweet little cinema here) but the ocean was calling me again, so I had a 5pm swim instead, just missing the announcement of the marriage equality bill’s passing when I got home. About bloody time.

December 8, 2017

Leonie drove us to the station and gave us both a hug, promising to reduce the tariff if we come back for a week or more, which I hope we will. Lovely relaxing journey on the train, made all the better with a bagload of sandwiches and salads made this morning before we left. I am lucky to be able to read on trains because I can’t even glance at a page without getting sick in a car or bus and am too shit-scared to concentrate on a plane. Had a good conversation on books with one of the train attendants, who are as helpful as air crew if not more so. They happily get food for older passengers, help with luggage and certainly look after people travelling alone. Alighted at Hornsby and bussed home from there, tired but happy to have had such a wonderful break.

December 9, 2017

Off to town for an inspection of the Sirius building in The Rocks which our rotten state government is selling after having turfed out all of the social housing tenants, including many in their 90s. We visited the last remaining tenant, 92 years old and blind, still living on the 10th floor of an empty building of over 100 units. She has a sign in her window which lights up to say SOS, Save Our Sirius. They had about a dozen security guards there to ‘escort’ us up to her floor, clearly fearing a sit-in by a group of elderly architecture aficionados. The Liberals can’t bear the thought of public housing tenants getting a view, in their world the city is for the rich, full stop.

Then we wandered around The Rocks markets before going to visit Pam, who strangely gave each of us a copy of the same book for Christmas. It was The Romanovs 1613-1918, which I much appreciated, but was concerned that she spent $100 rather than $50 by buying us two copies. Had a good philosophical discussion as always when we see her, she might be slowing physically but mentally she is as sharp as the proverbial. She goes for a knee replacement in a week, of course we are concerned after John’s experience.

December 10, 2017

Decided to set up for Christmas this morning, but the first job of putting a wreath on the front door took a little time. The front porch was knee deep in bark from the neighbour’s tree, less than a week since I cleared it. So I swept, then found the walls are covered in cobwebs, so I washed down the weatherboards with a bucket of water and a rag. Then a big ugly black spider objected to his web being moved so I needed to explain we don’t have spiderwebs at Christmas. By now it was too late to continue as I was going to Erko to see the fam, so the wreath remains unhung. All going well at Erks with Miss Millie reading books to me! It has to be memory, but for all the world it seems as if she is reading the simple text. Talks like a talking machine, so I can’t swear any more or tell her I am going to eat her up for dinner or that the goblins are coming for her, cramps my noir story style. Coming home was an epic 2 hours and 5 minutes door to door because of track work on the train line, it involved 2 buses and a train from Central to Town Hall, but I stumbled on a superb violin player just as he started Pachelbel’s Canon. That sublime piece of music could turn me to religion I think, so I had to listen to it all the way through. (I jest, I jest about the religion, but I love it to bits).

December 11, 2017

Rang Martha to enquire about Phil and happened to tell her my plans for the day. She asked if she could come nursery hopping with me, I am still confused about a tree to fill the gap in the back garden. Went to OPSM first where the delightful optometrist informed me that I can’t see the TV properly because my long distance vision is failing and my glasses for reading are way out of date too, hence my difficulty reading small print of late. So, dual magnification lenses or two pairs of glasses? I decided on the latter as so far I only need them for the teev, so they can just sit on the couch, I don’t need to carry them with me. Ralph at Ralph Clarke Optical will use my existing frames to put the new lenses into, so it won’t cost a cent for either pair with my Medibank Private refund. OPSM of course would want me to buy new frames and I have expensive taste, so better to reuse the ones I have now and am still enamoured by.

The tree issue is not solved but I’ve been able to rule out a few options, including my favourite, a Robinia, as being unsuitable so near a sewerage line. Some are too slow, others too big or too small, I am getting there. Being a Libran is a very hard life. The optician offered me a free new case and it was a nightmare as he gave me a choice of two which were equally attractive but very different. I chose, but the one I left behind hovers in memory….. Left at 9am, arrived home at 4.30pm beat, from decision-making as much as anything.

December 12, 2017

Got the Christmas tree decorated today and iced the cake I made a while back. I was pretty pleased with the result, but then I put it in the fridge in a cake tin and an hour later my perfect smooth fondant had crazed. Dr. Oetker, whose cake icing materials I buy, are a company really happy (and fast) answering cakey questions so I messaged them and got a swift reply saying fondant isn’t happy in the fridge so I will need to keep it in the coolest spot I can find and hope for the best. The cracks seem to be dissipating a bit so I may come out of it alright.

Got 16 messages from HHH today, everything is hotting up for Christmas. Next Tuesday night we are having a special dinner service by the river for the clients and volunteers together, (eating on the job is usually verboten) gas-fired pizzas made and served from a truck and then desserts. Then on the day itself there is lunch for 350 in a hall, unfortunately I won’t be able to help with that and will feel guilty I know. A lot of elderly people are ringing and asking to come, including some from the Anglican Retirement Village, not far from me but 40 minutes from the hall at Windsor. Clearly they feel they will prefer it to whatever the village is putting on. Would I want to spend Christmas with a bunch of geriatrics, heavily peppered with clergy and their wives, or with a raggle-taggle kitchen-sink crew with a drag queen for entertainment? No contest.

December 13, 2017

The 16 messages from HHH yesterday turned to 18 by 11pm, including a call to work on lunch service today. Usually Wednesday lunch is covered, as that day we have helpers from the community service wing of John Morony Correctional Centre, aka Windsor Gaol. We had 5 men and a supervisor today and they were very willing, efficient and happy to be outside for the day, plus they assured me that the food was heaps better than ‘inside’. We had a barbecue with salads followed by trifle. I couldn’t interest many people in the trifle as lunch service tends to be rough sleepers rather than families, whose kids are at school. So I offered to pack the leftover trifle as takeaways. ‘Think about it” I was told, “would you want to take home a dairy based dessert with no fridge? Safer for them to take a can of fruit to open and eat fresh.” Good point, I am learning. Standing in the sun for two hours in this weather is taxing so I am having a breather before going out tonight to the Christmas meeting of the Lost and Found adoption group at Killara.

December 14, 2017

I am so out of touch with Christmas this year that I had a panic that I’d missed an event on the 19th and was mighty relieved to see it was only the 14th today. Went to get my specs but the lens maker had sent the wrong ones, so I go back tomorrow. The owner talked about his day off yesterday and how he just couldn’t get anything done, I started to listen more attentively when he said the words ‘tired, depressed and widower’. Will take him a little treat tomorrow, I have always thought of him just as a successful business person, not seeing the man underneath, an easy mistake to make, but a reminder to be more conscious. My gardener was working in the heat for part of yesterday and today, I couldn’t even stand it out there talking to him for 10 minutes today, I am a heat wimp. He is so meticulous. The tree he chopped down is now carefully sorted into large logs, medium logs, small logs, all cut to consistent lengths, then 20cm lengths of bare branch, and so on down to kindling. The piles are so neat they reminded me of Robert Frost’s famous and wonderful poem The Wood-Pile:

“It was a cord of maple, cut and split And piled—and measured, four by four by eight. And not another like it could I see…………. The wood was gray and the bark warping off it And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.”

December 15, 2017

Got my new glasses finally, yippee I can see the TV now, funny that the deterioration was so sudden though. He charged Medibank for one pair and will do the other in January, though he gave me the glasses to take home, nice to be trusted. I based my business on trust in the client and only got dudded a few times. One was a vet’s wife who took home a butcher’s block after paying just a deposit and when I contacted her number to ask for payment on the balance she had moved. Years later she came back into the shop and didn’t recognise me. I asked how the butcher’s block was going and she took off apace, despite being on crutches with a broken leg, funny really. Another couple paid a deposit on 6 chairs which they, and the woman’s mother, pleaded to take home as they had just moved into their first home and were temporarily short of money, blah blah. They gave a false address and phone number. But they are exceptions, the vast majority did as promised and as a rule, it was those with the least money who were the most reliable. The optician, I nearly typed mortician, mentioned his late wife who died of cancer, having had a Whipple procedure along the way. ‘Worst operation in the world’ he said. Yes, well we know just a little of that from a friend who has had one very recently. He said they were still blissfully happy and expected to go to the nursing home together. Life can turn on a dime.

December 16, 2017

Prepared my food for HHH, I got to choose just after the ‘roster’ went online, so I chose two easy things instead of one more labour intensive one. We are getting heaps of food and presents donated for Christmas, so there are multiple pick-ups required, so much coordination required that our boss lady is more cranky than usual as she is putting in long hours, seven days a week. Treated myself to reading some of my Salman Rushdie novel, The Golden House, before leaving for Windsor. How can someone’s mind create a whole fictitious world and make us believe it? He is a master, pure and simple.

Dropped off Brian’s Christmas present, a book, and received mine, also a book, which we will both wait till the 25th before opening. He is still so mentally sharp and particularly politically savvy at 91. He misses nothing that happens in politics, here or overseas, and analyses everything astutely, by which I suppose I mean that his views are pretty much identical to my own, haha. We only disagree on religion and debate it often, always ending with his saying with a smile ‘I will do a decade of the rosary for you’. Speaking of which, I am so disgusted by the bishops’ response to the child abuse royal commission findings. I didn’t expect much, but I could hardly believe their airy comments, they could have been discussing the new colour for the walls of the church hall. All sentiment and human feeling has been squeezed out of them by the system. Having just read two books on the seminary experience back to back, I can see that what John says about the destruction of humanity by the system is spot on.  I could happily give that little baby-faced Sydney guy, Archbishop Fisher, a backhander to ponder on, so I hope we never meet face-to-face for both our sakes. I wish there were a hell for them to rot in, but they will go to their graves self-righteous and feeling hard done by, rather than on their knees begging forgiveness for the church.

December 17, 2017

Service went well last night, all adults, no kids this time. Boss lady got a Christmas hug from one of the clients renowned for his stinkiness and was observed dry retching over the garden. I braced myself but didn’t get a hug thankfully. He is one who is in a housing commission unit and has access to full bathing facilities, yet the rough sleepers manage to stay acceptably scented. One of them was released from hospital yesterday morning and told not to go back to the river for a few days after surgery. A motel for two nights was organised but he couldn’t get in till 2pm, so there he was in the heat waiting, waiting, till the boss lady paid the $50 deposit and he was let in at two. By Monday he will be back on the river. We can afford to knock down privately owned stadiums and rebuild them, but not look after the homeless, sickening. A pizza shop donated sweet banana and caramel pizzas for dessert last night, they looked dis-gust-ing, a miserable amount of dried up banana over a smear of caramel sauce. I am amazed that people would pay good money for such food, but sadly they do. The clients ate them, but reluctantly, showing more taste than the general public.

December 18, 2017

Last night was one of those occasional ones when sleep is impossible, so after two hours had passed I got up and turned on the teev, to be greeted by a repeat of Paul Kennedy’s riveting documentary Undeniable. So I watched it a second time, but it is definitely not designed to encourage sleep and my utter contempt for the archbishop and bishop shown in the film was resurrected, just as it was starting to wane a little. Ah well, it deserved a second viewing. That took me to 2am and I was more awake than ever, so I finished my Salman Rushdie book The Golden House, set against a background of Trump’s election. He is scathing without ever mentioning the T word. He describes him as the green-haired red-lipped Joker, amongst other epithets. His disgust at the election result is so visceral, decrying each of the 66 million who voted for Trump, which brought me back to thinking of the bishops…….. Anyway I finished it at 4am and woke at 6am to birds on the roof, feeling like death. Today I have done little as a result, but managed writing cards to friends too far from Sydney to see regularly and making a large batch of savoury cheese biscuits, those designed for me dusted with a good sprinkle of cayenne. Idly planning a trip to Melbourne in February to go to Dally Messenger’s birthday party, to which we are invited, perhaps on the train? Looking forward to bed and leaving Trump and the bishops in my wake.

December 19, 2017

Over to Martha’s early to try to beat the heat, fat chance. We tootled off to Dural where I picked up my 50,000 unit Vitamin D script, which has to be done at a compounding pharmacy. I was on chemist strength and was going backwards, so the immunologist doubled the dose, still going backwards so he put me on 50,000 units once a month. It is slow release from the fat cells where it sets up camp, but now I am back to normal and apparently will stay on this big dose as it seems to have helped the exhaustion I was getting. Phil, Martha and I had morning tea at the House of Herbs at Dural, a nice pot of tea and an odd sponge with raspberry meringue on top, tasted like a recipe that perhaps you wouldn’t bother doing a second time, but the others enjoyed theirs so it just was a bad choice on my part. We all stopped at Dural Aldi as Martha has no transport apart from walking, which isn’t an option in 44 degree heat.

John and I went in the evening to the HHH dinner for both patrons and vollies, pizzas cooked onsite in a truck and a dessert caravan, all donated. I thought that it would give everyone a chance to mix socially, but there was very little mixing of clients and volunteers, the latter formed a cosy circle and, without any serving to do, basically talked to each other. They pretty much ignored John and myself but as I find the clients infinitely more interesting, we were happy moving from table to table to socialise. Particularly enjoyed seeing our five prison volunteers, whom the governor allowed to come out for the night, a first. The governor and two guards came as well, a good chance for her to see what the boys do every Wednesday. Said goodbye to a British man whom I had worked with on lunch service, who is being deported in two weeks after a five year sentence. The prison men are wonderfully proactive at service and great in communicating with those we serve, much better than most of the women actually. Steve, he of the full face and head tattoos, including stitches across his lips, has lived on the riverbank for five years, but has just managed to get a flat in Mulgrave and excitedly told of the luxury of turning on a tap and getting water….. how damned lucky we all are.

December 20, 2017

Went over to Carol and Jack’s, where we also happened to see Jane, then called in to see Martha and Phil, but there was no-one home, a good sign we decided. John was quite beat after this little trip, despite Jack driving us up from their house to the car so he wouldn’t need to walk up the hill. He is in atrial fibrillation constantly now, so the slightest incline, or heat, or just getting out of bed or the car exhausts him. He is on plenty of medication from the cardiologist but I think this is as good as it gets.

We have been invited to Dally Messenger’s birthday bash in Melbourne early next year, so we decided to go down there for a few days and enjoy ourselves. Yesterday I contacted a central city hotel and booked (with John’s aerobic capacity we need to be in the heart of the action). Then John said ‘why don’t we go a week before?’ so I changed the booking, then it was ‘we could stay till the Thursday after’ so I changed it again, then ‘why don’t we stay till the following Sunday instead?’ so yet another email to Melbourne. We ended up with a 16 day trip and by now I had got on so well with the receptionist in emails and phone calls that she said ‘why don’t I put you in to our Treasured Guest Programme and then you will get free breakfasts, free wine and nibbles between 4 and 6 each night, early check-in and late check-out?’. Yes, why don’t you? I replied smiling.

December 21, 2017

My fourth food shop for Christmas, just one more to go on Saturday for the fruit and veges. I often forget to take my shopping bags and end up carrying loose stuff back to the car, so today I made sure I had them BUT I had forgotten my handbag with wallet, glasses and phone and ended up having to return home to get them, sigh. There was a futile search of the storeroom for the Santa hats, I will find them on Boxing Day for sure. Good talk to Sue and tidying up the house to accommodate Miss Millie’s arrival completed the day. All breakables lifted or moved to the bedroom, but I am sure she will find what I have missed.

December 22, 2017

Made a trip to the dreaded Castle Towers before 9am to get the only thing I needed to buy for Christmas in a shopping centre. Passed many ladies’ clothes shops on the way which brought up a small moral dilemma. Camilla Franks has a beautiful range of wildly coloured beaded clothes in her QVB store in the city, out of my price range but admired nonetheless. However, almost every womens’ wear shop I pass has cheap knockoffs, even the charity shops have them now as there are so many out there. I have resisted buying them on principle, how bloody annoying it would be to design a range only to have every el cheapo shop knocking them off. But the question is, what about secondhand ones in St. Vinnies for $10? Life is so complex, always dodging what we ought not to do. Recently a woman was caught lifting a large quantity of clothing from a Camilla sale in Paddington, the Herald featured a photo of her being arrested by police at her car, a BMW. She turned out to be the wife of a professional soccer player and lived in a grand house overlooking McMasters Beach. No moral dilemma apparent.

Ugh, what a downer right before Christmas. That ugly right-wing war-mongering Jim Molan has been appointed to the Senate. Now we will never hear the end of his repugnant views.

December 23, 2017

Had a family of rainbow lorikeets on the deck today, but they were four small young ones, no parents in sight. Perhaps their first trip out alone? Love my birds. Did the fruit and vege shopping, then made a batch of rich custard for the pud, I had 12 egg yolks frozen from 2 pavs I made a while back, so I did a big batch and used them all. One more job off the list.

Went to evening service at HHH. I took dessert items and had to smile to myself as I poured the packet custard they all love so much, over everything. In this case over chocolate cake, over cheesecake, even over icecream or over a combination of all of them. It has been a custard day one way and another. Had three Hawkesbury councillors there tonight helping, I wonder if it will help us to get a bricks and mortar home for the service? They were there on a fact-finding mission, that was clear.

December 24, 2017

The kids arrived late morning and Millie entertained us with her constant counting from one to ten, the star turn of the moment. Relaxing day, everyone helping with the chores of getting food served, cleaning up and watching Millie. A bucket of water had to be provided for the reindeers, cake and alcohol left out for Santa (whom I suspect is alcoholic) as we indoctrinate Millie into the traditions of the Partridge Christmas. A stocking was placed into her cot for the morning.

December 25, 2017

Woke at 5.15 and waited for the rest of the mob to rise and shine on an overcast morning. Millie soon found the stocking in her cot and so began a long morning of present opening, till the Christmas cooking started in earnest. I did a variety of poultry and a fillet of beef, but in my opinion it wasn’t as good as last year, the fillet was far from tender. However others seemed quite happy and I am ever the critic, especially of myself. I scored a powerful new chef’s torch, a macadamia cracker to finally attack a huge jar of fresh macadamias I was given and a book I’ve been wanting (Inglorious Empire, on Britain’s treatment of India) plus perfume, Turkish Delight and more…..

Hawkesbury Helping Hands had their huge Christmas lunch today and I was keen to hear how it went. I just got a message from boss lady that the police had to be called at the end of the day and she has had to ban two people. The two who caused the problem were recently banned from the Salvo’s because of threats and one has threatened the guy from St Vinnies. He just got out of jail after 7 years apparently and I had dropped both of them to their home after service on Saturday night. They were fine then, but it is sobering nonetheless.

December 26, 2017

We were all a bit slothful today. John went to Bunnings for screws!! Very exciting. But apart from that we read or ate leftovers. Late afternoon we headed to Dav’s at Erskineville for a barbecue dinner with Tattinger Champagne. John and I talked about New Years Eve and agreed that he is not up to standing or the crowds so going to see the fireworks is out. But motivation to do many things is an issue as well, he is just not himself at the moment and enthusiasm is thinly spread.

December 27, 2017

Went to the library and then to the dreaded Castle Towers to look for a swimsuit, but couldn’t find one to fit, they were all small sizes so I suspect the fatties were out in force on Boxing Day for the sales and cleaned them out. No-one even serving on the swimsuit counter at David Jones, so I gave up and will look elsewhere. I think I am in a post-Christmas slump. I felt John didn’t enjoy Christmas as much as usual, a combination of poor health and absence of his own family I think. He just couldn’t get into the swing of it this year, such a difference to last. But I must remember how well off we both are despite everything, time spent at HHH is a good medicine. I get much more than I give.

December 28, 2017

Dragged my sorry carcass out to do some gardening and found the secateurs had disappeared. Well ‘disappeared’ is a euphemism for ‘lost in the mess of the garage’. I really need to huck it out, but that involves throwing stuff out and what actually happens is that I move it from one side to the other. I need someone there saying ‘you won’t ever use that, it is broken, throw the bloody thing out!’. John has performed that role in the past, he is quite good at it in fact.

Discovered I had double booked myself for Saturday night. We had accepted an invitation from one of John’s priest friends to go for drinks at Maroubra, a yearly event. (The mere idea of a religious leader having a drinks party is a shock to me even now, in my religious upbringing ministers didn’t drink at all and pressed the flock from the pulpit not to ever allow the poison to pass their lips). Anyway I had put my name down for my usual stint at HHH, totally forgetting the party. I had to withdraw from one and chose to make it HHH as I could do a shift tonight instead. Boss lady made a comment on Facebook ‘and I was just starting to like you…’. I can’t feel at home with the organisation, a year after joining, but am totally at home with those we serve, which has to be enough I guess. The patrons like me too and make that clear every time we meet, bless them.

December 29, 2017

Up to the shops to get seafood for dinner as Carly is returning today while Dav and Co are heading to Queensland tomorrow to visit with Louis’ family. I am reading my Christmas pressie book “Inglorious Empire” about the appalling treatment of Indians during the 200 years of the Raj and it makes me think of dear Ram, the friend I made in India when we were there nearly 10 years ago, who is one of that country’s many working poor. I decided to ring him immediately and he answered excitedly, we had a good chat, well as good as his basic English and my non-existent Malayalam allowed. I so wish I could go over and see him in person, perhaps one day. He told me he prays every day for Mr John, can I get him to drop the mister? No I can’t. So with the Catholic god, the Protestant god and the Hindu god on his case, perhaps he will be okay after all. Made a lovely seafood dish with barramundi, prawns and mussels cooked very briefly in white wine and butter, from my Irish recipe book, mmm-mmm. Christmas pud and home made custard for dessert later Smilie: :)

December 30, 2017

Good to have Carly here. She went off to meet old uni friends at the Opera Bar in the afternoon while we went to Little Bay to Jack de Luca’s annual Christmas/New Year event for friends. He has his family party on Boxing Day. It was lovely on his capacious deck overlooking the ocean, his apartment is in a complex on the site of the old coast hospital which used to cater for infectious diseases patients, lepers and Aboriginals, which says a lot I think. Many of the lovely old buildings have been converted to apartments and new blocks built inbetween by Lendlease. I am often critical of our urban architecture but the whole precinct is a lovely open stylish place, top marks to the developers for a change.

Jack’s guests were a mix of old friends from seminary days, current priests and other men who are in his little choir. This time was music free but on other occasions we have heard playing of his pipe organ, grand piano or harpsichord, or else sing. The unit is a sort of New York loft with a very high ceiling in the loungeroom to take the pipe organ he brought from his home in Leura, where he lived when he was a parish priest. Had an interesting conversation with Michael who turned out to be the parish priest of Drummoyne. He said the congregation has dropped this year due to the Royal Commission and the gay marriage vote. How so? I asked, in relation to the gay marriage issue, I didn’t get it. But he explained that young parishioners work with, and are friends with, gay people and can’t understand the view that the church took against their friends. I asked if there were any move afoot to change the policy inside the church and he offered that the culturally conservative Africans, Poles and others would never agree and it would cause a schism in the church, so Francis’s hands are tied whatever he personally believes. He also opined that the scripture says very little that would preclude a change, which seemed of interest to a number of male gay couples also attending. Interesting what you pick up in casual conversation.

I was concerned that our New Year’s Eve was looking like a plain old dinner at home, yet John wasn’t up to a crowd (in truth neither was I), so I searched the net for places a bit out of the crush, but near enough to get a sense of the fireworks, even if not seeing them all. Came up with The Boathouse in Glebe after considering Woolloomooloo, Glebe, Balmain etc. But sadly I was a day late, the bookings had filled at 6pm the day before. However, not daunted, I continued to search, discounting Quay at $1350 per person and Aria at $1250, finally getting a booking at Fish at the Rocks in Kent St, not too far from the action, but close enough to smell the gunpowder when we leave the restaurant for the 9pm show. It was offering an appetiser, a 3 course seafood dinner and a glass of champagne for $110 each and when I checked their menu that was pretty much their normal price, so I grabbed it. While we won’t see the bridge full on, we will see all the aerial bangs. Huzzah!!

December 31, 2017

Just home from the 9pm fireworks, quickest bus home ever, just 30 minutes with hardly any traffic. It was a very good move to settle into a nearby restaurant for dinner, then just cross the road to Observatory Hill for the show. Not a huge crowd there, but we positioned ourselves to get a good view of the bridge and they didn’t have anything on the bridge at 9pm so that was a disappointment. However we had a good view of the aerial ones. Happy New Year to us!!!

January 1, 2018    Wow, first time I have written that!

John was pooped by the time we got home last night even though we didn’t need to walk far at all. He went straight to bed and I ushered in the New Year in the company of the fireworks on the teev. I am worried enough to be going with him to see Bob in the morning: low appetite, low energy, low aerobic fitness and a big weight loss to boot. I had noticed his weight going down, but he rarely checks it and today discovered it has gone to 70kg, from 85 kg a year ago. It seems something is going on, as he doesn’t get through the day without a nanny nap. We took it easy today as he needs to have a rest day between activities. I emptied 3 boxes in the garage, threw some stuff out and put some aside to ebay, so I feel very virtuous in enacting one of my resolutions, declutter, at least in my storage.

January 2, 2018

Wowsers it really is 2018. Went with John to the doc’s and he has done a raft of blood tests to see if there is an obvious reason for his minor health slump. His BP was only 85/65 so Bob said having it drop lower than that at times, which it does, would be enough to make him feel pretty ordinary, but we shall see. Went to see the movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri which we both enjoyed a lot. A story of forgiveness, desperation, grief, hopelessness, racism, and toughness, somewhere between comedy and realism, certainly worth a viewing. Went on to visit Phil and Martha, who escape to an air-conditioned club on really hot days, which explains why we have missed them on some occasions.

January 3, 2018

Left for Windsor at 9.30 am and got home at 3.45. Helped boss lady empty the van of a small amount of what was collected after the Lost Paradise music festival in a valley near Peats Ridge over New Year. Unbelievable what people leave behind, tents, Eskys, mattresses, chairs, all put to good use now but appallingly wasteful on the festival goers’ part. Served lunch to about 30 clients and then wandered to the newsagent to cash in the lotto ticket I was given this morning for Christmas, though sadly it was a fizzer. While doing this I met a client from service and we decided to go and have a hot drink and a chat, but I objected to his choice of Gloria Jean’s and on the way to search for an alternative we bumped into four more clients coming from service and ended up all sitting in the mall talking for half an hour, so we never did get to the café. It is now 5pm and I am more than ready for dinner, after having breakfast at 7am.

January 4, 2018

Well John’s CRP has gone backwards, which is good, from 85 to 66, but considering it should be around 4, there is quite a way to go. No other surprises in the blood tests so Bob isn’t quite sure why he is losing weight and feeling so beat. Anyway the haematologist has him booked for a PET scan at the end of the month to see if there are any signs of active cancer, that is always the scary one to have done. It was put off in December as the machine had broken down.

I actually put three things on ebay today, go me!! It has only taken me 17 months to be psychologically ready to deal with the remains of the shop stock that didn’t sell at the auction or were too low in value to be accepted there at all. Hopefully I can move a few but I am out of practice and slow, I used to spend my day off doing listings and got pretty speedy at doing dozens in a day. Not going for top dollar, just trying to get my investment back (and clear my garage and storeroom more to the point). Then Michelle rang and asked me if I would like to meet her at North Rocks shops for a catchup, which I did. The café had a Kj rating next to everything which gave an amount of 4 for a pot of tea and 2150 for a milkshake, I had the milkshake anyway but it was somewhat disconcerting to see I was drinking a quarter of my daily needs right there. No lunch for moi.

January 5, 2018

Off early on the bus to Epping to meet up with Deborah and Stephen for our Christmas celebration. Because of trackwork there was no train going north but we boarded a rail coach at Epping to take us to Berowra, past the trackwork. I was impressed by the efficiency of the process, with an adviser at each bus stop making sure we got the right one as others went to different locations. At Berowra we boarded the train to Hawkesbury River and met them on the station, due in no small part to Stephen’s logistical mastery via various phone apps. Spent the whole day outdoors but under cover at King Tide Cafe on the waterside, we left as they were closing about 5pm. Great to spend the day together, we all get on so naturally and don’t need to pull any punches in our wide ranging discussions. Home the same way, loaded up with Christmas presents, suitably impressed again by the transportation logistics. Planning a trip from there on the Riverboat Postman soon.

One of my New Years Resolutions was to keep well out of any medical rooms in 2018, so I was more than peed off when I opened a letter from the government (always a heart sinking moment when you are on a pension) to find I had scored a C minus in the biannual National Bowel Screening Test. Now I will no doubt have to see a specialist for a colonoscopy. I want to know who in the government has access to my NY resolutions and why? It is such a bore, especially after feeling so positive about the coming year.

January 6, 2018

Thinking idly about how to avoid taking a seat on the medical roller-coaster and came up with the following: 1. Say that someone else was in the house doing their test at the same time and I must have mixed them up, sadly I can’t remember who that was. 2. Saying that the test stick was sharp and I jabbed my finger. 3. Saying that an angel came to me to say that cancer is not my fate. Narrowing it down, I must discard the third with an avowedly atheist doctor, the first makes me look a bit doolally so I think the second seems the better option. I am not totally convinced that Bob will swallow it, but hey, points for trying.

Finished reading the manuscript of an elderly friend’s autobiography, written in 1994 and as yet unpublished. It goes a long way to understanding her foibles, losing her mother to failed minor surgery at six, a life of boarding school with short weekly visits from her father, a fixation on religion, being duped out of the inheritance due to her as an adult from her mother’s substantial estate and a life of regret and recrimination for past wrongs done to her. I shall be more sympathetic I hope for having read it, though at times I feel impatient with endlessly hearing the story. I know she has suffered lifelong damage, too late to fix now I suspect, so sympathy and support is really all that is left to give.

January 7, 2018

It is currently officially 45 degrees or 110 degrees in the old money in Baulkham Hills. A simple trip downstairs to get the washing in was not for the faint-hearted. I hate the heat and as a result refrain from complaining all winter. How our pals on the riverbank in Windsor are coping I can barely imagine, though Linda as usual has been out there distributing water and ice, this time with the benefit of the Eskys picked up at the music festival. I am blessed being at home today.

January 8, 2018

Yesterday the automatic temperature gauge at a Windsor school hit 52 deg. or 124 deg. F, Sydney being the hottest place on the planet that day. I have experienced 50 deg. in Dubai, but Sydney appears to be heading for the unbearable weather that exists in those arid climes. Despite the heat I am making a Thai duck red curry for dinner tonight, a change from the usual fish, at least it is quick to cook and doesn’t need the oven on. Tossing up whether to throw caution to the wind and add a chopped mango to the recipe for a change.

Bob was unconvinced by my submissions for avoiding a colonoscopy, so I got a referral to Dr. Pran’s office for an appointment. ‘It will be 2 weeks or so’ the receptionist said. Oh good I thought, but on opening the letter she smiled and said pleasantly ‘oh a positive FOBT, we have an express lane for those, so he can see you the day after tomorrow’. Grrrr. However Bob and I had an interesting discussion about whether good science and religious belief can co-exist in the one person and both agreed we would feel uncomfortable with the conclusions of a doctor, for example, who claimed to follow scientific method while also believing in anything that must be taken solely on faith. He commented that his deeply held religious beliefs were gutted by his study of medicine. Don’t retire!

January 9, 2018

I watched a programme on The Ghan the other night, three hours showing the view out of the train window, out of the driver’s compartment and aerial shots of it snaking across spirit-level flat desert country, covered with low bushes and thwarted trees. There was no commentary and although I watched it for an hour up to Katherine, I just couldn’t hack the last section into Darwin. Having often opined that I would love to do that journey, this show cured me and John is delighted that it is one trip that he doesn’t have to contemplate, homebody that he is. On ABC Radio the next day, I heard this is a new movement aptly called ‘slow TV’, one similar show in Europe was from a boat down the Rhine and another was six hours of Scandinavian snow-covered scenery and wildlife. If it were intended to sell seats, it failed miserably in my case.

Today I went to Rozelle to buy a butane gas canister from Essential Ingredient for the chef’s torch I was given for Christmas and to get a decent loaf of white bread from Victoire Bakery. I love wholegrain and sourdough, but hate either with jam, which I like to have on toast for breakfast, so I cut and freeze good white bread for that purpose. Found a lovely ‘brand new with labels’ apparently one-piece Seafolly swimsuit in a second hand shop there, but it was missing the nether regions, ‘That’s how it came in, perhaps they lost the pants’, she said. Then went to a nearby swimwear shop and tried on a few swimsuits there, one of which was also pantless. ‘Oh it is a tankini’ the assistant said, ‘you just wear any bottoms under it’. So I raced back to the first shop and snaffled the brand new ‘tankini’ for $30, instead of $150 for the one I had just tried on. Black bikini bottoms to go under these are available for $10 apparently. Smiling.

January 10, 2018

The sun has departed to a mystery location and I hope it stays there for a goodly while, the cool breeze is blissful. I planned to hit Pran with a glib ‘we’ll have to stop meeting like this’ when I saw him this morning, but he beat me to it, all tall and slim and casual in his tight jeans and matching shirt. He certainly is one handsome dude, a doctor who could have been a model or a movie star, but I digress. The dreaded small c, a preventative for the proverbial Big C, will take place on Saturday week, a weekend day because once a month he uses it to squeeze in those extras he prefers to get done quickly. His office avoids my pet hate, ok one of my pet hates, being trapped with a television on a commercial channel. His is on very low and only screens videos of the likes of Richard Attenborough or that handsome professor dude, Brian Cox, telling us all about the cosmos. An astrophysicist who could have been a model or a movie star. Super glad they both opted for science though.

January 11, 2018

At the library this morning, where I put in a request for them to purchase the White House expose Fire and Fury. I was on the computer when a normal-looking woman sat down at the one alongside and proceeded to talk aloud to herself and the computer for 20 minutes or so. I was considering leaving when she upped and left, but it was very weird ‘Oh I see the green slip has gone up to $542, I might look at other companies’ which she then does and I have to listen to all her detailed deliberations, then her comments on all her emails, her bank balances etc etc. You have to love loopy people, but sitting next to one when you are trying to concentrate, not so much. On the other side of me came two very large Mormon missionaries of Pacific extraction, working away on some biblical texts perhaps? Till I glanced at the screens as I was leaving and saw they were watching raunchy music videos, just research though I am sure. Got to know what that devil is up to.

January 12, 2018

Lovely to have Davina, Louis and Millie come for the day. It was her day off and the painters were starting to do the interior of their new unit, so they decided to come to me and avoid all the sanding etc. However early in the morning the painter phoned to put off the start till Monday, but as they had already hired a car they came anyway. Had lunch on the deck, then Louis worked remotely on his computer while Dav and I relaxed and Millie had a huge sleep. In the evening we all went to Andaz, a newish Indian restaurant near my place, and were very impressed. Loved the Palak Patta Chaat, fresh whole spinach leaves in a crispy lentil batter, topped with yoghurt, date & tamarind chutney. Oooh yes, I will be back for that alone, but also for the wonderful spiced tomato soup served gratis at the start of the meal. Pam rang to say she is back in hospital after her knee replacement, though her doc doesn’t think it is a knee issue, she just feels unwell. We will visit tomorrow.

January 13, 2018

Just finished reading The Sandman, a very scary Swedish novel about serial killers. Strange how we, or at least I and many others, get carried away with serial killers, real or fictional. Our worst fears temporarily materialised, though my nightmares are more about flying or being locked up somewhere I can’t get out of. I had to watch some silly television for a little while each night after this one though, just to get it out of my system. Another new Trump book comes out in a few days, he could keep us in reading matter for quite a while at this rate, though as he makes more enemies by the day perhaps his demise is on the (distant) horizon? No country can bear being a laughing stock for too long.

January 14, 2018

Went to visit Pam in hospital, then on to lunch in the cafe at the Botanic Gardens with past and present members of the Lost and Found group, 12 in all. I say lunch, but it turned out there was little I could eat as everything seemed to have nuts or seeds in it and my food restrictions started today. The bread was all seeded, the salads were full of tomato and cucumber, I don’t eat chicken schnitzel that’s not free-range (at least) or organic, and so it went on. So I ended up with a yukky ham and cheese croissant and I am not even keen on ham. The sweets all had berries in or else were chocolate, so no afters either and they don’t do milkshakes, my go-to when I don’t like the food somewhere. I guess a ham and cheese croissant will appear a wonderful treat later in the week though. Met up with John and went to Roseville to see Just to be Sure, a French film that we both enjoyed. Home to his place where I had a lovely simple slice of toast and butter for tea, just what I felt like to clear out the yukky taste of the lunch.

January 15, 2018

Had a lovely full day beginning with an appointment with Tricia at Barrack St in the city, after which I took John to lunch at Ash St Cellar in one of the city’s few but lovely lanes. There is a massive wine menu so I chose an excellent Tomfoolery Cab Sav/Shiraz. The food is served as small plates which suits us these days. We shared Mushrooms with Guanciale as well as Salt Cod and Caviar with Flatbread and John had Lamb Cutlets with Roasted Tomatoes, which you order as 1, 2, 3 or whatever number you desire. Not for folks with big appetites but perfect for us and I could find enough dishes which skirted my restrictions, though I am amazed at how many had nuts or seeds of some description and these are the ones I tend to order normally. We wandered in to Paspaley Pearls nearby and the attentive salesperson, whom I pre-warned that we were just tyre-kickers, was generous with his time showing us the different pearls, some at $25,000 and up for a single one, gulp. He explained the history of pearling in Australia and gave us a terrific 20 minute tour of the types and styles of jewellery. I was able to confirm with him that Julie Bishop’s collection of massive pearl earrings were from Paspaley as I had suspected. John commented later that he loved the tour but would never have been game to go into the shop without me, but as I told him ‘no hide, no Christmas box’.

Then it was off to Kinghorn for his monthly immunoglobulin transfusion which takes up the afternoon. I read my current book Vital Signs, written by a professor of intensive care at UNSW in a very appropriate setting. He is very critical of using an ICU to drag another few days or weeks out of a person who is cactus anyway, he says it should be used just for those who have a possible chance of survival, based on both moral and financial considerations, leaving the rest to die in a supported but peaceful way at home. After that we tootled to Castle Hill to see The Post, about the release of the Pentagon Papers, a wonderful movie at a very important time when people are forgetting, or never knew, that Vietnam was a con, pure and simple. A boiled egg for John’s dinner and our excellent day was done.

January 16, 2018

John went off to meet his ex-priest friends for lunch and then to deliver Pam’s manuscript to her as I have now finished it. She mentioned the other day that her hospital doctor, whom she has only known a few days, told her that he had left his doctor wife for a Vietnamese hospital volunteer and now at 48 he is awaiting the birth of their first child. An extraordinary amount of personal information from first, a doctor and second, someone she has just met. But it does show the importance of a sense of humour I guess, as he said he paired up with her because she made him laugh. I went to the CBA today to query a $5 deduction from my account for no apparent reason. After waiting 35 minutes while the girl tried to contact the bank by phone, she refunded the amount. Even staff can’t get through to businesses these days, $5 for my 35 minutes is not ideal.

January 17, 2018

John has been slowly losing weight for a while now, he has had a cough for six months and is very, very breathless. Though I have been fearing a relapse of the lymphoma, we have both skirted that discussion, until this morning that is, when he announced he had lost another kilo and opined that next week’s PET scan might let us know what is going on. He doesn’t always compute medical things in the same way that I do, so I have resisted pointing out that they are all danger signs, but of course there could be other explanations as the docs have put his lack of breath down to his heart. I feel better that he raised the doom and gloom possibility, it is out on the table now and able to be more freely discussed.

Last night I met Jane in the city and we went to The Spice Room, an Indian restaurant near the Quay and then on to the opera The Merry Widow. It was a visual feast, with an Art Deco design theme which was glorious to see, both in sets and costumes. The choreography was wonderful, I hadn’t realised Graeme Murphy was involved, so that was a treat. There is always a favourite voice and for me it was Alexander Lewis as Danilo. The tickets were a gift from Jane for my 70th, the birthday that keeps on giving.

January 18, 2018

Heather visited unexpectedly this arv, she has sold her three florists’ shops and they take over in February so a huge change of lifestyle coming there. She is often in a hurry, but today sat for a few hours chewing the fat, so perhaps she is mentally winding down already. Feeling down tonight but won’t go into it here.

January 19, 2018

I got Richard Flanagan’s new book out of the library, on a limited 7 day loan as it is proving popular. I don’t know what to say apart from the fact that I will be really glad when it’s finished. The writing is great as you would expect, but it is a novelised version of his ghost-writing in the 1990s of the autobiography of Australia’s biggest conman (and we have had a few). A book about a book if you will. But here’s the rub, the conman is annoying, mercurial, uncooperative and a general pain in the arse and nearly 400 pages of him is more than I want to spend. Not that there aren’t some great lines ‘a pine kitchen, all cheap knotted timbers slimed with polyester gloss as glistening as cling wrap’ which marked us as fellow haters of Estapol. But do I want to reread it sometime? Hell no.

I was warned about today being one of hunger, ok I can deal with that, if only as a meditation on what others suffer every day without choice. I am not a big drinker, neither alcohol nor anything else, so drinking a litre of anything over one hour is a trial, especially if it is camel’s piss which has been dehydrated and packaged as a drug. So adding that to the tablets and another vile preparation, I feel too damned sick to be hungry. I sat next to John while he ate curry and rice from my freezer followed by a big bowl of icecream and had not a jot of envy, in fact the thought of it made me sicker. One more dose at 4am tomorrow and I am done.

January 20, 2018

Yes the 4am one was the worst, ugh. But from then on everything went smoothly, apart from John cutting across a doctor’s black Mercedes, numberplate DR BONE, in the car park. He nearly got himself some extra business due to J’s unfamiliarity with the surroundings. Whisked in to change, navy blue gown with fetching red hat and wristband due to my drug allergies, two minutes later anaesthetist is there saying follow me and five minutes after that I am in la-la land. None of your common old waiting in that place. The upshot is I have diverticulosis, a less worrying earlier form of the more commonly known diverticulitis. I had told Pran that my gut feeling, smirk, was that it wasn’t cancer so I was cool. His first words were ‘you were right, but I don’t know how you were so confident’. No cure, just eat a high fibre diet, which I already do, but any excuse to eat more lentils, split peas, lima beans, porridge, raspberries, mangoes etc is okay by me. Raspberries turn out to be very high fibre, who knew? Pran did, bless him, it is as if he gave me a list of all my favourite stuff. Doesn’t matter if the foods are fresh, canned, frozo, all as good. Smilie: :)

John wanted to go to bed by 9pm last night, a sure sign he is depressed as he is an 11.30pm person. His poor health and the reappearance of an ongoing personal problem have triggered it, particularly the latter as he worsened exactly when it was brought up again on Thursday. Today he went for a sleep after lunch and I told him I thought he was at a low ebb, he agreed, so I suggested puzzle therapy and we got out the 1000 piece jigsaw he was doing when he first had the knee infection and was confined to barracks. We had packed it up part done, so it was easy to set up again. Tomorrow I am taking him to KOI Dessert Bar at Ryde for morning or afternoon tea for a treat. Result? 50% better already.

January 21, 2018

My first ebay sale of the new life post shop went out today, not that I will be buying, but getting rid of all of the odd stuff in storage. Sold 36 Wanderer magazines from the 1950s for $36 and you wouldn’t believe it, the buyer was from….drum roll….. Windsor. I can’t get away from the place. In the afternoon we went to KOI Dessert Bar for afternoon tea, they are open 10am to 10pm. Was surprised to see the owner/chef Reynold and his two brothers/partners there but I restrained myself and didn’t ask for an autograph. He is an artist in food rather than a chef. John was tickled pink by the place and amazed at what he had as it was his first time there. Had a long chat with Stephen who rang me just after we left home for KOI and we were still talking on speaker phone half an hour after we had parked there. Their insights as usual were spot on and helped both of us to deal with a current source of perplexity in a fraught personal situation.

January 22, 2018

I haven’t been of a mind to cook much lately, though I did a banana and walnut loaf yesterday as the fruit flies were hovering over the fruit bowl, where exactly do they come from? It has just been too hot for too long so it ends up that meals are pretty simple at Chez Mozza. Today though I did an old fave for lunch, Butter Bean Tonnato, sort of a Vitello Tonnato without the veal. Just a can of butter beans drained and topped with mint and a sauce made in the whizzer of canned tuna, olive oil, anchovies, capers, lemon juice and yogurt, served cold. Yum I adore it, John turns his nose up at it but he wasn’t here for lunch so I was safe, plenty left for lunch tomorrow too. Ash St Cellar eat your heart out. The cherries this year are divine, the best being from my corner IGA, great dark red beauties. It makes up for the crap peaches I’ve been buying this season, haven’t had a decent one yet, good excuse to eat cherries.

January 23, 2018

Did the trip over to Harris Farm at Pennant Hills this morning, now that I am forced to buy my fruit and veges there once a week instead of the three times a week I used to do when they were in Baulkham Hills, whinge whinge. I am never as happy with buying anywhere else so I just need to accept it and stop complaining. I am like a big liner, it takes me a long time to change direction, but once done I can power ahead. Decided to make a decent dinner for John as he had to fast all day for his PET scan so I used the Irish recipe for Salmon with Champ Sauce, which is a winner. Champ sauce is just potato cooked with onion and then made into a loose mash whipped with cream and chives. This is spread on the plate, topped with a fried salmon fillet, then with rocket in a vinaigrette, simple but yum.

He took three hours having the scan instead of the usual two, so it was a long day without food, not getting home till seven. One interesting aside is that when walking him back to the desk the technician explained his physical distance was due to needing to be two metres from a person after the scan, due to radiation. Um, ok. So I did a bit of research and apparently in America patients are warned not to get near children, sick people or pets for 24 hours after a PET as it takes that long for the radiation to dissipate, this fact is explained to all patients. Not here though, as this is John’s third and it was the first mention, though the staff take great precautions, as well they should. Apparently driving a patient home gives the carer about the same amount of millisieverts as a jet flight from New York to Tokyo, and while I am happy to take these risks, I am annoyed that I’ve never been given the information. I don’t claim any expertise in reading a PET scan CD, but of course we popped it into the computer anyway. I have been right with the result of the last two and this one looks okay to me, certainly nothing like the diabolical first one, where we looked at the screen in horror at the multiple big black patches all over his torso. This one just has the dreaded black marks in those place you would expect, the heart, brain and kidneys, where the radioactive tracer is naturally concentrated. So hopefully I get 3/3 correct when the official report comes in within a couple of days.

January 24, 2018

Off to Manly to Hair Art today, so we made a day of it and went to Shelly Beach afterwards for a swim. Our 3 favourite beaches are Shelly, Balmoral and Bronte so it was a treat to find a shady spot to camp for a few hours. The water was divine, warm with the typical low swell that you get in that almost west-facing beach. Had a hot lunch from the kiosk, which was expensive in itself, but seeing we often share meals now, quite reasonable divided by two and ever so good. An iceblock on the sand completed the day. Not long after getting home, at about 6, I got a call from Robert to explain his discussions with the brain surgeon this afternoon. He was unlucky in that he called him on his last day of work before Christmas and today is his first day back, so clearly the doc thought him a priority, but he needs to book a theatre for the op so it won’t happen till mid-February. I will be glad when it is done and dusted. No call from Nada as yet with the PET scan result, but no news is good news.

January 25, 2018

Still no news re the scan, perhaps she won’t even ring if she is happy, you never know with Nada. No go either on John’s daughter’s potential visit to him today, bringing his grandchildren. After his sleepless nights and concerned anticipation it didn’t eventuate at all, this was relayed at 4pm, now rescheduled for Saturday.

I don’t care what the felon had done, the American judge in the Nasser case overstepped judicial propriety in announcing ‘I just wrote your death warrant’ when sentencing him to 175 years gaol. I think he is smart enough to do the sums alone and she obviously has watched too many episodes of Judge Judy. Totally unprofessional. A good cop or judge or prison officer keeps personal feelings in check and does the job calmly and objectively. We were taught at Justice Support to treat murderers, rapists, whatever, in the same way as motor vehicle fine servers or victims. We always did, sometimes with difficulty, and if volunteers can manage it, it isn’t too much to expect the same from the police and judiciary.

January 26, 2018

Being a Libran isn’t an easy life. I have spent a week agonising about which 7 books to choose out of a list of 14 for book group tonight. After looking each one up on Goodreads, then deleting the 4 options I suggested because I want to read new books, I have finally ticked my seventh. Every decision to me seems world-changing, always has. I have given up temporarily on deciding what new tree to plant in a gap which lets in the view of an ugly house, so many options and so many considerations, sometimes I think it would be easier to ask them to rebuild.

So another Australia Day has come around. I haven’t celebrated since 1988 when I did the whole day and watched the fireworks with the kids, feeling guilty that I was celebrating the beginning of the end for the first peoples. So for me it is another Sorry Day and will be until we recognise Aboriginal culture’s destruction and show some damned respect. Teaching kids our real history would be a start.

January 27, 2018

I haven’t said much here about Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands recently, after a torrent of criticism of the volunteers when it was thought one had ‘spoken to the press about the organisation without permission’. It turned out no-one had, but we each had to type ‘understood’ after the posting to show that we agreed not to make any quote to the press, or comment on social media. Is this social media? Not sure, as the small number of people who have the link could meet in a telephone box, so ‘social’ is a stretch. I’ve decided that if I get sprung and turfed out, I will repent and beg forgiveness. Lots of new rules have come out so we shall see how things progress. Last night after service I was talking to a couple who live in a tent on the riverbank and of course the heat came up. We discussed climate change and the man explained to me that it means the seasons are moving forwards, so we will eventually have Christmas in the middle of winter, the evidence being that we are getting February’s weather now in December and that movement will continue. Still pondering the logic of this one, but he was happy that he had the concept sorted.

January 28, 2017

So pleased that the stinking weather has taken a breather, not so much for me as I can live in air-conditioned luxury if I choose, but for our mates living outdoors. John’s family meet-up went ahead without issues yesterday, a relief to all concerned. We won’t find out about his scan results till Tuesday as Nada is doing a country clinic on Monday. I am very confident about the PET, but analysing the CT is way above my pay grade. I sent the bro two books for his birthday/Christmas, I always send Australian literature and this time it was a Tim Winton and a Lily Brett. He is not afraid to let me know when I haven’t hit the mark, one book he described as ‘trivial and obvious’. His response to this one was:. TOO MANY MEN IS SOMETHING ALTOGETHER.  Now I have not got time to tell you all the news and relate the many exciting parties I have been attending recently ( I have not contributed to any charities unlike my bosom pal) because the whole of my energies are concentrated on reading to the exclusion of anything else.  I am a third of the way through the most stimulating book I have read for many decades.  I hope you managed to read through it before you posted it to me either for Xmas or birthday.  I have no time left for trivialities. 

January 29, 2018

A funny day but a pleasing one which included making passionfruit slices. I was walking up the sloping car park at the library and passed an old lady who had stopped to rest on her walking stick. Are you okay? I asked, yes yes was her reply. As I walked on I heard ‘hey lady, hey lady’ so I returned to her and she asked if I could drive her to the shopping centre, only 500 metres or so walking but quite a way around the block by car. She chatted on the way telling me she lived at The Willows, a local retirement village and I noticed she had big plum-sized lumps all over her arms. She told me she came originally from Chile, has kidney failure and needs dialysis three times a week. Aah I thought, the lumps are probably pseudoaneurysms from all the needle sticks. As we got to the underground car park where she could go up in the lift, she thanked me and said her name was Maria and explained apologetically that she was 70. SEVENTY ! I realised the ‘poor old lady’ was the same age as me.

I see Malcolm Turncoat is going to spend my tax dollars on making us one of the ten biggest arms dealers in the world. What a wonderful thing, now I can sleep soundly knowing our exports are shooting up folks all over the world as I rest. Perhaps the bullets can have little kangaroos engraved on them so the kiddies picking up the spent shells can have a laugh. I suppose being in the top ten for solving homelessness or reducing carbon emissions or for medical research were his first preferences, but good old Turncoat, he can always be relied upon to turn us in the wrong direction and live up to his name.

January 30, 2017

John’s scans were ‘completely clear’ so we are delighted to say the least. Nada has told us he will never be rid of the indolent underlying lymphoma but the aggressive B cell version he has on top was what she was looking for and it wasn’t found, we breathe again.

I have made a huge bungle at HHH. I answered a request to hand out back-to-school backpacks we have made up, filled with pens, books, rulers, rubbers etc from boss lady’s house ‘tomorrow’. What a tricky word, it was yesterday morning that I got the request and I answered ‘yes I can help tomorrow, what time?’. The reply came 3 to 7.30pm so I planned to leave here at 2. Then today on the website are photos of the marquee, with boss lady handing out the backpacks with just one helper……..OMG, when I checked the email again it was sent late Sunday night, not Monday morning, so ‘tomorrow’ was Monday. Grovelling apologies followed, though we were both at fault, but I am sure my name was mud yesterday about 4pm.

January 31, 2018

In to the city early for a meeting at the Historic Houses Association, showing a film on the Adani Mine project made by Nell Schofield with a Q and A following. I didn’t need any convincing about the madness of the project for so many reasons. I did get a bit annoyed when one of the members said there should be a compromise and I piped up that perhaps they could build half the mine and half the railway. Later Nell said it was just what she wanted to say ‘but I have to be polite, as I am here as a representative of the organisations opposing the mine, so good on you for saying what I was dying to say’.

My phone suddenly cut out in the middle of a call, then I was unable to text, phone out or receive calls so instead of doing what we had planned in the afternoon, I ended up in the Apple store in Castle Hill. I must say I was impressed by the staff numbers, the enthusiasm and their willingness to help. Of course it was packed, it always is when I have walked past, but over the next hour or so they did this and that, tweaked something or other, but anyway I walked out with a working phone, no charge. I am now enrolled in an iPhone Basics class in February, with a promise of more classes to follow. Their approach reminded me of how I dealt with clients, looking to solve their immediate problem, not looking to make a sale, though if that followed then great. I think they just won a loyal customer, me with my free hand-me-down iPhone.

February 1, 2018

Carly arrived from Canberra for a few days this morning, staying here till we leave, then going to Dav’s for Saturday and Sunday. Brigitte came for morning tea, as arranged, bringing lovely chocolates. She expressed a desire to go out to Windsor for a general look-see, so I offered to be tour guide, around the historic sites as well as the under-privileged areas, should be good fun.

John has been owed money for a few years for designing a 5 bedroom house for his cousin who paid him not one cent, claiming lack of funds after the plans were done, accepted and nearly ready for the DA. Before he got to build the house he died suddenly and John reluctantly decided to make a claim on the estate. He eventually gave the invoice to his cousin’s daughter to pass on to the executor about a year ago, and she has assured him she had done so, but he has heard nothing since. I encouraged him to contact the executor directly to double check that she had in fact submitted it and surprise, surprise, it was the first he had heard of any of it. Like father, like daughter, perhaps.

February 2, 2018

Busy doing all the last minute stuff like returning library books and stocking up on scripts. We did take time out to go to KOI for morning tea, ahem, despite the fact that there was homemade banana cake, passionfruit slices and amaretto biscuits here. I use the excuse that Carly hadn’t been to KOI before. Now madly packing and cooking a dinner of all the bits and bobs in the fridge, think cauliflower, broccoli and tomato bake with carrots and corn on the cob, my possum can feast on any leftovers. We need to leave on the 7 am bus tomorrow even though we don’t leave Sydney till 8.35 pm. We, probably foolishly, booked to go on a tour of a very interesting building in the city at 9.30 am and before that we need to check in our luggage at Central. Then we have from lunchtime to night to fill in, a movie seems on the cards.

February 3, 2018

Left early with Carly for the city and after booking in our luggage, we joined our walking tour of the old Carlton and United Breweries redevelopment on Broadway. It was well over 3 hours and included a history of the brewery, a tour of the Art Deco Old Clare Hotel, the green spaces, as well as a discussion of the Central Park buildings including explanations of the complex workings of the mechanisms to get light into the building to feed all the internal gardens. By then we were both tired and repaired to Spice Alley, part of the complex, to have a snack at Holy Duck! Decided on a movie to fill the time till the train but to our great surprise, every session in the complex was booked out for the day and night, except for 2 separate seats in the front row of a movie we didn’t want to see. Sooo, that left us with a quandary, but we decided to walk to the White Rabbit Gallery, which was closed for the day! Next bet was sitting on the lawns reading, till we got rained on. It was a long day, but we got to Central at 8pm to catch the coach to Goulburn as there was trackwork on the line, boarding the XPT train finally at 11pm, glad to lie down in our tiny but very adequate sleeper. Melbourne here we come!

February 4, 2018

Slept well in my little top bunk on the train, though the tendonitis in my feet was particularly bad after all the walking yesterday so getting up and down the ladder was miserable. It is definitely getting worse, I had to lift myself by the handrails to get off the bus last night as I couldn’t walk down the steps. Woke at Albury then not again till our man brought a light breakfast to the suite, juice, cornflakes (which I hate, but ate), followed later by tea and toast. I found again that the train staff are heaps more obliging than their airline counterparts. Melbourne’s outer suburbs are mind-numbingly depressing, I think even worse than Sydney’s. The builders who produced some of the buildings need to be high on the firing squad list when I am called to rule. Found it was only 3 blocks to our hotel so we walked it, staff were happy to let us go for breakfast, even though we weren’t entitled to it today, while our room was prepared. But we had eaten on the train (cornflakes!) so we missed the pancakes, bacon and eggs and more, but settled for morning tea there about 10am before they closed for breakfast. We were upgraded to a suite with kitchen and laundry as well as a loungeroom so we are happy chappies. Booked a Budget hire car from Tuesday till Saturday to go down the coast. A walk around our near proximity discovered some amazing buildings, (it appears they largely missed the Sydney predilection for knocking down their history) the best being The Block Arcade, a Victorian beauty which houses the Hopetoun Tearooms, for which a queue was forming, we will be sampling their amazing wares one day for sure.

February 5, 2018

Observations at breakfast: People have strange habits. A couple of women at the table on one side piled up their breakfast plates with eggs, bacon, mushrooms etc and took a plate of 7 (yes SEVEN) pastries for afters, croissants, muffins, Danishes and ate them all. They were seen to swipe some fresh fruit on the way out as well. On the other side were a couple who got a hot breakfast, plus cereal and fruit, plus pancakes, plus toast, plus pastries and ate them all together. A mouthful of cereal, some scrambled egg, a bite of Danish, I was trying not to look but the human at table is a scary beast I am discovering. It made me take very delicate portions, so that was a good thing I guess.

Then strolled down Burke St and caught a tram to Federation Square. I noted that when John decided to go back into the hotel foyer for a map, up 4 steps, he was so breathless that the desk clerk asked after his well-being. We have to plan our movements to walk downhill and tram up. Spent the day at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Australian arm, they have two separate premises for Australian and International art. Much of my time was occupied with the 19th century masters, the likes of Tom Roberts and McCubbin, though there was a lovely Margaret Preston I could happily have brought with me. We ended up on the City Circle tram, trying to get a tour but had left it a bit late and it was full of commuters so we couldn’t hear the commentary anyway. Left it at a stop where the walk home was all downhill. John is totally whacked and resting, tonight we will stay in.

February 6, 2018

I am blown away by the generosity of spirit at this hotel. The mezzanine is ‘exclusively for Treasured Guests’ ie those with more than one direct booking, not using an external booking company, which we achieved accidentally by chopping and changing our bookings for this visit. It is stocked all day with soft drinks, juices, water, coffee, tea, bread rolls, pastries, big jars of nuts and pretzels, biscuits and more. Not only that but when I casually mentioned to the desk staff that I had broken my sunnies and needed to buy another pair, they took them to maintenance and repaired them! Service-wise this is the best place I have ever stayed, not to mention the most centrally convenient. John was too tired to go out last night so I got him a pie from a nearby bakery, then ordered a delicious rocket, pear and parmesan salad from the restaurant here to have with it. I just had the rest of the salad with a roll, which in some small way makes up for my regular breakfast of pancakes, banana and maple syrup.

John had 2 near misses in the first five minutes after we picked up the hire car, he almost went through a red light and then later did a u-turn and nearly collected an oncoming vehicle, just nerves and after that he was fine. I’ve discovered travelling the M1 freeway that the south-eastern suburbs are as mind-numbing awful as the northern ones, the flat terrain doesn’t help. We arrived on Phillip Island later than expected and discovered it is a culinary desert, with anywhere decent-looking being closed on Tuesdays. Had a drab lunch and to avoid a repeat for dinner we tried to buy smoked trout from the trout farm, but they were sold out. Then tried Aldi, it had closed down! So after that it was just Danish trout and some salad bought at Coles before we left for the Penguin Parade. Amazed at the number of people there, about 3000, most of them overseas tourists from China. Luckily they had a buggy service for the disabled to get to the beach, otherwise John would never have made it. Enjoyed the parade, but felt like making citizen’s arrests when so many people ignored the repeated requests, in a few languages, not to take photos. I tapped one fellow and indicated a NO sign but later I heard that he spoke English just fine.

February 7, 2018

Decided to ‘circumnavigate’ the island counter-clockwise by car stopping at each interesting site. The first white settlers, 2 Scottish brothers, were led there by Aboriginal people, then took over the island and burnt down all the trees in a single fire which could be seen in Melbourne, this in order to farm it. The native people must have been both aghast and disbelieving. We almost succeeded in seeing our way around until John got very tired at the end of the day, but we missed only Churchill Island and the Vietnam Museum at the end. After a rest we headed to Saltwater Restaurant at Newhaven Pier for dinner. Both the atmosphere and the food were top class, so that redeemed yesterday’s food disappointment. We were amazed to watch from the restaurant windows the surging tides going out through the narrow exit from Western Port. Two things we have noticed here is how very low and high the tides get and how late it is before dark. That wretched Jim “It’s All About Me” Molan had his head on the late news so I pressed the off button quickly, what a ghastly example he is of everything I most dislike in a personality, we are stuck with him for years now.

February 8, 2018

I will miss seeing the wallabies and huge Cape Barron Geese outside our deck each morning and evening now we have left Phillip Island. Although the position was delightful at Clifftop, I felt let down that this was the only B&B I have ever come across that charged extra for breakfast, even the simple Continental one that was the only thing on offer. In marked contrast to the Treasury, there was a lack of generosity, for example four pieces of toast for breakfast with barely enough butter and jam to do two. Also no detergent or even a tea towel to clean up with, so even though they charged $100 more per night than the Treasury, they failed to provide a feeling of hospitality. We made our way across to the Mornington Peninsular by way of the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm where we forced to try their homemade strawberry icecream (this according to John at least) and picked up some of their jam in case we were short-changed at our next digs. We are still eating the kilo of cherries we bought from a farm on the way to Phillip and enjoying every one, fruit at breakfast and dessert at night. A lovely drive through hilly country to Arthur’s Pass, seeing the gondola which goes from there down to the coast at Dromana.

Our digs at Portsea turned out to be excellent, a 2 bedroom apartment, replete with swimming pools and a spa, across the road from the pier. I went out to source some provisions to cook dinner seeing we now have a full kitchen (and I discovered a cupboard full of oil, spices and cooking bits). There are 2 real estate agents here, a café, a surf shop and a pub, but no food shops AT ALL. So we were forced to drive back to Sorrento and luckily the excellent fruit market/providore was open till 6, so we could get veges, milk, yogurt etc. We have gone from foodie desert on Phillip to foodie heaven at Sorrento to no food at all at Portsea. Judging by the homes here though, the hired help do the shopping so a corner store isn’t a necessity. A spa ended the day.

February 9, 2018

Early start with much to do, firstly a trip just up the road at Portsea to Point Nepean National Park where there was much more to see than expected. We got their bus 5 kms from the old Quarantine Station to Point Nepean Fort, right on the point where Bass Straight opens into Port Phillip Bay. We wanted to go down to Cheviot Beach where Holt disappeared but discovered that all beaches in this national park are off limits due to unexploded ordnance but Holt got special permission, on the grounds of being PM, to snorkel and swim there. A bad move in retrospect. We did get to the memorial which stands on top of the cliff above the bay though. After that we headed for Sorrento to catch the 12 noon ferry across the bay to Queenscliff, a lovely peaceful 40 minute voyage so I was fine on the water. We only discovered on arrival that the terminal is a little out of town and were told there is no bus and no taxi. Walking wasn’t an option so I asked 2 people coming off the car ferry for a lift up the hill. The first said okay, but then his wife over-ruled him and said no, however the second, a woman on her own, was happy to give us a lift. Wandered around the lovely little town with the typical limestone buildings we had seen at Portsea and lunched at ‘Circa 1902’ on delicious cauliflower tempura and corn fritters. We later discovered there was in fact a bus, albeit infrequent, and were able to time our departure to get one of these back to the terminal. Went up the Harbour Observation Tower in its lift for great views of the area before boarding the 5pm ferry ‘home’. Dinner at Bistro Elba in Sorrento at 8pm, full of tables of mostly very tanned and incredibly shrieky women in their 30s and 40s having lots of fun and lots and lots of wine. Great cheese souffle and salad with a glass of bubbly ended a terrific day.

February 10, 2018

Got a surprise call from Sue to say they are in Melbourne for the weekend and wanting to hook up, so they are going to come to the hotel tonight. We travelled along the coast as far as Mornington so I could indulge a passion for seeing all the beautiful beach boxes that this coast is famous for. Then headed inland to the freeway to Melbourne. I was on tenterhooks as navigator finding the way in to the city to our hotel to drop off the bags, then out again to fill up with petrol and in again to drop off the car, a bit late but they were good about it. My mate Hardik at reception beamed when we arrived and told us he had upgraded us yet again, last time to a suite and this time to a one bedroom apartment with full kitchen and laundry. I seem to hit it off with down to earth people with no problem, but can never get anywhere with the superior arrogant ones no matter how nice I am, but the down to earth people on staff here made it feel like we were coming home.

John rested up in the afternoon while I took a stroll up Bourke Street and plotted a course on the tram to get to Dally’s party tomorrow. The mall was buzzing with people, it must bring back memories for many of them of the massacre by car perpetrated there. Robert and Sue came and we had a conference on where to eat and finally settled on The Bank, this hotel’s restaurant. Not sorry we made that choice, the food and wine were great, Barramundi with Roast Vegetables followed by Pannacotta with a Salted Caramel Sauce, all meals were tops. Great to be able to give Robes a hug before his op.

February 11, 2018

Leisurely morning before a tram trip out to Parkville for Dally Messenger’s birthday party held in a function centre housed in a lovely Victorian building. Though the building was beautifully maintained, they had ignored all the rules of Victorian decoration and painted everything cream, walls, lace verandahs, windowframes, the lot. John said it was because it is owned by the Christian Brothers who have no aesthetic sense, but I think it more likely that they didn’t want to go to the minor expense of getting it right and just bought a zillion gallons of cream. Shame, as it would have looked wonderful done properly. That aside, the party was great, the highlight being a musical performance by his three daughters who all have wonderful voices, one being a professional singer, another an ‘installation artist’ in New York and the third a fulltime marriage celebrant. Met lots of interesting people, a number of whom had positions in the Labor Party or in one case an ex MP. Dally is multi-talented, a real firework of a person, who to his credit paid great tribute to his two former wives and one former partner as well as his current wife Remi.

We decided that as we were near Carlton we would go to Lygon Street for a look as it was on our must-do list. Not knowing our way around we caught two trams and walked an awful long way with no signs of an Italian restaurant, until I stopped and asked in a pub and we were in the right street in the wrong suburb! Another tram took us to Carlton and we began the long walk down the famous street. I had researched good restaurants there but the list was back at the hotel, so I was sure I would remember one…………nup, so we just took a punt and picked one that had a line outside. Bad move, the food was crap, huge helpings thereof. Then we headed towards the city looking for a tram stop, on and on we went, till it was obviously easier to walk to our hotel than to keep trying to jag a tram route. Walked off the very little I ate of the crap spaghetti though.

February 12, 2018

Took off on the tram to see The Johnston Collection, something I’ve wanted to see for years. It was the home of a wealthy antique dealer who left it to the people of Victoria in 1986. He didn’t want any ropes or formality so you book to tour the house with a guide in a small group, we were just four. It is totally divine, his taste is very much Regency/Georgian but it is an eclectic collection. He bought from maharajahs, from the British colonial powers and in England. No copies, just the real thing, Meissen, early Staffordshire, Baccarat, rosewood, coromandel, walnut and mahogany furniture, no Australian interestingly. I could have cried in the first room, so overwhelmingly beautiful. I shall go again if I come back to Melbourne as many of his pieces are on loan to Government House and in use, so the exhibition changes. Be still my beating heart.

Then on a tram to St. Kilda Beach, brought back to reality sitting next to a mentally damaged man who was also blind and calling out a constant stream of gibberish at the top of his voice, though occasionally a few words were understandable ‘he doesn’t like tuna’ ‘where’s Bob?’ ‘look after the blind boy’. It tore my heart, but we had to alight so we asked a few young British men on the tram to help him when he got off as we had helped him get on. St. Kilda wasn’t much, a beach, Luna Park and a slew of Continental cake shops, almost side by side, selling Viennese/Hungarian type cakes. How they make a living where there are four in a row, stacked with stock, I have no idea. We relieved them of a Rum Baba and a Raspberry Tart in the interests of assisting them in this endeavour, but KOI or Black Star leaves them for dead. Back on a different tramline (we are becoming tram experts, getting four at least a day) this one ran parallel to a railway track on a section with no road, a very odd arrangement. Staying in tonight — avocado, goat cheese and bread for tea, with a free red wine of course, courtesy of the Treasury Wine-Down for ahem, Treasured Guests.

February 13, 2018

Trammed to Federation Square and spent much of the day at the National Gallery of Victoria’s Triennial Design Exhibition. My faves included a room full of stainless steel chairs, 50 of them, all different and whimsical in construction and a pile of massive white  skull sculptures which reached to the high ceiling. Also some amazing gowns by Chinese designer Pei and a huge tapestry which I correctly guessed was meant to look like crumpled aluminium foil with coloured reflections. After that we walked to Southbank and had a roast vegetable salad for a snack which was so oversized we brought half home for dinner. But to my great surprise, as we passed the Eureka Building which I have admired whenever it comes into view, John suggested we go up to the 88th floor viewing deck, something he had sworn he wouldn’t do. I was dubious, but it was quite surreal looking down on the helicopters and taking in fantastic views of the city. It really put the inner city and other places we have been in perspective for me. On another note, I don’t think I have ever had so many people stand up for me on public transport as I have had here, not to mention how many intervene with suggestions for where to get on or off trams or what to see.

Dinner of a banana for me and leftover salad for John before we left to see Priscilla at the Regent Theatre just up the road. Beautiful old theatre similar to the State in design. Again I was astounded by the attention to a pair of old crocks having difficulty with the stairs, John from his heart, me from tendonitis. Immediately a young chap bounded over and took us outside, through a restaurant to a lift, then up into the theatre. He told us where to meet at the end for the reverse process. The show was life-affirming, boisterous, spectacularly colourful and great fun. It reminded me of the old days in my 20s going to the gay clubs Les Girls and the Purple Onion with my boys. Enough said that people were dancing in the aisles at the end. Huzzah!!

February 14, 2018

Barnaby. After reading on the Independent Australia website last year the story of his affair, his partner’s pregnancy and more importantly the fact that she was shuffled between departments on an increased salary, I opined to John that I was amazed that the media were choosing not to report The Beetrooter’s business during his by-election. This despite the fact that one of his daughters had borrowed the slogan-painted ute from his electoral office and driven through Tamworth calling from the window with a loud-hailer ‘don’t vote for Barnaby, he is a bastard’. I asked Carly at Christmas if she had heard anything and she said it was all over Canberra, so the fact that he got a record vote despite all this is confounding. My prediction at the time was that he would go within two weeks of it all becoming public, I think I will stick to that prediction. (If I want to know what is going on in Australian politics, Independent Australia is rarely if ever wrong, they reported on Kathy Jackson’s perfidy while she was still the apple of the Coalition’s eye).

After a leisurely morning during which I picked up gifts for Millie and Davina at a shop I had spied in Collins St we were picked up by Dally and Remi Messenger and taken out to lunch at Hunky Dory in Sth Melbourne, I had Grilled Barramundi with Greek Salad and Chips. Then we went to their apartment in Docklands for a cuppa, very close to the city with great views, where we caught up with all the news. Trammed back just a few stops to our hotel. Went out about 8pm for a walk to the old Rialto Building, now the Intercontinental, a magnificent pile only saved from demolition by outraged citizens. Next door is the new Rialto, for a while the tallest building but now eclipsed by Eureka, home of the famous Vue du Monde on the 55th floor.

February 15, 2018

Trammed up to Spring St then walked to The Comedy Theatre to see Senior Moments with Max Gillies, John Wood et al. It was a Valentine’s Day surprise for John so he had no clue where we were going. It was fun and we could identify with all the jokes. Went across to Parliament and booked in for a guided tour, after a Protective Services copper took us up in the lift via the pollie’s entrance as the flight of stairs out the front is huge. This led to a great stroke of luck on the way out. The building is spectacular inside, the chambers have $7 million worth of gold on the walls! Victoria separated from NSW just one day before a horse kicked a big gold nugget and the gold rush started, which explains the superb architecture of this city. As we were leaving and approaching the outside gate, a staff member had to escort us there, he asked how it compared with Sydney’s House and I said ‘it shits all over it to be frank’ and he whirled around and said ‘would you like to have afternoon tea in the Members’ Dining Room, seeing you like it so much?’ ‘would we what!’ I replied. So he escorted us back into the building to the wood-panelled dining room, not part of our tour, introduced us to the maitre’d and we were served croissants, banana muffins and a huge pot of tea. Thankyou Philip, bless. We are going back tomorrow for high tea, booked in at 2.30pm. Wandered home down the hill of Collins St ogling things we neither desire nor could afford to own, Prada, Gucci, Zegna et al. One of the boutiques has no clothes in it at all, you go in and sit down and they show you items from out the back that would suit. Yeah right. Dined at Bistrot d’Orsay in Collins St, Goat Cheese Souffle then Bouillabaisse for moi, two entrees, no dessert. For John Coq au Vin and Creme Brulee, this dinner was part of his Christmas present, the remainder being seats to see The Book of Mormon, which unfortunately finished here the day we arrived so we will catch it in Sydney.

February 16, 2018

Barnaby. For once I saw the genuine Malcolm Turnbull, saying something he really believed. His approach took a more moralist line than I had hoped, the legacy of his own parents’ marriage breakup I suspect and his abandonment by his mother. He certainly has a strong streak of the vicar, but sadly was not as strong in his scorn for the waste of public money Barnaby has caused and for the appalling pork-barrelling and bad decision making that are his specialty. What a mess, I am very glad it is not on our side of politics.

We took a trip to Police Headquarters and the Police Museum, which highlighted many famous cases and gave background to them. In the traffic section I was amazed with the story of a man so drunk that he drove under the back of a truck, turning his car from a sedan to a topless ‘convertible’ in the process, survived that and kept driving his half a car till he got home, got out and went to sleep on the lawn where the police found him. Trammed from there to The Treasury where we inspected the gold vaults in the basement and then on to Parliament House where we again entered via the pollie’s door.

In front of us was a Muslim couple with a baby in a pram, avoiding the massive stairs. ‘The tour has started, you’ve missed it’ they were told by the officious blonde on the door. I stuck my bib in and told them they should go in and wait for the next one. ‘The later ones have been cancelled’ she shot back. I suggested they come again tomorrow, but they told me they were leaving the country and had been unable to get on a tour the day before as well, though we had had no problems. Suspicious, once we got past the harridan I went to the front desk and asked to go on a tour and was told there was one on at 4pm. So I put in a formal complaint about the woman employee having refused entry to the young couple. The man on the desk seemed shocked and said that he would certainly look into my claim, which I will follow up with a letter. We had high tea in the dining room and it was quite something. Cucumber, smoked salmon and pastrami sandwiches (not all together!), cauliflower and cheese tarts, the best scones ever with home made lemon curd and jam, tinylemon meringue tarts, macarons, passionfruit custards and more. We groaned our way back to our hotel to meet John’s relative Grant, whom I had never met before. He began by apologising to me for the behaviour of the Murray family to me over the last 10 years. His opening remarks included ‘I’ve heard a lot about you and I don’t believe any of it, so welcome to this very dysfunctional family. I am surprised you didn’t just run away when you saw what sort of a family you had got yourself into.’ I was taken aback that word had spread as far as Melbourne, but thanked him for his welcome. We shared a few drinks on the mezzanine before he took his train back to Castlemaine. I felt I had made a friend in the short time we all had together.

February 17, 2018

We set off early for Rippon Lea that grand Victorian pile in the suburbs, set in 14 acres of gardens. Got a bus this time as it is outside the tram route. The house is wonderful but much of it was ‘redecorated’ in the 30s by the owner, a woman much influenced by the movies, so we had curtains out of Gone With The Wind, a pool she added to replicate the one in The Great Gatsby etc etc. But the worst of it is the entry and formal sitting and dining rooms, which had the original wallpaper, solid marble columns and fireplaces and massive cedar skirting boards and architraves. She went to Myers and the decorators there assisted her to modernise by buying an ocean of cream paint which went over EVERYTHING, even the wallpaper all through the house. The massive real gold leaf picture frames didn’t escape the paint. Only the kitchen, scullery and servant’s quarters were left original. Still amazing, but so tragic that she destroyed its grandeur, now only recorded in photos. At least the orange shag pile carpet she chose in the 60s has gone.

A bright spark (me) then said we are pretty close to Brighton Beach why don’t we get the bus there for lunch? Bad move, we got off at the end of the line but there was not one cafe, milk bar, pub, nothing. So we started walking to North Brighton where we were told such things existed, we walked and we walked….. with no sign of a bus stop till finally we reached the Baths and luckily we could get some food and drink. Enquiring about getting back to the city we discovered we were in a public transport vortex, apparently the folks in those big houses all drive. So we walked and walked some more till we finally found a bus home, arriving after 5pm exhausted, John was okay because it was level but my feet were killing. An interesting aside is that we saw many men in their yarmulkas going to synagogue, each one with a baby in a pram, but with no female companion. Later we saw other Jewish men in felt hats with the traditional checkered and fringed scarf, each with a small child, but again no women. Why is it so I wonder?

February 18, 2018

Last night was a big deal in Melbourne called White Night when many buildings are illuminated, music from opera to jazz is played all over the city and much much more. We went for a wander near the hotel but the streets were packed and it wasn’t very enjoyable, though we did see Queens on Collins, drag queens singing on awnings in the street, and the opera singers on the town hall balcony. ‘Snow’ in Little Bourke St turned out to be foam pumped into the air under spotlights, pretty underwhelming, but I am sure if we had ventured into the 700,000 people expected in the city centre it would have been spectacular. Interestingly it goes for 24 hours, with all public transport running through the night, unlike Sydney’s Vivid which runs over many days.

Took the City Circle tram to the Victorian State Library and didn’t realise we really needed a day there. Ned Kelly’s actual armour, his original 165 page Jerilderie letter, early copies of the bible, the torah, the q’uaran, a Sumerian clay tablet from 2050BC, mediaeval manuscripts, we barely scratched the surface in the hours we spent there. The building is so sumptuous I can never rave about the National Library or the NSW State Library again, much as I liked those two before. Melbourne has spoiled me for so much, not least of which our NSW parliament house. Sydney has the harbour, the bridge and the opera house, all fantastic, but for the built environment Melbourne wins. The other interesting thing is that Melbourne streets seem to be full at all hours, people just strolling about long after Sydney-siders are inside pubs or restaurants. One thing I won’t miss is the odd combinations of food I saw people with at breakfast, try muffins and custard pastries slathered over with scrambled egg and baked beans with kiwi fruit on the side? It reminds me of when I went to a function of Dinka speaking people where I was only one of two old style Aussies. People were laughing at me and I asked why, I had spread a sweet rice dish meant for dessert over my meat, I suspect the Chinese guests were doing just the same, it is on the table so it must be meant to go together. The Chinese guests at this hotel must be at least 50% and Melbourne city in general is like being in Chatswood.

We finished the day at the Hopetoun Tearooms where there has been a perpetual queue every time we passed for a week. It was for a combined lunch/afternoon tea and John, being male and not used to waiting, wandered down the arcade while I queued. After about 20 minutes I got us a table and rang him, in that 20 minutes he had had soup, Turkish bread and a banana smoothie!! But he then ordered a cheese souffle and salad and a dessert as well. At least he won’t want railway food on the 8pm train tonight. Just came back to the hotel to collect our bags and Carlo insisted we stay on the mezzanine, ‘relax, have some complementary wines’ he said. This place is worth coming back to without a reason to be in Melbourne. Sad to say goodbye to Carlo, Hardik, Natalia and Harris.

February 19, 2018

Not much of a sleep on the train this time, we dropped off shortly before the 5.30am wakeup I think. I felt seedy due to our cabin facing backwards, which always sets off a level of travel sickness for me. Crashed for a short nap after a swift trip home, then again in the afternoon. Couldn’t be arsed going to the shops so it was half a can of white beans with a tuna sauce for dinner, such a comedown from Hopetoun Tearooms. My bag is still packed but I guess the adrenaline has worn out till tomorrow, so we are headed for an early night suffering train-lag.

February 20, 2018

Aaah, what a sleep can do. Went up to the nursery and actually bought one tree, a Michelia, something like a Magnolia, which I will put in to hide next door’s garage. Thinking about a Blueberry Ash to fill in the gap which exposes an ugly house, though I won’t live long enough to see it mature, reminds me of a dying Bette Davis, blind and planting daffodil bulbs in a movie I saw as a kid. Went to Cake Decorating Central to buy some bits for Millie’s cake and stocked up on fruit and veg, exciting day after all our recent adventures, not.

February 21, 2018

What a bonza thing, I just remembered the name of the Bette Davis movie I referred to yesterday, it was Dark Victory, such an emotional film for an emotional kid like I was. But I think it gave me a strong desire at a very young age to face death bravely, without argument and without fear, whether that eventuates of course………

Today I have had a couple of big wins. First I decided to ring around a few nurseries and see if I could get a Blueberry Ash for less than the $350 for a 1.5 metre example that I was quoted at two places yesterday. First Bunnings quoted $149, mmm, maybe. But then I remembered I had signed myself up to a wholesale nursery while I still had the required ABN. Yes they had 14 trees of various sizes, so I drove up to Plantmark at Vineyard and bought the biggest, a 1.7 metre example for………..drum roll………..$39.50.  I couldn’t get it into the car quickly enough. Then I went to Brooks Tyres at Windsor to get my punctured tyre repaired. It had been replaced by the spare the day before we went to Melbourne, apparently it had a large screw embedded. My old mate Mark, who has been there for ever and serviced my cars for 25 years until the company changed tack and stopped doing mechanical repairs, met me at the door with a bear hug and chided me for not coming regularly so he could check my tyres and ‘have a mag’. He took my mobile number so we can keep in touch, I so love warm people and am blessed by meeting them regularly.

February 22, 2018

It was John’s appointment with Nada today so we decided to go to St. Vincent’s Private as well to support Sue as she waited for Robert’s surgery. By the time we got there he was done and dusted but Sue hadn’t seen him as yet. Because her anaesthetist daughter from Melbourne had been the one to go to see the brain surgeon with Robert, the surgeon contacted Beth by phone after the surgery rather than talking to Sue who was there. We both saw Robert for a short time and were amazed that he was sitting up eating a pear just a few hours after brain surgery. Then we went to Erko and had dinner with Dav and co. Millie greeted me at the door with a quizzical ‘hello grandma’, that’s a first.

February 23, 2018

Decided to to the Ottolenghi Royal Potato Salad for book group and it tasted damned good. Talked Sue into coming so we picked her up at Chatswood. A small group but a good discussion on The Choke by Sophie Laguna. Sue and I agreed that the ending was fanciful and I suggested it was like an American movie which had been altered at the last minute to have a happy ending. But the vast majority of the novel was realistic enough to be painful for me, the character’s sense of isolation was palpable. Sue came home here for the night and we three sat up till after 1am chewing the fat, mainly about book group, the book and Robert.

February 24, 2018

Did the iPhone Basics class at Apple and learned a few tips, enrolled now for the Intermediate one too. Went to the Mahboba’s Promise fund-raiser in the evening, her energy levels put me to shame. Loved the music but sadly no-one danced so I didn’t either, it was certainly dancing music. Said hello to my role model Bill Crewes, whom I had met before at a memorial service for homeless people who had died around Parramatta. He asked me to email him with details of what we are doing at HHH. Enjoyed the meal and unusually I was pretty controlled with how much I ate and finished off with just the fruit, ignoring the cakes for dessert. Caught up with Josephine and dropped she and Martha home afterwards.

February 25, 2018

I don’t know why, but I have pretty much wasted today. I couldn’t get enthused with anything I started, so the place is still a bit messy, washing up not done, bed unmade and I am disgruntled. Not even any reading done, though I have the new Trump expose Fire and Fury sitting there unstarted, but I did email Bill Crewes as he asked me to and did a lot of research into hotels in Canberra for a planned trip. Rang Sue and Robert and spoke to both, then later tonight I saw I’d recently missed a call from her and there was a phone message from Sue, though when I rang back she said she hadn’t called. Also got some old emails resent from her. Some days are diamonds and some days are rust as Joan Baez once wrote.

February 26, 2018

Thank goodness a sleep improved my mood, post holiday doldrums perhaps? I got myself into a tizz over Sue’s missed call, worrying if she was ok or not, but we spoke this morning and I think the stress is getting to her a bit. Robes is depressed about not going home and feeling pretty ordinary with headaches and nausea. Doctors are not good patients I’m told and he also has the fear of whether his mental faculties will return to normal, plus I guess the sadness accompanying having to suddenly give up his remaining medical practice, which he loves so much. Will try to get in there again tomorrow, we always seem to be able to bullshit each other to good effect.

Leaving to come to John’s and the car wouldn’t start, flat as the proverbial. NRMA man said the battery was cactus, but went on to find it had been flattened by a faulty alternator, so he got it going so I could take it to the mechanic. John came and picked me up from there, but I probably won’t get it back till Wednesday. Then later John left his lights on and flattened his battery, but being manual he could start it by my pushing the car, something I had plenty of practice doing as a kid. My pushing skills were equal to the task so he got it going very soon, but now his power steering won’t work because………well I don’t actually know the because so he will ring Suzuki tomorrow. Car day all round.

February 28, 2018

Stayed at John’s to get in to a 9am appointment with heart specialist Gemma Figtree. I’ve realised that the reason I love her to bits (apart from her being professional, kind and beautiful) is that she puts her thought processes on the table so you never doubt her judgment. When John explained about the breathlessness she turned to me and asked ‘is he getting worse?’ When I replied in the positive, she said ‘because he has had such a terrible run of health, I am trying not to believe it is blocking of the stent that is causing this, but I don’t think I can avoid testing for that possibility now you’ve said that’. She referred him for a Persantin Sestamibi test ?? which I had to look up. It is a 5 hour nuclear medicine test scanning the heart to see how much blood is being pumped. That happens next week, but tomorrow he has an ultrasound on his bad knee for a lump that came up in Melbourne which I think looks like a haematoma but both Nada and Gemma say it can’t be if it doesn’t hurt. We shall see.

Tonight we both went to Windsor to an admin meeting of HHH. My car is still in dock so John drove me and came to the meeting as well. He is now part of a sub-group of members looking at getting grants for us, right up his alley. Boss lady has taken on two more schools for breakfast service, Bligh Park and Wilmott, a total of three with Windsor High. All have more than 50% of students below the poverty line, the latter has 94%. But there are 38 registered volunteers………and no premises, we work in the park and have a rented storage shed. Something has to give. If I lived closer I could help more than I do.

February 28, 2018

Made a caramel mud cake for Millie’s birthday and a jam sponge for us. Wanted to make sure her cake is totally cold before I start to decorate it tomorrow. The design I have worked out, based on the cartoon Duggee, is at the outer limit of my abilities, so who knows how it will turn out, however the cake itself was successful so that’s a start. My car is ready so that’s a positive too. Read in the Canberra Times about a real estate developer there who has been caught out killing African elephants and other wildlife, posing in the driver’s seat of his vehicle a very old baboon he had shot. I immediately rang and emailed the Hellenic Club where he was vice-president and called for his axing, apparently I wasn’t the only one, he resigned this morning. He has been in a long battle with Curtin shopkeepers as he owns the whole shopping centre and wants to bulldoze it and replace it with a six-storey building. It is always developers who are exposed as bastards, it seems to go with the territory.

March 1, 2018

Got on to Millie’s cake first thing and the fondant went on well so I decided to let it sit overnight and do the top decoration in the morning. I waited all day to ring Millie for her birthday at 5pm when she got home from day care…..then remembered at 8pm when she would have been asleep. Her birthday is 29th February so it only comes around every 4 years on the actual day. I was thinking today that if ever I go to NIDA and they ask me to act the part of a complete and utter bitch I would just channel Michaelia Cash. There are other hateful women such as Miranda Devine, but no-one does despicable like MC.

March 2, 2108

Got onto the cake first thing and nailed it! I really enjoy the temporary art of food and this is no exception, this time tomorrow it will all be heading south in a number of stomachs. Lovely having Carly here today and ralphing on about politics most of the day, from Trump to Turnbull and back again, pausing for a discussion on the word blackmail and all its legal and common use variations, noting it came from the French for ‘a bite of bread given to a beggar’. We are both political animals, long may it continue. I may have to start Life Notes 3 very soon as the blog is starting to choke again now this iteration has reached over 40,000 words.





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