Life Notes 4

 September 27, 2018

Decided that the meltdown of the server a day ago may have been due to the post getting a bit too big to handle, as that had happened once before. The solution? The birth of Life Notes 4. Tech stuff is not my forte but if this works, that’s good enough for me.

Today was a bit of a setback with John, a fact that showed in his face when I got there at 10am. Partly this was due to his coming off the morphine pump, but mostly because they removed the noradrenaline one, due to potential negative side effects of the drug. When I got there his BP was 95/55 but that soon slid, going down to 71/40 eventually before the nurses threw in the towel and put him back on the drip, no doubt to try again tomorrow. Dr Bindhi’s offsider came and explained that doing a TAVI (inserting an artificial valve) is a tricky procedure that needs a substantial ‘workup’ involving xrays and scans as well as cognitive testing to make sure he is able to have the procedure. Although that can’t take place for months, they’ve decided to do the workup now in hospital rather than getting him back in later when transport for all these tests will be a problem. Woo-hoo to that, just getting him into a shower will be a marathon, never mind repeated trips to RNSH. Today the nurses washed him and he was absolutely exhausted by it, even though they were doing all the work, so clearly a lot of improvement is needed before going home. At one point I turned to see a man with a cross on his jumper standing in the doorway and was just about to point out that we had no need for a priest, when luckily I looked up to his face and saw it was Pat Hurley, John’s priest friend. My first thought had been ‘gosh, the nurses have called for the last rites because of his blood pressure’ forgetting we weren’t in St Vincent’s this time but in Shore. Dally Messenger (who was in Sydney for the Dally M Awards) and later Terry McBride made up the trio of old mates in the afternoon, following earlier visits from Fran and Jane. Usually he rings me at bedtime even though I’ve been there all day, but tonight that was 7.30 and he sounded as if he were falling asleep then. Onwards and upwards tomorrow, but his poor old body has had a hiding.

September 28, 2018

Got to the hospital at 9.30 today but they had his nibs upstairs having respiratory function testing, in preparation for his eventual valve replacement. It was 11 before he came back to the ICU but that gave me time to finish the book The Standing Chandelier and to write a few notes on it for book group tonight. He was very dopey, a combination of Endone, Gabapentin, Panadol and another nerve pain med I’ve forgotten. I always ask when he is dopey ‘do you remember I lent you $5000?’ and he opens one eye and replies ‘no, good try, but I’m not that dopey’, then I feel confident he is with it. The pain doc says it is at its worst now but will recede by Tuesday, a week after the operation. He had calls from Carly and Terry and then his pal Chris Geraghty walked in for a visit. Shortly after, I left them to it and headed home to find a birthday card plus a parcel from my brother in the letter box. It contained the book A Life Like Other People’s by his university friend Alan Bennett. Carly’s card gave me a list of birthday present options including a book, theatre tickets or a meal out. I think I will opt for the book Anaesthesia by Kate Cole-Adams, topical at present I know, but I’ve wanted it ever since it came out last year.

September 29, 2018

John looked a lot more like himself today. He has graduated from ICU to a private room with bathroom. Carly had asked me if he would get one and I said public patients need to be infectious or dying to get a private room but I was wrong! The only downside is that from one on one nursing it is a comedown to wait 40 minutes for a nurse to answer the buzzer. Also his antibiotic drip was an hour and a half late, they apologised but it is really important so I hope it doesn’t happen again. The nurse made the comment when checking his catheter that ‘we see more penises than a prostitute does’ which I thought was funny. Another older nurse commented that they get prisoners in there and they are the easiest, most uncomplaining patients because they are so happy to be out of gaol. Which are the worst I asked? Mosman women, without a doubt, she replied, constantly complaining and threatening to report you. A bit like my friend who is an airline steward, he said the same about working in Qantas first class.

Davina took me out for dinner for my birthday tonight, to Courtney’s Brasserie. Delicious food, great wine and excellent service, feeling really spoiled. Millie gave me one of her paintings which I will get framed.

September 30, 2018

Feeling that I lack conversation when I’m visiting John as he now has a TV at some considerable cost ($9Smilie: 8) so I can’t regale him with the news each day. How long did you book it for I asked? I took a guess at how long I’d be here, he replied. He can’t get up and have a wander around the ward so he has only seen the four walls and I’m not sure I add much interest while there, need to think of some ideas. I bought him a huge Sudoku book, only to discover that the first few puzzles had been filled in! Will take an eraser tomorrow, but there are 600 in the book so he has plenty to be going on with. At least tonight he has his beloved football, the only ‘cultural pursuit’ we disagree on, now he has warmed to opera. Opera House has been on the phone about renewing the subscription for 2019, but I can hardly do that the way things stand. No docs of course at the weekend and this a three day one, so we have no idea of the CRP, hopefully it will be a pleasant surprise when it comes. I am having concerns about how I am going to manage at home when I see it takes two nurses and a wardsman to move him two steps from bed to chair. Bought sushi for dinner on the way home, just not into cooking right at the minute.

October 1, 2018

It is so much easier getting to the hospital on a low traffic public holiday, pity there aren’t a few more coming. John was ok when I got there, too early I discovered, as the visiting hours are 11-8 and I got there at 10, assuming the hours were the same as ICU. But apart from a couple of glances at the clock from nurses I escaped without punishment. After he had been in the chair for a while a nurse came and did a BP, saying ‘ooh only 80. I’ll come back and do it again in 15 minutes’. We never saw him again, but an hour later John started to feel weak and dizzy and I got another nurse who was concerned to find it was now 71/44, so they put him back to bed. This low BP doesn’t seem to be improving. The nursing has definitely gone south from ICU levels too, they are very forgetful or maybe just over-stretched. Once again I have concerns about how I will manage him at home. Left about 2.30 and ended up buying sushi again as I just don’t feel up to much cooking, mildly depressed I’m thinking. I had decided to cook some barramundi in coconut milk and lime, but the fact that the fishmonger only had imported barra today was enough to send me to the sushi counter, whereas usually I’d just change the menu.

October 2, 2018

I decided to treat myself to a very special birthday present — a car wash at the hospital facility, not just the wash but the internal vac and dust. To get into the car wash you have to go into the parking station and pay for that as well, but a trip to their office and a wave of John’s disability sticker meant I only had to pay for the wash. I can’t say how much it raised my spirits, knowing I was coming out to a car without gravel underfoot. If only I could get it into my garage it would stay clean for a bit, but the good news is there is another birthday next year. John was a lot better today, both in spirit and in medical terms, BP stable, not dopey, pain under control. He was taken off for a scan of the carotid artery, to do with the valve replacement and then fitted with a new knee brace, less cumbersome, no metal and with a dial which allows slight movement of the knee. Perhaps we shall cope after all! Dav rang to see if I wanted to go there for dinner but I didn’t take the usual suitcase along today as Heather is coming with me to the hospital tomorrow so I need to sleep at home tonight. Spoke to Steve and brought him up to date on everything. To cap off a good day the fishmonger had fresh Aussie barramundi so I will bake it in coconut milk and lime for dinner.

October 3, 2018

Heather came with me today to the hospital and on the way we stopped in to John’s to pick up a few things and then went to Lane Cove shops to buy him some treats. At Flannery’s I got him some cheesey quinoa crackery thingies and some almond cookies but Heather went all out, buying 6 different blocks of his favourite Pico chocolate, lemon biscuits, chocolate biscuits and some savoury stuff as well. The dieticians are trying to fatten him up and so we felt well justified. About 2pm he reminded the nurses that his antibiotic was 2 hours late and was told ‘no, don’t you remember we gave it to you early today at 11am?’ We disagreed but she was adamant showing us it had been signed off by two nurses. At 2.30 a nurse came with the antibiotic drip saying she had set it up at 11 and then got caught up. Then the cannula blocked again (a new batch of cannulas where the needles bend really easily, she said!) so a doctor had to be summoned to put in yet another. Then it was shift change…….. so when I saw the ortho passing I finally complained, overheard by the grimacing nurses, but they are way too casual so I can’t be worrying about that. I told him John missed a whole dose last evening because the cannula blocked and he is going to stress the importance of timely doses, getting me a reputation as a complaining old cow in the process. We hung around waiting for the doc to insert the new cannula but he still hadn’t come when we left. Grrr.

I haven’t been able to eat since breakfast due to a sudden and random attack of swelling of the parotid gland, something I’ve been free from lately. Trying anything other than water or milk through a straw is excruciating but it will pass just as suddenly and randomly as it started. That put paid to a diversion to Koi on the way home for a sweet treat, but anticipation of the next visit is sweet in itself.

October 4, 2018

I haven’t been able to put in any time at the homelessness charity we support for a few weeks now and I’m pretty sure that the clients won’t have been told why we’ve suddenly disappeared, based on past experience. One person we won’t get to see again is Kimbo who died last Saturday from lung cancer, just 3 months or so after diagnosis. He lost one leg at the age of 21 after a swim in the polluted Hawkesbury River left him with an infection that resisted antibiotic treatment for months. Then many years later he lost the ability to speak after throat cancer, so all discussion was enacted on little pads he carried. Ten years sleeping on the riverbank ensued before he rose to the top of the public housing list and he made a life for himself in a small mowing business until lung cancer claimed him. Not a life anyone would choose but always a cheeky grin and a mad scramble to write on his pad whenever I arrived at meal service. When I last saw him in hospital he asked me to draw all but $1 out of his bank account for him which I duly did. He hid his last $500 under the mattress. Vale Kimbo, life dealt you a shit hand and you played it the best way you could.

My intervention with Dr Matthew yesterday has apparently worked wonders with every dose of antibiotic since then delivered dead on time. Well worth having the nurses looking at me askance. Mary, who is visiting from NZ for a couple of days, came about noon and she is so much fun (and sooo beautiful) that it lifted John’s spirits yet again. We were with them in the city on their last visit a few weeks ago, the night before he was due to go into hospital, when we got the call about his heart problems, letting us know that the operation had been cancelled at the last minute. I took him on a trip around the ward on his forearm walking frame today and just before I left this arv they came to take him off to have a PIC line installed, so no more bent cannulas. One touching aside is John’s story that yesterday afternoon he fell asleep in his chair and woke to find Dr Ellis and his two registrars lined up sitting on his bed, waiting for him to wake, three sensitive ‘bone boys’.

October 5, 2018

All good at RNSH today with John complaining about being cooped up in his room, a good sign I think. I suggested he get a nurse to take him to the airy windowed lounge on his floor tomorrow and then ring the ward clerk when he needs help to return. As it is where the lifts open, any visiting docs will see him immediately anyway. He was visited today by the geriatric specialist, but I told him he must have come to the wrong room as we were way too young to need one. He smiled and said ‘well you are younger than most of the people I see’. Not sure what his purpose was really, but it passed the time. The ortho team are making noises about him being okay to go home in about a week, subject to being able to use crutches and move about, something he is far from doing right now, but improving all the time. Our friend Fran has offered to loan us the wheelchair he used last year, so that would be a help.

October 6, 2018

Last night Davina, Louis and Millie arrived to stay overnight to prepare for her friend Beth’s baby shower today. Dav cooked lemon friands and pork and veal sausage rolls, plus she took loads of decorations, goodie bags, games etc. with her. Louis, Millie and I spent the afternoon at home chilling.

John had a couple of visitors today but at one point his BP dropped to such low levels that they called the emergency docs and FOUR of them came. Not sure how I’m supposed to deal with this recurring problem at home? In the evening I went to Martha’s to listen to talks by friends Ruth and Alison about The Grail and their lives within it.

October 7, 2018

The boy rang for me to come equipped with more pencils for Sudoku, so the book of 600 puzzles is clearly getting a workout. John was well and cheerful today, though he keeps having these low blood pressure events regularly, with the rapid response team of 4 docs called yesterday, so I asked what it went down to and it was 70/40, anything under 90/60 considered dangerous. We walked to the lounge with his walking frame and sat watching the rain for a while after I managed to reach up and turn off the infernal television at the power point as it was driving us both mad. I shall do so regularly as no-one ever watches it and it destroys the peaceful benefit of looking out over the view, even if it is only the local Post depot and Chatswood on the horizon.

Today I bumped into an old client whose daughter aged 45-50 or so is on the same floor as John. I went to visit her briefly and she thanked me for recommending she see Dr Glenn Reeves, my immunologist, some years ago (I had totally forgotten having done so). He diagnosed lupus and Addison’s Disease and she seems very unwell, but was glad to have finally found out why and spoke very highly of Glenn, as does everyone. I see him Friday all being well.

October 8, 2018

Bussed into town for an appointment with Tricia but when she didn’t turn up they rang her and she said it was next Monday, but I had put it down as today. Not sure who stuffed up and it doesn’t matter. An unusual thing happened while I was there when a boy of 12 or so asked if he could take photographs of me with my phone because I ‘looked great against that coloured wall, as if you dressed like that on purpose’. He did a series and I put my fave up on Facebook, thanks Flynn. The mix-up gave me a chance to have morning tea with Carol at her building, to chew the fat with her and to enjoy name-calling some politicians over the projected advertising on the Opera House. Trained to St Leonard’s and walked to the hospital just in time to eat John’s pumpkin soup. He orders it every day for my lunch, as well as what he wants for himself, weird that they only do pumpkin every day but as it’s free I’m not complaining about the menu. He was waiting to go for a CAT scan of his heart, part of the workup for the new valve, so when they came at about 3pm I decamped getting the first bus directly home, a peak hour only service which begins in the afternoon at 3.30. The physio had said last week that she wanted to start working with him today to perfect what he needs to be able to do to go home but he hadn’t sighted her all day. No crises today thankfully. My new neighbour next door caught me arriving home and asked if I minded if he had his giant gum tree pruned so it wouldn’t fill our gutters as fast and risk dropping branches on our houses. My goodness, I asked the previous neighbour for years to trim the overhang of my house after a falling branch damaged my roof and caused me to make an insurance claim but he refused point blank for financial reasons and then put in a heated pool and bought two new cars.

October 9, 2018

Woke feeling a bit odd after a relatively sleepless night, but soon realised that sleep, or lack of it, was not the main issue. Spent the morning throwing up into a bowl while seated on the throne, periodically ringing John to tell him how ill I was and to elicit sympathy. Decided that the sushi I brought home from St Leonard’s station concourse for dinner last night was the only possible culprit, just two nori rolls but that was well enough to ruin a morning. As I needed to be at Windsor for Kimbo’s wake at 1.30 I used the power of positive thinking and drove with a bucket on the passenger seat and a spare pair of jeans on the back seat, but by the time I arrived I was a bit better. Linda arrived with a van full of sandwiches as well as a trolley load of Woolworths cakes, discounted the previous afternoon to $2 each, the sight of which as I was slicing them enough to cause a relapse. About 35 people turned up but it wasn’t till 3pm that people got up to tell a few Kimbo stories, the theme being his technical skills, his willingness to help anyone and the fact that he never seemed to charge for work done. He had thought that after 18 years sleeping rough, his life would be perfect once he was given a housing commission flat. It did improve his life, though he had precious little time to enjoy it before lung cancer claimed him.

John had an eventful day, with the infectious diseases registrar telling him that when she rang Westmead Hospital to organise nurses for his daily drip of antibiotics at home, she was told that ‘we don’t have any infectious diseases specialists at the moment, they both left, so don’t even bother doing the paperwork’. The specialist came and rang Westmead back, finally doing a deal that the nurses would come, but I will have to take him back to RNSH once a week for supervision by their ID specialists. Then she said that the usual way to tell if a knee is free of infection would be to stop the drip for two weeks, do a biopsy on his knee, and if okay proceed with the heart valve op. However after the septicaemia this caused last time, she is unsurprisingly unwilling to do that again. Therefore they will judge by CRP alone, eek, but this means he will need to be on antibiotic tablets 4 times a day for life, as he has been for the last 18 months. So never free of this damn-blasted knee, what a huge mistake it was.

October 10, 2018

Westmead have reneged on the hospital in the home deal struck yesterday, so now we don’t have the treatment in place for him to come home. He’s been told that the only alternative at this point is to go to rehab, at least until he is fit enough to climb the stairs to his flat, as RNSH is able to treat him there. A disappointment but it is the only option right now. On the bright side, his angiogram today was the last step in the valve workup and they’ve said he is now ready to go with the TAVI  as soon as the infection situation allows. I didn’t go today as I’ve been sick again, spent all afternoon shivering in bed fully dressed with three blankets on, though slightly better tonight.

October 11,2018

Now I have a rotten cold on top of everything else. Rang and cancelled my immunology appointment tomorrow, usually a fun day out by bus and train to Gosford. Sue and Robert had offered to pick me up at Woy Woy, take me to the appointment and then back to their house overnight but there’s no way I can manage that right now. Coincidentally Robert and Sue came with me to the first appointment with the Prof, 6 or more years ago, and took me back to their house afterwards, somewhat shell-shocked that after countless specialists over 15 years or more, he diagnosed me in 15 minutes. Later today Naomi, the practice nurse, rang  at the behest of Professor Reeves to ask what was wrong with me and came back with his explanation that the food poisoning linked up with the stress of John’s illness was enough to lower my immune system so I got the cold. The Prof is unusual in that he always wants to heal people whether it comes under his specialty or not, often querying John about his treatment and throwing his 10 cents worth in, he’s a pearler. Whatever the cause of this malady, it has kept me from the hospital and John was unhappy that when he got back to his room today they had thrown out his flowers, a beautiful display in a ceramic pot, sent by my daughters, which he had intended to keep as it was full of proteas and natives which would have dried over time. Small things upset him more than big ones sometimes, he was really enjoying them each day. I have been good for nothing today, getting up at 1.30pm and now after 3pm, dying to go back to bed. Hopefully I will be well enough to go to the hospital tomorrow, wearing a mask of course.

October 12, 2018

Woo-hoo, John’s CRP is down to 14, the lowest since his knee infection began. A cardiac surgeon visited and told him ‘we hope to be able to do a TAVI, but if that’s not possible how do you feel about open heart surgery? I’m part of the team just in case’. Eek, let’s cross that bridge when we have to. As well as tossing John’s precious flowers, the nurses also lost his phone charger in the room change, so a bit of a messy job. My day began with a call from Sue and Robert wanting to drive down from Killcare to pick me up and take me to the immunologist at Gosford! Robes thinks I have a Sjogren’s flare up from stress of the food poisoning and John’s situation and thought I needed to see the doc immediately as ‘the cold’ had become vocal chord dysfunction, cold sores, mouth ulcers and much difficulty breathing. Firstly I didn’t feel up to travelling, secondly I doubt the doc could do much other than say it will pass and thirdly it is a huge ask, so I refused. Tonight I got up at 6pm to watch The Drum and was railing at Philip Ruddock, which is a sign that I’ve returned to the world. Feel bad about abandoning John this week, but it was unavoidable.

October 13, 2018

John is looking so much better, he got up on crutches for the first time with the aid of the physio today and is now confident in the prospect of going to rehab for a couple of weeks and then going back to his flat with a 6 week package from the hospital which includes help with showering, shopping and cleaning as well as nursing services. That should hopefully take him up to having the TAVI with a bit of luck. After seeing him I went to see Julian Burnside’s film Border Politics put on at Hornsby by the local Amnesty group. Met up with a few pals there and ate a homemade biscuit with a cup of tea, my first food for a while apart from hot milk. At my lowest weight for over 10 years so every cloud has a silver lining, but starvation always seems to cause the body to grab every calorie when you eat again so my loose duds will no doubt be short-lived. Happy to be back into life again and able to visit with John as usual.

October 14, 2018

An odd thing happened today while visiting John. I mentioned what a good hospital I had found RNS to be when I was a patient. When was that? he asked quizzically. It was only last year that I was there for 5 days but he couldn’t bring it to mind, despite the fact that he drove me there from my doctor’s surgery, waited in emergency for a few hours and then visited me each day and ultimately drove me home again. I discussed various things to prompt his memory but nup, all gone. But apart from this he was improved and I think he will likely be out this week.

October 15, 2018

There has been some difficulty getting enough hands on deck for meal service lately, particularly last Saturday when boss lady had to reduce the menu because she was the only cook. Though I have a valid reason to withdraw for a while I still feel as if I’m letting the team down. It’s unclear how this will pan out over time, especially if John goes home instead of to rehab. I don’t think he fully realises how much work is eliminated by hospital staff: food, bathing, physical assistance, medication, all thrown back on us once he goes home.

October 16, 2018

I am sure the almost daily rain showers lately have made a huge difference to my mood over the past couple of weeks, I never tire of rain and to have it little and often has been delightful. I really feel it when we have long dry spells, which are enervating in the extreme. Perhaps it is my Yorkshire genes, but the dry areas of Australia have never appealed either, a deserted beach always my sanctuary.

John goes from strength to strength, now learning to walk up and down stairs on his crutches so we can get him into his flat safely. The rehab doctor came and announced him too fit to go there, they want people with problems that can be solved with physio, which of course his heart cannot be. So occupational therapists will come and set up some sort of seat across his bath and a flexible shower hose and off we go, as soon as Friday I’m suspecting. I ended the day by going with the film group to see Custody, a realistic portrayal of the terror of domestic abuse. While it wasn’t a pleasant experience to watch, it was superbly acted and hence was a chilling reminder of times past for me and of the current experience for so many women every day. Really enjoyed a meal with friends afterwards, great company and my snapper with asparagus, roasted tomato and potato was as good as every meal has been at Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg.

October 17, 2018

Oh bliss, a shower of rain again, it is so lovely. John is pretty sure Friday is the day, just waiting for the ‘compact’ of home help to be organised with the social worker. He is such an optimist that even though the surgeon initially said he needed 12 weeks on the drip instead of the usual 6, someone has told him it is 6, so then he has reduced that by the weeks in hospital and I heard him telling Philip on the phone ‘I’ll only be at home a couple of weeks, then I will be back here for surgery’. I hope he’s right but I’ve noticed he always tells people the most positive view of any given statistic. The joys of an optimistic personality. I counted today how many rooms have a notice outside instructing staff to fully gown up before entering, 7 out of 30 beds. I asked the nurse if that meant all of them had antibiotic resistance and she said yes, mostly MRSA. Holy sheet, 7 out of 30, nearly 24%, that’s terrifying and this isn’t even an infectious diseases ward. The estimate is that by 2050 10 million people a year will die from previously curable diseases, back to the dark ages. Is there anything in this world we don’t stuff up? Pessimist personality showing here.

October 18, 2018

Fun day out to Gosford, I do enjoy the train trip especially when everything is green from recent rain. Mooched through the op shops and my favourite second hand clothes shop buying nothing at all, which is a win/win. My appointment with the Prof was edifying, his news delivered during a violent  electrical storm. He continues his opinion that I’ve gone from Sjogren’s to Sjogren’s/Lupus Overlap Syndrome, something new he hit on 6 months ago, expecting that it will convert fully to lupus over time. My CRP is now three times John’s which is a funny turn up for the books, considering all the stress of waiting for his results these past months. BUT the important news is that my severe reaction to the common cold is a typical lupus flare situation where the immune system malfunctions and attacks the healthy tissues it’s supposed to be protecting from the virus. This causes more inflammation, pain and tissue damage, so it’s not actually a cold anymore but an autoimmune flare. I hadn’t fully understood this before, so it was a real eye opener and shows I’ve had this for 40 years as that’s when it first started happening. Only solution is avoiding infection ie using masks when needed. John’s discharge has been put back to Monday to allow the hospital more time to organise home help and nursing. He said he was bored today because I didn’t go.

October 19, 2018

I can hear properly again since this afternoon when I picked up my spanking new hearing aid at Macquarie Hearing Hub. They were forced by the fault to replace it entire rather than repairing. I can now hear that the computer has a fan, that the neighbours’ dog barks and the new boys next door play basketball in the afternoons. My $45 per year insurance policy has proved a windfall, I don’t know what a new one costs but it exceeds that figure by well more than a power of 10 I’m sure. Since receiving a $150 debit for tolls spent solely on the M2 I have been travelling to the hospital on Epping Rd and worked out that if you choose your times carefully it isn’t too bad a trip. Leaving there by 3 is essential, but today I managed to include a trip to Macquarie and still get home in a reasonable time.

John was well though apologised that he was nodding off at the end. I was relieved to get away as I could barely keep awake myself, something that has plagued me lately. I came home, sat down and was off in seconds. Tasks like going to the letterbox or putting washing in the machine seem massive, my meals consist of two ingredients because that’s all I can be bothered preparing, when a chair is beckoning. I used to cook fish and a few veges every night at the very least, then do a dessert and often a batch of muffins or a cake. That seems too taxing to even think about now, so dinner tonight is a piece of monkfish with a squeeze of lemon and some coconut milk poured over, which I will put in the microwave. I hope this exhaustion lifts soon, like before Monday as John thinks I will be looking after him, but I secretly hope he will look after me.

October 20, 2018

Well, even though I was predicting an outright win by Kerryn Phelps to anyone who would listen this week, I’m f-f-f-flabbergasted by the size of the swing. Looking like well over 20%, the largest ever. It restores faith in the middle voters, the sensible, decent, ordinary (well actually, very rich) middle. Now we just need the Daily Telegraph reading, Alan Jones listening suburbanites to follow suit, always a harder task. I go to bed tonight full of optimism, not my default setting. While watching the results I was dipping into Outspoken, the autobiography of Father Rod Bowers, the Gosford Anglican priest well known for his socially progressive billboards. My sort of priest, if there is such a thing.

October 21, 2018

Well what a turnup for the books, now the by-election is in doubt due to postal votes favouring the Liberal. Orthodox Jews who were not able to vote on a Saturday make up part of that number and it stands to reason that Sharma would be favoured over a woman, even a Jewish one. This brings to mind that nail-biting US election when the disastrous George W. Bush got in on a series of ‘hanging chads’. I decided that after seeing John this arv I would take in a movie on the way home, which indicates that perhaps I am returning to normal after two weeks of being sick. I went to see Ladies in Black at Roseville and though it was light as a bubble in one sense, it was a nostalgia trip back to the grand era of department stores, when they were actually staffed by people who knew the stock and were there to help. The sight of trams back in the city was heart-warming in itself. The city burghers who ripped them out should be shamed. Oh, that’s right, John’s father was one of them, so perhaps let it pass.

October 22, 2018

Arrived at the hospital at 9.30am, in time to meet with the lady organising the home personal care and then the nursing team who will come each day to change the antibiotic drip. This was all done by 10.30 so we’d be home for lunch, right? Wrong. As with all hospitals it seems, the pharmacy department is the weak link. Couldn’t be discharged without his meds, including a week’s supply of antibiotic drips, but we waited till lunchtime and then afternoon teatime and still no meds. Finally at 4.30pm I asked a student nurse to help and she walked down to the pharmacy and there it all was, dispensed and ready. The same happened when I left RNS and when John left St Vincents, discharge is a full day event. Finally, after picking up essentials in Lane Cove, with John sitting awkwardly across the back seat of the car, we finally arrived home. He managed the stairs okay and luckily I was helped with the copious luggage and shopping by his neighbour Chris, who told me later he’d just finished chemo for pancreatic cancer last Thursday, bless him. John is out for the count in his La-Z-Boy chair and it’s 7.30pm, waiting for him to wake up to put him to bed if that makes sense. Been on a bit of a high thinking about the book I’m reading, Outspoken, the Anglican priest author is one of those rare churchmen who is also a humanist, more interested in the welfare of people than in doctrine. I am so impressed that, after following him on Facebook for the past couple of years, I might even darken the door of his church sometime soon, not for the religion but just to be in the presence a seriously uplifting person.

October 23, 2018

Phew! It is full on here. From 9.30 till 11 we had the physio’s first visit, followed soon after by 2 nurses for an hour and a half, not only changing the drip but going over every medication, doing the obs and asking a million questions (including do you have a gun in the house??). We had time for half an avocado each before the occupational therapists arrived to install the bath seat ($20 for 3 months) and instruct us in safely getting him into and out of the shower, which unfortunately is over the bath. Now it’s 3.30, we are pooped and John is out for the count. Tomorrow we have a domestic helper coming at 8am and nurses later in the morning. I can’t see that I will be able to go home at all in this period because he can’t do something as simple as getting a glass of water while walking with crutches, let alone boiling a jug. I’ve suggested to his friend Rafe that coming over to visit Friday night would be good, freeing me up to go to book group, he will get back to me. I have succumbed again to a cold sore invasion and mouth ulcers, but the Prof tells me to call it a lupus flare, whatever different symptoms arrive.

A quote from Outspoken: ‘No reasonable Australian could consider Scott Morrison or Peter Dutton fit and proper persons to function as Ministers of the Crown’. If he were a minister in the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church instead of the Newcastle one, I’m sure he would have had a call from the archbishop by now.

October 24, 2018

The care worker came this morning and there was a bit of a problem with the hose purchased to attach to the bath tap as the tap is oval and the plastic junction round. It leaked copiously and I was dispatched to Bunnings to buy a $16 rubber replacement. Oh yes I know what you want the man said, they were $16 but we don’t have any….so I bought instead a roll of duct tape which now makes the tap look as if it’s bandaged for a serious injury but it works, sort of. John is improving in mobility and actually got dressed for the first time in over a month as he knew Jack was coming to visit. He came bearing a freshly picked lettuce, a dozen of their own eggs and a large porcini mushroom lasagne that Carol had cooked for us, enough for about four meals for two people. The day passed pleasantly and I was able to attack half the kitchen, hucking out the microwave and tidying the benchtops to make cooking easier.

I woke up with a face like a horror movie character and realised that the lesions on my face had trebled overnight, it is actually the malar rash of lupus but worse than I’ve ever had it before. I rang the Prof’s surgery and asked if I could get some advice to ameliorate it, but was archly told that ‘we don’t give telephone advice between consultations’ and I can’t be going to Gosford at the moment so that’s that until Bob comes back I guess.

October 25, 2018

First up I decided to try again at Prof Reeves office and got a different receptionist who was very sympathetic and put me on to the nurse. Upshot is she had me send a photo and will show it to the Prof between patients for advice. Heather visited and then the nurses came for an hour or more, after which Heather and I repaired to Lane Cove to get shopping and fill up the fridge so I don’t need to leave John any more than is necessary. He had another visitor, Michael, in the afternoon who made the suggestion that when John is well enough we both go to their house just up the road for lunch.

Just after Michael left John said I hadn’t given him a warm enough shirt that morning and asked for a football jumper to put on. A minute later he lay on the bed and asked for a blanket, getting cross when I wasn’t fast enough. He started shivering from head to toe so I took his temp which was normal, but within minutes he developed pain in his hip so I decided to call the ambulance. The woman was unconvinced by the seriousness and put me on to a Health Direct nurse who quickly put me back to the ambulance line and I was told they were on their way. Two paramedics quickly decided he needed to go in, but by then he was unable to go down the stairs on his crutches so two more paras were summoned to carry him down. In the interim he was given the ‘green whistle’ a Penthrox inhaler for pain. I can only assume at this stage that it was referred pain, as he has had no issue with the hip. I followed the ambulance and he was already in an emergency bed by the time I got inside, in typical efficient RNSH fashion. They did a knee Xray and blood tests and cultures, which will take a day or two to process, but by then his temp was up to 38.5 and his CRP up from 4.2 to 30, so something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Left late and decided to go back to John’s in case I was called in overnight.

October 26, 2018

Finally got a call back from the Prof’s nurse, going back on to Plaquenil for the lupus, nothing else he can do. Pottered off to the hospital to find John reading the paper, no high temp, no pain, all smiles. Stayed there most of the day, then repaired to his flat to quickly prepare some food to take to book group. At 4.30 he rang me to say that the shakes and pain had recurred at 4.15, just the same time as yesterday. He was calling the nurses who were pretty casual and offered Panadol, later a passing doctor heard him groaning and rang another doctor, they offered a slow acting pain killer which would have taken hours to work. Finally the rapid response team was called and they gave him Endone, but all of this had taken an hour due to the bureaucratic tangle around giving pain relief. I said I would come straight in but he didn’t want anyone near him when the pain was so severe. Later calls established that another ‘last resort’ antibiotic drip had been added to his existing regime trying to fix whatever it was causing the pain. An emergency whole body MRI was done at night and it was discovered he has an infection in the muscle at the front of the hip which has spread to his bloodstream, probably why he hasn’t been able to raise his bad leg by himself since the surgery. How did that happen? Why does it happen at 4.15 when he’s fine the rest of the day? What bacterium is responsible? Will it delay remaining surgery? All questions John didn’t think to ask when the big cheese doctor came to call. The doc’s comment was ‘John, you are stronger than a polar bear’, unfortunately John listens but doesn’t ask anything and the docs come in very early before visitors are allowed. Book group was a welcome respite from the horrors of the last two days, well the last two months actually. My dear friends have offered to ‘John-sit’ when he comes home to give me some time off.

October 27, 2018

This morning I penned a series of 9 questions for John’s doctors and tonight one of them answered them all. Basically the infection was caused when they removed his knee and some of the infective material went up to his hip in the bloodstream, settling in the hip muscle and lurking there for a month before spilling into his bloodstream causing septicaemia. Logically there must have been more than one type of bacterium present or the antibiotics he’s been on ever since then would have hammered it, but so far the blood cultures haven’t isolated a culprit. They have no idea at all why he got sick two days running at 4.15, describing it as ‘curious’ and they don’t understand how he was perfectly well inbetween. Unfortunately it was confirmed that his heart and knee surgery is now on hold until they are sure he is infection free once more, could even be starting the 6 weeks antibiotic regime all over again, but this time on two powerful types at once. Glory be, what else can go wrong? This afternoon John casually said ‘you know, I may not get out of hospital alive this time’. He’s never said that before though we have both thought it I suspect. After visiting I went to see Dav, Louis and Millie and I stayed there for a lovely snapper curry, rice and sambals. Millie is jigsaw mad and her latest trick is mixing 4 smaller puzzles together and then doing them all simultaneously. Came home to Baulko tonight, first time in a week, blissful.

October 28, 2018

Sometimes I am asked why I am knocking around in a 3 bedroom house and wouldn’t I be better off in a unit. My answer is always a resounding ‘no’ and after spending a week at John’s place I realise I’m just not cut out for that life on a permanent basis. One of the things I asked him for when he designed my extended loungeroom was to have windows in all four directions, something only achievable in a penthouse unit I imagine. I want to see the weather coming from any direction, follow a plane’s journey as far as possible, be able to sit on front or back verandahs depending on the weather, plant trees in my garden, even if in some cases I may not live long enough to see them mature. Perhaps I was influenced by watching Dark Victory as a kid, that old Bette Davis movie where she plants the daffodils as she succumbs to death from a brain tumour……… But today back in Baulkham Hills I feel as if I am inhabiting a harbourside mansion and joyfully planted the blueberry ash tree I bought a month ago and hadn’t had the opportunity to plant till now. Clearly my health has improved a lot as some of the tasks I was unable to do a fortnight ago seemed easy-peasy today. However I will follow the Prof’s instructions so I went to buy the Plaquenil tablets which hopefully will ward off impending lupus flares. Great news today: Father Rod Bower is planning to stand for the Senate next year. He has my vote and any small amount of support I can provide. Fancy having a politician who approaches issues on moral grounds, it will be seriously weird, but wonderful.

October 29, 2018

Crossed paths with John’s doc in the hall and was able to ask about his blood cultures, which unfortunately came back negative. He confirmed that they are using Vancomycin just in case there is an antibiotic resistant bug there, but they have no evidence of that. I decided to come home again tonight, making the most of being here while I can. The young nurses there are a League of Nations with Chinese, African, Thai, Malaysian, New Zealand, Indian and Nepalese represented, while most of the domestic staff seem to be from the subcontinent. The patients on the other hand are almost universally old and white, apart from a couple of youthful ones who have had accidents, including one young man who fell from a ladder painting his new house and broke both wrists and an elbow, ouch. Ladders have a lot to answer for.

October 30, 2018

John is a member of the Tenants Advisory Group and today for their monthly meeting he was included in deliberations by some sort of phone hookup, so I was able to spend the time on a well overdue visit to Brian in Hawkesbury Hospital where he has been for six weeks waiting to go to Westmead for the selfsame aortic valve replacement that John is to have. He was sitting in the sun, in good spirits but naturally anxious for an outcome. Before I left I had a call from Chris Geraghty and we happily chatted for just on an hour but he chose the right day when I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. Michelle rang and intended to visit John today so that also was well timed. I’ve been doing the maths to see if Fr Rod Bower has enough votes from his Facebook friends to get a quota in the Senate election, but sadly no. He needs 4.22% of the votes ie 4.22% of roughly 2,225,000 electors in NSW, which is about 94,000, but he has 65,000 Facebook friends so if each corrals a family member, he’s in. Now with Dr Brian Owler standing in Bennelong it’s looking like a very interesting election indeed!

October 31, 2018

I can’t believe it, but just after Michelle and Kev visited John yesterday afternoon he again came down with the mystery fever and extreme pain. So it’s now happened three times and again it was late afternoon, not quite 4.15 but just after, that is enough to be seriously creepy. Docs are shaking their heads, though this morning they did another echocardiogram, so I am assuming endocarditis is in their thinking, even though the pain is all in his hip area I think they are looking for heart infection as a possible byproduct. Unfortunately Matthew was in surgery so I didn’t get to speak to anyone today. I’m really not liking the way this thing is headed. Carly is deep in consideration of floor areas, aspects and layouts as she struggles to choose a unit to buy in Canberra. So far she favours one in Braddon, a very short walk to the centre of the city and larger than most others she’s seen. The market there has slowed so she’s getting time to consider each one without a rush to decide. Always a tense time, but especially on your own.

November 1, 2018

Yesterday John had an appointment in pre-admission, made in the few days he was at home. The registrar said he should keep the appointment as it saves my dragging him back later when the TAVI is scheduled. The nurses were tasked with organising them to come to his room because he is hooked up to two drips and it was too difficult to take him down. I suspected this was going to be one of those things put into the too hard basket and so it proved. So at the appointed time I went downstairs to the department and reminded them that he was now an inpatient and would not be there when his name was called. Oh you’ll have to organise that on the ward they said. I already have I replied and took that message upstairs to the ward sister. Ooh I think we’ll have to get a registrar to sort that out, but no one’s here right now. Back and forth it went till the clinic closed at 5pm with no resolution, now I will have to rebook the appointment and drag him in here by car from home, it was so damned simple to just have someone ride up in the lift but he might as well have been on Mars.

November 2, 2018

Summer has started, dammit. My Yorkshire genes just don’t get with summer, unless I’m on a beach holiday and can dip into the ocean at regular intervals. Even that is under threat now the Prof tells me to keep out of the sun, lest it trigger a lupus flare. John, who doesn’t care for the beach, seemed quite amenable to that idea. Another reason to cancel the potential holiday in Saudi, apart from the thought of dismemberment in the customs hall of course. Speaking of contemptible humans, I was mighty pleased to see Ross Cameron sacked by Sky News yesterday. I had dealings with his father Jim who was a smooth but loathsome individual, his son managed only rough and loathsome. Jim was probably the single most negative advertisement for Christianity I’ve ever come across, for reasons I won’t reveal here as I suspect the old Ross may be friendly with too many lawyers and I don’t want the expense of mounting a truth defence.

Yesterday I went to John’s so a plumber hired by Link Housing could install a new shower with hand held head which will make life a lot easier. The current leaky plastic hose on the tap was a damned nuisance. As I got to the hospital late John was out for the count so I let him be, he had a visit from Rachel earlier so he wasn’t Nigel Nofriends. Went to dinner at Carol and Jack’s, a lovely repast of prawns with peas and a broccoli mornay ably assisted by a Hunter Valley Vedelho. Where would I be without good friends? Speaking of which, I had a call from Chris Geraghty (the emergency medicine specialist not the judge, a gaggle of Geraghtys in my address book). We chatted for a very pleasant hour and I marvelled at how good it feels to fit in so naturally with one of John’s rellies. It’s like the Newcastle Anglicans versus the Sydney ones, must be something good in the water up there.

November 3, 2018

All good at the hospital today, though John received a letter from the pre-admission clinic saying he was due to have surgery ‘sometime in the next 3 months’ which made me gulp. Hopefully we can get some clarification next week on that one, though the docs are honestly confused about when he will be fit to go ahead. I came home with a list of simple chores to catch up on eg change the sheets and put them in the machine. I hit a wall of exhaustion which happens occasionally with this damned disease and was physically unable to do something that strenuous, so all I could do was sit on the lounge for a couple of hours, it is very frustrating. A cool shower woke me enough to go to First Saturday, though I was still sub-par. A very interesting talk by Dr  Wesumperuma who is Social Protection Adviser for the Ministry of Social Welfare in Myanmar. He spoke on the effects on the societies of South East Asia of the rapidly growing percentage of elderly in those countries. It was interesting to hear his opinions on why Aung San Suu Kyi is unable to act to help the Rohingya people. It is basically, as suspected, that any move in their direction would result in her being ousted immediately due to the Rohingya’s unpopularity with the citizenry and because of the the tight control of the military on parliament. For her any action is sadly beyond the bounds of possibility.

November 4, 2018

Feeling better today so I changed the bed first thing and did the washing before the energy tap turned off again. John was told by a kindly nurse that we could go down to the cafe if desired and he immediately developed a craving for pasta, so we hid his tuna salad lunch, got him into a wheelchair with dripstand and headed downstairs before she changed her mind. The cafe has a limited menu on weekends but I managed to find penne with creamy tomato sauce which was a winner. Then we went for a walk outside which he really enjoyed. I arrived home to find my gardener here for the first time in a month. He had brought me a mower, given my grass a haircut and announced it is now my mower. He is a bowerbird who moves soil, plants, pavers and now a mower from places where they are unwanted to new homes, a real recycler bless him, and I am often the beneficiary. He doesn’t refuse gifts and went away the happy recipient of John’s boxed tuna salad which I’d earmarked for the birds and possum. An odd swap for a mower but he seemed more than pleased with the deal.

November 5, 2018

I got a welcome dispensation from hospital visiting today to feed one of my addictions, going to interesting court cases, in this case the Geoffrey Rush’s defamation trial. I got there early and the only other person present was ABC reporter Jemelle Wells, carrying her plastic box of lunch. This case was on the 18th floor, using a separate high speed lift to the ones I’d used before. The upper courtrooms are surrounded with windows, in one case along two sides, facing east and south with glorious views forever. Geoffrey Rush and his wife sat immediately in front of my seat and I noticed he has hearing difficulties as he cups his hands on his ears regularly. The evidence was mainly about calculating his future earnings and the damage done to it by the Telegraph article. Discussion included such issues as the likelihood of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise  continuing! The intense interest of the judge in this evidence made me think that he is seriously considering a large payout.

From the lunch break on I headed to the Art Gallery to see the John Russell exhibition and took quite a few pics of the favourites to show John tomorrow.  Last time John was sick I remember taking him to the Archibald in a wheelchair, but unfortunately not today. Perhaps he’ll be well enough to go to the Hermitage Exhibition later in the year. I would have seen the paintings in the Hermitage itself in Leningrad in 1973. I remember we visitors having to tie sacks over our feet to protect the floors from scratching, but I can’t see that happening in Sydney 2018.

November 6, 2018

I’ve created a monster in that John told me there was nothing he wanted on the hospital lunch menu today so we must go to the cafe. After a mushroom tortellini he opted for a double icecream and a chai latte. At least he will be putting on more weight. His CRP is now down from 104 two weeks ago to 15 today, it needs to be under 5 for surgery so we are close but I’ve been unable to find anyone who can tell me all the criteria for deciding when to proceed. I’m hoping they will go ahead at this admission but perhaps I am being too optimistic. I missed the Melbourne Cup driving home and realised I don’t care any more. I was always the one organising the sweeps and wearing the funny hat, but I think animal welfare worries as well as the collection of urgers and crooks involved in the game have overcome any joy in the racing. A Four-Legged Lottery as Frank Hardy so rightly told us in 1969, a book worth rereading today and one I owned at the time.

November 7, 2018

So many thoughts swirling tonight. Glad I said nup to the Cup after yet another magnificent creature fell victim to our greed on the racetrack. Angry too about discussion on killing sharks so tourists in Queensland won’t be put off travelling there. When I went to an island on the reef in the early 70s I raced down to jump into the water only to be told that you can’t swim due to the blue ringed octopus, I was shocked but that’s why all the resorts up there have pools. When the sharks come walking up Pitt Street I’ll be in favour of shooting them, maybe.

John finally remembered to ask what the criteria are for going to his next op and was told: a  CRP under 10 for two weeks, stable and symptom free. Ok, now we know what we are aiming for. He will probably remain in hospital this time till that’s achieved. Today when we went for a walk I saw a little person in a wheelchair with no hair and with severely damaged skin all over. Assuming she was a child from the NSW Burns Unit on the floor above John’s. Can’t even begin to imagine how her life will be or how her parents will ever recover. Life is so hard for so many.

November 8, 2018

Just back from a somewhat depressing appointment with Bob. Firstly we discussed my recent illness about which he had received a report from the Prof. He commented that it is possible that the immune system mechanism which makes me sick is a reaction to the natural interferon produced when I get a virus, pointing out that when they give hepatitis C patients Interferon injections they get severe flu like symptoms but the reaction is variable from person to person, that was just a theory though. I made the casual comment that I would be somewhat concerned to travel overseas alone now in case I had a flare. To my surprise he agreed, saying that perhaps my travelling days are over which, if true, is deeply depressing. He suggested I could take a companion to look after me in case I fell ill, ‘ugh’ was my reaction. While discussing the vagaries of immune systems I opined that while John’s haematologist says he is in remission from lymphoma and his blood tests look normal, I thought that there may be a functional immune system problem which is allowing him to pick up infections so easily. He agreed wholeheartedly, saying that the immune system is complex and not clearly understood and John may be missing something that we don’t even know about and therefore cannot test for. This is another terribly depressing notion, but one I’ve been harbouring ever since I had to call the ambulance two weeks ago. I do not now have confidence, even with the expert care he is getting, that he won’t get another serious infection, even when the heart op is done, perhaps even triggering endocarditis. Before I even mouthed that fear Bob read my mind and said ‘endocarditis is a very serious possibility in someone with immunodeficiency’.  I love the fact that we think alike, but today I’d have been happy to have my fears poo-pooed. However John was happy today having a rum and raisin icecream downstairs and I don’t need to burden him with all this.

November 9, 2018

Justice Wigney, I dips me lid to your patience, wisdom and calm. I am tipping he will find for Geoffrey Rush and give him millions. Whenever he agrees with a barrister’s opinion he just slightly nods his head, almost imperceptibly, but it’s there and there were quite a few nods during Rush’s barrister’s summing up. I love the summing up in any trial, because you get an overview of the evidence you missed and it puts the whole trial in perspective. At one stage the judge was handed a printout of a complete chapter in a book on defamation ‘I am not suffering from insomnia my learned friend, but if I were this would be very helpful’, he dryly replied. I shot off a letter to the local paper regarding our bully boy local member, the unpleasant David Elliott, who saw fit to out Ashleigh Raper’s sexual harassment complaint against her wishes. He is a meat head and totally unrepresentative of the area, hopefully the pre-selection committee will think likewise but I won’t hold my breath.

November 10, 2018

Just when we were settled with the plan that John was to stay in hospital for two weeks on the drip until his heart surgery, it all changes. Now he is to go home early next week for a month on three different antibiotic  tablets and if there are no further issues he will come back in the week beginning December 10 for the heart. There are pros and cons to each approach. Naturally he wants to go home but that brings with it many physical challenges requiring round the clock care, which was why the docs gave him the option of staying where he is for the month but he declined. I was surprised they gave him the choice considering the economic pressures on hospitals to meet budget. I had made some minor plans in the next two weeks, boring stuff like haircuts and dentist’s appointments as well as good stuff like a folk concert, a morning tea with friends and a gallery visit sandwiched of course around visiting the hospital each day, but nothing that can’t wait.

November 11, 2018

My normal hospital routine changed today as John’s daughter and family texted yesterday to say they planned to visit. As this was their first contact for 18 months I decided not to go in, despite having told a couple of our friends that I would be there as usual and missing them as a result. However John rang to say that the visit had been cancelled so it was all for nought anyway. The food service at Windsor was fully covered so catching up with the clients out there wasn’t really an option. I do miss them, especially as I’m sure my absence hasn’t been explained at all. If you are not there working you are a non-person and not mentioned at all, though come to think of it you are a non-person when you are there a lot of the time. I wish the Gosford Anglican Church’s welfare arm were closer, even though I normally resist religious organised bodies I think I might fit in better there.

November 12, 2018

John was a bit sub-par today and seemed somewhat miffed that I hadn’t turned up with the car packed with all my gear and ready to take him home. As he had to have the power line removed today and appointments with the social worker, OT, home nurses and home helper to get through, I rightly assumed that there was no chance that he would be released. ‘Are you cross?’ I asked, ‘No just bemused’ he replied, ‘I thought you would come all ready just in case’. I am hoping that his lack of appetite and general malaise today are just part of the change in antibiotics, but time will tell. Caught up with my Goodreads reviews when I got home, added 3, leaving me just 19 behind for the year. Looks like I will miss my target of 100, not that I’m concerned.

November 13, 2018

Had a productive day at home watering the garden, clearing my desk of a pile of paperwork and generally cleaning up. John rang to say he was organising the home help at his place for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week, so we can go to Baulko when we want to on other days. This motivated me to clean up my place in readiness, though most of it was just things in the too hard basket rather then mess. The discharge procedure took all day as expected, so we didn’t leave the hospital till 6.30pm. It seems discharge is the least efficient process in every hospital, particularly discharge notes and pharmaceuticals. Except of course when years ago I went to Westmead Hospital by ambulance with double pneumonia and was woken at 2am by a nurse with my clothes in a bag, pulling off the oxygen mask and telling me they needed my bed due to a car accident in Seven Hills and had called me a cab, no problem with discharge then. Bob was fuming when he came to visit the next day as the physio he called in refused to treat me at home because I should have been in hospital and it might void her insurance. He visited me at home for weeks afterwards. John is more mobile and feels better now than last time he came home and I think it will be much easier to look after him than it was then, which is a huge relief.

November 14, 2018

Stayed in today apart from a trip to buy groceries, feeling quite confident enough to leave John here for an hour so that’s an improvement on last time he was home. The highlight of his day was a survey call from Bunnings, discussing what he had bought over the last 12 months and the two of them waffled on about all his bits and bobs for the street libraries, guessing he’d spent about $700 on them alone. Reading his discharge notes I realised that he’s only been supplied with 4 days worth of drugs, so we needed to make an appointment with Bob on Friday for scripts which happily fits in well with the plan to go to Baulko for the weekend. His drugs fill the largest size of plastic cake tin available……

November 15, 2018

This morning we were expecting the home helper from 10 till 11, so we decided a thorough vaccing of the flat was the best use of her time. We piled onto the bed, the lounge and dining table everything that lives on the floor or under the desk and bed, plus things like stools and a magazine rack. At noon I rang the service only to find that the woman had mixed up the days and thought she was coming tomorrow. Seeing John has a doc’s appointment then, we decided to repair to my house, leaving his in disarray and sorting it out after the helper comes next week. The joy of two premises. John is now sleeping off the effort of being transported here, he tires easily. The luggage when we move is amazing, an Esky, a box of food, clothes, books, drugs etc so it keeps me fit lugging 3 loads of bags downstairs and the reverse when we go back.

I put a call out to friends to see if someone could John-sit tomorrow night while I go to see my friends Margaret and Bob Fagan sing at Hornsby Folk Club, a place I haven’t visited in years. Almost immediately Michelle and Kev volunteered and I had a number of apologies from people who were happy to come but had prior engagements. I am looking forward to hearing them again, the previous time was when they sang at my 70th party last year.

November 16, 2018

Went for an appointment with Bob to stock up on John’s drugs and now they won’t all fit in the largest plastic cake box. I had to throw out three Baxter bottles of IV antibiotics from his fridge yesterday, which made me sad considering they were worth $135 each and he used to be on one bottle a day. Now he’s on the same drug in tablet form at 8 per day, plus two other high dose antibiotics. He was feeling quite unwell this morning and I left him standing on a corner after he saw Bob while I got the car less than a minute away. When I drove up he was on his crutches but bent over nearly double so I was half expecting him to fall before I got to him, it varies so much from day to day. Glad I have minders for tonight or I’d be reluctant to go out. John’s daughter emailed to ask if he could go to Glenbrook to meet the family and he replied that the only way to get there was if I drove him so that scotched the invitation very smartly. I continue to be as popular as a pork hock in a mosque, but I should be used to it after more than 10 years.

November 17, 2018

Enjoyed seeing the Fagans last night but the club I went to every month for over 10 years in the 80s is, unsurprisingly, peopled by a whole new crew these days so the only folks I knew were the musicians. Judging by the difficulty I had being admitted to any of the tables ‘OK, you can sit on our table but at the back, it’s first in best dressed you know’ I’m not in a raging hurry to return and was quite content to leave at interval after the Fagans’ set. That said, many of the members I really enjoyed listening to are dead and gone now, Danny Spooner and Dave Alexander always held the room spellbound, I remember the club members ‘singing him away’ at the graveside in Rookwood’s Jewish cemetery in 1997. John had a good night chewing the fat with Michelle and Kev and I was grateful for the break. This morning Sue and Robert came early and when I lent them a recent novel I’d enjoyed about the residents of a luxury Jewish retirement village in New York, he casually suggested we all go there as part of his bucket list. Yeah, well, mmm, let’s see about that, I’d be content with a cabin in Kiama as things stand. One mystery remains to be solved. Who owns the modern smart phone which emerged from the bowels of the old lounge on my back verandah? I thought Robes was a possible but he said nay, how long has it been since we entertained out there? Not since last summer, that’s for sure. I will see if I can get it opened and look at the photos.

November 18, 2018

We decided that writing a timeline for John’s drugs would be a help, considering there are 27 tablets a day to be taken some required to be before, with or after meals and 14 of them vital antibiotics. So now he just needs to look at the clock and his running sheet to see what to do. I see the new Northern Beaches Hospital is in a world of pain with supplies running out and vital equipment unavailable. Privatisation, don’t you love it? The whole idea of making money out of an area hospital runs counter to my DNA. Every essential service should be in public hands, let people make money selling holidays or jewellery or handbags, but hospitals? Nah.

Making a quick trip to the shops this morning I was confronted with a wandering brass band playing Christmas carols, followed by Santa and his missus, various elves and goblins, some girls in tutus and other characters I could not fathom. It is November people, November. But I was bemused about what constitutes Christmas these days, anything that might bring in a quid I think is the answer. My fervour at seeing the band didn’t encourage me to spend more than intended, just butter, milk and cockroach baits as planned. I haven’t seen a cocky yet but I’m hoping they are not around to celebrate Christmas.

November 19, 2018

Seeing I had a letter printed in the local rag last week, I decided to update my little folder of cutout letters that I’ve had printed in various papers, one more job off the list. There seems to be a theme, surprise surprise. Animal welfare, anti-militarism (people welfare), anti-privatisation (also people welfare) and anti-Right wing politics (definitely people welfare). I know from replies received from David Elliott, my local representative of the Nasty Party, that he dislikes my letters to him, so it give me perverse pleasure imagining his breakfast being spoilt when he opened the Hills Shire Times. “That bloody woman again” I hear him rant in my imaginings. Must send off another letter.

Heather popped in for a cuppa and approved the lemon friands. Her daughter Amelia has come through the tricky brain operation that she has been facing for the last three years, while they tried alternative medical treatments. She had tidied her house in readiness, to the point of sorting every cupboard and drawer, ‘just in case’. What a hard thing for a young mother to face, glad it is behind her now and hopefully successful. We live in such an amazing medical era, with advances that seemed impossible even 10 years ago, though they are so unevenly spread that I am reluctant to discuss John’s treatment in detail with my correspondents in India and Vanuatu when it would be impossible for them to access similar treatment if needed. I won’t get started on the idiocy of spending millions on a building for the APEC meeting while the health services of PNG are barely existent, not to mention Australia’s recent cynical interest in PNG’s ‘welfare’.

November 20, 2018

Had a couple of wins today. John had a home helper coming at 11.30 but also his pals were meeting at noon for their monthly lunch. Solution: Phil picked him up to go to lunch while I met the helper at the flat. Got her to vac thoroughly while I put things back in a way that gave us some space on the floor, though John complained when he got home that he needs the shopping trolley accessible along with various other things I had stashed under the desk and drawing board. ‘When will you be needing the trolley next?’ I asked, ‘February maybe? I will get it out for you then’. Similarly for many other items which have been under our feet. I had planned to go to film group tonight but the two mates John invited over were both busy, so we agreed that I will go to see the film at Roseville tomorrow morning while the home helper is here, timing works perfectly. I am conscious of missing the Financial Services Royal Commission hearings in Sydney this week, something I had long planned to go to, but that’s an all day affair and I doubt anyone would see value in staying with John for that reason (not surprisingly). I really miss my weekly or fortnightly visits to ICAC or court, bit of a law junkie I’m afraid, but I guess people will still be committing crimes next year.

November 21, 2018

Got away as planned to see Boy Erased, a moving depiction of the horrendous gay conversion therapy. I knew a few victims of the Australian version in times past and currently know one survivor. He was abused by a Catholic brother at boarding school and while he was on his way home for Christmas holidays, the only ones he spent at home as his parents travelled the world, the brother rang his mother and suggested he had suspicions that the young teenager was gay. Presumably he was getting in first in case he was accused, but it led to a psychiatrist and then conversion therapy, something he struggles with even now in his 60s. In every country that Britain colonised, as well as those colonised by other Europeans, the acceptance of homosexuality in the dominated country was stamped out in favour of religious Puritanism. In India the British laws were only struck out this year. It is telling that the depicted fearsome head therapist at the Love In Action programme, Victor Sykes, is in real life now married to another man. He has apologised for the his part in the programme and says ‘it never worked’, though this is hardly comfort to the 700,000 Americans who went through similar organisations, some of whom escaped only by suicide.

November 22, 2018

Watched a programme on TV the other night called Are You Autistic? and it posed various scenarios to test if people are on the spectrum. I don’t consider myself affected, but did find one part of the show very interesting. Those being assessed had to make packed lunches from phoned orders as if in a sandwich bar. The two people later diagnosed as autistic were fine until calls came in that involved changes to already completed orders, then they became flustered very quickly and couldn’t cope. I was feeling stressed just watching as I was having exactly the same reactions. I have always said that I am a slow liner to turn, sudden changes of plan always throw me off kilter. Another segment that rang true was inability to multi-task, a not unrelated skill. Tim used to tell me in the shop that I was the only woman he’d ever met who could only do one thing at a time and he was dead right. If two people were waiting to speak to me and the phone rang I just lost the ability to calmly deal with it and ended up serving nobody well. People are happy to cook dinner and watch TV, anathema to me, or to talk on the phone and check their emails. No, my brain has one track only. It is fascinating to me how different brains allow different skills to develop. My IQ tests always collapsed in the mechanical section and assembly of things like IKEA furniture is nigh on impossible for me yet others do it in a trice. A few days ago I cooked John some sausages on the BBQ while I had some fish and later I tried to put the cover on, but after three tries I just couldn’t work it out. John came and took one look, laughing and saying ‘isn’t it obvious it goes this way?’ No, not at all.

November 23, 2018

Today we finally made it to Bronwyn and Michael’s for a meal, something that’s been on again/off again due to John’s illness. Had a lovely Salmon Wellington for 4, a salmon fillet with sauce in puff pastry, which Bronwyn confessed she bought in Aldi for $10, barely the price of the piece of salmon. It was served with one of her delicious salads a la Ottolenghi. Then we did a trip to Lane Cove’s independent bookshop to choose books for John’s granddaughters for Christmas and their birthdays in January. After nearly an hour of browsing we were still undecided but had a pile of possibles when the lady came up and said ‘why don’t you take them all on consignment, decide which you want and bring the rest back?’ No payment, just a phone number. I used to do similar things and only got burnt twice, but of course with furniture it is a bigger risk. Two chairs out of a set of 6 disappeared with one couple, plus a butcher’s block sent home with a vet’s wife. She moved house and I didn’t see the piece nor the $695 again. Years later she came into the shop on crutches with a broken leg and I said ‘oh excellent, you’ve come to pay for the block’. I’ve never seen anyone move as fast on crutches before or since, she must have temporarily forgotten she had diddled me.

November 24, 2018

So tired last night after driving home through horrendous Friday peak hour traffic. I avoid it like the plague but yesterday we had a few extra things to do and were caught, it’s no wonder people are crooked on politicians about the increasing size of Sydney. Today I had the family for lunch, first minding Millie while Dav and Louis went to visit Beth’s new baby Elliot. Millie managed to find one of her Christmas presents, a matching jigsaw puzzle and book, in the trunk where I keep gifts under the bed in the front bedroom, so that kept her happy for a while. Then I gave her my stethoscope and she happily listened to John, me, Teddy and the toy cat for some while. Lunch went off well and I was particularly fond of a salad I did with charred corn (left on the gas jets and turned often) with avo, shallots, mint, parsley and tomatoes. Finished with meringue shells (I cheated and bought some due to time constraints) with cream, home made lemon curd and strawberries. Now looking forward to seeing Daniel Andrews win the Victorian election tonight, surely no-one could vote against the lovely Daniel?

November 25, 2018

Oh what a beautiful morning………oh what a beautiful day. Watched the Libs being smashed for four hours straight last night in the Victorian election and then had a great sleep. While I am sure Turnbull’s overthrow had a bearing on the result, they just don’t get it that the 1950s are over and won’t be coming back. When you campaign against proven life-saving injecting rooms, the already passed euthanasia legislation, the Safe Schools programme and then want to bring religious education into the classrooms of public schools, you are in for a hiding in socially progressive Victoria.

We went to Glenbrook today to meet up with John’s daughter and family so he could give his granddaughters their Christmas gifts. It was suggested we meet at Jellybean Pool, which I discovered is inside the National Park and on arrival we were taken aback to find it was down a steep stone path into a deep gully, which John couldn’t dream of attempting on crutches. He rang while they were still on the train and the venue for the picnic was altered to a park. However it was suggested we meet for a coffee first near the station and that’s as far as we got, having various drinks and food over a couple of hours. My picnic food made for an easy dinner. The kids were very pleased with their books and enjoyed the visit and I breathed a sigh of relief that it went off well. I happened to meet up in the cafe with the former moderate Liberal NSW Opposition leader Peter Collins and his wife, old clients of the shop. I restrained myself and didn’t crow over the Danslide in Victoria, ahem, restraint not usually my strong suit.

November 26, 2018

Enjoyed a visit from Deborah and Stephen for lunch and the afternoon. It was such a relaxing time after the various stresses inherent in yesterday’s rendezvous. Such a pity that our long held plans for Christmas together have had to be put on hold due to John’s expected residence in hospital for the festive season, Christmas in July perhaps? Another win on the political front now that the nasty far Righter Senator Jim Molan has been relegated to third spot on the election ticket for next year, an unwinnable position. So only for another few months will we have to endure his ugly physog on the teev. Small mercies always appreciated. Yesterday when inspecting the track to Jelly Bean Pool I was approached by a lady who asked if she could take my photo because ‘you are a picture of coordination, from your hair down’ (I was all in grey). Today she sent me the pic and it turns out she is a professional photographer, love those random meetings with beautiful humans.

November 27, 2018

Bad news today from my friend and gardener John D. He had a doc’s appointment yesterday and was diagnosed with prostate cancer with a Gleason Score of 8 in severity out of a possible 10. On Thursday he goes for an MRI to see how far it has spread, if at all. But still he was his cheery self, finally planting my camellia after I don’t know how long, but really he came for a hug I think. After checking the car’s oil and water, putting drain cleaner in two blocked drains, packing enough luggage for an overseas trip including emptying the perishables from my fridge into cooler bags, we got away to John’s late and then needed to go to the pharmacy for his drugs plus other shopping so by the time we got here I was tired and starting to get cross. But his neighbour Chris came down and helped bring all the bags up so then I was a happy camper. I hadn’t realised how many things John used to do around the place till he was unable to do any of them, even carrying a cup of tea isn’t possible when you are on crutches. Started reading Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson, a conservative Republican who has links with campaigns of many past presidents. I try to recommend political books for purchase at the local library and this was one of those, the third anti-Trump book they’ve bought at my request so I should probably diversify and recommend anti-Morrison ones, though that seems such a waste when after next March no-one will even remember who he was.

November 28, 2018

Woke up at 5am and decided to spend the early morning getting into my Trump book and had read a third by the time John woke at 9am. Jane came today for lunch and to stay with John while I darted off to Roseville Cinema to see The Children Act, the film of a book I’ve recently finished and much enjoyed. It was as true to the book as any film I’ve seen, the dialogue and scenes lifted exactly, so well worth seeing. Busy tonight choosing 6 books from those submitted for our book group next year, strangely I never vote for my own recommendations (because I’ve read them and want something new). Though we’ve had some rain here today, we’ve not had the pelting that other suburbs have had so I’m a bit jealous that I missed the pounding that the Hills apparently got as I just love heavy rain and storms, preferably without wind though as I worry about tree branches on the roof.

November 29, 2018

When I began this little exercise I determined that the blog would tell the truth: fearlessly and as fully as a few paragraphs can. A doughty dispatch, to echo my original name. But I’ve discovered that it isn’t always simple to do that, so perhaps we will poke about in fiction tonight and see how we go. Imagine a seriously unwell man seeing his daughter again after 18 months of stony silence. They meet in public and her first words are about how terrible he looks, but there is merit in straight talking, it can be refreshing in a world of weasel words. Shortly after though the questions begin: Who is getting all the stuff in your flat when you go? Where is that painting of the flowers? Why did you give away that book I liked as a child? To whom? And then the statements: We are entitled to everything there, it’s our heritage. Don’t give anything away in future without consulting me first. Perhaps I am not such a good fiction writer after all? Such a conversation couldn’t happen, surely. Nah, I think in future I will stick to fact.

November 30, 2018

I looked at the above and it bothered me that I had written ‘dispatch’ where perhaps it should have been ‘despatch’ so I compared the meanings and I am off the hook, exactly the same only American versus British spelling, so despatch it is from now on. Made a strawberry and Drambuie trifle for the book group Christmas party and nearly everyone else thought strawberry too in some form, but it is that time of year. Carol excelled with not one but two roast turkeys, stuffing, roast veges and salads. This year has seen our number battered by the winds of fate, John sick all year, Phil with pancreatic cancer, Robert a brain tumour, Norma’s John with dementia and Sonia a heart attack. We are very lucky that all of us are here to celebrate another year’s end and we know it!

December 1, 2018

Robert and Sue stayed overnight and had the traditional single malt whisky nightcap, hopefully they will finish off the bottle soon, an unwanted gift as I hate whisky but it was too good a brand to go in cooking. Made a bacon, egg and avocado breakfast for three and I stuck to my toast and jam. As usual we magged till they were out the door after 10 am and we were still magging on the driveway till John reminded me we were late for morning tea at Kathie and Ian’s house. They are new friends we met when she wrote me a letter after seeing my pic on the front page of the Hills Shire Times when the street library brought me my five minutes of fame, she was fan club member number one. I still have a folder full of cards and letters which came at that time. Letters went back and forth between us, then emails, then phone calls till I invited them for morning tea here and now they’ve returned the invitation. Funny how a box out on the street can start whole new friendships, as John and Ian hit it off too.

Then on to John’s as he had left his phone charger there as well as the high vitamin drinks prescribed by the hospital. The foyer was full of police and we had to ask to get inside. It turned out John’s neighbour immediately below had died in her unit and the police had apparently forced their way in after her mother couldn’t raise her on the phone or by knocking. Later as we were leaving we saw the coroner’s men taking her away, the second of his close neighbours whom we’ve seen depart on a trolley, though the one next door a while back was almost my age while Camilla downstairs was only in her late 30s at best guess. Watching them wheel away someone whom you spoke to only days a go is a weird feeling. Combined with the total destruction of the unit next to hers by fire, that makes a disaster on each of the 3 sides, hopefully the third is the last and the ‘disasters come in threes’ rule is satisfied.

December 2, 2018

We were lucky enough to have another visit from Stephen today and he came laden with gifts including a lovely elephant design metal caddy of Kenyan tea for me, plus hand cream and a fluffy black eye mask with ‘catnap’ written across it in gold, very movie star in effect. I’m hoping it’s not actual cat fur, but it’s certainly soft enough to be so. John got a smart phone which Stephen spent much of the afternoon trying to set up, unfortunately without success, it seems to be faulty and will need to go back but I’m sure the return will be no problem. We both have big days tomorrow, John is going to a Tenants Network meeting, unusually being held in Parramatta, and they are organising transport, so I am hareing off to the city while I have the chance.

December 3, 2018

Well I said I had a big day on today and I wasn’t wrong. John went off to the Tenants Network meeting by taxi and I headed off to town for a meeting, followed by a proposed morning tea with Carol in her Circular Quay building. The bus trip in was marked by many jerky stops and starts courtesy of a bad driver and I arrived feeling quite sick. But worse was to come. I tried to continue with my plans but soon started vomiting and then got vertigo so badly that I couldn’t bear to stand, sit or open my eyes. This has happened many times before but not recently and never from a simple bus journey, it usually takes a boat or plane ride to bring it on. (The most memorable event for John, which he loves retelling, was our bumpy arrival in Dublin, after which I vomited into his prized Akubra hat. Later the airport people insisted on calling an ambulance as I was unable to walk out of the terminal, or at all, for 24 hours, that event really spoiled our trip as it took me days to recover). So yesterday I asked Tricia, whose office I was visiting, to phone Carol and explain that meeting her wasn’t a possibility and Carol took it upon herself to come to the building and then promptly called an ambulance. The trip there was highly problematic for me as it involved yet more motion, but it had to be gone through. The first anti-emetic injection didn’t work but later drugs through a drip did, so eventually the situation righted itself, or more accurately the wonderful docs and nurses righted it. John meanwhile had returned home and was sensible enough to ring his niece Jane who picked him up and took him to her house for a T-bone steak dinner and a sleep-over, so he had a positive outcome to his day. She also picked me up about 8.30pm from the hospital after the doc finally agreed to let me go despite very low potassium levels with a promise to take the meds provided and go straight home to bed (no dancing, I felt like asking?). So the day turned out very differently from that intended, I didn’t get to eat cake while chewing the fat with Carol, something I intend to rectify, and I have a date with a neurologist in a couple of weeks.

December 4, 2018

Feeling floaty and strangely calm today, the usual serene state on the day after a vertigo attack, long may it continue. I am thinking more and more that it might turn out to be Meniere’s Disease as I have all 3 symptoms: tinnitus, hearing loss and attacks of vertigo, especially so since my brother was diagnosed with it at about my current age. His attacks are, strangely, related to high atmospheric pressure not motion, but both are possible triggers. We shall see, but I am forecasting that as an end result, but hoping I am wrong because it usually ends in total deafness in the ear affected by the tinnitus and mine is bilateral. Kenneth is now totally deaf in his affected ear and it took less than 5 years for that to occur. My lovely new neighbour came in to tell me he is getting his huge gum tree trimmed so it doesn’t overhang my house. The old neighbour refused my request to do it on financial grounds, he was only the chief financial officer in a minor bank, poor thing, but Arvind is keen to do it ‘because I would be really upset if a branch fell on your roof’. Bless. Double bless for Heather who turned up this afternoon bearing pikelets!

December 5, 2018

I wish I could say that I felt totally better but that would be a lie. However I baked blueberry muffins, chosen just because I had all the ingredients and didn’t need to drive, as two of the women from the Link Housing office are coming to John’s tomorrow for morning tea. I went to see Bob this arv and he had the report from the hospital which recommends my going to the RPA Balance Clinic and Lab, the so-called dizzy clinic, to see Dr Nham so I will book that tomorrow. Apparently vertigo is all they do there so it sounds like the right place to get a diagnosis finally after years of forgetting about it till it happens next time. I’ve been getting it for about 30 years so not before time I guess. Complicating that, and concerning in itself, is the fact that John had a call to tell him his surgery is on January 18, after we’ve been informed it is definitely next week by three different docs. Calls to their secretaries, who promised to get back to us have so far produced no calls back, but I am not liking the smell of stuff up on the wind. Strange that today he felt able to drive for the first time in months, just as I am unable to, so he took me to Castle Hill to see Bob.

November 6, 2018

Success! I decided to embrace the squeaky wheel policy and so this morning we headed to the office of the TAVI doctor whose secretary appeared to be giving us the run around. Shirtfronting the counter, we asked when John was going to hospital and she explained that the TAVI co-ordinator, an admin worker, had been off all week ‘so who is doing her job’ I asked? Well no-one it appears. The secretary said John wasn’t on the list for this week but she would speak to the doc. Surprise! An hour later we got the call: he goes to hospital on Monday for a new heart valve at 6.30am Tuesday, followed closely after by a new knee we are assured. Not sure if the early start is because he was added on to the list, or if they always start at that ungodly hour. Came home to his flat and had a social visit for afternoon tea from two of the Link Housing managers, who get on well with him because he serves on committees with them. He was immediately offered the mirror image flat downstairs where the lady died last Saturday and he accepted happily. No more flight of stairs to get up, but he needed a doc’s report justifying it on medical grounds so he doesn’t have to compete with other tenants, it would be an administrative transfer and a new tenant would get his place. Bob did a report immediately so it looks as if it will happen, but the timing will be subject to his fitness to be here to supervise the movers. As I said, success!

November 7, 2018

Had a surprise call from Dr Nham the neurologist from RPA asking how I was feeling and saying he would definitely like to see me before Christmas (perhaps he has a special gift for me or is expecting one?). When do you want me to come I asked? I can fit in with you, he said. He could have seen me this coming week but because of John’s schedule I suggested the following Monday the 17th. What time would you like to come? he said. How does 2pm sound? I answered and he replied in the affirmative and said to see him in the neuroscience laboratory. I’ve never had a doctor ring me personally to make an appointment before, certainly never been asked to choose any day and time, most unusual but I’m not complaining. Perhaps he is doing research on this problem as he introduced himself as Dr Nham Neurologist and Research Fellow. I may get a Bunnings card at the end of the appointment, which I shall ask to be exchanged for one for a good restaurant. I was still feeling off this morning but had to cater for two of John’s friends coming for lunch, one of whom was over from WA so we could hardly cancel. They are lovely fellows, friends since school and the seminary and we all had a good day. But part way through the washing up afterwards I noticed a strange lifting of the feeling I’ve had since Monday of not quite being me. It was odd, sort of ethereal and light, but as if I suddenly got myself back. Noice one!

November 8, 2018

Headed off to North Richmond to visit my old restorer of 27 years, John Koster. Not a social call, but to take one of my carver chairs that a certain gentleman managed to snap the joints on by dragging it under his seated weight. At least he has an excuse, and a good one. Then we called in to see Brian who has been in Hawkesbury Hospital for 10 weeks waiting for just the same heart fix as John, a TAVI, which was done at Westmead a couple of weeks ago. He happened to be at home for a few hours on a test run to see if he can manage. He looked old and frail and despite the TAVI I just can’t see him managing alone, even with outside help, but I hope I’m wrong. Had a sushi lunch out there and wended our way home. Received a call today from Goben, the ortho registrar, to tell John that the TAVI doctor has convinced them that it is too dangerous to go ahead with the knee for a few weeks because he will need to be on extra blood thinners and he will now get it done when ‘Dr Bhindi gives us the green light’. Disappointing, but safer in the long run, however it means that he is now on the crutches into January. When we were out at Windsor today John asked if we should visit Donna and Roger while we were there. I said I would leave it up to him, but he commented that ‘I think I am too tired, but it is possible I will never see them again’.

December 9, 2018

Woke to the sound of Jim taking branches off next door’s giant gum tree. His assistant was like a tiny animal moving around in the crown. He stuck strictly to the law, only reducing the bulk by 7% and favouring those branches liable to fall on my roof. I had big plans for a gardening hour or two but it was raining sawdust and I washed my hair last night…..pathetic, but true. Sent off separate thankyou cards to Tricia and the ladies who were so kind to me last Monday when I was indisposed, to put it mildly. Decided to take John out for a casual lunch at Circa in Parramatta before he goes to hospital. We both had Pan Fried Cone Bay Saltwater Barramundi with brown rice, pine nuts, chili, asparagus, broccolini and radish with tahini lemon dressing, 10/10. John would have been happier if it came with mash and peas but he has very conservative tastes in food, however he raved about the pot of chai and friand afterwards even though there were no chai or friands in the 1950s, well not in Sydney anyway. I love the atmosphere there, it is actually a garage with a roller door at front and the tiniest kitchen imaginable. The staff are a league of nations and I love that about the place too. As we left they were doing staff meals and they all looked just as great as ours. It is lucky John is going to hospital tomorrow as his aerobic capacity has taken a sudden turn for the worse, no doubt due to his required reduction in blood thinners prior to the op. He can hardly get in and out of the car due to breathlessness. Finished reading Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell, quite a memorable novel and not at all what I was expecting. The ice and snow of Sweden will stick with me for some time but particularly the interrelationships and characters he made real. I will recommend it to Robert, not exactly sure why, but the main character has some of his strength and no bullshit mien.

December 10, 2018

Picked up my hearing test results from this year and last from the Hearing Hub at Macquarie Uni, as requested by Dr Nham, one more job out of the way. Then went to John’s so he could pack his meagre bag for hospital and he made sure we arrived spot on the requested hour of 3 pm. I thought of suggesting that we take a breather and have an icecream in the foyer before entering the fray, but John is so particular about punctuality, as I am, but I just knew we would be in for a long wait. Sure enough we sat in the hospital’s ‘transit lounge’, which sounds as if we are headed off on a major trip, till 6 pm (so the plane must have had mechanical problems) and the icecream became a distant dream. Eventually he was put in exactly the room in the cardiac ward that I occupied for 5 days a couple of years ago, while they did all manner of tests on my heart and discovered a hernia and an ulcer were to blame for the chest pain. When I mentioned this to John he looked totally confused and said he didn’t remember my ever being in hospital. ‘Did I come to visit you?’ he asked. ‘Yes, every day’, I said. He still had no recollection at all and clearly doubted that it ever happened. I have been missing the meal service at Windsor on Saturday nights for some months now, so I’ve just heard of the events of last Saturday night. They were in the middle of service when they heard screaming from straight across the river and looked to find a man in trouble in the middle of the river and his friend screaming for help. The volunteers and patrons watched in horror as the man disappeared under the water, not to be seen again. Police divers recovered his body at 11.30 pm that night. The currents are strong there and the river bed is full of deep holes, but it was a very hot night and just misjudged the dangers. He was a healthy 45 year old whose son graduates from Year 12 tomorrow.

December 11, 2018

What a day. John was due to go to theatre at 6.30 am but it ended up being 3 hours later. While he was in recovery I was entertained by a large female choir singing in the foyer. I was expecting Christmas songs but was very pleasantly surprised to find it was a mix of everything from ABBA to musical theatre to We Are Australian. It was a show of my lack of emotional strength at the moment that I was sniffling in the latter, tearing up in Your Love Puts Me at the Top of the World and positively crying in the last song, Hallelujah. By the time John arrived in his room I had got it out of my system and was as cool as a cucumber. His TAVI went well with no unpleasant surprises apart from quite a lot of pain over the femoral artery entry point which was stopped with a mechanical external pressure device which is pumped up to press on the opened artery. He also had smaller devices on both wrists, which were similarly painful. He had to lie perfectly still for 4 hours which is hard when you are in pain. I stayed till mid afternoon and was glad to get home after an almost sleepless night. While I was on the phone filling Deborah in on the day, I got yet another call from RPA, the third, regarding my appointment with Dr Nham next Monday. It is the sort of service you expect at a cosmetic surgery clinic anxious that you don’t cancel, rather than a free public hospital department, though I am not complaining. I had asked Jane to mind John if he is home by then and she had happily agreed, but I just had an email to say she needs to go to NZ urgently as she has a cousin there who is dying. I will have a think about Monday as it is easy to get someone for a couple of hours, but harder to ask for the best part of a day, though I’m sure it will all work out.

December 12, 2018

John saw all the docs today and they are happy for him to come home tomorrow, amazeballs. I put up the Christmas tree in the afternoon, I had decided not to bother since I wouldn’t be entertaining here this year, but now it’s up I’m glad I expended the effort. Sent off some money to Getup to help pay for an ad to go in cinemas in Warringah to try to unseat Tony Abbott (spit, curse). Just watching it makes me confident that it’s possible. Reading a book which talks about research on Pompeii and apparently early tourists paid an entry fee and were allowed to take home anything they found, gold, jewellery, even skeletons. Also they lowered dogs into holes where the fumes were rising and guessed how long before they died. Perhaps we have added a little more civilisation, not a lot, but a little.

December 13, 2018

Met Dav in Baulko early and drove her over to Beth’s to visit with her and baby Elliot, who is a groaning, grunting, rooting bundle of loveliness at 5 weeks. Just about to tell Dav about the four calls and a letter from RPA Balance Clinic when the phone rang and, sure enough, it was Dr Nham asking how I am feeling today. ‘Very well’ I said, ‘and how are you?’. He ended the call with ‘Stay well and I look forward to seeing you Monday’. If he were not 40 or so I would start to think he was about to plight his troth (or at least invite me to lunch) but I think he is just super nice, maybe he doesn’t have a heap of patients yet? I don’t know, will work it out Monday I guess, but I felt I had let him down with no symptoms to discuss Smilie: :) Then repaired to the hospital as John rang to say he was in the transit lounge and ready to go. I should have known that was too good to be true and of course it turned out he had to wait for some drugs from pharmacy, a delay of a couple of hours ‘in transit’. Came home to an email from Dally whose spy had told him Cardinal Pell was found guilty on all charges, the news suppressed in Oz because he has more charges to face, but widely reported overseas. When I think of him refusing communion to gay men I could spew, but I am always deeply suspicious of those who decry homosexuality fervently, wondering what their own closets contain.

December 14, 2018

I parked John in the library to read the papers while I went to an appointment with my dentist, it finally came off after having to cancel twice due to John’s circumstances. The bill of $650 was written off for the measly $156 rebate from Medibank Private, a huge discount not asked for, but given. He reminded me that I had been going every 6 months for 19 years. While I was away John got a call from Link Housing to say that he has been given the flat downstairs and can move as soon as they clean it out and do any repairs or redecorating needed, naturally he is pretty pleased, no staircase plus a garage. Later I went up to Bob’s surgery to pick up John’s new script and asked whether we can expect an improvement in his breathlessness and weakness, but Bob said that he thought that was mainly from the cardiomyopathy, not the valve. ‘The replacement stopped him from dying when the valve finally gave out, but the cardiomyopathy, which isn’t treatable, causes his symptoms’ he said. We had been hopeful of improvement, but it is what it is. Someone put ‘War and Peace’ in the street library today, after I’d been mulling over whether to reread it after nearly 50 years. A sign from the goddesses perhaps? I brought it in and will begin over the Christmas break. No call from dear Dr Nham today.

December 15, 2018

Oh, what a night, late December back in ’63. No, not that one but 15th December ’18 doesn’t have quite the same ring. The day was spent pleasantly, a trip up to North Richmond to pick up my broken chair in time for Christmas saw John Koster announce that the repair was my Xmas present, which was unnecessary but lovely. When we came out of his house my John and the car were nowhere to be seen, till we finally spotted him parked in the driveway of the Jehovah’s Witness Hall next door. Two men were watching him with interest but not bombarding him with tracts to read thankfully. He had no idea that he wasn’t in John’s driveway despite the grounds being 10 times as big as John’s block. Anyway, he was found. I did some good work cleaning up the back deck and scrubbing bird poo off the boards, my pet magpies sit there looking in the back door to see what I’m up to. Then just as I was making dinner a huge storm blew up in a few minutes, landing branches on the roof, coincidentally one week exactly since the tree was cut back, and letting water in to the front bedroom ceiling. No mobile reception on either phone, no landline, no internet, no power. So the whole baked trout became pan fried trout cooked on the gas and eaten by candlelight but even more delicious for that. Worked out we could finally use John’s phone to text so I contacted Dav, who repeatedly phoned the SES for help and finally got through. Early night was had when the power didn’t return.

December 16, 2018

Got onto GIO after waiting from 7.09 till 8.25am for them to answer, snowed under not surprisingly. Paid my $200 excess and waited for the SES to arrive to tarp the roof, but then 2 fire trucks and 6 firies turned up and went to work. One was straight onto the roof ‘got any spare tiles love?’ ‘sure, under the house’. Next there were tiles aflying and 2 of them on the roof fixing the damage. ‘Not worth tarping, we’ll just fix it’ and soon it was done. The other 4 dragged all the branches from the yard to the kerb to be mulched by the council and then they were gone. Shortly after GIO’s tiler rang to say he was on his way so I told him it was all sorted. Now if the ceiling dries ok I will cancel the painting too, get my $200 back and be a winner all round, we shall see. John had a plan to tie a tennis ball to a tarp, throw it on the roof and do it ourselves, the firies looked at him, looked at me and laughed about that one. Always a trier. Went to Stockland Mall for internet but theirs is out along with their aircon and lifts, so repaired to my second home, the library. Optus Shop tells me no phone or internet till Tuesday at least, tower down or hit by lightning. Completed cleaning the deck of poo, this time scrubbing the chairs and handrail, but we have power, how delicious is that?

December 17, 2018

Dropped John off at the Lane Cove home of Bronwyn and Michael while I got the train from Artarmon into town. Walked from Newtown to the hospital and was early, as usual, for my appointment with Dr Nham. He asked a lot of questions, sagely murmuring ‘interesting’ every now and again. Then he put me through a battery of neurological tests which I didn’t even try to understand, before announcing I am at the extreme end of the range for motion sickness, what a surprise! His diagnosis though is Vestibular Migraine, ruling out Meniere’s Disease from the audiology patterns. It is a hereditary form of migraine without headache where the brain begins to ‘chemically misfire’ for up to 72 hours. It involves the eyes, ears and brain but it is in the brain that the problem exists, causing a ‘brainstorm’ of vertigo, vomiting, sensitivity to light and difficulty walking straight, yep sounds about right. He has given me two scripts for drugs to carry for when it happens again, which is comforting. If I ever plan to travel overseas again, he said to see him a month before and he will put me on preventative drugs, but I don’t really want to take them all the time, which is the other option.

December 18, 2018

John went off with his seminary friends for the usual monthly conflab but decided he is well enough now to cope alone, so arranged for one of their number to take him grocery shopping and then home after the lunch. I had a surge of enthusiasm for what I could complete around the house but the surge soon dwindled to a trickle. At the moment I feel directionless without any enthusiasm for the new year. We were due to be post surgery by now but it stretches ahead, likely to end of February, ending our plans to head to Melbourne for a while including seeing Miriam Margolyes in The Lady in the Van. John I suspect is quite relieved at some level when plans fall through as he really prefers pottering and getting small projects completed. However I regret all the lost opportunities which don’t seem to offer themselves a second time. I shouldn’t be blogging tonight, the world is looking bleaker than it should.

December 19, 2019

A good cure for the Poor Mes (looks funny but I refuse to use an inappropriate apostrophe) is a trip into town so that’s exactly what I did. I could probably have found the particular elusive gift I was searching for at Castle Towers, but a visit there would have left me feeling more depressed than I was, whereas a trip into town is always a boost to the spirits (ahem, excepting of course my visit two weeks ago). It took visits to three shops but then I found what I was after and managed to pick up a second item for the same person in The Rocks. I love to visit Crafts NSW while there but their premises were empty and they had moved from their central position to Argyle Place, out of the way and in premises less than a quarter of the size, with much reduced stock. I can’t see them making a success of it there, such a shame after a history dating back to 1906. Met up with Carol for lunch at our usual haunt and we tossed around the issues of the day while eating delicious vege quiches and salad.

I spoke to Kenneth and reported Dr Nham’s long distance diagnosis that he probably has the same genetic brain problem as I have, although his attacks are triggered by high atmospheric pressure cells. The good doc assured me that he has patients with that same trigger and that it is the brain chemistry which is the problem and what actually starts it off is irrelevant and makes no difference to the diagnosis. One of his patients has attacks if she drinks white wine for example, somewhat easier to avoid than transport or weather variations. Bob has said that we are land animals and it is unnatural for us to sail or fly, so perhaps some of us just didn’t evolve to be able do that easily, closer to the Neanderthals we are and I’m ok with that if he’s right.

December 20, 2018

There are a few things that rile me to my core and waste is one of those. John reports that two men came to clear out the flat beneath him, into which he will move in the new year. The deceased tenant’s family didn’t want any of her things, so whether they were responsible for what ensued or it was Link Housing is unclear. But a skip was positioned underneath the balcony and everything: clothes, furniture, a TV, microwave, pots, pans, kitchen appliances, crockery, cutlery and personal effects were thrown into it. I couldn’t have watched without challenging them to stop, but somehow John didn’t feel he could intervene, even only with some abuse from above. How they could do that without salvaging all the useful items for the Sallies or Vinnies completely baffles me and signifies a life without empathy. I am tempted to hope that they learn one day what poverty is like.

Heather rang early and invited me to her house for brunch, toasted baguette slices topped with home made pesto followed by Pear Clafoutis, sprinkled with Curacao, straight out of the oven and accompanied by a pot of Russian Caravan tea. Superb. We took off from there to Castle Hill industrial area to browse a wholesale and retail lolly and chocolate business and pick up a few last minute items, so much more fun than shopping in the big stores. I was happily able to get sugar-free chocolates to take to Brian tomorrow.

December 21, 2018

The insurance assessor came first thing and photographed the ceiling damage, it will be repainted after Christmas. Surprisingly, he was amenable to fixing the floor damage at the back door too, though we will wait a while to see if the boards flatten out spontaneously, an unlikely prospect in my view. I certainly can’t fault the speed with which GIO has acted, especially considering the massive amount of storm claims it is currently handling. I hared out to Windsor to take Brian out for a sushi lunch as arranged but he seemed surprised I was there and declared he wasn’t up to going out. However he was pleased with my suggestion that I get takeaway sushi and we eat it on his front verandah. Received an unexpected parcel in the mail, a book from Pam, the only Liane Moriarty novel that I haven’t read, even though she had no idea that I even like her or which ones of hers I may have read. Although they aren’t considered high art, I find her understanding of human nature and Australian culture to be extraordinary and she never fails to be believable. In person at a literary event I found her somewhat flat and uninteresting, yet she turns out very readable novels centred on Australian suburban life.

December 22, 2018

Trying to complete some visits before Christmas so this morning I went to see Phil and Martha, via the the Sweet Chocolate Warehouse where I was able to duplicate Brian’s gift of chocolate for diabetics for Phil and some Belgian hearts for Martha. The roads were just lined with branches and whole trees and Koala Park was closed to visitors due to storm damage, I hope all the animals fared well, but sad for the owners to close at their busiest time. Saw Michelle W. in the afternoon and gave her an innocuous looking gift which has hidden inside something of mine that she’s long admired, a tiny, tiny four note Hohner mouth organ from the 1920s or 30s. I so love it when I can find a home where a special item will be loved and appreciated. Organised to mind Millie overnight next Thursday at Erko so Dav and Louis can have a night out in town. Terribly excited to be told today that John has a treat organised for us for New Year’s Eve. The anticipation coloured my whole day and I got a lot done as a result. Last year we went to the high part of The Rocks for the 9pm fireworks, but this year it is impossible for John to be standing on crutches for any length of time so it is a seated wine and dine.

December 23, 2018

Without really making a conscious decision about it, I have managed to contact most friends this year with either a card, gift, visit or phone call. I don’t want to get into a tit-for-tat gift thing, so I just gave gifts where I thought of something appropriate and had a cuppa and catchup with others. Spoke tonight to my ex-husband’s second wife and also messaged his sisters with whom I’ve reconnected via Facebook. I’m sure I’ve left some people out but I can correct that for New Year. I am aware of how suddenly people can disappear from our lives and I don’t want too much grass to grow between visits. Picked John up today and we stopped in Lane Cove for him to get a couple of scripts, at least I thought that’s what we did, but he disappeared for the best part of an hour and I was getting worried as his phone went unanswered three times. Spotted two Maori men wandering and asked them to keep an eye out for a man on crutches and let him know that I was at the car, but couldn’t get in as he had the keys. In typical Maori fashion they decided off their own bat to set off on a search, looking in the toilets and the streets and eventually arriving back with John in tow, ‘I had things to do’ he remarked enigmatically.

December 24, 2018

The Tale of The Glue, both funny and true. John wanted to use my excellent Selley’s spray glue on some paper but I discovered too late he had done it directly on the outdoor table leaving an aurora of glue around the work. I tried hot water, Jif, a scourer, steel wool, but to no avail. So I asked him to have a go with my cure-all, eucalyptus oil. He decided to put some oil soaked paper towels on top of the glue and, because it was slightly windy, weighed them down with four very old rulers from my desk (you can guess the next bit I’m sure). Some time later he discovered that the rulers were glued fast to the paper yet there was no sign of it coming off the table. So he then began to clean the rulers with eucalyptus, which removed the numbers, until I asked him to desist. So I have 4 rulers still, with a choice of those too sticky to use or those with no divisions or numbers, a conundrum to be sure. My respect for Selley’s glue increased though.

Apart from that the day progressed well, this morning just as I was thinking I hadn’t spoken to Bob, he materialised on the escalator in Castle Mall on his way to his practice and we got to have a hug for Christmas after all, love that man to bits. Rang my dear friend Jackie and ralphed on for an hour after partly cooking the dessert for tomorrow and shovelling soil and gravel from the driveway, washed down by the storm. A lot of good jobs jobbed today. Overheard John taking a call, sotto voce negotiations transpired regarding New Year’s Eve, the plot thickens.

December 25, 2018

I was slow to warm to Christmas 2018, but as with any slow cook the result was much improved. After finishing the dessert and packing two poly boxes full of presents we repaired to Erskineville through very little traffic and wished for Sydney to return to that state. Millie was more than ready for the present opening which occupied us for some time. I scored a copy of Lucia Berlin’s latest book, a bottle of French blackcurrant liqueur to make Kir Royale, my favourite drink, and a card from John promising a holiday in our fave hotel in Melbourne, Treasury on Collins, plus a reveal of our NYE plans, a degustation dinner with a view of the fireworks, too spoilt. Davina did a Southern American lunch of prawns with ranch dressing, Cajun snapper, cornbread, corn and avocado salad and coleslaw followed by my watermelon and strawberry cake, her Drambuie soaked Christmas cake and homemade rocky road. Groan, but in a good way. We met and loved Carly’s friend Danish who settled right in as if he were here every Christmas, 10/10. John rang Stephen at 9pm when we got home and they were still flapping their gums at 11, when I retired for bed.

December 26, 2018

Yesterday when we girls went for a walk I scored a book in a street library, Writing Home by Alan Bennett who, apart from being a wonderful memoirist  and playwright, was a friend of Kenneth’s at Cambridge. I own the book but noticed this one was much thicker so I grabbed it. When I checked it was 634 pages as against my copy’s 417. It was a later edition of his autobiographical stories including The Lady in the Van, that beautiful true short story now a film and soon to be played on the stage by Miriam Margolyes. We had planned to go down to Melbourne for it but it now seems John will still be in hospital or rehab then. So I’ve scored the updated version and my old one will go into my library.

I did a good job today moving all my winter clothes to the spare bedroom and all my summer ones into mine. So exhausting was it that I had to spend the rest of the afternoon finishing Henning Mankell’s novel The White Lioness, no guilt at all seeing it was Boxing Day, traditionally set aside for reading and I even had tonight’s dinner already made in the fridge. I had pressed John this morning to come to Olympic Park to ogle at the building which has been partly condemned due to cracking. He didn’t find the prospect at all exciting whereas I am somewhat obsessed by it. If a dodgy certifier isn’t in the mix I’ll eat my hat. The idea of privatising certification is a joke, the one who certified my deck didn’t come closer to it than the driveway before getting Peter the builder to sign that he’d been there, but luckily I know Peter is fastidious. Peter was disgusted, as was I. Who would hire a certifier who found fault with one of their buildings? Next time you just hire a different and more compliant one. Governments who privatise such things are naive in the extreme, if not unscrupulous. Come the Revolution that’s one of many things I’ll change.

December 27, 2018

So I was thinking during the night of the possibilities behind the self-destructing building and a big one that came to mind is swamp. Last time I was there there was still a lot of swampy land at Olympic Park. Since then an awful lot of building has gone on and if it’s spread over into that swampy area it could easily be a factor, if not a cause. I think I will have to give in to temptation and go for a look-see. The what is never as interesting to me as the why.

Called in on Martha and Phil this morning, then took John to Lane Cove to get his shopping which I ended up doing at speed while he sat in the car as I’d arranged to pick Millie up at daycare and mind her overnight with Carly. She is Carly’s (or Carty as she calls her) girl when her mum isn’t around, being an identical twin has its uses.

December 28, 2018

Millie had a big sleep in so we in turn had an easy start to the day. Went for a walk to Erko and Millie was happy to spend some time in the park. Once Dav and Louis returned we took off for Olympic Park with two aims in mind: firstly, for me to go to the Lotteries Office and cash a bundle of 2015 Lotto tickets, a gift from a client in the shop and now way too out of date to check at a newsagency. They produced zip. Secondly of course, to eagle eye the Opal building and we were in luck that both were in close proximity. Forlorn residents were wheeling their suitcases out but we stayed a short distance away from the entrance ogling the immense size of the thing that TV cameras can’t capture. The building where we were across the road had its advertising out but since it was built by the same company they can whistle Dixie. Even if they fix the problem, which I’m doubtful about, the units won’t be worth selling for 10 years at least. But if the government cancels the private certification system as a result of this, there will be a silver lining for the community.

December 29, 2018

Opal News: Heather’s friend Richard sold his house to buy a unit there on the 26th floor, looking towards the harbour. He loves it and is treating the 10 day evacuation as a fully paid holiday despite having to cancel his New Year’s Eve party. Ah, the optimism of the young, but then I am not sure I ever had it, even when his age, in fact I know I didn’t. Carly and I went to see Vice, a movie about vice-president Dick Cheney. What a surprise packet of a movie it was, depressing but we all knew what he was like having lived through it and read much since. No surprises regarding him but inventively put together and very memorable. I try to believe that there are evil deeds, though not intrinsically evil people, but gee whiz there are some cracking arseholes out there.

December 30, 2018

Opal Update: When we were there two days ago I counted the floors to see what was particular about the 10th where the major damage occurred. Answer: This is where the first of the large ‘voids’ in the sides of the building opens, so perhaps a clue lies herein. I can’t see anything special about the 10th floor apart from this, according to the website they are ‘gardens’ though even an  actual viewing of the building leaves one somewhat confused about how they could work as such.

Spent a while working on strategy to get one old lady and one old man on crutches into Milson’s Point for dinner and the fireworks tomorrow night, bearing in mind road closures, trains stopping in the early evening, mega crowds, John’s difficulty walking etc. It was his idea and he organised the whole shebang so now it’s my job to work out the logistics and it’s not proving easy. I decided on a ferry from Circular Quay but these stop very early. Spoke to a young Constable at North Sydney Police Station but he was perplexed, saying that cabs can’t enter the barricaded area under any circumstances. But how many more years will we have the opportunity to celebrate like this? Too few I suspect, so we’ll find a solution somehow.

December 31, 2018

Well a strategy for tonight has been formulated but it remains to be seen if it works. Early news was showing crowds around the harbour already so we shall see.

I have been reading the book Anaesthesia and like many people I have some doubts about whether what we are told about both sedative and general anaesthesia is all of the story. This book does nothing to allay those concerns. It explains that because anaesthetics are now almost always given alongside paralysis drugs, there is now no way for an anaesthetist to know for sure if you are unconscious. Once they judged that by movement or grimacing but now it’s a case of giving the average dose and hoping for the best. I well remember the case at Baulkham Hills Private Hospital where the nurses told the doctors that the patient was trying to signal with her eyelids during a Caesarean and the docs poo-pooed them. Subsequently the distraught woman recounted the conversation in full, she had been totally awake and in agony but paralysed. She successfully sued the docs and the hospital with the nurses testifying for her. The book doesn’t mention that case but describes another identical story from the Blue Mountains Hospital. In both cases, and many others mentioned, the women were seriously psychologically damaged. Apparently those most in danger of awareness are women, fat people and drug addicts, mmm two out of three there. It seems in many procedures, for example a colonoscopy, the patient is conscious and able to respond to instructions, answer questions and feel pain but the drugs given cause later amnesia of the whole event. I put that to a doctor I know only a year ago and he totally refuted it, but eventually conceded that if a fire broke out the staff could walk you out of the hospital easily but you wouldn’t remember a thing. Interesting.

January 1, 2019

The Best New Year’s Eve Ever !!!!!!

The logistics of getting John to Aqua Dining worked a treat. Left home at 2pm and drove to Lavender Bay where we scored a park. Then read in the car for a few hours till we made our way slowly along the boardwalk to Aqua Dining. At 3 points there were barriers manned by security guards who, after some sweet-talking and glances at John’s crutches, let us through. We were an hour early but sat on a wall and waited till they opened. Amazing views of a torrential thunderstorm, while feeling sorry for all those we could see in the rain. Started with a Peach Bellini and a Mocktail for John, followed by a plate of appetisers, from which I persuaded him to eat one oyster and got a photo to prove it. On it went through 8 courses accompanied by any drinks we wanted (sadly lost on John) but I managed champagne and a Margaret River red before going back to champagne at midnight. We met at the next table the CEO of the Sydney Stock Exchange and a couple who were both medical researchers at the Garvan Institute, also a model and her partner (many of those abounded) and a British couple who came from Dubai just for the fireworks. At nearly midnight the man on the other side proposed to his girlfriend and presented her with the biggest teardrop diamond ring I have ever seen, despite seeing some beauties when I was doing the gemmology course. I don’t know how she lifted her hand. His watch would be worth the price of a decent car I was thinking. He is from California and she from Sydney, he said they will marry in about a year, he’s thinking Sicily for the wedding, and she will move to the US. A hoot and round of applause followed and after the midnight fireworks things got raucous, a woman was lap-dancing with John, I danced with a few women and the man from Dubai and today I see some random person took a really bad video with my phone. From good togs to plastic whistles, party hats and garish necklaces, John came home wearing 4!! A long slog back to the car took over an hour and then it wouldn’t start……….a call to the NRMA promised a 2 hour wait but when they finally came the police wouldn’t let them through so it turned into 4 hours. It was the battery and so we arrived home at 5.30 in daylight. I just wish we hadn’t got those phone calls at 7 and 7.15………….right after we got to sleep.

January 2, 2019

Still thinking over NYE and the many people we met. I Googled the stock exchange guy and yes, there was his photo so he didn’t make it up. Came here from England after heading their Futures Exchange, whatever one does at a futures exchange. I try to read about business and finance but it always bores me witless and I just glaze over. When they were going to put me into the top class on the first day of high school my mother told them ‘She can’t do French and Latin, she would mix them up’ and when I cried at home that night (wanting to do Latin because I was convinced I was going to be a doctor) she said ‘that class did economics too and you don’t need that because you’ll never have any money’. So either I don’t understand finance because I’ve never studied it or else my mind turns off at its mention because ‘I’ll never need it’. John is just the same and we’ve both presided over unprofitable businesses, he because he loved organics and me because I loved antiques, but neither of us because we wanted to earn money. I thought it might be strange spending NYE with strangers but in fact it was lovely, because the mere fact of being strangers made them interesting. I am still thinking about the couple from Dubai and the newly engaged couple and what he might do for a living (IT or finance probably, though possibly drug running by the size of that ring) and whether she will fit into the strangeness of moving to America. I would find it stressful to be wondering if the man next to me on the bus was packing a gun or just happy to see me, but I am not a particularly courageous person by nature, nor was I at her age. Whatever their paths, I wish them well and I’m happy we met.

January 3, 2019

Got up with a mission this morning. My huge conifer in the backyard had jasmine climbing up it so a few months ago I cut that at the base and then proceeded to remove the creeper with a rake to as high as I could reach. John saw my difficulty and attacked it somewhat higher but as he was more vigorous, managed to snag a couple of branches and brought them down as well. So now whenever I look at the tree I only see the gap. Today I climbed the ladder and tied some branches together with venetian blind cord, luckily brown, to hide the hole and encourage it to grow over. Problem solved after many months of it annoying me. Trying to do all those pesky little jobs that I never get around to.

Opal Building Update: When I visited the building I mentally noted at what floors all the ‘garden voids’ occurred as I was thinking that more problems would be reported in those areas. Sure enough, now there is cracking at level 4, the lowest point that the voids begin. But another thought crossed my mind: Last Friday 7 News showed a report filmed in the basement, which was full of steel reinforcements. This puzzled me as there had only been one working day since the cracks were found, so how could reinforcements have been manufactured, delivered and unloaded in that time? John assured me that such things are not bought off the shelf but manufactured to order, so the plot thickens. Unless of course they knew that there were problems before the cracks appeared? Later stills shown online yesterday show those same reinforcements holding up the walls and ceilings of the affected units.  I sent off an email to Josh Dye, the Herald reporter on Opal duty, asking if he knew of an explanation for this and if not whether he could ask some questions, but so far no reply. He is probably rolling his eyes, that’s too bad, roll away but just get me the answer please Josh.

January 4, 2019

Opal News: I have the answer to the reinforcement question, they were brought in from Coates Hire. Pictures in a Josh Dye article show them used as props right around the internal walls of some units, an air-conditioner hanging over them by its wires in one shot. So the cracking is not confined only to the voids but is in actual units as well, I pity those poor people who are hanging like that forlorn air-conditioner, with no resolution on the horizon.

I went to John’s to entertain Mary and Len from Melbourne to afternoon tea, a good catch-up. Straight afterwards we rushed to Roseville to see Cold War, a beautifully shot movie where any scene could easily be printed out as a still and hung on my walls. John found the storyline somewhat confusing, but enjoyed it nonetheless. It was a movie where you could just lay back and let it wash over you, you don’t need to hear every word or understand every motivation, but just let it carry you along. It brought back memories of being in Poland in 1973, chatting to a young man in a restaurant who explained that his father, high in the military, could travel outside the country but he and his mother could not. I remember his walking me to my hotel room and saying a polite goodnight at the door, his name is now on the tip of my tongue….. yes it was Zbigniev. We dined late at Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg and I noted how much John’s appetite has improved since the heart op. We have been sharing meals for a long time now, but he insisted on having his own last night and ate some of mine as well. This after complaining of hunger during the night in the car after our 8 course degustation! Got home to find the blue light of my burglar alarm flashing and found a message on my mobile from my new neighbour Arvind to ring him immediately when I got home. I did so from the car and he insisted on coming in with his astonishingly handsome son Avish to go through my house: wardrobes, under beds, the lot, to ensure I was safe. Where did this beautiful family come from? I won the neighbour lottery bigtime when I got Arvind.

January 5, 2019

The appalling heat when I got up at 7.30am convinced me to make today a dies non. Now at 4pm after a cleansing thunderstorm, I can see I haven’t accomplished much but enjoyed the day just the same. Finished Liane Moriarty’s new book, Nine Perfect Strangers, which I was excited about when it arrived in the post as a Christmas gift. Her books are never literary genius but she is so good at depicting the mores of the middle class women of Sydney that they are captivating for that reason, you always feel you know the characters or at least the type. Nine people in a very upmarket wellness resort (ugh, just the thought of it makes me shudder, ‘wellness’ is one of my least favourite words) was a good opening premise. There’s no alcohol, caffeine, gluten or dairy but lots of smoothies. There’s tai chi at dawn and restorative hot-stone massages, so she is still great at putting her finger on the latest currents, but somehow Liane drank one too many drug-laced smoothies and went off on a story too unbelievable for me. Her strong point is always REAL, but although the nine qualified, the proprietor of the resort was right off the scale for me. Still, I can see Nicole in one of the roles once the film rolls round and I will probably go to see it myself.

January 6, 2019

Was lucky enough to start driving this morning as The Minefield came on the radio, just love Waleed and Scott. One of the things I was so excited about when John and I first got together was the fact that he was happy to spend a whole evening in discussion on some ethical or philosophical point and it is the same with these guys, although it’s radio you feel as if you are part of the discussion. Arrived at Dav’s late morning to find Millie under the table saying ‘scared of grandma’ but later she warmed and demanded a pick-up from me while out on a walk, so not too scared. Hard to fathom the 2-3 year old mind, best not to try as it will be different next week. Dropped Dav at Broadway on my way through and landed up at John’s after listening to another interesting radio show on black jazz musician Stuff Smith. His white wife was disinherited by her parents for marrying him but they accepted her again after he died, though they ‘said something bad about black people every day’. I told John that’s maybe what would happen if I died, he would suddenly be back in the good books with his female offspring, but with constant digs to remind him that he wasn’t forgiven.

January 7, 2019

Went to see Colette at Roseville last night but we both thought it was an anodyne, very British version of a racy very French story. Compare its impact to the rawness of Cold War and it just does’t cut it. I was intending to come home but developed a headache during the movie (though it didn’t seem to be hand-held) and decided I wasn’t up for driving home. Luckily I usually keep my emergency bag packed in case I am needed at John’s and this time it came in handy. This morning he expressed a desire to see the Masterpieces of the Hermitage exhibition, which I had seen previously, so we drove in and I was able to get a wheelchair for him. I didn’t enjoy it enough to go a second time so spent my time looking at the permanent exhibitions. I think I was spoiled for this exhibition by seeing the John Russell one immediately before and preferring it. Afterwards I got John a takeaway pie, (and a milkshake for me) and we went down to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to sit in the car in the beautiful drizzle, looking over the harbour and remembering the afternoon in August 2016 when after getting his ‘6 weeks to live without treatment’ diagnosis from Nada we drove to the exact same spot and sat for a couple of hours to talk and take it all in.

January 8, 2019

Noted that the wretched Leyonhjelm is moving out of the Senate, but now we have the risk of many more years of him in the NSW Upper House, but at least he won’t get his mug on the teev quite as often. What sort of society do we have when people like him, Anning and Hanson can actually get elected? We are told their supporters are just a tiny fringe but I believe they are widespread, it’s just that we don’t come across them in the circles in which we move. I used to be absolutely shocked at some of the conversations between tradies outside my shop on a Friday afternoon, they keep their rascist views between themselves but they are there. Males, in their 30s and 40s, truckies, tradesmen or manual workers who detest women, migrants and anyone who has an education. The only thing keeping them at low numbers in parliament is the fact that they are represented by a number of different groups, but if they coalesce we are in trouble. On a brighter note, my cooking day produced savoury satay cheese biscuits, an oat, dried fruit and honey slice and a potful of sweetcorn soup, only for me to decide that the soup weather of yesterday had changed to salad weather today, so now it has to go into the freezer and perhaps won’t emerge till autumn.

January 9, 2019

I was able to get one script filled immediately after I saw Dr Nham in December but he had warned me that the other one would only be available from a particular pharmacy in Macquarie St in the city as they import it from France, at quite a cost. He also said it is available cheaply over the counter in Europe if I knew anyone there, so I asked the bro to send me a couple of packs. The time that elapsed has let me look into the drug a little more. The biggest customer is the British Navy who hand it out on all their ships for seasickness. So far sounds promising, but read on. It is unavailable in Canada, the US and Australia because it has been strongly linked with Parkinsons Disease. Not just linked, but causative! In fact one paper published in Britain says that 17 people in every 100 diagnosed with Parkinsons in Britain in the last 5 years has been taking it. Mmm, nah, not so keen. Another paper gives the amount of time newly diagnosed PD patients had been taking it, the time varied from 5 years to 1 month. Nup, I will talk to Bob but I think we are back to square one drug-wise which is disappointing.

January 10, 2019

Just noticed I have been listing the dates as December for most of this month, slow to turn, as I always am. It was good to have Brigitte over yesterday, I have been out of touch with people for so many months now, but hopefully will start to rectify that this year. I picked John up today and we went up to Castle Towers to see Bohemian Rhapsody, but alas there were only seats in the fourth row and I couldn’t risk being that close to the screen. However John suggested that we book for the same time tomorrow so I did that and got the back row. Having been sick in that cinema before (forcing John to go to the desk to explain and apologise) neither of us were keen to repeat the experience. Actually I think Roseville is one of the few cinemas I haven’t been sick in, but give it time. Last week when we ate next door to Roseville Cinema I happened upon a David Sedaris book which I didn’t have and bought it for all of $5 from their random collection. It is, as usual, laugh out loud funny. The chapter on toilets and restaurants in China is enough to curb enthusiasm for travel there. He is a regular visitor to Japan and apparently the comparisons are particularly marked. I remember Carly coming home from Japan and the first thing she said was ‘OMG mum, the toilets in Japan are amazing’. I still remember squatting over a hole in the middle of a large room at a railway station in Russia, overlooked by many laughing women. I couldn’t do anything, so I later went behind a bus and prayed it wasn’t an offence that would get me a one way ticket to a Russian prison, but being a very remote location I pulled it off without issue.

January 11, 2019

Entertained John’s friend Rob from Bathurst for morning tea and then went to see Bohemian Rhapsody, so glad we did. John, for whom Queen was a bit of a mystery, loved the film and the music. Freddie Mercury died at the beginning of the raft of friends I lost to AIDS, he in 1991 and most of my pals from 1992 to 1995. In 1992 I think I lost 5, my funeral dress was barely hung up before being dragged out again. I became friendly with the funeral director which seems weird now, but they were weird times. It is strange that although they all died in their 30s and 40s, when I think of them now they are the same age as me, as if they’ve travelled alongside me, which in many ways they have and will until it’s my turn.

January 12, 2019

Dropped John and his shopping back to Lane Cove and then got the train from Artarmon to St James where I stopped to listen to the bell-ringing at St James Church. It was just gorgeous, but two men on a nearby seat were getting het up by the noise and wanting it to stop, you can’t please everyone. Walked down to the Botanic Gardens Cafe to meet up with Jenny, Di and five others for our annual get-together. Chatted from noon till 3 pm and then moved on to the Carniverous Plants Exhibition next door, a blessed relief from the heat provided by the mist of cool water being sprayed inside. The plants tempted me to stick my finger in them but I obeyed the signs and didn’t touch one. Some of the bigger ones can digest an animal the size of a rat, so they are not just insect traps, creepy but beautiful. Darwin worked out that they evolve in places where the soil is severely lacking in nutrients, but photos of little critters looking out through the ‘trap’ are heart-rending. Trained back to Artarmon with Jenny who told me that our mutual friend Tricia has MS. I was astonished, but should have twigged much sooner as she has been on a walking stick for a while for what I had assumed was an injury yet it never seemed to heal. She was such a rock when I got sick in town a month ago and I had intended to bring up her walking that day, but got sick myself before I had chance.

January 13, 2019

At home attending to world-shattering tasks like washing and getting more of the jasmine out of my conifer. Heather came around for afternoon tea and both Stephen and  Sue rang so the day passed very pleasantly. The cheese biscuits and honey oat cakes have served three lots of visitors this week with some still left over. Heather told me she had met an ex antique dealer from Windsor and when she asked the woman if she knew me she said ‘oh yes she was having an affair with my friend’s husband and was seen in the pub with him as bold as brass’ Uh? Moi? I must have forgotten all about it. Talking about the fact that there’s nothing as queer as folk, today there was a get-together of all of John’s Sydney and Newcastle rellies. Sounds like fun, but our invitation seems to have got lost in the post, the only one that went missing apparently. How much more rejection can this man cope with and stay sane?

January 14, 2019

I have been idly thinking about going back to the house in which I grew up to have a look-see. I took my brother there when he was out here but when we parked outside, the last house in a dead-end street, we weren’t at all welcomed by the two men standing in the front yard and took off quicksmart. But last night after seeing the weather report for the next week I got to thinking about summer in that uninsulated red hot house where the internal walls used to be radiating heat. I came up with a (probably crazy) idea that I would go over today and sus it out to see if they were suffering like we did. Clearly no-one would live there at all unless they were in straightened circumstances, so perhaps they could do with one or more of the fans in my storeroom or perhaps even an airconditioner? So I dressed up modestly with long pants and long sleeves (the people I saw there before were from the Middle East) and tootled off to introduce myself and start a conversation about the weather while asking for permission to take some photos of the place. I even worried about having to refuse coffee when it was offered. To my utter amazement it was a blackened ruin, surrounded by rubble and a steel fence. A man in the street told me that the place was owned by the driver of a huge new double semi-trailer parked across the road. He indicated that his house was two doors up on the opposite side so I knocked on the door, observed a security camera above my head and then later pressed the intercom. I distinctly heard the intercom being pressed open from inside but despite my smiling at the camera and calling ‘hello, hello’ there came no reply.

What to do? I decided a call on the Firies would be worthwhile so I managed to find their station and interrupted their cleaning of surfboards on the back lawn to ask about the fire. I was invited in (long periods of boredom interspersed with short periods of terror is the Firies’ lot) and they searched their records. The fire was on 14th August 2016, just when I was closing the shop and John was first showing the symptoms of his aggressive lymphoma, what a trifecta! More searches uncovered a small fire put out there on August 1, 2015, another on 17th February 2016 and then two more callouts for dumped asbestos after the fire which finally finished off the house. So it’s all very sus. Arson? insurance fraud? did the asbestos come from that huge truck parked outside? why does the owner have a security camera? why don’t they answer the door? All questions I will never have answers to. The place is surrounded by security fencing but I was able to climb through a broken spot and was amazed at how small the loungeroom was, I remembered it as tiny but this was the size of many a bathroom I’ve been in. They had put wrought-iron bars on the windows and they did have an airconditioner which would have been very effective in such a small space. I was in sandals and the ground was covered in tiles, concrete etc which was piled up very unevenly and a grand home for snakes but I will return with boots on and try to get into my bedroom if I can. Somehow I am shocked and disappointed, but then I also feel that no good memories exist for me there and perhaps a burnt out ruin is fitting, all that it should be. Heat, boredom, loneliness, shame. Waiting, always waiting, for my family to come to sweep me away to somewhere cool and beautiful, a grand house full of large draped windows, magnificent furniture (gilt Louis XV was what I imagined after seeing it in Versailles in a library book and deciding it would suit me well) and lots and lots of books, where friends would be welcome and my real parents would constantly apologise for the terrible mistake of having let me go.

January 15, 2019

Just rereading the above and decided there must have been many happy times, surely there were, but I am just damned if I can recall them, the unhappy ones stand out and seem to have erased the others. Or perhaps the times were in fact happy, but I was such a miserable kid that they went totally unappreciated, which is entirely possible. My parents tried hard and when I look at the photos of the wrecked house I see that the hardwood beams held and dad’s unskilled labour built a house that survived nearly 70 years despite the apparently repeated attempts to destroy it. Something for him to be proud of there.

Another shock to the system today when I realised that the man killed in a domestic violence incident in North Richmond yesterday was my old (young) upholsterer for the shop, Adam. His wife Robyn stripped the old upholstery off for him in their workshop. Apparently the police were called to the house regularly but on this occasion he was stabbed to death and his mother-in-law critically stabbed. The Daily Mail, a dreadful rag in many ways but often with accurate information from police, is reporting that the older woman was protecting her daughter from him and stabbed him to death but whether her injuries where delivered first or concurrently is not clear. His wife and 13 year old daughter witnessed it all. Adam had attempted suicide by hanging years ago while I knew him and though he survived he damaged his oesophagus so badly that he was unable to eat ever again and had to feed himself via a tube, apparently reducing his life expectancy. Who knows the back story to that attempt, but I can’t imagine it came out of a happy and settled childhood. No-one comes out of this hideous situation a winner, except perhaps Adam whose pain ceased forever yesterday.

January 16, 2019

So, Bob as expected was unimpressed by the medication prescribed by Dr Nham. Don’t touch it with a bargepole was his unambiguous advice. With a good chance of of becoming a statistic with Parkinsons Disease as a result of taking this drug, he is of course right but for a while there I was thrilled at the prospect of being able to travel without ending up in an ambulance, something Dr Nham was confident could be achieved if I took it. Messing with the brain is a risky business. So it is back to Stemetil (still messing with the brain, but with much lower risk) which has worked modestly in the past and which certainly worked well in hospital when it was delivered in higher dose by injection or drip, I can’t remember which. Nice thinking about Venice and Prague for a while there, not to mention visiting my bro.

Bussed in to town to meet Carol and went via the Opera House to book for Turandot on a special deal that had been emailed to me which included a glass of wine and a pre-show talk. But it turned out it was an Opera Australia deal which could only be booked through them, but I was able to book it over the phone and got an excellent seat to boot. Reading in the cool of the foyer I looked up to see chef Peter Gilmore alone and within hugging distance but managed to restrain myself. I was immediately sorry that I didn’t at least thank him for my wonderful 70th birthday lunch at Quay and recently my 71st at Bennelong. The man is a genius and needs to be told by ordinary punters as well as the critics. Met up with Carol at Salt, Meats, Cheese for a dinner of calamari, rocket and pear salad and salmon with red cabbage and pomegranate, all delicious. We then went to see Green Book at Opera Quays, an excellent film for which Carol had scored two free tickets. It reminded us of how recently it was (the 60s) that dusk to dawn curfews existed for African Americans in parts of that country and the levels of indignity which blighted their lives. It is terrifying to realise that people exist who would put us back to those times given the chance.

January 17, 2019

Picked up John’s referral and pathology request for tomorrow early and then hunkered down to read the Interim Report on the Opal Tower online. I had proffered after visiting the building that two things came immediately to mind. The first that it was built on a swamp and the second that the problems were likely to be associated with the indents or voids in the walls. The report addresses both possibilities and rules out the first because the foundations are correctly anchored in the bedrock beneath. However it reveals that the concrete and reinforcement around the voids is seriously amiss resulting in cracking as more and more people moved into the building, adding more weight than it could bear. How this will be fixed is a bit of a mystery which will have to wait for the full report. The engineers themselves are puzzling for the answers right now but it is neither a quick nor easy fix. GIO has informed me that the painting works have been approved but strangely they’ve said that they will give me a cash payment to fix the floor at the back door rather than doing the work. I will get some quotes to make sure that whatever amount they offer will cover the work, but it seems an odd way to do it.

January 18, 2019

Took John to see Dr Bhindi to okay his knee operation from the heart point of view and he said he is extremely pleased with the result and that the valve ‘is working like a million dollar valve’ whatever that means. Now it’s only a question of the blood results coming in as normal and we should get a date from the surgeon next Wednesday. Later we did John’s shopping, an epic task in this heat, and I just managed to be patient while he wandered around the organic shop twice as well as Coles and the bakery. In normal weather it doesn’t faze me but today…. Then we went to see the movie Mary Queen of Scots, about which my only comment is that if they had attended to the historical facts as well as they did to the costumes and hair I would have been a happy camper.

January 19, 2019

Aaah, I’m a new woman, a cool breeze is blowing and all is right with the world. Dear Tim rang and offered to help in my garden for 2 hours tomorrow so I am very grateful for that. He claims he is being selfish as it gives him a respite from looking after his very difficult father, but he could have gone for a swim, a movie or a drive to an icecream shop. This afternoon I actually sat on the front verandah and had a cup of tea looking out at what we might attack tomorrow (and read some more War and Peace, poor old Pierre, we could all see that Helene was an unprincipled user). Last night I managed to talk John into a trip to Newcastle next week, coming back south to meet the crew for book group at Killcare on Saturday. I had suggested it a few weeks ago, but without Dr Bhindi’s positive words yesterday he was reluctant. My opinion on what he can and can’t safely do counts for not a lot until backed up by a person with Dr in front of their name, but I guess it will take a while for that to change.

January 20, 2019

One of those nights when the mind kept working, so I finally got up before 5am and answered some emails which I hadn’t been able to accomplish yesterday because, although I was able to read them, nothing happened when I hit ‘reply’ or ‘new message’. This occurred repeatedly till I gave up and turned the blighted computer off, but this morning it has apologised profusely and is working fast in penance. I spent part of the night trying to remember a quote from my friend from the ’60s, Owen, drama master at The Kings School. It was along the lines that they were teaching the boys good manners which served to conceal their real selves and real intentions from others, but it was pithier than that. One of the virtues I most admire is the ability of people to speak directly, even when they know their words and opinions won’t be welcome. Conversely I find the ducking and weaving of diplomacy smarmy and unctuous. A client in the shop with whom I became friendly had worked as a high-ranking diplomat in Baghdad, Cairo and other middle eastern locations. One downside to our friendship was the way he used to introduce me to people in such artificially glowing terms that I always felt it was part of his training, rather than any authentic opinion. One of those people who strikes the perfect balance is my friend Donna who is able to deliberate about herself or her own family dispassionately, never jumping in to defend them where she considers them wrong, yet she can pay tribute to those she doesn’t much like with ease. Sometimes I am taken aback by her honesty, but that is only because I am so used to the ‘good manners’ that prevail in most relationships. Tim came and we spent 3 hours in the garden, he finishing a good half of a low rock wall that has been years in the making and then we moved some of the Clivias burned off in the heat to a cooler position under a tree. I will continue tomorrow moving some agapanthus into the rockery. Thanks mate.

January 21. 2019

Tim’s influence encouraged me to get up early and attack the garden again for a couple of hours. Moved lots more Clivias out of the sun and managed to dig out an unwanted tree with the mattock. Unfortunately bending over gives me vertigo but it was a case of plant, lean on spade for a couple of minutes, plant again, and enough was achieved to make me a happy chappy.

I read today that sentence was finally handed down in a case I attended last year. A young woman, Evie, who had attacked two strangers with an axe in a 7-11 store got a 9 year sentence. I went to the trial partly to see her barrister Charles Waterstreet in action and after seeing the somewhat censored footage on TV, assumed a quick guilty verdict. But it was a tragic case all round, Evie being a male to female transsexual souped up on female hormones and in constant pain two years on from surgery. She sobbed as she explained she had previously attempted suicide by lying on the tracks at a railway station. The prosecutor scoffed at this but Charles managed to get camera footage of her doing just that and jumping out of the way at the last minute. She was a pathetic creature and I’m so glad I wasn’t on that jury. However, as they told Lizzie Borden, you can’t just swipe people with an axe, though luckily both survived. One hit on the back of her neck was saved by a mass of dreadlocks, which I marvelled at as I sat behind her. Even Charles couldn’t get the jury on board, I doubt anyone could after seeing the footage uncensored.

January 22, 2019

Attacked the garden again this morning but not with the same vigour as the last two days. Thinking about asking John’s neighbour Chris who is a part-time landscaper to come and give me a hand with the heavy stuff so I can potter with the rest. He is car-less though, so it means picking him up which is a pain. Our trip to Newcastle to visit Steve and Deborah via Jackie in Caves Beach has morphed into a cast of thousands. My original suggestion was just the above, with a bit of swimming and sandstone building gazing thrown in, but John decided he would like to ‘hold court’ at our hotel, inviting (so far) more than a dozen others to drop in for a cuppa, a meal or a drink in the bar, helpfully staggering the times like a visiting rock star meeting publicists. Perhaps we can get the room for free on account of all the business we are bringing. Wherever we go he racks his brains to think who lives in the area, so we can tell them we are in town. I am sure it will all work out fine, but I roll my eyes nonetheless. I used to know a cafe owner who moved to Newcastle and then there was the French gay couple of antique dealers there, I could look up their number………. nah, enough already.

January 23, 2019

This morning when I woke there was a weird smell in the house and I immediately checked the bin, thinking it must be from there, but found I had emptied it the night before. Went outside, sniffed the air, nup, not out there. Walked room by room till I came again to the kitchen and sure enough it was heaps strong there. Only then did I think of GAS, the burner had blown out 13 hours before when I was cooking a meal. Lucky I didn’t light a match. Tootled to pick up John for the dreaded pre-admission procedure at the hospital, always a trial. The appointment was for 10am and soon we saw the first of many people, the anaesthetist. He took a full medical history from year dot, checked his lungs and heart, copied into the computer all his current medications, two typed pages in all. So far, so good. The next was the orthopaedic nurse, followed by the whatever else nurse, followed by the orthopaedic resident, all these with waiting periods inbetween. But here’s the rub, every bugger asked the same questions, gets the same extensive history, types the same medication list into the computer. Jesus F. Christ, I wanted to scream, just read the notes in there already! But I was nice, despite sometimes wishing I’d inhaled more deeply of the gas that providence had offered me this morning. Then a short lunch break followed by blood tests, xray and finally, finally we saw the surgeon. By now it was 4.30pm and he told us with a big smile that John’s op is scheduled for next Tuesday. Huzzah!! But when he checked the list on his computer to give him an arrival time, John’s name wasn’t on it. His registrar had not entered his name as instructed and then he’d gone off on holiday, so to the great disappointment of the surgeon and us, he had to reschedule it on the first available, February 12.

January 24, 2019

An early start landed us at Caves Beach on time for morning tea with Jackie and Carl. Sitting on their verandah overlooking the ocean we spent a couple of hours enjoying their warm company. Jackie is very thin and needs to make some difficult decisions about whether to stop her current treatment and try immunotherapy with all its possible side effects. Arrived at our Newcastle hotel at 2pm giving me time for a swim in the surf before our first visitor arrived. Just as he was leaving at 6pm Teresa and Steven arrived and we walked to Scottie’s for dinner. My oysters were so small they were almost rejects and the meal sizes so small that they were really tapas which meant ordering two or more each. Hence it cost more than eating at the hotel restaurant which our guests had ruled out on cost grounds. So although the food was just okay, it certainly wasn’t a standout. Conversation was polite and safe with no family discussion.

January 25, 2019

Decided on having the hot and cold breakfast buffet at the hotel looking over the foggy ocean. It was varied, delicious and very good value at $20 each. I had another swim and got back in time for the arrival of Steve and Deborah. She had brought snacks of watermelon slices and prosciutto and rock melon. Wandered to the restaurant East End Hub, which Deborah had booked, for an absolutely delicious meal, I had beautiful calamari on a cucumber, peanut and nahm jhim salad, top marks and the bill was $50 less than last night for a lot more and better food. As usual with these two it was relaxed and we were never short of conversation. Steve and I arm-wrestled at the till when he found I’d sneaked off to pay, much to the delight of the cashier. Chris arrived near 7pm followed closely by Damien and Pet, then Harry came later with Alex whom he ferries to and from school. As previously I found them all good company, interesting, open and thoughtful people. Damien wanted us to eat something at the hotel but as I’d had a large and very interesting lunch, I chose a smaller late dinner, but found the food extremely poor value for the prices charged. Certainly not the fine dining it thinks itself to be judging by my food and what I saw around me. Potato needs to actually be cooked through before it’s edible people. But the company rather than the food was primary tonight and there were no complaints there.

January  26, 2019

The beach was very crowded early but I didn’t want to be late for the book group lunch so no swimming as we packed up to get away for Killcare. Unfortunately I chose the coast road over the highway and managed to get lost twice due to insufficient signage and ended up firstly at Avoca and secondly at Copacabana, both dead ends, and had to retrace our steps, arriving considerably later than the appointed time. Already feeling bad about our lateness we were each abruptly told ‘you are late and have kept us all waiting’ which wasn’t quite the expected welcome and put John’s mood out somewhat. Seeing everyone had eaten, we didn’t appear to have held up proceedings, but in case we had I only had a milkshake for lunch to speed things up. After another half hour of chatting we repaired to Sue and Robert’s for tea and sweet treats served by the inimitable 8 year old Harvey. Then  followed an excellent discussion on our book ‘Warlight’, a real winner in everyone’s opinion. Robert took some of the men on a bushwalk which seemed rather ambitious after seeing the state of them when they returned, red-faced and sweating. Having walked with Robert a number of times I sympathised. Folks left gradually for Sydney and we vegged  out and chatted, eating dinner of barbecued trout and salad after 8. John and Sue watched a late movie but with only one hour’s sleep the night before I was in bed by 10. I am sure it was the emotional couple of days with many visitors that caused the night of processing instead of sleeping, but all in all the Newcastle trip was a big success, though much too short.

January 27, 2018

Up by 6.30 and had my usual toast and jam, but today in company. John finalised the street library sign and we headed off for home after 11, despite their willingness to have us stay later. Don’t want to be in the naughty corner for lateness again today. Got John home and sorted, loading his luggage up to the flat, before heading out to mind Millie so the kids could go out tonight for Louis’ birthday. She was clingy until they went out but fine after that. Thinking back over the last few days, I am pleased with how it all went and look forward to going back soon.

January 28, 2019

Louis and Dav brought home desserts from KOI in Chippendale, so a late supper ensued accompanied by Frangelico on ice. Had trouble sleeping due to the heat, I’m spoilt by my usual wafting fan at night. I have no idea why the heat affects me more each year, must ask the prof if it’s a thing. Millie was disinterested in the book I brought her and it went unread. She seems more and more taken with screens and less and less interested in books. I was breathalysed going home late morning and instantly felt guilty about last night’s Frangelico, guilt being my fallback position, but of course I tested negative. Spoke to Deborah, Brian and Brigitte, emailed Tim and Bob and generally got back into normal routine. John’s neighbour Chris rang about the gardening and told me he has a licence but chooses not to drive, removing the option of his coming in John’s car, which was a bummer. When I asked for his last name to put his number into my phone he answered ‘just make it Chris Gardener’, he’s a real mystery man with a back story I’d love to know about, but won’t ask.

January 29, 2019

A knock on my door at 7.30am while I was watching the early news proved to be two burly painters. I only opened the door a little as I was in my nightie, no makeup, hair like a witch, but they marched right on in and asked which ceiling they were painting. I double checked the text from GIO which confirmed they were due at that time on Thursday, but their earlier appearance saved me a lot of work as I had planned to remove the small furniture, the drawers out of the chest and all the decorative items. No need, he said, we have a heap of plastic sheets. Just ceiling white? was the next comment, um no, it’s Porters Paint in cream but I don’t know the colour, I think I had it mixed. No worries, off to the van and he comes back with Wattyl paint exactly matched to the Porters. I’ve never known a painter to just mix the colour in minutes like he did, usually they take a scraping to the paint shop to put under the spectrophotometer, so I was pretty impressed. I always worry a great deal about invasive jobs in the house (well I worry about most things, so nothing new) but he saved me all the anxiety by coming early before I got myself seriously concerned and they were done and dusted by 10am. Brigitte had asked me to lunch on Thursday and I’d had to decline, but now that mission is back on the agenda, so a win/win. Shot off an email to Harry to expand on a brief discussion about race that was had on Friday night. I am inclined to believe that if we are genetically all Africans, with many mutations along the way due to differing climate, food etc, then we are all one race. His biology studies included the latest theories on race so I am hoping he can point me towards the research on which that is based. Often when I have a query the person who can answer it materialises, as in this case hopefully.

January 30, 2019

My iphone decided yesterday that it won’t send messages or texts if they include photos, so I went up to Apple first thing and discovered that a lot of others had the same idea. I am darned if I understood the explanation I got from the helpful young man who played about with it, but I shall see if it works next time I try. While there I noticed again the amazingly tall African? man whose duds always seem to be coming down, but I finally realised that they have really tight legs but a baggy draped seat and are clearly some sort of fashion trend. Now I am dying to find out what they are called but Mr Google doesn’t seem to know and I wasn’t game to rock up to him and ask. Then on to Windsor to see Brian who is in hospital yet again, his Melbourne daughter was there and they are searching for a nursing home bed as he has only managed to be at home for a few days each time he’s been released since admission in November. Shopping at Castle Mall on the way home I realised how lucky I was to be moving from one air-conditioned venue to another. Thinking about Millie’s birthday cake design, the theme of the party is The Gruffalo, even harder than the flat cartoon character Duggy that I did last year, more design work needed.

January 31, 2019

Started the day by reading through all the paperwork involved in admission to the trial of an immunotherapy drug for cancer which has been offered to a dear friend. I don’t have the medical expertise to give an informed opinion but tried to reply by setting out what I saw as all the pros and cons of going on the trial and hoping that was somehow helpful. It is a tough call for her as she needs to give up all medications and treatments for 28 days first. Settled for Saturday for the tryout of John’s neighbour to do some garden work. He has no car, chooses not to drive, so I will stay at John’s on Friday and drive him out to my place on Saturday morning, but whether that is satisfactory going forward depends on how good his gardening is I guess. Decided to read a book I was given for the street library as a half way rest from War and Peace. It is called Complicit and begins with a woman standing over the body of a man she was involved with, looking to a friend to help her dispose of the lump of meat he has now become. Whether she killed him or not isn’t obvious yet, I suspect not, but he needs to be disposed of nonetheless. It made me think about whether I would be up for this task and decided that the biggest problem would be my overriding sense of guilt, which would undoubtedly result in my going to the police station and fessing up. Why this is I don’t know, but when I see the airline captain cut-out in front of Flight Centre I have been known to flinch with guilt, thinking it is a policeman and he’s looking right at me. Similarly if I get breathalysed I always feel as if I’ve been drinking, despite the fact that I test zero. John says I am an honorary Catholic.

February 1, 2019

Friend Joseph messaged with the fact that he spent a night in hospital this week after he ‘suddenly forgot how to read, write and talk’. He couldn’t tell them his name or address but luckily remembered his mother’s phone number though not her name (different part of the brain for numbers?). At one stage he had eight emergency doctors attending and the diagnosis was……..drum roll…….. hemiplegic migraine. I’d never heard of it, but it turns out it is in the same family as the vestibular migraine I had in December. I’ve suggested to Joseph that perhaps we are distantly related, as it too is hereditary. Finally got my witch hair shorn today, it is a salon operated only by a husband and wife team, both beautiful people, with a strange ability to casually continue a conversation broken a couple of months previously at the last visit. I got a kiss when I left today, which was a first. Went to see Storm Boy and John was very moved by it, especially the fact that the boy was sent off to boarding school just as he had been, spoiling his idyllic life. Also he related to the boy losing his beloved pet, which is something he so needed as he said ‘when you are a kid who doesn’t know how to make friends’.

February 2, 2019

Stayed at Lane Cove last night so we could bring Chris up to Baulko to help me in the garden. John then decamped to the movies and left us to it, apparently not at all bothered that he may be an axe murderer. Chris brought up his past spontaneously in the first hour, saying that he has done 3 years of a 5 year suspended sentence, ‘because the judge recognised that I wasn’t violent’. So presumably his long absence 3-4 years ago was due to his being locked up on remand. We got on really well and I’m hoping he will want to continue until the garden design is complete, then hand over to John D. to just maintain it, as clearly that is his forte rather than major works. I was pretty buggered when the 4 hours was up, we’d both agreed that 4 hours was probably our limit, though mine would be shorter if it had been hot, but my rock wall is complete, my joy is immense. Went to First Saturday at Martha and Phil’s with Bob giving a well illustrated talk on his walking trip to Jordan. He had sent me the pics when he got home from the trip but it was better seeing them on a bigger screen with a commentary. Amazing land, another place to add to the long list of ‘places I’ll never see’. Their walking and living conditions were way too rugged for this frangible creature to even consider. Trying to get the Newcastle weight off so I was very modest in my intake of the excellent food available.

February 3, 2019

Headed off to the paint shop to look for a colour chip for the back room. However the Porters colour I came up with was so similar to the one already there that I am not sure I can justify it. There was one I preferred but it turned out to be some special wax paint which is hugely expensive and would work out at $5000 just for the paint! So I’ve put that one on the back burner for now. Then to Turtle Landscapes to choose the stones for my path, which I hope to get Chris to lay. I don’t want anything reddish, yellowish or brownish and settled on small river stones in shades of grey, perfect, except I feel guilty about the river from which they were robbed. Next, on to the wholesale nursery for a flowering gum and got there to find they close Sundays, so we repaired to the Forestry Commission nursery at West Pennant Hills, where I got not only the tree I wanted, but one in the hard to find pale pink I prefer.

I am increasingly worried about John’s sense of direction though. On Friday he got seriously lost going from his home to Manly, but it was very close to home that the mistakes started to occur and we only rectified it when I saw a school I recognised, but we were going past it in the wrong direction. Today he was confused on how to get onto Windsor Rd from my place, which he’s done a hundred times. At the nursery I suggested that while I paid he could drive the car up to the nursery gate from the car park, because the tree and bag of native soil were heavy, but he was disconcerted enough that the helper noticed and said not to worry, he would carry it to the gate instead. But John was at the car, unsure of where to go. Tonight I asked what had happened and he said he couldn’t work out how to get out of the nursery on his own (a 20 metre perfectly straight path), how to get back to the car and then where he was to come to pick me up. I’ve been putting it off because I fear there are no solutions on offer, but I think this really must be addressed medically. Although his actual driving is fine, I doubt he can drive alone for too much longer, the risks of getting lost are too great (says she who got lost only last weekend).

February 4, 2019

Met up with Robert who was in Sydney for a meeting this morning and shared my concerns about John’s memory in more detail. He agreed we need to have a medical assessment and rang a pal of his to get a recommendation at RNSH, but when I looked her up it seems she is only at the private hospital. So I’ve emailed Dr Ellis the surgeon to see if he can arrange an assessment when John is in hospital next week. It has got beyond a joke now and we can’t bury our heads any longer. Happily there is no effect on his intellectual abilities and he comments just as acutely on things that happen each day politically and socially as he always has, so hopefully that’s a good sign. Took John for his transfusion and then back to his place for the night so I can drive Chris out to help me in the garden tomorrow. Who knows when we will get back to it with all the medical stuff happening, not to mention John’s house move this Saturday. I am encouraging a big cull before then, how many plastic bags and empty glass jars does one man need? So anything I can prise away from him can go to my place to be sorted, disposed of, sent to the Sallies, donated to HHH, whatever. I am a shocking hoarder but find it easier to divest other people of their excess, just as I get John to throw stuff of mine out when I’m not home.

February 5, 2019

Worked in the garden with Chris for a few hours, we got a bit done but the effect isn’t as dramatic as it was when he finished the rock wall, filled two Sulo bins completely with green waste though. He is keen to get the pebbles laid but I have time constraints with John’s medical stuff and his house move this week. When we arrived back, there was a strange car in the carpark and Chris calmly announced that it was ‘the big drug dealer delivering to the sub-dealer who lives in the block’. Okay, we’ve got that sorted. I now know who is on what drug in each of the flats, apart from John and a few others it appears they are all on something. Glad I am not in that world, looking askance at visitors and peeping between the Venetian blinds. Waiting to find out if Carly’s second offer on a unit in Canberra has been accepted, the first offer was rejected yesterday.

February 6, 2019

Carly made another offer on the unit she wants, but it was turned down. Due to price falls, the vendor paid $25,000 more for it than she’s now asking, so she is hanging out to get the advertised price and limit her loss to that amount, at this stage refusing all offers, but Carly feels it is still overpriced and will offer no more. Took John to St Vincent’s to see the haematologist standing in for Nada who is on maternity leave. She agrees with the surgeon that John should have an immunoglobulin transfusion before the surgery, so an appointment for Monday was hastily organised. Took him shopping before beetling home, but as I was driving out of John’s carpark who should drive in but Chris the gardener, he who has no car and prefers not to drive! I didn’t say anything, I am just paying him by the hour for garden help, but I stored it away that he may speak with forked tongue.

February 7, 2019

I am still bouncing off the walls after a stunning night at the opera. Yonghoon Lee as Calaf gave me one of those spine-tingling moments that come along only a few times in a life. I well remember seeing the amazing Brendan Cowell as Hamlet in 2008, somehow it engraves the performance on your brain, never to be forgotten. Madama Butterfly on the Harbour in 2014 was another highlight. But the question is how does such a huge voice come out of a man of his size? He brought the packed house to its feet. Amber Wagner has a big voice too, but somehow she didn’t capture me in the acting department, whereas Lee showed every emotion on his face. The large cast huddled on the impossibly inadequate stage of the Opera Theatre, thoughts of sardines and tins crossed my mind, but I didn’t travel to the whole Opera House debacle, though I am still mighty angry at those Philistine Liberals who curtailed Utzon’s design to save dollars which they no doubt wasted on something else.  I went on an Opera for One ticket, a new initiative for people going alone, which included wine and sandwiches in the glorious northern foyer before the show (crustless, the epitome of opulence) with a talk by the assistant director, director Graeme Murphy I understand has been ill. It was more of a Q and A than a talk and with a group of just a dozen opera lovers, the questions were intelligent and insightful. One man asked if tenors feel stressed by the challenge of singing Nessun Dorma considering the fact that all the biggies are famous for it. He answered quickly ‘Not this one! He knows that he is up there with the very best.’ His manner of answering indicated not only that Lee is good, but that he is supremely confident as well, as he should be. A night to remember.

February 8, 2019

My car was in the mechanic’s shop yesterday and today so I needed 2 buses and 2 walks either end to pick it up. The temp was in the mid 30s but I was still too mean to get a cab. Funny how you spend on some things easily, but baulk at others. Anyway I arrived hot and sweaty and the mechanic roused on me for not taking a loan car, though I hate driving other people’s vehicles in case of damage but I think I will do so next time if it’s hot. Went to John’s to help with the packing, doing all the delicate stuff like the figurines etc. We’ve discovered that although the unit downstairs is substantially the same, there are differences. The hall is 250mm wider and the kitchen 250mm smaller for example. I don’t understand why this should be but it just is, so some rearrangement will be necessary to fit things in. I am trying to persuade him to relinquish some of the heaps of ornaments to make the place look bigger, but I don’t think I am winning that one. At least some stuff will be relegated to the garage, but I suspect not enough.

February 9, 2019

Movers arrived just after 7am and were privately daunted by the task. Sotto voce comments like ‘where do you start?’ and ‘I guess some people are just hoarders’ were overheard. I quietly disposed of the double cupboard full of plastic bags (tonight he asked where they were stored and I was forced to fess up), the takeaway containers and the plastic liners of countless Weet-Bix boxes. I understand the motivation, he grew up in war-time and I in poverty so we were both enculturated to keep every little piece of string and rubber band, and by god he does. Anyway they finally finished at 3pm and earned their money. I didn’t do a lot of physical work but answering countless calls of ‘where do you want this?’ was mentally exhausting, especially when we discovered that the new kitchen is 3 cupboards less than the old one. We will have to cull now, as we have a mountain of glasses, casserole dishes and pots and pans left over. I need to stay till he goes to hospital on Tuesday, just to get things to rights. No curtains yet so the sun pours in, but worse is the security light on the outside of the building, right outside the bedroom window so it is like day in there. However the good things are that the unit was repainted, new vanity, stove and rangehood, new carpet, so it will be schmik once we can unpack everything and put up the paintings.

February 10, 2019

Started the day by driving to Baulko with Chris in tow to do some more gardening. Finished moving all the Clivias and digging out some asparagus fern that I’m glad to be rid of. We are all ready to get the pebbles delivered now, to be spread by Chris once John is done with hospital. I won’t know myself with the transformation that should bring. Currently I have two gardeners, one on sick leave and one working occasionally but I’m thinking that once I get everything the way I want it, my old pottering gardener can keep it that way.

By lunchtime I was back to take John to Spotlight for curtains, where we were successful in getting all we needed. Spent the rest of the day hanging curtains and unpacking boxes of stuff and trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get him to divest himself of chipped ornaments and mugs with damaged handles, but everything seems to have emotional connection. My nemesis is a concrete pig with three legs extant but broken off, I would pay money to ditch that piece. A funny thing occurred when his neighbour came in and got terribly offended that a bowl she had bought him in an op shop was in a box to go to the op shop. She snatched it up and left in high dudgeon. Whatever.

February 11, 2019

It would have been good to spend the day fixing up the flat but the docs wanted his nibs to have an IGg infusion before surgery so it was off to St Vincent’s for an 11am appointment. We had forgotten how long it takes for 2 and a half bottles of the stuff to run through and it was after 2.30 before we were done. We were both brought to tears at the sight of a beautiful young woman, under 25 with a patch over one eye, being supported on each side by two equally beautiful young women. She couldn’t walk unaided and was clearly in a bad way as she was led to a chair for her chemotherapy, a tragedy at her age, but obviously she was much loved by her accompanying friends/sisters.

We repaired to Zinc for a quick late lunch but in doing so missed a visit from Robert and Sue who called in  unexpectedly, we were sorry to miss them. We had a good laugh at lunch about the irony of my telling him to downsize stuff, I am determined to have a pre-mortem cull myself but I also know the difficulties involved in actually doing that. I took the miserable Sallies box down to the car this morning and it had been raided by John, now only containing a few odd glasses, some coffee filter papers for a coffee pot he doesn’t have and a tennis racquet, at least we get a laugh out of it.

February 12, 2019

Got to the hospital at 10am but John didn’t go into the theatre suite till 1.30pm. I went off for lunch and a read and moseyed back at 3, expecting him to soon be done and dusted. But no, he didn’t emerge from theatre till 6, the surgery actually began at 2.30 so it was much longer than anticipated. No-one could explain why as there were no doctors around to ask. I waited outside recovery till 7.30 but no joy there either. Went up to his room at 8pm (the end of visiting hours) and hid in a corner of the room not visible from the door, just in case of a rule-bound nurse, till he finally arrived at 10pm, when it was explained that his respiration rate was low so he was held back in recovery. It was a long 12 hours but I put a good dent in War and Peace while waiting. Got back to the flat after midnight and was woken at 1am by a text from his neighbour who saw my parked car and decided it was a fitting time to enquire. Hopefully this is the last chapter in the knee epic, we can only hope.

February 13, 2019

They powers that be took away John’s oxycodone pump first thing this morning which meant he was in a lot of pain all day, constantly asking for more Endone. A few years back doctors decided that being in pain hindered recovery, so pain relief was the mantra. Now, presumably because of the addiction problems sweeping the US, it is all about getting off pain relief but I think it has swung too far the other way. Endone is much easier to source in the community than a measured IV drip, so I don’t see the sense of holding it back. Unfortunately the previous registrars all finished up two weeks ago and a new lot have come in, we wouldn’t have had a problem talking to Matt or Goben about it, but we don’t know the new ones and it just looks as if we are trying to get drugs he’s not entitled to. I will kick up a fuss if it is the same tomorrow as he couldn’t eat at all today due to pain. Coming out of the anaesthetic last night John asked ‘do my girls know I’m here? why haven’t they come?’ In the light of day he doesn’t ask the question.

February 14, 2019

I doubt John knows it’s Valentine’s Day but I am taking a card in nonetheless. He queried the length of the surgery considering Goben had told us it was ‘simple compared to the last one’ but was told today by assistant surgeon Cameron that it was ‘very complex and took 4 hours’. He hasn’t been as happy with the nursing care compared to the last three admissions, but that is so dependent on the individuals rostered at a given time.

On the political front I’m surprised journalists aren’t querying Scomo’s assertion that he is reopening Christmas Island Detention Centre, expecting a wave of new arrivals. I think that’s tosh, he’s reopening it to be able to circumvent the new medical bill for treatment of asylum seekers because the bill is specific to Manus and Nauru. At least they should be asking the question, it saves me screaming questions at the teev, hoping they will catch on.

February 15, 2019

Spent last night at Davina’s. We watched Grand Designs and both took an instant dislike to the home builder. What do we think he does for a living was asked ‘um, a doctor who tells you that you only have 6 months to live’ was my answer. Sure enough, he was a heart surgeon in Sydney with a sheep property out west on which he was building a mega house. To save money they employed a designer/draughtsperson to draw up their own ideas, somehow  stuffing up a number of things, including making a hall too narrow to accommodate the staircase, requiring the already poured slab to be extended at their remote location. But the bigger issue was the fact that they didn’t plan footings for the external rock facing to stand on, requiring the slab to be again enlarged, this time all round and at considerable cost. It was the only episode where the owner refused to discuss the final budget at the end of the show, something they’ve never let anyone else get away with. Considering his very poor planning and pretty arrogant attitude, I’ve decided I shall get any future heart surgery done elsewhere, so there.

Went to the pool for Millie’s swimming lesson, had a swim myself and then went to the hospital where I lay on John’s bed and promptly fell asleep. He looks so much better today and is able to get around on crutches now. Not sure exactly when he’ll come home but I am sure it will be into next week, however he goes back to a home in disarray unfortunately. Hoping to get physio at home, at least initially.

February 16, 2019

Got up early so I could get a bit of gardening done and still arrive before  visiting hours, with a private room that doesn’t seem to be a problem. Was just about to leave the hospital around 12.30pm when Heather came with a vase full of native flowers she’d done for John, so we chatted for a couple of hours and he was very glad of her visit. I must say I’m feeling a bit in need of some ‘me time’ after a torrid period of house moving, doctors’ appointments, hospital visiting and arriving home yesterday to find four phone calls from Brian saying that I haven’t been to visit for so long that he’s forgotten what I look like (actually I spent a considerable time with him two weeks ago). I wistfully remember when I got to the city one day a week, or at least one a fortnight, to indulge my interests. At the moment I’d kill for a fews days in a hotel opposite the beach on my own, swimming whenever I felt like it, reading plenty and trying out fun places to eat each night.

Reading the Herald is often depressing but I was particularly outraged to see that an Australian Navy Commander who pleaded guilty to abusing public office and being part of a scam that cost the US Navy $35 million was let off with a slap on the wrist. He provided a crooked defence contractor, in exchange for gifts and parties, shipping schedules while posted to the US Navy’s 7th Fleet. It sickens me that these white collar criminals always seem to get lenient sentences while a Brazilian student who stole a packet of biscuits from a 7-11 was tasered to death by police and Aboriginal people are regularly locked up for offensive language or drunkenness. As Oliver Goldsmith said back in the 18th century “Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law”.  Chances are that a judge and a Navy Commander might see themselves as rubbing shoulders in the same social circle, they understand each other, but the poor are another country altogether.

February 17, 2019

I literally ran into the next lane after seeing a huge overhead sign on the M2 advertising the ‘Graham Tour’. Please I thought, don’t let it be the abominable Franklin Graham, son of the infamous Billy, but yes it is. This is the man who supports Trump, thinks we should ignore his treatment of women yet campaigned against Clinton over the Monica saga, believes Trump’s election was ‘due to the hand of god’. He who insists gays should be banned from all churches and should not be invited into private homes because they ‘bring Satan in’. I mean really, this is Australia 2019, yet some people still can’t see through this money-making scam. John was very upbeat yesterday, until late afternoon when someone thought it a good idea to bring in photos of his daughter’s family 40th birthday party yesterday, to which he of course was not invited. Why, I asked myself? just to rub salt into the wounds? Naturally he was upset, caused unnecessarily I would argue.

February 18, 2019

It seems so weird that two of my old employees (old employees in both senses) live respectively in a retirement village and now one in a nursing home, each approaching 93. I remember celebrating the 60th of my pal Brian. Today I went out to see him in his new digs, from a good sized home in Windsor to a small motel sized room not far away. He is putting on a brave face but goes very quiet and gazes into the distance when he mentions his home of just a week ago. Rows of about 30 women and 1 man stare at a TV at 9 in the morning, commercial station of course. I think I would shoot myself, but how to find a gun? I tried to be positive but I’m sure I was as transparent as glass, it is an undertaker’s waiting room and nothing they can do will make it seem otherwise. Luckily he has brought a TV and stereo from home so at least he doesn’t need to suffer the common room, except at mealtimes. ‘I guess the food is much better than the hospital?’ I asked hopefully. ‘Marginally worse’, he replied deadpan.

John was sure he’d be coming home tomorrow and he’d been put on tablet antibiotics instead of IV to prepare for that, but today his wound opened up and was bleeding so it appears that’s off. I hadn’t felt fear for a whole week but when he told me it returned like an old friend popping in unannounced. They have said that any new infection is now much more dangerous, not just to the knee but to the metal heart valve. Life-threatening if it happened was how they described it.

February 19, 2019

Did some gardening before going to the hospital today, at least then I feel I am achieving something at home. John has had the dressing on his leg changed by the assistant surgeon no less, the nurse was very surprised to see a doctor do it himself. He’s been taken off the blood thinners temporarily to try to solve the bleeding knee problem. Later I drove to Artarmon and trained into the city to meet the film group at Quay West, where I found a comfy spot and finally managed to start the novel for book group on Friday before the pals arrived. Went to see If Beale Street Could Talk, an arresting film showing the difficulties of surviving in a society where you are always under suspicion as a black person. I was shocked to discover that the book was written and set in 1974, it had the feel of an earlier time. I found the most moving parts were set in discussions between the characters, especially between the lead and his friend Daniel, recently released from prison. Daniel’s character was as real as someone you met today, a superb piece of acting. Despite all of this the woman in front of me checked her emails four!! times before I asked her politely to turn the phone off, which she then did. Why oh why do they always sit in front of me and why oh why do they have to be told? When I began to praise the film immediately afterwards my compatriot said simply ‘it was depressing’, which it was, but wonderful nonetheless. We all had a Messina icecream on the way past, as one is bound to do. My trip home was a slow one as I wandered around trying to find station staff when I couldn’t see any train to Artarmon on the board. Discovered trains were replaced by buses, lined up in the rain while the bus to my place came and went, but the car was at Artarmon so I was caught. Bus went there via every back street inbetween, but eventually got to John’s after 11.30pm.

February 20, 2019

Went to the hospital early as I knew John would be feeling low because it is Genevieve’s 40th birthday. He mentioned it almost immediately so we talked it through, hopefully he felt a little better by the time we parted in the afternoon. His leg and foot were unusually swollen today and the pain in his knee is worse so I informed the nurse and suggested that the doc look at it again. He is scheduled to come home Friday but it is looking doubtful. It often seems to me that his condition worsens when anything happens regarding his family problems, both times he has gone backwards on this admission it has coincided with Genevieve’s party and her actual birthday. In fact this whole 2 and a half year epic began with his being finally cut out of his close family when I think about it, but knowing that doesn’t find a cure.

February 21, 2019

As predicted, the docs decided this morning that it is too risky to send John home when odd things are happening with pain and swelling, so now it has been put off till ‘next week’. So much for 3 nights in hospital. However, the CRP reading which went up dramatically at the operation is in steady decline, which is good. Kenneth rang tonight and commented that I sounded flat and I didn’t have the energy to say anything more than ‘yes I am’.

February 22, 2019

Life is like one of those Alan Kohler financial graphs at the moment, down yesterday, up today. John is improved and so all is right with the world. Went from the hospital to Sonia’s for book group where we did Christmas Holiday by Somerset Maugham, mostly appreciated by the group. I ate too much, being a sucker for pastry I had to try BOTH quiches and a samosa and then cheesecake and apple pie for dessert, not exactly a heart foundation tick in there anywhere. Most of my black quinoa and beetroot salad remained so I left it with Sonia. When I was buying the quinoa in the IGA the lady packing shelves had never heard of it, so I said ‘maybe it’s near the couscous’, but she hadn’t heard of that either so we went on a hunt and found it in the breakfast cereal aisle. ‘Oh is that how you say it’, she said, ‘I’ve often wondered. I was looking for something starting with K’ and we both roared laughing. I bet her cooking is great though, lots of cauli in cheese sauce and hang the calories.

February 23, 2019

Carly had a counter offer from the vendor of the unit she was considering buying, she had dropped out of the race because the owner wouldn’t budge on the price. Still more than she wanted to pay but she’s thinking. It is a hard business on your own when you’ve never bought before and I am not much help in financial matters. I am planning to have a day off hospital duty tomorrow at the insistence of Jane who said she was happy to go. Strangely I can’t make up my mind what to do, no driving ideally, so bus or train. I am hanging out for a good court case but Sunday lets that option out. Perhaps the mountains? I’ll see how I feel in the morning.

February 24, 2019

Last night I was idly perusing a shiny filler in the Herald advertising private schools. My jaw dropped when I saw the prices. I knew that places like Kings were expensive but I had no idea that the common or garden privates were asking $25,000 or $30,000 a year. Talk about stratifying society. All of the blurbs were pretty much the same, making them ready for the world, encouraging individual achievement blah blah, you certainly couldn’t choose one on the basis of the ads. Only one listed itself as secular.

Today I took off for Katoomba by bus and train. Lunched at the interesting Yellow Deli, run by a religious commune who live in the old Balmoral historic guest house. Not sure what religion they are but suspect it is an offshoot of the Seventh Dayers as they close early on Friday and are closed Saturday. There was a half hour wait for a table, the place was buzzing. Further up the road was a free meal kitchen with cheap or free groceries as well. Later bumped into my pal, the delicious and delightful Sheila Perkins, having high tea with friends and dressed in full 20s garb, as you do in the Mountains on Sunday afternoons.

February 25, 2019

I looked into the religion of the Yellow Deli people and it’s not Seventh Day, but an odd outfit known as The Twelve Tribes of Israel, the belief system is an amalgam of  70s hippydom, Jewish mysticism, Tennessee music making with a few other odds and sods thrown in. Some describe it as a cult, they home school, use corporal punishment on the children, pool all their money, work very hard and look pretty happy despite all that.

Finally the prediction that John was coming home proved true. The meds were ordered the night before to try to avoid the day long wait so we were out of there by 11am, yippee! Now to the task of putting the place to rights. I’ve started on the bookshelves first and have rediscovered that he owns a huge number of architecture books, followed next by many books on religion, not surprisingly. At least now they will be sorted into sections, when I’m finished that is. I’ve even discovered books I want to read, but didn’t know he owned, plus a not inconsiderable number that actually belong to me.

February 26, 2019

We were told at the hospital last week to expect the physiotherapist at 11.30 today but instead a nurse arrived at 9 and assured us that ‘patients are never given appointments in advance, we ring on the day’ so clearly we both dreamt that conversation. It was frustrating as now the physio can’t start till Thursday. We had discussed going to Baulko immediately after the physio’s visit but John decided there were things he wanted to do here at the flat so that plan went out the window. Unfortunately I have done all I can do here until he gets Chris in on Thursday to attach furniture to the walls and other such exciting stuff above my capabilities and pay scale. Hence my day here has been pretty much wasted on the house front. Carly rang to say the vendor of the unit she’s been looking at had come up with yet another figure and they appear now to be in agreement. It’s a matter of getting the legals done next, but she does have a loan approved. Fingers crossed that it goes smoothly.

February 27, 2019

Many years ago I opened my front door to a real estate agent, Sid Morgan, who ‘needed to talk to me urgently’. He came in, then urged me to list my house and told me that both my neighbours, next door and below, had signed up and then the large block would be developed as units. I indicated that I was not interested in selling and he became very aggressive, refusing to leave and telling me angrily as I finally ordered him out ‘I will make sure the driveway to the units goes right under your bedroom window’. I subsequently discovered that he had also told the other two neighbours that I had signed with him and that they would be left out. Curious, and more than a little scared that he would return, I asked trusty Mr Google a few questions and discovered he was an ex-policeman who used his badge to enter the home of his brother-in-law and then pumped the entire six bullets of his service revolver into him. At his murder trial he claimed it was in retribution for the victim having abused three girls and the jury, astonishingly, acquitted him. My first thought had been to report his behaviour to the police, but this information changed my mind. Two days later he returned but forewarned I was able to get rid of him but have always been slightly fearful of his coming back again. He once pulled up next to me in his Merc on Windsor Road and it sent chills through me as he looked across at me. This morning I read that he has recently moved to Melbourne, amid many debts accrued in his real estate ventures in Sydney, and last week was shot in the face in a gangland style assassination attempt. He clings to life. I am sure the police will have quite a job interviewing all his enemies. He is one of the few people in my life about whom I can say that ‘I rubbed shoulders with a really evil person today’. While typing this my laptop died, poof, black screen. Could it be Sid? Nah.

February 28, 2019

I am such a technological person that I eventually worked out myself that although the computer was supposedly charging, one has to actually plug the cord into the power point to make that happen. Sid had nothing to do with it in fact. But an interesting piece of intelligence came my way when I mentioned Sid’s nasty comeuppence to Heather, though I had warned her about him all those years ago. She did have contact with him fairly recently through her florist’s shops and he so scared her all female staff that a rule was made that any orders from him were to be put through Heather alone. I guess it made him feel he was being looked after by the boss and so he didn’t suspect the real reason. She asked me to send her any reports of his current situation so she can bump them on to her old staff to let them know he isn’t coming in any time soon. How awful it must be to be Sid, and I mean that genuinely. John was helped today by Chris to put up curtain rods, secure furniture to the walls and other essential tasks while I created Gruffalo eyes, horns, teeth and a tongue out of cake modelling paste. Funny old pursuit, but it keeps the mind off Trump, Pell, refugees, climate change and other real-world atrocities which may well do my head in.

March 1, 2019

How on earth can it be March? Something needs to be done about the speeding up of time, we should get onto it once we’ve sorted out climate change. Well I finished the cake and it looks like a garish example from the Women’s Weekly Birthday Book circa 1960s, but I am hoping three year olds are not harsh critics. Carly arrived ready for the shindig tomorrow and we trawled through Pell, Trump, Cohen, Brexit and more during the afternoon. Now the headlines are all about Informer 3838, who turns out to be the daughter of an ex Supreme Court judge and Governor of Victoria for Pete’s sake. Luckily he has gone to his reward and doesn’t face the ignominy of her crimes. Informing to the police on one’s gangster clients seems not only scandalous, but a life-threatening pursuit one would imagine. I feel for her innocent children who will spend many years looking over their shoulders. We humans are a funny lot, life could be so simple if we didn’t complicate it for ourselves.

March 2, 2019

Ten of Millie’s besties came for her party with parents in tow. One little boy a year younger and yet he was a head taller. Another was a serious little fellow, like a miniature man, funny how their personalities show early on. No tears or problems at all, so I call that success. Millie is particularly fond of her ‘uncles’, Ryan, Terry and John and I got some lovely pics of them all together. She recognised that her cake was The Gruffalo so that was a plus. Then we went off to 1st Saturday at Martha’s where Robert was talking about the Galapagos, particularly focussing on the men whose work contributed to the science of evolution. Had to drop John back to Lane Cove as the physios come every morning and we avoided the M2 coming back after a terrible accident on the offramp there, involving 7 cars with 1 death and many injuries. The driver fled, as you do when you’ve just killed someone, just unbelievable.

March 3, 2019

Excited to realise that this is the first week in I don’t know how long that I have a clean slate, no hospital or doc’s appointments for John, whoopee. So I began planning to go to the city tomorrow and searched the court lists for the trials I have been waiting for. Two were already complete, but the retrial of a band of young men for the murder of a Windsor man starts tomorrow. I do have some doubts about going to this one, as I’ve known the father of one of the accused for decades, in fact he brought the accused into the shop as a baby to show him off. His father was the worst racist I’ve ever encountered, once publically abusing a Fijian family with small children, all dressed up on their way to church. I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say and regret to this day that I didn’t just punch him or at least run over to them to apologise. When I went to the previous trial, which ended with a hung jury, I was recognised by one of the extended family and I don’t particularly want to resume the acquaintance of any of them. It is unsurprising to find that baby turning to crime, but this was a particularly vicious murder and his life has turned out even worse than I could ever have foretold. Anyway, here I was planning my day of freedom when a call came in from John, the physio noticed his knee has become red and he’s made an urgent appointment to see Bob tomorrow, so what time will I pick him up? Goodbye court cases, goodbye trip to town, goodbye anything else. I know it’s only one day, but it deflated me nonetheless. I read the final Opal Tower report on the net as a sop.

March 4, 2019

Well the doc’s visit appears to be a false alarm, but all to the good. I am a very slow ship to turn, once I’ve set out a plan I get discombobulated for a while if it gets changed, then I settle on the new plan and everything’s okay. John forgot to inform the physio that he would be at the doctor’s this morning so I got a call from her while in Bob’s rooms wanting to know where he was, she was at the door. We did the obligatory shopping at the pharmacy and Coles, the former $83, the latter $82, but I managed to get him home by 1pm for an afternoon visit from the physio. It is another 5 weeks till my diary doesn’t have a medical appointment for John, but I’m sure it will fill before then.

Thinking about the family I wrote about yesterday and wondering why I didn’t give them all short shrift decades ago. I had this naive, somewhat arrogant, idea that if you behave well to people who habitually behave badly a light globe will go on and they will say ‘Oh it’s clear now, it’s not okay to abuse people in the street, hate people you’ve never met, disrespect all conventions on principle’. Of course now I realise that it simply doesn’t work that way, you can’t wipe out a lifetime of assumptions and fixed personality traits, but then it seemed so simple. One lesson was when I paid a man to help me sort out my storeroom and box things for later shipment to auction. Browsing the Windsor Gazette the following week I saw an ad for a whole lot of things that sounded like goods from my storeroom and an inspection proved they were all missing. If he had been smart enough to advertise them one at a time maybe I’d not have guessed, but he just couldn’t wait. The old skis and ski boots were a dead giveaway to make me read on. I went to his house and there on the wall when he opened the door was a large framed sepia photograph of my adoptive great-grandparents. ‘That’s mine’ I gasped, ‘oh sorry’ was the reply as he took it down from the wall, ‘I just wanted something to remind me of you’! Sadly most other things were already sold. Multiply that situation many times over before I finally realised that things were just not as simple as I’d foolishly imagined.

March 5, 2019

Planned to visit Martha’s to pick up a number of things I left there on Saturday night but she wasn’t home so I decided it was time to try a recipe from my massive New York Times Cookbook, picked up by John from Carol’s street library. It includes recipes featured in that paper from the late 1800s to the 2000s. I decided to just open the cake section and make whichever one I had the ingredients for. Ended up doing Sour Milk Cake from 1876 (soured with vinegar, not 3 weeks old milk!) and it was simple, basic but delicious. I texted Heather that I had a cake in the oven and she arrived to share it just as it was cooked. I had a free day as John asked the physio if she could organise a nurse to do his required blood test to save me driving to Lane Cove and the hospital and she did better than that, organising someone to drive him there and back.

Went to a Benevolent Society Adoption Connections meeting at Parramatta at night and I am not sure I will go again. I was invited to one at Brookvale last year as a speaker so I thought I would go again, this time as a participant. But looking around the group of adoptees and relinquishing mothers of all ages I thought of Sue’s psychiatrist brother’s comment that in his experience ‘people rejected by their mothers never get over it’. It seems to me that this is the case, so it doesn’t help a lot to focus on the loss, better just to plod along with life and realise that a lot of people are worse off. One woman whose 92 year old mother told her on her deathbed that she was adopted has found many siblings in Western Australia but lacks the money to pay for an airfare to meet them. Of course I spent the night wondering if I should buy her a ticket and I am still tossing that idea around. But solving other people’s problems isn’t simple, perhaps she is scared of the meeting and the fare is just an excuse? Who knows.

March 6, 2019

Got up unusually at quarter to 6 and as I was putting some things on Facebook Eileen in San Francisco was commenting on them in real time, so it was like a conversation of sorts. I decided that I would cook dinner from my NYT Cookbook seeing the cake turned out so well. Narrowed it down to Greek Prawns Baked with Tomatoes and Feta or Trout Fillets with Brown Butter, Lemon and Macadamia Nuts. The fishmonger had beautiful trout so it was the winner. I’ll do the other one before long. Anne rang to tell us she had access to expensive tickets to a play at Eternity Theatre for just $7.50 each so we are going on Sunday but because I’ve heard John’s dire reports of her impatient driving I refused the offer of a lift. Also it fits with needing to take him to St Vincent’s first thing Monday.

March 7, 2019

Hopped an early bus and was at the Supreme Court well before time but the case was hampered by technical difficulties when the witness who was off site could not be adequately seen and heard on the link. The judge looked up his rulebook and decided that just audio would be legal, but naturally preferred both audio and visual connection. A break was taken to sort it out and I got bored with it and wandered off, of course if it had been a riveting case I would have waited, but alas, no. Went to the State Library and perused some wonderful photos they had commissioned of migrant families in Sydney. I particularly liked some of a Congolese family, dressed to the nines and photographed inside and outside their humble Doonside home. They were described as Sapeurs, a word I’ve since looked up, it stands for ‘the Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes (the Society of Tastemakers and Elegant People), a band of men who turn the art of dressing into a cultural statement’, apparently a thing in the Congo, Kinshasa and Brazzaville in particular. I have learned something today, so getting up this morning has paid off. Had a lovely long lunch with Carol afterwards, at our usual haunt.

March 8, 2019

I am pleased with my progress in reconciling my bookshelves, actually reducing the load by all of 5 books that I will never read again, more fodder for the street library. Best Cartoons of 2005 is unlikely to be a fast mover though. Then I attacked the garage and decided that the Georgian washstand, which has now developed a crack from the heat of storage, will never bring anything like what I paid for it. So it is now ensconced in the front guest room along with the Royal Worcester basin, pin dishes and lidded bottle which fit perfectly into its cut out slots. I won’t know what it brings at my post-mortem auction, which is all to the good. Carly has been complaining of extreme tiredness and a burning mouth but the doc wasn’t sure what it was so today she went to the dentist who canvassed the possibility of oral shingles and sent her back to the doctor. Two docs had a confab and decided that they think he is right, so it’s just a case of waiting for it to pass as the meds must be taken in the first couple of days to be effective, nasty.

March 9, 2019

Decided to hop the bus to the weekend bail court in Parramatta to see what’s going on. Just the usual parade of sad cases, but I am always interested in pitting my view on bail against that of the judge and today we pretty much coincided. It is nearly always a very hard call. One fellow who has a lifetime registration on the sex offenders’ list claimed he had just lain down on his towel at Cronulla Beach when a young teenager spoke to him, but a passing cop recognised the accused and bingo he was arrested. Be that as it may, he was pretty upset at the bail refusal and started screaming at the judge ‘I am chosen by god and he is infallible’ and when that didn’t work it went to ‘fuck you judge’ accompanied by repeatedly punching a glass screen. The judge, unfazed, simply said ‘next’. I had earlier noticed an awful lot of small groups of men in Parramatta and when I came out of court I noticed hundreds streaming into the Park, so I asked a few of them if something was on, yes, they said, a heavy metal concert. Aaah, now it made sense. I can inform that amongst heavy metal concert-goers men outnumber women by about 50 to one and they are so unconventional that every single one of them was wearing black. Pretty funny really.

March 10, 2019

Took ourselves off to the Art Gallery for the Art Express Exhibition and as usual there were some stunning works. My fave was a set of 9 large pencil portrait drawings, done by a teenager whose parents had divorced, showing the mother, father and brother at the time of the divorce, shortly after it and now. It was an amazing piece showing the suffering, the acceptance and finally happiness returning. There are some extraordinarily talented young people out there, I hope this one doesn’t end up in finance or IT like everyone else. We had a light lunch on the outdoor terrace and there was a man there who told a nearby couple that ‘my daddy is in there and I am waiting for him’, an odd comment from a man near, or maybe over, 50. Their response was to ask if he was hungry and to go and buy him a large Turkish bread sandwich. He wandered off happily, forgetting about the daddy inside apparently. From there we went to the Eternity Theatre not far away as Anne had invited us to a 5pm play there, along with her mother. It was about Russian immigrants in New York and unfortunately it was so heavily accented, with Australians acting as New York/Russian residents with a combo dialect, that we couldn’t make out much of the dialogue, but the acting was fine. Though she had invited us, Anne and her mum left at interval because they didn’t like it! Luckily we had refused an offer of a lift there and back with them.

March 11, 2019

Glad we had a good day yesterday because today was pretty humdrum. First I drove John to his IgG transfusion at St Vincent’s in the morning, about 4 hours in there all told. Then he wanted to go to the dreaded Bunnings for garage shelving. He was looking at expensive components where even the individual iron side posts were too heavy to lift. I then noted a sign on them that the shelving would hold 1000 kg and tried to stress they were a mite over-engineered for the job of storing boxes of paperwork, but no, he wanted them, good substantial shelves. So I volunteered to get a store helper who came along and said that for files and papers they were way over the top, but the nice metal and timber ones over here were fine. Oh thankyou, he said, and bought 3 sets of them. Next we went to Lane Cove to get his shopping and banking done and by that time it was very late afternoon, so I decided to cancel the 6.30 movie and dinner date we had at Cremorne with Jenny and Di, I’d just had enough driving through heavy traffic for one day, they will both go anyway. I will be so glad when John is able to share the driving again, but it is 6 weeks from the op till then.

March 12, 2019

Early start to Baulkham Hills with Chris in tow to get some more gardening done. We now have it all prepped for the river stones to go down, which will hopefully happen next week. I would use him more and be finished much more quickly if only I didn’t have to drive him both ways. He fills me in with all the goss on the car trips, which is sometimes of interest and often not. They could do a TV show on the residents of this block of units, that’s for sure. Got back in time for John’s niece Rachel and son Jack to come for afternoon tea, the first time she has been inside John’s flat in the 10 years he’s lived here, even though you could walk from here to her house in well under an hour and John has done just that when he was more mobile. It was good to see them after so long, last time was at my 70th. I quickly did some coconut and cranberry biscuits before they arrived and seeing John doesn’t much like coconut, I gave the leftovers to Chris next door and Tammy in the flat upstairs. Helping John hang the plethora of pictures which inhabit the floor at the moment, we’re getting there slowly.

March 13, 2019

We had planned to go to a movie this morning and had 3 possible options lined up, but then discovered that Pell’s sentencing was being broadcast live at 10am, so I asked John which he would prefer to do and he unequivocally opted for the sentencing. Pell has certainly learned to keep his feelings well hidden, ‘like an Easter Island statue’ was one description given, and that was from one of his firm supporters. But a problem with people like that is that you never know what is running deep beneath the surface and I sometimes wonder if they do either. After it was over John said that he didn’t think he could concentrate on a movie and asked if we could go out for lunch instead, so we headed to Sur le Soleil in Roseville for a relaxed lunch, with a glass of good Bordeaux in my case. I feel for those whose cases collapsed for whatever reasons and especially for the families of those who died before they got their day in court, it must be a bittersweet moment for them.

March 14, 2019

Decided to vote pre-poll as I never know which house I will be in on a given date. Baulko pre-poll office didn’t have a representative of my chosen party and, because I prefer to vote below the line for the Upper House, I needed a ballot paper sample to work out my preferences. I then went to the Castle Hill voting office but the same applied. I came home and looked up the ballot paper on the net and will vote another day. Did some more gardening and felt virtuous for that. There was a white feather standing upright between the cushions on my front verandah chair today and I can’t help thinking that it was a message from my old gardener John who is off on sick leave, having seen the progress that’s happened while he’s been away. Pretty funny if I am right. Made two more recipes from the NYT Cookbook, one a Brown Sugar Shortbread with Almonds and the other my dinner, both good. Trying not to worry about John now I’m home, but the truth is that he is frail physically and easily befuddled, so I am always somewhat concerned when we are at different residences, hoping he doesn’t face phone scammers or their ilk. However, having spent the last four days at Lane Cove I returned to find my pots of cuttings totally dried out. I recently returned from a few days to find a precious newly bought tree almost dead in its pot when the weather had turned particularly hot. I need to be cloned right now.

March 15, 2019

Poor bloody New Zealand, targeted precisely because it is a safe country where the police walk around unarmed. I am ashamed that we sent them our rubbish and polluted the fabric of their beautiful country. Sometimes I peruse the websites of the far right white supremacists just to see what they are up to. Today I looked up the site of Reclaim Australia, who have 103,038 supporters online and read through the comments: ‘this guy should be our next PM’, ‘the shooter is a hero’, ‘about time we had a win’, ‘can’t find any pics of the blood’ along with numerous links to the live video feed of the murders (now taken down by Facebook). At least 95% of the comments were lauding the murderer, with a very rare one supporting the group but suggesting this was perhaps a step too far. This is what we are dealing with and no-one seems to be effectively watching these people, hopefully they will be now.

March 16, 2019

Woke up feeling fine until I remembered Christchurch. It is more appalling to me that Australia has thousands of supporters and apologists of this atrocity than that we have one attention-seeking loser looking for fame. I don’t have any words.

March 17, 2019

How come Greater Manchester Police have arrested a man who made one social media post supporting the Christchurch massacre, yet there are many hundreds of such posts on the Reclaim Australia website without consequence? I haven’t even looked at the other sites. We have allowed this filth to become normalised over the last 10 or more years and now it is everywhere. In the 60s and 70s I could reel off the names of the neo-Nazis: Jim Saleam, Ross May et al, you could count them on one hand and we all knew them by sight. But now there are more parties, 13 in all, running on white supremacist policies than there were noted individuals back then.

March 18, 2019

So what to do when you are obsessing on something? Go to see justice dispensed, so that’s what I did. I have been following the trial of a nasty piece of work who killed another nasty piece of work, a common enough tale. I was sure I had heard this story before and a chat with someone I had picked as a policeman confirmed that yes, he was tried 5 years ago but it was overturned on appeal and a new trial ordered. Nothing to do with the evidence, just that the judge had made comments on joint criminal enterprise which were found to be unsound. I was lucky enough to hear the summing up for both the prosecution and the defence. The young Sri Lankan? defence barrister was doing a sterling job of seeding doubt in the jury’s mind, but I suspect our friend will be going back to serve the rest of his 19 year sentence.

Tried again to buy an all-weather trench coat, I have owned two over time and lost both, one left in a restaurant and the other on the train from Wellington to Christchurch. I prefer to buy second hand but haven’t been successful so I tried five stores in town including Myer and DJs. None to be had, so I asked why, the answer was: trench coats have become a fashion item, not a raincoat, so none of them are waterproof. Huh?

March 19, 2019

The truck bearing two tons of river stones arrived at 6.30am and the driver refused to put them where I asked, claiming that a tree branch would interfere with the tipping. I pointed out that the branch would simply go inside the truck’s tray and bother nothing but the pebbles, but to no avail. Then he tipped the truck too quickly meaning they covered the path as well as the grass verge, resulting in my needing to shovel them into a better heap before someone slipped in the half light. Picked up Chris after a mammoth trip in bumper to bumper traffic and we were back here shovelling soon after 9. He queried my ability to shovel for hours which only made me more determined, but i was completely spent by the time we got back to John’s. I took a nap while waiting for John to be driven home from his boys’ lunch, but next thing I knew it was 5pm and I realised I should have left him a note to wake me. He was tired too so we decided film group was beyond us which was a shame. Could only manage making soup for tea and watched the box with two depressing stories on drugs, one on Oxycontin addiction in San Francisco and the Appalachian Mountains and later Louis Theroux on what it is like living as a black person in Milwaukee, which is to say a nightmare. Whether it was my nap or these horror stories I don’t know, but I was awake till 5am.

March 20, 2019

After two hours sleep I didn’t feel like spreading pebbles but that was the plan so I took Chris off at 9am, we raked them for 3 and a half hours and I’m pretty damned pleased with the result. The only downside with him is that it costs me $30 in tolls for the trips there and back to get him each day, money I’d rather be paying him, but I am learning a few things on the way about his past and how, what and why he got himself into trouble. All first hand information which isn’t usually available to a person on the outside of that world, so I really appreciate his trust in me. If I decide to go back into prison visiting and/or court support it will all be good background to have. Now I am walking like an old woman, which I am, but it was a day well spent. When we got back I took John to Lane Cove for his shopping and we filled his fridge and freezer. On Friday I am hooking up with a woman I met 18 months ago at the meal service, a volunteer who resigned after being verbally abused and sworn at by the boss for no good reason. She has talked about getting back into the work somewhere else so I plan to pick her brain about that. She and her husband were wonderfully capable volunteers who related compassionately to the clients, which was why they were targeted I suspect.

March 21, 2019

John had a lunch date today to celebrate the opening of Link Housing’s new offices in Ryde and as I was unable to drive him they provided taxi vouchers so he could go. I was at a lunch too, at Parliament House, to celebrate Julia Gillard’s apology to the victims of forced adoptions. When I was first invited last year I declined initially on the grounds that my adoption was neither forced not in Australia. However they told me that all adoptions are forced from the adoptee’s point of view and convinced me to go. I met a number of people I knew there and was most impressed by the two speakers, the first a woman whose adoption permission papers for her son were forged by staff at the hospital when she refused to sign them, they even spelled both of her names wrongly, yet she couldn’t get her son back and was told he’d already been given to new parents. It was a lie, he remained at the home till he was 6. The second was an adoptee who was returned to the children’s home by his adoptive parents and kept there till he was 18, being repeatedly sexually abused during that time. He has had 3 apologies from 3 Prime Ministers, one for forced adoption, one for mistreatment in the home and one for sexual abuse. He was a wreck as he told his story and why wouldn’t you be? However the lunch was delicious, the view over the Domain beautiful and the company top drawer, so I was very glad to have gone.

March 22, 2019

Was visited today by Shelley whom I met a year or so ago when we were both volunteers at meal service in Windsor. She resigned after being very badly treated by the boss and we have been Facebook friends, but haven’t met face to face since then. Had a good chin-wag about options for future work with the homeless and she told me the story of another great volunteer who also resigned after verbal abuse. That woman has said she will never volunteer anywhere in future because she was, and is, so affected by her unfair treatment. Shelley suggested that the three of us get together and discuss possibilities. She recounted a tale that would be laughable, if not so disturbing. During a TAFE two year early childhood education course she has just completed there was a ‘cultural awareness’ segment. It consisted of the class learning a so-called Aboriginal song in dialect, but the song was in Maori language! Shelley, being Maori herself, pointed this out to the teacher who denied it was so. Culturally aware indeed.

Later I went up to vote pre-poll because I like to number all the boxes and didn’t want to hold up the long queues tomorrow. I was lucky enough to meet the Greens candidate Erica, with whom I’d been exchanging emails on various matters to do with the election. Unfortunately the man in charge spent the whole time I was there in the queue loudly berating the staff over one thing or another. Anyone trying to explain something to him in response was put down in an arrogant fashion. I asked the person who gave me the ballot papers if the supervisor was having a bad day or if he was always like that and the answer was ‘no, he’s always like that’. I replied ‘well he’s a very rude man and and I’m sorry you have to put up with that, I feel like complaining on your behalf.’  The person thanked me for caring and said ‘Please do complain’. So I have sent them an email explaining that his behaviour to the staff reflects on the Commission as a whole. It may not get me, or them, anywhere but I feel better for doing it. Coming out I got talking to the Labor guy and their candidate strolled along, so it was good to have met both of them.

March 23, 2019

Went up to Windsor to visit Brian and he didn’t look too good at all, still in bed while the other inmates (I mean residents) were eating lunch. Stayed for an hour and a half and by the end of the visit he was perky and talking about getting up for a shower, though still not eating. Talked about the fact that the polls for today’s state election are saying 50-50 but I haven’t met a single person voting Liberal, not one. It must be the good company I keep. Although John accidentally preferenced Sustainable Australia, thinking it was an environmental group, however it was a fair way down his list. I am always suspicious of any party that uses Family or Democratic in their name, I might add Sustainable to that list. Saw a group of twenty-somethings in Windsor, all dressed up in impossible stilettos and short skirts for the girls and schmik suits and ties for the men, so of course I had to ask where they were all going. It turned out it was to see Winx win again at Rosehill Races. A few were already having a tipple at 11am so I think there might be a few hangovers tomorrow, I hope they voted first! At John’s tonight glued to the tele for the results, this election junkie is thrilled to have two of them in a matter of months.

March 24, 2019

I am not discussing the election result as I am sulking, except to say that Brian’s call was correct as always. No, he said yesterday, Labor won’t win, Gladys will walk back in on a similar margin. He’s good. I brought Chris out again and on the way went to Bunnings for ag pipe and blue metal so he could build a drain across the front of the brick foundations of the loungeroom to funnel runoff in heavy rain. The more he does the more things I think of that I want him to do. A lovely surprise when a lady came, announcing she had seen the street library in the local paper all those months ago and has a heap of books for me. I go there tomorrow to see what she has, but she said ‘not novels, big books’ so they could be anything. They are left over from her wholesale book business and are all brand new. Bonza.

March 25, 2019

My ship came in with the books. The donor had 102 brand spanking new books, mostly hard cover, waiting for me this morning. I arrived with the obligatory box of biscuits made this morning, she wasn’t gluten free but goes into anaphylactic shock if she has oats, luckily Anzac Biscuits weren’t one of the two types I took. Everything from an Oxford Dictionary and a Thesaurus, coffee table books on trains, planes, travel, Peter FitzSimons’ book Kokoda, gardening books, Simon Sharma’s trilogy A History of Britain, a huge boxed set on South-East Asian Art, need I go on? It felt like going back to shop days, being inside another person’s home, talking about the goods on offer, having a chat, but in this case loading the goods and leaving without paying. She has had a rough trot, her husband died then within two months her nearly six feet tall daughter died from anorexia weighing 28 kilos. Then her son, an electrician, fell 4 metres doing work at his home and became a paraplegic, finding his insurance didn’t cover him unless he was being paid. I really felt for her. It is amazing how many people I’ve met through that story, she says she will call in for a cuppa when she passes and I think she will.

March 26, 2019

Well another street library story and a big one! Today the library was visited by the author Jaclyn Moriarty who left a new copy of her latest book Gravity is the Thing. Mmm, Moriarty I thought, perhaps the sister of the famous Liane, and sure enough she was. How exciting if now I get authors dropping by as well as books being left. Perhaps I should send my address to Robert Dessaix, though perhaps not now I think of his imperious manner on the occasions I’ve met him before. Which got me thinking about the writers I’d most like to sit down with. I think that Lucia Berlin would top my list, with perhaps Elizabeth Harrower, John Safran and Elizabeth Jolley coming up behind. Pity a couple of those have been dead for years, but I can live in hope. I had better keep the baking up to speed if this is to become the norm. Shovelled pebbles around the daisies I’d planted the other day and felt all was good in the world.

March 27, 2019

John had appointments with the surgical team and the physio today so I knew that would write off the day. Why oh why must they make all the appointments at either 9 or 2 knowing that the last patients will wait three hours and more? It has always been thus at clinics in the public system but it doesn’t seem hard to have them spaced say every hour. As usual we were second last so we waited well over two hours. The upside was that we met John’s tenant network friend Linda who was in a wheelchair there with a broken leg. She suffers from a genetic tendency to break bones, shared with her mother, daughter and siblings, all except one whose children suffer from it. Such is the Russian roulette of genetics. She is so positive and interesting to be with that the time passed more quickly than usual.

March 28, 2019

Called in on Jane on the way home from John’s, she is improving well after her knee surgery. I will miss the book group meeting tomorrow night but managed yesterday to finally get the book and sat up late reading the first half, thinking I could finish it today but there’s too much else to get done before we go to Bowral tomorrow. John offered to vacuum the car for me while I did other chores and I thought it would take him 10 minutes, but no. As in everything he was so meticulous it took him an hour and a half and I will need to wear slippers from now on to avoid getting dirt on the floor. I should have realised this but it’s been so long since he’s been able to do any physical things that I’d simply forgotten. He will sleep well tonight.

March 29, 2019

Early start to Bowral, heading straight to Dirty Jane’s Antiques as we usually do. First to look around then to go to their cafe for the best scones in the business. Today I had the Jalapeño, Cheese and Spinach mm-mm. Then I bought a table, retail! As if I needed another table, but this was so special I weakened. It is a walnut display table, a glass topped box on legs basically and something I have wanted for a long time. All those I had in my shop were too small or not original or they had lost their velvet lining, but this one ticked all the boxes. Now I can pull out all my silver bits and bobs from their hidey-holes and put them in the table, making it easier for rushed burglars to scoop them all up at once.

Picked up Carly at the station and headed off to beautiful Milton Park, meeting Davina, Louis and Millie at the hotel. Went for a walk in the grounds before heading out to the Scottish Arms Hotel for a delicious bistro dinner. Carly’s entree was the size of a main meal and our mains meant for two, but it was quality food despite that.

March 30, 2019

What a wonderful place Milton Park is for a celebration. Unasked, the waiter brought the girls champagne and orange juice at breakfast and at the end of the same meal brought candle-lit tiny cheesecakes with strawberries. We all repaired to Davina’s room for present opening, including those from Heather, Ryan and Terry, which we brought with us. We did a walk around the garden, making a note to come back in daffodil or bluebell seasons, but being very happy to be there when the autumn colours were starting, particularly loving the vine all over the pool house. After a swim, we had a light lunch in front of the fire, mine was one of the best soups I’ve ever had. It was called silver beet with apple chutney but there were flavours in there I couldn’t identify, however the chef refused to enlighten me, saying it was his secret. The creamy soup was poured around a little pile of seasoned apple and was absolutely delicious. The afternoon was spent reading with the most difficult decision being which of the three fires in the loungeroom to park in front of. We met Don and Tegan from Cremorne there, a young couple who had been out to Bendooley Winery for lunch at the cellar door and were nursing some carrier bags of wine. They challenged John and me to a game of pool later in the afternoon and I explained that it would be no challenge at all to play me, such are my sporting skills. However when we came down to dinner, there they were hankering to play. But in the meantime Don had consumed a goodly part of his red wine haul and could barely stand, never mind play pool, so we beat them, against all odds. Poor old Don tried putting me off my shots and giving me bad advice about how to play, but all to no avail. Dinner was delicious with local wine topping off the night, ended by another sojourn in front of the fire.

March 31, 2019

Another walk after breakfast to find the area where the Highland cattle were paddocked. They are certainly impressive beasts with massive horns, all those we could see close up were bulls. Sadly packed up to leave and went in to Bowral to pick up my table, noticing in daylight rather more scratches than I had inside, but detailing it will repair them easily. We all had a light lunch in our favourite cafe at Dirty Jane’s, then I went back to a dress shop where I’d seen an all weather coat I’d liked on Friday, made in the USA and fully reversible in black and red. The women working there were like the comedy skit Pru and Trude, affected voices and very pushy, but because I had trawled the city looking for one and failed and done all the second hand places likewise, I weakened and bought it even though it was over my budget. We farewelled the family in Bowral, with Carly and Danish heading back to Canberra and Davina and company back to Erskineville. We went off then to Berrima and John bought a basketfull of condiments at our favourite foodie outlet there. Carrot relish, mango chutney, herb mustard, a few jams, two big jars of different honeys, raspberry icecream sauce and more, they were happy to see him at the counter for sure. Off to Mittagong then where I planned to look for a bird bath for the front garden, perhaps cement or something cheap. I didn’t count on the fact that the garden shop was owned by an ex antique dealer who had a few old pieces as well as acres of new pots. So I came away with an antique bird bath and will now be worrying whether someone plans stealing it out of the front yard! Hopefully potential thieves will see it as a piece of old junk. I wanted time to think about it but John declared, ‘Just buy it’ so I will blame him.

April 1, 2019

John picked Chris up in my car while I detailed my new display table with eucalyptus oil, then Restorafinish and then polish, the oil only necessary because  in the past some fliphead had used tape to protect the glass top, leaving a sticky residue everywhere on the wood that needed removal. In my shop all those things were carefully done before sale, but everyone is different in how they display their goods, this place was ‘dust and all’. Then we both got stuck into the garden, Chris pulling out the wretched plumbago while I cut back the African daisies and stuck the cuttings in the ground at the front, hoping they will shoot. John, enamoured with being able to drive again, has gone home in my car with Chris aboard, then they will both be back in the morning to start again. John is going to polish some silver objet d’art currently living in a shoebox under the bed, so I can install them in the new table.

April 2, 2019

Hurrah! I am getting Chris’s help three days in a row this week. I made the suggestion because I know he is applying for various jobs and if one comes good he will be less available for me. We gutted part of the garden ready for replanting and I planted irises down the driveway, the selfsame irises which have stood in pots in the front yard for a year waiting for a home. John took him home and will bring him back in the morning, he is loving having the car to use after so long not able to drive. He went to his favourite shops, Bunnings and Officeworks today, stocking up on bits and bobs including yet another filing cabinet! This saves my having to wander round either place, so I am well pleased, though I do wonder what will become of all those documents in the fullness of time. I managed to pull out another box of charity giveaways this afternoon and came upon some handbags bought at auction yonks ago, including a fetching leather number which surprisingly turned out to be a vintage Oroton. It was thick with garage dirt but has now been washed and tomorrow will be rejuvenated with leather polish. At least my hoarded items can be sold for cash in due course, but I can’t say the same for John’s four filing cabinets chocked full of paperwork, still the principle of hoarding remains the same for us both.

April 3, 2019

I hope my feet will stop hurting now that I have a week off heavy work in the garden. However I suspect it is just another flare of the boring tendonitis which is unaffected by my activity level, time will tell. I refused to watch the budget last night, it will not affect my vote and just raises my stress levels unnecessarily. I won’t watch the Opposition’s reply for similar reasons, the whole thing has become an auction which I do not wish to attend. Anyone who votes for a party simply on the strength of election promises is a dill. I am anxious to put some of my new books into the library but the turnover has been slow this week and I have a policy of not removing slow books, just being patient till they go eventually. I am a tough love librarian.

April 4, 2019

Went out to Windsor this morning to see Brian at the nursing home and found him better than my last visit. We sat out in the garden and chatted for nearly two hours. He may be frail but his mind is sharp and we covered everything from Federal politics (as always) to, well, state and local politics. Dropped off a pile of oddments from my garage to a chap who has regular garage sales, better that he gets some advantage than having stuff sitting in the shed, everything from old biscuit tins to ornaments. Then I headed to the wholesale nursery and got two lovely may bushes for the front yard, but I will wait till Chris comes next week to put them in as he always has an opinion on placement. News filtered to me from the budget that they plan to fund a child sex offender register, what a dumb idea. Given the crazies running around in our community it is only a matter of time before someone gets murdered, it could become capital punishment by stealth. An 18 year old having consensual sex with a 15 year old girlfriend could be listed on this register for life, think about that for a minute and then reject the whole idea.

April 5, 2019

Thought of a clever way to get some more of my new books into the street library. I offered some of the old not taken ones to the only other such library in Baulko. Interestingly while I was there, I found a book in her box that was in mine just a week ago, so either someone is a very fast reader and placed it in a different library after finishing it or else it was nabbed from my box to be put into hers. Not that it matters much, I am just pleased that an E. M. Forster novel is making its way around this suburb, by whatever means. So now I have been able to put in a couple of my recently read novels, plus a few of the hard covers I was given. Rules of Golf and Uncanny Tales I am glad to be shot of I must say. There is enough natural mystery in this world not to need to invent creepy stories. I recently went to the nursery at the Forestry Commission and joined their loyalty program so I was happy to get an email offering 25% off all plants tomorrow only. I have a wish list in my head so we shall see what’s available. Just had a a word with John about trying to drive his car, something he hasn’t attempted as yet. I suggested going around the block today, up to Lane Cove tomorrow and just increasing it a bit day by day, something he hadn’t considered doing.

April 6, 2019

Up at the nursery before it opened to get a replacement for a tree I bought there which subsequently died in the heatwave. My fault, for following the instructions on the label, to only water occasionally when the soil is very dry 2 cm down. When I rang the nursery to say it was looking tres malade she was mortified ‘oh, we are watering ours 3 times a day in this weather, those are generic instructions for all of Australia, it’s quite different here in a heatwave’. But despite giving it heaps of water after that it still died. When I went back today they had one only example left in the colour I wanted, not nearly as good a tree as the one I killed, but I bought it anyway and now it is up to me to get a different result the second time around. It was an expensive tree (well, expensive for me anyway) so that put me off buying a beautiful grafted Lime Magik weeping wattle that I fell in love with there. It was $150 even after the discount and that’s just too much to throw into the ground if it isn’t successful. My attitude to money is amusing to John who spends exactly as he wants and doesn’t count the consequences. Last weekend we went to a favourite foodie place in Berrima and I spent $8.50 on a bottle of their raspberry icecream sauce, while he spent $130 on a pile of sauces, chutneys, jams and mustards. It is hard to get past a childhood where waste and nonessential spending, through necessity, were considered mortal sins. I think if I won the lottery my habits would remain, though I am quite happy to spend on other people or charity. My mother drilled into me ‘Joy is Jesus first, others second and yourself last’. She did too good a job I think, though I’ve managed to delete the first one so perhaps in my dotage I will learn to splurge on myself sometimes and not spend a sleepless night feeling self-indulgent, as I did last weekend over buying my birdbath, to be like John who never feels buyer’s remorse.

April 7, 2019

John is cock-a-hoop after taking up my suggestion to try driving his manual car again. It must be at least six months since he drove his car and he managed it well on Friday, so now he is coming up here this arv to go to a movie and stay over, something he often does anyway but not under his own steam of late. Yesterday and last night I minded Millie while Dav and Louis went out for cocktails and dinner with friends for her birthday. Millie was distraught when they left, throwing herself sobbing at the door but eventually accepted that she was stuck with me and made the best of it. I did a deal with her that if she remembered to use the potty I would do a wee-wee dance and she laughed uproariously as I cavorted around the loungeroom each time doing as crazy a dance as I could muster. I was rewarded at bedtime when after doing a crazy book-reading she volunteered ‘I love you grandma’. Crazy she loves, as did my girls when young, as long as it was at home that is. I remember that if they played up in the supermarket I would threaten to do my funny walk, dragging one leg and drooling at the mouth. Davina would immediately plead, ‘not here mummy, please not here’, it worked every time.

April 8, 2019

I have just changed the last week of entries here from March to April, time speeds up the older you get I think, it was only Christmas last week. Today I gave in and made Simnel Cake, a traditional British Easter cake, for which I’ve been hankering for a few weeks now. I make it every year but today I just had a couple of slices for morning tea and have put the rest away for Easter, if I don’t weaken. Yesterday we ended up at Castle Hill cinema and were torn between Hotel Mumbai and a once off live film of the ballet Don Quixote from the Royal Opera House in London. John was curious to see it and I knew I would love the dancing. Four hours later we emerged, entranced in my case but with John saying ‘it was an experience’ which I guess is better than saying he hated it. There were two 15 minute intervals in the film between acts when we were just looking at the closed curtains. However though the dancing was out of this world, I don’t think I would do it again, nothing can really compete with being there, I just need to go to the ballet more often.

April 9, 2019

Gardening began the day, putting in my superb Weeping Lime Magik tree and being pretty pleased with its willowy look, the fine pendulous foliage moving with just the slightest of breezes. Sue and Robert called in for a cuppa and, not knowing it had just gone in an hour previously, commented only on that one plant and asked its name, so I was glad I had got it in before they came. Next to John’s in order to get into town for dinner before the Handa Opera on the Harbour, West Side Story. This has been an annual ritual for us, but we have missed the last two, which coincided with times that John was particularly sick. There is nowhere nearby to eat so as usual we bought food at the venue, an expensive option for what is basically takeaway, but unavoidable. In other years we have enjoyed eating at outside tables while we watched the sun set over the Opera House but this year the weather turned just as we got there, so we were huddled in a cold wind, eating food that was immediately cold too. I wore no warm clothes, no socks or scarf and spent the night huddled inside John’s leather jacket which I’d luckily borrowed just as we were leaving, rueing the warm accoutrements sitting in the wardrobe at home. The show was well done but it didn’t move me to the heights of previous years. There are a few reasons for that I think: one was the cold, another the fact that West Side Story was my first big musical experience, I saw the film 6 or more times from the ago of 16 on and I react to it very emotionally. So seeing Maria as a white girl with a somewhat dodgy Spanish accent didn’t quite wash with me, not for political reasons so much as aesthetic ones. Thirdly it is depressing to realise that America’s problems with migration, race and access to guns are no better than the 60s but indeed much worse so it was hard not to let that play on the mind. But I am glad I went and seeing John wasn’t at all bothered by the discordant Maria, perhaps it is just me, though I thought the applause was merely polite at the end.

April 10, 2019

Off to Baulko with Chris in tow, though he wasn’t feeling well so we made it a shorter session than ususal. Planted my replacement flowering gum plus the two may bushes and the silver leaved natives I had bought. All looks smashing but it wasn’t heavy work and they were things I could have physically done myself, really preferring to use him for the heavy jobs. However I was glad to do it together, he is good to be with and we laugh a lot. We made a list of the heavy jobs I still want done so that was useful. When we got back to John’s two of the tenants happened to be at the mailboxes and were open-mouthed to see us come home together in my car, you could see the wheels turning. What tha? Who can I tell?

April 11, 2019

Shopping, librarying, catching up with correspondence by email and phone, how did I ever find time to work? Made a mushroom risotto for dinner tonight, it was good but was it worth 40 mins of stirring? That is the question, but I guess having the second serve ready made for tomorrow night is a bonus which involves no stirring. Sheila rang inviting us to Wentworth Falls on election night. She’s discovered that all her newish choir and dancing friends are Liberals, even worse Alan Jones-listening Liberals, and she doesn’t want to spend election night alone, needing like-minded company. I always resist being with people on election night because they talk and I miss some gem of intelligence from Antony Green or the preference count in Bullamakanka but with her I can just say ‘shut up Sheila, Antony’s talking’ and solve the problem so I said we would go, she’s always good value. Tonight John had a call from a polling company in London wanting to survey him on the election, a great opportunity I would think, but he refused on the grounds that they wouldn’t tell him who was paying for the poll. Sheesh, of course they can’t or else it will corrupt the answers I told him, livid that I never manage to get a guernsey for political polls. I see Geoffrey Rush has won his defamation case, which I predicted after last year after watching carefully the facial expressions of Justice Wigney over a number of days. He grimaced at times when The Telegraph’s counsel was speaking and nodded his head in agreement with Rush’s barrister. It was subtle but it was there. Sometimes I wonder if I should look for a betting company which deals in such things, I would have cleaned up over the years.

April 12, 2019

Eek, I realise that there is only 10 days or so before we go away. So I ducked up to see Brian, dropped off some tins, bottles and a child’s pushbike to the disability pensioner chap in Windsor who has garage sales regularly and then rang friends whom we are overdue to catch up with and invited them over for morning tea on Easter Saturday. Phew! this socialising caper is hard work. (I just mention here that if the bloody dog next door doesn’t stop barking soon I may commit an animal cruelty offence. Are they all deaf in there?). Regardless of what opinion one holds on Julian Assange, it was heart-rending to see him being carried out of the embassy in London. Our government has let him stay cooped up there for 7 years of his young life and now he faces that or more in an American gaol as well, it is a tragic waste. He would have been better off knifing someone, he’d be out by now.

April 13, 2019

Off to Erko to visit Millie and drop off some Easter treats as they will be leaving Friday for Canberra and then we are off to Melbourne. Dav and I wandered up to the shops to buy some bread rolls and salad for lunch and came upon a little market at the school, so we stopped there and bought Irish soda bread and a gluten free loaf for Dav as well as organic tomatoes, salad greens and some hot salami for Louis, lunch sorted. There were two Greens handing out pamphlets at the gate, no other parties to be seen. Later I dropped Dav to an appointment at Mosman, then called in to see John on the way home and showed him how to make a bread and butter pudding with his stale bread. I love driving into my place now and admiring the garden instead of cringing at all the work that it will take to set it right. I sit on the front verandah and watch things grow.

April 14, 2019

Decided to take the ironing board into the green bathroom and use it as a shelf, emptied out all of the wall cabinet’s contents onto it to sort. I cleaned the shelves and culled a wastepaper basket full of old drugs, near empty bottles, wound up tubes of stuff I haven’t used for years. I feel so righteous on two counts, one that I am throwing out and two that the only things I am throwing are of no use to anyone, win-win. I discovered that I own 11 packs of Panadol and 5 boxes of Band-Aids. Seeing I very rarely use either, it is obvious that they’ve been bought when I was away from home and had a sudden need, later they were added to the collection. So now I just need some visitors with a headache and a blister. I finished John Safran’s book Depends What You Mean by Extremist and I am in awe of the man. He has that most wonderful of qualities that he can move comfortably in any circle, whether in a pub with neo-Nazis, in the loungeroom of a pro ISIS activist or in church with a ‘Christian’ extremist. I love the fact that he just lobs up to these peoples’ homes, asks to come in and chat and disarms them enough that he nearly always succeeds. He doesn’t set them up, he simply lets them rave and his trusty dictaphone does the rest. (My computer is querying the word dictaphone, which is supremely funny.) Hail brother John, I dips me lid to ya.

April 15, 2019

Contacted the local Greens this morning to offer to letterbox for them, they may have plenty of labour to do this, but I doubt it. That wretched One Nation got 2 upper house seats at the state election, so we really need to work at making sure they don’t succeed at the federal one. The only good news is that that nasty piece of work Leyonhjelm just missed out on a seat. It is better to have dumb right-wingers in positions of power than smart ones I think, they will end up fighting with each other and become less effective over time. Commentators believe that the expose of One Nation officials cooperating with the NRA and trying to get funding from them will affect their vote in a downward direction. I disagree, their supporters are too rusted on to be worried about a bit of duplicity and villainy. Anyone who doesn’t know that James Ashby is a villain has been living under a rock for the past few years. I did the ABC’s VoteCompass tool last night and discovered that I am somewhere to the left of the Greens, who would have thought?

April 16, 2019

Notre Dame, what can you say? Only that it can be rebuilt, but it will never again be the building that I stood inside and marvelled at. The French, with their admirable attention to culture, didn’t deserve this. On another matter of negligible comparative importance, Israel Folau, I need to stick my oar in. I have always spoken out for the rights of gay people and always will. But Israel is welcome to come here for a cuppa anytime, despite the fact that I, as an atheist, am speeding along his highway to hell. Would we want our postman or the man who empties our rubbish sacked for these views? No. He is not a politician, nor a candidate, nor a senior public servant, nor any kind of broadcaster, he is a brain-washed footballer who should be left to play football while the rest of us just roll our eyes. Planned to go out today but Sue rang to say she was in town, so she came for lunch instead and we sat on the deck chewing the fat. Made arrangements to visit them in May, next time I see the Prof. He has now moved his office from Gosford, accessible by bus and train, to Erina, which is a step too far, necessitating driving for appointments from now on, a bit of a bugger but an opportunity to visit with them each time.

April 17, 2019

John brought Chris out to my place today, the first time he has been able to do that. Chris and I did some gardening while John worked at my computer writing a report on the housing conference that he went to on Monday. He took 17 pages of notes! Now he has to type them all up. Chris used an angle grinder to take the end off two cast iron bed rails to use as stakes for two of my trees in the back yard that need more support, one being a flowering gum that’s been in for four years and has only just got its first head of flowers. Then he cut up a host of pavers to make edging tiles at the front, handy boy that that he is (50 can still qualify as a boy to me). Heather dropped in with a pack of four blocks of French chocolate for me, so now I will have a positive answer when John asks after dinner ‘have we got any chocolate?’. He has already eaten my bulk supply of Callibaut dark cooking chocolate. We had morning tea on the deck, luckily I baked two different sorts of biscuits yesterday so there were plenty for us and the usual doggy bag that Chris takes home. I had a weird experience this week when I went to eat the last piece of a cake I baked about a week ago, just in order to empty the cake tin. It was absolutely disgusting, bitter in the extreme and I had to spit it out, then eat very strong cheese to get rid of the taste. Curious, I left the other half of the piece intact and two days later opened the box to find it absolutely covered with mould, which I assume I was tasting before it was visible. Now I understand why they say that the genes for supertasting survived because of the community benefit of having someone who could taste tainted or poisoned foods before anyone else, though I’ve never experienced it myself before.

April 18, 2019

We had a lovely morning, with a trip to my hairdresser at Manly followed by some time sitting at Freshwater Beach watching the surfers and then lunch at Pilu Barretto, a small outdoor café at the beach adjoining Pilu Restaurant and sharing the same excellent chefs, who alternate between the two. It was lucky that the morning went well as the afternoon was somewhat stressful. John had an appointment with the infectious diseases specialist at 3.20pm for a checkup and to discuss the fact that he is having trouble getting sufficient supplies of dicloxacillin, the antibiotic capsule he needs at a dose of 8 per day. I had strongly advised that he sort this problem out with her by phone two weeks ago, but he was adamant that she would just change the drug today and all would be fine. However we discovered that it is a supply problem from the overseas manufacturers and both it and its alternative flucloxacillin are in very short supply. We phoned his usual pharmacy who had none of either, the private pharmacy at the hospital had neither, but at 4.45, just 15 minutes before the hospital’s internal pharmacy closed till Tuesday we were able to buy enough of one of them to see him through. Fifteen minutes later and we would have had to cancel our holiday to go back there on Tuesday, as he can’t go without one or the other. I asked the doc what the problem was and she said that the supply of a lot of antibiotics is low at the moment, she thinks because the particular drugs are not widely used and are therefore not particularly profitable for the companies, hence they slant their production lines to more profitable products. (Don’t you just love capitalism?). In one case the hospital has quarantined (‘hidden’ was the word she used) just 10 vials of a particularly important antibiotic and it is up to her to decide which patients get it and which are denied, a task she described as ‘horrible’. So you don’t need Brexit to risk running out of important drugs, it is happening here and now.

April 19, 2019

I had a home day getting things ready to go away. Dav and co. went to Canberra but only managed to travel 49 km in the first hour and a half, taking 4 and a half hours just to get to Goulburn. Another reminder never to travel on Christmas Eve or Good Friday. We could easily have left for Melbourne at Easter and had no problems with the train and now that I’ve checked theatre offerings I wish we had as every interesting show I’ve looked up finishes next Monday. I’ve been thinking on our travails searching for John’s drugs yesterday and realised that it took me back to the feeling of ‘is this a life or death moment?’ that I have now experienced many times with him, but had happily not had to consider recently. I am still a bit shell-shocked that we may have to go through this on future occasions so I am recommending that he start a stockpile when we get back. Kenneth rang quite concerned about Anne who is unwell, he sounded a bit panicked so I told him to ring me back before midnight with an update.

April 20, 2019

The bro rang me back to say that Anne is ok, just off colour and not answering her phone. It gives me a warm feeling that he rings his sister on the other side of the world when he needs a bit of support. A pity it is so difficult to visit, bearing in mind that the last time I went I ended up in an ambulance in Dublin from a rough landing and the previous time I was sick in both Dubai and in Halifax from the flights, the latter event landing me in Leeds Infirmary and unable to walk for 3 days afterwards. Why did I get stuck with this bloody thing when I so love to travel? I guess because I didn’t get cancer, diabetes, epilepsy etc etc and we all need to take a turn.

Made morning tea for guests of minitoasts with smoked salmon, simnel cake, choccy biscuits and walnut crescents, accompanied by raspberries and grapes. John polished the silver tea service and at the appointed time of 11am we sat down self-satisfied. By noon I had sent our expected guests a text and by 12.30 we decided to have ourselves a high tea on our lonesome. No reply to the text so who knows what happened. However the floor is swept, the loungeroom tidied and although the minitoasts had gone soft, we have biscuits and cake galore. Sent a boxed assortment home with John to give to Chris, seeing we won’t be around here for long. The possum and the twin magpies are pretty keen on minitoasts, soggy or not.

April 21, 2019

Very odd that our expected visitors from yesterday still haven’t responded to a (nice) text about their absence. I guess we will know what happened in the fullness of time. I flinched on looking at the volunteers’ website today, psyching myself up to go back after Easter, when I saw a public query to a devoted volunteer which gave her name and then ‘did you forget service today?’ It is so easy to ask the question privately and save embarrassment, but no.

Just finished reading Gravity is the Thing by Jaclyn Moriarty, which was donated to my street library by the author with a kind note. Straight away I wanted to like it for the author’s sake, but didn’t know if I would. It basically tells the story of a woman who receives in the post anonymous random copies of chapters from a self-help book called The Guidebook. They begin when she is 16 and continue for decades, until an invitation arrives to attend a seminar on a remote island in Bass Strait. I was intrigued enough to push through some early doubts, as a rationalist I was constantly wary that it was going to tip over into the sort of ‘new age’ cultish flim-flam that I loathe. But it turned out to be a novel of personal relationships rather than the supernatural ones I had feared. Still percolating on the book but certainly glad the author dropped in.

April 22, 2019

Well the missing guests mystery has been solved: She had a flu vax a few days ago and came down with a bad dose of flu (we are assured you cannot get flu from a flu vax, so she was likely getting it anyway). Before collapsing into bed she asked her husband to phone me and put off our morning tea……he remembered last night. Good that there was no serious issue, something we were a little concerned about. During the night I remembered 4 things I had still to pack but couldn’t be bothered getting out of bed to write them down, so I memorised the starting letters, SSMM. Out of bed this morning I packed the skirt and stockings, but the MM was lost. Just now recalled it was money and MYKI card, the Victorian public transport card. Ha, my genius worked after all. Have received emails from our hotel giving 7 day weather report (brrrr) and suggestions of shows to see in Melbourne, so it appears we are actually going. When we booked on New Years Day is was a stab in the dark when choosing the dates, deciding when John would be well enough and able to walk far enough to enjoy the trip, both things came good in the last couple of weeks.

April 23, 2019

Up at 4.30am to get to Central in time for the train and had a very new experience. The cabby refused a $5 tip, yes, refused point blank. I’ve never had that occur in Australia before, but I have in Vanuatu where accepting a tip is considered to be like begging and a no-no. I pressed it on him because, at my request, he had driven slowly so as not to set off my dicky balance system, ‘what’s on the meter is fine’ he said. I really enjoyed the trip though at almost 12 hours it was at the upper limit of my travelling ability. Stemetil, you are my friend, though I was also careful to only go to the loo when we were stopped at a station and John did the few trips to the canteen for a cuppa as we took our own lunch, having been affronted by railway food in the past. One of the many benefits of train travel is that you see the country unimpeded by ugly advertising signage, petrol stations and the general Australian highway ugliness, while we just saw farms, forests, animals aplenty and cute little stations. We had a competition (always have to have a competition) for the first to see various animals and I won three times, especially pleased by seeing the one and only kangaroo. The prize for that was a cocktail or mocktail of choice at a Melbourne bar so I’ve chosen Rooftop as my venue and have that to look forward to. Sitting across the aisle from us on the train was no other than train buff Tim Fisher, travelling as he regularly does from Albury to Melbourne for his cancer treatment. Our welcome at Treasury on Collins was more than warm, a hand written welcome card in our room was signed by all the people who had looked after us last year when we were here. Every time we leave the room we are greeted by name and even knowing it is excellent PR on their part doesn’t diminish the fact that we feel as if we’ve come home to an extended family. I’ve never stayed in another hotel like it from that point of view.

April 24, 2019

Actually slept in which is rare for me on holidays. Had a leisurely buffet breakfast but choked on reading that the Liberals have done a deal with the frightful Clive Palmer. Don’t they know that lying down with dogs means getting up with fleas? I guess they do, but they are a ‘win at any price’ party. We got the tram up to Her Majestys Theatre to book for the musical Muriel’s Wedding and were just buying excellent seats for the matinee tomorrow when someone on the net jumped on them, so we were relegated to buying similar ones on Sunday which cost $75 more, quickest $75 I’ve ever blown in my life, just 2 seconds too late. Then we boarded the free tram which circles Melbourne, setting down at various destinations along the way. Travelled out to Docklands and wandered around the waterfront, also having a look at the giant ferris wheel which is an illuminated sign that you’ve reached Melbourne on the railway. Chatted to some folks at the dockside who worked for the AFL and were eating lunch in the sun. The area was pretty quiet considering the many multi-storey office blocks nearby. Managed to get the right tram back to the hotel, picking up a box of sushi to eat on the mezzanine for a late lunch. Decided to eat in at the excellent restaurant The Bank tonight, we only need a snack, but will have a full meal there with Dally and Remi on Friday night.

April 25, 2019

Trammed to the Museum for the Revolutions: Records and  Rebels exhibition, about the social changes of the 60s, but discovered we were two days early. However it wasn’t a wasted trip as we were fascinated by exhibitions related to geology, evolution, insects and more, could spend days there and will hopefully go back to see the one we came for. By then it was 3pm and we headed towards a French creperie for a late lunch but I took us to the wrong end of Flinders Lane and it would have been 4.30 by the time we walked to the other end, so we went back to Treasury and ate the complimentary bread rolls with Vegemite and peanut butter instead. John’s nephew in law rang to confirm that we are invited to Castlemaine at the end of our Melbourne sojourn on Tuesday, so we will stay overnight there, then hopefully go on to Daylesford and Hepburn Spa. Dined at nearby Red Spice Road and were suitably impressed by the decor and certainly by the food. The waiter kindly advised me that the dish I ordered was very large and offered a half size portion, which I struggled to finish, so we were thankful for his foresight. I never buy Murdoch papers but am happy to read them when they cross my path. At breakfast here the only options are the Herald Sun and the Australian and I am amazed by the consistency of the reporting and opinion, just anti-Labor in everything. I could write the news stories and editorials from my bed, without searching out the facts much at all. Just get the general gist of what’s happening from the ABC news and then draw anti-Labor conclusions from everything. I would do it for a fun project and save them heaps of money.

April 26, 2019

Took a couple of trams to get to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the Murano glass exhibition, divine, and then wandered through the European galleries particularly admiring a couple of Dutch masters from the 1600s, not to mention the Rembrandts. Repaired to the upstairs tearoom to feast on a raspberry frangipane tart, one of the best I’ve had, similarly with John’s mango cake, up there with KOI and Renaissance. I had remembered how wonderful the tearoom was on our last visit, quite a difference to the cafe at the Museum yesterday which was so bad that John just had a chai and I had nothing. Then we took the number 1 tram to Melbourne Beach, a dead end and blowing a gale off the water, walked back through Albert Park as John wanted to see Tobruk House, home of the Rats of Tobruk Association, of which he is a member. Sadly it was all locked up, I think it only opens for meetings and events, but he was very pleased that he got to see it anyway. I showed remarkable restraint in not going inside any of Albert Park’s wonderful clothes shops, all clearly way out of my price range but just the sort of clothes I love.

April 27, 2019

Had a lovely evening with Dally and Remi, drinks on the mezzanine, dinner at the hotel restaurant and later icecream in our suite, where we repaired to chat into the evening. It is a great pity that we don’t get to see each other except on the rare occasions that we come here and the odd times Dally is in Sydney for the football finals or the Dally M awards. This morning we went to Como, a historic home in Toorak and ended up staying there all day, first to wander round the gardens, then to do a tour of the house, then a late lunch in their excellent cafe. Took the tram to the end of the line and ogled at the interesting housing, much of it Tudor style, before returning to the city on the same tram late in the day. Now I need to try to work out how to use our fandangled combined washing machine and dryer which has options such as ‘air wash’, ‘outdoor dry’, ‘bubble soak’ and ‘intensive cold’. An engineering challenge to work it out. This having fun is very tiring I’ve discovered so I doubt I will even drag myself to the mezzanine for free drinkies tonight.

April 28, 2019

Last night we sought out a recommended Italian regional restaurant up a very dismal looking lane and it turned out to be a real winner. In an old motor garage, now with an open kitchen, we had a wonderful dinner. As we left we saw a couple smooching in the dark lane and as we passed one of them bid us good night, it was one of the waiters with his boyfriend, or perhaps just a passing boy, who knows. Today we went on a wander through some of the arcades nearby, one of which happened to house the Hopetoun Tearooms so John dragged me in for a superb morning tea, 127 years owned by the same family means they are doing something right. It reminds me of Betty’s in Harrogate.

This arv we went to the matinee of Muriel’s Wedding the Musical. My expectations weren’t too high as I wasn’t sure about the shift from film to stage, but it was fabulous. Great fun with some terrific performances. Loved the father character, a cross between Clive Palmer and Barnaby Joyce, who insists on reading out a condolence email from Scott Morrison at his own wife’s funeral. He is everything we all hate, corrupt, bombastic, ego-driven and generally ghastly. A developer in other words.

April 29, 2019

It suddenly hit me why I found Muriel’s father so familiar, he is a dead ringer of my friend’s father. He was a corrupt local government official, taking bribes, treated his family in a similar way and even now as an old man berates those who care for him. Sheesh, I will think of the show now on the rare occasions we cross paths. A malignant narcissist is how his dutiful son describes him.

We agonised yesterday about whether to stay on in Melbourne or continue on to Daylesford as planned. Our decision was made for us when we discovered that there is only one room left in the hotel and it is double the price of the one we are in. So I hit the net and got us an apartment on Daylesford Lake which looks delicious and is directly on the walking track around the lake. We spent most of the day at the Revolution Exhibition, and found it exhilarating. Music of each period of the 60s is piped through headphones as you walk through the exhibits covering all the social upheavals of the period, race relations, the Cold Wat, Vietnam, Woodstock, the Beatles, the moon landing  and so much more, told through film clips and original items of importance. Wonderfully evocative of the period, we had a ball.

April 30, 2019

Out of the Treasury and took a cab to the train but although we were there in time for the 11.20 to Castlemaine we couldn’t find the right platform until just after it disappeared. Then we were directed to platform 6 for an hour’s wait but suddenly the destination disappeared from the board, the train having been redirected to platform 7. Such are the joys of travelling in a system with which you are not familiar. Serendipitously our hostess Julia was sitting on the seat next to us on the train, returning from Melbourne. Grant picked us all up at the station and later took us on a Cook’s tour of Castlemaine, stopping at an antique shop with lots of interesting gear. Spent a relaxed evening over a delicious dinner and discovered we are all of the same ilk as regards politics and social issues. The house overlooks the old gold diggings and it is easy to imagine those hard and often dangerous lives lived right where we sleep in comfort tonight.

May 1, 2019

Julia and Grant’s house on the edge of Castlemaine has a particularly interesting feature. Rather than a sewer or septic system it has a tank which receives all waste water and sewage, said tank inhabited by 200,000 worms (or was it 20,000, no I think the larger figure is correct) which have the task of digesting all of the waste and making it suitable to irrigate their large orchard comprised of one of every type of fruit tree. Whether the worms pass through some sort of tiny counting gate or whether this number is an estimate remains to be elucidated, but I find the concept fascinating. So the little workers aren’t killed off there is special soap, shampoo and toothpaste, so they must have a good Union.

We drove here in style in our hosts’ Mercedes removing the two issues of an excess of luggage and potential rain. Booked in to our apartment which is delightfully situated next to the lake at Daylesford but John was a little disappointed that the trees hide the water a bit. Stephen helpfully suggested a chainsaw but sadly, while we brought much else, a chainsaw we are lacking, However we both enjoyed a walk around the lake in sprinkling rain in the afternoon. We had asked three random locals about the best place for dinner and all suggested the Farmers Arms pub a short drive out of town so we obeyed and had a delicious meal there, lamb shanks for sir and a  fillet of blue eye for moi.

May 2, 2019

We had a massive storm during the night and one of the big trees between us and the lake was hit by lightning and broken in two. I think John underestimates his powers, clearly whoever is running the show had heard his minor complaint of yesterday. Spent a long time at The Mill, a huge building full of antiques and collectables and bought a couple of small bits including a book on Victorian decoupage for Heather with all the ‘scraps’ provided in sheets in the back. She used to love decoupage but I may be 30 years too late. Then we went to the Convent Gallery a beautifully restored building owned and run by artist Tina Banitska. She bought it from the Catholic Church which had run it into the ground, allowing the leaking slate roof to stay without repair for decades, causing massive damage to the fabric of the building. With common interests in architecture, art and decor we all hit it off and talked for some time while she showed us around the building. John has been looking for an feature artwork for his new abode and found it here, a large oil by Yolanda Pilepich who has been chosen to hang in the Archibald on numerous occasions. Some negotiations re freighting it to Sydney ensued, with the result that John and the artist are paying half each. The celebration continued with dinner at the divine Lake House which was everything it is cracked up to be. A great day.

May 3, 2019

Drove to Franklinford, Mt Franklin and Hepburn Springs where we walked through the spa area and discovered that the baths are open late on Friday nights. A trip to Vinnies produced a swimming costume, the only one piece in the shop. John bought me a surprise in a large box (I have strong suspicions of what it is) and took it to the Convent to see if it could be shipped with the painting. This proved problematic for some reason and although they still have the box I suspect the cost will be too great so we’ll have to lug it home on the train. Later John drove me back to the spa where I savoured all but one of the six pools, having no desire to try the freezing cold one. With two steam rooms to try as well it was a 90 minute luxury even though I didn’t have a massage. It’s goodbye Daylesford in the morning, nooooo.

May 4, 2019

Finally sorted out the cartage issue for the box containing my ‘surprise’, poor John didn’t have much luck keeping it that way. Tina has agreed to having it couriered with the painting. Went to a liqueur distillery and chose a bottle for a gift but the owner nearly cost himself a sale by talking too much instead of letting me taste the bloody things, but once I got to try them they were very appealing. Drove to Castlemaine and had a barbecue lunch with Julia and Grant, returning their car in one piece was a great relief. After a slight diversion to see the nearby mob of kangaroos we caught the train to Melbourne and John expressed the view that he’d had a great holiday but would be happy to be home. I said I would be happy to book into the Treasury for another fortnight and as a result he took me there for a comfortable break out of the cold wind and I downed a raspberry cocktail during happy hour. Melbourne’s northern suburbs could occupy a whole section of my planned photo series on The Great Australian Ugliness. Would anyone want to spend time looking at something so depressing though, that is the question?

May 5, 2019

Managed a good sleep on the train but I’ve realised that is probably my last sleeper journey. Just getting up and down the ladder is an issue in a rapidly moving train but the bigger one is the fact that despite being drugged up I was still feeling sick when I had to move around to go to the loo or just standing to dress or undress. At least on a day train I can just sit still. However we got here in one piece and managed pretty well considering. I’ve decided Sydney’s southern suburbs rival Melbourne’s northern ones in hideousness, coming out of darkness to them was a dour welcome. It is not just the residents I worry about but the acceptance in general of ugliness without even being conscious of it, so the next generation thinks it is normal (or some may go to the other extreme and become interior designers or editors of Vogue, who knows?). I guess most big cities have these areas and we can’t all live in Switzerland, but we could surely do a lot better than the the monstrosities we build now, not even softened by a tree.

May 6, 2019

Coming home on the train on Saturday night I stayed up till 11.30 to finish The Shell Seekers, partly because I was dying to find out how it finished and partly because John had started reading it and I wanted to give it to him. I had put off reading this book of 671 pages so soon after finishing War and Peace, but now I am very glad I started it, became obsessed with it and finished it without any consciousness of length. An old woman looks back at her life and, accepting her mistakes and her sorrows, makes decisions which will allow her to live the remainder of her time in peace. Perhaps the subject matter was fitting for me at 72, but this book offered so many delightful visual images of the sea, of weather, of gardens, of artworks that it was a pleasure to read for these alone. The main import for me was of acceptance of circumstances, this clothed in delicious language. But Penelope, the main character, refuses to accept being bullied by her children, greedy for an early inheritance, or to accept society’s narrow expectation of social mores. She just bakes bread, gardens, entertains friends, attends to the prosaic tasks of daily life and quietly does as she pleases, listening to all views, even from those who would have her live her life differently. She decides who will be her friends and who will be family, this not necessarily decided by biological links. Inspiring, it will go on the shelf to read again despite the fact that I am gradually letting books go. I hope John will get as much out of it as I did, considering how many of the situations she faces intersect with his own.

May 7, 2019

In email communications with the local Greens before and during our holiday, I offered to work at the pre-polling booth as often as I can, possibly for part of each day, starting yesterday. No response since May 5 so today I wandered up there to help and no Green to be seen. Even that buffoon Palmer had someone there. I had asked for how-to-votes to be delivered to me or to be given an address to access them but so far no dice. I’m afraid it has long been my experience that both folkies and left-wingers are equally late for every turn-out and pretty slack in the organisation department, they are the same pool of people I suspect. Anyway another email has received a response asking if I am still available to help, one hopes the how-to-votes don’t arrive on the 19th. I am getting a bit old to relocate to New Zealand yet I can’t bear to stay here for another three years if Scumbo wins. After the success with The Shell Seekers I’ve started an even bigger novel, I Know This Much Is True which comes in at  over 900 pages. It tells the story of identical twins, one of whom is schizophrenic. It shows how this manifests in odd behaviour in his childhood and teenage years until he is finally committed. The ‘sane’ brother, more truly ‘sanish’ I think, has a love/hate relationship with his seriously disabled brother, ranging from acute embarrassment and sometimes mortification at his brother’s public behaviour yet he has an immutable loyalty to him. It also covers issues of female disempowerment and domestic violence towards both the twins and their mother. And I am only a quarter of the way through! I see a tear-jerking ending coming over the horizon, how can it be otherwise?

May 8, 2019

I’ve come down with a rotten cold after coughing since Saturday. Had to dose myself up as I got a start at the pre-polls this morning and didn’t want to renege. I was with a good group of friendly guys. One Labor, 2 Liberal, one Conservative and 2 Palmer United. The Conservative guy explained to me that there is no such thing as climate change, it is the result of god’s punishment and a sign of the end times. He goes to Israel every year to pray for that country, god apparently not listening here but he was polite and earnest and I was happy to give him a hearing. The Labor guy is an ex school principal and a Parramatta councillor for decades, decent guy. Everyone was thoughtful and respectful until about noon a Liberal woman turned up to help. She was overbearing, lecturing us about her views and then she settled in with the others, speaking about us behind her hand, the Labor guy just grinning to me and rolling his eyes. On the basis of just one shift, hardly a scientific sample, I will stick my neck out and say Clive will be elected, many people came clutching his how to vote with them and refused to take any other. A bus driver pulled up and yelled out ‘Go Clive’ to the happy workers in their yellow caps. No One Nation folks were present to compare the response, but no one asked for them either. I predict Clive is on a roll. I worked into the afternoon and then came home and crashed, hopefully I’ll be able to do it again tomorrow, without the narky Liberal woman.

May 9, 2019

I’ve been thinking about how one person can so easily influence a group, for better or worse, like that Liberal woman yesterday who spoilt our happy little band, just by giving the others permission to be their lesser selves. I think that’s exactly what Pauline Hanson does, and to a lesser extent Clive Palmer, letting people know that it’s okay to be selfish, racist, bigoted, saying ‘we know you really feel that way and it’s okay, we do too’. Depressing.

Today the Greens candidate Lawrence came and told me I shouldn’t be there as I was too sick, but I told him I’d do the three hours and then go home and fall into bed, which I did. Also met the Liberal candidate for Greenway and saw him showing his helpers a full page ad for Palmer going into tomorrow’s Daily Smellygraph. How did he get hold of it today I wondered? He pointed out gleefully that if Palmer gets 10% of the vote he (the Lib) would win the seat from Labor. Depressing again. Highlight for me today was a little old Chinese man with his wife. ‘How I vote?’ he asked me, so I gave him the paper and the spiel for the Greens. ‘But how I vote?’ he asked again and I realised he didn’t have a clue what to do. For some reason that made me want to cry or at least give him a hug, but I restrained myself and took him inside instead, explaining his difficulty to the staff. Goodness knows who he voted for but I loved the fact that he was trying so hard to work out our way of doing things, even with his limited English bless him.

May 10, 2019

Last evening I was heating something up in the microwave when suddenly the kitchen seemed to tip up at a 45 degree angle and I had to hang onto the utensil rack on the wall to keep from falling over. I was so dizzy and sick I just went straight to bed and stayed there till this morning, so going up to pre-polling today was out of the question. John is going for me tomorrow and I should be fine by Monday. Yesterday two people refused my handout on the grounds of ‘death duties’. I was a bit puzzled so I just did an internet search and found it came from a story in the Smellygraph which some Liberal tool in Queensland paid to put on Facebook! I guess we just have to accept that if they can’t get you fair and square they will write fake news, one even had the figures for a typical house and car. All humbug. Some days (most days) I wish Murdoch had never been born, how much better the country would be, not to mention all the other places his evil pollutes.

May 11, 2019

Ah, I can breathe and the world isn’t tipping sideways, hurrah. John did my shift at pre-poll this morning and spent much of the time talking to the local member Alex Hawke. They stuck to what they could agree on (pre-poll period should be shorter, schools should teach civics etc) so he found it all ok. My lovely next door neighbour Arvind saw John coming back in his Greens T shirt and said, looking at me with a grin, ‘I should have known’. Turns out he is a Labor man, Mercedes notwithstanding, and he gave us a little talk about needing to always look out for ‘the people at the bottom of the pile’. I’ll drink to that. My gardening friend Chris was going to come up with John today but he has the wog now, so that’s out of contention for a bit. Our Mother’s Day lunch here tomorrow is off for obvious reasons and it will be a while before it happens, as next weekend we go to Sheila’s at Wentworth Falls and then Davina and fam go to Fiji. I am asking for an election win as my gift please, please.

May 12, 2019

John came over and cooked me some porridge and then we watched Insiders. Quiet compared to what was planned but as much as I felt like doing and I was very thankful. Then he moved a painting for me, which involved drilling into a beam so I was thankful for that too. At about 2pm a knock at the door revealed the man from Pearson’s Florist with a beautiful display of chrysanthemums, roses, tulips and carnations along with other mysterious flowers I didn’t know, this from Davina and Millie. It was a different day to the one planned but perfect for the circumstances.

May 13, 2019

Tales from the hustings: First thing my Liberal pal confessed to me that he isn’t the party member, his wife is, and he thinks a lot of Greens policies are ‘pretty good’, next the Palmer United helper tells me he handed out for the Greens last council elections. This is getting complicated. The Palmer candidate tells me he isn’t from the area and is being put up in a motel for 3 weeks, presumably on Palmer’s coin. When I got home I checked for mail and there was candidate Roy’s face beaming up at me from the bottom of the mailbox, Palmer’s coin again. Met the Labor candidate today and both he and his wife seem lovely people. But unfortunately today we got yet another party joining the happy bunch who all seem to get along so well. Rise Up Australia has risen up from the swamp and landed next to us. Is someone testing me? Must I really mix with Danny Nalliah’s racist gay bashers? Yes, it seems I must, but I draw the line at initiating conversation. It is enough to keep quiet as she hands out to immigrant, even Muslim, voters who presumably don’t know the ugly policies these people are pushing.

May 14, 2019

Today I managed to get myself next to a new Liberal helper, who regaled me with his story for 3 hours. Have you heard of Princeton? Yes I have. Well I have a doctorate from there. Oh lovely. I have worked in important jobs in the UAE and in China. That’s interesting. My 5 children all have postgraduate degrees and one is a diplomat. You must be pleased. All my grandchildren are really smart and they are all healthy. That’s good. At this point I moved to the shade of a tree but he came with me. I breed bonsais, I’ve got 200. That’s nice. I am Vice President of the policy committee of the local Liberal branch. Okay. The only question he asked was my name. When my shift ended he told me I was a good listener.

May 15, 2019

I have actually voted. I agonised about my Senate vote below the line. Once it was so simple but in these days of preference whisperers and people getting in on 19 and 76 votes you need a mathematics degree at least to be sure you’re not doing something that can go wrong. Antony Green said this morning that left-wing small parties’ preferences flow on but right-wing ones tend to exhaust, unfortunately he didn’t explain why, so I have emailed him asking how that works. My Liberal pal is still trying: I have Aboriginal ancestry (this I believe, he has quite a similarity in looks to the MP Wyatt, whose demise I am hoping for this election). Have you heard of John Bunyan, he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress? Yes I have. He is one of my ancestors too, I have all the genealogy to prove it. (This explains a lot, his book and Gulliver’s Travels were equally the most boring books of my youth, shall I tell him….no, perhaps not). He asks a second personal question: how old are you? I tell him and as I leave he remarks You may be a Green but you don’t look a day over 65, I think that was a compliment. Roll on election day.

May 16, 2019

Warning, whinge ahead: I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Although I am definitely over the worst, every little action tires me out. I have been out picking up branches off the back lawn and putting them into the bin, a job that a month ago would have taken 10 minutes, now it takes 20 and I am completely buggered at the end of it. I am going to complain to the Prof next week but he always says ‘the exhaustion is the hardest thing to fix’.

But on the positive side: I didn’t see Mr. Liberal ‘Have You Heard of Princeton?’ today, woo-hoo. I sometimes wonder why I put up with so much bullshit from people but I think I have two modes, very patient of people’s foibles most of the time or else, when it is a life and death issue like Vietnam, Iraq, Manus, live exports, capital punishment etc, I go straight into ‘turning over the tables in the temple’ mode. I respect the right of others to have a different view to mine, but once the issue crosses a certain line I am happy to hassle politicians, swear, yell, protest and generally make a pest of myself. I don’t consciously think about where that line is, but I am immediately aware when it is crossed.

Just had a message from my friend Shelley, she is turning off her husband’s life support this afternoon after his heart attack last weekend. I had no idea it was that serious as the last message talked of surgery. They are much younger than me, have six kids, grandkids and are such decent human beings, tirelessly working for the homeless. I was tempted to delete my whinge above, but decided to leave it and just be very conscious of how this news puts everything into perspective. Kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.

May 17, 2019

Well you have to hand it to Hawkie, he timed his demise to have the maximum effect on Labor’s chances in the election campaign. What we will miss is a politician being himself, not a stage managed cutout. I remember his being asked if he had given up womanising and he snapped back instantly ‘virtually’. Who in politics or in life thinks that quickly when put on the spot by a critic? Certainly not Shorten who has the sort of vocabulary and speed of response typically found in someone who came to education late, even though that was not the case. Hawke had that rare ability to both accept his own faults and be quite open about them to those who would take him down, thereby defusing their attacks.

Today I was seriously thinking of cancelling my hosting of book group here next Friday night but suddenly realised it’s a fortnight away, hurrah, I will surely be up to it by then. A police helicopter is circling over my house noisily as I write this, how incredibly lucky we are to be assured that no-one is aiming guns down upon us, something much of the world would need to consider.

May 18, 2019

I write this at 3.33am on the 19th, unable to sleep after a shit of a day. On our way to the mountains we had a flat tyre, requiring a wait for roadside service followed by a wait at a tyre centre to have the huge nail removed and the tyre repaired. I had an urge to photograph three men there smoking together under a ‘this is a smoke free workplace’ sign, but resisted the temptation. John rang ahead to ask if he could visit his grandchildren seeing we would be only a few streets away from their home. This was agreed to on the proviso that he see them in the backyard and not go into the house. I had a pleasant hour and a half wander around Leura while he was visiting. However when he picked me up it emerged that, as is usual, the conversation quickly turned to his demise/his will/his funeral. The focus this time was on a claim of primacy to write his eulogy and a request for ‘paperwork’ to be supplied in support of this. I had hoped that one day soon there would be some focus on his survival against the odds and the hope of a happy life ahead but clearly this is not to be. I decided immediately that I want to relinquish my role as his executor in the hope that this constant pressure on him over many years is relieved, but he argued against that course, believing that it will continue in any event. We arrived at Sheila’s feeling somewhat beaten around the head and body but did our best to change the mood in order to enjoy watching our country put the past years to rest and vote in an alternative government. It soon became apparent that our fellow citizens are largely content with racism, selfishness, homelessness and inequality so we went to bed sad on a number of fronts. Just now I found a message from my friend Shelley that her husband has died after a heart attack last Saturday playing sport in a park with his family. A shit of a day for sure.

May 19, 2019

After getting to sleep about 6am I then didn’t wake up till nearly 9 and felt bad for Sheila creeping around the house with dormant guests. However we all raced to the telly to watch Insiders in the hope that last night was just a bad dream. Later Sheila put on a wonderful brunch and as with dinner we ate much too much, agreeing it was comfort food to assuage our grief of last night. I used to talk politics a lot in my shop, not overtly, but talking about particular issues. I generally found that the bottom end of society knew plenty about what needed to be done. Similarly the top end tended to be educated, aware of the shortcomings of the system and willing to trim their own sails for the good of the majority. However, the middle comprising the tradies and particularly those working as sub-contractors, were often the most mercenary, racist and politically conservative of all. These people are the ones I think who are largely responsible for depriving our grandchildren of the world we have enjoyed and now are wrecking. I curse them for it.

We had planned to visit a couple of John’s friends on the way home from the mountains but neither of us had the ticker for it today. When we got home John persuaded me that I should continue as his executor and I have agreed to that, for the moment at least. But I have also explained that the guerilla war waged against us both is getting to the point that I am wilting from the sheer weight of it on our shoulders. Over a decade is longer than many civil wars and I don’t know how the combatants in those manage to keep their spirits up when there never seems to be an advance.

May 20, 2019

Well the election disaster is taking some time to get over, it feels like there’s been a death in the family, the death of hope perhaps. I do feel that globally we are coming into a bad period worldwide what with climate change effects increasing, warmongering, financial pressures and Trump approaching an election year when he could do almost anything to be reelected. So I think it would be wrong for the Labor Party to move to the right, they need to stick to policies of principle and wait for the people to move towards them, which they will do in times of hardship. I am feeling bitter and twisted which does me harm and punishes no-one else. Liberal friends stay away! Hang on, I don’t have any so that’s an idle threat.

In a routine visit to Bob tonight I posited a theory of mine and was surprised to get agreement. I believe that our subconscious appraisal of a person can be a bigger influence on our opinion of them than the facts. I know there are a few people I just can’t come to like but would find it hard to explain why. I wondered to Bob if perhaps Bill Shorten has some form of dyspraxia that results in so many people disliking him. I gave examples such as his awkward running style and his strange descending diction which always falls at the end of every sentence, plus another couple of oddities. To my surprise his answer was that yes, he had noticed those things and thought there was ‘something medical going on there’. This would be enough to unnerve people who can’t quite work out what is wrong, perhaps leading to a feeling that he is untrustworthy?

May 21, 2019

Gardener Chris was sick again today so that little project didn’t happen. But I baked for the first time in weeks, cranberry and pistachio biscotti, a sure sign that I am getting better. However a visitor today sympathised that I had had so many skin cancers burnt off my face………except I haven’t, it’s just the lupus rash which has dogged me this past year and which I don’t bother covering with industrial grade makeup when I am home alone. I decided today that I need to buy some bookshelves for the garage to house the street library donations, now numbering quite some boxes. I could look at Freecycle and ebay but then there is the cartage issue, probably easier to buy some industrial shelving at Bunnings and put it together. Someone left a written note in the box today asking if I want to be part of a proposed new book group in the area, tempting, but geez if I am going to do more volunteering, keep going to court (which I have missed so much these past weeks) and keep on top of certain personal relationships which I vowed to attend to this year, I am not sure the hours are there. Or am I just badly organised?

May 22, 2019

Last night I got an email from a friend telling me that a book she has been writing has finally come to fruition and will be printed and online in the next month or so. This plunged me into negativity as the book is a collation of stories from taped interviews with various people done well over a decade ago. I was one of those people and the questions asked were all about our lives as we grew up. Bringing those stories to mind 12 or more years ago was upsetting but seeing them in written form is even more so. Perhaps I am a more private person now, I’m not sure. She mentioned my giving copies to my girls but that is the last thing I feel like doing right now. It affected me to the extent that at 2am I was watching old Louis Theroux stories on the teev (and wondering why people expose themselves like that in public, haha). It uses my maiden name and so can’t easily be related to me online, but I still feel a bit like being caught naked in the headlights.

We went up to Killcare via Woy Woy where we sat watching the pelicans awhile. Had a lovely afternoon and evening with Robert and Sue where we dissected the election result at length and sat at table for a long dinner discussion over some good red wine. I am finding it difficult to talk due to the recurrence of the dreaded vocal cord problems, but I took part as much as I could.

May 23, 2019

I think a good sleep (within sound of the sea I am told, but sadly I couldn’t hear it, however the view was superb) has led to my being more philosophical on the book issue. I understand that in most people’s lives this would be a compliment of sorts, in fact John is happy that his story is being told, so I need to try and loosen up about it, as best I can anyway. Robert’s sister Helen arrived at breakfast time for her usual Thursday visit so it was good to catch up with her, she has a good sense of humour and is fun to be with. We took off around 10 for my 6 monthly visit to the immunologist, who has unfortunately moved to Erina from Gosford, into a nasty block of retail units selling paint, lounge suites etc, a slight come down in ambience even from his previous humble premises. Usually I am just there for the results of copious blood tests and for a general checkup, but this time I have been quite sick for a while and was hoping for something more. However as I said to Robert before we left, I bet he will just double the medication, which is exactly what he did. Rats. I haven’t decided whether to actually do as he says, because these flare-ups generally last 4-6 weeks and it is over 3 weeks now, so perhaps I should tough it out and see if it follows the usual pattern and improves spontaneously. I can always fall back on more medication if that doesn’t work. He was so rushed today that unusually I was in and out in 10 minutes and I didn’t get chance to think it through while I was there. He might be the Prof, but I am the one who lives with this, so I get to make the decisions. Humph.

May 24, 2019

Yesterday on the way home we went to the dreaded Bunnings and bought four tall galvanised shelving units to house the ever-increasing stock of books for the street library which were sitting in many boxes all over the garage floor. So much for downsizing, I am upsizing in the book department and even more arrived today from a random lady who just knocked on the door with a bagful, the third donation this week. John is the assembler in this family but it has taken yesterday afternoon and all day today to put them together with the hundreds of nuts and bolts supplied. I cleared some space in the garage and stacked the books as he finished each one, but I realise that the people getting rid of books may exceed the number wanting them, so perhaps my car will never again see the inside of the garage and remain rusting in the drive as it has since the shop closed. I did find a few gems that I don’t own, including the memorable Suite Francaise, which will be coming upstairs to go into the ‘throw them out when I’m dead’ department. John spotted a Rosamunde Pilcher book that I hadn’t read so that is a definite keeper. So many books, so little time.

May 25, 2019

Aah, the trials of multiple forms of communication…. I have been watching the papers all week for notice of the funeral of a friend’s husband, dead from a heart attack at 58, also checking her Facebook page daily. Yesterday I reluctantly decided to email her about the arrangements but hadn’t heard back by evening. At 9.15pm I happened to check my Facebook and there was a message asking us to come to their home at 6pm last night when they were having a meeting of friends and family (I am not sure what such a meeting is called, but I bet it has a name, is it a wake, a visitation, a vigil perhaps?). Anyway she asked if I could bring a plate, but then it was too late by far. I had missed the message as I was only checking emails and texts. But we got to go to the funeral today, about 300 people there and 298 of them were Maori or Samoan, though John thought he saw a couple of Anglos going to the loo, but I think they were funeral directors. A spontaneous haka occurred outside at the end, I could hear it but was in the middle of dozens of tall and massively wide men so I only saw a sea of backs. The warmth in the company of Maori or Pacific Islander people is always uplifting to me and the sight of Shelley in a full length Maori feather cloak was really something.

May 26, 2019

Went to dinner at Michelle and Kevin’s place last night and it was a veritable feast of both good food and good company. Interesting to discover that Kev grew up just a few streets from me in Guildford, after coming from his grandparents’ home just a short distance from where John lived at Mosman. Kev and I went to different schools which is a good reason why we didn’t cross paths I guess. Having a dies non today, though I must admit there have been quite a few of those lately, but hopefully things will improve this week. Booked tickets for Josephine Bourne’s talk at the State Library on Wednesday night, Talking Deadly: Political Co-Existence in Australia in the 21st Century and I am determined to get there!

May 27, 2019

One of my hearing aids has gone pffft so I went for a drive to Macquarie University’s Hearing Hub today to get it repaired. Luckily I pay a yearly fee there which covers unlimited batteries and repairs, so it will be fixed in a week or so with no problems. As it is near KOI, the lovely dessert bar in Ryde, I took a detour for morning tea, but discovered it is closed Mondays. On the way back through Epping I stopped at a second hand clothes place and found a lovely jacket, a cardigan and a jumper. So a winter clothes sort out was in order when I got home and I found that moths had eaten into three of my (pretty old) jumpers, stored in a drawer with some moth killer that clearly is as useful as marshmallow hubcaps. However the moths weren’t entirely the winners, on one jumper I was able to mend a fist sized hole because it was  boucle wool which didn’t show my stitches, but the other two had to go into the bin, something that pains me beyond belief. Short of spraying them with  DDT, something that was actually done in the woollen mills of Leeds in the 40s, I am not sure how to prevent the new ones suffering the same fate. The ancient Egyptians believed that the moth was the carrier of the soul so I guess their woolly jumpers were pretty holey, and perhaps holy as well.

May 28, 2019

Christine came over for morning tea, also to collect the worn out jeans I promised to give to her friend who makes handbags out of them to sell for a refugee charity. Then I shopped for Friday night’s book group supper and had the Woolworths help lady quite confused by asking for taleggio cheese. What brand is it, she asked. I don’t know, it’s a type of cheese, not a brand, says I. Well whatever it is we don’t have it, she said somewhat exasperated.

Trying to work out the criteria for getting into the Morrison good books. Some combination of the following is the ideal: conservative, Pentecostal Christian and having been stood down in the past for corruption. Sussan Ley, Stuart Robert and Arthur Sinodinos all qualify for the last criterion, but good old Arfur is a moderate as well as having been up before ICAC so he gets shunted to Washington as ambassador. At least he should feel at home with the Trumpians and the further away he is from the gates of Long Bay Gaol the happier he must feel bless him.

May 29, 2019

John finally got to Ian’s home based computer class after many attempts. He has run these Q and A classes for 13 years now and some people have been coming all that time, which makes the point really that computers are something you never fully master. I took tea with wife Kathie during the class and in the course of chatting discovered that Ian’s daughter is married to the son of a pair of hard-nosed antique dealers whose style of doing business I deliberately chose not to emulate. Mmm perhaps the less said about them the better I decided.

Later we headed to town for Josephine’s talk at the State Library on Reconciliation which was excellent in one respect and depressing in another. She focussed on the backward movement of the Howard years and how much it set back the progress made under Hawke and Keating. Those days in a small smoky room in Parramatta in the 60s talking with the angry young Charles Perkins at Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs meetings came flooding back. Sad to say that so little has been achieved. John surprised me with dinner at Apollo in Potts Point afterwards, sitting with the beautiful people feasting on shared plates of taramasalata, saganaki cheese fried with honey and oregano, sardines with chili and roasted tomatoes plus yummy veggies. I think we were the oldest there by a factor of 30 years. Delicious meal and a glass of a superb Crawford’s Creek red, should be more of it.

May 30, 2019

Cooking today for book group tomorrow night so I didn’t go out apart from a walk to the corner shop for a few things. I am lucky that we got a doggy bag of sardines and veggies from Apollo last night so this little doggy won’t need to cook dinner tonight yet will dine in style, can’t wait. I am a different person to the last few weeks. It makes me appreciate how it must be for people who are sick all the time and can’t enjoy life. I am so lucky to be better and should learn to treat these periods as a holiday from usual activity instead of fighting it so much. I got an account from the immunologist in the mail, I was so pissed off with him that I inadvertently walked out without paying which was pretty funny, a real Freudian slip.

May 31, 2019

Went up with John for his GP’s appointment and Bob happened to comment about my immunologist’s appointment, about which he had received a report. When I mentioned that the Prof wants me to double my medication, he frowned and said ‘It’s not a good drug to be on for any length of time, doubling it is a very big dose and it doesn’t alter the progression of the disease, so I wouldn’t mind if you stopped taking it altogether’. Yes, go Bob, we think alike and as soon as I am over this little hump I think I will do just that. Spent the afternoon getting ready for book group and welcomed a smaller than usual number for the evening. The book was A Dry White Season, about life under apartheid and written at that time. Ruth spoke at length about her experience in Africa with the Grail and it was generally agreed that the book was, while depressing, a classic of its time. My voice collapsed with more talking than I’d done for a while, but we kicked on till 1am with Robert enjoying his usual whisky nightcap.

June 1, 2019

We are having trouble getting enough supplies of John’s antibiotic which he goes through at 8 tablets per day. The first drug he was prescribed became unobtainable, so we were advised to change to another similar drug which is harder on the liver, and he had no choice. That is now proving hard to source also and we tried 3 pharmacies only coming up with 15 days supply in total. Norwest Private Hospital kindly let us have another 15 days supply, so that takes the pressure off a bit, but it is a constant stress. It has been suggested that it is all going to China, but that seems hard to work out because they are quite able to manufacture it themselves. But then look at the powdered infant formula situation. Perhaps the residents prefer overseas produced drugs? I don’t know, but it is seriously weird to see a perfume shop in Castle Mall, commonly frequented by Chinese immigrants, with a window full of baby formula for sale. I went to see Dav and co in the afternoon and I am pleased to report that nutbrown Millie, just back from Fiji, was happy to see her grandma and seemed in fine form.

June 2, 2019

I happened to be looking for something in the bookshelf today and came across my old Australian Drug Guide from 1981. So I looked up the drug I am on for Sjogren’s which I’d never done before. It is recommended only ‘where simpler less toxic drugs are unsuccessful’. Mmm I thought to myself, I’ve never had the simpler less toxic ones, nor do I know what they are. It also recommends taking ‘1-2 tablets per day for several weeks, then reducing the dose to the ‘minimum effective level’ due to ‘adverse effects, particularly in the elderly’. Try the best part of 7 years I thought. Hearing and sight problems are particularly mentioned. So I think I am perverse enough to both ignore the Prof’s ‘double the medication’ advice and also to reduce the dose to zip. Ha, I feel better already. I am spoiled with choice of food today, sushi for lunch, celery and blue cheese for afternoon tea, all courtesy of book group leftovers. More treats are in the freezer so it will be a good week foodwise.

June 3, 2019

Went up to my mechanic for a pink rego slip for the car and the checks were done smartly with just new windscreen wiper blades needed. However when I went to pay the lady said it was okay, payment was done. I disagreed with her but noted that she was looking over my shoulder and when I turned to look the owner was across the service bay indicating to her ‘no charge’. He did this last year too I remembered, for some reason he likes me, as I do him. Will take him up the remaining biscotti I baked last week as he is Italian I think. Drove out to Windsor after that to visit Brian who was still abed at 11am, looking every bit the 93 year old that he is. Sometimes he is up and chirpy but other days I worry when he isn’t even interested in looking at what has been delivered for lunch. It must be so difficult when your much loved home is standing empty just a few blocks from the nursing home to which you are confined. Then on to get a bit of shopping at Aldi at Windsor and I took to wondering why it is a pleasant experience to shop there yet I try to get in and out of their Baulkham Hills store as quickly as possible. Then it occurred to me, the Windsor shop is freestanding with big windows while the Baulko one is artificially lit in the bowels of the shopping centre. Ambience plays such a big part in life for me, I would shop there more often if it were the light bright Windsor version, pity.

June 4, 2019

Not sure what the outcome of this will be but John went to RNSH pharmacy yesterday as the last resort source of the flucloxicillin drug he needs at 8 per day. We were told to try pharmacies first but if we were to fail there the hospital would supply 10 packs at a time, a month’s worth. When we were there last in May I recommended to John that he put the script in then and there but he said no, they’ve said they will back us up if needed. Famous last words! Yesterday he tried and the reply was that it is now all quarantined for inpatients and he had better see his specialist to prescribe something else. The something else is dicloxicillin which is totally unavailable. Watch this space.

Reading another novel set in the American west, The Road Home, and interested to find that there are many references to poor Swedish and Norwegian farmers in the area in the early 1900s, reminiscent of the many in Willa Cather’s My Antonia. A little reading reveals that about 800,00 Swedes alone were listed in the 1890 census, causative factors for their emigration being crop failure and rural poverty in that country coupled with very low land prices, advertised at $1.25 an acre, in the US. Landless peasants in the icy north must have found it all very tempting, especially considering the comparison of the climate, their cold and stony soil and the thought of freehold. Now I can more easily understand why my cousin, fathered by an American serviceman in WWII, had such white blonde hair. When as an adult she found her father’s family, sure enough they were from Scandinavian immigrant stock. But the book is more than historically interesting, it is one of those novels where you feel like marking lines on every page, not particularly because of the story, but because it has so many truisms or looks at life from a different perspective. The fact that the generations of the family at its heart include American Indians at various points spikes interest as well.

June 5, 2019

Decided this morning, after seeing a post that volunteers were thin on the ground for lunch service for the homeless at Windsor today, that I would haul my arse out there and cook. However I am still on the hunt for John’s drugs, not passing a pharmacy without calling in to ask for them. So I did a pharmacy run, ending in Windsor where I struck gold as eight packets had just been delivered. But of course the script was at Lane Cove so I rang John to get him to ring Bob to see if he could fax a script to the pharmacy to be picked up after meal service.

Off I went feeling very chuffed with myself about the drug haul and was overwhelmed by the welcoming response from clients, plus the prisoners and the prison officer who help on Wednesdays. Nachos and salad was on the menu so I helped the lone other volunteer with the cooking and was chopping a pile of onions when the boss arrived 20 minutes later. I deliberately took the worst job so as not to cause any problems with the other volunteer. ‘What are you doing here?’ the boss asked with a stony face. ‘Um, helping cook’ I answered lamely. ‘Well in future let me know in advance when you are coming’ was the reply. I hadn’t done so because I wasn’t sure if I would get there in time from the pharmacy run or if one chemist might say ‘we’ve got none here, but Penrith has plenty’ for example. I had two choices, say Fuck You and leave or else work out my three hours and not go back, I decided on the latter. Right now I feel like weeping but better to realise that for whatever reason she sees me as competition and go to work somewhere else, but boy I will miss the friendship of those beautiful people we serve. Back to the pharmacy afterwards and the script had arrived, for one box! Somewhere the message had been misunderstood, so I just hope they will hold the remainder till tomorrow when I will have to drive out again.

June 6, 2019

Great news, great news and bad news. To the greats first. A conference on social housing and homelessness is being held in Darwin for four days in August and one of the tenant networks that John belongs to is sending a volunteer, as well as some staff, as delegates. John voted for another man whom he considered more qualified than himself, but he has been voted in as the volunteer delegate. Hurrah! They are quite amenable to my accompanying him, of course at my own expense, so we will add on a few days and dodge crocs in the Northern Territory. If one reads the NT News, a complete rag that is the only paper in the territory, everyone is dodging crocs. Big news number two is that the Windsor pharmacy has managed to scrounge 10 boxes of his drugs between their three stores so I raced up there this morning to collect them. Crazily when I stopped off at the library on the way home I took the bag in with me in case my car was stolen, the drugs being more valuable than the car right now.

Now to the bad. A report published this week by the Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, a Melbourne think tank, postures that ‘there is a high likelihood that human civilisation will come to an end beginning about 2050’. The analysis was partly written by a former fossil fuel executive and the forward by retired Admiral Chris Barrie, Chief of the Australian Defence Force from 1998 to 2002. It sounded pretty dire but could it be beaten up just a tad I asked myself? So I sent the report to a scientist friend working in the climate change area for an opinion and of course he had already read it. Sadly his reply supported many of the predictions, with the proviso that the further out you go the more difficult such predictions are. He talked of desertification, extreme weather events, crop failure, mass starvation and systemic economic collapse. He is a night owl too so we ended up talking till nearly 1am and I can tell you none of it was good. Considering my granddaughter will be 27 at this point it made for a depressing scenario and also made me wonder if the Adani mine will make much difference one way or the other, as the prediction in this report is for at least 3 degrees C of global heating, which in turn could trigger amplifying feedbacks unleashing further warming. As ever it is the poor of the world who will suffer first and suffer most.

June 7, 2019

During the night I pondered on how I could have better handled my fateful attendance at meal service. I know that jealousy exists so I didn’t stop and chat with any folks beforehand, though they came over to me. But seeing the boss was late I was able to say all these hellos unobserved. Take the worst jobs I thought, tick, I did that. Don’t chat to the other volunteer while you are working, head down, bum up, tick. Don’t make any suggestions about anything, well I didn’t get chance even if I’d been inclined, so all clear there. No I decided, I really was clean in terms of looking like a threat, so I must humbly join the ranks of Shelley, Frank, Debbie and Sandy who have been cold-shouldered out to keep the boss’s fragile ego safe. Her general demeanour reminds me of Sybil Faulty’s words to Basil about how he treats the customers ‘You never get it right, do you? You’re either crawling all over them, licking their boots, or spitting poison at them like some Benzedrined puff adder’.  So be it.

Stephen just rang from Newcastle and said he has found some fluclox up there, whoopee. So we are going to ask John’s pharmacist to fax the script up to them. It would be fun if it weren’t so serious but it takes one’s mind off climate change, press freedom, Brexit, Trump, control freaks……….

June 8, 2019

Last night we met Michelle at Hickson Rd in The Rocks and went to see a wonderful performance of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with a stellar cast, led in my opinion by Hugo Weaving as Big Daddy. Prior to the show we ate together at Ventuno right across the road from the theatre. I plan to read the script again as I think it deserves more time for the weight of the lines to sink in. In one respect the characters are a pretty ugly bunch, but in another they all had differing reasons for their complex and difficult personalities, no black and white and lots of shades of grey. On the way I watched a bird constantly flying into a window which was reflecting the setting sun, eight times, one after the other. It was way too high to distract it and I was glad when the traffic moved on and I couldn’t see it any more. If it didn’t knock itself out it must have ended up with a hell of a headache. The play will always be linked in my mind with that bird, repeating the same mistake and never learning.

Today I went on another drug hunt scoring 4 boxes at Norwest Hospital and organising the prescription to be sent for 10 more that Stephen and Deborah sourced in Newcastle. Somehow I see myself going from shop to shop in Darwin in August as well, because the scarcity is not predicted to end until September. Keeps me out of the pub I guess.

June 9, 2019

The day got off to a fine start as when I arose my twin magpies were on the back verandah to say hi. I hand fed them some dates and that made the three of us very happy. Then I blubbered through Barrie Cassidy’s final episode of Insiders. What a great bullshit free PM he would have made. Off to town to mind Millie while her mum visited a friend in Blackheath and her dad worked on a conference presentation he has to deliver in Melbourne next week. We prammed up to Erskineville and then Newtown but she was getting pretty bored with that, so we had some lunch up there and then went to the park. She attached herself to the fathers of two different family groups and insisted they either chase her or hold her hand while she walked along some wooden beams. Her style is to just hold her hand out and keep saying please until they do it. It exhausted them and me over an hour and a half so we headed home after 4pm. One the way I was quietly wheeling when I heard a strong voice say ‘Millie is very happy grandma’ so the day was a success all round.

June 10, 2019

I need a noun for a person who gets dressed at 10am, admittedly after watching the news and making a few phone calls, then has a hot shower at 4pm to avoid putting heating on and gets back into jamies. No, slob is not the noun I was looking for, but thankyou for your input. In between I did a load of washing, penned and posted a card, sent off a claim to Medibank Private, baked a cake and a tray of chocolate biscuits, chatted to my neighbour, swept the floors and front verandah and read some of Boy Swallows Universe, so slob is a little harsh, not very harsh, but a little harsh. This last week I have had my mechanic do the car rego check plus wiper blades for nothing, then the dentist charged just the Medibank Private rebate of $63 on a bill of $153 and finally my optometrist quoted a low $50 to make John some glasses using old frames he had, a job which he’d been quoted $200 for. So I figured that’s the universe shining a light on me thrice (none of these would know if I am broke or Kerry Packer’s aunty by the way) so each of those folks will get biscuits tomorrow, the biscotti for the Italian mechanic and half of the chocolate biscuits each for the others. I deliberately made biscuits I hate so they will get the full half without my paw sneaking into the tin pretending to test them.

June 11, 2019

A spot of gardening before the watering ban came in at 10am, I finished at 9.55, feeling pretty clever. My gardener has been absent since we left for Melbourne, first with the flu and then a complication chest infection but today he began a new landscaping job, his first fulltime one for 5 years. In the same week he got the job he was told he is now cancer free. When I arrived at John’s I saw Chris’s new work ute sitting there and knew he would soon be in to tell us all about it. Sure enough he was there in a trice, proud in his work clothes emblazoned with the company logo. He will still do some work for me at weekends when he can, I am thrilled for him. Got an invitation to a wedding in August from a gay friend who had waited patiently for the law change. When I first met him over 15 years ago in Windsor his introduction was ‘hi, I’m Greg and I’m looking for Mister Right’. Well he sure did find him, a talented artist and a perfect match. I am chuffed that we have been invited and can’t wait for the ceremony at their farm at Webb’s Creek on the Hawkesbury.

June 12, 2019

Took John out for a movie and lunch today for his birthday. I chose one that is only showing at the Chauvel, Happy as Lazzaro, an Italian movie that had been given a 15 minute review discussion on the ABC and was highly regarded. John gave it 1 out of 5 so I made a bad choice there. Then we went to lunch at a new restaurant in Darlinghurst called Moon, a Thai place that has had high praise. The food was good although when I asked if he would rather have gone to bill’s (note small b) across the road he said ‘well I do like bill’s’. Luckily I am taking him to his very favourite restaurant for dinner on Saturday night, though that is a secret, so I guess that will make up for the questionable choices of today. He got some more detail about the Darwin conference today and we will soon need to sort out flights and accommodation, which gives me the heebie jeebies as I will need to dose up on lots of anti travel sickness meds and anti nausea meds that I have been prescribed, but have never had to test as yet. I guess I have to try flying again eventually and this is a place we can’t get to any other way. Think positive.

June 13, 2019

Decided to bite the bullet and get the Darwin trip organised as a number of the hotels on the conference website are already showing as booked out. Got Qantas flights with no problem and then an apartment booking for 7 nights, Darwin here we come. Got travel insurance for myself but no-one will touch John with a barge pole. The premium for mine seemed very cheap till I included cover for Sjogren’s and then it jumped more than three times, but still better than risking a decline if I had to claim. Just near the hotel is a place where you can swim in a pool full of crocodiles but inside a plastic protective cylinder. Sounds like something to drive the crocs mad with frustration and I for one won’t be doing it. John is a bit down today with the post-celebration blues, celebrating 11 years without a gift, card, phone call or text from his closest family on his birthday. He could do with a stiff whiskey or two, being a teetotaller has its downsides.

June 14, 2019

Got my hour of gardening done and settled in to watch Bob Hawke’s memorial service on the teev, with Bob E. featuring prominently, singing in the Philharmonia Choir. Quite a tribute, but with plenty of political hypocrites visible in the audience. Talking to my friend this morning whose father seemed to be the exact model for Bill Heslop, the corrupt local government official and father in the film and show Muriel’s Wedding. I was working up to tentatively telling my friend of the many similarities I had noted when we saw the show in Melbourne, when he suddenly announced that he thought the author of MW must have met his father, as the character was a double to him in both life story and personality. So it wasn’t just me making that association. They watch the movie occasionally on DVD and cringe at the likenesses past and present. He has been telling me for a while now that I should get as far away as possible from bullies because their behaviour will gradually wear you down like water on sandstone. I am listening to him much more seriously lately.

June 15, 2019

Met up with Carol at the State Theatre to see SLAM, a joint Australian-French funded movie, directed by an Indian. Set in Sydney it explored issues of race, culture, religion, male dominance, war, the press and much else as well. It was a 9 out of 10 for me and I’ve been thinking a lot about it since. Met John at the Hilton drive-through nearby, a convenient stopping place. Chatting to the doorman while I waited I asked about two cars stationed there in the drive- through, not a normal place for one to park. One was a Ferrari and the other a Lamborghini, so I had pretty much guessed the reason. ‘We let them park there because they worry about getting a scratch in the underground parking area’ he said. I shall keep it in mind if we ever go to the Hilton for dinner again, surely an old Toyota would also qualify? We Aussies are such an egalitarian lot.

Off to Bondi then for dinner at Sean’s Panaroma, John’s favourite restaurant and, along with Quay and Bennelong, part of my top three, though in Victoria Lake House gets the guernsey. Only 3 entrees, 3 mains and 3 desserts and these change every day, depending on what’s doing at Sean’s farm at Bilpin. He grows the veggies and raises the beef there. The food is simple in one way (just ‘roast chook’ for example) but you know it will be organic chicken from his farm and it will be the best chook you’ll ever taste. An entree called ‘farm plate’ is just carrots and parsnips cooked various ways. John was thrilled with his meal so it made up for some less than optimum choices on Wednesday.

June 16, 2019

I rarely venture into shopping malls, well as rarely as is possible, but I have been having trouble replacing my favourite black angora socks which are worn through at toe and heel. David Jones at the dreaded Towers told me they don’t stock them any more so I trudged to Myer who didn’t have them either, but all their socks and bras were 40% off today only. So I came home with 3 pairs of soft wool socks, sadly not angora, which are like a pashmina for the feet, and a few bras. I shall not darken their door again till next June sale. This prompted me to clear out my undie drawer where I found numerous pairs of lacklustre socks other than wool which I will now wear for gardening etc while my new ones will be for going out, so in the event that I am run over by a bus the doctors and nurses can say honestly ‘nice socks’.

June 17, 2019

Yesterday I went to the IGA supermarket in Castle Mall and found it somewhat empty so I asked the proprietor what was afoot and he glumly told me that they close at the end of June due to the fact that ‘apparently we don’t fit the demographic of this place’ indicating towards the majority of Chinese customers walking by. I commiserated, but wonder if the Asian supermarket in the complex will move into the site. It is always busy while the larger IGA is often nearly empty, which I guess is part of the reason I go there. I think the popular fruit shop, owned by Italians, is now the only non-Asian business in the complex which  includes a pharmacy, hairdresser, 2 butchers, fish shop, 2 bakeries, travel agent, perfumery, clothes shops etc. Today I went to donate some clothes to the Sallies in Baulkham Hills (I even ironed the pyjamas and T-shirt so they would look good) because what they can’t use is shipped overseas to be distributed in needy countries, whereas I know St. Vinnies just junk a lot of them. There was a particularly attractive antique Royal Doulton jug for sale and while examining it I was asked my opinion of the price by the manager. I told her it was overpriced and that I was happy to value any antique pieces that came in, as I used to do that for St. Vinnies in Windsor for many years. She was delighted but said the offer came too late, they close at the end of June due to high rentals in the area. Damn. It doesn’t make sense to drive all the way to Parramatta with donations. Changes usually seem to be for the worse says my pessimistic soul.

June 18, 2019

Spent a somewhat sleepless night thinking about Robert who had seizures for the first time yesterday morning at home. They were just about to leave to drive to Melbourne over three days with Sue at the wheel, so it was very lucky that he went off to collect the eggs before they left, otherwise it may have happened on a freeway somewhere. An ambulance raced him to Gosford Hospital where he remains, though what the next step is remains to be seen. It is one year on Thursday since he got the diagnosis of glioblastoma. On a more mundane but more controllable subject, I did my winter dyeing today. About 25 years ago I bought some navy and some black skivvies from David Jones and each winter I dye them back to their original colours, seeing they no longer make the DJs brand which I liked. I also dye my favourite skirt back to orange, though this year it still looks okay from last year’s effort. Jet black skivvies on the line give me inordinate pleasure every June, small controllable things always do. Unfortunately I spoiled the improvement I was experiencing after hurting my back last Friday weeding. Thinking it better today, I spent 15 minutes moving some bulbs from one bed to another and bingo! back to where I was last week.

June 19, 2019

Last night we met with Carol and Jack at Newtown to see the film Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love about the relationship between Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen. As the seats were bum rush and we entered close to the start time we ended up sitting on the steps near the back, as the only seats left were quite close to the front, we were thankful the staff didn’t get funny about it and just let us be. The movie only confirmed my opinion that ‘open marriage’ just doesn’t work for we humans. I will consult with my primate expert friend and see if our near neighbours experience the same issues of jealousy and insecurity that this always seems to provoke. Today Heather came over to sample the guacamole I’d just made and she asked about the film. I was surprised to discover that I couldn’t explain it without bursting into tears, so clearly it quite an effect.

Yesterday John and I planned that I would cook our dinner for tonight and take it to his place this afternoon, following which we would go to see a film which finishes its run today. When we spoke this morning I said ‘see you tonight’ and it was a complete surprise to him, he had no recollection of the planned meal, the movie date or the conversation even after I recounted it in detail. Occasionally I test him with ‘remember that $5000 I lent you?’ but he always seems to know that isn’t true. I guess I will really need to worry when he offers to return it.

June 20, 2019

Mmm, perhaps I need to stop suggesting movies for a bit. John’s subtle groans during The Heiresses let me know his opinion, but when I asked him afterwards he scored it a 1, but I am sure it would have been minus 1 if that option were available. We were the only people in the large cinema, which delighted John, saying that they had all been prewarned while I hadn’t. Amusingly at one point a torch was shone through the window of the baby crying room just behind us, a staff member was trying to see if we were actually still there, presumably so they could close up and go home. I did find merit in the film and would have enjoyed it more on my own I think. Perhaps men just can’t adjust to movies with none of their gender onscreen but having said that, it was a slice of life film and they are not everyone’s cup of chai.

I am on a cheese binge at the moment, made bean nachos for dinner last night with lots of parmesan, the night before I did barramundi and spinach au gratin, (I say phooey to the French idea that fish and cheese don’t mix), today I made Naxos cheese biscuits and intend to make cauliflower cheese soup tonight. Come to think of it, some crackers and cheese and a glass of red wine would go down well right now. See you.

June 21, 2019

Made a peach and coconut tarty-slicey thing and cauliflower cheese soup for tomorrow when the kids and Beth come for lunch. I will also do a cheese platter, did I say I am into cheese right now? Heather popped in for morning tea so I decided to cut the tart, and we had a piece each, only as a tester of course. She was feeling down because her next door neighbours had just had their big lemon-scented gum cut down, the one that is home to dozens of galahs each morning and evening and where the bats roost every night. I discovered that the moths had invaded the drawer where I keep my old house and garden jumpers (but luckily not the place where the good ones are kept, bless). So I sat down and mended massive holes in a grey and blue striped hand-knitted boucle number and found that the moths ate all the grey stripes but left the blue ones alone, even though the wool is identical. Perhaps they thought they were more hidden against the grey, who knows how their tiny little minds work?

June 22, 2019

My goodness, I agree with the Donald. My temperature is normal so I don’t have a fever, but it seems to me that his comment that 150 lives can’t equate to a piece of machinery which may or may not have been over Iran’s territory is in the realm of the bleeding obvious. But I will feel that way again tomorrow though I fear the Donald may have done a volte-face by then. What a repugnant creature he is, even when we are agreeing briefly. Leigh Sales, that most controlled of journalists, almost shudders when she has to mention his name on the 7.30 Report. Had Dav and Co here for lunch along with Beth and baby Eliot. I was able to give her the two metal door barriers I had for Millie, hurrah, two less things in the garage. I think my cheese fetish has been sated and now I can move on. Once a few years ago I had a fish craving that went on for many months and I couldn’t go more than a few hours without it, tuna sandwiches at lunch, fish every night for dinner and sometimes leftover fish or smoked salmon on toast for breakfast. Then it passed, perhaps it was an iodine deficiency, who knows.

June 23, 2019

I started the day with a bit of gardening determined to replant the remaining Clivias that had been dug out of the ground. But after doing only about half I got the familiar warmth in my back, just like a sun lamp, which warns me that I am going to be in trouble if I continue (and perhaps even if I don’t). So I abandoned that project and attended to my phone which has needed recharging way too often and this morning took an hour on the charger just to get the screen visible. Apple confirmed the battery was shot, saying they rarely see them as bad because people tend to get them fixed much sooner. They quoted $75 and 2 hours to put a new one in so I went home and returned later only to have them explain that they were terribly sorry but they couldn’t get the battery out safely and they were going to have to give me a brand new phone for the $75 they had quoted. Would that be okay, well yes my man, that would be perfectly okay. So another hour and a half later after all my contacts and emails and texts and apps and photos had been downloaded I was off with a brand new phone. I’ve never been able to fault Apple but they outdid themselves this time.

June 24, 2019

Well the Apple people haven’t knocked on my door to reclaim the phone so I guess it is mine after all. Did a bit more gardening, in a plastic poncho, looking like a berk but not having to water the plants in with rain falling. Then it was off to Windsor to visit Brian, although a few days after I do so he usually rings to say ‘I am wondering if you are okay as I haven’t seen you for a while’. He looks his 93 years at the moment. Some time back I defended Israel Folau only in the respect that he probably isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and perhaps we shouldn’t expect too much of him, however now he is getting under my skin expecting others to pay his legal fees and yet not suggesting he maybe divest one of his many investment properties to do so himself. I hadn’t realised that his church at Kenthurst (ooh, too close for comfort) is run by his father and only has 30 members, so perhaps the dad is the one who is pushing him in all this, trying to get a bit of publicity at the same time. Reminds me a bit of the start of Hillsong, also a father and son team, with the dad later proving to be a paedophile, which the son was fully aware of but kept mum about to the congregation until he was finally exposed.

June 25, 2019

Well, well. The value of self-confidence never ceases to amaze me. Years ago I was visited occasionally in the shop by a young man who, at age 15-16, liked to debate politics. He was probably the most committed right-winger I had ever come across in real life and I found it hard to work out where either his precocious aplomb or his views originated. His mother was neither interested nor astute regarding politics and his father died when he was young. By the time he was 16 he had left his public school (‘they can’t teach me anything I want to know’Smilie: ;) and had set up a computer repair business in his garage at home. He could baffle me with technology, but also inspire awe with his formidable debating skills. He intended to ‘get into politics’ to get rid of lefties (like me he implied). It occurred to me last night to google him and see what, if anything, he is up to now. He turned up immediately, as an adviser to a right-wing politician in the federal government. Not an office boy, nor a gopher, but an adviser. I dips me lid, to his chutzpah if not his opinions. I have no doubt that we will see him as a candidate before long, likely a successful one at that.

June 26, 2019

Went to the Archibald yesterday with John’s neighbour Anne and enjoyed it immensely, loved some of the Wynne and Sulman entries too, but as always there were entries in all three prizes that I wouldn’t take home as a gift. The children’s Archibald entries are among the best of all, such phenomenal talent. The Wynne seems to become more and more an Aboriginal art competition and one in particular of these entries I could happily have taken home, excepting that I doubt I have a wall big enough in my entire house, however I took a photo so I will at least have the image.

Had a surprise contact today. Months ago I wrote an online review of a book called Killer Instinct by an Australian psychiatrist reflecting on the killers he had examined in his career as a forensic psychiatrist, doing reports for court etc. I was very critical of the book, partly for the poor English and poor editing but particularly in relation to the way he talked about both the perpetrators and the victims. Perhaps he chose the wrong career I wondered as I read it. Today I got a message from the mother of one of the murder victims! She commented favourably about the review and strongly criticised the author’s professionalism. He revealed in the book the last words her daughter spoke to her killer, begging for a chance to see her son before she was murdered. This had not come out in the police interviews or the trial. Naturally she felt that was a massive breach of trust and it caused her immense grief to read it first in a widely published book. The author defended himself saying it was all public knowledge anyway, so she spent six months trying to get access to the whole transcript of his psychiatric reports, only to be told that they are private and she has no right to access despite being the mother of the victim. Private except what he chooses to make money from them in his book apparently. Not sure how to reply, it is such a sensitive situation, I think I will sleep on it.

June 27, 2019

Still thinking on my reply referred to yesterday, but it caused me to ponder the situation and made me wonder how the psych can write about any named person’s medical records. I can’t see how my doctor could get away with writing a book that included personal medical details, so how is it legal when the patient is a murderer, especially as they were required to attend the interview by law.

John is busy with street library construction, now he only has 6 and a half to go, which makes me wonder how he would squeeze in the potential architecture job he is looking into at the moment. I think all things considered I won’t see as much of him in the next 6 months as we are both used to. I shall have to take up pole dancing. Considering his cardiologist told him this week that she is very happy with his health and that he can do anything he wants now as long as he keeps up the drug regime, it makes sense that he fully takes up this second (umpteenth) chance at life. The wonderful book I finished in the early hours of this morning, Old Filth, mirrored the situation of John’s fractured upbringing. Apparently it was common at that time to send one’s children ‘home’ from colonial outposts to boarding school or to paid foster carers, they were referred to as ‘Raj orphans’. He has said that he barely heard from his parents in the 2 years he was alone in boarding school while they remained in Ceylon. Someone, early in our relationship, told me that John is ‘a bit odd’ but that was as a result of a consistent pattern of what today would be considered child abuse. Reading this book made me realise both how common the practice was and how devastating the results can be. Luckily I am ‘a bit odd’ too so we are perfectly suited.

June 28, 2019

My cake for book group turned out a bit overcooked while I was puzzling over my discovered lack of garlic, as I was simultaneously making homous. I always put finely grated lemon rind in it and didn’t want to grizz it a second time and lose the texture so I went to neighbours both sides on the bludge but no-one home. By the time I got back the cake was a bit over, it all went on the night though, so hopefully it wasn’t too bad. Such is the prosaic nature of days in Blacktown Heights when one’s life partner is carpentering. I really must get back into my usual routine, derailed by illness and not yet fully restored. Book group was fun in more ways than one, though I was the only wet blanket on the book, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. I thought it couldn’t decide whether to be a comedy or a tragedy, few books pull off being both. As a comedy it had some merit, but as a tragedy it didn’t engage. It was a little morsel between some really good books, not particularly mentally stimulating and ultimately forgettable. The boys met at Lillah where they had the banquet, which we had as a celebration meal when John got some good medical results some months ago. It was so generous that we took home two boxes of food and didn’t know how they did it for the price, but this time they went in the opposite direction and the boys left hungry, presumably they are making up for their earlier generosity.

June 29, 2019

I am not superstitious, but yesterday I heard news of three people newly diagnosed with serious illness. Two of John’s rellies, one with cancer and the other who’s just had open heart surgery and also a friend who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the same thing as John. I guess it is just our demographic but hearing of three in a day seemed unusual. Cross your fingers and touch a button was what we did in primary school to ward off bad luck and I guess it is as useful as anything else on offer. Hopefully their treatments will all be successful with no luck required, though they will each have a difficult few months ahead. Today I caught up on my book reviews and chores towards going away on Monday. My inclination when away is always to veg out and read and walk and paddle and look for critters and cook and eat. John’s is ‘who do we know who lives near there that we could invite over or visit?’ We have compromised and are doing both, but even this morning he was wondering if we have left anyone out. Our next trip is to Darwin and hopefully he doesn’t know a soul, but I am sure he is racking his brains to think of someone as I type. Bless his cotton socks.

June 30, 2019

A nice surprise this morning when Dav rang to say they were coming out to the Forestry Commission for a bushwalk and inviting me to meet them there. There is now an incredible tree top climbing adventure with ladders, swing bridges and zip lines all over the place. Looks great fun but probably past my ability now. Millie loved the trails and counting the signs on the sensory walk.

Last night Sue rang and had just been out to dinner with a friend and his blind daughter, who was a premature baby given pure oxygen in a humidicrib before they realised that it would cause blindness. I told her of an experience where blind triplets came into my shop and to my horror one picked up a razor and began to feel it. ‘Excuse me sir’, I said ‘but you’ve picked up something sharp’. ‘Yes, it’s a cutthroat razor’ he replied and promptly bought it. Today I googled those men and discovered that one was autistic and the other two graduated in law at Macquarie Uni, probably about the time I met them. The conversation with Sue made me realise that all my stories are from my time in the shop, when meeting interesting people was a normal daily occurrence. Today at the Forestry I was chatting to a chap who lives opposite but had never been there in the 19 years he’s lived over the road. Somehow my being trapped behind a counter loosened people’s tongues in a way that doesn’t happen often when you meet them in other ways, you just don’t get the same depth of connection. Many came for well over 20 years and my staff used to say I was a ‘crazy magnet’ because of the high number of schizophrenics and assorted strange people we had dropping in, though I don’t miss Robert, the one who routinely threatened me when I wouldn’t buy the odd stuff he brought in to sell. He was always trying to get me to go into business with him importing cars from Russia! Those were the days.

July 1, 2019

Considering that we couldn’t get into our Kiama cabin till after lunch we headed down to Berry for morning tea at our favourite cafe there, Berry Sourdough Bakery, which does lots more than bake bread. Then we found a gourmet deli cum cheesery where we filled two carrier bags with goat cheese, hard cheeses, a smoked trout, balsamic vinegar, mayonnaise, jam and honey. The lady then gave us three packets of different dips, some antipasto vegetables and a jar of broth, all close to their use by dates because she can’t bear to throw food out, a woman after my own heart. Our cabin is on the edge of the harbour to one side and to the north we are looking out to sea. We took a walk up to the lighthouse and blowhole in blustery winds, it is cooler here than I expected but I’ve done a curry for dinner so we don’t need to go out. Considering the size of my scarf collection it beggars belief that I didn’t bring one.

July 2, 2019

Wonderful to wake up to a view of the ocean, it always bodes well for the rest of the day. Wandered up to our favourite bakery here Flour Water Salt to get raspberry muffins for morning tea and then took off for Bombo Headland to walk amongst the towering rock formations and watch the angry sea bashing onto the rocks there. We watched a lone young man fishing on the rocks, indulging in Australia’s most dangerous sport. I must read more about the formations here, they are certainly volcanic but there are a number of different types just in this small area including laterite, basalt and also an agglomeration of small pebbles in a rock matrix. I need my old geology professor from when I did the gemmology course a few years ago, what a fountain of information he was. I wish I had bought the massive geology textbook he had written, I’ll bet Bombo was in there. Late afternoon I wandered up to see what the blowhole was doing and found three orange clad monks widely spaced along the rail all filming on their iPads, meditating on when it was going to blow presumably, so instead of taking a snap of the blowhole I took one of them.

July 3, 2019

Spent the morning preparing a Mediterranean style lunch for our visitors. Had a big smoked trout accompanied by bread, dips, avocados, marinated eggplant, antipasto pickled vegetables and a salad. John’s comment was that he had thought it was an odd combination to have for lunch but it worked really well. (This is code for: it doesn’t look like something we had for lunch in the 1950s). Normally I would have spiced the eggplant in some way but with no spices to hand I just fried it in oil then added hot mustard and honey, it was yummy and all disappeared. Two of our visitors came from John’s past via the seminary and two from mine via the Agriculture Faculty at Sydney University when I worked there 100 years ago. Now they live near each other in Callala Beach. We spent the day on our verandah taking in the view of the ocean. Although our friends all live very close to the sea they don’t have a direct view so I think they appreciated it too. Went for our dusk constitutional and saw a beautiful caught fish with distinctive stripes and were informed that it was a wrasse, a new one to me.

July 4, 2019

Took a morning walk uptown and managed to replace a glass accidentally broken with an identical one from the Presbyterian Op Shop. I discovered in my op shop trawl that there are a plethora of odd glasses floating through that system, luckily for us, and I could have bought hundreds. We drove to Boneyard Beach, a site that contained many aboriginal middens until the remnants were destroyed many years ago. Walked then from Jones Beach to Cathedral Rocks, although weathering has diminished them from the image portrayed in 1827 in the famous landscape by Augustus Earle. Wasn’t quite game to climb down to the cave from which the painting was done but I got close. We decided to have our first meal out and I now wish we hadn’t. The meal was lukewarm and about the standard you would cook late in the week if you had run out of ideas and were not in the mood for cooking. Would have been better off with the leftovers in the fridge, but c’est la vie.

July 5, 2019

Off to Gerringong to visit folks who have bought the oldest extant house there and now want some advice on restoring and extending it. The previous owner was supposed to have been an architect who worked on it over years from its derelict state. I find that hard to believe, as he did things like putting in some plain glass unopenable windows, glass panels in the walls and a very odd junction between the house and the old kitchen at the back, just to name a few. Also the local council had no Development Approvals listed for work on the house so it was all done on the quiet. Perhaps he was a handyman but never an architect. John had decided he wasn’t up to doing all the drawings and the DA, but offered to do a sketched design, write the brief, deal with council and the heritage architect etc. They would commission a draughtsperson to do the plans and their son is a builder so supervision shouldn’t be necessary. It is one of those situations of ‘where do you start and where do you stop’ as every room needs work, some major, I am glad it isn’t mine. Were shocked to find that the huge trees next door to Carol and Jack’s cottage have been felled and while we were standing there a man came up and said it was a disgrace. It makes me wonder if the Railways plan to develop the land.

July 6, 2019

Whipped up cream and raspberries to fill a plate of brandy snaps to take to lunch at the home of friends met via the street library. Had an enjoyable long lunch there with only one awkward moment. In relation to another topic John made the comment that it was like the last election where the only good thing was the removal of Tony Abbott……long pause……’we really liked Tony Abbott’. ‘Did you vote Labor then?’ Oh no chimed John happily, we always vote Green…….long pause. Anyway the lunch continued nonetheless with no knives drawn in anger.

We were to go to First Saturday tonight but it was cancelled due to illness of the speaker so then Sue suggested we go out and eat Indian instead. However Robert was tiring easily over the last few days so that was subsequently cancelled too, just as well considering how much we’ve eaten today.

July 7, 2019

Back to the single life after John retreated to Lane Cove this morning. He is always a hard person to convince to get away, but once he is at the destination he loves it. It is interesting that my go-to place has always been Kiama but now he chooses it too, in preference to many other places a reasonable drive from Sydney. The only downside to our holiday was one bad meal, the sole one we had in a restaurant, perhaps that serves as a lesson. Except for the obvious downside that we couldn’t stay on there for a month. So back to catching up writing my book reviews, now only 5 behind it tells me. One of the advantages of doing them is that if someone asks me what I thought of a particular book I can look it up in a trice, even though I may have forgotten if I’ve even read it. What a pity I don’t have my life-long reading history online, or in a microchip in my arm, so then I could safely say which Dickens or Tolstoy I am still missing out on. As it stands now I read them with a vague feeling of recognition, not knowing the end of the story, but suspiciously feeling I have been here before.

July 8, 2019

Decided to go to Dural Library for a change of scene. Baulkham Hills has a very downmarket selection including multiple copies of Bryce Courtney, Dean Koontz, Stephen King and their ilk but not too many of the authors that I particularly like. Not that it proves to be a problem because I request books from the other branches and other libraries. But the library is my office and when I have serious work to do I prefer to do it there rather than at home with its temptations and distractions. Today I was writing a myriad of letters to Kiama Council, local newspapers, Crown Lands, the National Trust and more regarding an issue with Kiama Lighthouse. Back in 2014 the Jamberoo RSL talked the council into letting them plaster Anzac memorial signage on the historic lighthouse. I had a dicky fit but was assured it was only for 2 years. Then the rotters applied to have it extended to June 30 this year and of course now they have asked for it to be made permanent, surprise surprise. I was expecting the signage to have been removed so I could once again include the lighthouse in my photographs but a rude shock awaited. The golden writing is unfortunately too high for some overpainting, even with a stepladder. Considering that the National Trust, Crown Lands, Lighthouses Australia and more are in opposition to this official vandalism I am hopeful that we will see it restored to Persil whiteness before long.

July 9, 2019

I fancy to go to Graeme Murphy’s new production of Madama Butterfly at the Opera House so I looked up available seats online this morning, however the few affordable ones remaining for the Saturday matinee were showing as ‘restricted vision’ so I hopped a bus to town to discover exactly how restricted they were. I was assured by the helpful lady on the desk that they were fine for this particular production where all the action is central. The seat was $179 and I was happy to go ahead but then she suggested a previously withheld, and much closer, seat for $111. That one wasn’t online but had been ‘handed back’ this morning so I was very happy that I booked in person. It isn’t the first time I’ve got superior seating that way so I’ll continue to book in person when I can. Wandered over to the Museum of Contemporary Art and was as disappointed as usual. It’s rare to find an exhibition there that I like but the staff are all so young and enthusiastic that I feel I am the one who’s out of step, however it was a total bore for me apart from the lovely lined notebooks I bought on special in their shop, more interesting by far than the exhibits. Repaired to La Renaissance for a long lunch with Carol and bussed home content.

July 10, 2019

My adoptive mother died in 1986 after months in hospital following a heart valve operation that went dreadfully wrong (which was why I was a positive hawk at the hospital when John was having his valve replacement, and yet we nearly had a similar result!). She had recovered over those months but died suddenly and unexpectedly eating breakfast on the morning she was finally coming home. When I rang a doctor who had been looking after her previously to let her know she said ‘oh my god, the nurses have forgotten to give her the blood thinners’ and then retracted that and asked me not to repeat the comment. So when they asked for permission to do an autopsy I insisted on getting a copy of the findings. Months passed, nothing. I rang periodically but it was always ‘soon’. Years later I asked again and was promised it would be retrieved from the archive and then, nothing. So today I presented myself at the fandangle new Forensic Science and Coroner’s Court building at Lidcombe and asked again. Though sympathetic and giving me more forms to fill out, I was told it could be 18 months before the meagre staff on archive duty can fulfill the request. A conspiracy theorist would make much, but I think a stuff up is more likely. I made the same request for my friend Karl as I was his carer and I had the report in under 2 months. While I was there I had a good look at the building and full marks to the architect, it is flooded with light, beautifully decorated and a pleasure to be in. Even the courtrooms have high windows to the sky. Of course I sat in till lunch at the Inquiry into Music Festival Deaths and it seemed obvious from the testimony that some at least of the young people swallowed their drugs because as they got to the entry point they were faced with many police, sniffer dogs and even tactical response police with masks and shields. Just a dumb way to dissuade teenagers. My advice: Look at whatever The Netherlands is doing and follow that, they are light years ahead of us in their reaction to drugs. Hopefully the coroner will recommend pill testing at the very least.

July 11, 2019

Had a call from a Crown Lands officer in Nowra regarding the lighthouse issue. She was obviously onside but couldn’t say so outright and asked if I could get the Historic Houses Association, of which I am a member, to send her a letter too. She said my letter will definitely form part of her response to council but I am sure the wretched pro-signage people are sending letters too. I have begun again my tedious task of clearing the storeroom, finding 6 silverplate serviette rings and a handled plate that I can use and therefore justify keeping. The rest of the box I will offer to friends and cross my fingers, plenty more after that if the strategy works. Went down to John’s and we did a very long but very good movie at Roseville, Never Look Away, which looked at a family’s experience in Nazi Germany and then in Russian controlled East Germany. We had a late dinner at Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg and as usual the meal was excellent, however the coconut pannacotta which I’ve eaten a few times before was different with a weird taste I couldn’t identify but didn’t like at all. I’m wondering if the chef put a sneaky bit of cocoa in there as the colour was different too, anyway one to avoid next time.

July 12, 2019

Another response, this time from the Kiama mayor, to my emails re the lighthouse. He pointed out that ‘other organisations will have the final say’ on the issue, while not mentioning that he voted in favour of keeping the logo at the last council meeting with the very military words ‘if they want to take us on, then let’s fix bayonets and take them on.’ I shall sharpen my bayonet as soon as I get off the computer. I was a bit shocked this week when one of my Facebook friends (not a personal friend in this case, but a very good writer whom I have followed for years) had a car accident and promptly appealed for help in a Facebook post. It was along the lines of ‘my car is written off and with no car I will have to sell my house which is not near public transport’. The car was insured and only worth $3000. But even more surprised was I when, after many people responded with practical suggestions like getting a small bank loan against her owned house, this was dismissed as even a possibility and her bank details provided for contributions! She bemoaned the fact that she might have to ‘sell the family jewellery’ and when a helpful soul suggested she might be able to sell it quickly on Facebook to her friends the reply was ‘my friends can’t afford diamonds’. She followed up by saying that she has savings, but ‘they need to last me for 20 or 30 years’. I am intrigued by this recent idea of cadging from people, even when you have significant resources. Folau has a lot to answer for.

July 13, 2019

Well my discounted opera ticket was excellent, being in the fifth row looking into the orchestra pit and very close to the stage. Madama Butterfly is one of my favourite operas and this one didn’t disappoint. The staging was unusual, with no sets as such but with massive panels surrounding the stage which constantly changed their abstract but fitting designs. The singing was sublime and I thought that the acting by the man who played the consul was very believable (is opera meant to be believable?) in his empathy for Butterfly’s appalling treatment by Pinkerton. Hating this American captain of the Abraham Lincoln is de rigeur and part of the fun. There was a French food fair in tents at Circular Quay and also a gale blowing so I’m afraid they didn’t get my custom, although others were less bothered about eating in those conditions. Eating standing up in a wind just ain’t going to happen for me.

July 14, 2019

Went to Erko to visit Millie and co and spent much of the afternoon playing Bug Bingo with her followed by a few games of silly walks. We also watched some of the movie Moana while she wore her Moana necklace. John took his grandchildren to the movies and then the Powerhouse Museum while their mum went to a friend’s baby shower which he tells me had an entrance fee of $45! Reminds me of the ‘help me buy a car’ story of a few days ago. I thought back about why that Facebook post made me so angry and I think it is because the homeless who have nothing at all are hesitant to ask for anything yet someone with a job, a house and savings is asking for money for a car. After Erko I dropped some new books to Alison for auction at a fundraiser she is part of then called in to John’s but all was dark and his phone wasn’t answering so I wended my weary way home.

July 15, 2019

I decided to spend another day at the Inquiry into Music Festival Deaths and was able to put in the paperwork to apply for my mother’s autopsy results as well. Anne was a tad mortified when she read in my application that I had waited 33 years for the report and volunteered to ‘take it up with the Registrar this afternoon’ to hopefully have it expedited. Felt sorry for the doctors on the stand who were working without emergency medicine experience, with limited resources, in an environment of 40 degree temperatures in one case, with no phone reception, with no access to specialists and limited experience of the effects of illegal drugs. However both doctors I saw were excellent honest witnesses, accepting that they probably shouldn’t have taken the contract in the first place, but it seems getting a medic to work at a music festival isn’t easy, for obvious reasons. One doctor lost two patients who died in the space of under an hour after being taken to hospital, very belatedly. One of the barristers (they don’t wear wigs and gowns for this turnout) has my attention because of his odd body language. He curls up like a caterpillar when sitting, appearing to have a bad case of scoliosis, but when he stands he is tall, thin and straight, unwinding like a new fern unravelling. He gets me every time, I’m tipping he was a very clever but somewhat odd boy at a top private school, will investigate. Also he is a big mover, striding and bouncing up and down the halls when he makes a phone call, tapping his toes in his seat, he is physical theatre on the rare occasions that the evidence isn’t rivetting. On the way home I pulled up in Lidcombe to check it out after what must be 50 years since last I was there. It was an eye opener and I could have eaten clotted oxblood soup, tripe and intestine soup, tendon soup or stir fried chicken feet at various places but decided to go home and cook. Even dessert didn’t tempt me after I saw the name of the Smelly Cheesecake Shop ???

July 16, 2019

Movement in the coroner’s court, the Registrar ringing me to tell me that there is no record of them ever having done an autopsy on my mother. She wants the death certificate in order to explore further. Luckily I am going to Lidcombe for the Music Festival Deaths inquest daily so popping it into the office tomorrow isn’t an issue. This is an inquiry that dovetails my interests in medicine, law and social issues so there isn’t a witness that I don’t want to hear, from drug policy researchers, friends and relatives of the deceased, festival organisers, ambulance officers, doctors and more. Today I joined an online forum calling for pill testing at festivals as a result of what I’ve learned, more letters to the press and government will be forthcoming though a waste of time with the latter I suspect. I discovered a lot more about the very interesting barrister at the inquiry with the help of Mr Google. He is the son of two currently serving judges, and the grandson, great-grandson and great-great-grandson of three Chief Justices of NSW from 1925 to 1988, has a magistrate, a barrister and solicitor as very close relatives and his brother was recently charged with, and convicted of, filming up the skirts of young girls at the prestigious school in which he taught. I bet that makes for strained conversation over Christmas lunch in that particular family, though they would have been able to choose and fund a top barrister for his defence. Ended the day by taking John to see the film Yesterday, about a young singer songwriter who discovers that the collective memory of the Beatles has mysteriously disappeared and he begins recording their songs all over again. John, as expected, was fit to wet himself and scored it 10 out of 5.

July 17, 2019

Well, well, well, a meeting with the Registrar before the inquiry started this morning confirmed NO autopsy was done on my mother by the coroner’s office, which means it was done by the hospital alone. In her view it was a ‘reportable death’ and if they did do it themselves they should have notified the coroner. So perhaps it was dodgy after all, with the suggestion having been made by a doctor that perhaps the required blood thinning meds weren’t given? Now we will never know, as they say, doctors bury their mistakes. I don’t think I want to go the next step and open a freedom of information request with the Health Department about the missing report, the only other step according to the Registrar, who couldn’t have been more helpful. The inquiry today had more evidence from a professor of social research about the negative effects of police sniffer dogs and riot police on festival goers, with evidence that they take all of their drugs to evade detection and also are less inclined to seek medical help in case docs report them to police. Tragic and so short-sighted on behalf of the government. Apparently the coroner, bless her, attended a music festival a few months back when she was told she had this gig, just to see what the surrounds were like and said she felt totally intimidated by the wall of riot police she came up against at the entrance. She is a good stick, that’s very obvious.

My friend who has nursed his diabolically difficult father 24 hours a day for the last 7 years (except for 3 days off) has finally cracked. He asked for help from his siblings so he and his wife could get away for a few days this week but it wasn’t forthcoming. He then called in the ACAT team to try to organise some respite and informed his siblings of his actions. This was followed by a rare sight of his brother’s Porsche coming up the driveway in order to tell the father that my friend is ‘plotting with the ACAT team to get rid of you’. The father’s response was to threaten he would be cut out of the will if the few days respite went ahead, something that’s been used to intimidate him many times before. Today he and his wife contacted me from Avoca, totally broken, not at the thought of being disinherited but by the treatment meted out by this thankless bastard of a man over decades.

July 18, 2019

Quite a day at the inquest. Firstly immensely interesting testimony from Dr Jonathan Brett, a staff specialist in clinical pharmacology, toxicology and addiction medicine at St. Vincent’s Hospital explaining MDMA, its chemistry, how it works, symptoms of toxicity and much more. One interesting thing is that it is not addictive, hence people using it infrequently as a party drug, but not having any problems in between uses. It’s been around since the early 1900s and was used in the Cold War by the Americans to induce truth telling during interrogations. It takes away stress responses, elevates mood, increases empathy, but also decreases the need for food and sleep. (May I have a supply to slip into the tea of certain politicians? A truth-telling empathetic Prime Minister sounds good to me). Its major downside is that it diverts the mitochondria to produce increased body temperature, but without the person feeling particularly hot, read danger, and produces serotonin syndrome. If the temperature reaches 40 degrees there is a 50% mortality rate. The coroner was captivated, as was I, and encouraged him to go into great detail. After the meal break we got the head of the south-western drug and sniffer dog squad and boy, did the mood change. I’ve decided not to use his name so it is less likely that this appears in a search. It went bad right from the beginning: ‘So Detective Chief Inspector, you will appreciate the positive benefits that young people get from music festivals’. ‘No.’ A collective drawing of breath ensued. ‘I’m sorry did you say No?’, asked the coroner. ‘No, I don’t see any benefits’. ‘So would you ban music festivals if you had the opportunity?’ Looong pause……’Tell us what you think DCI, I am asking for your opinion’. ‘Yes, I would ban them altogether.’ It didn’t improve. So it is culture wars at 20 paces between all the doctors, social scientists, harm reduction workers and families and on the other side, police and government. We all sat shaking our heads as he left the witness box, his whole testimony was ‘them v. us’.

July 19, 2019

Today was another fascinating day at the inquiry with more detailed testimony on drug types and their effects from the founder of the harm reduction organisation Unharm and also a West Australian drug researcher. Factoids included that 100 new drugs come onto the market each year, that there has never been a recorded fatal overdose of LSD anywhere, that the Dutch test over 12,000 drug samples per year in street front testing centres and at festivals and that the last Defqon Festival in Holland had 120,000 attendees, no police in attendance and no drug deaths. It was revealed that 40% of Australians have taken drugs at least once and 10% of the population has taken MDMA in the last 3 years, both a lot higher than I expected, so really drug-taking is already normalised in the community, that horse has bolted. During the last hour of the hearing the Clerk of the Court walked up and handed me a list of the witnesses so far and a second list of those still to come when the inquest resumes in September. Nothing was said but it confirms my feeling that they have wondered who the hell I am, writing away, but not apparently part of either the press or the families, so someone had decided to include me in the paperwork just in case I was somebody important. I will certainly go in September and intend to start a letter-writing campaign on this issue, supporting the coroner who I am confident will come out in favour of both drug-testing and the removal of the riot squad and sniffer dogs, you can feel it in her body language, always leaning in to hear the opinions she agrees with and leaning out only for police testimony. Just as an aside, I noted which witnesses chose to take an affirmation and which an oath and it happened that every one of the doctors, harm minimisation proponents, toxicologists, psychologists and researchers took an affirmation while the oath was taken only by police. Whatever that proves, it was interesting to me.

July 20, 2019

Made a cake last night to take to John’s as he has invited his two cousins, a priest and a brother, to come for lunch tomorrow. The priest lives in the Philippines and the brother in Victoria but both happened to be in Sydney for a couple of days. We served up roast chicken and salads and vegetables plus the cake and they seemed well pleased, though they are the type of people who would be well pleased with a devon sandwich if that were served to them. Ron has been in the Philippines for over 40 years and said his church serves 10,000 people per week over many services, it can hold 2,500 per service at a pinch. Wow, that’s some confessions to hear in the steamy heat. We will be invited to Bendigo for Kevin’s birthday in September but not sure if that will work out with all else going on. We dropped them to their digs at a Marist House in Randwick later and went on to a movie at the Chauvel. Parasite, a Korean dark comedy cum drama, had me laughing out loud and had John spending 15 minutes afterwards asking me what happened here or there. He found the behaviour shocking and immoral while I found it hilarious, in fact it was both. It told the story of a poor family living in a depressing sub-basement flat and going hungry when their son lands a job as an English tutor for a rich family. One by one the other three family members are added anonymously to the staff, totally changing their fortunes, but of course life isn’t like that and the ending is both abominable and hilarious at the same time.

July 21, 2019

Still thinking about last night’s movie, no wonder it got the Palme d’Or at Cannes, it was innovative and huge fun with a social and political message. Also the first time I’ve seen an ad at the movies wholly in Chinese language, and it was for the Commonwealth Bank! A bit of a waste in this case as I didn’t see any Chinese patrons there. It is so good not to have to set an alarm. I always have a bad night’s sleep if I know I will be woken by that damnable noise, and I seem to preempt it and keep waking up all night to see if it is time. It’s been quite an emotionally charged week one way and another with the inquiry and with a number of long calls from my friend who is having trouble with his father, for whom he is the carer. So today I did goodly stuff like watching Insiders in my PJs before anything else, then getting some homely tasks done and dusted.

July 22, 2019

Today John was going to the funeral of one of his seminary mates and I decided to go too, considering he had been to my house for a meal and we had visited him in hospital numerous times since an accident on Boxing Day 2016, when he was knocked over on the footpath near his home in Kings Cross by an impatient cyclist, such a simple event but ultimately a life-ending one. He died three and a half years later, never coming out of hospital and a nursing home after the accident, in which he suffered brain damage. He had such a life, in the navy from the age of 15, then in the seminary and as a priest, followed by work in the electoral commission which resulted in his working in Cambodia and Timor Leste on their elections and later working as a speech writer for ALP state members. I wondered why his male partner of over 30 years was not at the funeral, but sadly we were told that although he had visited him daily, he was diagnosed in January with early onset dementia and taken back to Japan by his family to be looked after. What a tragic end for both of them to be separated at the last. One always seems to learn so much about a person at their funeral, it made me wish I had known a little more and enlivened our conversations with that knowledge. One story, oft repeated, was about his police inspector father who, when he knew he was dying, told his wife to get up into the roof cavity and retrieve a suitcase. It held enough money for her to buy another house in New Zealand. Therein lies a tale of which we’ll never know the details, but perhaps it explains his son joining the navy at 15.

July 23, 2019

It was coincidence that I finished reading The Cruel Sea, Nicholas Montserrat’s classic 1951 novel, the night before I met a crew of ex-Navy officers at Charlie’s funeral yesterday. It gave me entree into conversation with them and I was able to ask a few questions on aspects of the novel that they seemed happy to answer. Two were Commanders, one had served in subs and another was a Sub-Lieutenant, so I got plenty of saltwater for my money. Today I achieved some overdue domestic tasks, wrote some more letters on the pill-testing/sniffer dog issue, had a call from the head of Crown Lands Nowra re the ongoing lighthouse debate (and as a result of his call wrote another letter on that subject to an organisation I had missed), baked a new fruitcake from the endlessly worthwhile New York Times Cookbook and had a morning tea visit from Heather where we solved many of the world’s problems, in theory only. In between I fielded some calls from a friend who is struggling with a family problem, so I feel my rent on earth was paid today somewhat balancing my use of its resources in terms of water and power, though thankfully today no fuel.

July 24, 2019

Composed a letter, written longhand on classic stationery, to Harriet Grahame, the coroner working on the festival deaths inquiry. It is funny that sometimes you just feel that it has to be something a person holds in their hand rather than an impersonal email. Anyway whether she treats it as a submission or as a letter simply commenting on the evidence so far matters not, but I have passed on my views for what they are worth and I can now focus on something else until the September hearings at least. For the past three years Robert, Sue, John and I have attended Abhi’s Indian restaurant’s annual anniversary dinner. Last year there was some doubt about whether Robert would make it as it was the day of his first radiation treatment for brain cancer, but he made it after all. This year he needed more brain surgery just last Thursday so again our attendance was in doubt, but he pulled through it well and recovered enough to attend. We had a wonderful night with food that never ceases to amaze me, so we made a pact to be there again next year for their 30th anniversary celebrations.

July 25, 2019

There are two ways to improve the world we live in, either you do it first hand with people you can have personal contact with or else you try indirectly by putting pressure on those with the power to change things. I have usually opted for the hands on approach, but having had some difficulty with the flawed saint who runs the service I was attending, I’ve decided to try coming from the other direction for a change. So after sending off a letter to the coroner on drug issues yesterday, I spent this morning formulating and sending off a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Building Standards, another subject dear to my heart. The fact that this morning I got a Facebook post from the Chair, the Greens’ David Shoebridge, reminding me that submissions closed this week made me get off my butt and finish it (actually I finished it on my butt at the computer, but anyway). I have no faith it will achieve anything because this government is almost religious in its passion for privatisation, the cause of the problems, but one lives in hope.

I had previously agreed to meet John’s neighbour for lunch at 12.30 today so I stopped work and after a shower and change of clothes, raced to Castle Hill before the appointed time, being a sorry stickler for punctuality. I had just parked when I got a text ‘can we raincheck till tomorrow’. Resisting swearing, I replied that no I am busy tomorrow, but this was followed by another two messages asking why I was there early and why I am busy tomorrow. Texts flew thick and fast, with the result that I am now committed for Monday and back at the computer, having lost my train of thought and cheesed off into the bargain. I don’t know why I am such a slow learner, it is not the first time we haven’t been on the same page.

July 26, 2019

Yesterday I did an online survey sent by the ABC on all sorts of beliefs and attitudes. It took nearly 40 minutes to do it and asked a host of questions including things like: I would be happier if….then giving lots of options like if I could travel more, if I had a bigger house, if I had more friends etc. Then there were odd ones like: if you were looking for a new partner would you consider someone who was….married, divorced, much older, much younger, from another culture, from another race, had left wing views. Interestingly right wing views were not offered as a possibility. Another one which intrigued me was How Australian do you feel? 1-10 was the range and John was shocked that I could only muster a 3, but I often feel outside mainstream Australian values. He answered that he would have said 8 and he is hardly typical either, but does cleave to Australia in things like sport whereas I guess I am mildly pleased if New Zealand gets up, but really I couldn’t give a toss. I loathe flag-waving and that whole nationalist carry-on. Anyway I am half expecting a knock on the door from the AFP questioning my loyalty.

My brother rang from northern England last night, it was 8.30 am there and he was dressed only in shorts preparing for a 40 degree day. They are just not equipped for that heat, even the shopping centres don’t have aircon. But in the course of the conversation he mentioned that his weight last week was 7 stone 6 pounds (before breakfast so he said, as if that made it okay) and has been hovering around 8 stone. I was incredulous and asked what his doctor had said, but typically he hadn’t discussed it. I would say when I saw him last he would have been about 11 stone plus but he says he has no appetite and can’t be bothered eating. When talking about someone else close to us he said she had been rushed to hospital two weeks ago, had some sort of brain biopsy and is now ‘on tablets’. What’s wrong I asked, as he was there when the hospital explained it to her. Oh, I don’t know, he said, but it was a big word. I have never met anyone as medically unaware, and more to the point uninterested, as he is. Drives me spare.

July 27, 2019

I’ve just discovered that LSD is refined from ergot, a fungus which infects wheat and rye. So why is this big news? Because at Sydney University I worked for over 12 years on wheat research and though I was primarily looking at wheat rust disease, not infrequently I had to infect plants with ergot, a powdery black fungus which had dire effects on the the wheat. We were told that ergot was a deadly poison and that, going right back in history, when infected plants had got into the food chain dire consequences ensued. It was suggested that perhaps witch trials were initiated after a communal madness associated with what was then called ‘the holy fire’. So yes, I washed my hands desultorily after working with ergot, but did anyone ever say ‘that’s  a psychedelic drug?’ No they did not and I want to know why not. When I suddenly find a fascinating piece of information I am like a big kid who wants to ring people up and say ‘guess what?’. But sadly, what I feel is a gem of information if often a dreary piece of nothing to others, so I need to waltz around my loungeroom alone on the strength of it.

I minded three year old Millie today and she is so perceptive and clever. She pointed to the fashionable patch in my jeans and I commented that it was torn because I can’t afford a new pair, so she asked her dad, who had just arrived home, if he could give me some money for that purpose. When we were playing a game she instructed me to sit on the floor but I cheated by sitting on one of her little chairs, explaining that it is difficult for old people to get up and down all the time. ‘Just sit grandma’ she said officiously pointing to the floor with what was close to an eye roll. I sat.

July 28, 2019

Planned to spend part of the day with my friend who is having family problems but couldn’t raise him on the phone last night or this morning, so decided to do a bit in the garden as well as sorting through my books in the garage and getting a better sense of what I’ve got. Fat novels by David Baldacci, John Grisham, Dan Brown and the like dominate, fine while you are reading them but forgotten by teatime. At least some of my Bryce Courtneys and Colleen McCulloughs have gone and I am hoping theirs is a one way trip. I returned some library books to the out of hours chute this afternoon and risked driving there and back in my gardening jumper, jeans and ugg boots, knowing I would see no one, but I realised that was the first time ever I’ve gone past the front gate dressed so. I hope I’m not falling into the old age pilled trackie dacks and ugg boots couture, that would be the end. Later when my friend rang back he asked if I would be willing to become his power of attorney, but that is something I need to think long and hard about, getting into the middle of that shit fight is a nightmarish proposition. Hopefully things will pan out so that option isn’t needed.

July 29, 2019

Had a busy day with a friend coming for morning tea and then heading out to Annangrove in the afternoon to see my friend Tim. Also picked up some glasses for a friend from an optometrist in Castle Hill, where I drop in for a chat if I’m passing and take some homemade biscuits from time to time as he works alone and is a widower. But today he was for the first time in climate denier mode and made true my contention to a friend last week that the religious seem to be the biggest skeptics of climate science. He regaled me with the following ‘facts’: The weather bureau is doctoring past temperature records by 5 degrees to make it look as if temperatures are going up. There is more ice in the arctic not less. The batteries in electric cars are more polluting than petrol. But the best is saved for last: If god wants the world to end by climate change, it will happen whatever we do and if he doesn’t it won’t happen, so we shouldn’t spend a cent on prevention. This I believe is exactly what our religious pollies mean, but are too scared to say out loud. We should just pray for the end times, says my optometrist chappy, who managed to ruin an otherwise very pleasant day.




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