Life Notes 6

April 1, 2020

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

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

April 2, 2020

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

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

April 3, 2020

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

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

April 4, 2020

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

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

April 5, 2020

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

April 6, 2020

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

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

April 7, 2020

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

April 8, 2020

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

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

April 9, 2020

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

April 10, 2020

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

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

April 11, 2020

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

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

April 12, 2020

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

April 13, 2020

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

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

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

April 14, 2020

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

April 15, 2020

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

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

April 16, 2020

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

April 17, 2020

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

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

April 18, 2020

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

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

April 19, 2020

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

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

April 20, 2020

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

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

April 21, 2020

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

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

April 22, 2020

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

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

April 23, 2020

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

April 24, 2020

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

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

April 25, 2020

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

April 26, 2020

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

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

April 27, 2020

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

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

April 28, 2020

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

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

April 29, 2020

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

April 30, 2020

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

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

May 1, 2020

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

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

May 2, 2020

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

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

May 3, 2020

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

May 4, 2020

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

May 5, 2020

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

May 6, 2020

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

May 7, 2020

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

May 8, 2020

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

May 9, 2020

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

May 10, 2020

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

May 11, 2020

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

May 12, 2020

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

May 13, 2020

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

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

May 14, 2020

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

May 15, 2020

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

May 16, 2020

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

May 17, 2020

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

May 18, 2020

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

May 19, 2020  (written 21/5)

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

May 20, 2020  (written 21/5)

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

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

May 21, 2020

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

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

May 22, 2020

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

May 23, 2020

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

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

May 24, 2020

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

May 25, 2020

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

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

May 26, 2020

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

May 27, 2020

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

May 28, 2020

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

May 29, 2020

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

May 30, 2020

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

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

May 31, 2020

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

June 1, 2020

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

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

June 2, 2020

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

June 3, 2020

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

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

June 4, 2020

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

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

June 5, 2020

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

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

June 6, 2020

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

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

June 7, 2020

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

June 8, 2020

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

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

June 9, 2020

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

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

June 10, 2020

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

June 11, 2020

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

June 12, 2020

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

June 13, 2020

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

June 14, 2020

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

June 15, 2020

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

June 16, 2020

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

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

June 17, 2020

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

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

June 18, 2020

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

June 19, 2020

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

June 20, 2020

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

June 21, 2020

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

June 22, 2020

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

June 23, 2020

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

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

June 24, 2020

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

June 25, 2020

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

June 26, 2020

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

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

June 27, 2020

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

June 28, 2020

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

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

June 29, 2020

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

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

June 30, 2020

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

July 1, 2020

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

July 2, 2020

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

July 3, 2020

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

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

July 4, 2020

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

July 5, 2020

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

July 6, 2020

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

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

July 7, 2020

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

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

July 8, 2020

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

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

July 9, 2020

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

July 10, 2020

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

July 11, 2020

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

July 12, 2020

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

July 13, 2020

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

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

July 14, 2020

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

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

July 15, 2020

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

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

July 16, 2020

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

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

July 17, 2020

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

July 18, 2020

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

July 19, 2020

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

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

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

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

July 20, 2020

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

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

July 21, 2020

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

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

July 22, 2020

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

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

July 23, 2020

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

July 24, 2020

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

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

July 25, 2020

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

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

July 26, 2020

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

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

July 27, 2020

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

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

July 28, 2020

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

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

July 29, 2020

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

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

July 30, 2020

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

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

July 31, 2020

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

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

August 1, 2020

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

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

August 2, 2020

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

August 3, 2020

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

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

August 4, 2020

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

August 5, 2020

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

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

August 6, 2020

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

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

Dan’s the Man!

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

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

August 7, 2020

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

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

August 8, 2020

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

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

August 9, 2020

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

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

August 10, 2020

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

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

August 11, 2020

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

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

August 12, 2020

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

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

August 13, 2020

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

August 14, 2020

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

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

August 15, 2020

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

August 16, 2020

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

August 17, 2020

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

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

August 18, 2020

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

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

August 19, 2020

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

August 20, 2020

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

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

August 21, 2020

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

August 22, 2020

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

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

August 23, 2020

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

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

August 24, 2020

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

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

August 25, 2020

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

August 26, 2020

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

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

August 27, 2020

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

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

August 28, 2020

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

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

August 29, 2020

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

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

August 30, 2020

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

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

August 31, 2020

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

September 1, 2020

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

September 2, 2020

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

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

September 3, 2020

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

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

September 4, 2020

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


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

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

September 6, 2020

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

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

September 7, 2020

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

September 8, 2020

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

September 9, 2020

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

September 10, 2020

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

September 11, 2020

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

September 12, 2020

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

September 13, 2020

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

September 14, 2020

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

September 15, 2020

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

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

September 16, 2020

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

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

September 17, 2020

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

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

September 18, 2020

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

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

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

September 19, 2020

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

September 20, 2020

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

September 21, 2020

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

September 22, 2020

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

September 23, 2020

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

September 24, 2020

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

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

September 25, 2020

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

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

September 26, 2020

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

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

September 27, 2020

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

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

September 28, 2020

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

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

September 29, 2020

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

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

September 30, 2020

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

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

October 1, 2020

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

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

October 2, 2020

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

October 3, 2020

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

October 4, 2020

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

October 5, 2020

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

October 6, 2020

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

October 7, 2020

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

October 8, 2020

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

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

October 9, 2020

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

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

October 10, 2020

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

October 11, 2020

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

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

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

October 12, 2020

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

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

October 13, 2020

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

October 14, 2020

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

October 15, 2020

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

October 16, 2020

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

October 17, 2020

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

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

October 18, 2020

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

October 19, 2020

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

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

October 20, 2020

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

October 21, 2020

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

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

October 22, 2020

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

October 23, 2020

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

October 24, 2020

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

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

October 25, 2020

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

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

October 26, 2020

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

October 27, 2020

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

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

October 28, 2020

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

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

October 29, 2020

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

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

October 30, 2020

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

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

October 31, 2020

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

November 1, 2020

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

November 2, 2020

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

November 3, 2020

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

November 4, 2020

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

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

November 5, 2020

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

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

November 6, 2020

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

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

November 7, 2020

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

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

November 8, 2020

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

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

November 9, 2020

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

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

November 10, 2020

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

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

November 11, 2020

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

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

November 12, 2020

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

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

November 13, 2020

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

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

November 14, 2020

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

The Guardian reports that Fr Dave Smith, an Anglican priest in Dulwich Hill of 30 years standing, has been forced to resign from his church or face the sack because his wife left him. He is a two-time Australian of the Year nominee but that won’t prevent his sacking, loss of income and possible homelessness with his primary school aged child. ‘The conservative evangelical diocese’s controversial doctrine of “male headship” holds that men are the undisputed heads of their households, wives must “submit” to their husbands, and only men can lead in church’, says the article. I have seen this happen at close quarters when the father of a friend was sacked from his post in Castle Hill back in the 70s, causing grief for him and his children when they were unceremoniously tossed out of their home and his father was left without work. Gee Christians can be so un-Christian can’t they? It is always the ‘conservatives’ who fit this description, whether it be in churches, government or society in general. A pox on the lot of them, she says biblically.

November 15, 2020

We went to Erskineville to mind Millie so Davina and Louis could have a rare night out, the first this year in fact. They chose to go to a relatively new restaurant called Arthur in Surry Hills which has a degustation menu, with matched wines if desired. Millie was fine about them going out but at bedtime insisted that she sleeps under, not on, the bed. So I just passed her a pillow and let her do just that. Then she called to say ‘you’ve put me to bed with no socks on and I might get cold’ so socks were applied to two feet sticking out from under the bed. After washing up from dinner I sat down to read my book, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, when I noticed Millie lying quietly under the dining room table. How long she had been there I don’t know. Finally after a couple more tries to get her into the bed I said ‘I think I might lie in your bed for a while seeing you’re not using it and quick as a flash she was in it with me. I stayed there till the fam arrived home about 9.25 pm and considered the ploy as a total success. While we were there my neighbours next door rang. They were trying to deliver some Diwali treats but I wasn’t answering the door, though they could see the car was there. When we got home we found a wrapped plate of fritters with some sweet treats alongside. They would normally celebrate with fireworks, sparklers and lights but Hindu tradition forbids it this year because of the recent death of their aunty. We’ve agreed to celebrate with lots of food and sparklers next Diwali.

November 16, 2020

John is on the hunt for a frig and I can’t dissuade him from an immediate purchase. I jokingly blamed the ‘car high’ he is on. So we masked up and went to The Good Guys to look at the two models he was considering. One outshone the other so now he wants me to do a check in Choice tomorrow to make sure it’s not a lemon, then he will order it. The online reviews are uniformly good but they are from new purchasers, so they don’t tell us anything about how the item wears, or doesn’t. A walk to nearby Bunnings followed to buy a new hose fitting to replace the one broken by a passer-by, I bought two in case the rotter does it again. Lunch was Indian fritters gifted by the neighbours, with a salad. I am keen to get back into my book tonight, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, a gift from Tony and it’s really got me in, such a step up from the very ordinary Ruth Rendell that I just finished. It was her last book and it shows, one-dimensional characters and a silly plot. Makes me wonder if she really wrote it at all.

November 17, 2020

A trifecta of car, frig and now vacuum cleaner! John tried to vac the flat and a loud bang and a puff of blue smoke ended the reign of his current machine. Now can we have some peace on the motor front? Thankyou. He rang me with the idea of buying a Miele, but I convinced him that my old shop vac, admittedly a very basic one but currently ensconced in the garage, would do the trick for no bucks at all. I did the Choice check and it gave us a tick of approval on his preferred frig, so I expect he will order that pretty soon.

I see that our SAS and commandoes in Afghanistan had a ‘kill board’ on which they entered scores in some sort of grotesque competition for the most Afghans they murdered. I don’t understand why it has taken 4 years to complete a report on this or why we now have to have yet another body to investigate. Why can’t it be handed to the Federal Police in just the same way it would be if they were picking people off in Canberra? Morrison frowns and warns us of the shock when the details come out and military types and their journalistic friends are excusing the men already on the grounds that ‘they had too many rotations’. I think that’s for a jury to way up, but thanks anyway. I hope I am wrong but it seems like dragging it out as much as possible is the aim until one day someone says ‘But it was all such a long time ago…..and witnesses have died….and it’s too hard to get convictions now.’ It is much easier to teach people to kill than it is to teach them when to stop.

November 17, 2020

Today we had plans to go to a friend’s place for lunch but John rang to say that his new car door was locked and couldn’t be opened with either the clicker or the key. I headed off down the M2 to pick him up but he rang to say his neighbour Chris had managed to get the car open. So I turned around and started for home, only to get another call to say that now the car wouldn’t start. Turned back and got onto the M2 again, picked him up and amazingly we got to the friend’s place right on time. We had a lovely lunch and chat and later I drove John home. I assumed an electrical fault was responsible but the NRMA man (bless all NRMA men) said it was that he had left some internal lights on, lights he somehow wasn’t aware of. The door lock had a totally separate issue which was rectified on the spot. To all this was added the fact that John left his mobile on the floor of my car this morning so I could only get him on the landline. It seems a boring set of circumstances but somehow I am exhausted by it all.

Tony texted to say that the library has bought a DVD on the Trump family going back to the 1800s in Germany up to the present so he has put it aside for me, that’s six hours of my life accounted for. He also put a reserve on Fear by Bob Woodward, another Trump book and is asking the library’s buyer if he wants to get Plaintiff in Chief, a book about Trump’s 3400 litigations. It’s like having my own personal librarian. The crazy one last week considered launching a strike against Iran’s main nuclear facility Natanz before senior advisers talked him out of it, according to the New York Times. Talk about going out with a bang.

November 18, 2020

I have long been saying that it is a contest about who will survive longest, me or my beautiful 70 foot high and wide gum tree. Well it looks as if I might be in the lead, the back yard is ankle deep in gum leaves and short branches, plus there were two more large branches there today, probably each 10 feet long. The two of them cut up filled an empty Sulo bin. The horticulturist pronounced the tree to be in ‘terminal decline’ months ago and it is much worse now. I guess I am in terminal decline too, but it’s progressing at a slower rate. It will be a sad day when I go out and find no leaves left at all, the sound of a chainsaw will become its dirge.

John ordered the groceries this week and they were delivered here this morning, including 12 blocks of his favourite Pico chocolate, along with a note to say that the other flavours he ordered were out of stock. I don’t know how he can eat a BIG bowl of icecream every night, followed by half a block of chocolate on top of his dinner and not be fat. Good genes for weight control. I wish I had them, though I would choose different poisons.

We are supposed to take a piece to read at book group on the theme of Thanksgiving and I have been going through shelves of poetry books with no luck at all. It’s just not the sort of thing I would buy or read. Plenty on death or war or nature or injustice but thanksgiving, not so much. But I need to rustle something up that doesn’t sound too mawkish and maudlin. Christmas themes were so much easier I think, or we could do Hannukah maybe?

November 19, 2020

My search through the poetry shelves for something representing Thanksgiving in any form has led to my reading some Walt Whitman, my fave Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson (why did I buy this exactly?), Tennyson, Ai, Thoreau, Brooke, Auden, Betjeman and others. I even looked up a wonderful poem in an email from my friend, poet and percussionist Gabrielle Journey Jones, but decided that it was too ‘dark’ for the topic and for this group. But that rereading in itself made the whole search worthwhile. Apparently my tastes run into the ‘dark’ rather than the radiant and shining but I am what I am. Come to think of it all the poets I was searching through are on the dark side too, so I’m in good company.

If I want to research a medical question I usually start with the website of the Mayo Clinic so it was a shock to read today that there are over 900 staff there who currently have Covid19. If their capable and professional staff can’t avoid it I wonder what hope the rest of their community have. In my Medium feed today came a paper from a researcher who says that those with autoimmune conditions risk the vaccine triggering a ‘potent type I Interferon response’, in other words a cytokine storm, exactly the thing that the vaccination is seeking to avoid if you contract Covid. The CDC also has a webpage entitled Who Should Not Get Vaccinated With These Vaccines, which includes people with autoimmune diseases. Mmm, some serious reading to do before making a decision on that one.

The ADF report on the murder of civilians in Afghanistan by Australian forces is shocking but hardly a surprise. The racism in the army in particular is well known and added to the pressures of warfare it is a toxic mix. A friend whose son joined the army a few years back commented that within a very few months he had changed from being a reasonable young man to one transfused with racist and particularly anti-Islamic prejudice. A longtime acquaintance whom I talked with in my shop over many years had an important role in the RAAF. He resigned from a job he loved after seeing the appalling treatment of Afghan locals by army personnel while working there. He told of them wearing offensive T shirts with anti-Muslim messages and was critical of the lack of discipline there. This was probably 10 years ago so if a shopkeeper near the base knew things were going wrong back then, so did others who had the power to intervene. If it were not for whistleblowers and the ABC nothing would ever have been done for fear of damaging the ‘holy’ reputation of our military. It is a universal tactic in wartime to dehumanise the enemy in order to overturn soldiers’ basic reluctance to kill, this sort of behaviour is a natural result of that strategy. A more realistic view of the military may prove to be the only positive outcome of this tragedy.

November 20, 2020

A call last night from Kenneth brought to reality the fear of his daughter Tanya contracting Covid19 at the aged care home in which she works. So far she isn’t too bad, just suffering from a cough, but it’s early days. Of course she and her husband are in quarantine. Six patients and staff there are so far infected, but Kenneth has long told me of the inadequate protective equipment supplied, for many weeks at the beginning they didn’t even have masks so we are both surprised that it’s taken this long for the pandemic to hit there. More concerning though has been her habit of visiting him twice weekly over all these months, by chance it has been over a week since she was there, so it appears he has dodged a bullet. Even more concerning in some ways was his comment about medical care under the NHS. He has had some problems with his ears and hearing aids may be on the cards, but when I asked if he had been to the doctor he told me with a grim laugh that it is nigh on impossible to get an appointment due to all of their efforts being geared towards people with Covid. Even my doughty brother is starting to sound rattled.

Making a pav today for the book group ‘end of year’ celebration. I hope the fact that I’m using only red fruit doesn’t give it too much of a Christmas air. I could eat pav every night but I haven’t made one since the pandemic started, because I know I would eat whatever was left from the occasion and I’m trying to be good as often as possible. For some reason I find getting pomegranate arils out of the skin is a luscious job, almost meditative, separating every last bit of pith from them needs concentration and is beautiful at the same time. I seem to remember doing it as a kid, though I have no idea how they were served, just to eat as fruit perhaps.

November 21, 2020

Last night’s end of year book group meeting was the best of the year I think, with a depth of warmth and camaraderie that hasn’t always been present of late. I needn’t have worried about my lack of a suitable reading, my flippant one went over well and all of the others were appropriate and well worth hearing. Sue arrived in a hail storm in the afternoon and I was sitting on the front verandah while hailstones pinged off the roof and occasionally into my glass, a new experience. I wasn’t even aware that Sue was outside in her car waiting for the rain to end. After the meeting we chewed the fat with John and enjoyed a leaisurely breakfast together this morning. I suggested we ring our friend who missed last night’s meeting and invite her to morning tea, which she was happy to accept. Sue has suggested that we go to Killcare for a little holiday which was timely considering that I had tried to get us into one of the usual haunts from Jimmys Beach down to Kiama, but all of them are booked pretty solid till February, by the usual Gold Coast-ians and Bali-ans presumably.

Thinking about the SAS report and one of the issues is that in wars such as WWII and Vietnam the troops were from all walks of life, conscripts or enlisted, but from farms and cities, all levels of education, various ages, life experiences and mindsets. But in the SAS I suspect it would be almost all career soldiers from the get-go, with no broad experience of the culture of the civilian populace in the same way that priests are trained in a bubble apart from the wider culture. So training to be a commando, a professional killer in fact, could be happening in a closed society where moral judgments have not been formed by previous life experience. Only a theory but worth thinking more about.

November 22, 2020

We decided to visit Terry and Jude at Arncliffe, via La Perouse. Had a look through the Museum there and then did a tour of Bare Island Fort. Apparently dodgy builders were around way back then, because the guide explained that back in the 1800s when it was built it soon began to leak. Concrete was a new and expensive commodity but it was specified by the government for the walls and roof of the building. But after the leaks a Royal Commission was established which found that the scoundrel builder had formed the place out of sandstone rubble rendered over to look like concrete, which of course absorbed water easily. The effects were still causing problems into the 1980s when the fort cracked and some parts collapsed as a result of the Newcastle earthquake, resulting in the need to reinforce parts of the fort for safety reasons. I wonder if the dodgy builder went out of business or just went on to be a very rich man? Talking of rich men, I saw a man in his 30s next to a low and luxurious looking two-door sporty car. Never having seen the like of it I wandered over to read the label, it was a Bentley so I googled the price: from $400,900. Is it possible to get that sort of money legally? I guess it is, but I was curious to know how. On my own I might have asked him, I didn’t want to embarrass John, plus it is easier to get information from people when you are on your own. Jude and Terry were in good form, along with their family who come regularly to swim in the pool. Their grandson, who is all of 13, is concerned about the war in Azerbaijan and he seems to know a lot about it apparently, I say apparently as I wouldn’t have a clue. He is a history nut, 13 going on 50, I look forward to hearing of his future progress, but I am sure it will be rosy.

November 23, 2020

Out to Dural to the bakery for bread, I got to try John’s new jalopy which is extremely comfortable to drive. Then I stocked up the cake tins by baking rock cakes and cheese shortbreads, which I topped with either cayenne or fennel seeds. Now I am ready for drop-ins. Tomorrow is John’s neurology appointment so I have been thinking about that and wondering if Bob’s suggestion that we just accept his memory loss without investigation had a motive behind it. Anyway Nada wasn’t having a bar of that and insisted on the MRI and the neurologist. But I remember my friend from a few years back who said that he wished he’d never had his memory loss investigated. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers and was depressed from then on, I do think making it official speeded up his decline but John is such a positive person so he wouldn’t necessarily react the same way. He asked me today what we would do if she announced she was putting him straight into a home, a highly theoretical question, but I answered we would bolt for the exit and tear off down Victoria Avenue at great speed.

It was interesting in observation of Terry and Jude’s family yesterday that their grandchildren are strikingly mature for their ages. Two are the same ages as John’s grandchildren but their ease with adults and the topics they discuss are years ahead. The 7 year old boy mentioned that one of his friends at school had been wearing a dress for 2 years and identifies as a girl and the 12 year old girl commented on her friend’s father leaving the family because he discovered he was gay. Her mother asked if the friend was embarrassed by this but she replied: ‘why on earth would she be embarrassed?’ They were quite happy and comfortable to sit around joining into group discussion with an old couple whom they don’t know and their comments were always mature and relevant.

November 24, 2020

John’s neurologist appointment didn’t go quite the way I expected. Firstly his doctor was one of the best I have ever been involved with, we were in there for over an hour and all of our questions and more were answered in detail. Prior to that she had been ensconced with a medical student looking at the latest MRI. I had girded myself for a diagnosis of vascular dementia because of both his symptoms and the fact that his vascular system is damaged by repeated bouts of chemo. Her very first question was: ‘have you ever had any radiation to the brain?’ Then she surprised us by saying that she believes that the primary cause of his problems is the radiation to his face (and therefore to his brain) which he had for the first bout of lymphoma in his parotid gland back in the 1980s. The micro-haemorrhages on the MRI are typical of radiation damage and were also showing on the last MRI done in 2016, when he got the most recent and more serious B cell lymphoma. I was surprised to learn that radiation brain damage takes a long time to manifest itself in visible damage and symptoms, so that sort of delay is entirely typical. She explained that there is a continuum with this damage from MCI (mild cognitive impairment) to Alzheimer’s Disease and John is on that path and has been for many years but it has only now become obvious. Traumatic brain injury, such as he had in his bike accident in 1970, also raises the long-term risk of Alzheimer’s so he has had a double whammy. She did a cognition test which involved drawing a clock face with hands at a particular time, copying a drawing and other tasks like remembering a string of words, in the last task he did pretty poorly. Asking what word he first thought of beginning with the letter ‘f’ brought a typical male response but asking him to then quote as many words as possible beginning with that letter seemed pretty easy for him. So what to do? Basically nothing. She thinks that his three amnesia events are probably a rare manifestation of the same thing, likely akin to a seizure with a disruption of brainwaves, so she’s putting him on an epilepsy drug to avoid them happening again. But apart from that it is a wait and see situation. She doesn’t think driving is an issue at this stage because his implicit or unconscious memory is still intact, that type of memory is affected at a later stage in the disease. There are drugs to help if and when it gets more serious but she doesn’t recommend those now. She doesn’t need to see him again until ‘things have deteriorated’. Looking at me at the end of the appointment she said ‘you will know when he needs to come back’.

November 25, 2020

Tony called in for a cuppa on his way to work at the library today in what has become an occasional break from my customary routine. We originally started off only discussing books though that has widened as we get to know each other better, but today it was nice to talk to someone who doesn’t know anything about John’s medical issues so I could ignore it for a while. I am feeling quite hollow after the revelations yesterday, thinking about the future is so confusing and terrifying and open-ended that sometimes it’s better not done at all. It is ‘one day at a time’ territory. Sometimes I am feeling as if a 10 ton weight is on my shoulders but perhaps the best approach for now is to ignore it and think of jokes instead: ‘My doctor diagnosed me today with cancer and Alzheimer’s. It was a lot to process and the road ahead won’t be easy, but hey at least I don’t have cancer!’ Yeah funny, but when you are living it, not quite as funny as it would have been six months ago.

November 26, 2020

Clearing out my in-tray is a boring but necessary task. I found stuff that I thought was lost and was able to file some poems and book review notes so probably worth doing. Tried again to tie Kirk down to a day for mowing my lawn. I used to be able to get him at a day or two’s notice but he says he is as busy as he’s ever been so he is coming next Monday after a two week wait. The grass will be higher than the mower but that’s his problem. Luckily I don’t need help anymore with the front garden, I manage it perfectly well on my own, whereas initially I did need physical assistance with building the rockery, spreading the pebbles etc, now it’s basically just weeding. I am not looking forward to summer watering though, that’s a real trial. Gosh I am being boring, my head is too full of questions and concerns so I can’t really focus on much else.

So now it’s 9.21 pm and I am dabbling on the computer. Usual stuff, write a letter to the Herald, check the US papers, check ours, get depressed. How can Kathy Jackson get a suspended sentence for ripping off $103,000 from union funds? How can Amy Coney Barrett vote in the US Supreme Court in favour of churches in New York against the restrictions on numbers at religious venues during the Covid lockdown? How can the federal government be paying for Mathias Cormann to fly around Europe on a VIP jet with an entourage of 8 full-time staff? He is not a government employee. Enough to be depressed about in politics and health at the moment without even starting on things at home. Perhaps that’s a blessing.

November 27, 2020

Interesting to see a Brett Whitely painting go for $6.136 million. But even more interesting was the story that barrister Clive Evatt, the previous owner, had called on Whitely who was bemoaning the fact that a gallery wanted him to paint out evidence of drug use on the coffee table in the painting before they would pay for the piece. Evatt offered to buy the painting for himself, to which Whiteley agreed, but said ‘it will cost you a bootful of money’, after which Evatt took him to his car and literally paid him with cash from his boot. Um, do all barristers drive around with a ‘bootful of money’? And if so, why? Taxation officials please note.

I was watering out front and noticed some landscapers working across the road so I asked for a quote to re-turf my grass verge which is a bit of a barren eye-sore. They came up with $1895 which shocked me, but I will ask Kirk about doing it next year, I am sure for much less. Then off to Service NSW to renew my free pensioner’s National Parks Pass. I wanted to get one a few years back and John talked me out of it, but I went ahead eventually and we’ve used it a bit this year. Because they need to sight the pension card it makes it a bit difficult to do online, though a paid pass is easy to do that way. I am always pleasantly surprised at how helpful the staff are there. Services NSW is the only good thing I can think of that this lousy Liberal state government has ever done. They are also very Covid aware, with security guards allowing people to enter only as others come out, so I feel safe in going there.

November 28, 2020

Last evening and night were shockers, aloneness when you’ve had bad news is not a good idea. I slept only from 4 am till quarter to 6 and got up feeling scummy. Every possible bad thing that could happen following John’s diagnosis was contemplated in detail during the night, but no solutions were in the offing. I realised in the light of day that maybe the best thing is to simply ignore the issue altogether and worry about any problems as and when they crop up. Trying to muster enthusiasm for Christmas cards, or gifts, or Christmas anything come to that, but so far it’s not working. I guess this feeling of gloom will lift all of a sudden, when it wants to and not before.

John came up after lunch for a few days and is busy raising the railings on the pull-out corner shelves in the kitchen where I keep all my plastic boxes, this to stop them falling off the back and needing Houdini to recover them (or at least someone with arms much longer than mine). I am wasting time on the computer to avoid going out in 40 degree heat to hang out the washing, but soon it must be done. It wouldn’t occur to me to put off the job if it were cold out, my genes being Viking via Yorkshire. I’m thinking that John has answered my question about what we should do about his having the bone pointed, just go on doing what we normally do. It doesn’t occur to him to do anything else, perennial optimist that he is. I on the other hand was dealt the pessimist cards, but I can learn.

November 29, 2020

John finished the job of raising the kitchen’s pull-out shelves and I repacked the plastic containers, discovering a very large lid with no container, a smaller lid likewise and two storage containers with no lids. How can lids be lost inside a kitchen I ask myself? No answer has yet appeared. It is 41 degrees in the shade outside, 105.8 in real terms, which sounds so much hotter. I keep hearing sirens and considering the strong wind outside it could very likely be fires. This is February weather, but let’s build a few new coal and gas plants and see if we can rev it up a bit more shall we? Good work Scotty.

I have been ironing various pillowcases and cushion covers, which I washed yesterday, to give to the Sallies. I have given the workers at Pepe’s Ducks enough for a while I think. Also a lovely shirt of John’s which he won’t wear because it has no top pocket, mmm, I tried to tell him how nice it was but ‘no pocket, no keep’ I was told. Next I will attack my clothes and see if there are any that I will never wear again. Unfortunately there rarely are, because I have clothes for going out and clothes for around the house and although they get moved downward from out to house, the house ones stay until they self-destruct, after which there is a ragbag in the garage for dirty work. I ironed a house shirt today with two holes and one stain but decided it wasn’t bad enough to dispose of. I pity my executors.

November 30, 2020

John put up our Christmas tree and found we have enough decorations to cover 10 trees of the same size so I have packed up a boxfull for the Sallies, along with a Christmas design coffee pot and the base for holding a real tree, something I am unlikely to use again in this lifetime. Added to the linen I washed, plus about 10 pairs of vintage gloves (some unused with David Jones price tags still attached) and a bedspread I no longer use, it makes a trip to the Sallies worth the petrol. John’s car is with Alex to get the locks cleaned and lubricated, they will work with the clicker but not with keys for some reason so we will go to North Parramatta Sallies on the way to collect his car. I opt for Parra because with all of those units around there I am sure there are some needy people in the mix, whereas I am sure Castle Hill Vinnies caters mainly to bargain hunters. So many considerations to weigh up in being a Libran, it’s tiring.

This morning I discovered that my green bin lid was up and as I closed it I noticed a bag of dog poo on top of all my weeds and cut up branches. Just as I was thinking up choice words of abuse to use if I catch the sod doing it again I noticed that one of a group of three lovely plants that I had grown over months from cuttings and then replanted into the front garden has been dug up and removed. Presumably they will return for the other two, knowing how appealing my little triangle looked. So the question is: am I looking for a plant thief with a dog or two separate suburban miscreants? I shall keep my eyes peeled and will peel theirs to match if I catch them.

Time to start a new Life Notes, due to the size of LN6, number 7 is now up and running.






Category(s): Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *