Life Notes 7

December 1, 2020

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

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

December 2, 2020

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

December 3, 2020

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

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

December 4, 2020

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

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

December 5, 2020

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

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

December 6, 2020

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

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

December 7, 2020

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

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

December 8, 2020

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

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

December 9, 2020

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

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

December 10, 2020

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

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

December 11, 2020

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

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

December 12, 2020

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

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

December 13, 2020

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

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

December 14, 2020

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

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

December 15, 2020

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

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

December 16, 2020

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

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

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

December 17, 2020

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

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

December 18, 2020

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

December 19, 2020

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

December 20, 2020

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

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

December 21, 2020

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

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

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

December 22, 2020

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

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

December 23, 2020

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

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

December 24, 2020

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

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

December 25, 2020

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

December 26, 2020

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

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

December 27, 2020

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

December 28, 2020

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

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

December 29, 2020

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

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

December 30, 2020

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

December 31, 2020

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

January 1, 2021

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

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

January 2, 2021

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

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

January 3, 2021

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

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

January 4, 2021

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

January 5, 2021

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

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

January 6, 2021

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

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

January 7, 2021

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

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

January 8, 2021

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

January 9, 2021

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

January 10, 2021

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

January 11, 2021

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

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

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

January 12, 2021

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

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

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

January 13, 2021

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

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

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

January 14, 2021

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

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

January 15, 2021

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

January 16, 2021

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

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









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