Life Notes 8

July 3, 2021

I enjoyed reading the reminiscences of Meredith Burgmann in the Herald today, 50 years since the famous Sydney 1971 protests against the all white South African Springboks team. I don’t remember her from the time but she apparently got tickets to the members stand so it was easier to escape police scrutiny, just needing to jump over the civilised picket fence to get onto the ground. Most of us were in the general admission seats or sitting on the hill and had a bevy of police in front of us. There was no way we would have got into the ground with signs, so a separate group demonstrated outside. We spread out inside so when they were arresting one, the others were free to blow their whistles continuously until that person was arrested and taken away and then we went quiet again once the police were back concentrating on the crowd. I was surprised that no-one around me pointed me out to the police, but they didn’t so I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t fall foul of the bobbies. My friends Beryl B. and the Spaniard Joe P. (for whom I silently carried a torch, but he was much older) cut down the goalposts during the night before one of the games, but I was too much of a scaredy-cat to be part of that. I only found out that morning when it was all over the news and by then they had long decamped and were never caught. I was also part of Campaign Against Moral Persecution (Camp Inc.) at Glebe who were fighting for gay rights, so after the demos I went there to fold leaflets and write letters. Our days felt worthwhile back then, the apartheid action being successful and well publicised internationally. Although we hoped, none of us really expected to see gay marriage in our lifetimes and sadly one of the founders of Camp Inc., Peter Bonsall-Boone known as Bon, died in 2017 just before it became legal to marry his partner whom he had right from the 70s.

Dav and Louis dropped Millie to us and we went to the park for part of the time that they were away getting their vaccinations, something they reported as being done with military precision. It is difficult to answer some of her many questions like: Grandma why are you 73? and Why don’t I have a pink dressing gown at your house? She made a 3 year old friend at the park and though Arvica didn’t communicate verbally they had some sort of thing going. As we left Millie said ‘I’m going now Arvica so is it okay if I give you a hug?’ to which Arvica nodded and the hug was given. Later at home I gave her a plush cat in a carry cage equipped with a stethoscope, syringe, food bowl etc. and we played vets. But I was scolded when I referred to the new cat as Charlotte, the name Millie had just given her. ‘Grandma, if you were a vet and someone brought in their cat  for the first time, how would you know its name without being told?’. Point taken.

July 4, 2021

I woke up in the mood to attack boxes and John is always keen to help, bless him. So we spent quite a few hours sorting stuff and now my boot is full of things for gifting to my old restorer (crystal cupboard handles, brass bits and bobs, tools), the Sallies (lots of empty ring-back folders after I tossed old shop records, a box of old picture frames, some old linen), the sewing group (a big box of different colours of satin and velvet that I used on shelves for display) and the auctions (an antique cast iron money box, some toy train carriages, a lamp base). Also filled the garbage bin and recycle bin with decaying bubble wrap and paper respectively. Three old bottles of beer from a past Christmas went to Justin next door, he is always willing to try my out-of-date beer, which I only buy at Christmas and no-one ever seems to drink. I am enthused now to try a few things on eBay as I listed the vintage wrapping paper-roll dispenser from my shop counter which the auctions wouldn’t take and I’ve have actually had a question about it. Glory be, perhaps someone will give me a few dollars after all, though the main object is getting rid of stuff.

John has been asked to write a reference for his neighbour after child welfare and the police turned up at the door to see her. Someone had reported that the child is out and about alone at night (never) and left alone at home during the day (never). It can only be a malicious report but it is still scary for them both. She does tend to rub people up the wrong way but is absolutely cautious and watchful with her daughter, not even letting her walk to and from school alone, so I suspect it has come about as a reprisal for something or other unrelated to the child. A pretty dirty trick if so, and the fact that neither the welfare officer nor the police knew the child’s name would indicate that the report came from a virtual stranger.

July 5, 2021

So diligent today that I deserve a halo. First listing a couple of vintage 1950s aluminium kitchen pieces on eBay and offering some of my many dozens of plate holders to a bunch of friends gratis. However none of them seem to be collectors so I am not hopeful. I guess I paid in excess of $1000 for them all new but I’ll be lucky to get $20 for the lot at auction. Yesterday I unearthed boxes of tarnished silver cutlery and today I began its cleaning. Some of the better bits can go on eBay as a job lot and the rest will go to the Sallies I guess. Doing my own at the same time. Made soup for lunch and then on to write three book reviews, ranging from 1 to 5 stars, and answering many overdue emails. So lockdown isn’t a bad thing for me, it gets me doing the jobs I’ve been putting off. We could very well go into a longer lockdown for two reasons, firstly Gladys’s decision to wait too long before calling it and secondly because so many of us are idiots. Footballers having parties (is there a brain between the lot of them?), unvaccinated staff in nursing homes (how?), non-essential shops being allowed to open (why exactly is Red Dollar in Baulko open?). Surely people can cope for two weeks without plastic flowers, plant pots and greeting cards? No, apparently not, poor darlings. Brad and Gladys are always saying how pleased they are with people’s response to the lockdown but do very little about all those who ignore it altogether. Give me a badge Glad, I’ll do it without pay.

The only downside of lockdown is that instead of having four crackers and some cheese for lunch each day I cook for John and end up eating it myself. So I put on weight during lockdown and it takes me ages to get rid of it. Interesting what we crave when it isn’t available, but I have been thinking of the food at Middle Eastern restaurant Lillah in Lane Cove and I muse that when the lockdown’s over we will need to pay them a visit. It doesn’t help that they email me pictures of the cauliflower falafel, the roasted carrots with chili and hazelnuts and the beetroot basteeya with goat cheese.  We can’t even drive there for take-away, not that we ever do take-away, but perhaps I’d make an exception in this case.

July 6, 2021

John has had a two hour Zoom meeting this morning and I discovered just how many things I do in the house make noise, no unpacking the dishwasher or making a cake or playing music so  instead I quietly sorted stuff for the Sallies and ironed them. Of course it is a laptop so it can be used anywhere but for John, for both of us really so I can’t blame him, the desk in the dining room is where the computer lives and is used. I was so glad it wasn’t me on that meeting, I run out of patience with Zoom way before the two hour mark.

Haven’t had any feedback from the last cancer marker blood tests so apparently they were AOK. It’s funny that I was waiting to hear something after the first one, but I’d almost forgotten about the last until I had to ring Prof. Reeves office to move my next appointment, as it happens to be on the August book group day. I guess over time they will just become something I do, without even considering the possibility that I’ll hear back about them. Had a phone call from Terry while John was on Zoom, he’s doing it tough on a trial chemotherapy and when he went to the routine oncologist’s appointment this morning, she took one look at him and booked him straight into hospital, with the comment that maybe chemo is ‘not for him’. He is fearful, understandably, and I stressed that my phone works 24/7.

I have been trawling the Miami Herald for the latest links on the apartment collapse there. For some reason I can’t let these things go until I am happy that I understand the process that caused it. So I go off on tangents like reading their equivalent of strata minutes and reports, engineer’s reports, expert opinion. Was it the gradual sinking of the reclaimed soil, the incorrect slope on the concrete under the pool affecting the run-off, the proximity to the ocean with an underground water table, the corroded rebar or a mixture of all of these? (Rebar, now there’s a new word, we’d call it reo). I was similarly engaged with the Opal Tower construction issues but when it all became reasonably clear I seldom thought of it again. No doubt this will happen with Miami too, but there’s a lot more to read before I get to that stage I think. I have no idea why I need ‘to get to the bottom of things’, but I just accept that I do. It’s the same with airline crashes, I used to be addicted to a website that analysed them, particularly those where there was pilot error. Remembering one where the pilot and co-pilot got into a fist fight in the cockpit, all recorded, during which the plane proceeded to crash. I am not particularly technical, it’s the human errors in these things that are so fascinating, so the argy-bargy about whether to get the concrete cancer fixed or not in the Miami case is so interesting. Of course some of the owners are retirees, others are wealthy, so these decisions are bound to be seen through different lenses.

July 7, 2021

Gladys you bloody annoying woman, if you had listened to me abusing you through the telly we wouldn’t now be going into the third week of lockdown. Didn’t you concentrate on what happened in Melbourne? no it’s a Labor state so I guess not. Kenneth phoned me last night bemoaning the fact that Boris Johnson is removing every restriction while the Covid infections are on a steep rise due to the Delta strain. They will learn, unfortunately. My Yorkshire friend Anne who had a spontaneous broken arm a few weeks ago and has been found to have an affected bone in her leg as well, got a phone call from the hospital last Saturday to say that they had had a cancellation in surgery and could ‘fix your leg if you can come in today’. She doesn’t drive and lives in a small village, but they sent a car for her as soon as she accepted. Now she’s had a rod inserted into her femur to prevent a break there. You hear a lot of things about the National Health System but all of my rellies and friends have had exceptional care. It’s those who have to wait who complain and they are those whose problems are less serious, but when you really need them they are there. What Sydney or regional hospital sends a car to you pick up for an appointment? They did the same for her vaccination and for Kenneth’s too, sending a mini-bus to collect all the olds and deliver them home afterwards.

I have been doing yesterday and today what I swore I wouldn’t, listing eBays. Although I got two takers for a freebie quantity of plate stands (one of them an old staff-member and the other a gallery) I fear that giving away the sort of stuff I have is a slow process so let’s see what eBay brings about. Today I listed lots of the silver cutlery I polished yesterday, much of it Victorian. It is sooo beautiful but people don’t want to be polishing silver these days, though lockdowns are perfect for it. At least it keeps me off the internet investigating a building collapse in another land. I limit myself to less than half an hour a day doing that so it doesn’t threaten to take over my life like the causes of the Grenfell Towers fire would have done, if I had let it. Reading the Inquiry transcripts from that was time-consuming but ultimately worth it. Yes, half an hour a day is more than enough to waste on such things, but at least I’m not doing other pointless stuff like sitting in a pub or playing sport.

July 8, 2021

Did some more photography for eBay and it looks as if one item might be a sneaky find. The old corroded bottle opener which I was going to add to another lot as a freebie turned out on closer inspection to be a French TYR brand from 1927 and therefore very collectable. I’ve listed it with a starting price of $100 though on US eBay there were two, at $237 and $645 respectively. Sometimes it’s the stuff you write off which brings the best money, we shall see. Also it was always the case that the things men collect bring higher prices than the pretty stuff that the women tend to go for, in antiques anyway, probably different in fashion for example. A pair of dull wooden horse form bookends turned out to be mahogany, once a bit of polish was applied they became absolutely beautiful, so some horsey people might bid on those.

We made a brief sojourn to the shops for fruit and veggies and I resisted the temptation to go to Harris Farm at Penno. Even though that was my preference it is really outside the spirit of what we are being asked to do, to go out as rarely and briefly as possible, sticking close to home. Then I discovered that there were shoe shops and clothes shops and stationers and phone shops open. So what is locked down exactly? Hairdressers and nail salons as far as I could see. I went to the centre management office to complain but it was shut! We’ll be lucky to get out of this by Christmas if Gladys doesn’t tighten up the rules.

Had communications with Michelle and Martha and a good long chat to Steve on speaker,  which always brightens us up. Trying to focus on all the good jobs I’m getting done instead of all the people I’m missing seeing. On the day before the first lockdown I got 28 library books out, this time I only have the 7 or so that were already on loan, but I am down to the last 2 so it might soon be time to peruse the shelves in the garage with the stock for the street library….

July 9, 2021

This is fast becoming a ‘howling down Gladys’ column, but how can it not be? To stand and say that three people caught Covid at Tempe IKEA last weekend, during the supposed lockdown, is a joke. What is essential about the goods in IKEA? Why was the fecking place even open? You can’t stop people being idiots, so you just have to close down any venues that may attract them. Simple.

John just sat down with pen and paper to work out whether or not he is actually 80. He came to the conclusion that he is only 79, so if he were right we’d have an excuse for a party next year. I was able to convince him of his mathematical error, but I don’t think he was at all sure. What a strange couple of years we are in, not only with Covid but with his memory as well. I doubt that in our lifetimes we will ever again see the normal world that we were used to. But there are upsides to everything. Being at home I baked a Madeira Cake today now that the beloved Simnel Cake has all been eaten. I think Simnel is my favourite cake of any, but I can’t be eating it endlessly, as the scales attest. Last night I did my fave Lentil Rissoles and John once again mistook them for meat, it’s the umami of the heavy soy sauce I use, but everyone is happy as long as I don’t tell him they are all lentils and almonds.

My daily eBay listings continue, little and often is the go. So far only one question out of 16 items listed, but it’s early days. Today I did bone-handled knives from about 1914, three separate lots of 3 or 4. Some were by Robert F. Mosley of Sheffield, who invented the stainless steel used in the blades. This invention of adding about 11 or 12% chromium to molten iron to produce a metal that did not rust led to making the common stainless steel  for all kinds of applications that we see today. That is one of the things I love about antiques, everything has a story about times that we’ll never see again and people picking things up for $2 at the Sallies get the goods, but not the story. Those knives used to sell like hot cakes in the shop, everyone wanted them for spreading and I keep half a dozen odd ones in the drawer for just that purpose.

July 10, 2021

I started reading Station Eleven, a book recommended to me before the plague hit us but I’ve only just got around to it. It begins with a passenger from Moscow landing in Toronto with the ‘Georgia flu’, a little publicised flu variant which starts killing off her fellow passengers within 24 hours, followed swiftly by the doctors and nurses who care for them.  Timely reading. I guess it helps to think that things could be worse? She wrote this before Covid, so it will be interesting to see how it ends.

Had a lady whom I spoke to as she passed the house with her dog a couple of months ago leave a card in my letter box asking if I wanted to catch up for a cuppa. I’ve replied in the affirmative, once the lockdown ends. Funny how small serendipitous things can start a friendship, but we shall see ultimately if we have any commonality I guess.

I finally got a bid one of my 20 eBays! It is for $5 (less fees) for a job lot of stainless steel cutlery which I can’t give to the Sallies due to the lockdown. Funny that no-one has bid so far on the good Victorian stuff, but hey it’s a sale and ‘little fish are sweet’ as we used to say in the shop. I found some Dutch Gouda pottery pieces that I never use in the chiffonier today so I might put them on too. I have now gone through all but one of my library books so I can’t spend too much time reading, anyway I need to be doing something productive each day.

July 11, 2021

John is becoming very bored, bordering on depressed, asking me if I think his daughters will come to his funeral. He turns off when Covid is mentioned on the news and plays cards. We went out for a walk but 10 minutes later he was looking for a job, so I said let’s make passionfruit slices. I opened the can of condensed milk only to find that both of the passionfruit that I’d been given from someone’s vine were totally off. He went off the cooking idea but will probably help with dinner. I seem to be able to keep myself amused but he’s getting over it all and it just means that he thinks more about what is missing in his life. Tomorrow he’ll be happy as we have to go to St. Vincent’s for me to have an appointment with the surgeon, pity that’s the highlight of his week though.

I decided that rather than order yet more groceries, I will make meals just out of what we have in fridge and freezer and then buy up online when we run out. It is always tempting to buy the makings of something in particular, rather than saying I have x and y so what can I make with them. Even though we are fully vaccinated we are trying to abide by all the rules, especially since I’ve been critical of folks who are ignoring them. If I were Glad I would feel obliged to apologise for all the snarky things I said when other states were in lockdown, but I guess politicians are never of a mind to apologise for anything. It takes a particularly hard personality to go into the game.

Cooking black bean nachos for dinner and opened a new packet of cheese. Using Mersey Valley cheddar cheese (Epicure, my usual brand, was out of stock last time I shopped). Horrified to read the ingredient list which includes 2 preservatives, 3 emulsifiers, 1 colour and ‘CHEESE FLAVOUR’. Can’t even take it back to the shop because of the lockdown, bummer, but I can certainly send them an email to tell them why I won’t be buying their crap ‘cheese’ again. I still had a little bit of the Epicure left so I checked the ingredients: milk, salt, culture and rennet. Always choose a New Zealand product over an Australian one, their food rules are so much tighter.

July 12, 2021

Wow, it so improves the mood in this household when we can go out. The traffic in to the city was a breeze, just truckies and tradies in the main, so people have finally got the message about the lockdown. John was cheery all day, during and after the trip to St. Vincent’s to see Alan the surgeon, where amazingly we were the only ones in the ten seat waiting room. Everyone else had apparently cancelled, but in a call to his office on Friday I was told that he definitely wanted me to come in. On the way in we were both saying things like ’00h remember the lovely meal we had there at Apollo, remember when we bought cakes at that bakery’, but we stuck to the rules and just did what we went there for. Alan was pleased with my progress and said ‘Gosh, I think we might have got lucky with you, we may have just caught it in the nick of time’, which on one level is good and on another it is a bit scary as I’m not totally out of the woods yet. I am still to see him every two months, have a biopsy in October and another PET scan in February after which he thinks ‘we can breathe again’. He is such a delightful man that I will be a bit sad when we cease seeing each other altogether.

I think I have a bean addiction. Lentil rissoles one night, then black bean nachos the next and today for lunch I did falafel and hommus with salad. I can’t really understand the whole push to artificial meat, beans in all their iterations are just so yummy and each kind is subtly different. Lentil soup, chickpea puree, dahl, so many goodly things and so little time. The Indians and the Arabs have really perfected cooking with them, which makes me think of going to Lillah again…..

It seems as if Cap’n Rudd to the Rescue is the order of the day. My daughter really dislikes him, as do most of the public service apparently, because of his chaotic time as PM with people sleeping under their desks to get things done to his schedule. But I still blame Julia Gillard for Tony Abbott’s election, she jumped too soon and caused people to lose faith in a government that was internally problematic, but still very popular with the public. I tend to think that he would have grown into the job, but we’ll never know.

July 13, 2021

I got a reply from Mersey Valley Cheese regarding their ‘cheese-flavoured cheese’. It said: ‘Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback. Mersey Valley cheeses are a club cheese style, some with delicious flavours added. We add preservatives to help ensure that the boldness of flavour is savoured within the cheese for you to enjoy for longer’. Sorry, not go, this was just plain cheddar, not flavoured, and I don’t want a bar of it.

My garden helper Kirk came at 8 am to mow and I got him to prune the Robinia trees while he was here. They are a bit leggy and I’d prefer them compact rather than spreading. I had to argue with him again over money, he charges me by the visit, and today took almost 3 hours, but he wouldn’t accept any more than is usual for about an hour and a half. What is going on? Do I look down on my uppers that I can’t force money on the mechanic or the gardener? He does a great job and should be adequately paid for it, I have booked him again two weeks hence for a few jobs. Then I spread a barrow full of soil collected from run-off down the sloping driveway onto the ‘grass’ verge, in actual fact the weed verge which has never recovered since they dug it up to plant a gas line.

Slept well last night and I realise that there is a pent up anxiety involved in every visit to the doctors at St. Vincent’s. I go determined not to react to any bad news, to take it in my stride, to simply say ‘thankyou Alan, what do you recommend now?’ and see it as part of life’s rich tapestry, as they say. That determination takes a bit of doing though and it’s really quite exhausting. But I think the practice serves me well for when, sooner or later, I do get bad news, if not about this then about something. I have been to so many appointments with John and seen people (not necessarily women and not necessarily young) literally shivering with fear before or after consultations with his haematologist or in the chemo suite. I decided long ago that it would be good to steel myself from that and at least leave the situation with some personal fortitude if I can’t leave with a good outcome. One person who comes to mind was an elderly priest waiting alone to see Nada (admittedly not a person with a comforting bedside manner). He was shaking so much that it was visible so I sat next to him and, not wanting to touch him for obvious reasons, just started talking about general bullshit. His shakes stopped and he went in to see her outwardly composed. But before he did so he reached out to my hand. I don’t know how he went but I think of him from time to time. I mused then about how hard life must be without a special person who is there just for you.

July 14, 2021

My friend Liz and her husband moved a couple of years ago to support her widowed mother on an outer suburban property past Galston. All their goods and chattels were stored in a shipping container on site, safe and sealed. Well perhaps not so safe as it turns out. Yesterday she sent me a video and photos of her antique furniture collection, including a mahogany wardrobe, an oak sideboard, a tall display cabinet and more, all eaten away by the white ants which had managed to get into the container. Their mud tunnels ran the six foot height of the cabinet and when she touched it gently the whole thing collapsed into a pile of dust and wood chips. Her total collection of books went the same way. It reminded me of the time I put a trunk in the back yard briefly and when I went to pick it up it was as light as a feather, white ants had eaten the base out and were working their way up the sides. The little blind buggers were running in every direction, digging their way back into the earth. Some years ago a friend down the road stepped out of bed one morning only to have both feet go through the floor, the white ants had worked their way up to the first floor sight unseen. Ugh.

Have now finished reading Station Eleven and it a weird sort of way it was comforting. In the book 99% of the world’s population succumb to the Georgia virus, so we score comparatively well there. Then all transport ceases, no planes can fly, no fuel for ships or cars, no electricity for trains, so we are well off there too. No electricity means no computers or mobile phones, no internet of course. Then there is no distribution so no food is going anywhere and survivors are reduced to hunting. After a while I started to think more about all the things we DO have rather than those we temporarily don’t. So when I wake up in the morning I am so glad not to need to hunt a squirrel for breakfast that the day looks pretty good.

July 15, 2021

Oh my you get lucky sometimes. At breakfast I was bemoaning the fact that I didn’t go to the library on the the day before lockdown to stock up as I had finished all 8 books that are here. Last lockdown I got 28 books the day before. John rightly advised that I sort through the street library book stock. I know I have plenty of Dean Koontz, Jeffrey Archer, Dan Brown et al but I’m sure there are a few gems in there too. However the first email I got today was from the library offering to deliver to me again. Woohoo! So I sent them an email with about 20 suggestions and look forward to some arriving soon.

Went up to Castle Hill for a doc’s appointment this arv and the shop nearby which only sells perfume and makeup is open. Essential service? I think not. Now I’ve got a mysterious lump in my leg which normally the docs would ignore but because of this wretched cancer business it has to be investigated. Moan. Ultrasound asap (or when I can drag my carcase up to get it done). Should I be thankful that I have an excuse to go out, seeing we have decided not to go anywhere until freezer and pantry empty and force us to? I’d have preferred a different outing, but there you go. Perhaps in the waiting room I will sit next to someone who’ll explain the meaning of life and that trip will be the turning point of my existence, or not. I was at the counter at the surgery and the woman next to me was wheezing and breathless ‘I think it’s asthma’ she said hopefully, as I subtly moved away. What a funny world we are currently inhabiting.

July 16, 2021

Today I received three survey requests: a one-off from a Dr. Chen at Sydney University on street libraries, done. Most of the questions on this one were quite predictable, structure of library, turnover of books etc. But one has me puzzled, giving a list of occupations including secretary, solicitor, call centre worker, artist, company CEO and many more, it asks you to click on those occupations in which you have personal friend. I am trying to analyse the point here but the only thing I can come up with is that it is a measure of social class perhaps? I may email and ask the question as it is occupying brain space at the moment. Then another survey from the Herald about what online news sources I read and opinions of each, done. It surprised me just how many news websites I’ve accessed over the past four weeks from the list provided, which were just Australian ones plus the NYT and Washington Post. The list didn’t include British sites or some like the Miami Herald which I only looked at because of specific news events. Finally one from the Garvan Institute who want to assemble a data base of people with autoimmune diseases for research purposes, this one coming via my immunologist and I am yet to attack it. The research group is interested in ‘understanding the genetic architecture of disease through functional and cellular genomics’. They are currently studying sex differences in autoimmune diseases, where approximately 80% of sufferers are women. This is on top of the weekly survey I get, published in the SMH each Saturday, in which there are four questions on current affairs. I am always surprised by the results of this one as I am generally in the majority on any question, not a place I am used to sitting.

July 17, 2021

Just got a call from John who had gone for a walk in the bush at the end of Cross St and got lost, not hard to do there. He thought to check his location on Google maps though and discovered he was 8 kms from here, almost at Carol and Jack’s place at West Pennant Hills, so I drove over and picked him up rather than let him walk the 8 km back. It was 13 km by road to get him. I would normally go on the walk too but had decided that it was much too windy.

I looked up the Covid hotspots online today, as issued by the NSW Health Department,  just to get a sense of whether there were any new ones around here and discovered that there are so many now that you need to make a sandwich and a drink before you begin. Finally Our Glad has today put in place the restrictions which, done a month ago, would likely have stopped one case in the Eastern suburbs from becoming 1000 cases all over Sydney and many more in Melbourne. If I were related to someone in hospital I’d be after her blood.

Just last night I finished Mother Tongue by Joyce Kornblatt, a prescribed novel for our book group for later in the year. While reading I found it hard to believe that this book has no basis in fact, so accurate are the author’s depictions of the psychological reactions of the characters.  I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this book was momentous for me. The author’s coupling of a story about the theft of a new-born baby from a hospital with another about adoption was compelling. Her understanding of the emotional effects of these events on both the mother and child is on the mark and echoes many concepts in the real life story told in the book The Primal Wound. There are many lines I will remember from this book but one stuck out: “After some years, I learned how to pretend I was better. But I was only better at pretending.” Another about Sydney was so true yet I had never considered it before: “Sydney is always a city at one’s back, the luminous harbour and its vast mirroring heaven drawing the gaze away from the made world to the elemental one.”
Superlative writing.

July 18, 2021

John has gone out to walk the bush track again from the opposite direction in the hope he will work it out this time. Making some of my favourite things while he’s out, Caesar Salad for lunch with Passionfruit Slice for afters. Then I must vaccuum before the dust bunnies start breeding.

I’ve been thinking about why I and thousands of others are so hot under the collar about the exceptions to lockdown and quarantine rules being given to the rich and famous. Sacha Baron Cohen (who’s comedy work I love) and Isla Fisher hosting friends on a yacht were ‘just fishing’ as allowed by the rules. What are they even here for ahead of all the Australians trying to get home? Caitlyn Jenner whose claim to fame is being ‘a socialite’ allowed in likewise. Don’t get me started on Katie Hopkins. John Barilaro’s daughter was described by police as “very helpful, apologetic, polite, forthcoming and considerate of the investigation” when it was found she drove to Sydney from Queanbeyan, diverting via Canberra on the way home, a multiple breach of the rules? Still fined, but really do we need a police character assessment as well? Oh yes, the deputy premier’s daughter, now I get it. The reason for the collective anger is simple: this is the way Australian society operates, one rule for the rich and/or famous and another for everybody else. Generally it is covert but because of the quarantine and lockdown, with people being encouraged to be dobbers, it is right there in our faces. Perhaps the pandemic has had one good effect, it brings the rule-makers and the rule-breakers out into the sunlight, and it’s not pretty.

July 19, 2021

Woohoo! My return to eBay has been vindicated. A French TYR corkscrew, pretty plain and somewhat rusted, has brought $80. It was in the box to go to the Sallies and I was stressing that they would possibly toss it as it looked pretty unexciting, but a few on eBay recognised that it was a fairly rare item from 1927 and I got 80 bucks. The good thing is that I had two so I’ll wait a week or two and whack the second one on. I also have a bid on 10 Art Deco cake forks from out of the kitchen drawer, after deciding that it’s doubtful in the current times that I am going to need 22 cake forks, so 10 of them will go. Gives me the impetus to list some more stuff, which I will do tomorrow.

The library delivered ten books this morning, two from my request list and eight surprises. Just after that I saw two women loading books from the street library into a shopping bag and went out to speak to them, they were by then loading a similar number from another bag into the library, they said that they come once a week and do a swappsie with books from home. Now I know what sort of books they like by what they were putting in, I will load a few more of that genre next time I stock up.

News from Yorkshire is never dull at the moment. Kenneth’s sister-in-law comes for a week a couple of times a year to stay with him, a respite from her tiny Liverpool flat. She was due to arrive yesterday and then a phone call came to say that his nephew’s partner has come down with Covid, causing her, her partner and four kids to go into lockdown. Kenneth suggested that she delay her visit as she can’t see half the family, but his daughter argued that she should still come because ‘Covid is a hoax, it’s only flu, it’s not a serious disease and it’s all just a plot by the government to control us’. She actually had a mild dose of Covid herself early in the piece and now she and her husband have become anti-Covid warriors, much to Kenneth’s disappointment. Apparently the internet is full of this stuff over there and they have bought it hook, line and sinker. So they insisted on picking up the visitor despite his objections and are telling him that ‘it’ll be fine by Wednesday for her to visit the rest of the family’. He is cheesed off but as always reluctant to argue with the daughters. It seems to be a thing that once daughters get to a certain age some start to act like the parent and I am very lucky that mine don’t fit that category.

I had a dentist’s appointment due tomorrow which they cancelled last week due to lockdown. Last night half of one of my teeth fell out so now I am back to the old cancelled appointment to see if anything can be done. He has very little to work with so I’m not sure if I will lose a tooth. Strange timing though as if my teeth were aggrieved by the cancellation.

July 20, 2021

The dentist gave me two options, get the tooth yanked or have a stainless steel post put in and basically do a massive filling attached to that post and the little bit of tooth that’s left. I opted for the latter and he did it then and there with x-rays before and after. Took nearly an hour with him and two assistants working on it but with the Medibank Private contribution it only cost me $206 which seems a bargain really. I’m sure if it weren’t for an absence of patients due to Covid I would have had to come back to get it done, but there was no-one before or after me so I got lucky. I feel for him as his wife died very young, from an aggressive cancer that didn’t respond to any of the many treatments they tried, leaving him with primary aged twins who are now sitting for their HSC this year. Yet he went on with no visible signs of the grief he was no doubt suffering over years.

Umair Haque’s latest article entitled ‘Britain’s Jaw-Dropping Stupidity is a Danger to the World’ pretty much sums up what Kenneth and I talked about the other night: that letting the virus rip in a country half vaccinated is pretty much an invitation to produce Covid-20. But in a society where politics has trumped (Trumped?) common sense, what can we expect? In the massive apartment complex across the road from where Davina lives, where they in fact owned an apartment before they moved to the current one, someone  diagnosed with Covid visited on Saturday morning for some hours. As a result residents of the whole complex have been informed they are casual contacts, needing to be tested, then lock down for 5 days and be tested again. This is hundreds of people, perhaps more than that, so it just points out the massive job these contact tracers and Health workers have on their hands. Interestingly they must abide by those rules even if they weren’t home on Saturday, which is puzzling, but I guess they are thinking about lifts and public areas they are walking through. What a nightmare it all is, the total cost must be staggering, just the tests and vaccines alone being in the multi-millions.

July 21, 2021

My my, look who’s turned up as a Covid expert. (Let’s face it, we are all armchair experts, but we don’t write articles for the press pretending we really ARE experts). So in Crikey today there’s an article criticising Covid commentators and experts who support the lockdown, particularly Norman Swan, Bill Bowtell and Raina McIntyre. So it’s written by a doctor? an epidemiologist? a statistician perhaps? Nooo, it’s written by Adam Schwab, founder of Luxury Escapes, a Melbourne-based travel company who wouldn’t have a vested interest in ending lockdowns by any chance? The cheek of the man! Crikey needs to wake up to itself (or perhaps I should get in on the act and write an article for them on something I know nothing about… say economics or dog breeding or brain surgery perhaps).

My eBay career continues apace. One bottle opener, 10 cake forks and a job lot of odd cutlery for $5 now sold. At this rate they’ll be reassessing my pension, haha. In fact I did go to the MyGov website a few weeks ago to let them know that my bank accounts had increased a little due to interest from a term deposit being added. My honesty resulted in my pension being reduced from $753 a fortnight to $710, but at least I am not waiting for the knock on the door or the phone call from Centrelink. My friend Brian once got that call: “It’s Centrelink here, just wondering if you still have the same car as you listed 5 years ago?” He did have the same old one, but wondered why they didn’t just access government registration information online? But with all the extra benefits being paid due to Covid, I doubt they would have time to be checking up on my bank accounts at the moment, however it’s best to be sure. My brother is incredulous that my pension is dependent on my assets and keeps telling me that I must have made a mistake, because in Britain you get a full pension even if you are a multi-millionaire but of course you pay tax on the total, which seems a better system to me.

July 22, 2021

Mmm, I guess it’s all relative, My brother in Yorkshire was complaining about the ‘terrible, oppressive heat day after day’, but when I inquired about the temperature it was 31 degrees C. But with a house built for winter and no fans or air-conditioning I guess that’s warm. He is struggling to manage with a house guest who isn’t capable of helping with meal prep or cleaning up and needs assistance to get up and down the stairs. Too much for a man in his high eighties but there’s not much I can do from here. I think if I commented to his daughters it would only get him into more hot water with them.

I was staggered to read that the young woman who spread Delta from Melbourne to Queensland ‘gave in to peer pressure to go out on the town’ according to her family. She went out to a few places on the Sunshine Coast after being told she was a close contact and had to isolate. She then flew to Cairns and bussed to Mareeba. Not such an unusual story, except for the fact that she is a university student, a medical student. Perhaps re-enrolling as a nurse’s aide might be a plan? Seems a more suitable career choice.

Last night I was lucky to dream about my dear friend Raymond who died in the AIDS epidemic decades ago. I was celebrating with him his 25th anniversary with his partner, long since dead also. What a wonderful time were having and it was sad to wake up and realise it was only a dream. I must look up exactly when he died but the 25 years isn’t too far out. It’s amazing what our brains can conjure up. Somehow I went to Adelaide at the right time to be with him when he died and was able to stay on for the funeral, though it was very small considering all his friends were back here in Sydney, though many of them would have been too sick to come. It wasn’t helped when the celebrant started doing the service for the wrong person and I had to call out to tell him so.

July 23, 2021

Big adventure today when we were able to legally go out, to RNS Hospital for my monthly blood tests. The roads were blissfully quiet so it was nice to be able to drive them. I don’t really understand why I have to go to the hospital for these tests rather than just getting them done locally, but Prof. Reeves is the boss and he particularly asked me to do that, so I do. Just walked in there, no waiting, how I wish it were so simple all the time. I have been craving sushi all during the lockdown so we pulled over while I got some takeaway hot spiced salmon nigiri for my lunch as a treat, while John who’s not a sushi lover, was happy with his usual lunch at home. It looks as if he will be staying here for quite a bit longer, judging by today’s case numbers.

An epidemiologist (I’ve forgotten which one) said three weeks ago that she had crunched the numbers and it seemed to her that we wouldn’t be getting out of lockdown till the end of August and today Our Glad pretty much added weight to that. We are minimally affected compared to many people, it’s an inconvenience here but potentially life-changing for anyone facing a business collapse. The ones who are screaming most though seem to be the construction folks, who are being asked not to work for just two weeks out of the 18 months we’ve been in the pandemic. Try being a restaurant owner, a hairdresser or a musician I feel like telling them. I say nothing about the fact that building tradies always seem to feel like the most entitled people in the community, not a word do I say. But I will throw in that it was always the building tradies, particularly the plumbers, who reached for the big roll of cash (in some cases an enormous roll of cash) when they wanted to do a deal in the shop. It was usually for militaria, pot lids, old bottles and the like, speaking of which I have a lot of interest on eBay at the moment for a chrome cased razor, engraved as a gift to a Major in WWII, from his company. I was able to Google him and see a photo of both him and the men who gifted him the razor, which was touching. We’ll see if the interest turns into money though, but I will be surprised if it doesn’t.

July 24, 2021

John and I have a bizarre ritual in this lockdown of guessing the new cases of Covid each day in a sort of sweep, the winner being the closest. He has been right four times, including today when he was only one off, while I have won the remainder. Small competitions keeping us sane. We watched Brad Hazzard’s presser at 11 am, standing in for Our Glad, and it’s so refreshing as he actually answers the questions, whereas she just gives the same pat answers, regardless of the questions, often with no relationship to the answers in fact. Both my daughters have a niggling dislike for Old Brad, but I find his directness such a relief after Glad’s politicking.

Three sales on eBay today including the Major’s razor, I might have to pull my head in so as not to reduce my pension even further, so far I am only a bit north of $200 and if I sold every single item still listed it would only be $788, so perhaps I am worrying too soon. It is my nature to worry too soon I’m afraid.

John got lost again on his walk again today, taking two hours for his 40 minute constitutional but he gets home eventually. I go with him sometimes but it is so unbelievably boring to walk past the same houses every day. When we are away somewhere I will happily walk for a long time every day where there is a water view or something else worth looking at, but just houses? No thanks. It was a big mistake staying out in the west when I was young, at that time it was much the same price to rent near the city but I stayed where I was used to and regret it now. Buying this house near work was the idea but I could easily have transferred to the university faculty instead of the research farm. Next life I am definitely going east, as close to the water as I can afford.

July 25, 2021

Been listening to music all this arv, something I don’t do enough of. Going back to the favourites of my youth, Tchaikovsky and Bob Dylan, which whiled away a few hours during which I was doing the big Sunday paper crossword. Seeing I went a walk with John this morning I could do this guilt-free. I was interrupted only by a welcome call from an old friend, no doubt going through her ‘who haven’t I called since the last lockdown’ list.

I debated yesterday who would be the likely perps from the anti-lockdown march in Sydney. But reading the names and details of the arrested today it seems that the only commonality is being male and relatively young. Not very young interestingly, as they largely fall between late 20s and mid 40s with just a few outliers at both ends. Judging by the signs they were carrying it was a mix of anti-vaxxers, various yoga, ‘wellness’ and gym types, a bunch of religious bods (‘trust Jesus not the vaccine’Smilie: ;) and assorted libertarians, not to forget a couple of Trumpists (‘Trump was right about everything’Smilie: ;). Throw in some locked down business operators and tradies and that pretty much makes your crowd. And the nutters of course who turn up to whatever’s going. It will be interesting (not to say scary) to see how many of them come down with the virus, if any. But the prize for the biggest arsehole has to go to the guy who punched the horse, who by the way wasn’t there voluntarily, and on those grounds alone should have had respect. Shovelling horse poo in a stable somewhere for the next six months seems appropriate as a punishment, resistant as I am to wasting people’s abilities in a gaol cell.

July 26, 2021

One of my Windsor contacts rang to say he has a streaming cold but he’d had the sense to go up to the hospital today for a Covid test, only a queue of three people so he was lucky there. He asked how he could have caught it living alone and taking great care to mask etc. But that’s the point isn’t it, the little blighters are cleverer than us. Davina has it as well, but that’s unsurprising considering that Millie is in pre-school and brings the bugs home from there. I am so glad she isn’t in school this year so they don’t have the problem of both working from home and schooling her as well.

I am still working on using up the food in the pantry and freezer rather than buying in groceries, as I tend to have a lot of food in stock at any given time so it’s a good chance to have a clear out. Tonight I’m doing fish cakes with a tin of Alaskan red salmon from the pantry. I think of people like the nomads of Mongolia and what they would think about just opening a drawer or cupboard to make dinner and reflect on how lucky we are. We ate the last of of both of the batches of passionfruit slice and lemon slice today so baking is on the cards for tomorrow. Arvind gave me a bag of lemons so something made with them is on the cards, however I can’t give them any because none of them eat sweets….at all….something I still have trouble coming to terms with.

John had to go to the bank as he had forgotten, not the password, but the client number to check his funds online. I knew he was nervous about getting it right, but decided to let him walk up and do it on his own rather than be mother and help. He did it fine but forgot how to access it when he got home and the phone was in danger of being thrown, though eventually he got on. I asked if he managed the QR code check-in okay (always a problem) and he said he had, but when I checked the phone there was no sign that he’d done it, in or out, so I hope there’s no outbreak at the bank in the next days. There are so many things that he does easily but so many more that are a real challenge.

July 27, 2021

Absolutely ferocious about the fact that the Defence Department apparently doctored a famous photo, shown in the Australian War Memorial, of Afghanistan War Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith. The original showed him in Afghanistan wearing a Crusader’s Cross on his uniform but when Defence released the picture it was magically missing, however the original photo has now been given to the Press. Nothing surprises me any more about this repugnant man, but the fact that Defence doctored this photo, well before he got into his current troubles, shows that his antics were well-known and either ignored or as in this case covered up. Even now his defence is being paid for by the chairman of the War Memorial. Crusader crosses and other mediaeval iconography have a special place in far-right circles. White supremacists romanticise the Middle Ages and see The Crusades as a glorious race war. Unfortunately many in our military seem to be of a similar bent. Disgusting as this is, it is also stupid, setting out from the beginning to shatter any idea of ‘changing hearts and minds’ as Defence would have us believe we are trying to do.

Read the article about Richard Flanagan’s new book Toxic, about Tasmanian salmon farming. It has been apparent for many years that this has become full-on industrial farming at its worst. We watched the boats tootling out to the many salmon farms when we were in Tasmania and compared it to the lovely Tassal salmon shop in Hobart’s Salamanca Place, knowing that the two were not linked by anything but spin. I love salmon, have served it dozens if not hundreds of times, but knowing the production methods means that’s one more thing that has gone off the menu here, and has been off it for some time. Is there anything I like that they don’t manage to screw up? Chicken has long since been a no-no, now salmon, but chicken has had no taste for decades so it isn’t missed, but I do miss my salmon. Tinned and from Alaska seems like the only option.

July 28, 2021

Oh my, another four weeks of this. I could handle it much better and be much calmer if Gladys just said: Sorry people, I underestimated the Delta virus strain and I screwed up with calling the lockdown too late. We could all forgive a mistake, but as it is I just get angry every day at 11 am.

Worked out my anger cleaning out the laundry under the house, which is open to the elements and always full of leaves and dirt. There are bottles of stuff there from decades ago, I don’t have a lot of use for ammonia or drain cleaner or AntRid, which never works on my ant plagues, but I keep them ‘just in case’. However today I was able to ditch some empty ones and scrub the shelves which were disgusting. All the washed bottles back in place and I am feeling pretty self-satisfied. John was sweeper, getting all the leaves out, and I told him that ‘sweeper’ is an inmate of a prison who undertakes paid domestic tasks. It’s a job of power inside prisons, the one who can move around and is generally the eyes and ears of the place as well as a favourite appointed by the guards. Last I heard Roger Rogerson was sweeper at Long Bay, mopping floors and emptying garbage cans and I couldn’t think of a better man for the job. Long may he remain.

Last night I started reading journalist Rick Morton’s My Life of Living Vulnerably. Wow, it’s quite something. I had given myself a couple of easier titles after Mother Tongue, just to do a bit of escapist reading. Try this for size: “We are all of us pockmarked by the scars of things that should have been otherwise, the way the moon bears the craters of collisions in space that it could do nothing to avoid. Like the moon, I’m still here, bright but blemished. I lost my atmosphere years ago and the grazes with objects in space have settled below the surface.” I just wanted to give him a hug but had to settle for an email.

July 29, 2021

239 cases and counting and can Our Glad say sorry yet? Not on your Nellie. One interesting side benefit from my eBay listings is that I am exchanging emails with total strangers about the items. In one case I have been communicating with Anne from Yea in Victoria and she brought up the lockdown. I was interested in her views on Dan the Man because people in towns way out of Melbourne have suffered restrictions when there was no Covid near them, but she couldn’t have been more glowing about Dan and the government. She was in agreement about Our Glad too so we are getting on well. If she wins the bid I need to get a heavy and sizeable item to her by post or courier so I think we will be talking for a while yet.

Still marvelling at the Rick Morton book. Last night I learned a a lot about the intelligence of cephalopods and now I know why I gravitate to these interesting guys in any marine exhibits. They can recognise the faces of a limited number of humans, can eat their own tentacles if they are starved (then just grow another), can navigate a maze and remember the solution and are the most intelligent of all invertebrates. Apparently they’ve been known to climb out of their tanks and eat other exhibits and have been spotted on land up a peach tree eating the fruit (can this even be real?). I love them even more now and will read the reference books he recommends.

John is having a bit of trouble navigating my computer to do things like checking his emails, even though I open the page with his password. It’s like the CommBank story all over again, getting really frustrated at not being able to work it out. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s the same on his own computer, but I am not there to hear it. He often asks ‘have I been on my walk today?’ or ‘did I ring Joe Blogs back?’. He is also very worried that Link will take his flat away from him if they find out he is here, despite numerous reassurances that it won’t happen. It must be much more frustrating for him than it is for me. I try to be patient, but sometimes after the same question asked for the third time in an hour my voice gives me away.

July 30, 2021

Good to see the book groupers via Zoom today in a meeting that went way longer than I expected but we weren’t short of things to say. Most agreed that the book, The Weekend, was good but not a world beater. I think I liked it more than most. I was surprised how much I remembered of it which indicates that it had made an impression. Somehow I was exhausted afterwards and settled for soup and rolls for dinner.

Finished the Rick Morton book and decided I need to own it, a rare thing for me to buy two books in a week! I rang the bookshop and added it to my order for Mother Tongue, though when I actually get to pick them up remains to be seen. Two books with messages for me in such a short time, I’m amazed.

For reasons best known to the universe my pipes started banging when taps are turned on and I rang the plumber who told me to turn off the water at the meter and turn it back on halfway. No difference, and each day it gets worse. I can see now why it’s called water hammer, but no chance of getting it fixed in the foreseeable future. Also if you flush a toilet the kitchen tap starts dripping.


July 31, 2021

Well it’s been quite a morning. I usually idly check the Covid hotspots while John is making the porridge but this morning there were 476 so it took a little while. I noted a Castle Hill chemist that I hadn’t been to so that was okay. Then Davina rang to tell me that there was a new hotspot just added: Aldi at Baulkham Hills last Wednesday and what was the only time I went shopping last week? You guessed it, Aldi on Wednesday. But oddly I had filled my bags with shopping and, seeing the queue, suddenly decided that I shouldn’t be in there at all so I went around putting all my purchases back on the shelves and made for the door. John was waiting in the car and was surprised to see me return empty handed, but I explained I had just needed to get out of there, it felt dangerous and we would have to make do with what we had. So this morning we had to go to the drive through testing clinic and it was all very smooth with not a long wait. Now we are in isolation, not even able to go for a walk, till we get our results. John was classified as a casual contact of a casual contact so he can’t go out either. Dear Arvind next door went to the shops and got us 4 litres of milk and a couple of packs of long-life milk so that should see us out.

Then I found that my old shop paper roll dispenser had sold on eBay and the lady wants it shipped to country Victoria. We packed it up for sending which was a big job and discovered that at 27.5 kilos packed, it’s too heavy for Australia Post and every courier I tried, except one and they want $70 to take it. This has taken literally hours and it’s clear that the sale wasn’t worth the effort. But it’s like being back in the shop, the monetary worth of the deal isn’t always there but the satisfaction of getting the item where it belongs is huge.

August 1, 2021

This morning I had to go onto the grass verge to get the newspaper and felt very sneaky as it’s a $1000 fine for leaving the property if you are in iso, though I doubt my neighbours will dob me in for 2 metres. Still haven’t been contacted by Health about the exposure in Aldi (shown by the QR code) so it makes a bit of a mockery of the system as, although I look up exposure sites regularly, anyone who doesn’t still wouldn’t know they were supposed to be in isolation. Clearly the system has become seriously overwhelmed and once that happens a lot of contacts will be missed.

There was a good article on Michaelia Cash in the Good Weekend and it goes a way to explaining why she is so hyper, though personality is also a big part I’m sure. She has a cluster of autoimmune diseases and is on a bunch of drugs, but for sure steroids like prednisone and maybe dexamethazone would be in the mix. I was on one of them briefly and it changed my personality in a way I couldn’t stand. I was up in the middle of the night cleaning the inside of the microwave when I realised I had to get off this stuff….and fast. But to be a coffee addict and taking those as well, I imagine you would end up being quite an unpleasant person. Voila!

Just placed an order for groceries and found that we can’t get a delivery till Friday, but luckily with all the milk that Arvind got us we can manage with stocks from the freezer, pantry and fridge. Of course it was heavy with icecream and Pico chocolate for John, two of the former and eight of the latter!

August 2, 2021

It was about 9.15 am before I thought to look at my phone and see if the Covid test had come back, so clearly I wasn’t worried about it. It was back (at 3.58 am, sincere thanks to the poor buggers who work all night on this) and I am happy to say it was negative. However I still haven’t been contacted by Health so there could be many others in the same boat and who knows if they are negative or spreading the virus around? I am giving all Baulkham Hills shops a wide berth until we see whether the exposure has caused a flow on effect. Clearly Health has lost the ability to follow up on casual contacts, this can’t be good.

I sent off a letter to the Good Weekend regarding the article on Michaelia Cash, just to get the awful woman off my mind: ‘I often rank politicians by whether I’d be happy to have them at my house for a cuppa or not, regardless of their party or opinions. I’m afraid your article confirms the subject’s position near the bottom of that list.’ The mere sight of her gives me the gee-willikers. George Christenson and Craig Kelly are as repulsive, but they both have the excuse that they are stupid, which she is clearly not.

Talking about repulsive, I haven’t got to that opinion of Lieutenant-General John Frewin, head of the Covid19 vaccination task force, but so far I am not at all keen on him. Apparently he ‘was apoplectic’ when Our Glad last week asked for more vaccines to be sent to badly affected areas of Sydney. Another premier opined: ‘I would have stopped the meeting if he had spoken to me like that’. Then at another meeting when he was pressed to put professional home carers for the elderly and infirm higher up the priority list for vaccines ‘he seemed to be unaware of them’. There have been some very good military people of recent times but this bloke grates on me.

August 3, 2021

We had an exciting day ( or what we think of as one in these times) just because we ventured out to Dural to get some fruit and veg from the greengrocer there. We have a big grocery order coming Friday but I don’t like getting supermarket fruit and veg if I can possibly avoid it. We discussed the fact that we wouldn’t go into any supermarket out there, for safety’s sake (many of the local supermarkets around here are now hotspots and we don’t need another iso). John took the bags of fruit and veg back to the car while I paid ($85 sheesh) but when I followed just behind him he wasn’t at the car. After 10 minutes I rang him and he answered, sounding concerned ‘where are you? I’ve looked in every aisle in Woolies and can’t see you anywhere’. He came back with bags full of many of the things we had ordered to be home delivered. He is certainly getting more confused as time goes on. Last night he asked if I had talked to Martha and Phil lately and I had to explain that Phil had died. He has no memory at all of the funeral.

My sale of the counter paper roll dispenser, probably from the 40s or 50s, has finally been despatched. What a monumental job it was to pack it and to find someone willing to take it. They all want easy little parcels and this one wasn’t. But Pack & Send came to the party and it’s now hopefully off to Yea. I had a few lovely phone conversations with the buyer who owns a gift shop with the eponymous name Nice. Looked it up online and saw all the handmade toys, cushions and lampshades that she and her business partner make and sell there. It is a destination now if ever we get to do the planned trip driving around country Victoria. Not a way to run a business, but now I’m not in business I can happily sell things  for whatever I want and not worry whether it makes a profit or not (I think I paid about $100 for that piece 30 years ago, she paid $45 plus $70 to the courier). It pleases me no end that I can envisage it sitting happily on the counter there and hopefully assisting in the wrapping of goodies for the next 30 years.

Martha gave me a bulb of garlic for growing and I was excited to see that I got 100% germination. But although they looked fine initially the plants soon started to die off and those remaining look sick. Martha assured me that hers are the same so I don’t know what that’s about. I bludged fire ashes from Michelle to put on them for added potassium which they purportedly like, but that hasn’t helped.

August 4th, 2021

Kirk, my gardener, came at 8 am and I got him to cut the tops off my Robinia trees as I want them to grow thicker rather than taller. I moved the wire frame into position and he dug a trench along in front of it for me to plant the sugar snap peas. Last year I grew them in a pot with a metre high frame above it and it wasn’t nearly high enough. Hopefully this year I will get a much better crop. Kirk is a good scout, reliable, and does whatever I ask, hearing what others pay makes me think he is cheap too.

I have a nasty plastic outdoor table which I use as a potting table and have been keeping an eye out for a wooden one amongst people’s roadside rejects. I saw a metal framed glass topped dining table up near Old Northern Rd but there was no way I could get it into my car, so John and I carried it all the way home with a few stops to rest and now it sits proudly next to the garage. It is wide enough that I could have pots along the back and still have plenty of room to work at potting at the front. Better than I could have hoped for. My neighbour saw us trudge by his house and thought it hilarious that we carried it all the way home.

Had a Zoom meeting with the sewing group, though no-one was sewing. I did get out my skirt needing new elastic around the waist but didn’t have to produce it. People were talking about online zumba classes, online exercise classes and older people’s gyms for after the lockdown. But ‘whatever you need to feel safe’ as Robert used to say. However, I think I’d prefer to die a little sooner rather than having to go through all of that. Another month on the nursing home verandah isn’t worth going through online exercise classes.

My two new books have landed and I have little bits of paper with page numbers on them from the first readings of the library books. I tried to look up the quotes again, but so far I can’t work out which numbers refer to which book, typical of my inadequate notes. However I will reread both anyway and mark the appropriate parts then.

August 5, 2021

It occurred to me this morning, not for the first time but now with a degree of certainty, that we are up the creek with just a wooden spoon for a paddle. Consider the following: There is no more talk of ‘flattening the curve’, Our Glad was once rabbiting on about getting to zero total cases, but no more, OG was on about getting to zero cases out in the community, but no more. Then there was the ‘roadmap to getting out of staying home’ due July 7 but now forgotten, then the edict that Year 12 students would be face to face in schools from August 16, then there was the plan for Hunter Valley residents to forgo vaccinations in favour of said students. An outbreak in the Hunter Valley has put paid to that. So it appears to me that Our Glady now knows (but is not admitting) that she blew it, Delta has escaped and is running rampant and it’s just a case of waiting to see how high the death toll rises. The point that really brought it home that she knows how badly she’s stuffed up was when a reporter asked her why Bunnings and the Reject Shop were allowed to be open when both had been hotspots and her reply was: ‘Next question’. The following reporter should have asked the same one again and the next and the next until she answered. Many in the press are weak in not being willing to stick their necks out to force politicians to respond. A pox on you Gladys and on you ScumMo for wasting the fact that we are an island nation, best placed anywhere to keep this thing under control.

I am strident because it’s been a shit day. John was due for a phone consultation with his haematologist at 2.30 pm, something he must have told me ten times today. Then he went to make a phone call to someone else and his phone wouldn’t work, not in or out for calls, but fine for internet and apps. He rang Nada’s office on my phone and arranged for her to ring on that, but every time I even went out on the verandah he panicked that we would miss her call. So I looked up the Apple number for him to get some help but that didn’t last 30 seconds as he couldn’t understand what the technician was telling him. Then I took over and spent a frustrating hour and a half where I used the camera on my phone to film John’s phone as the patient guy got me to do endless things on it. One was swapping the SIM cards between phones and I managed to drop mine down between the cushions of a leather lounge and finally retrieved it, but the end shot was that it needs to go to the Apple store. I explained that I couldn’t do that because of lockdown, but he was in NZ so he didn’t seem to even understand the concept: ‘go to the Hornsby one instead’ he said helpfully. So now we have a man with an unreliable memory and no phone. In case he runs into trouble we really need to stay together, apart from him doing close walks in the neighbourhood. Some days are diamonds and some days are rust. It’s now after four and none of my planned tasks for the day have even been started. I figure that trying to plant seeds in my current frame of mind is almost certain to jinx them so I will try again tomorrow.

August 6, 2021

Last night I got in a funk over John’s phone problems combined with his memory ones, which seem to have increased in recent days. But the day looked better than the last as soon as I saw that the wind had dropped, a good omen. Sue told me that her daughter who works for the Health Dept told her that Apple can be accessed for repairs, so I rang them at opening time and they have a system where you get an appointment online, then put the phone or computer in a chute or box or something and leave it there. They will ring you when they get to it and discuss the problem, fix it hopefully and then there is some sort of pickup arrangement, neither time do you see a person. I was fine with all of that, anything to get John’s phone working again, but when I tested it for the umpteenth time the bloody thing suddenly worked. So I am going to try it for a few days before I go through that process. He asked me when he woke up this morning ‘why am I living with you now?’ so I explained that it is temporary and that he had made the decision to stay here when the lockdown happened and he seemed happy with that. Yesterday was an epic day for confusion to the point that it just wore me out.

We did a spot of gardening in the front yard while waiting for the Woolworths delivery man. I used to give such folks a piece of cake or something to eat on their rounds but I’m reluctant to do that in our current situation. Decided to put off the planting of the seeds till tomorrow, one has to have little things to look forward to. The weather is definitely looking Springy, the quality of the light has subtly changed and soon I will no doubt be whinging about the heat. However apart from a tiny whinge about wind, winter passes without complaint.

August 7, 2021

Well we sink deeper and deeper, 319 cases today in Sydney. My girls both think Old Brad is pretty hopeless but I’ve decided I prefer someone who isn’t a great public speaker (leaves the most important points to half way through the presentation, mentions deaths like an afterthought) to a sneaky ideologue like Our Glad who answers (or more correctly doesn’t answer) questions she doesn’t like with a speech on something altogether different, followed by ‘Next Question’. I don’t think I could control myself in person not to wipe that smirk off Morrison’s face so it’s good that we are unlikely to meet any time soon.

Had a planting day, so I now have coriander and dill in pots and sugar snap peas in the ground next to my commandeered reo trellis. Also planted a few various flower seeds to replant into spots in the front garden in due course. It gets springier every day now and I look forward to seeing flowers in the garden soon.

When ordering from Woolies there was a box asking if I wanted the Aussie Olympic Heroes stickers, to which I clearly answered NO, however I got 23 of the sodding things. John was about to put them into the recycle bin, but I said I would put them on eBay for a pittance in case some kid wants them. They are easy to post in an envelope after all and it’s a bit of fun, but clearly I am filling some of my time with trivia.

August 8, 2021

My relationship with our local state MP is not an easy one, in fact he doesn’t even bother replying to my letters or emails any more. David Elliott is usually on the wrong side of most arguments but today, talking about Hillsong leader Brian Houston he said this: “Last year he wanted to go overseas and wanted preferential treatment for quarantine, to go into a five-star suite. We arranged it…..he is just a suburban preacher and then he criticised our Covid policy. He’s an ungrateful twat!” I couldn’t agree more, but seeing this from a well- known Christian is interesting in itself. But the bigger question is why oh why do our governments pander to this ‘suburban preacher’ in the first place? A finger to the wind indicates that his friends in high places are starting to let him go, and not before time.

We had a lovely walk around Roxborough Park today and discovered that the local pool has been demolished in its entirety and work is under way to build a massive new $55 million complex including an Olympic pool, indoor children’s pools, a cafe and a gym (though the latter will never be frequented by this person). I can’t wait to try it out, but I suspect it will be well past this summer before it’s finished. I noted that 90% of the roses in the council rose garden have already been pruned, despite the fact that August is the month to do so and we are only at the 8th. So this afternoon I pruned the one rose in the garden, but although John was supposed to be watching, not pruning, he managed to snag himself in four places and now says he’s retired from rose pruning.

Professor Catherine O’Brien from the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Canada has reported in new research that when attacked by chemotherapy, all cancer cells have the ability to start hibernating in order to wait out the threat. “The cancer cells hijack an evolutionary survival mechanism to transition into a state of ‘rest’ until chemotherapy stops.” She compared this to animals who enter hibernation to get through difficult environmental conditions. Apparently the behaviour of the cells is akin to that of bears in winter. The scientists observed human colorectal cancer cells which were treated with chemotherapy in a petri dish. This caused the cells to go into a slow-dividing state during which they ceased expanding and needed little nutrition, the cells feeding on their own proteins to survive. Such a reaction continued as long as chemotherapy was present. “The low-energy state of the cells was similar to diapause, the embryonic survival strategy of over a 100 species of mammals. They protect embryos by keeping them inside their bodies during extreme situations of very high or very low temperatures, or when sustenance is not available. Minimal cell division takes place when animals are in this state, while their metabolism slows to a crawl. The cancer cells are able to hijack this evolutionarily conserved survival strategy, even as it seems to be lost to humans.” What fascinating stuff, which goes a long way to explaining why so many people have a cancer recurrence at fairly predictable times after chemo ends, often around the five year mark in breast cancer for example.

August 9, 2021

Just finished doing the Census online, it seemed that there were a lot fewer questions than in other years. I do worry about how people with little English and few computer skills get on though, but I’m guessing that there’s a lot of publicity in other languages, at least I hope so. The religion question has caused some concerns but I’m sure many people tick their cultural religion rather than whether they in fact practice it or not.

Made a lovely lemon slice but had to get a recipe off the net to avoid using coconut, which John hates. Last week I did a lemon, condensed milk and coconut one, replacing the coconut with ground almonds but the texture is all wrong, sort of droopy instead of crisp as the almonds clearly don’t absorb as much liquid.

I think I need to give up on trying to get John to use the QR codes. We go through it each time we need to enter somewhere but by the next time he has forgotten and it only leads to his being unnecessarily frustrated. Today I set it up for him to go into a shop, opening the app etc but when he came out I checked it and there was no sign there that he’d used the code. So I am not sure how he will get around it when he goes home, I guess he’ll just have to sign in manually everywhere. Considering I am still waiting to be told I was exposed at Aldi 12 days ago it doesn’t matter much, perhaps better if I just check the Health website every day.

August 10, 2021

My pipes are in urgent need of a plumber, but not so urgent that I can call him at the moment. Every time one of the toilets is flushed the kitchen tap comes on, so I need to keep a saucepan in the sink to catch the water, plus there is a ghastly hammering noise that drives me nuts if bathroom taps are turned on. The plants in pots are happy about the situation as they are getting watered twice a day. I did call my lovely plumber for advice and he said to turn the main tap back to halfway which did absolutely nothing, so it does need a callout.

I am trying to use up samples of makeup, moisturiser, shampoo etc to free up my vanity drawers. The makeup is in all colours so one day I look like a powdered geisha and another like Michelle Obama, though no-one sees it but me so I don’t care too much. At least it covers my butterfly lupus mark (the mark of the wolf, hence the name of the disease). I love reading about wolves so it is better than having the mark of the pitbull or the cane toad I guess. Talking about the Obamas makes me think how much Barack has aged, not just his hair but his lined face, it does seem to happen early with presidents, let’s hope the vain Trump gets a double dose.

I am somewhat concerned that in talking to his son-out-of-law on the phone John discovered that neither of them are vaccinated. Hoping that they rectify that situation, but John isn’t sure of their reasons and didn’t ask. I am gob-smacked, as we all are, about the Covid denying man who travelled from Sydney up the coast to Byron Bay, clearly knowing he was in the wrong because he didn’t use QR codes anywhere along the way for his five day trip. Now all of the area is in lockdown and he is in hospital with the disease, refusing to cooperate in giving details about where he has been. Clearly he is clever rather than ignorant as he’s taking advantage of a loophole that gives an exemption to people looking to buy real estate. Clever, the twerp.

August 11, 2021

John’s haematologist Nada recommended he go to a geriatrician last January. She said the woman would ring him but it never happened. When he had another appointment with Nada he told her he’d heard nothing and now it’s been discovered that the secretary hadn’t forwarded the referral, so he can’t see her till November. Not that I’m expecting it to make much difference I’m afraid. Perhaps it is better that there is a delay because he is getting worse all the time and by then she will see things more clearly than if we’d seen her months ago. While I’ve been typing this he has come three times to tell me that he can’t understand the referral letter which he keeps rereading on his phone, though we went through it line by line yesterday. As well he wants to know what questions she will ask, what’s the likely nature of her advice, how it will help, none of which I can answer of course. He gets very frustrated with me and said ‘I am sinking into oblivion’. He is insistent that he needs to tell her all about his bike accident 50 years ago and he got very cross when I said that perhaps it wasn’t relevant to that particular appointment. He’s just come again to tell me we are not seeing her until November and that by then everything will have changed so he’s decided not to keep rereading the letter, something I have been saying since it arrived. But over lunch he had a good laugh when he asked what some crystal candlesticks were doing there. I explained that they were going to be photographed for eBay and mentioned that they are Orrefors. He totally cracked up over the concept of ‘orifice candlesticks’ and it lightened up lunchtime good and proper. I think we need to go for a walk which always settles down his anxiety, so I am off to do that now.

August 12, 2021

This morning was library delivery and they’ve come up with a bottler set of books this time. Someone has clearly gone through the authors I’ve read in the past and come up with other books by them which I haven’t read. I am still finishing one of the last lot but I was able to return 9 out of the 10 I had so she was happy. With Lionel Shriver, Joyce Carol Oates, Lucy Foley, Emily Maguire, Vikram Seth and five others ahead of me I am a happy chappy. In another lucky twist someone left five books on my verandah yesterday and one of them turned out to be the Bachman novel A Man Called Ove, which is on our book group list to read this year, plus two of the others were certainly in the readable category. Who’s complaining about lockdown?

After the library lady had been about 9.00 I suggested to John that we do a walk in the bush in the Bidjigal Reserve. I think we need to do something early in the day that lifts his mood and avoids his dwelling on the past and his current situation. It worked a treat today and we got home at ‘1 minute to Gladys’. I hate to miss her 11 am presser, mostly because it’s my main chance of the day to swear at her and that improves my mood for a few hours.

August 13, 2021

We scooted off by car to Crestwood Reserve in Baulkham Hills first thing for a walk along Toongabbie Creek. Although I’ve always known of the reserve this is the first time I’ve actually been there. The council have certainly spent some money on play equipment, shelter sheds, sandstone block seats and a little dam replete with ducks. It sets the day off in the right way when we go out first thing I’ve discovered, of course returning by 11.

Talking to Davina I asked how Millie is enjoying the five books I posted on August 5, but they hadn’t arrived. I quickly checked the tracking facility on the website to discover it had gone to Perth airport, then to the suburb of Welshpool WA, back to Perth airport, then to Mundaring WA this morning. I’ve now been on the phone to Australia Post for almost an hour but they seemed amazed, with no solution proffered so far on how to get the bloody thing back.

The thing that has upset me most in this whole pandemic is hearing that students in a school for severely autistic children have been infected with Covid. I can’t even imagine coping with that, getting them tested, trying to explain why their routine is out of whack, not to mention their illness itself. Those poor parents, as if life isn’t hard enough.

August 14, 2021

Decided to walk in the Bidgigal Reserve again, but this time on the North Rocks side of the creek. Surprise, surprise, we happened to meet up with Michelle who walks there all the time. It was a coincidence officer Smilie: :) truly. We got back in time to hurl insults at Gladys at her 11 am presser, the highlight of my day. She’s putting some of the rules in place that I’ve been suggesting to her, only a month too late baby. Commissioner Mick Fullofhimself was salivating at the thought of even higher penalties for ignoring health and travel rules, forgetting perhaps that for the wealthy this is lolly money, but enough to destroy a poor family. That’s another idea I’ve sent him, fines as a percentage of income, but does he listen? Does he what.

Carly rang with some rare good news. She has been cherry-picked for a job in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, just a phone call out of the blue ‘Do you want this job?’ I understand it’s considered the epitome of government departments so it won’t do her CV any harm and she’s always up for a new challenge. It’s a pity she doesn’t tell her mother all the inside goss, but I guess she got the job because she can be trusted not to.

Oh my, my anti-vaxxer cousin just sent me a message: ‘Naturopathic tips to keep your immune system strong’, which is good as it shows he is still talking to me after our latest contretemps over Covid. I was debating the idea of competing rights with someone else when an American friend of his started in on the conversation, banging on about Nazism, eugenics, Jews and god knows what. At least we argue here without the fear of guns and that’s a relief.

John got a bit teary this morning reading today’s Leunig: ‘You understand the many things that I don’t understand. And I can understand the things that you don’t understand. Both of us stand under things that we had never planned, How it came to be like this we both don’t understand.’ It goes on but I think the first two lines are very pertinent here at the moment.

August 15, 2021

Got a letter published in the Sun-Herald after a long drought. It was about the abhorrent Michaelia Cash, shudder. For some reason we were delivered two Heralds and two Sun-Heralds this weekend, they must think we need one each. But I was shocked to see that Peter Fitzsimons’ column wasn’t on the back page as usual but buried on page 21! I have made my displeasure known to the management and to Peter himself.

A walk in the bush revived us again today, we have to get creative when we can’t go further than 5 kilometres in the new lockdown scenario. My bakery is 7.2 km away so we raced out there yesterday before the law was gazetted and bought 4 loaves of bread to freeze. They were so good to me last year in the lockdown that I simply won’t buy bread anywhere else. They have said they will deliver to me again now, but I don’t want to resort to using their petrol before I need to.

Thinking about Our Glad (when am I not?) it occurs to me that she is still the prefect trying to impress the headmaster, even when the headmaster has changed from the task he asked her to do in the first place. Morrison will drop her like a hot rock if he thinks any ca-ca from her decisions could stick to him. It appears (if Sam Maiden is to be believed) that Kerry Chant advised OG to lock the whole state down some time before she actually did. This morning, after not attending the presser for four days straight (so she wasn’t put on the spot about her advice?) Kerry looked drained and didn’t refer to the Premier in her opening remarks as she usually does. It feels like there is something to it Sam.

August 16, 2021

We were very sneaky today and went 5.2 kilometres for fish, 200 metres outside our legal boundary under lockdown. Don’t tell anyone. I have been buying my fish at Baulko for a couple of weeks but the shop has really gone off, quite a few whole fish but the fillets were limited to salmon (acres of it), barra or flattie and none of it looking super fresh. It may have changed hands. So today we went to Norwest Fresh Seafood who certainly live up to their name. Rather than ‘mmm, what is edible here’ it was ‘oh my gosh, why can’t I have everything’. Got green tiger prawns for a Prawn Risotto tonight and a slab of beautiful swordfish which will be baked in foil tomorrow night, maybe with garlic, spinach and sundried tomatoes I’m thinking. I can taste it already.

My missing parcel with five books for Millie is still in WA, not having left Mundaring since dawn last Friday. I’ve put in a complaint and have a case number, but no-one can tell me where it actually is and if I am getting it back, now or in the future. Davina and Louis decided today to pull Millie out of pre-school for two weeks, after the Chief Health Officer recommended that course of action yesterday. They still have to pay an eye-watering $160 a day to keep her place open. It was a very hard decision as both are working from home, but they are trying (as most of us are) to take the lockdown rules seriously. Carly has had the one week lockdown extended to three weeks in Canberra. Where does it end? Not well I’m thinking.

John’s landlord rang to say that they had had a report that ‘someone’ accessed his unit at 2 am. His neighbour has a spare key so he mentioned that and was told that yes, she was the one reported to them. He texted her to ask why and she said she was ‘getting icecream out of the freezer’ and he remembered that he had given her permission to store extra icecream there, so now he’s asked he to refrain from going in there, waking other people up, at ‘that ungodly hour’. I knew that was a mistake as her next question was ‘what is a godly hour?’. You walked into that one John.

August 17, 2021

Woohoo! The parcel of five books for Millie arrived back from its holiday in Western Australia today and was delivered to her, no worse for wear. I had pretty much written it off. Today we waited in for a delivery from the pharmacy and then took off to find a different spot to walk from previous days. Just off Cook St we saw entry to a patch of bush and went for a wander along a dry creek bed but a sign warned to leave if heavy rain occurred. One of the wonders of living in the Hills is that there are hills and gullies all around. I couldn’t imagine living on flat land, so depressing, which is why I could never live in Melbourne’s outer suburbs. Just driving or travelling by train through them is a downer, to live there would be purgatory.

What to say about Afghanistan? Firstly we should never have occupied that blighted land. Secondly, for all of the evil things that the Taliban have done, and no doubt will do, they are doing it in their own land. Imagine if the Afghans had invaded this country and not the other way around. An Australian fighting off the invaders as the Taliban sympathiser Hekmatullah did, killing three Australian soldiers on their own base in Afghanistan, would be held up as a hero with a special place in the War Memorial. Just as in Syria, Iraq, Libya and more, even when it’s clear that trying to change the culture may well mean destroying the country, the West just pushes on regardless. The lack of fight in the Afghan Army may not be a lack of courage, but just an unwillingness to kill their own countrymen and after decades of living under an invasion force who could blame them for that? But my heart goes out to those women who believed that life for them had turned a corner, I suspect it may be their grandchildren who see change, if even then. Weeks ago I started rereading a book on the chaotic withdrawal from Vietnam, just because it was clear that we were going to soon see a replication. Somehow our government either hadn’t absorbed the history or else ignored that possibility so as not to have to take more migrants at a difficult time. Either ignorance of history or deliberate self-serving blindness, take your pick. In either case it is a dishonourable act to betray those who helped us in a dishonourable war, while we spent years building infrastructure for the Taliban to enjoy.

August 18, 2021

Reading back through the last paragraph of yesterday’s post it sounds a little bit disjointed but I am going to claim stream of consciousness, so there. It gets worse and worse there and rereading that book on Vietnam is just making me angrier, lots of writing in the margin happening. I even altered the title on the front cover as his words absolutely don’t justify the idea that the war there was ‘lost and won ‘. Sorry, it was just plain old lost.

I discovered accidentally that I’d had a few letters published in the Herald that I didn’t know about, back on July 10: “This isn’t a lockdown, it’s a joke. For the first time in 10 days I went to a shopping centre for food and found that people were in clothes and shoe shops, and many others. The only places closed were hairdressers and nail salons.” In March, one titled Special delivery beginning: “I can’t understand why supermarket home delivery isn’t being preferenced over in-store shopping. It gets around panic buying because amounts can be controlled; it helps those susceptible to illness by delivering to the door; and it would put some more people into jobs as packers and delivery drivers.” In March: “Why is it that Scott Morrison seems more fired up about China’s tweet than about the Brereton Report’s findings?”. I wonder how many others I’ve missed. They used to let you know by email if they published your letter but no more, the same as Health’s policy now if you are a Covid casual contact. The first time Carly brought a Canberra beau here he hardly got through the door without saying “I’ve read all your old letters to various newspapers online, you get plenty published”. Some he mentioned went back years!

I have nothing to say about the case numbers today. Wait, I will say one thing: Gladys and Scott, I curse you for this until hell freezes over.

August 19, 2021

Decided today to book a much overdue council clean-up to get rid of excess stuff stored in the garage and an old lounge under the deck which is never used. I have a number of old doors which I kept in case I ever have a garage sale but it’s getting to be a big if. Despite the website saying that it will be up to 28 days they gave me a date just 10 days hence. That gives me time to huck out more stuff. Another job is to go through the mountain of paint tins that are down there and toss to the chemical tip any that have dried out, I’m expecting there will be quite a few. How virtuous I will feel when all this is done.

My first sugar snap pea has emerged, what joy. I was thinking the seeds might be off as they were overdue coming up. Can’t wait to see them climbing the trellis. Also have a few coriander plants coming up in pots but the dill is yet to break ground. Coriander is one herb that I can’t help eating as I walk to the checkout, the smell is just divine, though some people really loath it. There is even an I Hate Coriander Facebook page. Coriander is one food that may drastically differ in taste depending on your genetic make-up. Depending on your genetics, you may experience a soap-like flavour, rather than the herby flavour others experience. I am so glad I’m in the coriander lover’s club.

Carly tried to get food delivered in Canberra yesterday but couldn’t get a time slot at all, so I thought I had better get another order happening in case the current numbers frighten the horses and they rush to home delivery. However Sunday afternoon was first available and that isn’t too bad, I can’t imagine we have ticket to anything then, or perhaps ever. When I think of going to the opera it seems like a quaint thing I did in the far distant past.

August 20, 2021

I distinctly remember when both Gladys and Kerry assured us that ‘curfews don’t achieve anything’ so of course we have a curfew. Brad said we couldn’t mandate vaccinations for hospital workers, until we can. I went to RNS Hospital today for my six monthly blood tests and the workers were talking to each other about how ‘she does everything two months too late’, I didn’t say a word. They are always shocked by the number of tests I get which used to number in the 30s but now is well into the 40s with the cancer screens added. She advised me to ‘drink plenty of water to replace all this blood’. For nine years I had them done at a local pathologist’s office but this year the Prof. asked me to go to NSW Health to get them done. There must be a reason, though I neglected to ask what it was.

Talking to my bro I mentioned going into Aldi and getting the creeps, putting my shopping back and getting the hell out of there, only to find on the Health website a few days later that one of the staff working there was Covid positive. He said he wasn’t surprised because our grandmother was a medium ‘it’s just passed down’ he said. I had forgotten that a few years ago he took me to Keighley where she practised. My adoptive grandmother used to occasionally go to a spiritualist church too, in Yorkshire where such things are quite popular. She told me that she was half-hearted about it all till the medium said as she was leaving ‘Lizzie when you get home you need to straighten that photo of your dead brother that hangs in the hall’. The photo was in fact at an angle when she got home and she never forgot it, especially since she’d never given the medium her name.

August 21, 2021

Last night I just didn’t feel like cooking anything much, so I did spaghetti with a ‘fridge raid sauce’. Cooked some broccolini and garlic in olive oil, added frozo peas and a tiny slurp of cream from the bottom of the jar, then some anchovies and leftover labneh with zaatar. Bloody beautiful if I do say it myself. Tonight we are having what’s left topped with panfried trout cooked with lemon and butter. Tomorrow our Woolies order will replenish stocks.

The Herald had a story about Mee Mee and her mother living in a converted pool room at the back of a house for which they pay an atrocious $250 a week, for a tiny bedroom and a ‘shower-kitchen’ which is a basic kitchen with a shower and toilet behind a curtain. It’s illegal to have a toilet opening onto a kitchen so I hope they don’t get thrown out as a result of the publicity. I contacted the journalist to get contact details in case I could help a little financially but got no reply, so I’ve emailed the other author. Perhaps privacy concerns preclude that but I can only ask. Got another letter up in the Herald but it was cut. The part that was left out was: ‘We were told that masks outdoors and curfews don’t work and now we have both. How can we be confident of anything we are being told?’ Michelle texted to tell me it was in the paper while I was still absorbing the fact that the delivery man left the Daily Telegraph instead and forgot to deliver The Saturday Paper altogether. Groan, I have given it unopened to Arvind so the garbage man won’t think that I read garbage.

A friend tells me that two of his friends went to an Army run pop-up vaccination hub at Macquarie Fields on different days. The first, while in line, was feeling a little faint and mentioned her concerns to the army person. The line was long and out in the elements. Soon after, a police person showed up telling her that they’d heard she was a trouble-maker and if she didn’t keep her mouth shut she’d be removed. She left the hub and didn’t receive her vaccine. Another friend reported that he was in line waiting for his second dose at the same place. The crowd was advised of two hour delays in the queue. Those lining up were then harassed and intimidated to delete any photos they had taken of the lines. I can’t imagine this happening with nurses in charge. Commissioner Fullofhimself has that mealy-mouthed look about him that would make me concerned if he arrested me. I think some of his underlings have drunk too much of his tough cop Kool-Aid.

August 22, 2021

Davina tells me that when she was at Olympic Park for vaccinations they banned photography, not because of the long lines, but to keep the workers’ privacy. That’s fair enough, so perhaps the police issue was a misunderstanding too, who knows. I got a call back from the other author of the SMH piece on Mee Mee and her mother in the decrepit housing at Blacktown (I’m always aware that Baulko is pretty much Blacktown Heights). He told me the journos are putting together some sort of help for them and he will contact me about how to contribute to that, so another win there. They must see some sights in the course of their work, some that they wish they hadn’t.

I have been thinking about comments made at the virtual sewing group about avoiding seeing too much news on Covid, not watching all the press conferences or reading too much about it. I feel quite differently. We are living through one of the great moments in history, not by choice but by circumstance. I want to be aware, to know the ins and outs of the pandemic, its biology and its effects on society. To be blind to it all doesn’t improve our lot. Optimists believe that if you look on the bright side, the other side no longer exists. It is an unnatural state to deny half of what is going on. Of course it makes us sad to look at the Covid deaths and the pain people are going through in Afghanistan for example but we need to look at life as it is, not as how we would like it to be. It’s a bit like asking people to forget that we are all dying a little every day, sorry but it’s just a fact, better to focus on staying as well as possible and keeping out of nursing homes, those bleak warehouses for the pre-dead.

John lost his beloved Akubra hat on a walk yesterday, or at least we thought he did. So this morning we went back to the spot, checked where we walked and where we parked, but nothing. That is until it turned up in the garage on top of the racks of books for the street library. Don’t ask me. But we are both very glad the universe has returned it. While I’ve been typing this John has come in twice to ask what we did this morning, the first time I explained that we went on a hat hunt and watched Insiders and watched the Health presser and went for a walk, but ten minutes later he was asking again. Life must be very confusing for him now.

August 23, 2021

My eBays roll on slowly but surely. I got 23 Olympics sticker folders with a previous home delivery after ticking a box to say I didn’t want them. I couldn’t throw them out so I put them on eBay for 99 cents and have had a first bid today. At least some kid can enjoy them, better than going to recycling. Other items that I tried in vain to give away previously, like a tapestry and some Devon ware eggcups are going too, one to Victoria and the other to WA. It keeps me busy and gives me pin money as well.

Bought Dav and Louis a home delivered meal from Glass Brasserie last Saturday night, all cooked and ready to reheat. It was a big meat and vege pie with mash and desserts. They loved it so I have done some research and found a Jewish restaurant with unusual sounding dishes to try. I’ve rung them to order, but so far no one has returned the call. I just hope they will deliver to Erko from Surry Hills but it’s really not far. We haven’t ordered any sort of takeaway for ourselves for years but then I am under no time pressure and like cooking so I haven’t felt the need.

Had a visit with Carol to discuss some legal matters and it was great to combine it with an outdoors and masked social call. How we miss spontaneous get togethers, Zoom is amazing technology and completely lacking in warmth so I’m glad we opted for a personal appointment.


August 24, 2021

I got a reply from Natassia who wrote the story on Mee Mee and her mum in Blacktown. She replied: ‘Thank you so much for reaching out and sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I just had to spend time figuring out the best way to manage donations directly to the family while protecting their privacy.’ She has set up a GoFundMe page for them plus she’s given me the address for SydWest Multicultural Services if I’d prefer to send something personally. I may do both perhaps, money to the page and perhaps some books for Mee Mee to SydWest, every kid loves to get a parcel. Last night I watched the heart-warming episode of Australian Story on the plucking from the sea forty years ago of a boat load of Vietnamese refugees and the recent reunion between them and their rescuers from HMAS Melbourne. Interestingly the captain expressed his disillusionment with the Vietnam War in general and subsequent changes to policy about picking up refugees at sea, declaring that if he were still a ship’s captain he would rescue any in peril. Bravo!

Had a discussion via email with the book groupers regarding a quote by American author Rumaan Alam. He said: “When we discuss character, we move on to the question of how one views fictional characters. How important is ‘likeability’? What, really, does that have to do with anything? There is a kind of conversation that has crept into reading in this culture, a desire to rank fictionalised people by their likeability, I don’t know anyone who is just likeable. I am really hard-pressed to think of someone who is just likeable and that’s the sum total of their existence. People are complicated and strange. Terrible people may hold the same opinions as you. People you love may hold terrible political opinions”. It pretty much sums up my thoughts on the issue.

All of us live in “polite society” and there are lots of benefits in that. But the downside is that whenever there is an opposing view on a subject there tends to be a silence, or even a change of subject, as if we are afraid of any disagreement at all. I get sick of seeing people clam up if you disagree with them even mildly. I find women are much more inclined to close off differing opinions, but men are happy to debate, or to tell you straight out if they think you are wrong. I miss both Philip and Robert who were always up for a debate.

August 25, 2021

The situation with the post is getting dire. Apart from Millie’s parcel trotting around WA for a week, an eBay client in Victoria sent me a prepaid post pack by mail two weeks ago, it still hasn’t arrived. Then John decided to change from his Lane Cove pharmacy to one here and the chemist posted all of his scripts ten days ago, but they haven’t arrived. I had to do some fancy talking to get him some of his essential blood thinner tablets from my lovely pharmacist Sharif, even though the script is in transit. Sharif has put on an assistant pharmacist, also called Sherif but with a different spelling, now that he’s extended hours to nearly 12 a day. I told him he was a narcissist and got a laugh. I love dealing with people who laugh at my jokes. A narcissist, moi?

I’ve booked a council clean-up for Tuesday so we are busy tidying up the garage and tossing stuff, hurrah! We can’t put them out yet, but have an old lounge and some doors needing to be moved on Monday, which we should be able to do with a trolley. I am making up a box for my old restorer, things like cupboard locks, hinges, tools that I don’t need or which are duplicates. One funny thing I found was the contents of the glove box from my previous station wagon which was destroyed by a drunk driver when parked out the front. I have looked for that bag numerous times, it had three pairs of sunglasses and my chamois amongst various pens and a box of Panadol. How can something be lost in a garage for years? Well here it can. One thing I am hoping to find is the ashes of my friend Mike’s dog. I inherited them when Mike died unexpectedly just a few months after his dog and I plan to add them to his grave if ever they rise to visibility again. It would help if I could remember what the container looked like, but a promise is a promise, and they must turn up eventually.

Before starting our huck out we had to ring the NRMA as a person I won’t mention had put the car lights on last time it was used, in the daytime, and left them on. The lovely NRMA man Richard started up the flat battery and left clutching a blueberry muffin to eat in the van. On Sunday when the groceries were delivered the lovely Sikh man who brought them told me he had had his vaccination that day and was feeling unwell but when he rang his boss he was told that they were too busy for him to take time off, so he had to work till 10.30 pm. He tried to give us 6 large bottles of Coke (ugh) and a 4 litre apple juice that we hadn’t ordered, so it’s lucky that I noticed before he left. I gave him a freshly cooked hot muffin to eat on his run. For some reason his story made me feel teary as he works from 6 am to late at night six days a week. A lot of workers do it very tough.

August 26, 2021

We did some more tossing of rubbish, including a few books destined for the street library that had gone mouldy, though I think they must have already been like that as the garage in general and the surrounding books were fine. I found a makeup case with various blushers, lip pencils, eye shadows etc, all new, so I put them out outside under the street library for people to take. I have no memory of how I got them but it’s not something I would buy. Listed a cargo barrier for a station wagon on eBay, it came with my car but with neither dangerous parcels nor a dog it has never been used. After all that we went up to the Cumberland Forest for a walk.

Somehow the figure of over 1000 for new cases today was confirmation that we are not going to get out of this anytime soon. Westmead Hospital, our nearest, is taking a Covid case on average every 19 minutes, day and night. You don’t need to think for long to realise that this is unsustainable, considering that many of the patients will be there for weeks. But interestingly John said coming home from the walk that he’s been happier this last couple of months than at any time in his life, so clearly the lockdown isn’t having a negative mental effect on him. In fact he loves pottering around here as he’s basically a homebody, it’s me who misses holidays and time away from home.

A lady in WA to whom I posted a parcel yesterday contacted me to say that the online tracking is showing that it has been delivered to Baulkham Hills. I was worried till I noted that the ‘delivery’ supposedly occurred before I actually posted it, so clearly an error. She replied that she’s had some crazy things happen with Australia Post lately. She  accidentally put her home address as the delivery address on a parcel, then when she took it to the Post Office she discussed what she had done and they altered it by hand. Unfortunately because of that hand written address on the printed label the computer sorting machines never picked up on the correction. It went on to travel back and forth from WA to NSW six times over six weeks, Express Post. But executives are getting bonuses.

August 27, 2021

It was great to hook up with the book group today and catch up with people’s news. Because most of us can’t get access to libraries at the moment we discussed something that we had read in the last month and I chose Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha, a fascinating book (with a bit of a silly name in my view) about interrelationships between two Korean and African-American families in Los Angeles, set in 1991 and the present day. The back story was what caused the 1991 LA riots, triggered by the shooting of a black girl by a Korean convenience store owner. Ruth asked about other books by Korean authors and I mentioned that I loved the books I’ve read by Han Kang, especially Human Acts. They made me sure that I don’t want to live in Sth. Korea though. They seem to talk about a strictly governed hyper-capitalist society where the majority of people work long hours for little pay, governed by very conservative social rules and an overabundance of strict religious sects. A capitalist’s dream, as shown in last week’s Foreign Correspondent, which delved into the lives of Korean postal delivery workers, who work inhuman hours and then get fined $60 dollars for delivering a parcel after hours, a parcel that they were paid $1 to deliver in the first place. It was an eye-opener. I also mentioned in passing Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, a great novel about a respiratory pandemic which sweeps the world, written in 2015. It tied in with Jane’s chosen novel about society (and religion) being swept back into the Middle Ages resulting in science being non-existent in society. This equates with the results of the pandemic in Station Eleven where planes, electricity, internet of course, and cars cease to be available because the only survivors are people living in small numbers in remote areas. Rosanna mentioned that we are only one or two mutations away from that, something I didn’t comment on but had thought myself in recent times.

August 28, 2021

Much of the day was spent trying to work out a way to send a framed tapestry with glass to Melbourne. The lady had asked me initially to remove it from the frame for posting and this morning I had done that, but then she emailed this afternoon to ask for a quote for sending it entire. So John volunteered to do a test pack involving carving some polystyrene, cutting foam rubber to protect the glass and slicing up a big cardboard box to fit so I could get an online courier quote. After he did most of that she emailed again to say she had changed her mind and to just send the rolled tapestry, except poor John forgot that I told him about this latest email and for a while I didn’t realise that he had kept on working on the packing. So it has taken about two hours out of this afternoon for both of us for a $30 sale, but I guess we weren’t planning on having a dinner party tonight, fun though that would be. In fact I haven’t even considered dinner at 4.30 pm, by which time I’ve usually done all the prep.

This morning we dropped off an African violet that Heather had been able to procure for me at market through her florist contacts. She is so Covid conscious that she said it had to stay at her place for a week to make sure it was safe and it was then delivered to my front verandah yesterday. I have given up on being that careful about handling goods, seeing there has so far been no reports of transmission other than by breath. We went on from there to Cumberland Forest for a loop walk which was just lovely, but although we were there only last Thursday John commented that ‘it’s been a while since we came here for a walk’ and was totally amazed when I said we were there a few days ago. He still couldn’t remember it after I showed him the walk we did last time. It saddens me so much to see him like this though he certainly enjoys whatever we do, even if he can’t remember it straight afterwards.

While we were on the walk Carly rang John’s phone and said she had just rung mine but it was picked up by a stranger who said ‘Don’t hang up! Don’t hang up!’ and told Carly she had found my phone on what pretends to be my grass verge (the dirt verge) outside the house. Apparently I had dropped it getting into the car, juggling my bag, sunglasses, a letter to post and the plant. She’d rung the police who were coming to get it from her, but when Carly rang she used the opportunity to locate the owner and I was able to pick it up on our way home. What a disaster that could have been, save for an honest woman. I shall drop off something to eat for her when I get around to it.

August 29, 2021

It is five years today since the shop closed! Now I can toss all the cheque butts, day sheets, client requests in their hundreds if not thousands, GST sheets, tax paperwork etc. In a way I have come full circle as now I am having lovely conversations with eBay clients like the one buying the tapestry. She told me to forget the $12.50 worth of stamps she had posted to me and paid again the full postage to send the piece flat, instead of rolled. So I gathered she was an antique lover and packed the tapestry in half a dozen pieces of embroidered linen so she’ll get a nice surprise when she opens it. The whole performance for a $30 sale  reminded me of things I used to do in the shop, such as when a man who was looking at a walnut and curved glass china cabinet asked if I could deliver. ‘Of course’ I replied. ‘Anywhere?’ said he. ‘Yep anywhere’ quoth she, thinking it might be over the Blue Mountains but it was all doable. He paid for the piece and we agreed that I would deliver anywhere at bare cartage cost, subject to his approval of the price. Then I got the delivery address….in Jabiru. ‘Um, where exactly is Jabiru?’ I asked nervously. ‘In the Northern Territory, about 4 hours south-east of Darwin’. I gulped but was too proud to admit defeat. A van to Penrith, a semi-trailer to Brisbane, another semi to Darwin and then to Jabiru on the back of a ute. It got there in a week in perfect condition, which was lucky as the curved glass was irreplaceable, even in Sydney. One more happy customer. I used to tell the staff that whether it was a $5 or $5000 sale the service had to be the same. Which led to us sometimes gift-wrapping items from the outside ‘free’ basket, but it was all part of the fun. I was once asked on Christmas Eve if I could gift-wrap and deliver a cedar wardrobe to the man’s wife, but the catch was that it had to be delivered that day. I managed to get a client to race out for heaps of wrapping paper, while I rang around my carriers, but it got there gift-wrapped with a huge bow. In the drawer was a piece of jewellery which he also purchased to add to the gift. I suspect the wardrobe was only packaging for the jewellery. Men always trooped in on Christmas Eve for gifts, women lay-byed them in October and November.

August 30, 2021

I watched Compass last night on lack of facial recognition. It was fascinating and I was surprised to see Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on there. How difficult it would be to work as a doctor with that problem, I can’t even imagine it. There were also people interviewed who were in the top 1-2% for facial recognition including a fellow who never forgets a face, regardless of how long ago he saw it. He should be a detective. Loved the photographer host who has this problem as do others in his family, what an interesting man and what an amazing photographer. It seems that, like autism, it is a different wiring of the brain but one that would be negative in evolutionary terms I would assume. I don’t think I have that problem to a great degree, but perhaps mildly. I can never tell you who was in a particular movie and apart from a small handful of actors I couldn’t recognise them if I saw them in the street. In the shop I recognised a few people every time, but others I just couldn’t and people would come in saying ‘I’d like to pick up the item I put on lay-by yesterday’ and I didn’t have a clue who they were. I used to ask if they had their docket but if they didn’t it was tricky as they would often get offended that I didn’t know them after a long conversation just the day before. Once a woman who came in regularly said ‘oh so you recognise me today, that’s a change’ and while I tried hard it mostly didn’t work.

I’ve had a flurry of action on the eBay front today necessitating emails, packing and posting, plus John needed help with organising a phone appointment with Bob and dealing with that, only for new scripts, but he has trouble negotiating this sort of thing lately. He also had to fill out some forms to do with his super fund and found that quite taxing. Administration of any sort used to be his strong point, it’s never been mine, but I’m finding more and more that I am the one either helping him or doing most of it. However between the two of us we managed to get the items out the front on a trolley for the council clean-up, an old lounge that was outside under the deck plus some doors which I thought I’d use one day as tables for a possible garage sale, but I know now that it’s never going to happen. Actually there seems to be a lot of things now that as I think of them I decide that it’s not something that I am ever likely to do again. I guess that’s how it goes, your world just gets smaller and smaller.

August 31, 2021

A big day of work here pulling down the antique bed in the small bedroom and storing it in parts downstairs. For a while I was apanicked because the rails wouldn’t come out of the chills and although you can apply a hammer to the bed rails, the chills are cast iron and 150 year old cast shatters like glass if you give it even a gentle whack. I’ve seen many beds ruined in that way, including one that I had sold. I could never remember for sure if I had warned the lady about the need to take special care with putting it back together and I suspect she or someone hit the rail into place with a hammer. I only saw it when I was called to her house by her brother to buy furniture after she committed suicide months later. The bed was still standing in the hall where it was delivered months before, with one of the cast chills broken. Since then I’ve always equated broken chills with her suicide, seeing again the blood stains on the carpet and walls, so taking a bed apart for me is a stressful enterprise. I refused to let John do it in case of a break, I would prefer to blame myself. WD40 was my friend and after 15 minutes the rails came out with no problem.

An academic I’ve been following at ANU, Associate Professor Ben Phillips, works on economics, statistics, social policy and microsimulation. He is plotting the NSW case numbers against a simple exponential curve and so far it’s pretty much a dead match, to the point that he can predict each days numbers very closely. This is terrifying because if it were to continue, which it hopefully won’t because of vaccination, it peaks at 10,000 cases a day in October. Gladys had better be pretty damned sure of what she’s doing.

September 1, 2021

Happy Spring! My pansies are showing their cat faces at the front door, my replacement weeping acacia has grown an inch (after its predecessor was cut down by a whippy wind), the sugar snap peas are up and seeking the trellis and the coriander and dill seeds look happy. I am not sure why whippy winds can’t destroy weeds instead of the things you want, but that’s life.

John has gone to St. Vs today for his monthly IGg transfusion and is stopping at his place on the way to do some things. I was worried about the constabulary pulling him over in lockdown so I rang Services NSW who told me to write a letter explaining that he was living here for the lockdown but needs to go to his flat on the way to a hospital appointment. Hopefully that will be enough. The house is strangely empty.

Millie is very much enjoying an Enid Blyton book that Dav bought her so I went through my childhood book ands found The Pole Star Family by that author. I’ve posted it to her along with a Rupert book, a Disney one and another, all from the early 1950s. Many of my books were prizes from Granville Methodist Sunday School and have certificates posted in the front page, often with First Prize, I’m assuming from an exam of some sort. I remember the family gatherings in the hall where everyone brought a picnic to share, one of the few times my parents ever mixed socially. Well when I say mixed, they didn’t actually talk to anyone but they were there.

September 2, 2021

Huzzah! My blog has been refusing to upload for the last two days and I wasn’t sure if it was my computer or the blog host itself, but a speed test showed that while the download speed was good, the upload speed was 0.01. So I got John to bring up his machine when he called into his place yesterday and it appears that the upload speed is fine on it, so a visit by the computer guy is in order. Mine is relatively new and I’ve never had a problem before so it’s yet another worry.

Later: What a frustrating bloody day. I had an appointment with my immunologist via phone at 12.40 and it eventually happened at 2.40. No bad news there thankfully. John was apparently waiting for me to do something with him but I didn’t know anything about it, so the two hour delay pole-axed that. Then I had to enquire about something with Centrelink and after 40 minutes on the phone the person told me that the particular program she needed to help me was down, so ‘ring back tomorrow’. Later I decided to take some cake down to the lady who found and returned my phone recently, but there was no sign of life there so I walked back with the cake. Perhaps I should have stayed in bed.

But the good news is that if you are reading this my computer has fixed itself spontaneously, the upload speed now being about 18. We shall see, when I press the button it will either upload or the computer will go up in a pall of smoke as one did to me about 20 years ago. With luck however the universe may have decided to hold off on any more nasty annoyances and send them another day.

September 3, 2021

Oh frabjous day! Woke up early and had the porridge eaten and garden watered before 7.30 am. Then I decided to forget ringing Centrelink again and to try to do the job online, which was actually easier than I expected. For some reason it says I moved into this house on 28/3/14 instead of in the 1970s. I certainly didn’t tell them that and it was unable to be altered online, so I’m assuming it’s just a glitch in the program which won’t matter. I wish now that I had gone online in the first place, but you live and learn. My preference is to always deal with a real person.

John took off early to do some stuff at his flat. Now that I have written a letter saying that his address is Lane Cove but he is living here during the lockdown, he is confident about moving between the two if necessary. I see Our Glad is going to use an app to tell us if we’ve been close to an infected person, now that the contact tracing system has all but collapsed. It works well in Britain, but if the same developers who devised the CovidSafe app are involved it may well be more millions down the drain. She doesn’t seem to have an iota of guilt about the fact that she screwed up and caused so many deaths. Unlike the Samoan tree lopper who travelled from the hotspot of St. Marys to Newcastle (can you believe it!) going door to door looking for work and spreading Covid along the way. He gave a tearful interview from hospital where he is being treated along with many of his relatives who were working with him. But the man is probably little educated, had 10 children to support, is teary and remorseful and said he will accept going to gaol if that is his punishment. I will stop being angry with Gladys when I hear her say the same thing. Davina reports seeing a cop and an ADF person in blue camouflage and a face shield today at her unit block. We’re assuming this has to mean an infected person in the block as they would have been doing a spot check to check that someone was in quarantine as instructed. A bit disconcerting.

I made another trip, the third, to deliver some cake to the phone-finder but as I walked down the street with the cake under cling wrap, my elderly neighbour was at her letter box and saw me coming. ‘Here you are Jean’ I said deviously, not letting on that she wasn’t the intended recipient. The phone-finder must wait for another day.

September 4, 2021

Busy hucking stuff at John’s flat, cleaning out his food cupboards where I found spices and herbs with use-by dates of 2004 (I remember telling him to throw these same packets out when we were moving him into the flat 12 years ago). Also packets of cocoa, chai, fancy teas, oils and more that I had given him as gifts, unopened, but still in date luckily so they have migrated here. Then we attacked the linen cupboard and the shopping trolley was an ideal receptacle for all the purple, pink and puce towels and washers that have seen better days, good for rags or the Sallies. We still managed to watch Old Brad at 11, giving us the bad news about cases. The lovely Rick Morton wrote a front pager in The Saturday Paper about the fact that the hospitalisation figures conveniently ignore the two thirds of patients being treated in ‘hospital in the home’ situations, supplied with oxygen tanks and visited daily by nurses. Eight have died while in this type of care, including a couple of people in their 30s. The 1700 people getting this service were never mentioned in the hospital figures, funny that.

Back here I was putting things from the car into the garage when John moved a large old  garbage bag of mine and it split, but unluckily it was full of polystyrene beads and a few spilled from the hole. Uncharacteristically John spat the dummy and threw the whole bag in the air, resulting in a garage full of beads and an empty bag. I thought it was hilarious but he failed to be amused so I left it to him to sweep them all up and deposit them into a new bag which I kindly agreed to hold open. He sees the funny side now, but I wish I’d caught it on video for Facebook, it would have scored a lot of likes.

A friend was telling me about a good friend of hers, whom I’ve met, who won’t wear a mask or get vaccinated. She is a school teacher and my friend is naturally concerned that she will lose her job as a result. She subscribes to other conspiracy beliefs such as that the Holocaust never happened. Thinking about it afterwards I asked myself if I would be happy to have her teaching Millie and the answer has to be no. She is an advocate for refugees and a good soul in many ways and it occurred to me that this conspiracy stuff jumps the left/right divide and pulls many people into its web. I don’t know if it sheets back to the distrust of science by the religions or to something else, but I do know it’s a disease and I wish we were rid of it. We lost Robert a year ago yesterday at 6 am, he would have been appalled at the extent of the non-rationalist beliefs that are flooding us now.

September 5, 2021

Heather arrived early and left a Darrell Lea Dad’s Bag and a card on the doorstep for John for Father’s Day. He cried reading the card, knowing she was so concerned that he would spend the day without a card or gift and with no phone call. He says the words on the card moved him so much that he’ll never part with it. After a somewhat stressful day yesterday we opted for a dies non today, with a hot lunch and wine (for moi at least) to celebrate our 14 years today. Despite that decision to do not much, we weakened to hang John’s large painting of a bronze statue in the lounge room. He bought it when we were in Daylesford Victoria a few years ago and it looks mighty fine in its new home. Also I was able to put up the lovely Aboriginal bark painting and the painting of wrens by our friend Luke Kelly which was bought the day before the first lockdown in 2020. There are others to go up, but enough for one day I think.

Then I was delighted when John got his printer working, so pleased that the wi-fi travels as far as his new office. I was able to download some forms for Centrelink that have to be signed and returned tomorrow. My sugar-snap peas, or at least three of them, have worked out where the trellis is and wound their green fingers around it. A few more are reaching out in the wrong direction but I’m sure they will get with the program eventually. How do they know where to look? I ask myself. So all in all, the fates have shined on this house today, long may it continue.

September 6, 2021

My goodness, the conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork. First my cousin, then Martha’s friend, now another friend of mine. He had me on the phone this morning convinced that the Post Office stopped parcel deliveries on Friday for a few days in order to sabotage Father’s Day, when in fact the warehouses were just plain full. Then he said that of the 12 people who died from Covid in Sydney a couple of days ago, 11 were vaccinated and one one wasn’t; actually it was the reverse. On top of that he maintained that 496 people had died from having the AstraZeneca vaccine, ‘check it out’ he said ‘it’s there on the TGA website’. So I did, and the statistics there are: 9.6 million AZ vaccines given so far, 125 cases of blood clotting syndrome and as a result 9 people have died. I am not sure if people can’t read, or perhaps they get the information from someone else or a devious website which has deliberately lied. But it’s a disease, it’s tiresome and it’s spreading as fast as Covid.

Fun and games with eBay of late. The lovely lady who bought the framed tapestry, and then decided to get it taken out of the frame and posted, has discovered the 1929 date on the back and now wants the frame as well. So that’s been packed up for posting and we shall see if it gets there without the glass breaking. It means she’s up for double postage, but she’s so thrilled with it that she doesn’t care. Another happy WA customer left a message that I am the best packer ever, which spurs me on to keep using unconventional packing methods that so far have resulted in nil breakages. I learned my lesson when I got one of my staff to post a dinner set and she sat it on the bottom of a box with no padding beneath, of course with disastrous results, so packing fell only to me from then on. In a first, a man in Moscow emailed to ask if I would post a rare corkscrew I am selling, if he wins the bid of course. He slept in and didn’t see my reply till the item had ended but I relisted it and hopefully it will wing its way to Moscow in due course. As usual it’s the blokey stuff that brings the money. I approached two auction houses with photos of some furniture that John wants to sell, but neither was interested. They are getting very fussy, so I will eBay that too in due course.

I gave John a little box with some morning tea to eat at Lane Cove, plus a quarter of a cake to leave outside Ann’s door, but he’s arrived home with the quarter cake and has left his morning tea outside Ann’s. Confusion reigns but there’s a funny side. Just made a fruit cake while he was gone so I will send her a quarter of that instead, though I’ll wait till I am going there to drop it off.

September 7, 2021

Today we were at John’s sorting stuff and packing boxes. I now have more tins of tomatoes and chick peas than any woman needs but we will get through them eventually. It is such a pity that the charity shops are shut as there are pots and pans, dinner ware, glasses, cutlery, you name it, that are surplus to requirements. John’s neighbour offered to try to sell a few of his things and we are so sick of packing that we said yes and he gave her a standard lamp which she likes and said she could take her pick from the leftover kitchen stuff if there’s anything of use. John left her with keys and asked her to come in after we had gone to abide by Covid rules. We are like the walking wounded tonight, but we will sleep at least. Too tired to even type.

September 8, 2021

Our decision to let J’s neighbour sell some of his remaining things proved problematic as I should have known it would. She texted to say that his dinner set for 8 had been sold for $20 but I told her that she had better unsell it pretty quickly as that was half of the minimum price in the list we sent by email. She contacted the buyer who was understandably upset. I really don’t know why we weakened to agree to the arrangement and I can only plead exhaustion yesterday. I did say to John on the way home that it will end in tears, but he’s a trusting soul bless him and assured me it would be fine. Today outside he saw another neighbour who has a Chinese catering business and offered her some excess kitchenware which was going to the Sallies, odd glasses, bowls, saucepans etc. Bad move as far as the first neighbour is concerned and he has had phone calls and texts in protest that someone else was offered anything at all. Hide and rhinoceros come to mind,

Went out to Dural to get my high dose Vitamin D from the compounder and it’s funny that the trip feels like a day out rather than a chore. I guess that’s what happens when your territory shrinks. I do abide by the rules, even to the point of getting an okay from Service NSW to go to John’s to pack, unlike certain reported religious groups in Melbourne. First the engagement party of Orthodox Jewish people and now a synagogue full of them disobeying lockdown. In that case is it religion or is it wealth I ask myself and I don’t have an answer to that one. However in some cases wealth doesn’t seem to be part of the equation, with photos of a humble suburban house where police have been called by neighbours SIX times because the positive family of five just won’t stay home. When asked why it was still happening a policeman replied ‘try getting this mob to pay fines’. It has been explained repeatedly and yet the wife replies ‘well we’ve got to eat’ despite food being delivered to them. I guess the constabulary sees the risk to themselves of just throwing the lot in a paddy wagon. Then we come to the family of the boy missing for three days who throws a party and on television, as bold as you like, invites all the rellies from south-west Sydney to come up for a barbecue. Sometimes I just wonder about the rationality of some people, especially this past year.

September 9, 2021

It seems our friends in the Orthodox community were craftier than the rest of us, registering the synagogue as a venue for AA meetings, which have a medical dispensation allowing 10 people to meet. Having got that happening they decided to ask along 60 of their brethren for a meeting of a totally different kind, what’s a few dozen more between friends? Oh, but there’s a lockdown on…..which applies to Gentiles only it seems. Now the Tasmanian Catholic Archbishop has asked for a vaccine exemption for priests entering nursing homes to minister to the elderly, on the grounds that some have conscientious objections to having the injection. Jesus F. Christ, give me a break! These are frail elderly and the priests want to risk sending them to their maker early? Surely there are enough sensible priests to take over the duties of the anti-vaxxers? If there are not, shame on the organisation. Just another example of churches still living in mediaeval times.

John went off to Lane Cove to get a car load of clothes (looks like a semi load, but whatever). Fifteen minutes after he left I saw his keys there in the door so I texted his neighbour to make sure she had replaced the spares in the key lock attached to the stairs. No response, so I had to phone John to turn around and come back for the keys just in case. When he got there he checked the key lock and no, they weren’t there. I had to send a text expressly telling her to leave the bloody keys where they belong, except playing it sweet and nice to keep John happy. The bane of my life at the moment.

Decided to use the free time today to put a few eBays on as I haven’t had any opportunity this last week. But all the boxes of eBay-able stuff have gone into the storeroom and god knows which box is which at this stage. Rather than unpacking boxes of tat to find something saleable I decided to put on an original 1960s Oroton mesh handbag and a 15 carat rose gold cased pencil from my jewellery box, meant to hang on a fob watch chain and made by Sydney jewellers Fairfax and Roberts in the late 1800s. I don’t wear gold so it’s just sitting there because it’s a gorgeous thing and I like it. It is the sort of thing my daughters might understandably put in the Sulo bin not knowing what it was, so it’s better if it goes anyway. However the punters will need to put their hands very deeply into their pockets if they want to own this 9 grams of loveliness. I also sent photos of it to my favourite jewellery auction house and we’ll see what sort of figure they come up with.

September 10, 2021

So Our Glad is too scared to face journalists, and through them the public, now that the news regarding Covid cases and deaths is likely to soar. How bloody typical of her. Perhaps she is scared of Kerry telling the truth about her advice to the cabinet, advice that wasn’t taken. As Stephen Duckett, ex head of Health remarked “one person’s freedom is another person’s going to hospital. This plan was developed by business for business”. A poll I did online recently asked if I were: looking forward to travelling? looking forward to going to a show? looking forward to going to the movies? After some thought I answered no to all of them, simply because the way the pandemic is being handled at the moment I have zero confidence in the safety of any of these. I will check it out, but from memory when I was studying we were told that 85% of a population needed to be vaccinated or have had a disease to achieve herd immunity. Our Glad doesn’t give a fig about facts if they interfere with politics. But between Covid and McGuire she has zip chance of re-election in my view and it’s well deserved.

September 11, 2021

Decided to watch 9/11 Life Under Attack on iview late yesterday and it was so rivetingly attention- grabbing that I failed to take enough notice of the fact that all the camera work was hand-held. Oops, suddenly I was diving for the loo to vomit, too sick to stand for quite a while. Some time in bed in a dark room, with a cardigan wrapped around my head to block out residual light, followed by an early night was the solution. Woke up fine this morning but it was a close shave. I just can’t afford to get sick right now.

We went back to John’s and I was feeling okay about what’s left to do till I remembered the garage. My heart sank when I saw all the stuff stored in there, including 7 large boxes full of family photos which have been there since he moved 12 or so years ago, but we put them all in the car along with piles of other stuff that I guarantee will never be looked at again. It’s a pity there are no rellies to offload some of this to, but there we are. We then filled a large Sulo bin to the top with university assignments, drawings and notes.

September 12, 2021

Did I say 7 large boxes of photos yesterday? Silly me, double that once I pulled stuff off the top shelves in the garage. Some of the boxes were packed with newspapers from year 2000 and have never been looked at since. Box after box of ‘archives’, which I’ve had to put under the house as the garage is now full. I have been putting a couple of things on eBay for him this arv, but gave up when I discovered that the box with his dinner set in it was actually packed with half the dinner set. I guess the other half has to be packed in the garage somewhere, but not findable at the moment so I’ve had to cancel the ad. I did a bit of yelling when the overloaded station wagon scraped on my uneven driveway, but peace has now been restored. Thursday can’t come soon enough.

I missed the last Gladys presser today but if I were a Labor pollie I’d institute 11 am pressers starting tomorrow. They can get the info from the Health website and people are primed to watch at that time, so why not take advantage of it? I wonder if there are going to be some more Darryl McGuire revelations this week that Our Glad is keen to avoid, I suspect it, cynic that I am. Perhaps she is trying to get to herd immunity via positive cases a la Boris Johnson, if so she’s doing a bottler of a job.

Last year in Melbourne’s outbreak an acquaintance who is a specialist doctor there said that there was a plan at her hospital to prioritise patients by age if the pandemic took off. She was told that they may need to put over 75s aside with doses of morphine, and not tell either the patient or the family that this was all that was being done. She was in tears over it. Now according to The Saturday Paper NSW Health has a similar formula which prioritises under 72s. Plans have been drawn up that life-saving support may not be offered, or may even be withdrawn, for those over 72. ” Complex ethical and clinical treatment issues can occur when healthcare demand exceeds supply. It may be necessary at some point to begin prioritising limited critical care resources to those who are more likely to survive”. I wonder where I can buy a licence which gives my age as 65?

September 13, 2021

I was happy to get some time here on my own to put some more eBays on and to get some gardening done before the rain started. I got the little bit of transplanting done in time but unfortunately then got caught up searching for some important misplaced documents of John’s which took an age and was fruitless anyway, so there goes the bulk of the day. A complete emptying of the Sulo bin failed to find them so now it’s just one of life’s little mysteries.

I see that Chris Minns took up my suggestion of an 11 am presser today in light of the premier’s decision to cease doing them, so Our Glad decided that she actually did need to do one at that time after all. If I had to use one word to describe her I think it would be ‘shameless’. Embarrassment and indeed mortification just don’t come into her self-perception at all, regardless of how blatant her dishonesty is. The best liars don’t give a fig that they are lying. She and Morrison are cast from the same mould in that respect.

The frame with glass that I posted to Melbourne arrived both quickly and safely so I am very pleased. It could easily have been broken despite being plastered with fragile stickers. I think I’ve made a friend as she emails me personally apart from the sale we have now concluded. One of the best things about selling, finding common ground with people who are also antique lovers.

September 14, 2021

The second and last of my rare French 1927 corkscrews has sold to someone in Moscow. I have my toes crossed that he’s not a scammer but looking at his feedback it seems he buys mostly from antiques or junktiques people so hopefully he is genuine. It’s terrible to have to make judgments on the basis of where folks live, but it’s also true that Russia and Malaysia and others have bed reputations for scammers, so much so that after Davina went to Malaysia the bank told her to cancel her credit card because she had used it there, though that didn’t happen with us. His English is perfect, which means nothing of course, but it seemed surreal thinking back to my trip to Moscow in 1973, when barely anyone spoke the language.

Some pretty impressive scientific commentators on Covid including all the usual suspects: epidemiologist Tony Blakely, Burnet Institute’s Brendan Crabb, the Grattan Institute’s Stephen Duckett, the Kirby Institute’s biosecurity program head Raina MacIntyre and even ANU vice-chancellor with Nobel-prize winning astronomer Brian Schmidt thrown in for good measure, have joined together to form OzSAGE, a new scientific lobby group on the pandemic. Named after its British counterpart the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, it comprises those who have serious doubts about the Doherty modelling which was based on 30 new cases a day, while we discuss opening up with an average of 1200.

The disruption here in the house is starting to get on top of me. Every time I turn around there is more stuff piling up around me. I am not a neatness freak at all, but I do need to have some rooms which aren’t affected in any disordering, somewhere to retreat to, and at the moment that’s just the bathroom.

September 15, 2021

Well it’s really happening. Jeff the removalist rang this morning to confirm the number of pieces of furniture he is bringing here tomorrow from John’s, presumably so he knows what size truck to bring. I have worked with him many times doing deliveries for the shop and I like his style. We used him to move John to Lane Cove, then to move him from the first floor flat down to the ground floor after his third knee replacement and now to here. Then I decided this morning to email the neurologist to ask whether or not she needs to see John again at the moment. Last November she said that there was a drug, Aricept, that he could have to slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s, but it can only be given once and it was too early for him to have it then. I am a little worried that we may miss the optimum time for it so I just need reassurance about when that might be. I am finding everything a struggle at the moment, navigating change of address for umpteen organisations, dealing with the bank, doctors, this on top of the disruption here which is really getting me down. All the plates on the walls have had to come down and numerous pieces of furniture moved to give the men clear access tomorrow. But after that each thing done will be towards putting my little world back to rights, so it’s all upwards from then.

Perhaps a whinge would do me good: It annoys me no end the way people talk about ‘mental health’. An expert on The Drum said ‘Mental health is going through the roof’. That has to be a good thing, right? I assume she meant lack of mental health that’s the problem, but it’s become a catch phrase and is used messily. Secondly, I can’t stand Parnell Palme McGuiness. She always trots out lots of facts, stirs them all around and ends up with a totally wrong conclusion. Plus she is as annoying as fuck. Oh, that did me good, I feel so much better now.

September 16, 2021

I think I’ve mentioned that I don’t like getting up at any time that has a 5 in front of it, but today was a special day so there was an exception. We were at John’s flat by 6.30 am and the boys in the big Jeff’s Removals van arrived just after 7. Nick and Craig did a wonderful job, as Jeff’s people always do, and it astonished me at times what one man can lift alone. Two of them managed his massive tool box full of power tools which I’d assumed they would need to unload. We beetled back here for a toastie for lunch before the truck arrived and by 2.30 pm we were waving them goodbye. Now there is probably months of sorting and finding new homes for things, but the worst is over. Hallelujah.

I am beside myself happy that a friend who disappeared out of my life in April has sent an email just now asking if he can visit me on Monday week to explain ‘what has been going on over the last few months’. Trying to pretend to yourself that someone doesn’t really mean that much to you never ever works. Now I can hopefully stop blaming myself for upsetting him in some mysterious way that I could never fathom. Weepy happy at the moment.

Now I intend to sit down and write some lists of priorities for sorting out all this stuff, but a great start is that I just today got a bid on John’s antique double bed and mattress on eBay, so that’s the first big thing out of the way.

September 17, 2021

I keep thinking of things that we need to organise and today it was his mail redirection, so we headed off to the Dural PO, a small one run by a couple and never full, whereas the Baulkham Hills one always has 10 people lined up out the door. It suited to buy bread from the bakery there now that we can use John’s fridge and freezer in the garage as overflow. We attacked putting John’s clothes into the wardrobe and discovered that I couldn’t find the only piece of outer clothing I’ve bought new in the last 5 years? 10 years? It is a delicious reversible raincoat in black/red made in the USA (and priced to match) which lives in its matching shoulder bag. I got it in Bowral in a moment of weakness and I don’t think I’ve worn it since, because of lack of rain and then the lockdown. However it is my evil treat, waiting for its day in the sun, well actually its day in the rain, but you know what I mean. When I couldn’t find it I went through the ‘am I being punished for splurging on something new and expensive?’ routine and felt quite bereft till John turned it up under a small mountain of his stuff. He’s discovered winter jumpers he didn’t know he had and some winter nightshirts that he was thrilled to buy a couple of years ago and then promptly forgot about. However I used Restorafinish on some of his office furniture and picked a bunch of flowers for his desk, the room is materialising slowly.

So now we are to have some nuclear submarines in order to put us even more in debt to the US if (or rather when) they start yet another inane war. It has always been my opinion that a leader, at the very least, should be able to pronounce the word nuclear before considering using that technology and sadly Morrison fails by that measure. How hard is it? Nu-Clee-Ar, there you go Scotty, pretty simple. The idea that Australia, or Australia plus the US, could win a war against China is too ridiculous to contemplate, but the idea of friendship with them is not. Call me a Chamberlain if you will, but I think history shows he at least made an effort towards peace, if a failed one, while we, the UK and US just rattle their chains unnecessarily. Help me down off the podium please.

September 18, 2021

We have been pretty desperate to get rid of all the lengths of timber and sheets of plywood that John had stored in his garage and I’ve had them on eBay unsuccessfully for a week. There is no option to give something away on that platform so I asked for $20 the lot. Seeing his lease is now up I decided to try Facebook Marketplace as well, a platform I don’t particularly like for two reasons: one, that the buyer pays at the door and secondly, that they seem an unreliable bunch compared to eBay buyers and often don’t turn up. But within an hour I got a message from a lady to say she could pick up today. Woohoo! We had a few interactions back and forth and then after we had agreed on the sale and a time I happen to ask where she was from. Blacktown was the answer, right slap bang in the middle of one of the hardest Covid lockdown areas and of course she is not permitted to leave home. I told her that I wasn’t prepared to meet her there, but reluctantly agreed that she could go to the unlocked garage to load up and leave the money in his letterbox. Later in the afternoon we went down there and sure enough the wood was gone and the money paid as suggested, which was a huge relief. Seeing we were on the last day we could legally be in Lane Cove with the permission of the sheet of paper we’ve been carrying around, we ordered takeaway from Lillah Middle Eastern restaurant nearby. Unfortunately I chose badly, getting a mixed plate of various bits and bobs including rice, felafel, lamb kebabs, hommous, salad and sides. I say unfortunately because it was served in a large segmented plate with things that were meant to be both hot and cold, which made reheating at home problematic. I managed to reheat some bits but it wasn’t ideal. However it was the first food I’ve ordered in this year so it was a change to eat something that I hadn’t cooked.

September 19, 2021

An 8 am party this morning (3pm Saturday their time) for John’s sister-in-law Justine’s 80th birthday in California and it worked a treat with a group of her friends and relatives attending. She had posted party favours to everyone, so many had matching party hats, candles and chocolate. Although she tried at three post offices there, all said that Australia wasn’t taking mail due to Covid staff shortages preventing parcels being unloaded at the airports. News to us, but at the main PO she was shown an email to that effect. However it didn’t affect our enjoyment of the party one bit. Perhaps naively, I had once hoped and somehow expected to be welcomed into John’s family initially and although I certainly have always been welcomed warmly by the American contingent, it was not to be with everyone here in Australia. But that situation didn’t spoil this lovely celebration today. I saw Eileen was getting teary and that made me the same, but we will catch up by email and perhaps even Zoom another time.

To our surprise John’s building manager Pauline insisted on picking up his flat keys from here tomorrow, quite out of her area, rather than having him leave them in the flat as planned. So we will have morning tea (though as yet we don’t have a time) on the front verandah and he will get to say a proper goodbye. She has always been very good to him and was the one who suggested his move from upstairs to down and had all the aids installed in the bathroom and toilet, so we are both looking forward to this unexpected visit.

Just now got a message from Kelly who bought the wood, apologising for leaving behind some offcuts and not sweeping the garage out! She was bitten by a redback spider while loading it and like me has a horror of spiders, so she hightailed it home in case she got sick from the bite. Luckily she didn’t, but I feel bad that it happened to her nonetheless. Davina just rang to say she had to take Millie to hospital during the night for a very high temperature and vomiting. Turns out it was a gastro bug but you can’t be too careful at the moment. Triage at RPA is done outside in a tent, just in case the triage nurse doesn’t have enough on her plate she is in the cold and wind to boot. Millie is home now and much recovered after administration of anti-emetic drugs.

September 20, 2021

Unfortunately John’s housing manager couldn’t come due to a problem in a couple of the buildings she manages. Some of the residents have Covid but others, who are also sick, refuse to be tested because ‘Covid is a hoax’. So her day has been taken up with calls to Health so they can see what to do about the conspiracy theorists who won’t play ball. Better their job than mine. Though I hope I wouldn’t go to the extreme taken by a cop in Melbourne who knocked a 70 year old woman over in an anti-lockdown protest, then while she was on the ground sprayed capsicum spray straight into her eyes for an extended period. The video was sickening. I am all in favour of the punishment fitting the crime so perhaps they need to hold him down and give her the can for a few minutes.

I’ve been helping John get his study to rights and quite a few things that were definitely bring tossed or given away when we were sorting at Lane Cove have materialised here, now emerging from boxes and being reinstated as valuable things that can’t possibly be parted with. I am not saying a word.

I have given a lot of thought to the issue of the nuclear powered subs and my prize for comment goes to the full page in the Herald on Saturday by the Subway sandwich people advertising ‘non nuclear powered $90 billion cheaper subs’. I rarely laugh at an ad but this one was clever. But on a more serious note, politicians need to understand that talking about a war with China over Taiwan or the South China Sea or anything else is talking about the possibility of the end of the world as we know it. Taiwan has a chequered history, control moving back and forth between Japan and the Republic of China in recent times and as with Hong Kong it is a territory whose existence has been altered by previous wars. Worth a world war over a long disputed territory? No, I’m afraid I don’t think so, but Dutton et al would go to war over less.

September 21, 2021

We had a lovely visit with Pauline who surprised John with a call from the CEO of Link Housing to say that he has been made a life member of the organisation. He was thrilled of course. He will be invited to the AGM and any other functions they hold and will still be able to participate in policy and other discussions. She was here for maybe a couple of hours and we enjoyed a light lunch on the front verandah. I think that friendship will be an ongoing one.

A big bonus for me was her discussion about having both Meniere’s disease and vestibular migraine, the latter she described as ‘doing a drop’ when she can’t walk, sit up or open her eyes without vomiting and losing control of bladder and bowels. The interesting thing is that my brother has Meniere’s and I have vestibular migraine and I’ve long thought that was more than coincidence. The professor who treats her for both is really good apparently and worth remembering if my attacks should increase. I was hopefully able to help in the respect that I showed her the anti-nausea drugs I now carry which don’t need to be swallowed, they just dissolve under the tongue, though I did wonder why she hadn’t been prescribed them before now if the Prof is as good as she says.

A parcel arrived from Kenneth for my birthday with the book Stalingrad by Antony Beevor, a scarf and one of Kenneth’s stories bound into a book called The Course, about his time in the Joint Services School for Linguists and later at Cambridge where he learned Russian and started his career as an interpreter and much more. It was a major Cold War initiative, which pushed many young National Servicemen through intensive training as Russian translators and interpreters, primarily to meet the needs of Britain’s signals intelligence operations and potentially to be dropped inside Russia if needed, able to pass for natives. His classmates included a remarkable cross-section of clever young men who went on to a diversity of glittering careers. His confreres and friends includes a remarkable cross-section of talented men who went on to disparate glittering careers: professors of Russian, Chinese, ancient philosophy and economics, authors such as Alan Bennett, Dennis Potter and Michael Frayn and screenwriter Jack Rosenthal and I think the head of the Bank of England was in there too from memory. Clever chap my bro.

September 22, 2021

We spent the morning detailing John’s antique oak bed which sold today on eBay. It’s a relief as it takes up a lot of space with the base and mattress. Pick-up in a trailer on Friday by someone from Avalon, from whom we will keep appropriate distance seeing we’ve been told by John’s ex-housing manager that the units with Covid are all on the Northern Beaches.

Paul Keating wrote an opinion piece for the Herald this morning which pretty much sets out my views on China and our response to it. Morrison, Dutton et al have demonised the Chinese publicly for so long that people have absorbed it by osmosis, especially those who couldn’t find China on a map even if there were a beer for getting it right. Yes I’ve read some good analysis, but I’ve read a lot more over the top scaremongering. Hopefully others on the Labor side will see sense.

I was feeling pretty chuffed with the day till about noon when I got an email from MyGov, always a worrying sign. They wanted some documents which I downloaded, but some of the answers were apparently hidden in John’s MyGov account, except he said he doesn’t have one. Either he does and he’s forgotten or else he never got around to opening one, so then I had to open one for him, change his address for Centrelink, alter his email address etc. One of the questions was what was the exact amount in dollars and cents of your last pension payment, so that involved accessing his online banking, for which he had forgotten the password. Finally by 3.30 pm I had all the information and sent photos of the completed forms to Centrelink. Then I discovered he’d been telling everyone that his new email is a Hotmail account when it is in fact Gmail. I was so keyed up by then that I had to do a fast walk to calm down. This move will be the death of me, she says plaintively.

September 23, 2021

Spurred on by Paul Keating’s opinion piece yesterday I wrote a letter to the Herald asking if the Chinese, who have a 99 year lease on Darwin port, will institute a ban forbidding our new nuclear powered submarines from entering it? A bit of fun at least on a bleak issue, but voters laughing at ridiculous decisions is almost as good as their criticising them. It pains me that mentioning politics in Australia can be like letting off a bad smell, whereas in Britain, well in Northern England anyway, you can go to the pub and often hear people arguing about what was said in Prime Minister’s Questions. It’s a much more healthy response and people seem to be able to argue politics without being seen as infra dig.

More admin again today, trying to let companies know that John has a new credit card number. But it’s hard when he can’t remember his passwords and doesn’t know where they are written down. We had to do this after finding regular payments being made to organisations that he didn’t know he was funding. The bank advised that cancelling the card altogether and starting a new one was the easiest solution. But of course now I have to tell all the direct debits about the change. I really hate this sort of stuff.

I have been having trouble getting up after kneeling to weed the garden but I think I have solved the problem. I took a large long carving knife out and instead of kneeling I simply slash the weed just below ground level and hoik it out. So easy and it doesn’t disturb the soil much either, works in tight spaces. I think I may patent the idea, Maureen’s Mazing Machete isn’t accurate but rolls off the tongue.

September 24, 2021

More admin again, this time organising change of address for all the organisations and companies that John deals with. He is reluctant to do any of this unless I am sitting beside him so I spent a long time this morning listening to awful music on the phone. But once it’s done it’s done and hopefully we are over the worst of it. Much could have been done online…..if only we had the passwords.

Book group was very good via Zoom with everyone speaking about a book that they have read this month. I praised The Labyrinth to the skies and remembered all over again how wonderful it was. Got some good tips on other books to look into.

Michelle came over straight after the meeting to drop a couple of books off and stayed for a chat on the front verandah, during which time the chap came to pick up the bed I had sold on eBay for John. It was outside ready for him so all good on the Covid front. Now it’s time for dinner and I realise that I have prepared nothing, but luckily I have a smoked trout in the fridge so with a bit of salad that will do the job. I have sent John downstairs to pick nasturtium leaves and flowers to be part of the salad. I loved it in New Zealand and in Ireland where every lake has a smokehouse on the side where you can pick up a smoked fish or some smoked mussels or oysters to make a quick meal.

September 25, 2021

Yesterday I had need to ring the Commonwealth Bank about something and each time the message said that ‘wait time is over 60 minutes’ so I gave up after three times and tried again this morning at 7 am, but still waited over half an hour so when I was asked if I would like to put in a complaint about the wait time I said yes. It is great that they are all in Australia but there just aren’t enough of them. Anyway my problem was solved by the man who answered so one more job off the list.

I have been banging on about the number of sirens lately so I have started counting them. My friend in Castle Hill who lives near Windsor Road agreed with me when I mentioned what an increase there had been, she also wonders if it is Covid related. Yesterday there were three just in the time Michelle was here for a cuppa, seven in total for the day and four so far today. Poor old Victoria is in trouble with 847 cases today, a record for them and so sad that it seems that they all came from a couple of negligent removalists from NSW. Dan really didn’t deserve this, unlike Gladys who was slack as a wizard’s sleeve for weeks at the beginning of the Delta outbreak, though Dan did all the right things and still lost control of it, not helped by a high rate of idiots per square kilometre.

The garden is looking a treat at the moment, my Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) which is supposed to be about a maximum of 2 metres high and wide, is now about 5 metres high and 9 metres wide! It is absolutely covered in flowers and brings me great joy every day as well as shielding the house from the street. The garlic is still pretty ordinary, but the sugar-snap peas are climbing the trellis happily. Dill and coriander are growing apace and I should soon be using them on top of fish curries and molees. Good time of the year before the heat turns the ground to concrete.

September 26, 2021

Last night we were part of an online trivia night, a fund-raiser to get David Shoebridge who will hopefully get into the Senate next election. Unfortunately for him and for the Greens it was a shemozzle due to technical problems. Quite a few people were getting antsy when they couldn’t get into the group and were taking it out on him (all this by messages appearing on the screen) so I was pretty happy when Carol rang and suggested that we just duck the whole thing and more than an hour of technology woes. I wonder if it went ahead after we left but I was glad to get back to reading my book, the wonderful Dead Man Walking by Kate McClymont. A novel with similar theme would be criticised for having no characters at all with redeeming features but this real life book is about a motley bunch of Sydney’s urgers, confidence men, drug dealers, property developers, thieves and murderers and their interactions with each other. It focuses on the murder of sociopathic criminal Michael McGurk and the numerous attempts by the multi-millionaire property magnate Ron Medich to have him killed before he finally succeeded, using a pair of dills who couldn’t run a meat raffle. I attended both of Medich’s trials, the first amazingly a hung jury and the second with a conviction. As well I saw him questioned at ICAC so when I saw this book for sale it leapt into my arms.

Today John decided that he couldn’t bear to part with his hallstand which he’d asked me to sell and which had created quite a bit of interest. We brought it upstairs and it is now ensconced in his rapidly filling study, a tiny room home to the hallstand, an easy chair, a display cabinet, chest of drawers, filing cabinet, large desk, desk chair and occasional table. He can get in there himself with some difficulty. I have spent some time today sewing up moth holes in jumpers, luckily not my best ones, and because they each happen to be a boucle type my sewing is not going to show. This happened because I simply haven’t gone anywhere all winter due to lockdown so these drawers hadn’t been opened and the little blighters had a beano.

September 27, 2021

My brother is about as incurious of anything medical as I am about anything sporting. No, more incurious I think. So a few weeks ago he had a cystoscopy after an issue of occasional blood in the urine, but he was assured afterwards that ‘everything is fine’. Except two weeks later he got a call to say he needed a CT scan of the bladder, which he had last week. Did you ask why the CT when you’d previously been told ‘everything is fine’ I asked. No, was his inexplicable answer, he just went along to the hospital and had it. Except that he couldn’t leave until he passed urine, which he wasn’t able to do. So eventually they put in a catheter and left it in so he could go home. Since then he’s had to call the hospital once when it blocked and a district nurse came and replaced it. The reason it blocked I asked? There was a blood clot in the line, he said. Now he’s been summoned to his GP on Monday to get the result, but no antibiotics have been prescribed through all of this so clearly an infection isn’t on their radar. Which leaves…..? I am thinking bladder cancer, but I am hoping against hope that I’m talking through my hat. If I were there I’d be going to every appointment with him, he’s such a doofus about anything medical.

An odd call to John yesterday from the sister of his ex neighbour who was gaoled in 2020 for the murder, more than 32 years ago, of an American mathematical genius who was tossed from cliffs near Manly in an apparent gay hate crime. Scott has not yet gone to trial and the only dealings John has had with the sister were around access to Scott’s flat and collecting his dog. So her request came as a bit of a surprise: Do you have a rubber plunger you could lend me to free up a blocked toilet? Mmm, I need to think on that one.

September 28, 2021

After a lovely morning tea with Carol and Jack (remember having morning tea with people? it is something we used to do) we came home and packed John’s patchwork bedspread which I’d sold on eBay and took it to post.

But sitting down at the computer when we came back the first email that came up was from my friends in Callala Beach with the terrible news that the elder of their two daughters committed suicide on Sunday while they were out shopping. She had been wanting to leave this world for many years, but they feel that they missed the signals that something was imminent. She lived with them, but had an unhappy existence, in latter years it was suggested that she suffered from autism. It pains me that we can’t do anything from here but their other daughter and her husband went straight down from Sydney and are still there. The self blame and grief will weigh heavily on them.

I’m really not sure what to say after this bombshell.

September 29, 2021

Remembered Danish’s birthday next Monday just in time (well considering the post at the moment, I hope it’s in time) so I donned a poncho and walked to the post box. Seeing I was togged up for the weather I decided to put in a few stakes that I’d been meaning to do for a while and to fertilize the native plants with Bush Tucker. My Michelia tree, related to a Magnolia, has never produced one single flower in the four years since I planted it, but I keep feeding it with the fertiliser recommended by the nursery and hoping I will live long enough to see a bloom. The big gum tree though, which was in serious decline a year ago, has come back very well after I followed the horticulturist’s instructions and I am now hopeful that it will see me out. Feeling as if I deserve a reward, so a piece of Carol’s cake and a cuppa could be on the cards soon.

Some figures I read recently about the genocide of the American Indian population were harrowing and almost unbelievable. Indian children were removed from their families and forced to live in largely Roman Catholic orphanages with their tribal names changed to Christian names and denied permission to speak their native languages (not pointing the finger here, we were doing exactly the same to Aboriginal people). The figure that shocked me most was that in 1491 there were believed to be a population of of 145 million indigenous people in North America, by 1691 the population had been reduced by 95 percent. That is 138 million people exterminated, by smallpox, measles, syphilis, tuberculosis, military-led massacres, burning of villages and more. I have always harboured a distrust of flag-wavers, but I wonder how anyone can possibly hold an Australian or American flag aloft knowing that the cost of that flag is untold misery of those who first inhabited these lands.

When I informed Heather of the sad news from Callala she told me that her friend’s grandson had taken his life last week largely because he couldn’t get a flight home from New Zealand to see his dying mother. I can’t imagine how the mother is coping with that. Yet another suicide in hotel quarantine has occurred in Brisbane, an aeronautical engineer who was still grieving the death of his brother in 2020. It seems to me that Covid has uncovered a basic mental instability in the population. When you consider what some people in the world are suffering all the time, think Syria, Afghanistan, parts of Africa, we are in clover. The idea that two weeks in quarantine can push people into self-destruction seems bizarre to me, unless there were severe mental problems there already. Perhaps we need to look at resilience in depth because what we are seeing is frightening.

September 30, 2021

John had a call this morning to say that one of his cousins who lived in Sydney has died, and his daughter is seriously ill in hospital, both from Covid. I had never met him but John said he was very quiet and distanced from the family as a result of being severely beaten by his father as a young person, apparently he never recovered from it. How sad after all that to end up dying from a bloody virus. The cousin who rang had been to a funeral in Dubbo this morning for another Covid victim. I had an interesting discussion with Jane this morning when John rang her. She talked about the Covid risks of the next few months and how we need to discuss openly between ourselves any risks to others that our activities may have. Things such as unvaccinated people we may live with or have mixed with or places we’ve been which might have exposed us (my two coming appointments at St. Vincent’s during October came to mind here). I had a letter published in the Herald today on a closely related subject in which I said: “I am an older person, fully vaccinated but with significant underlying health conditions. While I have already made an appointment with my hairdresser, whom I know and trust, I would not feel comfortable going into a cafe or restaurant knowing that there is no penalty for allowing non-vaccinated clientele to enter. The government can’t expect businesses to wade through this legal minefield alone and I for one will be staying away from hospitality venues and the like until I feel it’s safe to enter them with some surety.” I think the next months will be the most dangerous so far as risks go, as if any of us do get infected the chances are that we won’t be treated, considering the protocols put in place by Health around who gets intensive care treatment. Apparently the formula, devised to take decision-making away from frontline staff, adds the ago of 72 plus a figure for each medical condition on your history: diabetes, obesity, certain cancers, autoimmune diseases etc and when your total reaches a magic number, known only to Health and the treating hospitals, you will be put to one side with morphine only, no oxygen, ventilation or any other life-saving intervention. This will not be communicated to either patient or relatives. This is not a social media beat-up but came directly from a doctor working in a hospital with many Covid patients. I understand this reverse triage, but I think it is shabby in the extreme that it’s kept secret. We deserve to know that formula before we need to make a decision about whether to go to hospital or to chance it at home.

October 1, 2021

What a bummer that you can’t search Facebook easily. Then I could find the old post of nearly a year ago when I forecast Gladys’s resignation due to further investigation of her by ICAC. A right wing ex client took me on over it and I said I was willing to bet money with her on that outcome but now of course it’s too long ago to find the post so I guess I can’t collect. As soon as Our Glad (what to call her now? Our ex Glad doesn’t have the same ring) told ICAC that she kept her relationship with Daryl McGuire secret because it wasn’t important enough to mention to anyone and then a few days later told a TV interview that she was expecting it to lead to marriage, I knew she was playing ducksy weaver with the truth. My neighbour made the comment months ago that she is a very good liar and I think that stands. But on a personal level I feel sorry that her stellar career has been undone by faith in a bad man. My only hope is that Dominic Perrottet isn’t her successor. Davina says he’s a ‘cockwomble’ which is a delicious new word for me. Apparently it means: ‘A male prone to making outrageously stupid statements and/or inappropriate behaviour while generally having a very high opinion of his own wisdom and importance’. Bullseye.

We had been sorting boxes from the garage and turned up stuff that needs to find a home in the house Smilie: :(, but also lots for giving away Smilie: :).  We abandoned it though when Davina texted ‘Gladys has resigned’ and then we were glued to the teev. I treated myself to half a Violet Crumble bar as I watched, like eating food from a basket at the foot of the guillotine. I was lucky enough to be at ICAC on the day that Barry O’Farrell was called to testify and an hour later resigned (for much less than Gladys is accused of I might add). So I will be glued to ICAC when she goes into the witness box again, hopefully in person but more likely via the live streaming. Her insistence that she had to resign is a nonsense, Neville Wran simply stood aside for months while he was investigated, her decision is a political one and an indication that she expects a negative finding. Old Daryl must be pleased with himself, topping a Premier on his way down.

October 2, 2021

How quickly a day can change! Shortly after I posted yesterday’s blog John told me that he had chest pain that wasn’t being relieved with his Nitrolingual spray, something he rarely used in the past but has increasingly used in the last couple of weeks. It got gradually worse so I decided, rather than calling an ambulance who would have taken him to Westmead, to drive him to Royal North Shore instead. Westmead is overrun with Covid and is ramping ambulances, so this combined with the fact that his cardiologist is at RNS made the decision easy. I couldn’t go in and left him at the door of Emergency and came home. However after a comfortable night in a private room he says they’ve decided that he hasn’t had a heart attack so he will come out later this afternoon (keeping the hospital with as few patients as possible due to Covid I suspect) and I am to take him back on Tuesday for more tests and he will presumably see his cardiologist then or soon after.

Davina and Carly had organised a restaurant meal from Monopole in the city for my birthday today and I suggested that it be cancelled due to John’s anticipated absence but it was too late to do so, however with the latest turn of events we should both be able to enjoy it tonight. It was accompanied by a (mightily expensive) bottle of French red and separately by a bunch of native flowers so huge that I feared it might topple any vase I have so I put it to great effect in my Chinese jardiniere on stand. The place looks a treat for John to come back to so I hope that plan comes off.

I spent the morning digging out things to go to Martha’s friend Amber who has arrived in Sydney from North Queensland with her two children and rented a flat, unfurnished and with nothing to put in it. Luckily we have a lot of John’s stuff that would be suitable and with a couple of bits of mine thrown in I delivered them to Michelle’s to be picked up later today by Martha. They seem to be getting quite a reasonable amount of goods together at very short notice just by emailing friends.

October 3, 2021

Well it was a surprise to have John home late yesterday and it was easier than before to pick him up, he usually has to go through the endless ‘departure lounge’ process waiting for paperwork, but this time he just walked out the door of the hospital with a script for a new heart drug which should control his recently acquired angina. No sooner were we home than I started on the Monopole Restaurant dinner that the kids bought for my birthday. John set the table with a lace cloth and napkins and put fresh candles in the candelabra while I set to on the food. To start: Marinated Olives, Smoked Eggplant, Salmon Rillette with Cucumber and Crostini. To follow: Spring Lamb Rump + Harissa, Heirloom Carrots with Spiced Yogurt and Hazlenut Dukka, Broccolini with Pesto, Cos and Radicchio Salad with Mandarin Dressing. Dessert was a Pavlova big enough for 6 with Vanilla Cream, Berries and Passionfruit. The wine was (still is till dinner tonight) a 2018 Gevray-Chambertin, a delicious red from Bourgogne. Amazingly John decided to have a glass too after decades of abstinence. We had a little of everything provided and there’s plenty left, in fact we still have some of the starters after serving them for lunch today and there’s plenty of the mains for dinner. It was all wonderful but my special faves were the Salmon Rillette, the Mandarin Dressing on the salad and of course the pav. It was looking shaky there for a while but ended up an excellent birthday celebration.

Today I’ve been hucking out more stuff for Amber as well as cooking for a picnic tomorrow with Michelle and Kev. Made a savoury slice and a date and walnut tart while Michelle is bringing a salad, cheeses and fruit. This reads as if it’s written by someone who is food obsessed….

October 4, 2021

Seeing I had never been to Don Moore Reserve, where we were to meet Michelle and Kev for our picnic, I put the phone map function on and we found ourselves at the end of a dead end street looking into the bush. A quick phone call was all that was needed to reroute, Mr. Google had told us to turn one street too soon. Michelle luckily got us one of the few tables as most of the crowd of family groups were sitting on the grass, she just happened to jag one with the universe’s felicity. Health regulations limit outdoor picnics and the like to five people but most of the large family groups obviously didn’t get the memo, however they were all well separated so no harm was done. We all felt very privileged to be out in the sun eating and drinking under a blue sky. We went for a walk after the delicious repast and John said that he found the walk more taxing then usual. I was as full as a goog at dinner time so I just did him a sausage toastie. I’ve discovered that having a few sausages in the freezer is a help when I don’t feel like doing a proper dinner, yuck for me, but yum for him.

October 5, 2021

Up early to beat the queue as John was told his tests would take about 30 minutes ‘plus waiting time’, therefore we wanted to be first in line. At 8.05 he headed into the hospital and I went for a walk in the old Gore Hill Memorial Cemetery (a memorial to what I didn’t find out). Always happy reading gravestones, I marvelled at one for eight children, seven who died aged between one and three (three of whom were named Marie) while the eighth grew to manhood only to be sacrificed in Jordan during WWI. I couldn’t see a grave for the parents but most of the stones are very hard to read, the whole place being in a sad state of disrepair and neglect with not a single grave being looked after it seems. So much for ‘always remembered’.

Eventually I went back to the car and read, with John emerging about 10.30 saying that there was virtually no waiting time. The tests were being done pretty constantly while he was there, which I thought sounded a bit ominous, especially after he said he now had to wait for half an hour and then go back in. We chatted in the car for a few minutes and then a serious sounding woman rang to say that he must come straight back as ‘the doctor needs to see you’. I was unsurprised when John rang a little later to say that they were not letting him come back to the car because his heart was ‘very abnormal’ during the tests and he was in danger of having a heart attack. I couldn’t go in but he said that they are going to do an angiogram today and possibly a stent. I don’t know when he will come home but I can’t imagine it will be today. It is a bit like Gladys, it’s a bit of a shock but not a surprise.

It seems funny to me that although I am indecisive and dithering if I am shown a menu or asked to decide between a few options about anything, when the rubber meets the road I suddenly become quite decisive and unhesitating. Certainly that has always applied in John’s medical emergencies too, perhaps in that case though it is just a basic trust in science and medicine in particular. I am confident that whatever they are doing there at the moment it is the right and proper thing.

October 6, 2021

Never a dull moment here. Yesterday afternoon the doc at RNS rang to say that just after I left John had had ‘an emergency angioplasty with two stents inserted’ and asked if I were willing to have him home at about 5 pm ‘due to current circumstances’. So there I was at 5 pm sitting in the 15 minute parking bay waiting for him to emerge. But soon I got a phone call from a doctor, Mohammed, saying that John’s radial artery where the stent was inserted was bleeding so they would bring him down when it stopped. Numerous calls came through until around 7 pm Mohammed said that ‘I’ve been pressing on the artery for an hour and a half and it just won’t stop so we will have to keep him in overnight’. So I drove home again, not dodging the Lane Cove tunnel to save a few dollars this time.

This morning I had another call to say he could go home mid-morning with a pressure bandage on his wrist for a day. He is on three different blood thinners for a week and then it reduces to two for a year. They were very careful to give me the instructions, verbally and in writing, about his not lifting anything at all with his right arm for a week, about exercise, wound care and more, so I think they were very aware of his memory deficits. When we arrived home I made a pot of tea, as is our wont, to celebrate that once again he’s stared death in the face and won. According to Mohammed he could have had a heart attack at any time, so much for ‘he’ll be fine over the weekend’.

Yet another form arrived in the mail from Centrelink and my heart sank, but then I noticed it was written on September 22, the same day I uploaded the last forms, so I assume that it’s just a case of crossing in the mail. I decided to just write them a freehand letter explaining my theory and upload it to them on their wonderful phone app. Anything is better than hours waiting to speak to someone on the phone.

October 7, 2021

Last night John decided that because we had enjoyed my birthday dinner so much he would order another for this Saturday night. I was to choose and he to pay, sounded ideal to me. So I chose Apollo, a restaurant in Potts Point that we’ve been to and loved. When I got to the checkout I tried to book for September 9 but it wouldn’t go through and I sadly told John that the first booking available was in a month, on October 9. He reminded me that it is October now, so I quickly went back and did the deed. He is supposed to be the one with the dementia in this house!

Lovely to have Jack and Carol for morning tea today. The weather was kind and John is well and very happy to have visitors. It seems we are back to rights. Robert said to me years ago ‘you’ll take John to hospital and bring him home a number of times and then one time you will take him and he’ll stay there and you’ll come home alone’, I always think of that now when I have to take him and wonder if this is that time.

Yet another friend, not a close one thankfully, was ranting anti-vax stuff on Facebook today but it was so unintelligible that he won’t be convincing many people. As soon as you see a post with the words freedom, sovereign and including obviously American phrases you know it’s a cut and paste job. It’s like never voting for any party that uses the word family…..

October 8, 2021

Sadly yet another friend this morning turned out to be anti-vax, but unlike the other three, it’s someone I usually see regularly. She is an ex-employee and friend who became my cleaner over five years ago. I contacted her today and asked if she wanted to come back from next week, she replied that she could come any time but went on to say that she is on holiday because her main employer has told her she must be vaccinated and she isn’t prepared to do so they are currently at a stalemate. It made me really sad because as well as the fact that she’s a fabulous cleaner, I can’t see how else we can communicate in person into the future. She and John are very thick, so he’s quite disappointed. I read this morning about a man in the US (of course) who went to his pharmacist brother’s house and shot both him and his wife dead because the brother was ‘dispensing poison’ by giving vaccines. And lead shot is not a poison I asked myself?

My librarian friend came today and we supped tea and ate cake together just as we have done many times before. We covered many of the books that we’ve read since we last met and I got a few tips for good’uns. We always seem to talk politics, ethics, about making difficult decisions and much else, as well as books of course. I’ve really missed that with him in the recent past. His talk of going to a concert together sometime gives me another thing to look forward to when the world comes to rights.

October 9, 2021

Tonight we are having a meal from Apollo and were sitting eating lunch at the front when I got a text to say that the food had arrived, um no. I immediately rang Apollo and the chap said he had a photo of the delivery on a white doormat in front of a black door. For one thing who has a white door mat? and for another my door is pale grey. He quickly offered to contact the driver and half an hour later the dinner arrived. I must admit it didn’t look as impressive as the Monopole one did, but the proof will be in the eating. Nothing could impress me like that pav did.

Took photos of John’s leather lounge for an eBay ad and then sat down on it for a minute to look at the photos. That was enough for John to suggest that we leave it there under the deck to sit on and survey the estate. I think it will be rarely used, just get dirty and loaded down with boxes of something or other but he loves any idea that means his stuff doesn’t need to go, so I will hold off on the ad for now. We decided to go for a quick run to Castle Hill Heritage Park with a view to suggesting it as a venue for a picnic with Dav and Co. next weekend. It was about 3 pm but we couldn’t get a park within cooee of the place, people were lumbering Eskies in, presumably for a barbecue dinner? So we abandoned that idea and will look at it during the week as a venue for another occasion, because clearly it’s going to be too crowded for a weekend gathering. Prior to this outing John discovered that his car keys were missing and a long hunt ensued. Finally they were found inside his Irish cap, hanging on the hallstand, so the special place we set aside for keys hasn’t really worked so far.

I was thinking about the time spent with my friend yesterday and why it’s always so special and I think it’s because our interaction is a small-talk free zone as we try to pack in as many books, ideas, articles and theories as we can in the couple of hours we have. No need to think about what’s for dinner, what shopping is needed, Centrelink, how’s Christmas going to work this year? Perhaps if we met more often small-talk would creep into the mix, but not so far.

October 10, 2021

My bro in Halifax is still suffering from bladder related problems but teasing out what they might be is nearly impossible, not that he doesn’t want to tell me but because he doesn’t know himself. Infection has presumably been ruled out as no antibiotics have been prescribed, cancer has presumably been ruled out as no chemo or other therapy is being suggested, so that probably leaves prostate issues. He is still on a catheter and has been prescribed ‘a tablet’. So what is the tablet for? The doctor didn’t say. Could you read me the name of the tablet so I can look it up? Sure. Aaah, okay it’s a prostate drug, so now we are getting somewhere. It reminds me of the doctors of the nineteenth century through to the 50s who never told the patients a thing, but in this case I suspect the doctor’s attempts at explanation haven’t yielded interest so he’s given up. It’s a mystery to me, but as Kenneth says: ‘There’s nothing as queer as folk’.

Am I being a conspiracy theorist when I wonder if Pork Barilaro is somehow tainted by Gladys’s corruption investigation? His resignation is suspiciously close to hers, but we shall see if he’s called as a witness in time. Then there are the rumours about his having an affair, an affair which has led Old Barnacles to get his knickers in a knot (trying not to visualise this). Pork has now announced separation from his wife, throwing more fuel onto that fire. Time will tell on it all, that I’m sure of.

Just received a return message from my friend/cleaner to say that ‘the media has a lot to do with all this Covid stuff and the pharmaceutical companies as well’. She went on to say that ‘I will miss seeing you two’, something that had an air of finality about it. On another difficult issue John, last night at 9pm in his pyjamas, got a text message from his old neighbour asking if he would go then and there to pick up an item she’d just bought on Facebook Marketplace for $5. He said no he wouldn’t and pointed out that for one thing he didn’t want to go out at that time of night to a strange house. Then I received two phone calls from her, first on the land line and then on the mobile, that I ignored as I hadn’t tried to influence him on the issue at all. There followed a stream of texts accusing him of mixing with people like the removalists but being unwilling to go to someone’s house ‘only 4 kilometres away’ for a friend. It included the address of the seller and instructions to go ‘first thing in the morning’. John decided this morning that he’d had enough and sent a message saying that he he has ‘resigned from doing chores for you’ breaking a promise to install her new dryer on the wall and to do other handyman things once lockdown is over. Perhaps distance has enabled him to make this decision, but I know it would have been a hard one and I’m glad I had no input into it.

October 11, 2021

In to St. Vincent’s this morning to see the surgeon Alan, ‘no change there and see me again in four months’ was the crux of it. But next week I see the cancer specialist so hopefully he will agree with that assessment. One down, one to go.

Bob E. dropped in during his long break from morning surgery till his 3.30 afternoon start so that gave us plenty of time to chat and he loved the story John told him about the Centrelink officer querying his dementia diagnosis, among much else. In going through some of the questions he asked for his new address but John could only come up with 30. The lovely and patient fellow said ‘You’re doing really well John, but I need the street’ however he just couldn’t remember the rest. Then John very crankily called out ‘Maureen Maureen what street do I live in?’. The nice fellow got off the phone pretty smartly after that and I doubt we will be hearing from them again. I’m anticipating positive communication from them this coming week if I’m any judge.

One of my old clients (and I mean old, in his 90s) used to tell me about ‘the castle’ he had  owned at Gordon, looking over the bush. This before he went into a retirement unit in Dural. I must admit that despite his detailed descriptions I did wonder if it were an exaggeration. But in Domain last weekend I saw the very thing, Killarney Castle, advertised with an expected price of $6.5 million. It was built over the period 1905 to 1918 by the original owner and builder Thomas Edward Taylor, who came to Australia from Ireland in the 1880s. Taylor chose the site as it reminded him of the lakes of Killarney in County Kerry in the south-west of Ireland. Built of sandstone quarried onsite, it comes with battlements, a widow’s walk, a turret and banquet rooms. Pity the viewing is by private appointment only. No wonder his items for sale were always so good, he had mentioned that everything was ‘looked after by the servants’. I was greatly amused when he asked me to stay for lunch one day because an investment at 18% cumulative interest had matured after decades. I couldn’t help wondering why a man in his 90s would be so chuffed at getting a big payout when he was quite clearly well off already, but money can be an addiction, like a lot of things.

October 12, 2021

Off to Manly this morning to have a walk along the beach before we each had a haircut. But we chose our walk time badly, it was raining and blowing as we walked with coats, umbrella and hats. As soon as we sat back in the car to eat our bit of lunch it fined up so after that we did a walk along Manly Lagoon and I commented to John that I wanted to go there for a swim in the shallow water with a pristine looking sandy bottom. That was until we came to the sign that said ‘polluted water, do not swim’ Smilie: :( It was good to see Martin and Maria again after 4 months and certainly good to get rid of that long hair. Martin mentioned a friend of his who booked a holiday house for him, three siblings and their partners. He assumed all was fine until someone mentioned vaccination, whoops, he and one sibling are vaccinated but the other two are not so now only half the family are being part of the holiday. I am hearing more and more stories like this, including Alan the surgeon telling me yesterday that they are finding 10 percent of St. Vincent’s patients are anti-vaxxers which makes life difficult. Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher, that epitome of bland, has asked the government to allow unvaccinated priests to be allowed to go about their usual duties as a few of them have dug their heels in over having the jab. I think there will be an outcry if he succeeds.

I’ve been thinking about when it was that I forecast Gladys’s resignation last year but couldn’t be bothered going through the old posts to find out, however Facebook helped me today by bringing it up as a memory of this day 12 months ago. The Feds were up in arms about the indignity of Our Glad going before ICAC but are surprisingly quiet about members of the Victorian Government being dragged before their IBAC. Sorry, just realised, it’s a Labor state so Morrison’s view would be that they’ll get what they deserve.

October 13, 2021

I have realised there is something I love about lockdown. Driving to the city for a medical appointment on Monday the traffic, while not as bad as pre-Covid, was seriously worse than it has been throughout the last four months, so I loved the ease of going to appointments during that time, not to mention the ease of parking.

My friend Chrys in Queensland who writes an occasional lengthy blog is always well worth reading. Commenting today about an article she saw on ‘how to deal with arseholes without retaliating’ she muses: “It’s really, really dangerous to tell people they have to learn to live with arseholes without retaliating or running away. We should be running away from the arseholes in our lives at great speed. We should be encouraging and supporting legal retaliation where appropriate. And, while I’m generally opposed to dehumanising anyone, it’s a fact that some of the worst arseholes (I’m talking narcissists here for example) are really just empty human shells who walk like aliens among us. I think it’s incredibly healthy – often life-saving – to recognise that some people just aren’t functionally human. And running away – ceasing all contact if at all possible – is absolutely the best method for dealing with such people in a way that doesn’t compromise your own humanity. I’m also a firm believer that there are often branches of the family tree that should be joyously excised with a chainsaw”. This advice was timely this week and I thank Chrys for writing it just now.

I put aside some time today to deal with the Aged Care Assessment Team in regard to John’s change of address and increasing physical and mental problems. I put aside an hour or two but to my great surprise and pleasure both the numbers I had to ring picked up immediately and the people I dealt with were professional and understanding, giving me all the information I needed. Oh if only Centrelink picked up the phone in under an hour or two what bliss that would be. However dealing with them now via the app is supremely easy for me, though for John it would be near impossible.

October 14, 2021

Yesterday Sue emailed to say she could come down to visit today so, thinking she’d be here for morning tea, I grabbed a recipe book off the shelf and it fell open at Lemon, Limoncello and Lavender Tart, just when I had a good quantity of lemons, a bottle of limoncello and the lavender is in flower. As she was able to stay longer than planned we had a fridge raid lunch with Sue and she really liked the tonnato I quickly whipped up, amazing what you can do with a couple of cans of tuna in the pantry. She called the tart L cubed and we all thought it was worth doing. Great to chew the fat with her and she’s invited us to come for a weekend soon so that will be terrific.

Today I received a letter from Health to say that John has reached the top of the list for an Aged Care package. He first applied for assistance to clean his unit FOUR YEARS AGO, but it has taken this long to reach the top of the queue. Now he no longer has a flat to clean, which would be funny if it weren’t also sad, so I am tasked with the job of dealing with numerous non-profit organisations to see what other services he can utilise. There are many for-profit companies on the list as well but the mere idea of making a profit for aged care services is anathema to this old socialist. So we are looking at church and community based organisations, well I say we, but John is pretty disinterested in it all as he can’t understand the system. I’m having trouble understanding it myself so I can’t blame him for that. He thought when I was on the phone this afternoon that I was looking for some sort of rehab after his recent heart adventures. Most offerings are things I routinely do for him like taking him to medical appointments or things that he is able to do for himself like showering and dressing, so it is difficult to understand how it is all going to work. The two organisations I’ve approached so far are to ring me back so hopefully I will get a handle on the system then.

Yet another Sydney unit block built by the notorious Chinese builder Toplace is threatening to collapse. How is it possible to be so deficient in design and/or building that collapse is even a possibility? The law is an ass in this area where people can sink their life savings into a home only to end up with a mortgage on an unsaleable asset. The Taliban’s method of stringing people up on buildings suddenly seems not quite so extreme.

October 15, 2021

Davina and Co were meeting us for a picnic tomorrow but the weather forecast caused us to change to a barbecue here. It will be strange seeing them all again after four months, I’m sure Millie has grown in more ways than one over this time. Made hommus, salad dressing, marinade and cut up a pile of veges in preparation for tomorrow.

My main task today has been dealing with ACAT regarding having a new assessment done for John. The Northern Districts team rang me (not the other way around) because I had changed his address and she said that he definitely needs to be reassessed if he has obviously deteriorated since the last assessment, but then the local team rang an hour later when the case had been handed over to them and the lady said she doesn’t think he needs reassessment at all because he can still handle his own personal care. She was the exact opposite of the first caller and the implication was that I was trying to get something for nothing. I really don’t care either way at this point but I certainly don’t want to be dealing with that snotty woman again. She made me feel as if I were somehow trying to rort the system when I was simply doing what I had been told to do. Sometimes dealing with bureaucracy is just too taxing for the size of my brain.

The internet has been off all day due to work being done on the NBN service. They sent me a text saying it would be off from 7 am to 4 pm but it’s nearly 8 pm now and I still can’t use the landline or get internet on my computer or phone. On top of the ACAT issues it’s just all too much.

October 16, 2021

I have felt pretty defeated all night, what with dealing with the second impossible person this week and then the internet and phone going down. This morning I reminded John that I need to go to the doctor at St. Vincent’s on Tuesday and he was sympathetic but had no idea why I was going. I reminded him that we’d been to the surgeon last Monday and he was concerned ‘oh no, why are you seeing a surgeon?’. He has completely forgotten that I had surgery in February and I’ve realised that I just can’t talk to him about this stuff any more as he only worries without really knowing what he’s worrying about. We both got weepy when he said ‘I’m disappearing down a hole, do you want to put me in a home?’. I reassured him this wasn’t an option that I was even considering, but we both felt overwhelmed. Tried to ring Sue but she wasn’t answering so I just got into getting ready for the visitors today. Davina got onto somewhere on the Optus website to report the outage and a dear soul from Mumbai rang me, but it wasn’t an outage at all, someone who shall remain nameless had disconnected the NBN modem from the power point but left the Optus modem attached so the lights were still on. John has no recollection of touching it and I certainly didn’t so we’ve had a goblin in the house, perhaps an exorcism is in order.

Davina, Louis and Millie came for the day and Louis offered to do the bbq with John as his loyal lieutenant. Loved the watercress, green apple, fennel and mint salad which I have made a few times before, the herby dressing is just scrumptious. Davina brought cakes from Black Star bakery for dessert with my favourite, the strawberry and watermelon cake, among them. We all wandered down to the park and played shops with Millie after numerous games of hide and seek. John has been promoted to grandpa today for the first time and he was well chuffed by that.

Saddened by the apparent terrorist attack on a British MP which has resulted in his death overnight. I can almost understand stabbing someone in anger, certainly I could begin to  understand it thinking back over my week, but to sit quietly in a queue to see an MP, giving your name, waiting patiently for your turn before suddenly killing him…. that’s something else entirely. I guess it is what happens when you’ve grown up in a country where war and violence is all you’ve ever known, we have a lot to be thankful for.

October 17, 2021

Trying to help John sort through his stuff today while ignoring an assertion early in the week that everything of his belongs to his daughters. It might have been easier to have the removalist’s van drive straight to the mountains, dropping him off on the way past just with the clothes he stood up in. It is interesting that for all his many attempts to contact his family this year, the only time he has been successful is the day that they discovered that he’s living here. He forecast problems about his belongings, which is of course why he made the initial decision not to let people find out about the move until it was all done and dusted. But despite how upset we have both been this week over this latest affront, we just have to go on as if nothing was said, unpacking the many boxes with him deciding what to do with his ‘stuff’ piece by piece. Today we unearthed a blue checked rug that he said he took with him the first time he was sent to boarding school in New Zealand at age four! This because the neighbours had complained about his crying when his parents went out to social events at night and left him at home alone. He is very emotionally attached to his belongings from childhood, as well he might be given the time he spent alone in boarding schools and in other people’s houses, and his ‘stuff’ was a comfort. As much as we can possibly integrate here we will, it will just take time to unpack everything and to find new homes in the house.

I looked up MyGov today and found that it was listing two ‘tasks’ that I haven’t complied with, the first was already done on September 22 and the second wasn’t required because it was only relevant if John were still living at Lane Cove. However there is no way I can rid those big exclamations marks off the page, so whenever I open it I shudder. Perhaps I will leave it till midweek and write yet another letter, probably only to be told that the procedure has stalled because I have two ‘tasks’ yet to do. Brick wall, head, impact. Then went on to John’s MyGov to update his financial details. I wanted to update three accounts but once I did one it said I couldn’t alter anything else until that change is ‘approved’ so of course the other two are wrong at present, way wrong in fact, he hasn’t updated his financial details for many years and doesn’t seem to remember that it is required when you are on a pension. I loathe all this bureaucratic stuff and I am the wrong person to have to do it, especially for two people, but it is my job now unfortunately as John can’t make head nor tail of it, unsurprisingly.

More within my skill set, I made a banana and walnut cake this arv, beginning on the kilo bag of walnuts that came here out of John’s flat. When he doesn’t eats nuts as a snack and hasn’t baked in a couple of years I am not sure why the bulk walnuts, but I should get through them soon enough.

October 18, 2021

John couldn’t remember my name for a few minutes when he woke up this morning and when he did remember he asked if I also had a nickname that he usually called me, which I don’t. First time that’s happened.

We trundled off to the Sallies this morning with a boot full and were told that they ‘are not accepting due to the vast amounts of goods being offered’, which is exactly what I had feared might happen. Later we went to Vinnies and they took everything, but I’m always a little worried because they are much more inclined to bin things compared to the Sally Annes. But in any event the mixture of mostly my stuff and a little bit of John’s is all somebody else’s problem now. Then we headed to Carlingford to pick up some Sunshield Wax as John is going to do the deck’s jarrah top rails with it. I used to sell the stuff in the shop so it’s hard to have to go out and pay full price, but them’s the breaks. The shop had a perspex barrier across the whole doorway and everything happened through a hole at the middle of it, a very practical arrangement which I congratulated them on, I wish more businesses were as careful.

This afternoon I gave in and watched ICAC live on my computer and Our Glad is gone for all money. Office of Sport director Michael Toohey, a classic careful public servant, said without qualification that if he’d known that Glad and Dazza were in a relationship when he was being pushed to quickly process the application for funds to Dazza’s electorate he would have contacted ICAC. Ka-ching, got them right there. It was claimed that the grant to the The Australian Clay Target Association would help them get to host part of the Invictus Games…..except Invictus doesn’t do shooting, at all. What a cesspool politics is and Glad has its tidemark right up to her throat at the moment.

October 19, 2021

I have too many balls in the air at the moment so during the night I decided to remove three today if possible. Firstly I rang John’s neurologist Jennifer Massey for an appointment and this was available next week, sooner than expected. Her last words to me in November 2020 were: ‘You will know when to bring him back’ so I’ve decided now is the time. Also I need to get Centrelink sorted, as both the website and the app are saying that I have ‘2 required tasks’ not done, but both have been sorted a month ago so the only solution is to speak to them by phone, worst job ever. The third was to go today for my planned six monthly visit to the cancer specialist which involves a stressful and somewhat painful procedure as well as the consultation. Getting a microscope pushed up your arse is no fun and getting biopsies done without anaesthesia is even worse, but at least I don’t have to drink the hemlock that a colonoscopy entails or have the side effects of an anaesthetic, so there are pluses and minuses. But Richard the prof explained again today that although the initial cancer was removed, the virus which caused it is still there and there’s no cure for that, so it is attacking every day. Hence the two damaged sections biopsied last time and now another three this time which are either cancer or high grade dysplasia, which is five minutes to cancer. However Richard has applied to the hospital bean counters for funding to buy the equipment to do ‘radio frequency ablation’, a procedure not currently available in Australia which uses high frequency radio waves to burn off the whole lining of the lower bowel under general anaesthetic and hopefully it heals as normal cells. His application for funding is to be considered before Christmas and he says I would be high on the list for treatment if it is approved as the biopsies since the initial surgery have been right at the edge of cancer so he would want to get in quickly. Failing that I can get it in the US….nah, I don’t think so. But if it comes off it could be curative says Richard, which sounds wonderful, otherwise it’s a case of doing what I had done today every six months in perpetuity.

Huzzah! The lovely Victoria from Western Queensland has verified over the phone that all the required tasks have been completed and corrected the website and app to that effect. So it looks as if we’ve been in limbo for a month while a mistake at Centrelink’s end stalled the process. Don’t look back Maureen, three balls out of the air today. Good work.

October 20, 2021

Today we went out to Dural for bread and the joint owner Natalie happened to be there. As she has before, she offered to deliver to me anytime I need her to and added that she could pick up any food I wanted from a supermarket or convenience store at the same time. She is just amazing, which is why I travel out there to buy from her. The sewing group went back to face to face meetings today but I decided against going, however Natalie gets that reticence without even a discussion. Then took a picnic to Castle Hill Heritage Park, a wonderful area of rolling hills on the site of the first convict settlement and government farm. Although it is surrounded by housing, that was rarely visible as we walked around, and the facilities there for picnics, barbecues and the like are excellent. It is dotted with signs explaining the history of the settlement, including all the names of the convicts who were there. They were housed in a stone barracks, the males that is, but it mentioned in an understated way that the females were housed ‘in the guards quarters’ which doesn’t bear thinking about really.

Home after lunch to watch ICAC, my favourite pastime at the moment. Although the press makes a good effort of reporting the important revelations there I’ve found that, as in court cases, they sometimes miss what I regard as important testimony. Of course they can’t report the whole transcript, but the expression on a face can tell you crucial things about the testimony. Mike Baird looked somewhat skewered, but not guilty, I guess we’d all feel somewhat skewered before ICAC.

I got a call from Western Districts ACAT to book an appointment for John to be reassessed. I had already cancelled on Monday due to a very unpleasant interaction with their office last week when the woman who rang me implied that I was asking for more help when I hadn’t yet received the help they had approved. However it was the Northern Suburbs branch who had recommended a reassessment and not me, based on the fact that his living arrangements had changed. I declined it at this point, even though the person who rang today was quite fine, I’m still feeling the effects of her abrupt and accusatory colleague and I don’t need any more pressure at the moment. I suspect it’s the old story of what’s okay in the east and north is not okay for the second class citizens of the west.

October 21, 2021

Last night late I checked the Centrelink app and was happy to see that the application to be John’s carer seems to have been approved late yesterday, although I haven’t been officially informed as yet. One more thing off my mind. This morning we headed off to the locksmith after I discovered that there is only one key to John’s car, a potentially difficult situation should it be mislaid, which is always on the cards now. Then on to Bob to pick up a referral for him to see the neurologist next week. Surely soon all of this organisational work should settle down, though perhaps it never will now.

Carly was to appear before a Parliamentary Inquiry into Strengthening Australia’s Relationships with Countries in the Pacific Region at 10.30 am and I was set up in front of the computer to watch the proceedings but for some reason I couldn’t get the live stream happening, so I watched ICAC while I waited but eventually gave up on trying to get Carly’s inquiry. Fired off a letter to the Herald while I was waiting: “Not since living under the Askin government of the 1960s and 70s in NSW have I felt ruled by a government corrupt at its very core. The federal government’s decision to go against the Speaker’s recommendation to investigate Christian Porter’s ‘blind trust’ confirms it as corrupt, if confirmation were needed”. That is one that I really hope they print, somehow the knowledge of corruption just seeps into you and you know in your gut when things aren’t right. Askin was a criminal dressed up as a politician, just as Obeid was, but this is something else, it’s people who believe themselves to be upright citizens but who are rotten to the core. Askin at least knew he was a crook.

I’ve just finished reading a British novel, The Fortune Men, which I hadn’t realised was factual in its base. Right at the end of the book a page shows a newspaper cutting of the actual story. It is about a Somali man living in Wales in the late 40s and early 1950s who was accused of killing a shopkeeper in her business. After a trial at which he was convicted and then subsequent appeals, he was sentenced to hang and that sentence was carried out. But his white British wife fought on his behalf for 46 years till his conviction was finally  overturned and his remains dug out of the prison vegetable garden and reinterred in a cemetery. Sadly his son committed suicide and now all three of his children, who suffered from terrible racism, are dead even though they would all be younger than me. It was a harrowing read when I thought it was fiction, but I was stricken by the realisation that it was real.

October 22, 2021

Went with Tony to a Kenthurst nursery restaurant, Fig and Co, seeing Wild Pear is closed for renovations and wanting only outdoor seating. We arrived there at 10.52 (thanks Service NSW for helping me track times these days) and were told that the menu was via a QR code so we spent the next little while filling in personal details in order to get to the menu, not optional. After negotiating that by about 11 am we ordered and received a response that our food would arrive at 11.21. We waited till 11.40 to ask staff about the order but the system hadn’t accepted it for some reason and it was noon before it arrived. The scones tasted to me as if they were way heavy on carb soda, almost bubbling in the mouth, but not quite, though the jam and cream was fine. The tea was good and hot, but a morning tea shouldn’t take over an hour to be served and we both decided not to return. The couple next to us complained bitterly about the ordering system complexity when all they wanted was a coffee, which came cold so they left disgruntled and vowing never to return. The surroundings were lovely and the company excellent but they managed to spoil it as far as food and drink went. However we solved the problems of the world, reviewed books, analysed the motivation and psychology of serial killers and had a lovely morning in a peaceful and very pleasant environment.

Centrelink has now officially informed me that the application for carer status has been accepted and sent me a little money to boot, so I’ve decided to splurge it on getting my oven cleaned professionally. I use it every day and it gets a real hammering so it will be wonderful to have it clean. My friend Tim, who has had years of experience with aged care for both his mother and later his father, was horrified when I told him about Westmead ACAT’s decision not to reassess John now that he’s moved here. He pointed out that they need to inspect his environment carefully: are there dangerous steps, does he need to step into a bath to have a shower, are handrails necessary etc. Of course he is right and that was exactly what the Northern Branch did for him at Lane Cove. But I’ve decided I’m better off without them at the moment so I’m not planning to reopen that can of worms.

Listening this afternoon to ICAC and Stuart Ayres is in the hot seat, I don’t trust his evidence and suspect that Counsel Assisting doesn’t either. Counsel is so smooth, polite, understated and sharp, he doesn’t miss a trick, but a very different personality to Geoffrey Watson who was CA when I used to go in person, but still fascinating to watch. I can’t wait to see Dazza next week to see if he dumps on Our Glad just as she has dumped on him.

October 23, 2021

I woke up early and ready to get stuck into sorting some more boxes, I think going out yesterday was a great idea. To have a few hours when the words Centrelink, aged care, package and dementia weren’t mentioned once did me a world of good. I had to laugh when Tony said that he loves the fact that ‘you have an opinion on everything’. That’s the first time that particular trait has been seen by anyone as a positive. We managed to get quite a bit done this morning, moving stuff out of the garage for sorting, wrapping up John’s TV for storage, packing some charity shop boxes and then a Police helicopter started circling the house, not once or twice but continuously for 45 minutes. I locked the front door in case a Hamzy was on the loose, but otherwise just marvelled at the ability of a helicopter to stay in one place for so long. Eventually a text came to say that a 6 year old autistic girl had gone missing from her home very close by. So we set off to look for her, expecting to be two of dozens out doing the same, but we saw no-one looking at all! Eventually we got too tired on the hills and came home for a short rest, where I rang the Police who said ‘oh yes she was found half an hour ago’, nice if they’d sent out another text message I thought.

I spent some more time trying to update John’s MyGov account, years out of date with an overstatement of totals in his bank accounts, the value of his car and of his possessions. He didn’t seem to know what I was doing or why it mattered. I think I could empty his accounts and he wouldn’t notice unless has credit card ceased working. People can be very vulnerable in this situation.

October 24, 2021

Arvind from next door came in and together we solved the problems of India, China, Australia and more so it was a successful visit. I unloaded onto him an unused quantity of Indian black salt or Kala Namak, which I’ve discovered I really dislike after tasting a little from the packet. The smell is quite unpleasant and I couldn’t get it out of the house quickly enough as just opening the packet stank out the kitchen. It is volcanic and contains sulfates, sulfides, iron and magnesium which all contribute to the salt’s colour, smell and taste. I think it was the sulphur smell that got to me, but Mala uses it so nothing lost. I noticed on Friday that Tony didn’t pick up anything wrong with the scones, yet to me they reeked of bi-carb. Also I have been unpacking the contents of John’s kitchen cupboards and integrating them into my pantry today thereby doubling my supply of green and herbal teas, which is ridiculous as neither of us routinely drink either. So I offloaded to Arvind some African Rooibos tea (shudder), green tea, strawberry tea and various other ghastly sounding blends, still leaving me with a vast selection to offer guests.

Down in the back yard out of sight of the house I have long had a large cactusy plant in a pot and it is now in flower. The flowers are huge, about 20 cm across, and absolutely stunning. My phone plant identification app identifies it as Orchid Cactus or Disocactus ackermannii, an epiphytic cactus from tropical parts of Mexico. So seeing it was in such a bad position to view I toted the pot to the front garden and put it in the ground. However now I have identified it, I discover that it normally grows in the forks of trees and doesn’t usually go in the ground at all, so perhaps I’ve killed it off. I hope not as the flowers make wonderful specimens in the house, we shall see.

October, 25, 2021

I decided to set aside the morning to follow up the details I’ve been given about service providers for John’s aged care package and I did get somewhat organised. But I am stymied from going much further as I’m still waiting for one provider to get back to me by phone and waiting for written details about two others to arrive in the mail. (My birthday card to Danish in Canberra arrived late last week, posted late September, post is becoming totally inadequate). Anyway I was able to work out which criteria I want to stress in my discussions with the providers, spurred on by my friend Tania’s approach of doing a computer spreadsheet to rate the responses of each candidate. Mine is a pen and paper effort but in effect it works just as well.

Got an email from Lu in Arizona with whom I have casual communications. Many years ago I wanted to arrange a test to see whether or not I had the ‘supertaster’ gene and no companies in Australia could offer the test. I found a company in Canada who could supply one but the postage costs seemed excessive. Eventually I got onto Precision Laboratories in Arizona and dealt with Lu there to organise it. Shortly afterwards the test appeared in the post but I had not paid for it or for the postage. I contacted Lu assuming that it was a mistake, but she told me that as a result of our conversations she had decided to send it to me as a gift. Since then we have had occasional emails and sometimes we send each other small gifts representative of Australia and Arizona. The result of the test was strongly positive and Lu had a good laugh when I explained that I gagged on the bitter, caustic taste which I couldn’t wash out of my mouth yet when I tested John he couldn’t taste anything at all. She advised me not to repeat the process as a party trick as my body would be negatively affected by the chemical whereas it would have no effect on him. The relationship has meant that I’ve read more than I would have done about Arizona including novels set in that area and it seems to someone like me, where closeness to water is everything, a scary but fascinating place.

I’ve long had a set of a dozen 1960s Sebel stackable chairs on the back verandah, only used for large gatherings, so considering the unlikelihood of any sort of large event here in the foreseeable future I decided to sell them. I am on a minimalising rampage, mainly because of the extra things around the place since John arrived, so anything of mine that can be reduced will help put the place to rights, eBay is my friend at the moment.

October 26, 2021

Last night’s 4 Corners program on cosmetic surgeon Daniel Lanzer was chilling in the extreme. He absolutely gave me the creeps, aside from any purported medical misbehaviour. My overwhelming feeling was that he was actually Scott Morrison, same solid build, same solid jaw and certainly the same smirking arrogance. It seems that personality type, on the sociopathic-liar spectrum, is inhabited by people of great energy and vigour who seriously believe their own bullshit. I’d include Morrison, Lanzer, Alan Jones, Boris Johnson, Trump being the king of them of course. He has 10 children and boasts that he could easily buy a good house for each one. A funny coincidence it seems is that on the day that John went to RNS recently for his heart testing I did a walking tour of Gore Hill Cemetery while I waited. It was warming up and I’d been walking around for a couple of hours so I went back past the private hospital and sat on a seat in the shade to watch the passing parade. Along the road came a large orange convertible, like nothing I was used to seeing in either colour or style, so I took special notice. As it got closer and slowed I saw it was a Ferrari (just Googled the model, a Portofino worth nearly half a million dollars). The driver was wearing scrubs and a blue disposable hat and a woman walking past said to me as I peered at him driving into the underground doctors’ carpark: Are you thinking what I’m thinking? I replied that I was thinking that I hope he isn’t going to operate in those scrubs. Exactly, she said, hardly sterile. I didn’t know him from a can of paint but after watching 4 Corners I recognised him by both his face and his car as the infamous Dr. Lanzer.

Today we went to see John’s neurologist at St. Vincent’s and she redid his memory and cognitive testing. He has slipped a little but not a lot in the tests, mainly in not being able to recall even one of the five words she asked him to remember. She has given him a script for a drug to hopefully slow down his deterioration, though it doesn’t work for everyone. I like her very much but it seems she is now passing him over to a geriatrician as her task was the diagnosis, and now it is just a matter of management. I came out feeling as if the acute phase of treatment is over and this is the equivalent of palliative care but John, who is much more of an optimist than I, didn’t take that view so I didn’t verbalise my perspective.

October 27, 2021

I can finally see the light at the end of the aged care package tunnel. I sat my bum on a dining room chair this morning and didn’t get up till I’d read everything I had been sent on aged care packages comparing rates, services, philosophies, rules and then the answers to all the many questions I had asked over the last week or two and eventually the right choice crystalised. I had to laugh about my queries on exit fees, they ranged from zero to $350, but one organisation has a policy of charging nothing if you change providers, but $500 if you die, a sort of Final Exit Fee I quipped to the lady there. (It’s one of the beauties of being sold something that the person you are dealing with has to laugh at your jokes). At least it’s a reason to hang on to life when things are tough I guess. John went to St. Vincent’s again today for his monthly infusion while I avoided going on to the computer and getting caught up watching ICAC, rather saving it for tomorrow when Dazza will no doubt entertain us and my rear end will be glued to the chair. Book group is on Friday, on the selfsame day that they are calling Gladys, what a calamitous conjunction, but at least it covers an hour of the commission’s lunchtime.

It turns out quite by chance that the last four books I’ve read, chosen by the librarians, are novelised versions of actual events though I had no idea of that when I started each of them. Colm Toibin’s The Magician is based on the life of Thomas Mann, The Fortune Men is about the life of Mahmoud Mattan, a Somali man in Cardiff, More Than I Love My Life is based on the story of Yugoslavian Eva Nahir and Mountain Tales is about Indian ragpickers in Mumbai, particularly the real life Farzana Ali Shaikh. In all of them I query the use of direct speech attributed to the characters, but that doesn’t seem to bother other people in the way that it bothers me. I will be sad when the Stay Home and Read programme ends, as it surely will soon I suspect.

October 28, 2021

Watered the garden early in order to be all set and ready for Dazza’s appearance at ICAC at 10 am, but Gladys’s lawyer Miss Callan immediately made moves to stop either Dazza or Our Glad being asked about their ‘close personal relationship’. It seems that moniker for the affair/romance/fling/dalliance was one agreed with Glad and the Commission to save her any more embarrassment than necessary. Counsel assisting, Scott Robertson, has the brain I want if ever brain transplants become possible. He can speak all day without a single um, ah or even a hesitation. He walks all over Miss Callan, but whether the Commissioner sides with him remains to be seen, she’s out considering that at the moment. To give her her due though, there was one point a couple of days again where she skewered John Barilaro, in a way that the transcript wouldn’t have shown, you had to be there. She asked Pork Barilaro if he would have declared any intimate relationships to the Premier as he had said Glad should do. There was a long silence, a pregnant pause accompanied by a piercing look from Miss Callan, before Pork answered that the only intimate relationships he had were with his family. Miss Callan continued the stare, making me wonder if she was about to say ‘what about Miss X?’, but the moment passed and I did think perhaps that she had names and dates on her pad but decided not to use them, for the time being at least. When Pork resigned I said to John that he would be called to ICAC and of course he was, but whether he was expecting some negative publicity I don’t know, though he announced separation from his wife in the same week. Perhaps he has spilled some beans privately to the Commission, but for now they are not making the beans into soup.

Phew, the Commissioner threw out Miss Callan’s objection and we live again. Dazza has covered himself in merd and via a couple of phone taps managed to smear a fair bit of it on Our Glad, who may henceforth be renamed Used to Be Our Glad or perhaps Daryl’s Glad, but no longer Ours I fear. I have been juggling ICAC with Senate Estimates in the breaks, watching Penny Wong showing why she should be Prime Minister, leaving Albo sadly looking on at her demonstration of how a politician should perform.

October 29, 2021

Poor Old Glad seems incapable of answering a yes or no question. She qualifies everything to the point that the Commissioner has had to ask her a number of times to ‘just answer the questions without giving a speech’. It didn’t stop her though. Scott Robertson’s hook after asking a question, when the answer isn’t clear, is:  ‘I’ll attempt, if I may, to assist you here’, after which he replays some phone tap or other which seems to oppose the answer given. I am sure I could be convicted of anything if all my phone calls, emails and texts were spread out, irony could easily be taken as a genuine opinion. There’s little sign of irony here though and Miss Callan’s job is definitely a case of pushing a barrow load of shite uphill.

John is feeling off today and I’m sure it’s due to the new tablet that he began last night. It said to take it at night because it can make you faint or dizzy or tired and he’s complained of each of those today. He hasn’t done much at all today apart from a short walk while I’ve been ICACing and book grouping. The drug is supposed to slow the memory loss but it will be weeks or months before we get an indication of whether or not it works.

I just now got a call from the Professor (who conveniently waited till after ICAC finished) to say that my 3 biopsies done last week resulted in a decision of 2 ‘boring’ and 1 ‘damaged by the virus but not yet cancer’. I can’t ask for more than that. He commented that I should wait till after the next 6 monthly series of biopsies before deciding whether to undergo the full body radiation that a PET scan entails. It was booked in for February, but he thinks if the results of April’s biopsies are as good as these we might be able to avoid it, three cheers to that! I loved his parting comment: ‘you are very boring at the moment’ and that’s how I hope to stay.

October 30, 2021

It’s halloween and although we don’t celebrate it, by coincidence I ordered a part cooked Pescatarian Banquet from Long Chim, David Thompson’s city Thai restaurant. I am celebrating my medical results from yesterday as well as fending off the depression that results from a creeping feeling that the future is basically just waiting for the fruit bowl to rot. John used to ask why I didn’t close the shop down earlier than I did so we could do the European trips that we had planned, particularly seeing Vienna and Prague, visiting Ireland and France as well, and coming back via Canada and northern USA. But 12 days after I closed the shop and while we were making plans for our trip he fell ill with acute lymphoma on top of the chronic one he already had so that and its side effects put paid to travel for a few years. Then he was committed to his street library project and was reluctant to do anything else, thereafter followed the pandemic. Now I think we both realise that a big trip is beyond us, so we settled on doing a number of cross country driving trips, Adelaide, Queensland, Broken Hill, country Victoria were in the mix. But I think it is only a matter of time before John loses his licence, because although his driving is spot on and only certain parts of his brain are affected by memory loss, apparently according to the neurologist the authorities don’t see that kind of subtlety and their attitude is ‘dementia equals inability to drive’, regardless of competence. She told us that John’s licence was in the balance when she tested him the other day, but then the result was better than expected so he scraped through. I doubt that will work next time so all of our trips will be out of the window because I simply can’t drive those distances on my own. We can’t head off now because he has medical appointments every week for the next month, then it’s school holidays till February. So I am feeling a dwindling sense of investment in the future at the moment which I guess will dissipate once acceptance sets in.

I laughed at a newspaper headline: “I think I’m in love: Aussies swoon over ‘terrifying’ and ‘stern’ ICAC lawyer”. Laughing because I didn’t realise that I was in a queue, but I am in awe of him and could watch him all day, if not quite calling it love. Monday will be the last of him for a while unfortunately. He and my friend Tony are cut from the same cloth, polite, understated, proper, intense, soft-spoken and smart as a whip.

October 31, 2021

Sometime I think that I don’t really understand a lot of people who inhabit our world at the moment. Like when I browse through the Sunday magazine which comes with the newspaper. The Style My Way column each week has someone in the fashion world explaining why they dress as they do, often with a wish list of incredibly priced items of clothing, shoes or frequently handbags from names they seem to expect we will know, like Slvrlake, Esber, Monot and it goes on. I guess some readers know what these women are talking about but I can’t imagine having a wish list topped by Balenciaga sandals “a little bit orthopaedic”. It’s another world and one I wouldn’t want to inhabit no matter what I won on Lotto. And don’t get me started on the ads each week, a sample from yesterday has a pillow with a capital M…..for $555, a wool blanket for $489 and a round ceramic box with a tasselled lid in calfskin for $790. It would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that people must be buying this stuff or the companies wouldn’t be paying for the ads.

In our more humble part of the universe I packed a couple of cheese and lettuce sambos and a nut and fruit bun I’d made and we headed to Fagan Park for a walk and a picnic lunch. It was busy but the park is so big that it wasn’t a problem. John came up with the idea of inviting his clerical class to a park for a picnic and I encouraged him to suggest it to one of them, who quickly pointed out that one is suffering from cancer, another has mobility problems, another eyesight issues which prevent him from driving and so on. Realistically it would be a party for only a maximum of three out of the original eleven.

November 1, 2021

Kirk, my gardening helper, came at 7.15 am and mowed as well as cleaning out the gutter over the front verandah. He left just in time for me to watch the final episode of the Gladys soap opera at 9. She maintains she had nothing at all to report to ICAC about Maguire, despite his suggestion that they communicate via a private phone or on WeChat, so considering that she is far from stupid, my only conclusion is that she is trying to lie her way out of the corner into which she has painted herself. I’m sure by her responses and body language that she has been well trained by her barrister but she is lying through her teeth, the only question is whether she is doing it knowingly or whether she has managed to swallow her own Kool-Aid as so many in politics do. But either way the bottom line is that she is lying, no question.

John’s confusion about computer matters persists and I am about the worst person to try to solve the problems, though I’m trying. Finding particular files falls to me and if I can’t there is no one else here who is more computer literate to assist. On Saturday night we had a lovely dinner from Long Chim, a Thai restaurant whose chef is the famous David Thompson, something I hadn’t realised when I ordered it. But while John enjoyed it, he was confused about why we were having it, asking a few times if it were my birthday or some other special occasion. I guess we haven’t ever been takeaway people, I’ve always cooked every meal, so it’s perhaps understandable to query why I’ve suddenly done something out of the ordinary.

November 2, 2021

It’s been a funny old day. This morning was the appointed time for my oven to be cleaned by Oven Restore and it took him an age to get it back to rights, removing the dials, fan, glass door and shelves and putting them in a heated bath of chemicals in the back of his van. While they were cooking he scoured the oven floor and walls till it shone. While he was doing that I attacked the dusting in the loungeroom, always a big job. But when, after the best part of  three hours, I went to pay him there was no handbag to be found. It contained my wallet, glasses, vaccination card, tablets etc etc. I had a quick look for it and then asked John to pay with his credit card after which we went back to searching. After a long time I came to the conclusion that perhaps the oven man had taken it, a thought which really rocked me. But later I found it in my bedroom in a place I would never have put it, which then caused John to remember that he had thought it unsafe to leave in the dining room so he hid it for me. By this time I was in tears and about to ring the police which thankfully I hadn’t done. I feel like a rotten person for doubting the perfectly lovely tradesman and the excitement of the clean oven has turned to a nasty memory.

Then I got an email from National Parks and Wildlife to say that my application for a new annual pass had been refused because I had done something wrong when applying, though it didn’t say what and it can only be done online as of this year. John’s failed as well so I had buggered both. We went up to Service NSW (where I discovered that it was Melbourne Cup day as the female staff were all wearing fascinators) and a delightful young man called Mohan walked me through the application on one of their computers, showing me where I had stuffed up. I resisted the impulse to kiss him for which I am sure he is eternally grateful.

Went for a walk to a nearby street library which is always light on of books, donating ten or so which have been sitting in mine for a while and picking up an Ann Patchett book that I haven’t read and a poetry volume that looks worth a try. I wish I could say that I feel better as a result but at the moment I just keep coming back to the fact that I almost called the wallopers on the oven man.

November 3, 2021

My friend Tim rang this morning, he has been in a years long legal stoush with his father over a property they shared and is now in a legal battle with his siblings over the father’s will as he died mid-proceedings. Imagine his surprise when he got an email from his siblings inviting him to his father’s memorial service, the address of the function being Tim’s home, the property at the centre of the issue. He is caught really, because if he bars entry to the attendees he will be seen as a proper bastard and this is probably the purpose of the exercise. The whole thing has taken over his life for years but if he doesn’t fight on he will potentially lose his home, which all the legal eagles agree belongs to him.

Met up with the ladies of the sewing group and continued to adjust the skirt I was working on when last we met, was it six months ago? No hurry as I won’t be going anywhere to wear it for the foreseeable. Now that the waist is okay I want to cut it back to mid calf length as it’s very long and trails on the ground when I wear flat shoes. We just had a cuppa today rather than lunch as Colleen preferred that and we were perfectly fine with it. I must admit I was glad when I got home to find there had been no emergencies of any kind. John walked to the men’s shed and made himself known, he’ll go back to formally join another day and continue working on the chess set that he is carving to go on the chess table he made decades ago. It will be good on two fronts, getting the set finished and making new friends in the area.

November 4, 2021

Had an appointment here with Kirsty from Wendy’s Home Care to sign the papers for his package. After considering many of the biggies like Anglicare, Baptist Care, Uniting Care, Benevolent Society and more (he wouldn’t let me include the Catholics) I went with Wendy’s because I have known Wendy for over 30 years. I knew she’d gone from being mayor of the Hawkesbury Council to opening a local home care service, however it had escaped me that she’d later expanded it into the Blue Mountains and Hills District. As soon as I found that out I was leaning towards her service, but I was sold when they immediately assigned me a case manager with a direct phone number, answered every query in one phone call (as against 2-5 days for others), were happy to guarantee double vaccination of all staff (Benevolent couldn’t do that, eek), plus they have no exit fees. Kristy went through everything including power of attorney, will, guardianship, illnesses, drugs and what he can and can’t do, a pretty thorough rundown. Hopefully the basic help will begin next week and expand as necessary.

Arvind brought in some delicious looking Diwali snacks that Mala had made, so I might make a fish curry tonight and use them as entree and sides. I asked what time the fireworks were starting, a big deal at Diwali in India, and wished them a happy new year. His wish is to see the last of Scott Morrison, so let’s hope the Hindu gods are listening. Went up to Castle Hill to see a clothes alteration shop highly recommended online and was surprised when a middle European lady came out to serve me, I am so used to that sort of business being Asian run. What next? A nail salon which is not Vietnamese? That happened when I had my nails done in Darwin and it was a bit of a shock. She told me my favourite jeans are past repairing which is very sad, but I think I will get her to cut off and hem my skirt instead. It was second hand 30 years ago or more but still I can’t toss it if it’s wearable. Tried to organise a few days away next week before John saw the cardiologist on Friday, but her office changed the appointment and now it’s Tuesday, buggering the week somewhat. The days up to Christmas are gradually filling up one way and another.

November 5, 2021

We did a trip to Dural for bread and on the way home had a great walk at Castle Hill Heritage Park, listening to the whip birds. I get bored to tears walking around here, but John is good at going out for his 40 minute walk every day. He asked me who prescribed a recent addition to his drug regime, the GP or the cardiologist, and I said neither as it was the hospital. How could that be he asked, I’ve only just started taking it and I haven’t been in hospital recently. He’d completely forgotten going to hospital twice just four weeks ago and my explanation didn’t bring back the memory. I think if I needed to go to hospital for any reason, I’d be reluctant to leave him here on his own now.

Reading the stories about the fellow who apparently kidnapped Cleo Smith, the four year old in WA, I just want to give him a hug. He seems so lonely, isolated and odd that my heart goes out to him. Of course I hope she isn’t harmed at all, but I fear he is at risk in the prison system and later when he eventually returns home. I hope some of the elders are able to advocate for his care within the system but prison is a tough gig even if you’re relatively normal, I can’t even imagine how a black, doll-collecting kidnapper would fare. Surely we need special places for such vulnerable people.

We are invited to an outdoor birthday party on Sunday and I planned to make a tiered chocolate cake sandwiched with cream and berries. John laughed uproariously at the idea of my making something that I would hate to eat myself, while to me that seems a perfectly normal thing to do. In fact I enjoy making things for a change that I personally don’t want to eat. Anyway it’s a moot point now as the party boy has said he will decide whether it’s on or off at 10 am Sunday and I don’t want a whole chocolate layer cake here if it’s called off, so I need to change plan. Maybe a last minute salad is the go as long as I have all the makings in the fridge.

November 6, 2021

Thinking overnight about the kidnapper of Cleo Smith I remembered the famous speech by Eugene Debs when he was being sentenced to gaol in 1918 for opposing America’s involvement with WWI. “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”. Each evening when the news came on while Lindy Chamberlain was in gaol for the murder of her daughter Azaria, I checked the weather report for Darwin, knowing that the prison would be as hot as Hades. It was such a relief when she was eventually freed and later pardoned. I feel similarly sad for this chap for very different reasons. Lindy was innocent but the systems of justice let her down, we don’t yet know about this fellow but it seems that society hasn’t intervened to help him. Elbert Hubbard said wisely that “A 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”. It is interesting that both of these very wise men died tragically, the first as a result of health issues which came about in gaol and Hubbard and his wife died at sea off Ireland in 1915, aboard the Lusitania when it was sunk by a German submarine. The philosophies of that era in America, from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s seem to speak to me, Debs, Hubbard, Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau. I wonder if we’ll see their like again.

Last year a relative of John’s suffered from a very rare peritoneal cancer, so rare in fact that there was only one doctor in Perth who dealt with it and she was successfully treated by him. Because of the size of the operation and the long recovery time the federal government limits the number of these operations for each state that’s capable of doing them, only three states I understand. If that surgeon in Perth had not been available there was talk of her coming to Sydney or Melbourne for surgery. Now a good friend of mine has been diagnosed with the selfsame thing. In the John’s relative’s case she had massive surgery during which litres of heated chemotherapy solution were poured into her abdomen on the operating table then it was agitated for some hours before being drained out. (My mind absorbs the fine details of medical procedures like a sponge, for some strange reason). My friend is having conventional venous chemo but has been told that the cancer is stage 4 so perhaps that’s why the approach is different. I hope to meet up with her on Monday, it is hard to know what to say.

November 7, 2021

Went to Michael’s birthday party in Lane Cove National Park today, though it was only at 10 am that a decision was made to go ahead with it as the weather forecast was dire. As a result my salad food contribution, made at the last minute, was a bit humdrum but you can’t do everything and there was a ton of food brought. The cake in particular was superb, made by Bakealicious, a young woman who runs a cake making business from home, dee-lish-us. As it was in an open shelter shed we still had plenty of protection from the occasional rain and the storms failed to eventuate. The kookaburras kept us delighted by swooping down and stealing food from the table and from our hands, neatly done without even a nip. In one case that involved taking off with a quarter of a chicken from the table, done with panache. The brush turkeys circled and got a bit too. I was very glad I went as I realise now that I having been sinking into depression and it enlivened me to meet new people and to renew acquaintances with others. One whom I’d met a few times before turned out to be a chef with three cookbooks to her name, though I found that out via someone else. Another interesting man with the slightest American accent had come here as a soldier from Chicago on R and R during the Vietnam War and contacted the government for permission to migrate. The reply was ‘yes and we will pay half your airfare’, so not a 10 pound Pom but a $350 American. Coincidentally there was another American there from West Virginia, unknown to the first, and he told of recently chatting to a friend on the phone with his wife driving towards the Newcastle Freeway when he suddenly ‘started talking in Swahili’ as he put it. She recognised that he was having a stroke and veered off to head straight to Hornsby Hospital where he was hit with a clot-busting drug and after some time in ICU lived to tell the tale. Everybody has a story and I was glad to hear all of them. John enjoyed catching up with some people he knew in Bathurst in the 70s so he judged it an excellent day too.

November 8, 2021

Hooked up with Liz at Glenorie after mistakenly going first to Galston, for some reason I always confuse the two. She has had just one round of chemo but already her hair is coming out so she’s had to buy a wig to do a wedding on Saturday. I told her about the op that Angela had for the same thing and she said that her tumours are too big to operate on so this chemo is to reduce them so perhaps then they can do that particular surgery. She really doesn’t deserve this after going through all her previous preventative operations when she discovered that she carried the BRCA2 cancer gene years ago. We had a look in Glenorie shops, the whole two of them, a gift shop and a dress shop, the owners of both looked pretty surprised to get a customer, or potential customer I should say as we bought nothing.

John brought with him a bucket full of boot brushes and tins of shoe polish and I of course have a box with the same, a lovely old ferret box in fact. I asked if he could integrate the two, checking first if the polishes were still good or had dried out, in which case they needed tossing. A few of them needed a screwdriver to open, but it confused him to work out which ones had to go where and to decide whether or not they were still usable so they were still where I left them when I got home from seeing Liz. Then he was able to do it with no problem. It is becoming more apparent that he really needs me around to do most things now, not to help but to remind him what he is doing.

Just got a call from Kristy the case manager from the home care provider to say that the new cleaner Rosalina will start on Thursday, woo hoo. Perhaps I can get back to doing some eBays so I have pulled some bits and bobs out of boxes to start with. It will be good company for John to have someone here to chat to occasionally, just as he used to with Michelle. She will clean his part of the house and the shared areas too.

November 9, 2021

We went to RNS today to see Gemma, John’s cardiologist, as a follow up to his stents. She was very happy and removed one of the three blood thinners he is taking as the neurologist had written to her worried that his blood being so thin might cause more tiny bleeds in the brain. Complex cases are such a juggling act. We stopped at Lane Cove on the way home and got some sushi from the particularly good Japanese place there. John enjoyed it but for me it was a super treat, I am the sushi lover here. Then I listed some antique  silverplated pieces on eBay, after John kindly polished them for me yesterday. But these days people just don’t want anything that gives them work and today I’ve had to email two clients who have bought silverplated cutlery this week to tell that they can’t put them in the dishwasher. It may come as a shock.

Last night’s Four Corners on the scurrilous Obeid clan was depressing and sickening so I’ve decided to organise a regular donation to the Centre for Public Integrity who are sticking their heads up more and more on all sorts of issues. I had to give it a lot of thought because it’s my rule to always give to charities that work at the bottom end of society and these are all barristers and judges fighting against corruption in politics. But I think what convinced me is that every dollar that they enable us to claw back from corruption is a dollar that the government of the day can spend on useful measures for society as well as the fact that every crooked pollie who crashes at ICAC makes room for another who might be better. Plus of course I will get even more updates on Geoffrey Watson and what good works he is up to, warming my heart no end.

November 10, 2021

A heart-warming story today when the wallopers caught Mostafa Baluch, hiding in the boot of a Mercedes loaded into a container on the back of a truck, trying to cross the border into Queensland. It beggars belief that a guy like that who bragged in intercepted phone calls that he has $30 million in cash available was allowed bail. You have to wonder. His family will likely lose the $4 million house that he put up as a bond, which is all to the good. After watching the program on the Obeid family it is at least a relief when the system works as it should.

Wendy, of the eponymous aged care provider that we are using, rang last evening and said we are to call her directly if we encounter any problems at all with the service, which was kind even though I don’t expect to need her help. She talked about inviting us to lunch soon so we look forward to that. I feel very secure in knowing that John’s care is in such good hands.

Had a lovely Zoom call this afternoon with John’s sister-in-law Justine in Davis, California. It is a pity that he is so far away from the wonderful support of his American rellies, but Zoom is certainly a boon in this situation. It seems to me an amazing coincidence that Zoom came into being just at the very moment that the world needed it so badly. Coincidentally I am planning to attend a Zoom meeting with Killara friends tonight.

November 11, 2021

The new cleaning lady Rosalina (whom I envisaged by her name would be very smiley and jolly) was sent from the aged care provider today for her first two hour shift. She is not a smiler to any extent, her first words when I showed her where to get the vacuum, mop and cleaning products were: next time have them out ready for me, oookaay I thought. Not nasty or short, just not here to be friendly but, as I said to someone this morning, she is getting paid to clean, not to be my friend. I would feel pretty foul if I were cleaning houses for a living too, but such a different kettle of sardines to my dear sadly missed Michelle who has done the job for many years, though unfortunately she isn’t vaccinated. She did both bathrooms, vacuumed the house and mopped it. ‘Thankyou very much, I will see you next time’, I said brightly as she left. ‘I come once a fortnight’ she replied bleakly as she went out the door. I will be looking forward to that.

From another planet entirely came the lovely Matt from Urban Creativity, sweet as barley sugar when he came to give me a quote to redo the broken concrete driveway in bricks. He lives just over the border in the Parramatta local government area, this house is just three streets north of Parramatta LGA and his about the same distance on the other side. They were in harsher lockdown than we were, so he couldn’t work at all for months, hence there is a long waiting time for his services, till February at least. The big gum tree next door has broken up the driveway badly and it all needs pulling up, the level raised above the tree roots using sand and road base and then redoing in brick. If his quote is affordable he’s got the job, he comes highly recommended and is delightful to deal with so I won’t even get other quotes. ‘What would the extra cost be to do it in a herringbone pattern Matt?’ I think that’s a good idea and it’s only a few extra cuts so I won’t add anything for that’. I told him that my friend Sue won’t park the Peugeot on the driveway any more as it scraped the bottom of her car. ‘Do you want her coming back?’ he asked drily. ‘Oh yes, she’s a close friend’, ‘okay we’d better fix it then’ he smirked. Please be affordable Matt. It was typical that when John and I had a sweep on the anticipated cost just now, my estimate was more than double John’s, I hope he’s right but I don’t think so.

On Monday when I had morning tea with Liz, she had lovely shoulder length blonde hair but wore a cap because it had started falling out. By Tuesday night she sent me a photo of herself bald, this after just one session of chemo, it must be a bastard of a mixture. I can’t think what to do to help, she has her sessions at Gosford Hospital as it’s quicker and cheaper to get there from her northern Sydney home. In these Covid days you can’t even offer to spend the day there with her to help pass the time, but of course when I think of it I wouldn’t be happy leaving John for that long anyway, so thinking cap on for some way to help.

November 12, 2021

Davina and Louis are having their ensuite bathroom waterproofed and retiled due to a leak in the floor, waterproofing problems seem so common these days whereas in the past I can only recall hearing of it once and that in a house built in the 1930s. The cost is being picked up by the strata fund but it’s still really disruptive. Seeing Louis is working from home they all came here at 8 am and he spent the day working in John’s office. Meanwhile Dav, Millie, John and I went on a walk, played a memory game (at which John failed to get a single pair) and then started to build a model of the Opera House which Millie had been given. By 5.30 John and I were pretty tuckered out, not unsurprisingly I guess, but it was good to have them here.

The lovely driveway guy sent in his quote which was 2.7 times what I estimated and 6 times what John estimated, so clearly we are both out of touch with building costs. It’s a pity as I was ready to say yea if it were even close to my estimate. I will have to give it a lot of thought as lovely doesn’t come at a 2.7 times premium, though I am completely confident that he’d do a good job. Then the Case Manager from the aged care provider rang to ask if I were happy with Rosalina yesterday and I said she was fine, my careful word for ‘unenthusiastic but okay’. But she had reported back to them that she had to walk downstairs to get the mop and also that she had cleaned both bathrooms when John would only be using one. So from now on she only does one bedroom and one bathroom, despite the fact that I told her not to worry about the kitchen because I had already done it. This is going to be fun I am seeing now, but better then doing everything myself I guess. However the conversation left me aware that while I covered her back for being lacklustre she was somewhat unimpressed with the conditions and told them so.

Last week I was browsing places we could go for a few days this week but it all came apart when the cardiologist moved John’s appointment to the middle of the week. So last night I browsed nearby places we could go for two nights next week (it had to be close as we only have a small window) and settled on Narrabeen where we have been a couple of times before. They happened to have a deal on that if you joined their loyalty program you got a reward of 20% off the next booking, so I booked us in on the only nights possible. It will be good to walk on sand again and for relatively little money.

November 13, 2021

We had Boris and Jane over this morning and enjoyed chewing the fat with them. I had baked a Pear and Raspberry Cake but then remembered that I needed gluten free things so I did a batch of Coconut Macaroons and Almond Rose Balls and some cheeses with gluten free crackers. I had forgotten how much I love goat’s cheese so it was lovely to tuck into some of that, so much so that I didn’t even eat any of the sweet stuff, something unusual for me.

After the shock of the price of the driveway quote I got another shock when the firm recommended by John’s neurologist to do a driving test for him came back to me with a figure of $900. It is a special two hour test of his physical and mental ability to drive including a one hour test at the house followed by a one hour drive and they report directly to the RMS, but the catch is that if we don’t get it done the doc may decide to recommend cancellation of his licence, so it’s catch 22 really. We see the gerontologist on Thursday so perhaps she may have another suggestion, however I am not hopeful.

November 14, 2021

This has to go down as one of the most frustrating days ever. After all the Centrelink stuff and the home care stuff I thought I was free for a while, but nup. I need to fill out an Emergency Care Plan for John and email it to those people who should be in the loop. So at 10am I filled it all in, eight pages worth, including the two full pages of his daily drug regime plus personal and medical contacts only for it to go back to blank when I pressed download. So I went back to the beginning and filled it all out again, this time pressing OneCloud as the source, same thing happened. A third try, filing it in documents failed as well so I told John it was beyond me, emailed the blank document to him and asked him to print it for me to fill in by hand. His printer insisted that there was a paper block when there wasn’t and after umpteen tries I gave up. Near to tears over that when John managed to knock an antique plate off the wall, the fourth one over time, and it smashed to smithereens. ‘Put me in a home’ he kept saying which was just awful and that upset us both even more. I said we needed to get out of the house immediately and so we jumped into the car and went to Dural to grab a late lunch outdoors in a howling cold wind. But at least we got out from under the damned document for a while. Now I will have to get the library to print a copy, fill it in by hand and post it to people by snail mail. Clearly there is a way to do it but I just can’t work out how and John, who used to advise me how to do such things, can now barely use a computer and printer.

When Jane and Boris were here I told them an old story from years ago about hiring a cleaner from an ad in the paper and I opened the door to a huge woman holding onto the door jamb and puffing and panting, out of breath from climbing the two steps at the front. She was hopeless, leaving the wooden floors awash when she mopped and I had to soak up all the water with a dry mop after she’d gone. Of course I had to sack her, which I did as nicely as I could by phone. At that time I had a corner cupboard in the loungeroom with antique bottles of various sorts from the 1800s on top, most with the old marble seal at the top. When I told her she couldn’t come back she immediately started verbally abusing me saying ‘Did I chip one of your old beer bottles?’ and as she got more fired up ‘I should have smashed all the fucking things while I was there’. I hung up on her but was just stunned at the hostility and bitterness she expressed. I had to get rid of the bottles via the shop to stop going over it again and again in my mind, I wasn’t used to being hated back then. I haven’t thought about her for years but retelling the story yesterday literally gave me nightmares last night about the woman coming back. Funny the things you bury at the back of your mind.

November 15, 2021

I had managed to book us two days away this week, but John has a couple of people from Link Housing coming today to do a video of him to be shown at the AGM of Link on Thursday. However he’s just told me that last week they rang him to change the date to Tuesday afternoon, right in the middle of when we are away. Now he’s rung them to change the venue from here to the place we are staying, so that cuts out half of one of the days we’ll be there, judging by the time it took for the previous video. But it’s important to John to have it done so we will persevere. Where I was when that call came through last week is a mystery as I do keep an ear out for things that I might need to know. Patience is a virtue that I am struggling to muster right at this minute. A call to the Carer’s Gateway whose form I am trying to fill in (and whose website says to call them with any technical problems in doing so) proved only partially successful ‘print the blank form and fill it in with a pen’ was their advice. That doesn’t allow me to email it to anyone but I guess I’ll have to post it by snail mail. Bigger problems exist in the world, think Syria, PNG, anywhere in Africa, but right now it feels like a weight I can’t get out from under.

4pm: Feeling human again since I just managed to fill out the 8 pages of forms, photocopy them and post them off to those who need to have the information. That’s a huge weight off my mind so soon I can start packing for Narrabeen tomorrow. I’m taking the makings of breakfasts and light lunches and we will go out to a restaurant while there, I’m thinking one with a deck and views, so hopefully the weather will be kind enough for that. It’s a pity that it won’t be swimming weather but it will be so lovely to escape onto the sand that I won’t complain if Hughie’s chucking it down. We’ve discovered that John’s lymphoma causes an incomplete result from vaccination, actually only about 38% of normal, and the booster will only bring it up to 55%, so it’s considered that he’s even then not fully vaccinated. As a result we need to be thinking that we are still in lockdown to all intents and purposes. Jane offered us tickets to a show in January, one that we’d both love to go to, but we both said that we’d need to think about it closer to the time.


November 16, 2021

It’s been a bit of a comedy of errors today but we are at the ocean so it’s all worth it. First John discovered when we got here that he’d left his man bag at home, with wallet, cards, licence, vaccination certificate etc. But most importantly his four times a day tablets. All the other drugs were packed separately but he thought these were in the bag. A call to Arvind led to him looking on the verandah, back steps and around the outside of the house which at least eased our minds that the bag must be inside. So then we walked to a pharmacy and had them fax our local pharmacy to enable them to prescribe the drugs. We could hear the call and when the pharmacist rang them and said “I have your customer John Murray here” the young girl answered “Oh, here’s trouble!” which I thought was both unprofessional and funny at the same time. Went for a walk then to North Narrabeen and came back along the sand, but the wind didn’t make that altogether pleasurable. Time for afternoon check-in at The Sands came but they wouldn’t accept our vaccination certificates, printed out by the clinic where we had them done. They had to be on our phones (what if you don’t own a smart phone I asked? with no answer forthcoming as I don’t think they had never heard of such a situation). I had to get onto Medicare online and try to download the info to Service NSW, however after multiple tries the download failed (poor internet connection maybe?) but finally she accepted seeing it on the Medicare site. Then I had to repeat the performance for John’s, all of which took three quarters of an hour. We just had time for some cheese and biscuits for a quick lunch before the Link Wentworth housing manager and a videographer arrived to do a video of John accepting his Life Membership of the organisation, celebrated with a framed certificate and a huge bunch of native flowers. The video will be shown at their AGM on Thursday. Later we had another cold and windy beach walk before dinner, a Thai seafood dish which was full of goodly seafood ingredients but was so hot that we couldn’t tell one from the other. Was I eating broccoli or a prawn? Shut your eyes and you wouldn’t know. Tonight John discovered his missing tablets….in his toiletry bag, though his man bag is still missing in action and hopefully at home.

On our long walk to North Narrabeen and back I was getting very fatigued walking on the sand and finally when we got to the set of wooden steps to go up to the road I dragged my sorry carcase up there feeling exhausted. The last half a dozen steps were concrete and I fell trying to climb them. I have had the odd clumsy fall when I have tripped over something but that’s the first time I have fallen due to exhaustion ie old age. A skinned elbow and bruises on the hip and knee still remind me of my downhill trajectory.

November 17, 2021

The day looked a bit threatening early on but we packed a Thermos and took off to Long Reef Point where we had a good walk and marvelled at the views of the Hawkesbury entrance to the north and down to Manly in the other direction. Following that we headed off to North Narrabeen beach and pool, though it was too cool to swim. I Googled reserves around here and came up with Warriewood Wetlands and what a gem of a place it was. I’m not used to natural swamps in Australia but that is exactly what it is. With an elevated walkway over the water we went for a walk for over an hour accompanied by the sounds of whip birds, bellbirds and ducks. What looks like swathes of green grass in places is actually bright green plants floating on the water. It’s a little paradise in the middle of suburbia and we will definitely return. I can see why people love the northern beaches and never leave, just as Hawkesbury people move within the area but rarely leave it. Tonight we had a beautiful dinner at Limari, an elevated restaurant on the edge of Narrabeen Lagoon where we watched the sun set over the water and it’s hard to believe we are in the same city as the Hills.

We haven’t heard radio or TV since we came here but I have kept up with some news online regarding the search for William Tyrrell. After sitting through many days of the inquest I have pages full of notes of ‘persons of interest’ but his foster parents certainly are not among them. It was a picture of contrasts in the courtroom with the very Westie natural parents and aunt sitting on one side of the room against the very stylish and elegant foster parents on the other. I didn’t see the foster grandparents at any sittings so I have no knowledge of their appearance or demeanour. It will be fascinating to find out who the informant is, but seeing the foster grandmother died only in March it may very well be someone within the family. The police seem pretty sure they are onto something when they are searching such a limited area. I hope they find an answer this time, there are a host of people out there who’ve been wrongly accused in the last seven years.

November 18, 2021

Of course the day was perfect beach weather now that we were leaving the beach, but that often seems to be the case. We did an early morning walk on the sand and I managed to scale the concrete steps safely. Later we went back to North Narrabeen to have a milkshake on the lagoon edge while we spent an hour watching the dredge working. It is very confusing as he seemed to be scooping up sand but not putting it anywhere in particular so the place looked exactly the same when we left as it did when we arrived.

Off down the Wakehurst Parkway to the city for John’s appointment with the specialist geriatrician. When we last saw the neurologist she set this appointment up and I queried why we needed it when his overall health is being looked after by so many specialists already. But off we went and she was delightful and took detailed notes on all of John’s history of many ailments, asked lots of questions about his memory etc and then the end result was her suggestion for him to read short stories instead of novels. She gave him a piece of paper saying ‘use it or loose (sic) it’ which is her other recommendation. She said at the end that there is no need for him to come back as there is nothing she can do for his brain damage or Alzheimer’s and he doesn’t need a geriatrician??? The whole thing was a sorry farce, a very expensive farce at $650. I have been paying for everything as he left his bag at home and he asked me for $50 to pay, the astonished receptionist said ‘that’s $650 John, not $50, it was a long consultation’. Did we feel somewhat ripped off? Yes we did, not because of the bill but because she had nothing to offer at all and a day at the beach would have been better therapy.Back home at 3.59 for John’s Zoom meeting at 4 pm to get his Life Membership of Link Housing at their AGM, at which he is now entitled to vote. I set it up on his computer and was able to watch it on mine as well in another room in case he ran into problems, which he didn’t. Fully chuffed to see him get the award.

November 19, 2021

Today I looked again at the note from the geriatrician and there was something important that I neglected to report: excise, she wants him to keep up his current amount of excise. Perhaps she thinks he’s in import export. I know it’s the old proofreader in me, but consistently bad spelling gets my goat.

I was off early in peak hour to get to Marrickville by 9 am to meet Davina and Millie at a uniform supplier to buy all her supplies for school in February. In my day, and my children’s day, you went to a storeroom at the school and chose either new or second hand, bought from the school via volunteer mothers. But the good thing was that the little moppets don’t need to have a dress, the girls wear culottes/shorts and a top in summer or track pants and a top in winter. No burned legs on the aluminium seats in the playground in summer and no frozen bums in the winter. My high school had a cotton dress in summer and a serge tunic in winter but thick lisle stockings the whole year round! No-one could remove them even on 40 degree days. Most schools still have dresses but Erko has enough vocal parents I suspect to see sense. Went back to Dav’s and I asked Millie what she wanted for Christmas ‘a pair of socks?’ Nein she said. ‘A new singlet?’ Nein (her pre-school teaches them some German). ‘Okay’ I said ‘no toys this year, just 9 pairs of socks and 9 singlets’. She saw the joke and laughed like a drain as we continued the joke into 9 T-shirts, 9 pairs of underpants etc.

Last night we saw the News and 7.30 after a TV respite while away. On 7.30 there was a segment on poverty in the suburbs and I saw a woman interviewed who was second in charge at the homeless charity we used to work for. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to contact her to ask if she were still with them. No, she replied, I had to get out of there to preserve my mental health. Exactly the reason we regretfully gave up on the charity, the clients were wonderful to be with but the boss lady another thing altogether. It seems that all of the volunteers have turned over since then, even the rusted on ones.

November 20, 2021

John has been busy writing a Christmas newsletter and the first draft mentioned his years- long estrangement from his daughters. Then he gave me the list of recipients to run my eye over and my first comment was that three of them are dead, in two of the cases one half of the couple is recently deceased and in the other the primary recipient is. I find it interesting that he seemed somewhat surprised when I pointed this out. I suggested that perhaps sending jolly wishes at Christmas to a person whose partner is recently missing from their lives could prove counter-productive. Secondly I mentioned that he might need to delete some family members from the list, certainly those who are already uncomfortable with any mention of his menage dissension. A second version of the newsletter now exists, not mentioning any touchy subjects and not addressed to the lost and lamented.

Today we helped Carol with her Christmas baking for the Wayside Chapel and Exodus Foundation. So far she has done over 1200 small Christmas cakes with the help of her band of volunteers, with many more to do. It was a lovely communal atmosphere while seven of us prepared tins, mixed or wrapped finished items. John was dish pig and Carol put on morning tea and lunch for us as she always does. We worked on a big table on the verandah in lovely cool conditions. Summer hasn’t started yet and the longer it forgets to come the happier I am. I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how our natural environment affects us each differently, I couldn’t live in Central Australia for example, or Afghanistan, although I love the arid beauty it is for someone else to appreciate in terms of living there. For me water is all. Rain, snow, swamp, river, ocean, however it comes I love it and my idea of a place to live is largely determined by how long it takes to get to the sea. So rain every day till Christmas would be a boon to my psyche, though it will never happen it’s a lovely thought.

November 21, 2021

Got rid of one of John’s filing cabinets on eBay for the princely sum of $20 less commission, I’m not sure if he’s decided what to spend it on. Still another one to go but it’s the smaller one so it is more portable to the Sallies if necessary. I’ve been a bit slack on the eBay front lately and I need to get some more sales happening, but the approaching of Christmas always starts to swallow up days one way or another. Today I made Annie Smithers’ recipe for Scottish Shortbread, not baked individually but in a tray, then cut into fingers while still hot. John said it was the best shortbread he’d ever tasted and I agree, that one is going into the hand-written book as a keeper.

Lovely English rain all day today, not loud enough to hear, just a persistent steady drizzle which is comforting to me. I have been thinking again about whether preference for a particular landscape could be genetic, whether humans have acquired through their long evolutionary history a strong genetic predisposition for particular types of natural settings. I think we are primed by our biology to fall in love with certain places. I considered this on the first drive from Manchester Airport to my brother’s house, where everything just seemed to be the ‘right’ shade of green. Much as I love a forest of eucalypts it can never thrill me in the way a shock of green can, which I think is why I feel so at home in New Zealand. Tramping through mist, watching the summer snow melt into the creeks in the Snowy Mountains, walking through the English fens, or seeing the wildflowers on the lower slopes in Switzerland just feels proper and comfortable. Dubai with its amazing architecture of multi-storey buildings and its surrounding sandhills feels wrong, even though it is on the sea. Reading about wet and cold places revives me, Ann Patchett’s book Run which I read recently was set in New England in winter and I just loved the descriptions of the ice and snow, while well aware that I wouldn’t want to live in it for long, but experiencing it just once would be nice. I keep glancing up to look out of the window and see the rain still tumbling down and my spirits are buoyed.

November 22, 2021

I harvested some of the garlic that I’ve been assiduously watering and fertilising, even scabbing some ashes from Michelle and Kev’s fireplace to add potassium. I could easily have eaten the cloves from four plants in one mouthful, and I may yet do so. Perhaps I should stick to herbs. I’m cooking some baked vegetables tonight, the first time I’ve risked gumming up my beautifully spotless oven with things that might splash or smoke, but it had to happen sooner or later and tonight’s the night. John did a carrot juice at lunchtime now that we’ve got his juicer set up and I so enjoyed it. He used to bring it up from his place in jars but now it’s made to order, with a salmon and lettuce sambo it was the perfect lunch.

Just watched Jacqui Lambie’s powerful and heartfelt speech in the senate and although I have differed with her on many things, today she was a ripper, tearing strips off One Nation and its divisive tactics. She said in part “People are free to choose not to be vaccinated but if you make a choice, those choices have consequences including that you can’t work where you want to work. If you want to work as a cabbie, you need a licence to drive a cab, but people without a licence are not being discriminated against. If you want to work in aged care, you need to have a flu vaccine – that has always been in place since before Covid-19 was even a twinkle in a Chinese bat’s eye, people have a right to choose, but you don’t have a right to put vulnerable people’s lives at risk.” I’ve sent her a message of support to counteract all the anti-vaxxers going berserk on her Facebook page.

Sadly my last letter with some cash inside failed to get to my friend Ram in India, but looking on the bright side it’s the very first time that has happened in the 12 or so years that I’ve been posting money to him that way, so really that’s pretty impressive. I have sent a Christmas card today with a gift inside and I can only cross my fingers that the missing one was an aberration. It reminded me of being in France in the Whitlam era when he was lambasting the French for the nuclear tests on Mururoa Atoll. I went to a post office in Paris to send some postcards and such was the anti-Australian feeling at the time that once the man behind the counter saw the destination he just threw them backwards over his head and of course none of them arrived. Funny to think of it now.

November 23, 2021

John and I did an experiment regarding division of food costs. I took over seafood, meat, bakery, fruit and vegetables and he does groceries and anything picked up from the corner shop. I meticulously recorded our purchases for a month, we reimbursed each other if we overlapped (for example if some mandarins were added onto the supermarket order or his chocolate was added at the fruit shop) and amazingly at the end of the month we were only seven dollars apart in what we had spent. So now we will stick with that system knowing that it will all work out roughly the same in the end.

So far we are very pleased with the choice of Wendy’s Home Care as John’s provider, Rosalina the Happy Cleaner notwithstanding. Kristy has sent by mail a very detailed summary of her two hour interview and even rang today just to ask how we got on at the geriatrician. He is a little improved and I’m starting to wonder if the two trips to hospital for the heart actually set him back a lot and now he’s getting back to ‘normal’. Perhaps the sudden deterioration I observed was just due to that? He is right now busy wrapping presents for his granddaughters, lovely matching dresses that we bought this morning and will probably deliver to Dan’s mum Lyn along with some old photos and documents that they may like to have.

I’ve been reading some stuff about slavery and it is shocking in the extreme. I’ve often wondered how an African American can cope with the knowledge that their ancestors were dragged in chains to the country where they now live, even the most powerful comfortably off black person must think of that at 2 am. Best estimates are that between 13 and 20 million people were made slaves over the period of around 300 years beginning in 1619 in the US during which slavery took place, but of course the majority of enslaved Africans went to Brazil, followed by the Caribbean with many later moved on to the US. Slavery was not unique to these countries, it is a part of almost every nation’s history from Greek and Roman civilizations to contemporary forms of human trafficking. A quote that stuck regarding the American experience: “A man and a woman in chains at the dawn of slavery would have been the great-grandparents of the great-grandparents of the great-grandparents of the first slaves to see mass emancipation”.  Too much to comprehend.

November 24, 2021

I set off today on a mission to find a mermaid toy whose tail and hair change colour in the bath water, something Millie asked me to get her for Christmas, the first time she’s expressed a preference for a particular gift. They were sold out yesterday at the toy shop in Castle Hill and I didn’t want to go into Castle Towers unnecessarily, so I did an internet search and discovered that K-Mart had sold out of them at all their stores so it must be the in thing. However a smaller toy shop at Windsor had five but they wouldn’t hold one till Saturday when I preferred to go. I schlepped out there two hours later to find only two left but I was told that they come in two versions, the blonde with white skin and the darker one which I got. “If they were the white ones they’d be all gone” said the helpful girl.

Of course I am rivetted to the search for William Tyrrell after attending his yet incomplete inquest. But I do have some qualms. First there were police leaks about the ‘washing machine repair man’ which naturally rendered his mobile business virtually inoperative. Then there were leaks about the neighbour across the road who had an illegal bugging device planted by the police, resulting in the sacking of detective Gary Jubelin. Then there was the fellow living in a caravan, the grandparents club which had a number of paedophile members, the fellow working in a nearby petrol station (all of whom were named at the inquest but I don’t intend to use their names here) and there were more. Clearly the only way the press got hold of these names is from police leaks and now we are assured that it looks like the foster mother was responsible all along, but there again no proof is forthcoming. Clearly they can’t all be guilty so I wonder at the wisdom of giving the press details of all of these people whose lives have been affected dramatically from being named as suspects. Any of us could have our lives ruined if we were in the situation of these suspects. Perhaps they hope the pressure will force a confession but if so that strategy clearly isn’t working.

November 25, 2021

Rosalina the Cleaner worked for just an hour and a quarter of her supposed two hour stint and did the floors, but I will need to redo whatever she thinks she did in the bathroom as it looks exactly as it was when she arrived, except the mirror which is actually much worse. I signed her work sheet without complaint to get rid of her as we were being harassed all morning by the usual suspect who makes both our lives a misery for a week at a time and then disappears for many months, please let the next disappearance begin. I have just about had it and John looked like the walking wounded this morning after a long string of abusive texts going over the last few days, followed by a hysterical phone call while Rosalina was here. We went to Carol’s to work on the Christmas cakes for charity (6 texts which he ignored came in while we were there) and it was great to be able to mix fruit and flour and deal with people who are normal. I had made some quinoa with pumpkin yesterday luckily as I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate enough to do it this morning. Too swamped by the last days to write about anything else.

November 26, 2021

I’m up early, John’s still asleep, and I am trying to work out why I feel so damned depressed. Of course John gets low when he’s being verbally attacked on a daily basis (this only lasts for a week or two and then we go into the long silence) but why does it affect me so badly when I should really be just collateral damage in all of this? Last night the text sound came on his phone and we both jumped, he picked up the phone gingerly, then smiled and said ‘it’s okay, it’s only Apple News’. We shouldn’t have to live like this. Of course my name is always mentioned in the texts and calls, but it is John whose character is constantly given a free and very negative assessment. ‘Narcissistic’, ‘playing the victim’, ‘oppressive’, ‘selfish’, ‘discounting other people as priests are taught to do’, ‘pathetic’, ‘cruel’ are just a few selections from the most recent 14 texts over a couple of days.

The only solution of course is blocking the number but I can understand that it’s a last resort and I would never recommend that he cut off any hope of reconciliation, even though we both know the chances of that are about equal to Scott Morrison resigning and joining the Greens. But back to my point. Why do I feel so gutted? Sympathy for John? Yes. Anger at the principle of elder abuse of a sick and sometimes confused 80 year old man? Yes. A natural desire for some sort of justice? I guess all of these, but it occurred to me this morning that the depth of my sadness must be more and I’ve realised it is that as an adopted person I live day and night with the knowledge that I was given away, like a dog who couldn’t learn to roll over, except I was never given the chance to make an attempt. I have always tried to ‘get on’ with people, I appreciate that not every one has to like me and that’s absolutely their right, but I do try to fit in as best I can with as many people as possible. John once asked for my name to be left out of the abusive texts, emails and calls (thereby taking it all on himself) because I was getting upset by it. The reply was ‘Talk to me something I care about’ and I think it has been worse from then on as they realised it was hitting the mark. I have tried in this case (or at least did try for many years, I’ve given up now) but I have only ever been treated as fundamentally unwelcome, as an unwanted and reviled outsider, despite the fact that they don’t know me at all and have never given me a chance. Ring a bell?

November 27, 2021

Yesterday afternoon Sue came down to go with us to the book group end of year event. That was a lovely change as she hasn’t stayed over in a while. John set up the Christmas tree and it was understated in decoration compared to how I usually do it, and looks a treat. It reminds me every year of my long dead and much missed shop client Bob Brady, lead singer of the sixties rock band The Missing Links, from whom the tree came many years ago. He was a bit of a ‘tricksy weaver’ as we used to say, he always wanted to ‘buy cheap and sell dear’ and the taxman was on his case for a huge amount, but I certainly missed him following his sudden demise. The taxman subsequently sold up his acreage and they got their owings. We arrived at Carol’s loaded with a cheese and dip platter (Sue) and a pavlova (moi) and John shepherded us down the drive singly under his umbrella. What a lovely warm occasion it turned out to be, so long since we’ve met in person. Carol cooked a turkey as she always does for our last meeting and Norma brought two baked schnapper with a tahini sauce, I’ve just emailed her wanting the recipe. Lots of sides accompanied the meal and we all had a wonderful feast of food and company. It was lovely to have Sue here overnight, though we are programmed to different hours, she is in bed very early and up before dawn, while we are 11.30 or later to bed and 7 am risers.

Today we drove out to Lynne’s to leave Christmas presents for John’s grandchildren as well as depositing with her a quantity of photos and documents for John’s children. As luck would have it, Lynne had been asked to babysit at short notice just before we arrived at her house so she was packing the car to leave for the mountains and it was just a case of putting the boxes straight into her boot before she left. We usually call in to see her for Christmas so this was a case of killing that bird at the same time. Some pumpkin soup via Carol made for a hot and healthy lunch when we got home and then we set to packing some Christmas presents now that I have the cakes that I had ordered previously and picked up from Carol last night. John is currently ironing Christmas paper which is new but from a previous year, it was somewhat damp in the storeroom and had wrinkled. Twice the safety switch has cut the power off so I am wondering if the fairly new iron has a problem, though we are simultaneously finishing off the drying of some clothes that were line-dried under the house but were still damp. I haven’t used the dryer for over a year or more, so thought perhaps it was the thing causing the electrical problem, but now both seem to be working happily so it’s a mystery. I had asked John to put the clothes into the dryer while he was downstairs (and to be fair it’s a long time since he’s used it too) but he rang me up from the laundry asking if the dryer is the same gadget as the washing machine, which was where he was planning to put the clothes.

November 28, 2021

We attacked more boxes of John’s today and I found some of Barbara’s cookbooks plus some cut out recipes from magazines so I have started another box to go to the mountains. I think a person’s inscribed recipe books are a really wonderful and unique treasure to have and I hope someone keeps all of mine, but there are so many that I can’t see it happening. Perhaps give one to each friend if I know in advance that I am going to go the way of all flesh? Though if I meet with the proverbial bus my last thought might be ‘but the recipe booookks…’. Also started another box for the Sallies so we made real progress, enough that I was able to list on eBay just now the 5 tier shelving unit that much of his stuff was stacked in under the deck, though there are two more 5 tier units left to empty. I was also allowed to toss out a mug without a handle and an empty whiskey bottle (don’t ask why he had such a thing as a non-drinker and more to the point why it was packed to bring?). By then we’d had enough for one day. John is exhausted and napping in his recliner, it doesn’t take much to tucker him out.

I’m reading Brave New Humans: The Dirty Truth Behind the Fertility Industry by Sarah Dingle and it is pretty shocking stuff. As with adoption the focus is all about the parents and no-one thinks too much about the child. Royal North Shore Hospital doesn’t come out of it well at all, having sold their entire publicly owned IVF unit to the head doctor there after which it became a very profitable business for him but in the process he kept all the records of the histories of the previous patients/clients. These records were deliberately tampered with to destroy the codes and thereby eventually the identities of the donors and many other hospitals did likewise. In one case a man managed to discover his donor father and only later found that the man was also the father of his wife, after a number of children had been born. The possibility of this happening rises the more this technology is used and it’s increasing every day. Sue told me (via information from Robert) that in Tasmania at one stage every donor conceived child had the same father! It’s all a bit Frankenstein to me, but I know I am more sensitive to this sort of issue than a lot of people are. Dingle’s book has voiced opinions that I had already embraced years ago but had never seen written anywhere before.

November 29, 2021

Busy morning started at 6 am as I had the plumber coming early to fix the water hammer problem which is so annoying. Every time anyone flushes the toilet or uses the bathroom or laundry taps the kitchen tap makes an awful vibrating racket and drips water. Aaron decided a valve under the sink could be the problem but he replaced that and it still happened. So he went off to do other jobs while we went up to Bunnings and got a new tap set which he has now as a backup if he can’t fix the valve inside the old taps. If he manages to fix it Bunnings will take the new one back. Then it was off to vote in the council elections and I wondered why there were no people there handing out how to vote cards. But as we left I saw them all outside, we had gone into the basement and up in the lift unintentionally avoiding them all, but it didn’t matter as I’d written the names out from the electoral commission website.

John is at his computer writing a Christmas newsletter and has just brought out a printed copy for me to correct the spelling and punctuation, a funny return to my old proof-reading days. Aaron has now discovered that I do need to replace the tap set so my original IKEA one hasn’t lasted as well as it might have, this one has a 10 year guarantee which may well see me out. So what with the cost of the new taps, his callout fee and labour cost, altogether $670, it’s almost as much as I used to pay myself as a salary for two weeks work in the shop. But he’s a good soul and plumbers don’t come cheap.

John Butcher rang for a pre-Christmas catch-up with John and suggested that they visit their friend Terry, but that won’t run as the docs have advised Terry against visitors due to his cancer treatment. So the two Johns arranged a meeting but it will have to be in Marrickville as John B. doesn’t have access to a car. During that call Jane rang for the same reason and invited us to lunch next Sunday. Boris is hoping I will bring the dessert, like-minded sweet tooth that he is. I need to focus on Christmas Dinner food, but at least I made the cake today, which is usually done in October, however I doubt we’ll pick the difference.

November 30, 2021

We accomplished more on the organisation front today, lugging one set of John’s garage shelving into my garage and stacking things there in a more organised fashion. How many shopping bags do two people need? Dozens apparently. I did three loads of washing, including 4 moth-eaten small blankets from his old place that are ‘too good to throw out’ which means that now I need to mend the holes. John discovered a big huntsman spider as we were sorting and helpfully threw it towards me which I wasn’t happy about, though it was as scared of me as I was of it and scuttled away, ugh.

Omicron wends its way closer at a hell of a speed. Yesterday there wasn’t a case in Australia and now somebody’s been wandering Parramatta Westfield carrying it. We were thinking of going to KOI this week for the first dessert fix in months but the same body went to Ryde shopping centre as well, right across the road from KOI. If she didn’t go to KOI while she was there she missed an opportunity. I guess we will wait and see on that front.

Now John is working again on his newsletter. One enveloped and addressed copy inside a Christmas card was torn up after he decided he didn’t want to send anything to that couple after all and three others have been taken off the list by me, due to the fact that the addressees are dead, which was a fair call I thought. One card had to be rewritten after I reminded John that the wife he sent good wishes to was divorced decades ago and the new wife might not appreciate the mistake. I have some trepidation about other errors that might slip past. It’s a funny old world that we inhabit here but given the choice to laugh or cry I’d prefer laughing (today at least).

December 1, 2021

Where has the year gone? Or my life come to that. We went up for our booster vaccine this morning and got in and out much faster than I expected, so we followed that by going over to Carol’s to work on the cakes. The nurse explained that in John’s case it’s an additional dose rather than the booster and he may need another one in three months which was news to us. At the vaccine hub I formed an instant rapport with one of the nurses during the 10 minute recovery period after the jab. She invited us to visit her home in Mt. Irvine for a cuppa. ‘Do you go for drives?’ she asked, ‘why don’t you come and visit me in the mountains’. I just love those serendipitous encounters and will certainly follow it up.

Someone mentioned Jacqui Lambie while we were doing the cakes and I forgot to say that if you follow her on Facebook or by email she often asks how she should vote on an upcoming issue. She doesn’t commit to following the majority but she will listen to the arguments from her followers. Of course I stick my bib in when she asks. The latest was the Act to require ID to be shown at voting stations, a great way to get rid of pesky Aboriginal or poor voters. She got 33,000 responses and they were heavily (65%) against the move (though less so in Queensland, surprise, surprise) so she announced today that she won’t support it. She laid out clearly and in detail the pro and con arguments she’d received and decided that the cons won. I think they call this democracy, something we rarely see with other politicians. She would get a vote from me if I were in Tasmania.

Interested to see an article about Kristina Keneally’s policeman son. He was working at Newtown Police Station when he claims he got a call from a man threatening to kill certain officers. The man was arrested by the fixated persons unit and spent I think five weeks in gaol before getting bail. He then had access to his phone and luckily for him he had recorded the call, in which no threats were made. Now the Newtown Police have investigated, dropped the charges and ‘counselled’ Keneally. It’s a classic police fit-up and if proven he should be sacked immediately.

December 2, 2021

Ho, ho, ho…..I got all of my overseas Christmas cards done this morning while waiting for the new garden helper Luke who is financed as part of John’s home care package. Lovely Luke came on time and actually did what I asked him to do, not what he wanted to do (weeding) so this has given me encouragement to ‘counsel’ Rosalina the Happy Cleaner next visit and if she doesn’t lift her game I will have a word to the very helpful Case Manager. I don’t like to complain about people unless I have to, I’ve always believed that people do the best they are capable of, in this case she’s just not a capable cleaner and would perhaps be a great vet nurse or a reliable person who holds up signs on the road. For example, you can’t tell someone how to improve their cooking if they simply don’t taste the problem for themselves. I offered to work with Luke in the garden but he flatly refused ‘I’m here so you don’t have to do it, just go and relax’ he said. It might have been genuine or perhaps he didn’t want an old girl nattering to him while he worked, but in any case I came in and did all my Australian cards. I only send them to people that I don’t see so they were all interstate and in country NSW. I enjoyed finding two Aboriginal design wooden cards lurking here so I sent one of them to my occasional correspondent in Arizona. In a recent email she mentioned that she wasn’t worried about Covid, and wasn’t vaccinated because she and her husband walk 30 minutes a day and have taken to adding weights to their ankles to improve their fitness. The other wooden card I sent to my penfriend Anne in Yorkshire. She hates Christmas (hard religious upbringing, brother a priest) so I always send her a non-Christmas card and she does the same with me.

Someone must have been listening to my whinge about Daniel Keneally yesterday. Today The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has taken over the inhouse investigation into his apparent lies about Luke Moore having threatened to kill a detective. So instead of being ‘counselled’, my word du jour, he may actually have to explain his behaviour and take an appropriate punishment. Being the son of a Federal politician (whom I actually like) is no reason to evade sanction for such a cowardly and malicious act. As my friend Jeffrey Ludowici used to say ‘you just need to find out if people are basically honest or basically dishonest and everything’s simple from there’.

December 3, 2021

We’ve had a bit of fun and games with John today. First his leg started to spontaneously bleed from an old scratch, so I shunted him off the carpets (forever practical). But blood was then pooling on the bathroom floor and it still hasn’t stopped an hour later though it’s slowed with a cold washer over the Band-Aid. So he decided to have a rest in his recliner till it subsided but shortly after I heard desperate noises and raced in, only to find that he had gone to sleep with a barley sugar in his mouth and it had gone down his throat, choking him. A few hits on the back solved that but the sudden movement started the leg bleeding again. I think the bleeding harked back to two days ago when I discovered that he had forgotten his morning tablets and taken the morning and evening ones together that night, despite being repeatedly told (by me) not to double up. A double dose of two blood thinners ain’t a good idea. Waiting for the third thing to happen as they say.

We went to Dural for supplies this morning and on the way I was looking at the various big and ugly houses that I love to hate along the route. (There are some big and okay ones too, size is not the issue). There are a row of them which are so fugly that we always comment as we pass about what sorts of people paid big money to live in such monstrosities. All now have Vote Liberal signs out in front of them for the council elections tomorrow. So now we know.

Then we visited Service NSW to get assistance to add our vaccine passports to our Service NSW app on the phones as when we went to Narrabeen they wouldn’t accept our paper ones and I’ve tried a number of times to do it and failed. Marvellous Mohan served us again and shortly after mine was sorted, but John’s was an epic as he’d forgotten (and forgotten to write down) his passwords for both Medicare and Service NSW so I had to get new ones for both. But endlessly patient Mohan talked me though it all. I intend to send him another thankyou card as he really does go to extremes of care, even quietly getting chairs for us to sit on at a counter where we were meant to stand. I want him for a son.

When we were in India over 10 years ago we met many wonderful people that we’ve stayed in touch with ever since. Gill and Godfrey from England were one such couple and I’ve just had a message that Gill contracted a viral infection in June (not Covid) which led to viral encephalitis. Despite her making significant progress over the months, she died from it two days ago. Although we haven’t seen her since India I still feel her loss.

December 4, 2021

Decided this morning that we needed to get rid of some of the things that have been on eBay for ages. So we took my car and headed for the Sallies at North Parramatta (they will take electricals whereas Vinnies won’t). The lady there accepted a lot but knocked back a perfectly good set of double sheets and pillowcases which we gave to Vinnies on the way home. We both felt strangely lightened as we are so sick of being weighed down with ‘stuff’.

The garage Roll-a-door has always been temperamental. It has two remotes, one in the car and one in the house, plus a button inside the garage and at any given time one or two of them won’t work, it must be some sort of electrical problem as it’s worse when it’s been raining. But for the first time none of the controls work, so I have to get in the side door with a key and open the Roll-a-door manually. I have twice called the man who installed it  over the years, but each time he has come down, pressed each button and they’ve all worked perfectly. Very embarrassing and I don’t intend to do it again. It has become a standing joke about which one is inoperative but now that it’s all three it is somehow less funny.

John is so much more relaxed now that we have had over a week with no abusive texts or phone calls. I hate to do it but I think I will have to step in if it starts up again, I can’t be any more unpopular than I am now so I really don’t have anything more to lose.

December 5, 2021

Did a gluten-free blueberry and almond cake with raspberries on top to take to Jane and Boris’s new house where we were invited to lunch. It is a large level house just across the road from a small shopping centre with just about everything you could want, so ideal for them. Had a delicious meal and a good chat. Jane gave John an involved colouring book which he can use as a relaxing pastime seeing his reading ability is decreasing. He is quite keen to begin doing it and is currently downstairs searching in his boxes for coloured pencils, but so far has only retrieved a garlic crusher, a palette knife and a nutcracker.

It appears that my friend who eventually became my cleaner is unhappy with my not having her here to clean due to her decision not to get vaccinated. We’ve had good text conversations recently but she doesn’t ring back if I call her and ignored a question about getting together somewhere in the open before Christmas. Her gift is under the tree and I’d like her to have it, but it’s not looking good. I was sure we could agree to disagree on the vaccination issue, but it looks as if that’s not going to be the case. I am sure many others are having the self-same problem and it’s so sad.

December 6, 2021

I was pleased to discover today that my friend wasn’t cross with me at all, she just doesn’t have, or can’t access, the voicemail on her phone. We’ve made a tentative arrangement to see her outdoors before Christmas as she is stood down from her job because of not having the vaccination. She said she’s been there five years and if they sack her, they sack her, she’s unconcerned and isn’t willing to go to the firm’s doctor to try for an exemption.

My bro’s birthday today and his present arrived in England early, faster than I can get a letter to WA it seems. Though I just had very fast service from a company in Melbourne. I don’t usually buy online, except for the odd book. However I saw a perfect present for John, slippers with orthotics built into the sole and ordered them last week. They arrived this morning and, thinking they looked smaller than his shoes, I got him to try them on him with his eyes closed. Too small, oh rats. I rang Axign in Melbourne and they were sooo accommodating, telling me they will send the larger size as well as a post-free bag in which to return the wrong ones! Can’t ask for more than that. I offered to pay for return postage but he said ‘No, it’s all part of our service’. Impressed.

John went to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair today for a picnic with his old pal John Butcher, looking over the Opera House, Bridge and Harbour. (God they were unimaginative with names in the 40s, every second person was a John or a Kevin). The spot was chosen because John’s sense of direction has gone west (no pun intended) and it is on the route to St. Vincent’s Hospital, one of the few places that he remembers how to get to. Seeing John B’s wife wasn’t intending to go, I decided to suggest a place that JMM could do on his own, rather than taking the navigator, as he now calls me. JB is a diabetic and despite the fact that I packed a healthy picnic with no sweet stuff John said he needed an insulin jab three times in the three hours they were there. What a pain on the arse that must be, not to mention the thought of breaking down on a train or in a tunnel where you can’t get access to insulin if you run out. It’s good if John can do some things on his own as I suspect it won’t be very long before I will have to take him everywhere. Tomorrow the building manager from Link Housing is picking him up for a Christmas lunch with the CEO and a few others, which he will love. He was down in the mouth last night because he couldn’t find any coloured pencils to try out his new book, but I knew they were somewhere. I quickly turned up a box full so then he made a stand to hold them, segregated into their various colours. He won’t run out in the next ten years judging by how many I see on the dining table now.

December 7, 2021

One thing I like about Facebook is the way that it brings up memories each day and reminds you of events and people that you had totally forgotten about. Yesterday it brought up some comments I’d made on an opinion piece in The Australian two years ago entitled ‘Let’s not pollute minds with carbon fears’ by Emeritus Professor Ian Plimer. The whole article was jaw-droppingly inaccurate but this statement gives you an idea: ‘The major pollution in advanced economies is the polluting of minds about the role of carbon dioxide. There are no carbon emissions. If there were, we could not see because most carbon is black (my italics). Such terms are deliberately misleading, as are many claims’. This morning I Googled the whole article and reread it, wondering how it ever got printed, even in a Murdoch rag. So who is this dude I wondered, a professor of what exactly? Mr Google helpfully provided the information ‘previously a professor of mining geology at the University of Adelaide, and the former director of multiple mineral exploration and mining companies’. Aaah right, he had payment in shares I’m guessing so he’s not a fool, he just has a financial agenda, one of those who will sell his soul for sixpence.

I am absolutely fascinated by the double murder of a couple of campers in their 70s which occurred in the Victorian high country. It annoys me daily that our newspapers are not covering the investigation, but a quick look at The Age in Melbourne brings me up to date. The fact that they’ve been working on this for two years is testament to the difficulties faced by the detectives (note to self: add detective to the list of careers for my next life). But the most fascinating bit is the fact that the accused murderer was until a couple of weeks ago a respected working Jetstar pilot. How can this not be front page news, regardless of the fact that it occurred a little bit over an artificially drawn state line? This man apparently didn’t know the campers (who were in a long-term relationship unbeknown to the man’s wife and children). So how does a man with everything to lose get angry enough to kill not one but two strangers and then cover it up so cunningly. Apparently after three days questioning, he led detectives to their remote burial place, taking advantage of the hole obligingly made by the roots of a big fallen tree in the forest to bury them, it saves time-consuming digging I guess. But then he was able to go home, have a shower and continue on as a pilot for two years as if he hadn’t just murdered two innocent people. It’s the study of the man that has me intrigued, not just the crime itself. I would love to sit down with him and get a sense of how he ticks (add forensic psychologist to the list of careers, forensic pathologist is already on there).

John was to be picked up and taken to lunch today with the Link CEO and the Tenant Network members, but a call earlier put paid to that. It was cancelled for unknown reasons, Covid scare a possibility? We don’t know, but it seems a likely candidate to me. He was so looking forward to it, but hopefully it will be rescheduled. We emptied some more boxes instead and felt pretty fine about that.

December 8, 2021

Kristy from the home care service rang to see how I had found Luke the Lovely Gardener. ‘Oh he’s great’ I enthused and then while we were trading good wishes for Christmas I was not really concentrating, stalling for time and trying to decide if I wanted to wear the hat with the big capital D for dobber. The other option is to wear the T-shirt with the sign Rorter Supporter. D or RS, which to choose? I decided that ultimately our best interests are served by my wearing the Dobber hat so I begin gently: ‘Um, about Rosalina……’ ‘Oh yes’, says the Case Manager quickly, ‘is there a problem?’ Although I said it very nicely and used all the right words it was basically: Well apart from the fact that she’s a crap cleaner there’s the issue of her leaving very early. Now I’ve done it, the Dobber hat is pulled down well over my ears. ‘Does Luke the gardener have a side venture as a cleaner perhaps?’ I asked to lighten the mood. Kristy explained that all of the workers need to ring the office if they leave the premises early, for any reason, but of course Rosalina hadn’t. Ooh this is getting worse, but Kristy then asked if I could be patient with her while she replaces Rosalina asap, probably after Christmas. I am pulled between joy and guilt, but joy is winning by a short head.

Before I went to sewing group today I told John that there was plenty of food in the fridge for his lunch ‘but don’t eat the schnapper fillets in tahini sauce that I’ve cooked for dinner’. I think we were all in a silly mood as there was much laughter and story-telling at the group today. Colleen has a laugh like a gurgling drain and once she starts she sets everyone else off. I used the time to repair some woollen rugs that had come from John’s full of moth holes. One for John’s armchair and the rest to go into the boxes for his daughter. The little buggers just take a bite here and a bite there, which I guess makes the repairs easier than if they ate a massive hole. The group decided to have one more meeting, a Christmas one, next week but we will be away. When I got home I asked John what he’d had for lunch. ‘I had that lovely chicken’ he said. Chicken? We don’t have any chicken. Sure enough it was the fish, so we had half each of what was left for dinner.

December 9, 2021

At sewing group yesterday a discussion came up about how swearing was accepted now on TV programs after certain hours. It was universally decried by those who spoke and they also commented negatively on the whole issue of swearing. I finally spoke up and said that in my opinion too much is made of the matter. There are 26 letters and they can be combined in an unknown number of ways to provide words, so how can a particular word be such a crime? One person asked if I would be comfortable if she used ‘the f word’. I wouldn’t care at all, I answered. But surely not ‘the c word?’ she responded somewhat shocked. I said I’d certainly be upset if she was hurling abuse at me whether there was swearing embedded in it or not, but in conversation it’s just a matter of preference and culture surely. I think I was the only person with that view as the subject didn’t go on from there at all. I have often heard gay men call each other poofters, though if a straight person uses it it’s considered an insult. My hairdresser who is Scottish often says ‘feckin’ and none of his Northern Beaches clients think anything of it, but if he changed one letter I’m sure he’d lose some customers. It’s all a nonsense to me I’m afraid. People need to get out more.

We’ve been down packing lots more boxes for John’s daughter which we will deliver to Dan’s mother this afternoon. It is certainly reducing what’s in the shelves and that can’t be a bad thing. Framed and unframed photographs, glasses, china, doonas, cookbooks, it’s a motley collection. After doing this John is always exhausted and needs to lie down, not that it’s physically difficult but the whole emotional issue is more than he can handle.

Back to Rosalina…. She was much more cheery today, perhaps we came across as a bit scary initially. I don’t know. She thanked me for being thoughtful after something I said and was very pleased when I offered her some of my Thai chilies straight from the bush. She did a couple of small extra things that I asked her to do and my dobber hat was squeezing my brain uncomfortably. I said to John after she left that perhaps I had acted precipitously and thereby done the wrong thing, judged her too early in fact. But then I went into the bathroom and the mirrors and shower screen are much worse than before she came. Doing it all myself looks like an easier option, a bit more time for me, but no penitence afterwards.

December 10, 2021

We went down to mind Millie from 3.30 till nearly midnight while Dav and Louis went to dinner and then a show at the newly revamped Theatre Royal. She was offered the treat of pizza and garlic bread for dinner so to make things easier we had that too, though I took a salad to cut the carbs. I told her that I would be eating all of the garlic bread we ordered, it’s her favourite thing, and she couldn’t work out whether to believe me or not. “Is it a joke grandma?” she kept asking, to which I just smiled. Come time to walk to the pizza shop she was happy to be out and about but when we got there she said seriously “Don’t forget to check in grandma….and remember, sharing is caring”. I noted that as I unpacked the dinner she snatched the garlic bread packet and took out half, just in case. John and I shared the remainder.

They have a new television and the remote baffled me. Whenever I pressed the plus sign to increase the volume I got a droning voice telling me about various features for the disabled with a box covering the whole screen. I ended up turning it off to get rid of all that and then sitting right in front of the tele to hear only half of the news with the aid of lip-reading.

For some reason their kitchen tidies were missing and a basket and bag were in the corner as a temporary replacement. John asked me repeatedly about the bins, just wanting to deposit the odd teabag or chocolate wrapper and I kept saying that I didn’t know, perhaps they were in the bin room some distance away but we didn’t need them. Then I heard him banging one after another kitchen cabinet doors and wondered what he was doing: “Looking for the damned bins” he said even though he had nothing to put in them. I must admit that I was on the edge of getting cross and said “Just forget about the bins” which he did eventually.

December 11, 2021

I was fine when I woke up but as I sat at the table waiting for the breakfast cook to serve the porridge I felt as if I were sliding to one side and off the chair and the paper I was reading went blurry. I felt off after that and lay on the lounge in my PJs for some time hoping it was not the start of a vestibular migraine attack. Although they are overwhelmingly precipitated by movement such as in a car, boat or plane it is not unheard of for them to start for no apparent reason. By almost noon, telling myself that I must get up soon but not having the energy to do so, I thought: this would be just the day that a visitor will call. Shortly after Arvind came wanting my green bin (already filled by Justin on the other side). About noon a knock on the door revealed Gail from a few doors down inviting us for Christmas drinks next weekend. John answered the door but she wisely wanted to speak to me and looked a bit shocked when she saw my dressing gown and Ugg boots. ‘Not Covid’ I was quick to announce, but accepted her invitation thankfully and went back to the lounge. Still under the weather, but it’s Tania’s party tonight so I will take it easy till shower and dress time. She was invited to a function here a few years back but during the night before ended up in hospital, sending a photo of herself in her hospital bed. I have no such excuse so we will go, even if it means a shorter than usual attendance.

While lying doggo I decided to Google Meniere’s Disease (which my brother Kenneth has) and Vestibular Migraine (which I have). It was interesting to discover that some specialists hypothesise that the two share a common aetiology and are variants of the same disease. I don’t think any of the close rellies have either but I will quiz the bro again, his grasp of medical matters is thin to say the least. The symptoms overlap almost entirely:  sudden attacks of vertigo, photophobia and vomiting alongside permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. We both have all of the preceding. One difference is that in MD the attacks last anywhere from 20 minutes to many hours whereas with VM it is classically 24-72 hours. That difference is often used to facilitate the diagnosis. Interesting.

December 12, 2021

Tania’s party last night was lovely. The decorations were super, designed I’m sure by daughter Isabella, and included the novel idea of Christmas wrapping as gifts all the artworks and photos on the walls to give the place a real festive feel. We didn’t know a soul apart from Tania but spent much of the night with a delightful Mexican couple, Manuel and Claudia whom we’ll hopefully bump into again. The Italian food was delicious and never-ending, little plates of tomato and bocconcini, arancini, frittata, tuna and more, at one stage I even saw the chef making a pot of risotto the proper way, no shortcuts being taken. Great organisation made for a very successful night.

Today I have a list of jobs a mile long, well the back of an envelope long anyway. I gave myself the job of scraping the last of the bark off the big gum tree (as high as I could reach) with a pole as Kirk comes tomorrow to mow and the more he picks up the better. It is sort of like peeling the skin after you’ve been sunburned, strangely satisfying. I am thrilled to report that my friend Michelle is going to come while we are away and clean the house for Christmas, hurrah! She should give lessons to folks like….well you know to whom I refer.

Planning to be optimistic and pack my swimmers when we go away, though last night it came over very cold and it’s none to warm today, good walking weather anyway. I was amused to hear John talking to his friend Peter about how we don’t go on long trips because his medical appointments are too close together but it’s more to do with the fact that he’s a natural homebody. The appointments could always be rearranged. He’s perfectly happy here and although he will thoroughly enjoy Narrabeen once he’s there, it is my escape more than it is his.

December 13, 2021

Had a rare treat this morning, a lovely long call from Nicholas at Copmanhurst north of Grafton, my oldest friend. I realised while talking to him that I have known and loved him for 55 years, what a scary thought. He said he thinks of me often and I him, yet we only see each other rarely, usually when he comes down to see his mother in a nursing home in Wollongong. I have promised a number of times to go up to visit him but what with illness, pandemics, whatever, it hasn’t happened and if John loses his licence I can’t see myself doing all the driving to get that far. We both lost so many of our friends in the AIDS epidemic, but strangely we don’t discuss them much, too many to think about and too painful. But I guess we all think of missing friends at Christmas time and I am so glad that he thought of me today.

So, Elizabeth Farrelly has been given the boot from her job as a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald and she is spitting woodchips. I wondered if that would happen when I saw the annotation to her column on Saturday. The week before she had written a scathing article about corrupt practices in her local council area but didn’t mention that she had registered as a candidate for the Labor Party in the Strathfield local government elections, the area she was discussing. Poor form by her I thought. Her sacking is harsh, but I can see the problem that the paper has, how can readers know if the barrow she is pushing at any given time is tied to her own ambitions? It’s a shame though, I rarely disagreed with her opinions so it pains me to be critical, however the rules of fair play must apply to everyone.

Been busy today tying up loose ends here. Had Kirk my mowing man come at 7 am, why does everyone want to see me at 7 am I ask myself? Because they are torturers and know I want to be dressed and combed before they arrive, when they really don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what that old girl looks like. Packing to go away tomorrow, catching up on umpteen emails and texts, cooking a lemon slice to take, doing four book reviews online so I can return all my books to the library today, ordering some food for Christmas, answering the same question numerous times (no, delete that!).

December 14, 2021

This morning we saw Jennifer the neurologist and she said that we don’t need to go back to her again as John is already on the only drug available, Aricept, and it will either work or not work, so she has nothing else to offer. It won’t make him better, just slow the decline hopefully, but there’s no sign of that so far. We like her a lot but them’s the unpalatable facts. As we were walking up to the hospital he asked ‘who are we coming here to see today?’.

We travelled from there to The Sands at Narrabeen, later having dinner on our verandah looking over the ocean, some supermarket hot smoked salmon that I brought with us plus a delicious beetroot and feta salad and sweet potato fries from room service. The premier in his wisdom has decided, with Omicron on the rise, that it is a good time to allow unvaccinated people to go into cafes and restaurants for the first time in months, so we are keeping well out of them. It’s a bummer that he’s timing it right when we were coming away, but that’s Dom for you. I had a letter published in the Herald today which said: “Just as I and my immune-compromised friend were considering going out again, the rules change to allow unvaccinated people to go out to restaurants and cafes. Well, that’s two people who won’t be adding to the hospitality industry’s coffers this Christmas. Thanks Dom”. In previous visits here the nights have been blissfully quiet (double glass doors to the verandah with a deep airlock between them completely remove any outside noise) but we hadn’t had neighbours with a screaming child and a potty-mouthed mother. ‘My mother wouldn’t even have known that word’ saith John the Innocent as her dulcet tones emanated from the locked door between our two rooms. I suspect that the door is the problem, breaking the sound barrier of the double brick dividing wall. Must remember to ask for a room without that door in future. But once I take my hearing aids out she will cease to exist.

December 15, 2021

Waking up late certainly isn’t an option here, even with heavy curtains. The sun is blinding as it rises over the ocean and I needed sunglasses to go onto the verandah before 6 am, such was the intense glare. We breakfasted out there, as we’ve taken all our meals so far. Fresh mango, Vegemite toast and half a scone each, all brought from home and all delicious. We drove to Narrabeen Rock Pool and Lagoon but as there was a film crew at the rock pool, and we didn’t really want to become film stars at this stage of the game, we swam in the lagoon and it proved an excellent choice. The water was warm and calm and at 8 am we were the only ones on the beach. Later a family arrived and John couldn’t keep his eyes off the young woman in a G-string, but not for the obvious reasons. She had one leg and half her backside in a total tattoo, perhaps the other side will fall victim in due course, but it was pretty startling. He had never seen anything like it on a woman and I had to remind him to lift his jaw off the sand. I can’t help thinking about how awful it will seem in 50 years time, drooping in folds. I once talked to a cop who had a huge Jesus on one arm and a huge Mary on the other. He was short but quite a muscle man, but if he gives up the weights their tattooed faces will age considerably. Some paddle boarders told us there were sting-rays sunning themselves on the rocks so we went looking, but couldn’t find them.

Later I crashed in the room and slept solidly for over an hour, something I would never do normally. I dreamed that an estate agent had contacted me to say that a house vendor in Queensland had accepted my low offer of $200,000 and I needed to pay the deposit. I was horrified to find that I had to borrow the money and complete the sale for a house I didn’t want. Where on earth I dredged up that unlikely scenario I have no idea. When I woke John told me there was a ‘big machine’ on the verandah with Actron Air written on it and he wondered if I knew what it was. An air-conditioner motor was my answer but his only response was ‘oh do we have air-conditioning here?’. Later we drove the short distance to Collaroy and walked along the beach and up along the headland where I saw a superb modernist house that I could have moved right into. It has glass walls facing east and north looking over the ocean and big metal sails that block out views to the west and the town, just what I would want in that position. Double digit millions I’d imagine. On the way back we drove to North Narrabeen to a fish market where I bought oysters, prawns and a whole smoked freshwater trout for dinner. I was stunned by the prices, everything was $15 plus more per kilo than I pay in The Hills. It’s not a tourist trap, it’s out of the way and the customers seemed to be locals, some ordering up big for Christmas. I felt like telling them they could order directly from the fish markets and have it home delivered for less. We had hoped to go out for dinner one night but bloody Dom put paid to that by allowing unvaccinated people into hospitality venues. He will rue the day, but not as much as those who end up with Covid as a result.

December 16, 2021

The swim at the Lagoon was so good yesterday that we decided on a reprise. But to our surprise and delight it was quite different this morning as the big machine working yesterday on scooping sand had succeeded in opening the lake to the ocean. It was open years ago when we were here but this year the lake has been totally sealed off with a sand mountain, presumably from a big storm. When we were swimming yesterday we debated whether the job would take days or weeks but never expected it to have happened by now. Of course the water was much saltier today with an obvious tidal influence. Even though clouds had come in from the west the water was warm, much warmer than I would have expected the ocean to be at this time of year.

Unfortunately the day went downhill from there. I packed a good picnic, leftover trout from last night’s dinner plus bread rolls and fruit. But in deciding on a venue I foolishly suggested the Pittwater side of Newport and Clareville, mainly because it was new territory to explore. Although the millionaire’s rows of houses along there have great views, there aren’t any parks or reserves by the water that we could find. Each time we headed towards the water it was a cul-de-sac with no access, I guess they don’t want people sharing their paradise unless they come by yacht. It is an appalling development failure in my opinion to have mile after mile of waterfront with virtually no access to the public, but what else would an old socialist say? However in our case those winding roads and U-turns in cul-de-sacs produced a nasty attack of vestibular migraine so I couldn’t be any help to get us the hell out of the place. Finally I managed to key in Avalon Beach into my phone and John followed the instructions to get there. He was quite cross which is unusual if I am sick and urged me when we got to the beach to ‘get out of the car and look at the view’. Of course that final movement coupled with the bright light started the vomiting which then continued all the way back to Narrabeen, into my favourite shopping bag to add insult to injury. We got home three hours ago but he still needs to walk me to the loo so I don’t fall over. Rats, if only we’d picnicked somewhere nearby and sensible. I hold the town planners responsible ultimately. John has gone for a walk, stressed by the fact that he couldn’t remember what his tablets were for and had to ask me. I need to keep on top of his meds now as even with the daily dispensing box he gets confused. It’s all very well to have boxes for morning and night, but if some are four times a day, you just have to remember.

December 17, 2021

I am hoping that John isn’t slipping onto depression. He was unnaturally negative yesterday and angry with me for getting sick, saying it had ruined our holiday and wasted the money we’d spent to be there. I understand his frustration as every little thing becomes a problem, from medications to understanding when I tell him that so-and-so has rung and he needs to be told once again who they are. Then the fact that he is constantly confused about what is happening next, where we are going and what plans are in train. It’s just that the words John and depression have never been uttered in the same sentence before, so it has come as a bit of a shock.

We went to the Lagoon and watched others swim this morning from a sheltered table and I suggested that I get some lunch for us at the lovely cafe there at about noon. ‘I could eat it now’ said John so I wandered over at a quarter to 11 and bought us some toasted sandwiches and milkshakes. When I came back he asked why we were having such an early lunch, but the sangers were delicious so who cares. Later on the way home we went to a food distributer in Brookvale to pick up some delicious looking fare that I had ordered last week as part of the buffet meal I’m planning for Christmas Day. We will be down by one as Danish is headed to India on Sunday and won’t be back till January 2.

John got a call from St. Vincent’s today to say that he can’t have his IgG infusion on Wednesday without having had a Covid test first, so I rang the medical centre and they won’t do one without symptoms. So on a 35 degree day tomorrow we’ll have to sit in a queue of cars at a drive-though for him to get one done. Then I got a ping from Service NSW (a first) to say that we may have been exposed to someone with Covid at the self-same hospital on Tuesday. We were advised to be aware of any symptoms but they didn’t tell us to isolate.

December 18, 2021

It occurs to me how different the lifestyle is here to the Northern Beaches. People are out on the street much more there (why wouldn’t you be with those views?). But a noticeable difference is that the car park opposite the hotel was full at 6 am and again late in the afternoon, mostly tradies’ utes and vans parked there while they went for a swim or a surf before or after work. The coffee shop across from the hotel was busy from dawn on. It’s just a thing, whereas our locals routinely go home after work because it’s too far to think of going to the beach. It just goes to show how your choice of suburb to buy into pretty much decides your lifestyle from then on. I made a big blunder there but it’s too late to change it now.

We managed to get John sorted with a Covid test today and on the way home I called into Woolworths to get a couple of things and was shocked that they’ve removed the QR code machine. I complained but was told that they removed it when it ceased being compulsory, which is short-sighted as not compulsory isn’t the same as forbidden, we should have the option at least. I shall contact head office today and make my views known. I saw something that said ‘This year instead of giving gifts I’m giving people my opinions’, very funny but I am routinely doing both. It seems that Dom is looking to achieve herd immunity without actually saying so. Why else would he remove the mask mandate? It’s the cheapest easiest form of protection that doesn’t cost the government a cent. It’s not Dom the Dumb but Dom the Devious I’m thinking. On the way home I turned into the street next to mine and a tradie who was tail-gating almost went up the back of me when I stopped gently to let another car go. He was beeping the horn and being a pest in general but I didn’t react. In the next street he overtook me just before a dip where his view would have been impeded and then took off at speed. I got his registration number and rang the wallopers in Castle Hill, knowing they couldn’t really do anything, but she said that they will put him on the police cars’ computers and if they come across him they will ‘have a chat about aggressive driving’. Very happy with that.

Someone sent me a book on dementia with a Christmas card inside Smilie: :(. I’m sure it will be useful but at the moment I am a little concerned about my own mental abilities. I got a book from the library by Prof. Peter Doherty called An Insider’s Plague Year and keenly started reading the inside story of the Doherty Institute’s research. Which was fine, until I got half way through and the more complex intricacies of the immune system just went over my head, despite multiple rereadings, even though I have read all this stuff in the past. Recently I found a hard copy of a paper written by my boss and myself while I was working at Sydney University. I was joint author yet when I tried to explain to John what it was about (genetics and a new gene I had fortuitously discovered while he was in the USA for 12 months) I floundered. Reading through it I couldn’t understand it myself, never mind explain it to him! I find this very worrying considering Prof Doherty is somewhat older than I am and obviously understands his work perfectly and the language of the book was deliberately aimed at an educated lay audience. I’m hoping that it’s not a portent.

December 19, 2021

Yesterday John decided that he wanted to invite his ex neighbour from Lane Cove for morning tea today but she replied that 11 am didn’t suit because she and her daughter don’t get up till 10 am. So, because we have another commitment this afternoon, we settled on tomorrow afternoon. Then today I got a message asking me to make sure all of the food is gluten free, mmm I had already planned the food so this morning I baked some wheat free biscuits. This morning I realised that her gift was a home made Christmas cake and a box of chocolates (whoops, cake isn’t gluten free). I hadn’t anticipated this as when he lived next door she always appreciated any baking I offered, none of which was gluten free. This afternoon we are going to a ‘drinks for Christmas’ event, but we are both nervous in case it’s indoors. I tried to find out but couldn’t contact the hostess, so I guess we turn up in masks and see how it goes. Entertaining used to be so simple.

John decided this morning that he wanted me get out my copy of his will to make sure that he’s still happy with it, which he is. BUT, I pointed out that the copy in the safe should be the original, not a photocopy, so he went to his filing cabinet and the blighter isn’t anywhere. I now fear that it met the same fate as the originals of the guardianship papers and ended up in the Sulo bin when he was culling his files during and after the move. It seems astonishing as he was so careful with such things and never threw anything out, he had 10 years of electricity and phone accounts filed for example and I threw them out with his approval. So hopefully numerous photocopies will equal one original, groan.

I notice that a Go Fund Me page for the families of the children killed and injured in the horror jumping castle accident has raised well over a million dollars and both the Tasmanian and Federal Governments are separately donating amounts. While this will help with funeral expenses and medical care if needed for the survivors, I am at a loss to understand how so much money is going to help them at all really. I think it would be the last thing they are thinking about at the moment. But I guess everyone wants to help and fix a situation that can’t be fixed. But ScumMo’s aides checking people out at the flower-decked memorial takes the cake, I guess they were terrified he’d be booed, but most people are more respectful than to interrupt his tragedy-driven photo op.

December 20, 2021

We enjoyed yesterday’s Christmas drinks event just down the road. I met the hostess’s daughter and son-in-law for the first time and was very impressed by them both. He turned out to be a detective at Parramatta, in the ‘pre-emptive crime command’? or something like that anyway. He works on patterns in crime with a view to anticipating where and when future crimes might be committed, a very interesting concept. One of the guests said ‘oh, I’ve been in your backyard looking at your deck so I could copy it’ which was funny. Two couples are in the process of getting their houses knocked down in order to rebuild a project home, it sounded like a nightmare to me but they were all much younger. Although we had some doubts about going, I think it did us both good. Gail, the hostess, popped in this morning to return the bubbly I took as she has so much food and wine left over.

The most enlightening conversation was when I told the story of being tail-gated and almost hit by an aggressive driver and after I described the vehicle two or three immediately said ‘gosh it wasn’t Matthew was it?’ going on to describe his ute in detail and showing me where it parks. He is the next-door neighbour of the house we were in! Apparently he suffers from brain damage and got a huge payout which enabled him as a single man to buy a place and also a tradies’ ute and sports car, which they told me ‘travels at zero or 100 kph’. I explained that I tried to speak to him when I saw him in the street but he simply drove around me and took off. This information was met with a concerned chorus of ‘no, don’t talk to him at all’ and ‘you’ve already dodged a bullet, don’t make an enemy of Matthew whatever you do’. Apparently he has loud and aggressive arguments with himself, taking both sides of the issue at hand. I am of course very pleased now that he didn’t stop since I’ve heard all of this. I am fairly used to dealing with crazies, but this one might be a step too far.

The scenes at Narrabeen and surrounds where a mini tornado deroofed homes, killed one with two others left critical are extraordinary. Especially so as the death and injuries occurred diagonally across the road from The Sands hotel where we were staying until Friday. One of the huge Norfolk Island pines crashed down onto them as they left the beach. Life is just so random and all the precautions in the world won’t help you if your number is up.

At 5 minutes to 2, with lippy on and outside table set for the 2 pm arrival of John’s ex neighbour, I got a phone call asking if our outdoor entertaining rule applies to her. Um yes, I answered. Well in that case I won’t be leaving my air-conditioning to sit outdoors in 38 degree heat, she said. I think she was expecting a back-down, but I just replied ‘thanks for letting us know’ and sat out on the back deck (in the pleasant 30 degrees with a light breeze) to have a peaceful cuppa with John, enjoying the flower arrangement I had done and the gluten free biscuits specially made. Nothing as queer as folk.

December 21, 2021

I got a letter printed in the SMH yesterday and it seems from conversations with others who’ve contacted me that it expressed the general view, at least among our cohort. It read ‘I find it almost unbelievable that our government would cease to mandate mask wearing, the cheapest and most effective protection for its citizens against Covid. The only explanation that makes sense is that Premier Perrottet is trying to induce herd immunity by stealth. Mask wearing is a measure that costs the government not a solitary cent, so clearly its decision is ideological, with no reference to community health’. Today I was sent a 15 minute video by Dr. Dan Suan from St. Vincent’s Hospital explaining why we are headed in the wrong direction re Omicron, thanks to government decisions, and suggesting how we can best protect ourselves from what he sees as ‘the coming Christmas Day superspreader event’. It is certainly worth watching and I’ve sent it on to a few others. My friend Heather was to come today but has decided to cease all socialising before Christmas (and probably after it) as her husband has discovered that he needs to have open heart surgery in January and as a result they have cancelled the family Christmas in favour of a twosome, something we were forced to do last year (or was it the one before? Covid Christmases just run into each other).

I asked John yesterday evening if he could drop a note into my neighbour’s letter box on the way past and he asked things such as how many houses down it was and what the fence was like. However he came back with the note, saying it was too confusing and he didn’t want to put it in the wrong box, which was a good decision as my phone number was on it. But the house was only four doors away and was the one where we went to a party just on Sunday. I can’t pretend that he isn’t getting worse, he knows he is and it would be foolish to deny it, so it is better to be honest and focus on all the things he can do.

I made a nectarine tart today, thinking Heather would have some, even though it wasn’t a firm arrangement in terms of a timed visit. Oddly the recipe was in the text of Nora Ephron’s book Heartburn, a novel? based on the factual story about her husband’s infidelity and eventual departure when she was 7 months pregnant. The book is peppered with recipes in the text and this is the first one I’ve tried, but I will certainly be doing more of them on the basis of this, it was scrumptious.

December 22, 2021

John’s day for his monthly infusion was today and while he was out a representative of Link Housing drove all the way from Chatswood to deliver a massive hamper, in fact two hampers. One was regular supermarket stuff: tuna, cereal, pasta, biscuits, jam, lollies, other canned food etc plus a treat hamper of morning tea things: tea, coffee, biscuits, more jam, etc. He thought when he got home that I had been for a big shop, but no. Speaking of shopping, I saw on Facebook that Christmas is when you buy 30 days worth of food because the shops will be closed for 24 hours, and of course that’s what I do every year and that knowledge didn’t stop me from doing it all over again. Nothing as queer as folk, as I’ve said before, and I certainly come under that umbrella.

I am currently reading Unnatural Causes by Dr. Richard Shepherd, a top forensic pathologist in London and loving every page. Of course it is endlessly fascinating to me and my pencil has been working overtime marking paragraphs of interest. He mentions that his interest was sparked by seeing the book Simpson’s Forensic Medicine as a child. It was shown to him by a boy whose father was a doctor and he was infatuated from then on. He did medicine not wanting at all to treat live patients, it was a means to this end. I have been idly (well no, actually fervently is a better word) looking on the internet for a copy of the 3rd Edition which he had, but so far I have only found a very expensive first edition and many later ones, so I am still thinking. I was very disappointed in 2020 when, after looking forward for months to a forensic science course at the Uni of Western Sydney, it was changed to online only. I couldn’t see the point of that so luckily I was allowed to pull out. Pathologist and forensic pathologist both feature in my top 5 careers for next life and I am nothing short of an idiot that I didn’t pursue one of them in this one. Pathology was my favourite subject in the Biological Sciences Diploma that I did, but somehow I didn’t have the confidence to ditch my position at the University and plunge into a new and much loved pursuit.

December 23, 2021

I have now finished Unnatural Causes and it was five star. I found near the end that the author actually edited the 12th Edition of the book which inspired him as a child, so now I’m hunting for that one as my preferred option. The 14th Edition is the latest and I can get copies of it for about 100 bucks, but I will hang out for the 12th I think.

Occasionally there are reasons to contact Woolworths with a brickbat or bouquet, usually a bouquet for good service or a particularly good new product. They always reply within an hour or two, but this week I sent a message saying that I was disappointed that they had given up using QR codes, that many shops were still using them and I thought they would be reintroduced very soon anyway so it was a waste of time and money to pull them all only to then have to put them back. I have had no response in 5 days, so each day I just send a one word follow-up ‘Response?’, so far to no avail.

My bro in Halifax is 87 and lives alone so this last year he has been getting some help from one daughter and her husband with things like driving him to medical distant appointments, some shopping etc. But there is a problem: they are both anti-vaxxers and he is scared witless by having them come into the house or when he has to get into their car. He has voiced this concern many times but they are staunch followers of the internet conspiracies and shrug it off. The other daughter who is vaccinated is recovering from a bowel cancer operation, so she’s out of action. I have told him that it’s better to order everything in, pay for a taxi or whatever rather than getting Covid which is rife there, but he’s afraid of offending them, saying she would just laugh and walk right in using her key if he objected (parents become children again in the face of pushy offspring, particularly daughters). I am fearful but can’t do a thing, though I feel like ordering a locksmith.

Decided to get the fruit and veges today rather than getting caught up in the Christmas Eve maelstrom. However it seems many others had the same thought and the long queue outside the greengrocer’s shop turned out to be the checkout line! So John got in the queue and I raced around the shop bringing things to put in the trolley. But every single person had a mask on so we felt pretty safe in our N95 masks. Unfortunately we are reusing them after giving them a sunbake as the ones we have are unobtainable now for any money, being reserved only for hospital ICU use, which is fair enough.

December 24, 2021

So far my day has consisted of pav making, salad prep, vege prep, making salad dressing and prawn dipping sauce, anything to lighten the load tomorrow, while John’s on tablecloth ironing and silver cutlery polishing.  I have a long list of to-dos for today and they are slowly being ticked off, but I’m starting to flag now.

I can’t believe that I used to think that Dr. Nick Coatsworth was good looking, now he seems quite unappealing. My daughter rightly points out that women’s judgment of attractiveness is tied up with personality and character and men’s is not, or at least less so. As Coatsworth becomes less attractive, Dr. Dan Suan becomes more so, funny that. I wonder if this current uptick in Covid cases will forever be known as the Perrottet Surge? A Christmas card arriving today bore the news of a cousin’s death in England, from Covid. She didn’t die immediately apparently, wasn’t in ICU or anything dramatic, she simply caught it, got sick and never really got over it.

Someone commented to me recently that I seem to bond with strangers easily and I think that’s fair comment. So far I have had a Christmas greeting text from the nurse who gave us our boosters (we swapped phone numbers), a posted parcel of homemade biscuits from someone in Victoria to whom I sold a single eBay item and a card from another eBay client. Friends arrive via all sorts of different circumstances and I hope I never stop being open to the possibility that the next person I meet could become a firm friend. When people asked me at Tania’s party how we were connected I delighted in saying that we met at the washbasins in a public toilet.

December 25, 2021

John’s Christmas was made by a 6 am call from his granddaughters, excited to tell him that they loved the gifts we had sent up. Dav, Louis, Millie, Carly and Louis’s mother Sue arrived in time for some morning tea and present opening, after which I attended to the lunch while the others played a game that was part of my gifts to Millie. Danish called in a couple of times from Kashmir, on his way back to Delhi with his parents after visiting his grandfather there. He gave everyone a cashmere scarf from Kashmir and John was particularly excited by the colour of his, a deep shade of red. Everyone seemed to enjoy the entree of prawns as well as a side of salmon baked with an orange and maple syrup glaze. Then followed a rolled stuffed turkey breast, a fillet of beef and all the trimmings. Too full of lunch we ended up eating the pavlova at 5 pm and did a fridge raid for dinner about 8.

So many communications from friends and rellies around the world, Yorkshire, Northern Ireland, the US, India, Vanuatu, New Zealand as well as lots of calls from friends out of Sydney and in other states. John showed again that as far as his condition is concerned, the more people around him the better. It was hard to pick that he had a problem today. With just the two of us he gets stuck on a particular idea, but with others around the conversations move on and he moves on with them. If this current Domicron outbreak settles I think it would be great for him to go to a day centre occasionally so he’s got new people to engage with, but somehow I can’t see it happening for a while yet. (Domicron came to me yesterday as a new word and so far I haven’t seen anyone else use it, though the universal mind ensures that they have, or will, but for now I’m enjoying it being just my own).

December 26, 2021

Vale Joan Didion and Desmond Tutu, what a terrible loss the latter is to South Africa, at a time when the country is struggling on many front, but he has done more than could have been expected of him. I will reread The Year of Magical Thinking for the umpteenth time as a tribute to Joan.

We went to Fagan Park at Galston and had a walk in the 90% humidity, though perhaps I noticed it more because I didn’t sleep well and was tired when we got there. I enjoyed our picnic of tea and Christmas cake. It really is a delightful place to spend time. Again John seemed improved showing once more that being busy is good for him. A fridge raid lunch (so love Boxing Day when a meal is easily made by opening the fridge door). Dinner was another side of salmon, this time baked with a pesto topping and served hot, along with leftover veggies and salads from yesterday.

Domicron was asked today if people should be going to the Boxing Day sales and he replied that of course they should, as everyone in NSW, in fact Australia, will get Omicron. Well some of us won’t survive it but that doesn’t seem to bother him in the slightest. John and I have each lost a cousin to Covid, so to us it isn’t just a theoretical threat ‘out there’ in newspaper land. Do I despise him more than I do ScumMo? Well he’s working his way up the scale, but at least he doesn’t smirk.

December 27, 2021

I sometimes refer to all the African agapanthus plants in my garden as being the Mandela memorial garden but now I will have to alter that to the Mandela/Tutu garden. The fact that they grow so profusely on even untended ground doesn’t affect how much I like them, that gorgeous jacaranda colour wins me every time.

Carly has been watching the ACT Covid cases rising as well as the numbers of positive cases occurring on Murray’s Coaches from Sydney to Canberra, up to three different buses in a day have had positive cases, though none coming the other way. She has a ticket to go back on Thursday but John offered to drive her instead and she jumped at the chance. She can get a credit on her ticket so no loss there. Of course she doesn’t want to catch Covid anytime but it’s particularly important at the moment because when she goes back to work on January 4 she will be standing in for her boss who’s going on holidays. We all agreed that the errors in Covid testing over Christmas at St. V’s were terribly regrettable but also understandable considering the massive volumes that they are dealing with. I feel sorry that they worked round the clock over Christmas while we were enjoying ourselves and yet they are under criticism. Yet another family has reported having to cancel Christmas: our friends Bronwyn and Michael were to go to their nephew’s, along with all other family members, but on Christmas Eve he got a positive test so that was the end of that and I guess it was too late for others to cater so they each stayed at home. For various reasons that’s the fifth one we’ve heard of so far.

Today we drove to Erko and stayed for lunch and afternoon tea there, taking a walk around the Pleasant Street Christmas decorations and having a few games of Poo Bingo which Millie got for Christmas. She reads well enough now that she could be the caller, while the rest of us matched up animals with their poos.

December 28, 2021

Reading today about Black Oxygen Organics, a product which turns out to be high in both lead and arsenic, and is being marketed as a cure for Covid. The promoters claim you can drink it, put it on your face or add it to water to wash your baby or pets. But hey, it’s ‘Corn-Free, Glyphosate Residue Free, Lactose-Free, Latex-Free, Organic’ so who gives a rat’s arse about the lead and the arsenic, it’s organic arsenic! The USFDA has put out a warning about the stuff, basically saying don’t touch it. It is marketed as fulvic acid, a compound derived from decayed plants, dug up from an Ontario peat bog. So actually the product is dirt, 130 grams of it, sealed in a sleek black plastic baggie and sold for about $110 plus shipping, or $160 if you choose to take it as tablets. This got me thinking about the relationship between alternative medicine, religion (or absence of it, particularly among those who’ve given up a pervasive religion) and anti-science. It was the basis of our discussion over breakfast, with John saying that because their organic food shop was much too big (and expensive) to sell just food as originally planned, they had to go into lines of supplements of dubious (or at least unknown) worth in order to fill the shop and keep the dollars rolling in. Try finding any sort of food in a ‘health food shop’ today. Once they were full of interesting foodstuffs but they’ve become tablet shops today.

Danish has been in touch from India and is so far safe. He decided not to remove his mask even to eat or drink all the way on the plane, an epic decision which saw him only having food and water in a quiet corner at the two stopovers, Singapore and Colombo. Considering he is both a doctor and a Public Health lecturer at university, it gives some idea of his opinion of the risks of flying. Last night we heard of the sixth Christmas Day cancellation, the son-in-law tested positive so family was out and then the other guests cancelled to be on the safe side. If we know of six family Christmases cancelled then the number across Sydney is huge.

Unfortunately I am having a general feeling of dizziness today (and yesterday) to which I can’t put a cause. But it’s bloody annoying and has kept me from doing much. Just walking with my glasses on is enough to make the world swim, hope it eases off soon and goes back to whither it came, having to ask John to pick something up from the floor for me to avoid bending over is irksome.

December 29, 2021

I was gifted the Christmas issue of the Australian Women’s Weekly recently and last night, having finally finished Professor Peter Doherty’s book An Insider’s Plague Year which taxed and then overtaxed my medical knowledge, I needed some light relief. The first 10 pages or so of the mag were ‘celebrities getting ready for Christmas’ in loaned and named frocks of course, except I’d never heard of most of them, well all of them to be honest. Then we went to decorating, yep I’m into that, but I loathed the pompous woman who patted herself on the back for decorating her house with huge bookcases with 2600 black covered books (I say it again for the slow, she actually went to op shops and bought 2600 books with black spines, not to read, not even to browse, but as ornaments, and then thought it clever). Depriving readers of those books of course but heartily congratulating herself on the money she gave to charity. But I can always find some fun in the recipe section so all was not lost. But there’s a problem here that I pick up immediately, while not declaring that there’s advertising happening the recipes in one section all have Kikkoman Soy Sauce in them, even the pastry for the plum tart dessert!! Moving on to another part I find that each recipe involves melting down a box of Ferrero Rocher chocolates, um I don’t even like the old Ferreros and I regift any that mistakenly come my way, but melting a box to cook with? I just couldn’t do it. They are expensively packaged for one, it’s not as if you can go to a shop and buy 500 grams of them in bulk. But what an insult to the makers to forget all that and the fancy presentation of the chocolates themselves, just to tip them into a bowl and shove them in the microwave. I am either a complete cynic or else I am out of touch with ‘Australian Women’, or both of course. I think the latter.

It did disappoint me to be flummoxed by some of Doherty’s book, particularly the very technical sections on the workings of the immune system. But I got a lot out of it nonetheless and the take home message, for me at least, is that Covid is both a lung disease and a vascular disease, something I knew but not in the same depth. Flu, though it can kill, does not show up the virus in the blood, it is restricted to the lungs. But Covid is in the plasma and therefore in every organ of the body. It causes inflammation of the vascular system, thereby causing blood clots which can be small and sometimes manageable or else large and fatal, in the brain, heart, kidneys, wherever. Even the micro clots can kill, in flu the lungs fill with fluid but in Covid the alveoli fill with micro clots until the patient simply can’t get enough oxygen interchange to survive. This is why patients are now routinely prescribed heparin on admission, but whether this will lead to less mortality remains to be seen.

We feel as if we’ve made an impression on John’s stuff today, packing another big box of china, glasses, cutlery etc to take to Lynne’s later in the month for delivery to his daughter. Last we heard the previous boxes hadn’t been unpacked but we decided that’s not our concern, our job is just to pack’em and send’em.

December 30, 2021

Off to Erko for morning tea with the fam before heading to Canberra through the new WestConnex tunnel with Carly in tow. Stopped at Berrima for lunch of sambos, nuts, Christmas cake and fruit in the park. We were very good and didn’t pay a visit to any of our favourite shops there. The traffic was mega for reasons we couldn’t work out but we got there safely which is the main thing. Carly’s cat Lola, who is terminally shy, eventually came out from under the bad to check us out. She had been fed by a daily visit from a cat sitter while Carly was in Sydney and perhaps it helped with her fear of strangers. It was saddening to hear John asking Carly about whether the ACT has a separate government, and when she answered yes he asked ‘and what is it called?’ For him to have forgotten such basic things as the structure of government is a really bad sign I think. Carly bought some very good Champagne, Fluteau brand produced in a small French vineyard, and in my humble opinion better than the Veuve that we had on Christmas Day. It was excellent with the Greek food she ordered in, calling it a New Year’s celebration as it looked as if she’d be home alone for that. However her close friend rang and invited her to his place for a NYE dinner, suggesting that they each take a rapid antigen test that afternoon. He is after all a doctor and public health expert, leading the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Primary Care Response, so you wouldn’t expect anything else.

December 31, 2021

We decided to head out of Canberra early rather than going walking as we’d discussed. It was hot and we both wanted to put the road behind us. However the traffic was about a third of what it was on the way down, so there was no problem on the journey. We stopped at a roadside rest stop for morning tea and I got a text to say that there are 21,151 new cases of COVID-19 today but I assumed that must be Australia wide, however it turned out to be just for NSW. I just did some basic maths and there seems to be a total of about 1% of the population positive at the moment, but considering that the vast majority of people are in Sydney it seems to equate to about 2%. Scary numbers. The quote from Peter Doherty’s book comes to mind ‘No sane person would risk getting this disease’.

We are just vegging out tonight, nachos with a spicy black bean sauce for dinner topped with avo and sour cream, just icecream for dessert. No fancy drinks. Happy to be home safely and thankful for little things. I fear celebrating 2022, last year we went into the new year with some promise but I suspect we are going into more of the same or perhaps worse this time. Plagues of the past have gone on for decades and in some cases much more, so with the world’s now massive population we can hardly expect otherwise.

January 1, 2022

I absolutely adore fireworks. My best NYE ever was watching them close-up from Aqua Dining right next to the Harbour Bridge a few years ago. But watching them on TV is a real downer, a fizzer of grand proportions: no bang, no gunpowder smell, no shock wave, no all-encompassing encircling awe. So I gave them a miss last night and went to bed, turning my phone to silent to avoid the expected midnight messages. What a boring party-pooper, but a well-rested one.

Michelle and Kev came over for a morning tea that lasted till a quarter to two, by which time I really should have offered lunch, but I hadn’t looked at the clock. She loaned me the book The Game, Sean Kelly’s well-received book about ScumMo which she assures me will make me hate him more than I do already but I doubt very much if that’s possible, though I’m willing to try. Arvind next door tells me his son is quite ill with a terrible cough but has tested negative twice with a RAT. He went to his school formal after which four classmates tested positive (these days there’s no need to even mention what they were positive to) but hopefully he has something else. I brought back a big bag of clothes that Carly wants to donate to a charity shop so of course I had to look before I moved them on, didn’t I? Plenty of nice togs but nothing remotely big enough for me unfortunately, which is probably a good thing considering my overflowing wardrobe, so a trip to the Sallies is on the cards for next week.

At 9 pm tonight I got a call from Kenneth’s daughter Tanya who told me that he had had a fall at home and was taken to hospital by ambulance. He broke a vertebra when he fell, getting up in a hurry to pay the window-cleaner. At 87 I think that’s a pretty big deal, but I am not sure what they’ll do for that, especially in the middle of a pandemic. She was very vague when I asked when it happened ‘oh a few days ago’, but I’ve been getting no answer from him since Christmas Eve. I tried another tack, ‘how was his Christmas? I haven’t been able to get onto him’ but she sought of ducked that question so I suspect it happened a week ago if not more. (Would window-cleaners be working between Christmas and New Year anyway?) He has told me he’d rather be dead than in a home, but I can imagine at his age and having had a fall they will be loath to send him home.

January 2, 2022

I realised as I went to bed that I don’t have email addresses for Kenneth’s children, making further communication difficult. I just hope the landline numbers I have for them are current. The more I think about it the more sure I am that he has been in hospital for a while, he just wouldn’t let Christmas and New Year both pass without calling. The fact that he was unconscious for an unknown amount of time before waking up and ringing his daughter says to me that it wasn’t only his back that he hit but his head also. Perhaps he fell down the steep staircase? I am not sure why she is being so vague with the details.

I invited a friend over for a scratch lunch today but she said that she didn’t have a car, it is with her son who is sick, likely with Covid, at his flat. He invited a friend of his to her house for two days over Christmas and the friend subsequently tested positive, so she assumes her son has the same thing. She’s been testing herself (as has the son) with RATs but they are both negative. It isn’t very comforting knowing that false negatives run at about 15%.

So the few things we had planned for January are looking iffy. Jane offered to buy us tickets to a musical based on Bob Dylan’s songs but that won’t be happening now. Plus one of John’s priest mates (retired now, but very much the entertainer) has an annual party for all of his friends at Maroubra overlooking the ocean and that was happening next weekend, likewise it will most likely be cancelled and if not I doubt John will be willing to go. Personally I feel more disheartened about 2022 than I did about 2021, perhaps I am getting gradually worn down in a way I wasn’t last year. It’s all very well for Domicron, Hazzard and co. to be saying ‘We’ll all get it eventually’ but what if they had a son with cystic fibrosis, a wife who’d had a lung transplant and a daughter with a blood cancer? Then it would be ‘We have to resist this and protect the vulnerable at any cost’, the bastards have no empathy at all, zip.

January 3, 2022

We (well I) decided that a few new plants for the front would give me something else to look at so we motored off to the nursery at the Forestry Commission and got some of the 10 for $20 specials, six pots of lobelias and four of portulacas. Keeping with the usual theme of pink, white, blue and mauve, I came home pretty self-satisfied. (Only one other car there, people are really keeping themselves to themselves). We noted the queues of cars that stretched out of sight in two directions from the nearby the Covid testing centre. On the way back we went to Denise’s fruit and veg stall at Dural to stock up so we are now fully supplied with grapes, cherries, blood plums, apples, avocados and honey but the veg available was somewhat lacking in choice so we’ll worry about that another day. Denise (possibly not her birth name) is a short, portly Greek? woman of undetermined age who is there selling every day. She is weighed down with a cross around her neck large enough for a priest and has photos of some religious person on the shelves next to her. Weather doesn’t deter her, public holidays either, she’s just a fixture on that stall whenever we pass or when we go intentionally like today. Salt of the earth comes to mind.

I found my New Year’s Resolutions easy this year:

1) Be more patient with John, who so deserves it.

2) Lose the weight I’ve put on since the pandemic started, tricky this one. I might make a cup of tea soon and have some of the fruit mince tart that I baked yesterday while I have a think about it.

3) Be less patient with those who have made life difficult for us both for the last, what is it? 12 years? 13? 14? I don’t know, but it seems like a lifetime some days. Patience with some people only means that they are more inclined to treat you like a door mat. Toxic people figured out a long time ago that decent people will go to extraordinary lengths to keep them happy. Enough. Oh I feel better just from typing that, now for that fruit mince tart…..

January 4, 2022

It’s been a funny couple of days. I got an email out of the blue from a first cousin on my mother’s side whom I didn’t know I had, he’s from Brighton UK. He immediately started sending photos, a 32 page family history report and a press cutting of my road cycle-racing champion grandfather. Meanwhile I discovered that I don’t have email addresses for my brother’s two children and the phone numbers are not current. Rats, I didn’t think to ask when Tanya was on the phone. However my snail mail penfriend, who has never befouled her hands on a computer, has a phone in her 17th century cottage so I rang her the night before last. Her son was visiting from wherever he normally resides and said she was out but would be back in the afternoon. Very odd I thought, she rarely goes out, especially for many hours, but I said I would ring the next day. Same story, she’s out, but will be back after midday. So I sat up and rang last night about half an hour after midnight here. She answered immediately and said ‘oh it’s lucky you didn’t ring earlier, I’ve just got up. It’s dark, grim and cold midwinter here and there’s no point getting out of bed’. Her ‘out’ was suddenly explained and I smiled at her son protecting her reputation to the oddly accented woman on the phone. She was able to tell me the hospital my bro is in and the facts as she knows them, he saw the window-cleaner from his upstairs bedroom and went down to pay him but fell on the narrow steep stairs after having a dizzy spell on the way down. He was initially unconscious but regained enough strength to get himself downstairs to phone his daughter, this taking about three hours due to extreme pain from a cracked vertabra. She called an ambulance and off he went, to be continued.

I have been on a crusade about bloody rapid antigen tests which everyone thinks are the ant’s pants but which are virtually useless in the way they are being used. The Doherty Institute reports that:

“The Doherty Institute’s studies, along with other evaluations performed by Australian and international laboratories confirm that the sensitivity of these tests in the early stages of infection is poor and that they shouldn’t be used for the diagnosis of acute COVID-19 infection. These tests must be used with caution due to the potential for these tests to fail to detect COVID-19 during the acute phase of the illness, prior to the development of antibodies. Their accuracy only improves 14-21 days after onset of symptoms. Based on the Doherty Institute’s findings it is recommended that serology-based COVID-19 POC tests should not be used until at least two weeks post onset of symptoms.”

But is the government telling people this? No they are not, so folks are spending their hard-earned on tests that, if they can even find one, are useless until 14 days after symptoms show and then they blithely tell you that ‘yes I’ve got a cough and I feel sick but the test says I’m fine’. No you are not, go away, far away, one feels like shrieking. If you are going to let people self-test, well force them to in fact because nothing else is available, then at least tell the buggers how to do it properly.

November 5, 2022

Luckily it’s raining, which I love, as the day hasn’t played out too well so far. The mail brought a result I didn’t want, a positive bowel screening test with a recommendation for a colonoscopy to be organised ‘as soon as possible, preferably within the next two weeks’. All fine to say, but who wants to go anywhere near a hospital at the moment, especially St. Vincent’s which is Covid Central? Anyway I’ve bitten the bullet and rung the Prof’s secretary and he wants to see me on Monday. I needed a new referral so I rang Bob, but he’s off work as a close Covid contact, not from a patient apparently as he was on leave over Christmas. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but if I do need to go to hospital for a day I can’t drive for 24 hours after the anaesthetic, which means I’ll need to depend on John to drop me there and pick me up, groan. Life is so complicated these days. Just an hour ago I asked him to pass me something from a drawer in the sideboard which he happened to be closest to, but he forgot three times what I had asked for, so it was easier to just do it myself. He arranged by phone for his medications to be home delivered from the chemist, but was quite curt in doing so and I had to gently remind him about speaking kindly to people who are doing their best to help. I don’t want the pharmacy of all people to be offside. However so far I’ve kept to my New Year’s resolution of being patient, but it’s only the fifth of January.

Covid is way, way worse than the figures are suggesting. At the fruit shop this morning (I can’t yet bring myself to order fruit or veg from a supermarket) there were signs up saying that they will be closed all weekend due to ‘staff unavailability’. The person on the checkout was new and very inexperienced, not knowing what broccolini was, nor snow peas. I asked if the weekend problem was due to staff holidays, but she shook her head and whispered ‘no, Covid’. Aah, got it. When there are families of six, where one person has been diagnosed and the rest are too sick or disinclined to sit in a car for many hours to get tested then the figure recorded is one, not six. I had a call from John’s care service who are sending a new person tomorrow to replace Rosalina the Wonder Cleaner. She said that they are all working from home and ‘last week was just unbelievable, trying to get replacement care staff for all the people off with Covid. It was something worse than we had ever expected’. We were to go to John’s priest friend’s place for a party next Sunday but John rang him to cancel and I don’t think it was taken too kindly. The conversation was quite jolly before he mentioned the party, but despite apologies it quickly ended afterwards, so perhaps we were two of many and the party is looking iffy as a result.

January 6, 2022

Since yesterday when I heard John talking down a bit to the girl at the pharmacy I’ve been thinking about the fact that he and I are an odd couple in many ways. He came from comparative wealth and privilege, brought up in Mosman and in diplomatic houses in New Zealand and Ceylon with a father widely respected as a war hero and a diplomat. He talks about getting the chauffeur to drive him to places he wanted to go, living in a luxury hotel in Ceylon, all meals provided, and how he had his posh accent beaten out of him when he came back to school in Australia. Education was highly regarded in his family. I came from the other side of the tracks in living-week-to-week poverty, a good education was seen as finishing high school as both my adoptive parents had left school before the age of 14. When I kept insisting that I wanted to do medicine my mother suggested that I try for a job in a chemist’s shop ‘because people will come in and ask you what pills to take’. But I think despite all that, what we have in common is that we are both outliers: he because he was abandoned to boarding schools and to relatives during the holidays (his niece says his childhood would these days be considered as child abuse) and me because our family simply didn’t mix, not with neighbours, or even family if we could avoid it. My mother hated people seeing our house inside, unlined with no inside toilet and no bathroom at all. So we were both lonely kids who’ve sort of met half way at Baulkham Hills, he has come well downhill in residential status and I’ve crossed the Parramatta River to the north and come uphill, which is funny really because as a child the idea of living ‘north of the river’ meant going very upmarket. In my street of Housing Commission properties and temporary dwellings, it was considered what you might do if you had won the lottery. I guess we’ve both won the lottery in one respect.

Last night at nearly midnight I saw on a website that Coles is rationing certain foods because of supply problems, so I jumped onto the Woolworths site to place an order before they did the same. However I outsmarted myself in a way as on the checkout page the first delivery available was next Sunday night and my usual practice of putting ‘no substitutions’ wasn’t allowed. So who knows what will actually be delivered and what can you do if you don’t like what they bring? All the decent brands of toilet paper were marked ‘out of stock’ along with the rice I like and much more. I noticed when scrolling through that on the lamb page it was virtually all out of stock, but I didn’t want that anyway. What a mess we are in again, but there are bigger things to worry about than toilet paper at the moment.

January 7, 2022

Feeling the need for some bush and being out of sight of civilisation for a while, I suggested a picnic at Lane Cove National Park, a close and accessible alternative to the bush proper. I was interested to see the ‘fish ladder’, a sort of byway around the weir so the native bass can get up and down the river safely. We had a good walk along the river and a simple picnic and came home feeling much improved. I have felt worse about the pandemic in the last few days than I have all through the lockdowns. Davina’s friend had Christmas dinner for 12 and every single one of them got Covid, I hope the meal was good. We know quite a number of people who are currently infected and I am troubled with the realisation that all these cases we have are the perfect vehicle for the next mutation. At least if you expect the worst you won’t be disappointed as I am prone to say, there was a wonderful article in the Herald yesterday which really made me laugh. It’s me to a T:

A week after my cousin Tony suddenly contacted me from the UK another message arrived, this time from his sister Carole who lives in Spain. He had talked to her about finding me and now we are communicating as well. If times were different I’d be planning a trip to meet them both. My main contact with relatives over there has been on my father’s side, but these are both on my mother’s. Perhaps I can get up the courage to ask why they are all so dark-skinned and brown-eyed, something that shouldn’t be a problem to ask but somehow is. They certainly look Romany or Spanish or something, certainly not typical of the Yorkshire folk on my father’s side. My mother wasn’t like that but all her brother’s family are, which adds more mystery to the situation. It is so ridiculous how skin colour could become a touchy issue, as if the wrapping is more important than the gift inside.

January 8, 2022

Off to Brighton-Le-Sands beach for a lovely morning on the sand with Dav and fam. They had a little beach tent and a chair for John and we all had a swim on a quiet part of the beach, while watching planes taking off and landing at the airport. I opined that the hotel  opposite would be a nice place to have a few days sometime, but Dav reminded me that it is where many flight crew stay so we’ll give that one a wide berth for a while. Went back to Erko for lunch and Millie was largely ignoring the conversation until I said ‘yum yum pig’s bum, that’s pork’ when the ham and salad was served up. It’s amazing how much kids love any sort of ‘misbehaviour’ of their elders.

I am usually  bored to tears by tennis but this summer I am finding that reading the tennis news is much more fun. Djokovic has made the difference and seeing Tennis Australia, the Victorian Government and the Federal Government tossing the blame back and forth across the net has been a treat. If Morrison thought that he’d get universal praise for banning him he was sorely mistaken as the former head of Immigration has caned Border Force for letting him get on the plane in the first place, a fair call I think.

Eight people in our circle are currently positive to Covid with some earlier ones now recovered and I am sick to the back teeth of hearing politicians blithely saying that we will all get it, seeing that it will be a death warrant for some people who will just be collateral damage in the poor handling of the pandemic. Domicron just stood there with his hand up, like King Canute staring at the tsunami and thinking that his powers as Premier (and the state’s god-botherer-in-chief) would make it turn around. Nah, not happening Dom.

January 9, 2022

In the shop I always had a policy of doing as much or as little as I wanted to do depending on my mood, so I was either slothful or super diligent, sometimes one of those for days at a time. Today I woke up full of beans, I suspect due to the beach day yesterday, swimming does that to you. So I happened to notice that the drain in front of the garage was full of something, it turned out to be dozens of Hypoestes plants, the seeds must have washed down the driveway in the rain recently and there was enough dirt in the drain to start a little garden. So up came the mesh cover and I transplanted them all into potting mix. I don’t know where they will all go, but as long as it’s shady they will be happy. Then I was busy packing up a necklace that I’d sold on eBay and dealing with someone else interested in a couple of bits of cutlery. It’s been quiet on eBay for a bit, but I guess people are at home and getting bored.

Then I attacked the meat safe, which is my overflow pantry, and discovered that we could probably live for months on the food here and in the freezer, seeing we can’t entertain. We’ve turned into survivalists, and there’s another delivery coming this afternoon. Then that’s it, I must stop, shortages will pass! I had asked John if we had any of the sweet biscuits that he likes to have with a cup of tea and he said two packets so I ordered more. The huck-out of the pantry revealed no less than nine! Ten if you count the pack he opened yesterday. It reminded me of when we moved all of his food here from Lane Cove and I unpacked five bottles of tomato sauce, three of them opened. I don’t even eat tomato sauce, but I am using some of it as seasoning in sauces and whatever. John gets very confused at some times and less so at others. This morning he couldn’t remember how to do the porridge (he does breakfast while I read the news headlines and check my emails and I do the rest of the meals for the day). Then he asked whether or not he has a hot drink at breakfast time and then if he has fruit. Tomorrow he may remember all of that. But it does worry me when he goes through his address book asking me who people are, that’s happening a lot more lately.

Two more have fallen sick today with the plague, this time my lovely ex-sister-in-law and her husband. Particularly worrying as he is a type one diabetic. We are hearing of various friends and relatives getting it every day now. John and I have each had one cousin die from it. But we can only take it one day at a time and keep as safe as we can, the rest is out of our hands.

January 10, 2022

Another week, another cousin. Now Lesley Dixon has contacted me as well. I had to look up the 32 page genealogy report to see the interrelationships. But an interesting fact arising from all that is that about 9 months before I was born my mother’s favourite brother Victor had a child he named Jean, but his wife died in childbirth. Jean was adopted out as a result. I am wondering if that led to my birth name of Jean, new cousin Tony is going to ask his brother for any intelligence in that regard. My brother has now been moved from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to Halifax Hospital where he is recovering from two broken vertebrae, not one as previously reported. Now they are looking into his increasing dizzy spells, which they think resulted in his serious tumble down the stairs. His daughter tells me that he has a ‘blocked ventricle’ which I would be very concerned about if I hadn’t worked out that she probably means a blocked artery. Presumably they will do a stent.

A visit with the Prof at St. Vincent’s ended as expected, a colonoscopy booked on Friday week. I so hate that swill they make you drink that I am certainly not looking forward to it. Going without food is one thing, but drinking that is quite another. I told him I am more worried about getting Covid than I am about the result, so he said he will do it at Bondi Junction and keep me away from St. V’s altogether. But he also said “It’s getting to the point here that it will be easier to count those who don’t have it”. Three of his kids have had it and as a result he himself was in iso for Christmas. I commented on press reports that some hospitals are mixing Covid and Covid-free patients in the wards and he said that St. V’s ‘will never do that’. So I can only go forward assuming that all will be well.

John got in a tizz over birthday presents for his grandchildren (he is getting in a tizz more and more, understandably) but I was able to produce for him a gift for Aurora: a facsimile copy, with illustrations, of the original 1908 version of Anne of Green Gables, brand new, which I had put away for a rainy day. Two craft kits, one for making a jewelled cardboard unicorn and the other to make beaded bracelets, proved perfect for Tallulah so panic was averted. A gift box under the bed is a wonderful thing and he is now walking happily to the post box as I had a paid postage bag here as well.

January 11, 2022

I have been given a number of bags of hand-me-down clothes for Millie so today I’ve been sorting them into appropriate bags for Millie, John’s granddaughters and op shop drop-off. Getting things to people who want and need them is such a satisfying task, but I might delay the op shop delivery judging by the five metre row of boxes lined up outside of the closed Vinnies as we passed yesterday. However we can drop the Katoomba lot out to Lynne’s at some time and deliver Millie’s when they come back from their holidays, now brought forward to tomorrow due to the noise of jackhammers in the adjoining apartment as the builders repair faulty waterproofing in a bathroom.

Two lovely surprises today: Firstly, a close friend offered to drive me to and from the colonoscopy clinic next week, just as John was searching the street directory for a park nearby the place where he could spend four hours and have access to shade and a toilet. I am loath to leave him for that long now, especially in a strange place. Now he can stay at home and I can relax. Second nice surprise: I had asked our chemist to source me a pulse oximeter, just in case John should get the plague, but none were available, so I then emailed the Dural Friendly Pharmacy and got a lovely reply from the general manager of the chain: ‘The oximeters have been in high demand – and there has been trouble getting stock. Dural has sold out at the moment but to ensure you get one I will bring one from our Concord store to Dural tomorrow for you. I will be out at Dural after 2.30pm and will leave it there in the special order section with your name on it.’ Dural Friendly Pharmacy living up to its name. Feeling much better than I did this morning now that those two things are off the worrying agenda, so I could concentrate happily on weeding the herb garden.

Chris Sidoti, cousin of our friend Phil Sidoti, had a great article in the SMH yesterday entitled ‘I Hold Morrison and Perrottet Personally Responsible for Making My Grandchildren Suffer’. I wrote a supportive letter to the SMH but it didn’t get in. Phil tells me that Chris had 200 supportive messages by midday. Chris is a former Australian human rights commissioner and all-round decent human being, unlike those he mentions.

I read an article today about an event that went under my radar at the time. In 1969 Rupert Murdoch loaned his chauffer-driven Rolls-Royce to his deputy and two kidnappers mistakenly took the deputy’s wife from the car to hold to ransom, thinking she was Anna Murdoch. No body was ever found but two brothers were convicted of her murder. One kidnapper died in gaol but the other, now living in Trinidad, given the family the details of where she was buried on a Hertfordshire farm. Apparently he needs to clear his conscience before he dies. It brought up all sorts of thoughts of luck and how serendipity (and its opposite) affects all our lives. I met Anna Torv, as she then was, a couple of times when I was working for Rupert. She was a bit of a lefty then, but that soon changed, the price of being with Rupe I guess. A fascinating story to be sure.

January 12, 2022

Dural gets my rain, I’m convinced of it. I look out to the north and comment that it’s all falling at Dural, but today my theory was supported when the pharmacy rang to say the pulse oximeter had arrived (at 2.37, estimated delivery time 2.30, pretty good work). Left here in cloudy conditions, with black clouds to the north, the rain started at Rogan’s Hill, it rained heavily to Dural and back again to Rogan’s Hill. Rain at home? Zip. How can it be when the weather is coming from the north-east and yet the rain always seems to stop at the same place? It could be something to do with elevation perhaps. I bet it’s still pissing down out there.

I got a lovely surprise today, a text from Phil Sidoti to say that he had mentioned me to his cousin Chris Sidoti who said he has noticed my letters to the SMH and is appreciative of the stands taken. For some reason that was enough to bring me to tears, as was the opinion piece that Chris had published on Monday. I had sent a supportive letter to the SMH, which wasn’t published: “Chris Sidoti’s heartfelt article today brought me to tears. As the carer of a person with blood cancer, for whom Covid could likely be a death warrant, I live every day wondering how to keep him safe while also allowing him some vestiges of a normal life. It is a mentally exhausting balancing act. Perrottet’s and Morrison’s actions have made this much more difficult, if not impossible”.

I harvested the seeds off the coriander plants today, so I must think that I’ll be around next year. The flowering gum is coming out and it is my very favourite flower in the garden. I only plant pink, blue, white and mauve flowers, but at times there is an occasional red or orange one which indicates it was probably a gift. My second lot of chive seeds seem to have failed so it looks like it was a dud packet, they are within date. John’s package allows gardening help but he’s been off for holidays, now he’s a Covid contact, so no gardener tomorrow.

January 13, 2022

In news just in John’s ex-neighbour Scott White has been convicted of the murder of an American gay man, also named Scott, by pushing him over the cliff at North Head in 1988. Despite the advice of his legal team he suddenly called out ‘guilty, I’m guilty, guilty’ and the judge has accepted that as a genuine plea and convicted him. It is a sad end to a nightmare for his brother who fought the NSW Police for decades until he finally paid a US private detective to come here to get to the truth. Had the brother not been a millionaire it would still be a case of suicide or misadventure.

We had Michelle come over with a book and she stayed for a cuppa on the verandah, pleasing John no end. He certainly misses the normal interaction with friends that has largely gone by the wayside. I must think of somewhere to go tomorrow, we’ve probably been at home too much this week. I need to organise a Covid test for him before Wednesday when his IgG infusion is due and I need one myself for another appointment. I rang Bob’s surgery to see if I can get it done there and after waiting 15 minutes the phone cut out, then I tried the drive-through testing place and their phone did the same.

One of the new cousins sent me a heap of photos by email but I can’t work out who’s who and have had to ask. She also sent me a video of my mother, taken at a family wedding, but I can’t open it. The person they knew and the person I knew might be quite different so I am just listening to what I’m told and not saying much at this stage.

January 14, 2022

Yesterday was a big day in more ways than one. We went to Shelly Beach at Manly, one of our favourite swimming spots, and enjoyed a picnic, a swim (not as warm as Brighton, but good) and a walk along Fairy Bower to Manly, though we came straight back, not getting involved in the busyness there. The other reason it was a big day was that John got lost, insisting he was fine to walk up a set of stairs to the carpark in his swimmers to deposit the picnic basket in the car so we could go walking. However the 5 minute journey spread out to 45 minutes and because I didn’t want to leave our seat in case he returned, I asked a kindly person who was headed up to the carpark to keep an eye out for him and point him towards the stairs. Eventually John returned from another direction, still carrying the picnic basket, but not knowing where he had been and how he could have got lost. I went up to the car and ran into the man who was still looking for John, bless him. It has cemented my growing concern that he really can’t be left for any time at all, unless he is safely ensconced in the house and then not for too long. The day before I had bought a pulse oximeter, set it up with batteries and read the instruction book, then explained it to John. So now I wear it around my neck all the time? was John’s question. No, it’s something we will only need to use if one of us gets Covid, I replied. Oh good, now we don’t need to worry about going and getting tested, we can just use that thing, he said. I’ve put it out of sight and we’ve had no further discussion, but I think he has gone over another cliff memory-wise in the last week. Therefore I’ve decided that he can’t drive anymore and I drove us home. Even though his driving is technically perfect, I just can’t tell where this is going next and I don’t like the look of it at all.

My occasional eBay client Antonia in Melbourne sent me another bag of unfranked stamps (she must get a lot of mail). She also sent a stamped postage bag for me to send the three pieces of cutlery she has bought. I always send her a sweetener so I will use doilies as the packing and add some serving pieces like butter knives, a pickle fork and jam spoons that are surplus to requirements here. She sends me texts with photos of herself having a glass of wine, or a schnapps, or yesterday champagne and we have quite a little friendship happening. My favourite inclusion is a tiny cocktail serviette hand embroidered with a martini glass and cherry, she will love it. This has always been a bonus in dealing in antiques, it attracts a warm coterie of like-minded people. The sale is worth $15 but the bonuses are worth much more.

January 15, 2022

A trip out to Dan’s mother’s place at Cranebrook this morning to deliver another box of John’s stuff for his daughter. They haven’t picked up the very big load we left at Lynne’s many weeks ago so I felt a bit bad about cluttering up her garage. Usually we drive in, it’s five acres, but in a sign of people’s heightened concerns about Covid, the gates were shut and Lynne arrived there with a trolley, letting us know that she wanted us to stay outside, which we were quite happy to do. The sewing group next Wednesday and the book group at the end of the month have been cancelled in the first case and scheduled via Zoom in the second. When will it ever end?

I have just finished reading The Dictionary of Lost Words, a novel set amid the making of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. I had reservations about the book, though there were positives too, but I was interested to see that Carly had reviewed it in a similar way to how I had and then I got an email from Sue whose views were also very much aligned. One part of the book relates to ‘vulgar words’ and I was attentive to this part as it reminded me a lot of a conversation recently with a number of people whose attitude to women swearing was pretty much the same as Esme encountered at the turn of 1900. In some ways we haven’t moved quite as far as we think we have. I wondered what their response to the book might be, somewhat negative I’m imagining, but I don’t intend to stick my head up over the parapet on the issue again. I said my piece ‘if swearing is okay for a man, then it’s okay for a woman’, pretty obvious I would have thought. The other clear point is that words are just letters tossed together in order to communicate and can’t be intrinsically good or bad, they are what we choose to make them. The argument didn’t fly I’m afraid.

January 16, 2022

We were on the West Pennant Hills Covid testing queue just before the centre opened at 8 am, but still it snaked back onto the main road. However the line moved more quickly than I expected and we were done and out by 9.30. Both of us had to be tested for medical appointments this week, but I was expecting the result to take a couple or even a few days, but it was back by 2 pm, which was great in one way but it means it’s too early to be acceptable for my Friday appointment so I will have to do it all over again. Rats or should I say RATS! They are just unobtainable as I know too well after a ring-around. I thought they may have given us at-home tests as takeaways after I explained the tests were only for appointment purposes. Just trying to save ScumMo some dollars, but no go. Very efficient and pleasant service, a sentiment I forwarded to the queries and complaints section on their website.

I wondered what happened to the leftover salad from dinner last night but as the bowl was empty I assumed the possum had had a good dinner. That’s until I went to make a salad for lunch today and opened the bag in the fridge where the washed salad leaves reside. Out fell an olive, then some red onion and a pile of dressed lettuce. Hey presto, puzzle solved. It was still okay enough to be part of lunch so no harm done.

Interesting, though unsurprising to read the following today: “A hospital at Lismore in the anti-vax heartland near Byron Bay says that all 6 of the patients in ICU are unvaccinated. One of the people in ICU is Mullumbimby-based tarot card reader and reiki master Helen Dean who had previously protested against vaccine mandates. She caught the virus last month and has been on a ventilator since Christmas Day. In the weeks since she first contracted Covid her friends have flooded her social media pages with healing sentiments and chanting ceremonies”. Of course they did. She’s on life-support people, doesn’t that give you pause?

January 17, 2022

Off to Dural this morning to buy bread on the first day that the bakery reopened, though there was only one staff member working the counter as the others were off with Covid. The girl who served me said she and her daughter had it over Christmas, she was negative but still recovering. Then to the Vinnies with a box of Carly’s clothes that we’ve been carrying around since the Canberra visit. Unfortunately then the car wouldn’t start so I had to ask the chemist for a chair to sit John outside in the shade while we waited for the NRMA to come, just getting someone to answer the phone took 25 minutes! But the serviceman came and sorted out the problem quickly so that was a relief.

I have been feeling a bit off today after an interrupted sleep (with the added stress of John/heat/car/NRMA perhaps) and had a very rare rest after lunch only to be woken by a phone call from the surgeon’s receptionist wanting to alter my Friday appointment from 12.30 pm to 9 am. This was slightly complicated but it all worked in the end. Meanwhile she got approval to give me a RAT test at the premise that morning which means I don’t need to queue again. Whoopee.

John keeps asking me to check his emails for him and I keep showing him that it’s just one button to press on the phone, but today I got the real reason he’s not opening them: ‘I’m too scared that there will be an abusive one and I want you to read it first if there is.’ Aaah, that makes sense now. Perhaps underneath that is the possibility that he really doesn’t want me to tell him about any bad ones, but I will have to make that decision at the time, if it happens at all.

Very interesting article by Professor Raina MacIntyre in The Saturday Paper called ‘Why Covid-19 will never become endemic’ which makes a number of valid points: Omicron may be half as deadly as Delta, but Delta was twice as deadly as the 2020 virus. A US study has shown the virus persisting in the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and almost every other organ after the initial infection and found a significant drop in cognitive function and IQ in survivors. The virus directly kills heart muscle. It is too early to know if Covid-19 will result in early onset dementia or heart failure in a decade’s time. Natural infection has never eliminated itself in recorded history. Not smallpox, which displayed the same pattern over thousands of years, and not measles, which is still epidemic in many countries. Eradication occurs when a disease no longer exists in the world – the only example of this in humans is smallpox. Scary stuff. I was roundly criticised in one quarter for wearing a mask very early in the pandemic when the government was pushing the hand sanitiser line above all else, but the virus was clearly airborne spread, the government just wasn’t admitting it yet. Not a single infection has been traced back to hand contact rather than aerosol infection, so the millions spent by the government in advertising and by us for sanitiser was largely wasted.

January 17, 2022

Another of my great ideas goes to water. I got John to ask if he could transfer his monthly transfusion to a hospital closer to home now that he’s no longer driving. But it seems to do that he also has to change his haematologist, something neither of us want. Nada may be pretty brutal in the sense that she isn’t a hand-holder, you just get the diagnosis and the treatment regime, but she’s kept him alive for years when it was doubtful that would be the case, so we’ll stick with her and do the drive. While he was on the drip I took myself to the Botanic Gardens for the three hours and loved walking there in the rain. There was an artificial anthill replete with massive metal ants but an ibis was sitting staring into the hole both times I walked past him, an hour apart. I think he was waiting for the real ants to come out but he’ll have a long wait. I was so pleased to see a mystery plant from my garden which I’ve been trying to identify for a couple of years. I first thought it could be Salvation Jane, commonly known as Patterson’s Curse, but now I know it is Verbena bonariensis or purpletop vervane. The gardener said you identify any Verbena by its square stem so there’s a new piece of knowledge for the day. It was likely from a seed dropped by a bird as there are no others around that I’ve seen.

As everyone suspected, indeed expected, the missing girl at Mt. Wilson has been found dead and her stepfather charged with murder. Any missing child is a tragedy but for some reason her beautiful face struck a particular chord with me. His lawyer is claiming ‘mental health issues’ and that may be the case, but often it’s a hard call between being mentally ill and just being an arsehole. The wisdom of Solomon is required to tease out the difference, if there is one at all. No-one is born an arsehole, so one can assume that life’s journey has played into their arsedom, but then others go through a horrendous upbringing and come out battered, but triumphant. I also feel for the gay couple who have sunk a motza into building up the wedding venue from where she went missing, a massive house and superb gardens but for ever and a day it will be ‘that place for where the little girl went missing/was murdered’. Their only association was being unlucky enough to be related to the accused murderer. Who wants a wedding there now?

January 20, 2022

A parcel is always a nice surprise, but one on Monday was totally unexpected. My friend Michelle has been haunting the Vinnies each day since she noticed that our mutual friend Brian’s bits and bobs have been going on sale there. So she bought a collection of china, packed it carefully and posted it to me as mementoes of him. She has bought some for herself too, so I got to thinking: his family want rid of some of his stuff, understandably, Michelle would love it, also understandably. So, taking a risk, I texted both of his children, whom I know well, and asked if it were possible to let Michelle have first pick of anything that was going to Vinnies, explaining her special bond with Brian. Obviously that was a no-no (I’m an expert at no-nos) as neither of them replied, I guess I am off their Christmas card list as well as a few others who will remain nameless.

I’ve started planting out my Hypoestes seedlings along the driveway as they are going great guns in the seedling box, but I noted that the larger of my flowering gums looked a bit sad from the back verandah and a closer inspection showed it is as dead as a dodo. Why, I have no idea, but there’s a big hand of flowers at the top and you would think that a sick tree wouldn’t flower. Now it just a dig-out job unfortunately. I had the landscaper come back to give me a revised quote on the driveway, to be done in bricks as the big gum next door would push up and crack concrete in no time. But it’s a hell of a price so I am still thinking.

My oddball eBay customer in Melbourne makes me laugh regularly, The latest cutlery she bought was a matching cake fork, teaspoon and jam spoon, which I wrapped in embroidered table linen and threw in a few spare bits of cutlery. They were in a postpack covered in $1.10 stamps but by chance they weren’t franked. Knowing my weakness for unfranked stamps she is posting the bag back to me so I can soak off the $20 odd worth of stamps and reuse them! Then she made me laugh again ‘I’m sending stamps bag with small sample of schnapps in bag. Good idea? Yes, I’m glad you agree.’ I’m not sure if it’s her generous nature or her idiom that appeals but her messages always bring a smile.

January 21, 2022

When I bought the medication necessary to take the day before the colonoscopy the instructions said to take 1 sachet in 250 ml of water at certain listed times, but have no food at all, however the instructions from the Prof. said one and a half sachets per time and no food. The chemist commented ‘that seems an awful lot, it’s very strong’ but sold me the needed extra packet. He was not wrong, especially for someone sensitive to drugs who usually takes a child’s dose of even things such as Panadol. Suffice to say that I’m very glad I don’t have fixed carpets in the house, it was a shit-storm in every sense of the word. Poor John, he of the cleanliness schtick, coped like a trooper.

Jack kindly drove me to Bondi Junction leaving at 7.30 am and I thought we’d hit traffic but had a dream run for that time of the morning. The whole experience was infinitely preferable to the previous day, how could it not be? The anaesthetist was terrific and in conversation I mentioned Robert had once told me that the level of sedation he gave at his clinic meant that the person wasn’t fully under and if a fire broke out he could walk a patient straight off the table (with a support person each side) and they would never remember a thing. I’ve never known if he was pulling my leg so I asked this chatty guy and he said that some clinics just give a big dose of Valium and a drug to wipe the memory of the procedure and in that case what Robert said was entirely possible, but he prefers to knock the patient out altogether so even if the ceiling fell in they wouldn’t stir. I rather preferred that idea and made a mental note never to have one done in Penno. Though after yesterday’s experience I’ve decided that never having one anywhere is preferable. I woke up happy to look out over the view of downtown Bondi Junction from the picture windows of the 10th floor and wonder why on earth anyone would want to live in all the surrounding units built over various shopping  precincts, concrete jungle doesn’t come close to describing it. Perhaps the only good thing would be the ability to watch the odd medical procedure with a pair of binoculars, I would certainly be up for that. My chauffeur arrived to whisk me home after which I promptly fell asleep and woke up in time for dinner, which luckily I had prepared earlier in the week. Thank the gods that’s over with.

January 22, 2022

Last night we both watched our friend Saumya’s funeral live from London. John had spent quite a bit of time with her around 2010, helping her deal with Centrelink forms and going with her for personal appointments when she had made the perfectly understandable mistake of using a redundancy payment to pay off her mortgage, thinking that she could get Centrelink unemployment benefits if she failed to get work. However their attitude was: you had plenty of money to live on but you decided to pay it off your mortgage, so now we are giving you zip. She was reduced to living off Salvation Army parcels when she was also very unwell. But sadly, even though I showed him photographs from that time and retold stories of what he did, he couldn’t bring her to mind at all. However he wanted to watch the funeral in any event. It was a strange combination of pop music and Buddhism, with very little said about her at all really, it could have been a total stranger. I think the monk spoke in Malayalam, but I can’t say for sure. It was as emotionless as a funeral could be, so I spent the time just thinking of various times that I was with Saumya, of her infectious laugh and regretting that those times will never happen again.

This, along with news that someone else is hankering to do his eulogy, must have set John thinking because today he rang his close friend Peter to ask him if he would be willing to do it and as I write he is photocopying reams of stuff to post to him. What Peter is going to glean from public service records from the 70s I’m not sure, but I trust he will do a wonderful job having heard him do the eulogy for a bishop, managing to have a dig at the church for not letting the bishop’s close friend Father Rod Bower take part in the service because he is a priest in the high Anglican Church and not a Catholic. Peter put the boot in, but oh so delicately. I guess that’s why he was in the diplomatic service.

January 23, 2022

I remembered a conversation between two nurses on Friday, amazing what you hear if you just keep looking dumb and don’t say anything, people tend to forget that you have ears. Nurse 1: So they’re saying that the numbers in intensive care are stable. Nurse 2: My friend in ICU says it’s because they are dying so fast that they just replace them with the worst one from the ward, so yes I guess it’s stable.

One tends to forget how much time in a given day is spent cooking, serving, eating, or just thinking about food. That’s why last Thursday seemed so out of whack, John’s food already prepared, mine non-existent. I had an associate in the shop, an upholsterer, who was not able to eat but was fed through a tube and it didn’t surprise me when he attempted suicide. I can’t begin to imagine that life.

We got set up for a picnic today and then I looked out and it was pouring, so we abandoned the idea but soon after the sun shone and it was all systems go. I set the GPS to Dural Nature Reserve, supposedly a National Park, but we were directed to a residential street with no obvious entry to the bush. Driving around we came across a tradie working in a garden and he directed us to James Henty Oval and we found tracks from there. There are no signs giving directions and no signs even indicating that it’s a National Park, very odd. The walk was lovely as was the picnic, but it was weird that we didn’t see another soul, not on the walk nor at the picnic area. However the leeches were very happy to see us, I got three on the walk and John’s found one on his foot since we got home.

January 24, 2022

I’m Glad I Don’t Have Fixed Carpets MkII: Last night John stood up and one side of his shorts was covered in blood, we discovered a leech on his thigh and disposed of it, putting a Band-Aid over the bite. An hour later, after he’d changed into trousers he stood again, only to find the trousers soaked in blood on the other side, it was dripping from his leather recliner onto the floor. As we tried to clean up the mess he stepped on something which turned out to be another distended leech which exploded, sending an extraordinary amount of blood across the floor and up the side of the chair. The leeches had been feeding on him for about six hours we worked out. If I had opted for white carpet instead of polished floorboards the last week would have had me replacing the lot.

We got the place ready for John’s cleaner to come at 1.45 pm, after she had to cancel last week due to a cut finger. It’s now well after 4.30 pm and no sign of her, I’m hoping that they didn’t ring and make some change in her plan with John and he’s forgotten to tell me. I guess we didn’t have somewhere else to be but still I’d like to know if plans change. I’ve got everything up off the floors for her to vacc and mop.

John’s car has developed a weird problem, for which we had to call the NRMA last week. The steering wheel locks when parked and it takes a mammoth effort to unlock it by wrenching the wheel back and forth. I had an appointment with Bob today and when I got back to the car I couldn’t unlock the wheel whatever I did. I called our mechanic Alex who coached me in how to overcome it, but he thought it very abnormal. I found out that he has moved from Castle Hill to bigger premises in Blacktown which is a pain in the posterior, so I will need to take it out there and get him to look it over. Bob told me that if John’s new dementia drug Aricept hasn’t acted by now it’s probably not going to, which is a bummer. In fact he is worse now than when he started it. But I will leave Bob to discuss that with John and they can decide whether he should just stop taking it. I devised a clever way to avoid John forgetting to take his meds, so I thought, by his setting the alarm for 8.30 am and pm as a reminder. Except he thought that he only had to set it once and it would work every day and now that I’ve disabused him of that notion he can’t remember to reset it so that was a big azalea (as the Windsor locals used to call a failure).

Just got an email from the home service rostering team to say that today’s cleaning service was cancelled because of shortage of staff ‘due to our good ol’ friend Covid’ they said. Apologies that they didn’t contact me before now but ‘the rostering team is under such pressure at the moment’. Grrr, so am I.

January 25, 2022

Up early to mop and clean the bathrooms, iron the serviettes and tablecloth, get the food ready as we were having Jane for morning tea, possibly running into lunch. John swept the front and back verandah and I did some flowers from the garden, all finished as Jane rang to say she was sick (please not the dreaded Covid). But I felt pretty pleased that I got all the jobs done which needed to be done anyway and would have taken three times as long if we didn’t have the time pressure of a visitor arriving.

Arvind rang asking for help for his son in deciding whether to opt for a degree in Computer Science with a Masters in Mechatronic Engineering or Software Engineering with a Masters in Biomedical Science. I shot off an email to Boris and one to Prof. Munjed al Muderis, although I doubt I will get a reply from him any time soon and Avish needs to make a decision this week. It’s an exciting thing to be thinking about though, in a life that has necessarily become dull.

We went to visit Carol and Jack and spent quality time on their verandah. How lucky we are to have verandahs at this point in time, sitting inside four walls would be mortally depressing. That bloody steering wheel problem happened yet again, but had righted itself by the time we left, so I rang Alex and arranged to drive the car over to dreaded Blacktown. He thinks it’s a problem with the locking mechanism, not the steering one, so he did something to it and told me to let him know how it goes. He refused payment. I pointed out that it would be very difficult to get home from there if we ever have to leave the cars overnight, but he said he will lend me a car when that happens. Bless.

When we got home I served the prawn risotto cakes that I’d made for lunch with Jane and they weren’t bad, but I’m not sure I’d go to all that trouble again though, fish cakes would have been just as nice and a hell of a lot less work.

January 26, 2022

I decided that since it’s a public holiday I wouldn’t work, but just do as I pleased. So I finished The Labyrinth for the second time and wrote a one page report on it for book group on Friday. It was hard to limit myself to a page, I could write about that book for a goodly while. A parcel arrived from my bro, posted December 16, for Christmas. It contained a Larkin poetry book and two books of the bro’s own writing, couldn’t be better. Then I attacked emails from the new cousins, seeing a short video of my grandfather walking down the street and another of my mother coming out of her house with her Pekingese Tang-See. John thinks I look very like her, perhaps I do, I’m not sure, but I certainly have the same stature and build.

Next job was as a result of an email I got from Promethease, the American outfit that did my DNA years ago. They said I hadn’t accessed the details for a while and if they don’t hear from me within 30 days they will delete my file! No way are they doing that, so I emailed them to that effect and started the long task of going through the results. It is very confusing and technical and I don’t claim to understand it all, but I understand enough. However it’s a huge task and I only got through 70 entries today, out of how many I don’t know. The genes are for characteristics both good and bad, so far there are some pretty basic ones such the fact that I don’t have Type I Diabetes or lactose intolerance and I have white skin, through to having a gene that helps protect me from getting colorectal cancer from processed meats (devon here I come, ugh) and one that makes it unlikely that I smoke. I have a lower than average risk of autism but a higher one for bipolar and schizophrenia. There are lots of genes in there for prostate cancer so I’m glad that I have neither a prostate nor any sons.

Boris has kindly sent two replies regarding appropriate university choices for Avish next door so I am excited to see what he chooses. Of course I am biased towards the biomedical science option as it’s a great jumping-off point if he decides to swap to medicine.

January 27, 2022

A couple of good jobs jobbed today, sorting out books to go to the Lifeline Book Fair next week, as Tania is taking a load and offered to take any of mine as well. Mainly very specific interests that will be slow to move in the street library, for example some on religion that I was given and some fairly technical architecture books of John’s. I tried to get John interested in sorting through the many large boxes of photographs he has, but only succeeded in having him bring even more upstairs to hang and stand in his office so I shot myself in the foot there.

Jane came over for morning tea and it turned into a light lunch on the back verandah. The weather was perfect, slightly overcast, warm but with a breeze. I am hoping that by the time the weather decides to warm up summer will be over, or close to it. Got another box of children’s clothes away to Vinnies, I rang the back door bell and handed them over but got out of there before they had time to refuse any. I can’t bear seeing people put clothes into those big carpark collection bins where they get sold for rags, so if I hear someone is planning to do that I grab the clothes to deliver to a charity shop myself.

January 28, 2022

I have been very worried about the fact that neither my brother, nor his daughters, have contacted me about why he still isn’t answering the phone at home. So I decided to wake up in the middle of the night (and did so) to ring Anne and see if she had news. (No use ringing Anne before noon her time in the middle of winter). Oh yes, she had news and plenty of it. He was moved from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to Halifax Hospital to recover from the broken vertebrae but they were interested in why he fell down the stairs in the first place, so they did some tests and discovered that he had a problem with a heart valve, so he was moved again, this time to the Leeds Royal Infirmary. (I remember that place well from being treated there for a vestibular migraine attack which put me out of action for three days of a three week holiday. They gave me an injection of codeine to which I am allergic and worsened the situation greatly.) This also explains why I’ve had no luck ringing hospitals, he’d always moved somewhere else so I just got ‘we’ve no such patient’. At Leeds they did a valve replacement, presumably the aortic valve, but he unfortunately caught Covid in the ward and needed to recover from that, however he is coming home in the next few days. None of this was relayed to me by his daughters, despite the promises I had been given. Anne said that a newly-found (a few years ago now) cousin of his has sent two parcels of books to the hospital to which Tanya objected saying that she was ‘interfering’. Books were always a very touchy subject with his wife too, ‘get yer ‘ed out of book Kenneth’ being an oft-heard cry. But the cousin is more the bookish type as he is and as his daughters certainly are not. This ties in with Tanya’s reluctance to give me her details, saying ‘Don’t worry I’ll keep you up to date with what’s happening. I have your email and phone number’. It seems that although I am his sister I am considered, along with the distant cousin, to be an intruder into the tight family group. Perhaps they are thinking inheritance? That seems to be an obsession with some people, but sod them for putting me through all this worry for nought. I haven’t been able to discuss it as John would forget from one conversation to the next, he’s never noticed that Kenneth’s regular calls haven’t been coming in, so I just decided to leave the topic untouched.

January 29, 2022

We were invited to lunch today for Louis’s birthday and Davina used the steel tortilla press that he gave her for Christmas to make fresh tortillas with a range of fillings. It was all delicious and it was especially good for a certain person to be called ‘grandpa John’. He came out all spruced up and ready to go at 8.30 am when I was sitting on the front verandah in my dressing gown reading the papers. Um, you’re about three hours early I told him, so he changed into shorts and read the papers too. I took a box full of good hand-me-down children’s clothes for Millie and Dav gave me two garbage bags of outgrown clothes of Millie’s to go to the op shops. I am Second-hand Rose as always, which is funny really as we never had second-hand stuff when I was a child, cheap stuff yes, but not second-hand.

Tania and I texted each other at just the same time and ended up comparing dreams we’d both had about Bob Elliott, which was somewhat weird. She’s coming on Monday to take a quantity of books to the Lifeline Book Shop and I hope to dig out more tomorrow. I keep getting Mormon texts, or Hare Krishna ones, and as I’m loath to consign books to the recycling I might send them as well and put them on Lifeline’s conscience.

No answer came the loud reply on Kenneth’s phone tonight, so it looks as if he’s still in the hospital. It’s the longest period we haven’t talked since I found him all those years ago, and I don’t like it one bit.






































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