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 actually been spotted on land up a peach tree eating the fruit. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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