Life Notes 10

July 11, 2022

So off to Service NSW to which we’d made two unsuccessful visits last week, both our fault, not theirs. We had to renew John’s Disability Parking Permit and cancel his licence and both were achieved, though it was lucky that I kept the accompanying letter from them as they announced that he would have to be reassessed by a doctor to confirm the state of his disability. I pointed out that the letter states: If you are renewing the permit you need to fill in page 1. The doctor’s pages were 2 and 3 which are definitely required for the initial permit. She went off to consult a higher power but came back saying ‘Well the letter’s wrong but we are going to renew it for you anyway’. So thankfully we don’t need a doctor’s visit and a fourth trip there. Then off to the Chocolate Warehouse to get some gifts for visits we are making today and tomorrow. I am a keen consumer of marzipan but it is always coated in dark chocolate if you get it as confectionery, however I spied a block from Lubeck in Germany coated in milk chocolate so I snaffled that for myself. Years ago I used to go the Dutch Shop over the back of beyond in Fairfield somewhere, they sold Dutch marzipan pigs with no chocolate on at all, bliss. (I just looked up that Dutch shop, it still exists but it’s now called Holland House and one day soon I will make the trip and stock up on the pigs.)

Thank the gods that Wimbledon is over and now I won’t have to look at Kyrgios’s face on the front page every day, in the Sunday paper he was on both covers, back and front. Let’s get back to what’s really important AMA vice-president Dr. Chris Moy saying: ‘Unfortunately we’ve been like frogs boiled slowly and we’re accepting this death rate.’ Every health officer and the government knows that masks in shopping centres, theatres and the like will save lives, but the ‘freedom’ lobby is pretty quiet at the moment and I think they just want to keep them that way. John went into Terry’s party all masked up. I mostly sat outside, but when I went in there he was with no mask in a room full of people ‘No-one else had one on so I thought I was doing the wrong thing and took it off’ he said. We were visiting a man with cancer who has refused visitors for many months in fear of getting Covid yet no-one seemed to worry about the risk to him, let alone to themselves.

I watched a little of the Barilaro Inquiry today before going for afternoon tea at Brigitte’s. I was shocked to learn that not only did Ms. West miss out on the plum New York posting but then she wasn’t put back into her Deputy-Secretary post at Investment NSW, so her public service career ended through no fault of her own. She was told her job offer was being rescinded because the role was going to be “a present for someone”. Most of the questions were reasonable and respectful but one National on the inquiry, MLC Wes Fang, lived up to his name.

July 12, 2022

Watching the film of the Hawkesbury floods reminds me of speaking at a council meeting many years ago against a planned development in Pitt Town on the grounds of possible flooding, but no one wanted to know, least of all the developer who was a councillor. All of that estate went under in March and again this time, but I’m afraid some responsibility must go to the buyers who just don’t want to face the facts of their proximity to the River or to South Creek. Wishing and hoping doesn’t do a great job of holding back water I’m afraid. Some who live by the river are there because the rents are cheap and that’s all they can afford, but the folks in the new homes had choices, weighing up a new home in a possible flood zone against a pre-owned or smaller one in a safer spot. It’s late in the day to try to fix decades of bad decisions, but I suspect it will be taxpayers, not developers, who will foot the bill.

An advertisement for a 34th floor unit on George St in Sydney lists ‘amazing panoramic views’ but from that high up you might as well be looking at an aerial photograph, nothing looks real, not a person can be seen. I play a game each week reading the Domain: 1. Would I swap it for my place (to live in, not sell) and 2. How would I redecorate it. The best ones of course are those where I would happily move but not touch a thing. Many fantastic properties need a top to toe redo for my taste I’m afraid, while a few are just delightful as they are.

I was cheesed off this morning when I discovered that the Barilaro Inquiry wasn’t sitting today, I just happened to jag it yesterday. (Hint: It’s good to include the next planned meeting of the committee on the website as the Federal Government committees do. I couldn’t find a hint on when or if they sit again.) In the afternoon we visited with Bronwyn and Michael, after our many attempts to have a picnic were washed out we settled for a delicious lunch at their place instead and their back verandah proved a superior spot in the sun and out of any wind. Bronwyn, like me, tears out recipes from the weekend papers and both main and dessert proved well worth it. They will come here over the next few weeks and bring their new whippet with the unlikely name of John.

July 13, 2022

Oh I see now, maybe it’s because today’s the 13th that two things went belly up. First the car battery was flat (my bad for not running it often enough) then when I tried to get the NRMA app working to call them it wouldn’t cooperate. So I tried to ring them, nope she’s a no-go as well, it’s now a phone that doesn’t make or take phone calls. So later I went to Apple who said it was an Optus problem, then to the Optus shop who said it was a phone problem and back to Apple who said I needed to come back for an appointment in the afternoon. Grr, my day is shite now I decided and we won’t be taking a little run somewhere as planned. Back at 3pm and someone at the Genius Bar decided that the phone had in fact gone to god so then I had to buy a new one and wait interminably it seemed for the data to be transferred from old one to new one. They are certainly on top of their products there and I am thankful for that and the ability to save all of the data, but it would have made the day a breeze if someone had said in the first place ‘it’s cactus, buy a new one’ and let me out of there in 10 minutes, still with eyes watering at the price of a new phone though. Now I am too mentally exhaustipated to cook what I was going to do for dinner so I’ll will do something easy instead and save the culinary arts for another night.

That Barilaro is a ton of fun who keeps my small mind amused. His qualifications were previously listed as a Certificate IV for Construction and Building Services that the former Deputy Premier used to claim himself as a tradie apparently. But now he’s sporting three new Graduate Diplomas ($3500 each from Churchill Education) and an Advanced Diploma ($2000, also from Churchill Education). Barilaro bolstered his CV ahead of his sadly cancelled trip to New York it seems. Churchill Education offers certifications such as the Diplomas of Management (Learning), Strategic Leadership and Portfolio Management that he received based on ‘recognition for past learning’ and they are intended for those wishing to transition careers. Ouch, $9000 for a few now useless qualifications, but I guess he can afford it. I’m going to give this mob a ring and see if I can get a Diploma or two or maybe even a Master’s, once I decide which subjects I have ‘past learning’ in. Proofreading sounds a bit lame but I guess forensic science might be tricky to arrange, however if I added a couple of grand to the fee……

July 14, 2022

When are we going to find something better than LGBTQIA+ &%@!*^#. I mean even LGBT was maladroit, but to keep adding on the end is just plain silly. It will take a cleverer person than me to come up with a word that everyone is happy with, but please people, start the process.

I’ve been thinking about China, it seems everyone is at least thinking, if not obsessed. It is the one topic on which I part company with new PM Albanese. He is so afraid of being painted ‘weak on China’ that he falls into the trap of the public humiliation and criticism of that country instead of saying the same things, but through diplomatic channels. I think about other regimes which we were unhappy with and publicly vilified: Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, Haiti, Chile, Nicaragua, just to name a tiny few and I wonder which one is better off now than before the interference? Syria, Iraq and Libya were laid waste by the decision to disrupt the existing regimes but in the case of Taiwan we are not looking just at that country’s future, but of the future of the world if China and the US were to go to war. Instead of lining up as supporters our government should be telling both sides to put on the brakes. Ukrainians are suffering and their country has become, essentially, a US proxy (as US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has acknowledged) in a war that helps achieve America’s long term goal of weakening Russia. Taiwan is an excuse for a war with China and they should be very careful what they wish for when asking other countries to come to their defence. Both China and Russia are attempting to reclaim territory that they claim (rightly or wrongly) to be part of their remit, a somewhat different case to an invasion of an unrelated country but a potential tragedy nonetheless. Russian invasions have occurred in the past but beside Tibet I can’t think of a country that China has invaded. ‘We’ however have serious form in this department. Just as we look back at the disasters of Chile, of the countless souls trying to flee Libya now and the wreckage of both Syria and Iraq, we may very well look back at the wreckage of the planet and ask whether it was really worth it.

July 15, 2022

Today was John’s carer outing day because his usual man Greg couldn’t come on Wednesday due to looking after his wife after a fall. So we had a replacement, another John, but it didn’t go well. I packed them a picnic but the new chap had no idea where to go to have it it, unlike Greg who comes up with a different excellent suggestion every week. So I suggested Fagan Park and off they went while I left to meet up with my friend Di. But about noon John rang to say he was at home alone, he’d asked the carer to bring him home without even opening the food as he said they were ‘not a good fit and too culturally different’. Apparently John couldn’t find any topic to discuss with him and he says the fellow didn’t attempt to communicate. Really the carer should have stayed here till 2 pm as planned, by which time I would have been home, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt as it could be, in fact it’s likely, that John told him to go. My outing was truncated as I came home as soon as he rang. So here’s hoping Greg is only off for one week. I was idly thinking of going to North Shore Craft Group’s exhibition cum sale tomorrow at Thornleigh so now that our meet up today was shortened we’ve decided to go there tomorrow and take John.

It’s funny how recipes are fixed yet every time you cook with one the result is different. I did an old recipe for corn fritters last night which I had marked in the book as ‘brilliant’ but the result seemed stodgy and pretty boring. Now I’ve got a box full of them in the fridge but luckily John thought they were okay. The bakery at Dural is now gutted and I asked workmen the other day what was happening as they had ripped out all the showcases, racks, preparation tables and ovens. It’s going to be a deli, which is good, but seeing the premises all awry made me sad, a dream gone up in smoke. The men said that ‘they’ve gone back to the homeland, Vietnam’ but whether that’s fact or a guess I don’t know. I’ve been able to find excellent fruit loaf at Aldi and good whole grain bread at Coles, but I still can’t find a white loaf that I’d want to buy on a regular basis. Whole grain is fine for savoury things, but for jam it just has to be white. The search continues.

July 16, 2022

A few changes today after Di was unwell and couldn’t come to the craft exhibition, then Dav couldn’t come for lunch as planned because Louis has been up half the night trying to fix some mutinous website. But they are now coming for dinner so all is not lost. We just loved the exhibition especially a watercolour artist who had me drooling over a fish she’s painted, a textile artist whose scarves were divine (can a woman who sports over 100 scarves justify another, no matter how fabulous? answer no), a delicious pottery jug influenced by Japanese patchwork and a host of other things I could happily have bought. I weakened for an outrageous large beaded fabric brooch which I will give as a gift. When I sent the photo to Davina she beseeched me not to give it to her, we have very different taste in jewellery and clothes. So now I am waiting for 4 pm when they draw the prize for $200 worth of the goods for sale, but I am agonising over what to choose. The jug is right up there, plus the orange scarf I think.

Some friends opined that Tony Abbott might be looking for a comeback, so reasonable was he in a TV interview this week. It hadn’t occurred to me that he could be so bold, but a man brought up to believe he is god’s gift to whatever role he takes on might just consider it. I wonder how much it costs to hire a plane to write ‘Tony Abbott is an inveterate liar’ over whatever electorate he might decide to accurse with his attempt? Let’s remember that he supports ‘religious freedom’  organisations such as the Alliance Defending Freedom who describe their mission as “seeking to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries”. My spellchecker doesn’t even recognise Christendomic, that’s how far out of sync these souls are. Abbott is obsessed with “the challenge to Western civilisation of Islam” and sees same-sex marriage as “a consequence of our civilisational self-doubt”. (Spellcheck doesn’t like civilisational either, it must be just his schtick to use big words). He supports the Ramsay Foundation’s sponsored university course covering “the best that has been thought and known in Western Civilisation”. A one-trick pony you’re thinking? You would be about right. How easy is it to wage war, or even think of waging war, against people if we fail to see them as our equals? To think of wiping Iraq or Syria or even China off the map, as some hawks seem to be pushing towards, is made easier if we come to believe that their millenniums long culture just doesn’t stack up next to our own. The idea of Western supremacism is downright embarrassing and Tony Abbott is its archduke.

July 17, 2022

This morning we chuffed off to Parramatta to look at the various high rise buildings which we see from the back deck. We wandered around and compared them to a sketch made on the deck this morning as it was something I thought John would enjoy. Which he did to an extent, but he was very slow and needed help getting up or down stairs. He just isn’t himself today so perhaps he’s coming down with something, he’s retired to bed for a rest and has slept through my neighbour banging loudly on the nearby door. Amazed at the number of restaurants lining Church St, it’s so long since we’ve been there and things have changed a lot. I looked inside a restaurant calling itself a ‘dessert bar’. I was foolishly thinking it might be something like KOI, but they had great wodges of cheesecake and big chocolate buns that looked as if they could double as bowling balls, but it seems that they were just directed towards filling up the customers rather than tantalising their taste buds. I’ve been thinking about John’s inability to relate to the carer on Friday and I can understand it to an extent but going on a picnic and then insisting on coming home without feeding the chap even a morsel shows how ill at ease he was. Telling the home care provider not to send him again is going to be a bit tricky so I won’t go there unless they suggest the same person again in the future. I’m not sure that I would send him off with confidence with any new carer which makes it tricky if I have an important commitment. Greg is an absolute gem for John so hopefully we get him back this week and he continues well into the future.

Unfortunately I didn’t win the prize at the craft fair which was a big disappointment, I had my choices sorted and was just waiting for them to call at 4pm. But artistic inspiration is a good thing even if I don’t have anything tangible to show for having been. I got chatting to a woman there about getting rid of lots of collectables she has and almost offered to help till I bit my tongue and realised that I have enough of my own to dispense with. However I gave her my phone number and she may yet ring, so I need to be measured in what I offer to do, perhaps teaching her to use eBay and some advice about good auctioneers might suffice. But I’ve had 3 eBay sales today which buoys my dispersal efforts a tiny bit: a bag of antique shirt studs for $5.50, a souvenir from a cruise in the 1930s for $5 and an Australian Army Driver’s Licence from WWII for $10. Three less things that the universe has gifted me along with the expectation to look after them. Unfortunately the charity shops would bin all of the stuff I’ve just sold as they don’t value paper ephemera or bits and bobs.

July 18, 2022

John woke up sick this morning with a headache and cough but I wasn’t surprised after his weakness walking along the river yesterday, so I whisked him off before breakfast for an 8 am PCR test which will pick up Covid, flu or RSV (RATs are not worth a rat’s arse early in the disease). It was a fast and efficient process, though for some reason they couldn’t get their text to come through to John’s phone but were able to send it to mine with no problem. So now we wait, if he’s Covid positive I’ll race up to Bob and get the anti-virals quick sticks. Luckily I had bought painkillers, gargle, cough lozenges etc ages ago so I wouldn’t need to go shopping if he got sick. In the meantime we are eating on the verandah, wearing masks indoors and distancing. We had tickets to go to the Archibald today but the Art Gallery were very nice about taking a rain-check even at such short notice.

I decided to write to each of the neighbours across the road about the leak in the driveway coming from their hydrant seeing the buggers haven’t done anything about fixing it. Perhaps the body corporate of such a small block doesn’t meet very often. I think after all these months I am entitled to give them a push so I included my phone number and we’ll see what eventuates. The driveway man won’t start till it is 100% fixed so that’s another reason to press them.

It was spew-making to watch Biden fist-bumping the Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman. It shows, as if we ever doubted it, the appalling double standards that the US applies, not that I’m naive enough to think that we wouldn’t do the same. What must Jamal Kashoggi’s fiance be thinking? ‘Oil trumps human rights’ as we always knew. As an aside, observing Biden’s walk and hearing his hesitant speech would lead a lay person to question whether Parkinson’s Disease is a possibility. If that is the case, it’s a dangerous situation as even early sufferers of the disease have a lower cognitive reserve and difficulties with memory, attention and judgment similar to other types of dementia. I am still cogitating about John’s decision to cancel his carer last week before the guy even had a bite of a sandwich, I doubt he would have done that pre dementia but he didn’t feel even slightly uncomfortable about doing so.

July 19, 2022

John got a fast reply to his Covid test: POSITIVE delivered at 3.25 pm yesterday. Then there was a text to Bob and he faxed a script for Paxlovid to our pharmacy which I collected post haste and he was dosed up before 5 pm. He spent 24 hours in bed quite sick but when I got up this morning he was in the kitchen eating a mandarin, he had beaten me by 5 minutes and asked “Did you say I’ve got Covid, I think I’ve just got a cold” so that was quite a turnaround from last night. He ate breakfast after nothing but milk yesterday and was quite chirpy, but by 9.30 am he was back in bed and I am back in my nurse’s uniform. It’s a funny old disease. So John’s outing with the carer is off this week of course and the day care centre is out for 2 weeks, according to the different rules for each. I really appreciated Bob’s support yesterday, 3 texts and 3 phone calls is above and beyond customary ministrations, especially when one call is from the Opera House where he is singing in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 every night this week. He’s nothing if not versatile, not to mention being a qualified electrician on top of medicine and the Philharmonia Choir. Makes me look even more like a slacker.

Feeling very ordinary by lunchtime so I took myself off to the Covid testing centre as I’m sure a close contact is allowed to go out for that reason. It’s a very efficient process and I’m glad I went when I did as I wouldn’t have been well enough to be safe to drive later in the day.

July 20 and 21, 2022

I would not want to repeat yesterday as I was very sick before and after discovering at 2 am that I have Covid too. I’ve also discovered that it isn’t workable to lie down in my room for half the day as John needs constant watching. I don’t think he’s got worse due to Covid, I just think I hadn’t fully realised how bad he is now. Yesterday has shown me how confused he really is. I’m normally watching everything he does but yesterday he tried twice to go for a walk (‘what do you mean isolation?’Smilie: ;), then I found out he’d gone out to chat to men I’d organised to pick up a piece of furniture for the Sallies from under the deck (this after I told him numerous times not to answer the door or go outside if they came while I was lying down) and now I discover he didn’t take the antivirals this morning despite my reminding him. Why ? He says he doesn’t have Covid any more. Also I’d had some flowers delivered, apparently tied in a beautiful scarf. I found the flowers in a vase with the ribbon and scarf on the floor. He said he doesn’t know where they came from. The sound of head banging against wall should have ricocheted down the street. So then I realised that I would have to get up and watch him from the loungeroom sofa. Bob organised Paxlovid for me and Heather collected it, after having to ring Bob’s office four times as the fax hadn’t come through to the pharmacy. It has certainly improved the way I feel but the downside is a constant terrible bitter taste in my mouth which is a side effect of the drugs apparently that only occurs in 6% of people, but my natural distaste for anything bitter probably makes it worse.

Just got a call from Wendy’s Home Care to say that John’s account with them is nearly dry. It’s topped up every month from the government but he’s using funds more quickly than they’re coming in, so I can no longer get the cleaning or gardening help I’ve been getting and they are going to cut his weekly outing with the carer from 4 hours to 2 or even 1 and a half hours. This is hopeless as Greg always takes him for a drive which is the highlight of his week. I just don’t know how I will manage for the many months that it will take to get an appointment for a  higher package and then the many weeks it will take to institute the change if it’s approved, but perhaps it just feels worse because I’m not well. Wendy’s put in for an upgrade before and were told by the department that they couldn’t apply till his money was down near zero, which it now is. I feel gutted but some lunch might help.

July 22, 2022

Just been watching the January 6 Capitol Riots Commission live and it’s amazing how many people are testifying about how hard they tried to get Donald Trump to condemn the riots as they were occurring, which is admirable in itself. But they were all involved in his election campaign or in his administration or both, when it was clear to anyone what sort of a man and what sort of a president he was. They were the propagandists and apologists for him from day one. Sorry, too little too late, trying to dodge any blame.

I didn’t need anything else this week but here we are. After writing to all the neighbours in the units across the road on Monday about the water leak, their plumber arrived on Wednesday asking what the problem was. He assured me (from a distance) that he would find the leak and fix it. I didn’t check his truck to identify him as I assumed that he would come back and tell me when the job was complete. Now of course the driveway man has just emailed to say he wants to start this coming week. I’ve had a look at the leak and it doesn’t seem any different to me, it’s a bog. But how long the water would take to dry up in this situation of sprinkling rain is way above my pay grade, however other parts of the garden are much dryer. I just wish he had come back to tell me if he’d successfully traced it or not as now I can’t go across the road to ask the residents who he was. I can’t see the driveway going ahead as the situation is at the moment. Perfect bloody timing, not.

I don’t know if you would call it brain fog, though I doubt it, but I can’t settle to read, watch TV, listen to music or do anything much. It’s taken so much mental energy to type this that it’s ridiculous.

July 23, 2022

Back on election day I saw Morrison during a press conference smirk like a cat who’d seen a fat bird fall out of the sky right in front of him. He had been asked a very specific and knowing question by a reporter about a Sri Lankan asylum seeker boat at that moment being dealt with by Border Force. I turned to John and said ‘That question was set up by him’ and so it’s proved today after an inquiry showed that the information was released to his favoured news outlets as a last ditch attempt to sway the election result. The depth of cynicism shown by this man (and his benefactor, the too long-lived Murdoch) is Trumpian in its sweep. There isn’t an institution, individual or group whose interests he won’t surrender for his personal gain. On that day I could have backhanded him happily and knowing what we know now, it would almost be worth the short gaol time that might ensue.

This morning by chance we had two tradesmen arriving at exactly the same time. As John likes to be in charge of alarms I asked him to set one and then quietly checked that it had been done. But when I woke this morning it was well past the alarm time so I asked John if he’d slept through it. ‘No’, he said, ‘I couldn’t remember why I set it so I just turned it off’. It was raining so I texted the roof repairer to let him know, in case he lived out of area, which he did. ‘You’ve broken my heart’ he said ‘I’m all dressed and ready to walk out the door’. Turns out he lives in Regents Park and it was sunny there. He will try again tomorrow. Then the driveway man came and looked dolefully at the driveway leak. But luckily I had been able to locate the plumber who came the other day and he told me he’ll be back on Tuesday with two pieces of equipment to locate the leak, but if it’s under the road he’ll need to get permission from the council to dig it up, thereby adding weeks to the process. Even worse, Grant told me that the tipping fees for all the soil he has to remove to do the driveway have increased from $125 to $364 per load. Oh I can manage $239 I mused, but no, it is at least 12 loads! Adding about $3500 to the job on his estimate. Apparently they don’t like wet soil and some places aren’t taking it at all. Sometimes I wonder if this project is jinxed.

Yesterday was my worst day of this whole Covid journey. But not with Covid symptoms, I think it is a reaction to the drugs, kind of odd to think that poor old Biden and I are having something in common at the moment (I noted this week that his walk looks very Parkinson’s to me, that sort of classic hesitation of step). Bob had told me Paxlovid can come with side effects and I purposely didn’t ask any more so as not to encourage suggestibility, but I’ll bet my nausea and general unwellness is coming out of a packet, though I’m hugely thankful for all the good effects it’s having. Anyway only one more day of the stuff.

The bigger problem yesterday was a feeling of absolute grief to realise that I have lost my best friend who is here and yet not. I can’t discuss anything of a serious nature with him, in fact when I was rearranging an appointment due next week with the surgeon he was quite worried ‘You’re not having surgery are you, what’s wrong?’ I explained that I’d had surgery last year and this was just another check-up but he had no memory of it. ‘I hope it was nothing serious’ he said, but I couldn’t see the point of upsetting him with any details as it would just add to his insecurity about not being looked after. This is the crux of it, I can’t discuss things in depth, or much at all really, and it just happens that my brother has become hard to communicate with this year as well after his fall and subsequent long hospitalisation, so I’ve lost two stalwarts at once. The bro never rings me much now and when I ring him he’s a bit vague and our conversations are pretty shallow, no more debating politics, international affairs or his fascinating career/s.

July 24, 2022

It was a funny morning as the gutter cleaning man came but was absolutely determined not to get Covid, which is perfectly fine, but ringing me from the roof warning me not to open the doors for infection reasons seemed a bit OTT. He certainly wouldn’t accept payment and rang to ask me to fix him up using bank transfer. Arvind, who can see my roof from his decks, thought he had done such a great job that he’s booked him a fortnight hence. Unfortunately though he couldn’t fix the broken tiles as they go under the roof cap and also need to be cut. He is as perplexed as I am regarding how the damage happened, saying it was almost as if something small but heavy had dropped from the sky, exactly what I had jokingly said. Anyway he’s recommended a tiler so it’s an ongoing issue. I was intending to do some weeding in the front garden today but after his reaction I think I had better stay in the house and not pollute the suburb.

Yesterday Heather turned up with a gorgeous brown sugar pavlova, strawberries, blueberries and a passionfruit which we had for dessert last night and which raised my spirits no end. Sugar addiction, moi? John had spent most of the day in bed yesterday so I used the time to laze around reading the Saturday papers and then to do some cooking. Luckily I don’t have the level of fatigue that he is experiencing.

I’ve just downloaded the full Pezzullo Report from the Home Affairs Department website to read later. I know from going to court sittings that the things journalists pick out to write on are often the most important parts, but it’s certainly not always the case. I prefer to read from the primary source if it’s possible rather than see it through the prism of the reporter. Same with ICAC, the transcripts are much better reading than even a long form journalistic article. All of us tend to incorporate some bias or other into a retelling, despite our best intentions.

July 25, 2022

A fascinating article in the Sun-Herald yesterday relates the story of a neuroscientist who, researching psychopathy and Alzheimer’s at the same time, came across an MRI of someone who was clearly a psychopath. The scans were anonymised but he sought the name of the individual because ‘I knew this was a bad case’ only to discover that it was his own, presumably inserted as a control. He was later diagnosed as a high-functioning psychopath and discovered that he is descended from ‘three lines of murderers’ as well as being a distant cousin to the famous Lizzie Borden. This is right up my alley in terms of interests and I plan to get his book, The Psychopath Inside, though unfortunately the library doesn’t have it so far. But it raises all sorts of questions about the justice system and how we deal with people who commit crime due to genetic or other abnormalities. While studying genetics we had to analyse the chromosomes of unidentified male prisoners from Long Bay Gaol. My goodness what a pool of genetic oddness we discovered, lots of trisomy of 47,XXY, 47,XYY and a few outlying abnormalities that I can’t now remember. There is evidence that aggressive crime, sexual abuse, burglary and arson are all committed at a higher rate by those with chromosomal aberrations. So rather than the devil made me do it, a theory which would appeal to our erstwhile PM, it is a case of my abnormal brain made me do it. Clearly these people are victims and as such deserve our care, though we can’t obviously have them running around with axes, a la Borden. So what to do? Perhaps we need some kind of mental institution where affected serious criminals are housed but in a humane, caring and dare I say loving environment? It’s a hard one and I doubt that there is much electoral desire to spend the money to achieve it.

Next week I am due to take John to see his haematologist Nada. Apparently she has had Covid twice, the second time falling victim to autonomic nerve dysfunction, which is usually caused by diabetes or is an autoimmune condition, but in this case was caused by Covid. It affects all the nerves for the ‘automatic’ processes of the body such as blood pressure, temperature control, digestion, etc. She was in hospital for two weeks and still has respiratory, cardiac and other symptoms. She’s in her 40s at my guess with small children so we should think ourselves lucky with our Covid experience so far. Whether she will be seeing John next week remains to be seen.

I said yesterday that after the gutter man’s reaction I decided not to weed in the front garden but a particular patch was annoying me so I did it anyway. However I completely forgot that I can no longer get up from kneeling and John was inside having a shower, so I had to crawl through the dirt to reach a tree and pull myself up, a very bad sight if observed by the neighbours. I’ll have a reputation as a lush if I’m not careful. I need to speak to Mr. Bunning about a gadget which will enable me to push myself up without wallowing in the dirt.

July 26, 2022

Well it’s time to face head-on a problem that has occupied many of my night times this year, that of my brother. After a fall around Christmas time he was hospitalised and while there they investigated why he was having repeated dizzy spells. They discovered a heart issue and treated that by inserting a stent, but then he got Covid there. His stay stretched out to a month and when he got home he was understandably in need of short term assistance so his daughter started staying overnight initially ‘for about a week’. But as time went on he didn’t improve and he has gone consistently downhill since then. Seven months later his daughter still needs to stay overnight, he is unable to hold a conversation for long, has totally stopped reading and using his computer, and for the last few weeks he has stopped ringing me at all. This past week he hasn’t answered the phone once so I finally decided to ring his friend Anne to find out what the hell is going on. Her first words were ‘I’ve been planning to write you a long letter, but I just didn’t know where to start or what to say’. She agreed that he is suffering from some sort of fast moving dementia but has no idea exactly what it is. Theories have been put forward by doctors that it is caused by: the fall, the stent procedure, Covid, mini strokes and more but no definite answers have been arrived at so far. She says he hasn’t rung me because he would have trouble making an overseas call by himself and has gone from constant contact with her to calling her once in a few weeks. When she visits she sees he is unable to work out how to use the TV remote or turn off the gas fire and when the phone rings he may pick it up, but at other times does not seem to understand where the noise is coming from. It is absolutely typical that none of this has been conveyed to me by his daughter who, when I have spoken to her on the phone at his house, always promises to keep me fully informed but never rings. Anne’s in much the same boat and commented in her always careful and precise phrasing that ‘there exists in that family a certain amount of possessiveness’ and don’t I know all about that in another context! Usually he and I talk books, politics, ideas of all sorts, but when we’ve spoken recently it is limited to weather and what Tanya is getting him for breakfast, though I’ve noticed that he’s much more talkative when he’s there alone, the possessiveness being subtly applied perhaps? This towering intellect has finally come to rest in the suburban environment that he’s railed against his whole life. Kenneth has filing cabinets full of his writings which he planned to begin packing up and sending to me late last year saying “I could never get my daughters to even look at my writing all these years, so I know it will all end up in the recycling when I go. Would you like to have it all?’ I was of course delighted by this and offered to pay for the parcel postage though he assured me he would cover that, but his accident ensued and the rest is history. Poor Anne who lives alone in a small village of disparate souls, sadly told me that ‘I’ve got no one to talk books to any more’ and I genuinely sympathised, though I wanted to scream and reply: ‘But I haven’t got a brother any more’.

July 27, 2022

It’s been a day of ups and downs, the first up being that I am now Covid negative as was John yesterday, so I suggested that we make use of our one month of resistance and go to the movies. Nothing on at Castle Hill so decided on Roseville. I wanted to give my car a run but when it came to leave my keyring with house and car keys was missing from the back door. John had locked it but has no idea where they went after that, so we turned over every piece of clothing, opened every drawer, but at time of writing they are still missing which made me nervous all day.

On Tuesday we are going for an appointment with Nada, prior to which John has to have a few blood tests. I rang and told them that we had Covid and that I was not prepared to drive to St. V’s just for the tests, which this time would have to be done elsewhere even though Nada doesn’t like using other companies. I couldn’t believe it when they reeled off various places that we could go for the tests which are part of Sydpath, St. V’s own pathology service. Most are in inner Sydney but just one is in the west, at Carlingford. I don’t know how many times over the last 5 or 6 years that I’ve schlepped John into town for blood tests and only now they tell me it was all for nought and could have been done locally.

Then on to the movies where we saw Falling for Figaro, a predictable and often monotonous film with wonderful operatic singing, which was lucky because without it I’d have given it 0 stars instead of the 2 that it earned. But it was dark and there was a big screen so we are not complaining, the first movie we’ve been to in well over 2 years. Salt, Pepper, Nutmeg was unusually closed so we ended up only having a milkshake for the day and we did grocery shopping on the way home. I was wondering what to make for dinner when I discovered a text from Heather saying she had left dinner on the front verandah. It turned out to be a casserole, mashed potato and two greens, all cooked. Couldn’t have come on a better day as I am feeling pretty exhausted tonight, which will no doubt improve if the keys materialise.

July 28, 2022

Disappointed to read that Stan Grant is now the permanent host of Q and A, I headed to their Facebook page to leave a few comments about why he is an unsuitable choice. But imagine my surprise when after commenting I checked what others have been saying and discovered that at least the next 30 comments after mine expressed the same sentiments for the exact same reasons. I didn’t keep going, trying to find a congratulatory post, but I am always amazed when I’m in the majority, in this case the vast majority, as it’s never been my usual position on the field. Grant is a poor interviewer, always trying to rephrase the questions in his own words and keeping himself as the focus instead of the guests. He will always use 10 words if two would do and doesn’t respect the intent of an inclusive interview program, always trying to steer the discussion towards the Gospel according to Stan. The fact that he threw out a questioner recently should have been enough to ensure that he didn’t get the job. Plus he’s a hawk, as are so many these days.

A couple of months ago John complained that his old electric razor took forever to recharge but unfortunately it couldn’t be repaired so I bought him a new one which he loved. But one of the blades popped out accidentally and I wasn’t mechanical enough to replace it. Today was the first time we’ve been able to go to the shops to deal with that so I went to get the shaver, but it was missing. All drawers and cupboards in the bathroom were searched to no avail and then John said that I’d taken it to be fixed. After a search of his bedroom I turned it up in a cupboard but with no charger, however ultimately the charger turned up in a different place. So off we went to the Shaver Shop where the man fixed it quickly (I’m the world’s most unmechanical person). I proudly set it up for him in the bathroom when we got home but he didn’t look happy, he said he’s decided that he wants to use a safety razor from now on and promptly put the new electric one away in a drawer. I spend a good part of my week looking for ‘the disappeared’. We are both feeling overwhelmed at the moment and for the first time today he said ‘If I’m getting too difficult just put me in a home’.

The plumbers have been over the road all day trying to find the water leak. About 3 o’clock Paul came to the door and said ‘I’ve got good news and bad news’ so I asked for the bad and it was that they’ve found no leak and suspect it is not coming from the fire hydrant at all but from a ‘blocked storm water pipe somewhere’ though they have no idea where that could be. ‘So what’s the good news?’ I said, ‘well we’re still trying to find the leak’. Hardly my idea of good news. I’ve told the paver that he can’t start work tomorrow as he wished and we are now waiting for a breakthrough, as he needs to wait until it’s dry.

July 29, 2022

Woke up feeling wretched and was not surprised to hear John say ‘I think I’ve caught a cold’, even though we’ve really had no opportunity to catch one. I said we needed to do a PCR post haste but he didn’t think it necessary, so I had to simply insist. Got to the testing centre just after it opened and there were plenty of others with the same intention, however as always the line moved quickly and efficiently. Those folks in the testing team work outdoors with just a tent like covering over them in all weathers, I hope they are well paid. Came home and skimmed the book Mother Tongue for a few particular favourite passages which I had luckily marked previously. I was determined to make my comments dispassionately at the Zoom meeting but a combination of feeling unwell and thinking about the similarities with the character Alex/Hector finding his sister and my finding my brother made my good intentions falter. Just minutes before the meeting started we each got our Covid results, positive as expected. I asked the pharmacist if we needed another script for Paxlovid but she said she hadn’t come across anyone else getting it twice, so then I rang the Healthline number that was sent with the positive result text, however the lady hadn’t heard of Covid rebound, ‘except that I saw something about it in the paper’. However it didn’t appear in her notes so she wasn’t much help. I reluctantly texted Bob on his day off and he called me to say that Anthony Fauci has Covid rebound now and he’s taking a second round of Paxlovid, however in Australia the rules don’t allow a repeat or second prescription, presumably for reasons of scarcity or cost. So it’s a case of treat the symptoms and hope for the best. John is a bit better than the first time while I am considerably worse. I thought we’d got out of this a mite too easily and so it appears. Went to bed after book group and stayed till morning after telling John what to heat up for his dinner and crossing my fingers (blessed be the microwave when the cook be abed).

July 30, 2022

It seems John coped okay on his own last night and he seems better this morning, I wish I could say the same. His haematologist Nada has been ill with a second bout of Covid which triggered a rare disease, autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy, that she didn’t have previously. It affects the autonomous nerves controlling heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and digestion. Yesterday I’d tried three times to ring her office to cancel an appointment that John had with her on Tuesday, but no one answered so I left it to try again Monday. But today John got a voice message to say that Nada is off sick till the end of September and making a new appointment with another doctor for August 11. After a two week stint as an inpatient at St. Vs her problems are clearly nowhere near resolved. She was adamant to John that he must ring her immediately if he caught Covid because of the dire possibilities but in a turn up for the books she has ended up to be the one with the serious health problems while he is okay so far. It really is an unpredictable (and fascinating) disease. One good thing has been a call from the Aged Care Assessment Team to say that John has been placed on an urgent footing for extra assistance, so instead of a wait of months they expect he will be assessed in about two weeks. This is due to pressure from Kristy our case manager at Wendy’s Home Care and it takes a huge weight off my shoulders as I just can’t see myself managing if his current rate of decline continues. I’m hoping he will go from a Level 1 package to a Level 3, but that remains to be seen. I know that he will gather all of his wits to try to impress the lady when she comes, falling back again after she’s gone but I just need to explain that to her, I don’t think it’s a rare phenomenon. I will tell her about how much time I spend looking for things he’s lost, I still haven’t found the house and car keys and perhaps never will.

July 31, 2022

John is thankfully well again while I have gone in the opposite direction. I now add to the symptoms a blocked parotid gland so I look like I’ve got the mumps but just on one side. Eating is impossible as putting the tiniest morsel of food in my mouth causes excruciating pain, so it’s been water only all day and I hope it subsides overnight. This used to happen occasionally as part of Sjogren’s but it has been controlled by the drug I take for it. Bob rang on his way home from the Opera House rehearsal and said that the virus has played havoc with my immune system and restarted a number of autoimmune problems which should settle over time. Davina asked me to use my oximeter to get oxygen saturation and we were both a bit shocked that it was 92, the cut-off point recommended by the Health Department website for calling an ambulance. I really think I am safer here though, especially after Sue’s doctor daughter in a major Covid treating hospital was told to put people over 70 in a room with some morphine to ease their symptoms and use the ICU to attend to younger patients! My aim tomorrow is to get out of pyjamas for the first time since Friday and then to pack a parcel that needs to be sent to Victoria for an eBay client. If I do both of those I will be a happy chappy.

I have had to write the last days retrospectively but that didn’t matter as I discovered that the blog had been hacked again. It is beyond frustrating but this time I wasn’t in a position to be using it anyway. I contacted Mark who said that it was “an attempt to hack your site (a robot sends stacks of password attempts – millions of them) until you run out of bandwidth or it gets the password right and gets in”. There was nothing he or I could do until the moderator decided to restore my bandwidth. I suspect that it only occurred today because it’s the first of the month and perhaps that’s when they do it routinely? When I asked Mark how to avoid it happening his reply was: “It’s unfortunately a fight you cannot win. You are striving to keep things secure against the inexhaustible numbers of people who want to try to rip off a rich Westerner and until you solve global inequity you’ll be staving off attacks from people in poorer countries….and there are lots of them.” The political becomes personal.

August 1, 2022

Pleased to manage a piece of raisin toast for breakfast and didn’t that taste good! But unfortunately that was enough to start up the pain again so now I’m back on the water. At least I’m losing a bit of weight I guess. I’ve spent the morning cancelling and rebooking medical appointments for myself and for John, cancelling his day care, and putting pressure on the tiler to come and fix the bloody roof. Just can’t deal with the water leak today, there’s a limit. But I succeeded in getting out of pyjamas today so that’s a win.

Last night I finished a book I randomly chose by the cover, Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller, and it was such luck. She had me with the opening lines: ’The morning sky lightens, and snow falls on the cottage. It falls on the thatch, concealing the moss and the mouse damage, smoothing out the undulations, filling in the hollows and slips, melting where it touches the bricks of the chimney. It settles on the plants and bare soil in the front garden and forms a perfect mound on top of the rotten gatepost, as though shaped from the inside of a teacup.’ I loved every single word of this book. I was there, with all the smells and sounds and sights in that abject thatched cottage and on the block of land where vegetables are grown to feed the family and to keep the wolf from the door with the profits from those few veggies and eggs sold to the local deli ‘selling posh bread, cheese and olives, fancy coffees and pastries’. Although this was a contemporary story it was like a trip back in time to an almost Mediaeval poverty of rural life on land owned by and adjoining the squire’s house. The main characters, 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius, were constantly making decisions against their own interests, but decisions totally in keeping with their background and lack of education. It’s not often that a book makes me break down and howl but this one certainly did, more than once. Mother Tongue did the same but for very different reasons. Now I want to read everything she’s written.

August 2, 2022

Yea! I can eat again after the problem resolved itself overnight. I had two slices of raisin toast this morning just in case it decided to come back. Rang St. Vinnies to pick up John’s leather perfectly good two seater lounge which hasn’t sold on eBay. They said they would come tomorrow so, even though it looked fine, we cleaned it thoroughly including underneath and sent photos as requested. Only to come back upstairs to find an email to say they had cancelled ‘because the photos show it is soiled’. Soiled my arse, I don’t know why I waste my time with Vinnies, I really don’t, they are sooo picky.

Got a call from Grant the paver who realistically said that we may never track down the source of the leak in the driveway. He has suggested putting in an ag line under the bricks where the water comes up, running into the garden where he will install a pit to take the water so when it overflows it’s in the garden and not on the driveway. I’m so sick of the whole thing that I agreed that it sounds like a plan, more money of course but probably not as much as the neighbours just paid for plumbing that was all for nought. I do feel bad for them but it was Sydney Water, not me, who insisted they do it in the first place. So it looks like the team will be starting on Monday if the bricks arrive by then. Roof tiler is expected next week too so it’s all systems go here.

Just read the new documents on the Barilaro Inquiry website and came to the conclusion that Amy Brown is not to be trusted to give a straight answer. She is back on tomorrow so I hope dear Daniel Mookhey gives her a right Mookheying. She often says ‘I was asked to….’, our Daniel requests ‘who exactly asked you?’ and the response is ‘Oh I’ll have to take that on notice’. Even the simplest question she takes on notice, I doubt if she were asked the date she could give an unequivocal answer. Protecting the bosses shouldn’t be the first priority of a supposedly independent public servant. At least Dom has scrapped the $250 million which was going to rebuild suburban football grounds and that nasty piece of work Peter V’landys is having a huge tantrum over it, which is something to put a smile on my dial. I think he makes Dom look positively upright by comparison but V’landys is a dirty player and Dom might rue the day he crossed him.

August 3, 2022

What a luxurious day watching the Barilaro Inquiry, though I did race outside and prune the rose bush during the lunch break if that accounts for a day’s work? Amy Brown, (perhaps relieved of pressure by Ayres departure?) was happy to answer anything today and only resorted to taking questions on notice on a couple of minor and quite reasonable occasions. Our friend Fang managed to keep his teeth tucked inside his mouth and was relatively passive (again, because Ayres is now gone?). One interesting aside concerned the Agent-General appointment in London, a job given to one Steven Cartwright. Apparently he, like Barilaro, was a late entrant and was a stickler for more, more, more in contract negotiations ‘throwing his toys from the pram’ in his desire for more money and threatening to go to Perrottet and Barilaro if he didn’t get what he wanted. It seems Cartwright was pally with Pork B. and perhaps their appointments were a slam dunk of jobs for the boys. Then we come to the references for PB and surprise, surprise one is from good old Arfur Sinodinos. If you see a bucket of feculence and stir it, you will likely turn up our Arfur, so it was only a matter of time before his name came up. Oh dear, what a venal, sad, naive bunch they are. Of course all parties have a corrupt element but the Libs and Nats have made such an artform out of it that you’d think by now they would cover their tracks somewhat more professionally.

So Nancy Pelosi got her face in the spotlight and bugger the consequences. I’ve always worked on the idea that if you’ve got a cross bee in a bottle, you don’t shake the bottle. But it seems that the US is determined, under any government, to face off with China. You can brace for a war without provoking one Nance. It would be trivialising the issue to say how much I hate watching an 82 year old teetering and struggling not to fall in her high heels, but it indicates a lack of judgment which would only harm herself, unlike the disaster her political lack of judgment may cause.

August 4, 2022

The Daily Mail published an article yesterday with a video taken at the Sydney Boat Show of a stallholder making racist comments to a Korean man who was walking along holding a fishing rod. Obviously the stallholder thought this was some unimportant tyre-kicker, but he made a big mistake there. John Lee is an angler and an ambassador for Whittley Boats in Sydney, he has a website and Facebook page for his business, and shares his fishing adventures and tips. He filmed the encounter and put it on his pages. I felt the need to email him and apologise for their behaviour and since then he has sent a few messages back. The offenders are now claiming they can’t be racist because they have Asian people in their extended family, I think they got that one from Tony Abbott who said he’s not a misogynist because he has daughters. What a shit society this is at times, but the minorities are starting to fight back which they never did in the 1950s. All power to them. We thought in the 60s that this stuff was all behind us when we sang those immortal words: “My brothers are all others, forever hand in hand, Where chimes the bell of freedom there is my native land, My brothers’ fears are my fears yellow, white or brown, My brothers’ tears are my tears the whole wide world around”.

I had an appointment with my surgeon Alan last week which has been rescheduled till next. It is perhaps odd that in between appointments, which are occurring less and less frequently, I rarely consider the word cancer but it does come to mind as the date approaches. Last week I was so sick that I just brushed it off as ‘too sick for cancer this week’ and at other times it is ‘too busy with John’s issues to have cancer right now’. The author Samuel Park made the observation that “Cancer is death by promissory note” and I so wish I had written that line. He says that we use survival statistics not as a piece of scientific information, but as a coping mechanism. By whatever yardstick and for whatever reason I think I am coping very well, on that score at least.

August 5, 2022

Free at last! John’s carer Greg came at 10 am to take him out so I hightailed it to browse for fruit and veg on my own. Then I took myself over to Norwest with a view to buying some of the wonderful fresh fish there, both to drop some off to Heather and for us over the next days. I did a walk around the so-called lake, a pond with a central fountain in fact. It has never seemed like a particularly attractive place to me as it is the ‘lake’ overlooked by Lakeview Private Hospital where I have anaesthetised a few times, so it has negative connotations for me. However I was surprised to find that the opposite shore is a mecca of restaurants. Though I knew there was a restaurant precinct I had no idea there were so many or that they were so popular, today there were numerous groups arriving to dine. Interestingly they seemed to be groups of women or groups of men, not many were couples. However there is a Messina Ice Creamery which made my heart bounce as it is a place we have often frequented in Darlinghurst. Perhaps we will give one of them a try as there were many places with reasonable lunch specials, all of which I managed to ignore today, coming home without having eaten a morsel.

We have a new verb in this house: ‘to Mookhey’, meaning to give something a thorough red hot going over. When John pulled from downstairs a hand-woven Pakistani rug which may have been dusty, I suggested that before it came upstairs it needed a ‘right royal Mookheying’ and he knew exactly what I meant. I am watching more of the inquiry this afternoon but it is extremely annoying because the sound is constantly breaking up and sometimes the picture as well. It is being filmed from a totally different angle this time and perhaps in a different room but it’s pretty poor reception all round today. Though poor old Mr. Fang hasn’t achieved a single point of order so it has had some positives. The highlight of the sessions from my point of view was Kathrina Lo, who has dumped a load on the whole recruitment process. She for me is the most direct and trustworthy of any of the witnesses so far.

I’ve been thinking a lot about John’s best friend Terry whose funeral we will be going to next Wednesday. He was an intellectual in the best sense of the word, a deep thinker. We got on so well and used to laugh about the fact that we both had the text book character profile for Librans. We both loved meeting new people and had an aversion to injustice in all its forms, but on the downside we both spent hours weighing the pros and cons of even the smallest decisions, even if they seem inconsequential. I well remember the agonising that went on over the colour scheme and finishes for their new kitchen and even when I thought the whole thing was done and dusted a call would come in months later from Terry….’now about that colour for the kitchen…’ He could put off difficult decisions for as long as possible, and all decisions were difficult ones for him. At one stage Terry, who was a privately practising Jungian analyst and analytical psychologist, was president of the C.G. Jung Society of Australia and we had the privilege of attending an address he gave to that group at their headquarters in the city. I can honestly say that I didn’t understand a single word he said past ‘Good Evening’. I had refreshed my memory of Jung’s theories prior to the talk, even reading a book of letters between Jung and Freud which is here on a shelf somewhere, but it didn’t help me an iota as I was forced to admit to Terry afterwards. However there wasn’t any sense from him that I had failed, he just replied that he’d had the benefit of five years fulltime study of Jung in Zurich and about 40 years in practice. His talk might as well have been in Latin from my point of view, but giving it in Latin was quite within his range of abilities as languages, particularly Latin, were another well-honed skill. Vale good and decent man.

August 6, 2022

I decided this morning that I really need to winnow my scarf collection which threatens to take over the bedroom cupboards. I suggested to John that some sort of rod under my window on which I could hang the most loved would be useful. Before long he had rigged up such a rod and I began sorting and ironing scarves. Unfortunately there are as many piled on my bed at this point as there are on the new rack so that has only been a partial solution. However it is now up to me to decide which are ‘lesser favourites’ and which can be dispensed with altogether. The trials of the first world woman never cease.

Michelle my friend of yonks has kindly agreed to come back as my cleaner and today was her first day. What a relief to have her back. The first hour and a half were spent at table catching up on news from both sides. I was excited to have a delicious original Art Deco glass powder bowl to give her (she is a collector, with superb taste) but I can never trump Michelle, she arrived with a bag full of chocolates, rocky road, coconut ice and a small cheesecake for me. How lucky I am with friends and how important they have been over recent weeks.

Thinking back over the Barilaro Inquiry I am pleased that my first impressions were accurate (Brown and Bell covering for the minister and Lo having been misled into signing off on the final choice). A department secretary suggesting that a minister release a press statement at 4.30 pm on a Friday to avoid media scrutiny goes way above the role she’s there to do, that’s clearly a political matter, not a public service one. I can’t see her keeping her place in the department after this, but perhaps a sideways transfer and a rap on the knuckles would do.

August 7, 2022

We bid farewell to Michelle at 7.30 last night, all encouragement to finish up and go home were ignored until the place was ship-shape to her exacting standards (she is paid by the visit, not the hours). John saw her washing the plates that hang on the walls! I suggested that the glass table didn’t need a go but she produced one of the pure white nappies she brings with her and a wipe told her that it did in fact need a serious clean, she’s a wonder. So for the first time in forever it seems the whole house is clean at the same time and I’m loving it.

Just been cancelling our visit to the Archibald and two doctor’s appointments yet again, but the lady at the Art Gallery listening to my coughing on the phone said ‘I think you are making a very wise decision’ which I thought was funny. At least they weren’t cross that I was altering it for the third time. I’ve moved everything forward by two weeks and surely by then I will be able to breathe and talk, or breathe and walk, simultaneously. Seems so simple in theory.

Got a rare call from Kenneth’s daughter in Bradford this morning to say that he’s been in hospital for a week and a half. He was unable to judge the distance to put a cup and saucer on the table for example and would drop it a foot away from its target. She worried that he’d had a stroke and called 999. Now he’s in Calderdale Infirmary, he hadn’t had a stroke but it is part of this unnamed creeping dementia and they are talking about sending him home with daytime carers, but she has been staying with him for three months and doesn’t think he is safe to stay overnight on his own. I can see a nursing home on the horizon very soon, but she’s trying to come up with some other solution if possible.

August 8, 2022

The upside of cancelling going to the Archibald today is that I’m free to watch Pork B’s testimony in full, we are now on lunch break. Damn, I feel justified in doing what I feel like doing in current circumstances so my bum is glued to the chair today. I have been taking notes as usual and I ask myself why? Am I expecting the ABC to ring and say ‘Ashleigh Raper has the gastric, can you do the live cross for the 7 pm News?’ No, it’s just habit from going to court, though I usually throw them out once the trial ends, all except those for the William Tyrell inquest which is still live and still fascinating. I was thinking of Ashleigh and the cut of her perfectly made jackets as I watched the inquiry (hint to Sarah Ferguson: ask for the name of her tailor). Barilaro (bad jacket) was less Bolshy than I expected initially, perhaps he’d had his medication. Fang (bad jacket) was his usual combative self. Barrels has refused to name his third referee (after SIN-odinos and Garry Barnes, who was appointed by Barilaro, oh the incestuous relationships never end). Cate Faehrmann, cool as an iceblock as ever, calmly defended his right not to answer and then went on to say ‘but if you choose not to we will summons you and get the answer that way’. Barrels decided to ring the referee during lunch and get his/her permission. I’m betting on a public figure here, probably a political one, and look forward to PB spilling the name shortly.

Yep Barry O’Farrell, not surprised, now in his own sinecure as High Commissioner to India. I remember well being at ICAC when BO’F denied any knowledge of an expensive bottle of wine he’d received and not declared. While I was still in the hearing room he was forced to resign due to the donor of the wine giving journalists Barry’s thankyou letter, thereby ending that little friendship. So two out of three of the referees have form at ICAC and the third is a PB appointment. If Barrels says ‘eckspecially’ one more time….. Now it turns out that the person responsible for choosing the Trade Commissioner, public servant Amy Brown, was asked by Barrels to consider his girlfriend Jennifer Lugsdin for a media role in Brown’s department, a role which she subsequently got (did I mention incestuous relationships).

John has today been installing a shelf under my street library so people can more easily pull out books for perusal. Firstly I found him stirring a tin of stone coloured paint but luckily I pointed out in time that the house and library are grey so a bit more digging turned up the right colour. I said I was happy to help him install the shelf but it had to be in the inquiry lunch hour. However he went ahead and did it somehow on his own and did it beautifully, he said he didn’t remember my offer to help.

August 9, 2022

Terry’s funeral tomorrow will be an epic, full mass at Arncliffe, then to Rookwood, then back to Bardwell Valley for the wake. There will be interstate friends there so it isn’t really possible to miss any of it. After waiting months for the paving contractor to come, he rang this morning to say they are starting tomorrow. Natch. As if that weren’t enough the tiler rang late this arv to say he’s coming at noon tomorrow to fix the roof. I have never met him but he seems happy to do it while we are not here and to let me pay him by bank transfer, so that’s a plus.

John announced today that he found doing the shelf yesterday too stressful so he has  asked if I could only give him simple jobs to do in future: namely: washing up, putting out bins and hanging out washing. I pointed out that I had idly wished for a shelf, not asked him to make one, and was surprised when he offered. But it’s no good letting him do things that cause him grief so point taken.

Brigitte rang but it’s so hard to have a conversation with this breathing issue. Grant the paver said he has a friend who’s a schoolteacher and she hasn’t been able to talk at all since getting Covid, so she’s on Worker’s Compensation with no idea of a timeline to return to her job as the docs think it’s a brain issue. I’ve said it before, weird disease.

August 10, 2022

Terry’s funeral was in a very big church which was packed, only a couple of rows of the 150 or so people were wearing masks and they were all people we knew. There were six priests and a Carmelite monk doing the service. Apparently Terry was a lay Carmelite, whatever that means, and gave talks to their congregation. Because it was a Catholic mass we didn’t really hear much about Terry at all, as is usual with these things, but I gleaned much from talking to various people afterwards. The part at Rookwood where he was buried was bleak and desolate, perhaps the grave had been handed back to the cemetery as all around it was used, mostly decades ago. I couldn’t get over the impoverished soil they had dug up for the grave, a barren clay. It made Gerringong Cemetery look like paradise. Then back to Canterbur-Hurlstone Park RSL for the wake. Normally I wouldn’t have gone, the last wake amongst John’s friends resulted in 10 cases of Covid, but I understand we have a month where it’s unlikely that we’ll catch it again. At one point during the wake I wondered why Terry hadn’t come, such is the nature of death.

When we got home it was dark, so I asked John if he could do a couple of boiled eggs for his dinner as I wasn’t hungry. He was fine with that, but then needed coaching about how to do them. Thinking it was all under control I sat down but then wondered why I heard the microwave going. He had turned it on with nothing in it to time the eggs cooking on the gas.


August 11, 2022

A funny exchange when I went up to get a car key cut at Platinum Locksmiths. It wasn’t the press button locking mechanism, that gave up the ghost long ago, but just the key. I was expecting it to be about $5 so when he said ‘one-ten’ I said ‘that seems cheap, are you sure that’s right?’ but it turned out to mean one hundred and ten! He explained that Toyota keys have a chip in them and they won’t start the car without it. All this to replace just one of the keys which went missing in the house a few weeks ago. He must have felt bad then as he discounted it to $88 and I agued that he should charge me the $110, a funny old conversation that we both laughed about.

Came back to find that the pavers had come across a large terracotta storm water pipe barely under the ground. This had to be smashed up and will be replaced lower down with a poly one, which will need to drain into a pit which they will build. Then they found what looks like an old water pipe going who knows where. They are still trying to work out if it has water in it or is just an old redundant pipe. I’m not even asking how much all this is adding to the cost, but I can see that the finds are genuine so I can’t expect them to foot the extra cost.

I decided that it is about a month since I baked and with Carly arriving tomorrow and the Erko family coming for the day on Saturday I had better get moving. Made a ginger and salted caramel tart, but it decided to boil, leaving burning sugar all over the previously clean oven, creating a house full of smoke for some time and of course setting off the smoke alarm. Now I have an orange and almond cake in the oven so let’s see what can go wrong there.

Well, I didn’t have to wait long for the next disaster. The paving men just got back from Belrose tip where they attempted to dump a truck and a trailer load of soil. The tip man found a tiny piece of fibro in it and refused the lot. Now they have to go out past Penrith tomorrow to a special asbestos tip in a quarry….at huge expense, the details of which I chose not to ask about.

August 12, 2022

After sleeping in till 7.30 am expecting the men to start late today I found the paving contractors hard at work, deciding to go to another tip at Lucas Heights this afternoon instead of the Penrith one. They put in new plumbing all the way down the drive to drain off excess water into the storm water system. I’m sure it’s costing heaps extra but at least they could do the plumbing themselves, not having to call in an outsider should keep it down a little bit.

John went off with his carer and I headed to Dav’s to pick up Carly who flew up yesterday for the weekend. The traffic gods were kind so I got there in record time. I was planning to read the Barilaro Inquiry transcripts tonight but poor old Pork got the heeby-jeebies about testifying today and pulled the plug on mental health grounds, as well he might considering the evidence coming out against him on many fronts. So we wait with some anticipation for the day that he’s strong enough to face continued scrutiny.

I am so breathless that holding a decent conversation is well nigh impossible, but at least I can do other things, such as picking enough sugar snap peas for dinner tonight. Just needed to throw that detail in somewhere.

August 13, 2022

Saddened to hear first thing that Salman Rushdie had been stabbed in the neck but it got worse as the day progressed with news that he’s on a ventilator, may lose an eye and use of his arm. For some reason it reminded me of the fanaticism of the Trumpists, who can’t see truth because of blind adherence to the Trump cult and are calling for the death of FBI personnel.  All religions are cults of some sort, though many are benign, and why bother with a god at all when a Donald will do. Hillsong is in bother again, this time for its accountancy practices (read rorting the system). An ex member told me that the practice is to move the pastors around the world with some fancy expense accounts paying for luxury accommodation, food, alcohol and god knows what else. A pox on them for the money they skim from their members to fete those at the top.

Great to have Carly overnight and Dav and Co. here for the day. Lunch went well and while there was plenty, there was nothing left over apart from some sweets, probably a good sign. Carly downloaded A Wunch of Bankers by Daniel Ziffer after seeing my library copy and was giggling away at the footnotes. Last night I began a crime novel that I gave up on after a few chapters when a madman murdered a young model in gruesome fashion (I can accept that) but when he went on to put her pet cat in the freezer I called time (gratuitous violence against an old cat, I draw the line right there).

We walked down to the park with Millie for an hour but coming back up the hill was hard work. I know we have a month before we need to worry about catching Covid again but I need to get some stamina if we’re going out and about and I can’t go to a restaurant or theatre while I’m coughing so much, so I need to speed up the recovery somehow.

August 14, 2022

Watching Insiders this morning it seems as if everyone is on the war with China juggernaut. I’ve always felt that poor old Chamberlain got bad press for trying to stave off a world war and I guess I am cut from the same cloth. While I might be dragged reluctantly to support a war if China invaded Japan or India or the US, I am less inclined to support one in what I see as basically a long drawn out civil war between China and Taiwan. It has been accepted since 1949 that Taiwan is disputed territory and we should butt out of it, sad as that may be for the Taiwanese it is better than a world war over one of the smallest countries in Asia.

On Friday I changed John’s bed linen then today I went down to do the washing, but he stripped the bed again and added the fresh linen, forgetting that we had already done it two days ago. Multiply that sort of confusion by many times a week and you have my life in a nutshell. My task this afternoon is to keep sorting and ironing my scarves. So far, after the few Dav took yesterday and those going to friends or the Sallies, there are 92 remaining. That’s summer ones, I haven’t started on the winter. I wonder why I do this to myself, but at least there are only two fetishes, scarves and earrings, could be worse.

I am still perplexed about the water in the driveway. It seems relatively dry at the top now, but if you step on the clay where they have skimmed off the soil water oozes up, particularly at the driveway end. There are puddles there that haven’t dried up in the sun of the past few days, it’s a geological mystery that I could do without.

August 15, 2022

Got an invoice for the next payment tranche for the driveway, adding $975 for the extra plumbing on account of the water issue and $375 for the time spent tipping the dug up soil a second time when the first tip wouldn’t take it. Let’s not even mention the extra tipping fees. However they are doing a good job as far as I can see and to be fair the problems have not been of their making, but it seems to be a rule that every renovation or alteration costs way more than expected. I shall park myself on the finished driveway in a bikini for the whole of summer to get my money’s worth.

Kelly, a neighbour from a few streets away, came for morning tea and saw the pile of freshly ironed scarves from the pile I have decided to part with. She happily took two silk ones which made my long stance at the ironing board seem worthwhile. I want them to go to people who love them, not people who buy them because they’re cheap. We talked about the problems with vaping at schools and I lent her John Safran’s enlightening book Puff Piece. Apparently the manufacturers make them in the shapes of coloured pencils and erasers so kids can easily hide them in their pencil cases, a positively wicked idea but absolutely typical of the big tobacco companies behind this craze. She teaches Japanese, French and English so we discussed the different brains which make certain subjects easier or harder. She went to a Japanese speaking school and her daughter goes to a bilingual English/Japanese school. Today her daughter was having a science lecture all in Japanese. Phew.

Talking of wicked, what’s going on with the revelations at The Australian? That bastion of the Liberal Party has put out two stories in as many days involving corruption or shady behaviour by top Libs. First the sneaky doubling and trebling up of portfolios by Scott Morrison, unbeknown to the rest of the government, bar Christian Porter. Now today they are reporting that James Packer paid Peter Costello $300,000 to act as a secret lobbyist for him. These people would sell their grandmothers if there were a quid in it, yet they still get votes. The voters are almost as culpable as the crooks they vote in.

August 16, 2022

And so it goes on…. the skip company picked up just one of the two hired skips on the grass verge and totally uprooted the grass and dirt, including breaking the concrete footpath. I’ve sent photos as asked by the pavers but I am not sure who will take responsibility for the damage. Once again it wasn’t the pavers’ fault, they weren’t even here. How did I get talked into this?

Morrison was once again exposed as a bare faced liar when he told a radio interviewer this morning that he ‘can’t remember being signed in to other portfolios’ than the ones already exposed. How can a person forget going to Government House and being made Treasurer and Home Affairs Minister, among others? The man is a pathological liar a la the Trumpster. But I am not at all surprised by the Governor-General’s involvement. Certain people, unlike Morrison, give their views away on their faces. Leigh Sales was one, David Hurley is another. He was all smiles whenever he was swearing in a Lib, but seemed to be sucking on a lemon when doing the same job with Labor members after the election. This can be very handy as we know the allegiances, but Morrison has the bland face of a classic con artist. A pox on him.

Today we had to see the replacement for John’s doctor Nada Hamad who is very sick with long Covid. That went well and he then had the monthly IgG infusion, during which I drove to Woolloomooloo Wharf to meet up with my cousin Angela who lives nearby. We lunched on the wharf at Manta and loved the swordfish and barra, getting one each and sharing along with a side salad. It was perfect weather and I really appreciated the time out.

August 17, 2022

The skip men collected the second one and managed to crack two more panels on the footpath. Grant the paver is going to repair the path and then try to get reimbursement from the skip company. The saga continues…

I received a letter today from Transport NSW asking me to get a medical to continue driving. I was pleased that I could tick NO to every medical box, now I just need to get it signed and sealed by Bob. I dread the day in the future when I will have to have a road test, not because I can’t drive but because the mere idea of it makes me nervous.

Trying to factor in a haircut but because I’ve rescheduled so many appointments from when we were sick, there never seems to be a day when we are not committed to be somewhere. I have managed to reduce my cull pile of scarves by quite a few this week, some to a visitor on Monday, then a couple to Angela yesterday and another half a dozen today at Colleen’s. I will still get to enjoy them when I see them being worn by others.

Interesting that there are now rumbles about Amy Brown being moved from her job as CEO of Investment NSW. She was professional sounding in a clipped, proper public service way at the beginning but as other evidence came to light she opened up more, pouring a bucket on the Agent-General in London and to a lesser extent Stuart Ayres. So she was telling the truth and nothing but the truth perhaps, but not the whole truth, at least in the beginning. Too influenced by politics to be a good public servant.

August 18, 2022

Watching the Barilaro Inquiry would seem to indicate that Amy Brown may be looking for new employment before too long. Dear Mr. Cartwright, our agent-general in London, should perhaps start to look for someone else who is prepared to pay him $800,000 plus a year. I just can’t see any firm will be jumping to get him considering the aggressive performance he put on to get a higher salary and perks. What a bunch of deadbeats some of these candidates are, yet no-one thought that their behaviour should rule them out of consideration, which leads me to believe that this conduct is considered the norm, or at least acceptable. I’m listening now to Warwick Smith AO who is unduly verbose and loves to pat himself on the back, perhaps people who are attracted to this high life are hubristic in most cases.

Talking about deadbeats, Morrison’s explanation of the reasons behind his secretive behaviour as Prime Minister hasn’t gone down too well, even with right wing commentators. When Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin don’t buy the arguments of a right wing PM I think he’s in bother. But how people couldn’t see his megalomaniac leanings before this is something of a mystery.

August 19, 2022

The pavers came this morning to repair the footpath, broken by the skip truck man who isn’t returning their calls. Hopefully they will start laying bricks next week. No disasters in the last few days so perhaps we had them all at once. I gave them some orange cake this morning and interestingly they both scraped off the thinly sliced orange slices dipped in Cointreau, then John did the same this afternoon. ‘Oh I didn’t know you could eat it’ he said.

We finally went to our third booking at the Art Gallery to see the Archibald. As usual we differed from the judges but such decisions are intensely personal. Loved the Robert Hannaford self-portrait, in fact I think I’ve always voted for an RF portrait if he has one in the finals. Whenever I go to the Portrait Gallery I search for Hannafords and pay my respects, similarly at Parliament House and the High Court. I found the walking quite taxing today and was pretty exhausted by the time we got back to the car. However a sit and a milkshake from the kiosk at Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair soon brought things back to rights. It’s interesting that we always look towards the Bridge and Opera House, whereas her seat faces the opposite way, I’m sure she wanted to catch sight of any sails on the horizon, coming through the Heads.

The Anglican Church’s split is concerning for those who still believe. It’s always sex that they get hot and bothered about, a throwback to the Catholics perhaps, who’ve never got over sex at all. If they split I think it’s a downhill path for the church, not that the idea upsets me, but it’s a shame for those decent people who support it. My sister-in-law in England stopped going to church because they put in a black woman priest….. All of this reminds me of studying English for Scientists in Year 1 at the Institute of Technology. We were asked to choose a topic and write an essay debating both sides using only biblical references. I thought it would be difficult but it was sooo easy. I particularly remember a section of the bible forbidding any body markings and tattoos (don’t ask why that comes to mind). ‘Thou shalt not kill’ versus many parts of the Old Testament saying whom you can in fact kill. It amazes me that people are still debating the fine details of this stuff after 2000 odd years.

August 20, 2022

Thinking more on the Anglican split and the fact that the current Archbishop Kanishka Raffel has very similar view to the splitter, former Archbishop Glenn Davies. It seems to me that the stayers are smart, anchored where they are to hold on to the keys of the real estate. Perhaps it’s just a clever approach to have two Anglican options, but with just one set of views. Should we now expect a third for those Anglicans with moderate views?

Back on Morrison, one possibility that no one has canvassed, even in jest, is that he’s actually batting for another team and his whole career is a front for another government. When I put that proposition to Bronwyn today she ruled it out because she said he simply isn’t smart enough, though he’s certainly devious enough.

One somewhat concerning tendency is my sudden loss of the appropriate word. I won’t say it’s never happened before but it has certainly happened a lot more over the last couple of weeks. We were having a couple of friends over for lunch today so last night I made a short list of what needed to be done and what had to go on the table, but it contained items like __ paste and the dessert was _____ and pomegranate. I couldn’t look up the words because I wasn’t even able to guess the first letter. This morning quince paste and Persian Love Cake came back to mind, but it’s the first time I’ve written a list with dashes in it. Similarly I am having trouble with certain words in conversation, I know there’s a perfect word for what I want to say but just can’t find it. I am not jumping to unpleasant conclusions.

August 21, 2022

It seems there’s never a week anymore where the diary has days clear, surely soon we’ll get to catch up on all the cancelled appointments. Today John decided at noon that he wanted to ‘go to the beach’ but the drive and thoughts of the traffic on a Sunday put me off. Because he no longer drives John doesn’t take time, distance or traffic into account if he wants to do something. So I countered with the idea of a picnic along the river at Mortlake or Cabarita (hey, there’s lots of water and a little strip of sand) which we subsequently did but the traffic to get there was horrendous too, though at least it was not as far as the beach. I was impressed with some of the unit blocks at Breakfast Point, some in weatherboards with delicious decorative wooden rooves over their balconies. I asked some walkers about the absence of any houses and they told me it was once the gasworks until about 25 years ago when the huge site was decontaminated and turned into a massive waterfront housing estate. It is rare for me to comment favourably on any block of units but I found the neighbourhood quite pleasant. Just near where we parked there was a family where the father, aged 60 or so, was smoking a hookah. He was constantly smoking it from when we got there about 1 pm to when we left about 4. I can’t imagine the colour of his lungs but it wasn’t intermittent like cigarettes, the only time he took it out of his mouth was when he spoke.

It’s funny that whenever we go for a walk from home John focusses on just two properties in the street and asks about the house and the people who live there, ignoring every other place in the street. But today even as we walked at Cabarita Park by the water he asked again ‘Have you ever met the people in the fibro house on the corner of Cross and Jenner Streets?’. It’s interesting to me why those particular houses have settled in his mind and why he keeps asking despite my answering the questions countless times already. It’s the same in the yard, almost every day he asks the name of two trees in the backyard, then comments on how fast they are growing and asks what height they will get to. All other trees are ignored. He hasn’t been able to read for a long time now but still browsed the newspapers, however lately I’ve noticed that it’s only a brief look at the front page. He commented after friends left yesterday that ‘I can’t keep up with people’s conversation any more’.

August 22, 2022

Tomorrow we have an appointment with a member of the ACAT team to judge whether John should be on a higher Home Care Package. Unfortunately she wants it to be via phone, not at all my preferred option. I have been trying to explain to John that it’s not a competition in which there’s a prize for him if he can show that he’s very capable. I asked if he could qualify his answers fully rather than giving just a yes or no, the example I gave was ‘yes I organise my own tablets, but I need help to remind me to take them’. But he got upset and said ‘I never lie, I’m not going to lie to this woman to get more help’, quite missing my point about full and complete answers. It won’t surprise me if he maximises his abilities to try to impress her but there’s not much I can do about that except disagree with him at the time, which could be touchy. I wish we could be interviewed separately.

I am currently reading a spy novel Rip Tide by Stella Rimington, who was former Director General of MI5, the first woman ever in that job. Perhaps that’s why the scenarios seem so realistic, she has plenty of experience to draw on. It involves many current issues such as Somalian pirates and young British citizens of Pakistani origin who are involved in terrorism. It is interesting that a British spy in the book deliberately avoids telling the CIA operative about issues in Somalia ‘so the Americans don’t go in guns blazing like they did in Iraq’. Not hard to imagine that this was a view held by MI5?

The paving men have had a few slices of various cakes for morning tea over the last couple of weeks (some out of the freezer before I was well enough to cook) but today they both said that it was the best one yet, so because it was the last two slices I’ve baked another banana cake this arv as well as roasting a whole sliced pumpkin while the oven was on. Dinner tonight is a couple of small whole red fish which I got out of the freezer but couldn’t identify. I texted a picture to Michelle whose husband caught them and she replied that they are pig fish, apparently a fishermen’s delicacy. That’s a new one on me, but the internet says they are often a favourite catch and often kept by the fisherman for himself.

August 23, 2022

Phew!! The ACAT appointment this morning was nothing if not thorough. The lady rang on the dot of 10 am as planned and hung up at 12.05. We don’t know the result, she will send us her report after talking to Bob as well, but I think he should at least be bumped up by one level, if not two. It was awkward in the sense that I didn’t want to complain about the things that drive me nuts, like his constantly losing things and getting obsessed over the same small details, but she did ask if he could cook, answer ‘no’ or help around the house, he answered ‘just the washing up and hanging out clothes’. I was able to explain that he can’t work out how to use the stove, dishwasher or washing machine so hopefully we get some more help.

Still enjoying the spy book Rip Tide by Stella Rimington ex MI5. In one scene where it is being decided whether they or the CIA should handle a particular rescue in Somalia she muses ‘It would be disastrous for the CIA to come charging into the case. Now was not the moment for their bombs away approach’. These asides are peppered through the story and it’s pretty clear that it was the author’s view in real life. I wish I could discuss the book with my bro but its subtleties are way outside his abilities now.

The bricks have arrived and the driveway paving begins. They are meticulous in the spacing and cutting of the bricks, which all looked white when they arrived due to the cement dust on them, but now after rain yesterday their subtle colours are showing. I can never understand red paving or red rooves for that matter. In a hot country red just gives an even greater perception of heat, so I specified no red bricks to be used. Ditto the red pebbles on the courtyard of Parliament House, which is barren, hot and unpleasant in my view. I once gave that opinion to John’s friend Rodney, a Canberra architect, but I think he was offended by my implicit criticism of his friend who designed it.

August 24, 2022

Very sorry to hear of John Farnham’s cancer operation. I was a follower of his concerts in my youth and his soaring voice rang through my speakers many a time. The fact that the cancer was in his mouth freaks me out as I’ve always said I could cope with cancer from the shoulders down but anything to do with the face, mouth or throat gives me the absolute heeby-jeebies. I well remember a shop client who had a tiny ulcer on his tongue which was diagnosed as cancer and he took his surgeon son with him to the appointment regarding his options. The son sat quietly through the discussion but after the surgeon explained that they would take most of his tongue out, his son said ‘I can’t allow my father to have that operation as it isn’t curative and he’ll have a miserable life from then on’. The surgeon reluctantly agreed that this was in fact the case and no surgery was performed, however he was dead when I rang to check on his welfare a few months later. JF’s wife has issued a statement saying there were 26 surgeons operating on him over 12 hours but that is impossible, however 26 people in the operating theatre in that time is entirely possible.

The paving men like their cake at 9 am, their morning teatime. However the caramel tart had too much ginger in it according to Grant and funnily I disliked it for the very same reason. However the banana cake got full marks and they seem happy to get the same one each day. The baking dish full of roasted pumpkin made a delicious pumpkin soup for dinner last night, just the pumpkin, onion, baharat spice mix and coconut milk. I’m glad that gradually cooking has gone from impossible, to a chore, to a pleasure as I recovered from Covid.

John found Terry’s funeral brochure this morning and was saddened all over again as he’d temporarily forgotten that Terry had died, he can’t remember going to his funeral at all. Whether it comes back to him remains to be seen but it must be so terribly confusing to have forgotten one of the biggest things that’s happened in his life this year. I’m thinking that by the end of the 3 to 6 month period that we’ve been quoted for implementation IF indeed he gets a better Home Care Package, we will need to apply all over again as it will probably be inadequate.

August 25, 2022

My six-monthly follow up with the surgeon today at St. V’s and he commented that he was glad that he didn’t go back and operate a second time when a cancer diagnosis was given by pathologists, as it seems that he achieved the purpose with the first op. There was debate about it between him, the specialist in viral cancer that he referred me to for follow-up, my immunologist and me. I got the last call and decided against more surgery, trusting in Alan’s belief that he ‘got it all’. The vote between the specialists was 2:1, so not a unanimous decision, but it seems the right one. I’m a bit surprised that after so long Alan still wants six-monthly visits to both him and the cancer specialist, but I am happy to comply. I grabbed a bit of lunch at bill’s cafe in Darlinghurst while reading Artichoke, a glossy magazine dedicated to interior architecture. It documented the prize-winners in their annual competition for designs of bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. The winning restaurant design was in… drum roll … Parramatta so I must go and have a squiz at that sometime. Most were depressingly brutal, one particular business in Manly, a clothes shop which I will also go to look at, would turn me off ever entering the premises. It was very weird to turn a page and discover the very table I was sitting at portrayed, bill’s having won an award. I hadn’t realised that before starting the cafe with $20,000 as a 22 year old Bill had done an interior design degree. Then I wandered up the road to the car and to my delight found a tiny antique shop that I had gazed into in the past was actually open. The French owner stocks all manner of quirky things and I bought a pair of sunglasses which he said he’d just put out, having bought them in France on a trip from which he only returned two days ago. I resisted the taxidermied turtle, the various dentist’s teeth moulds, the battered lampshades, the monkey’s head film prop and more, but I’m very happy with the pair of vintage Dior sunglasses for $35.

More problems on the driveway today, but they are Grant’s problems not mine thank goodness. Yesterday he put in a drain halfway down the drive and carefully cemented it in, but since he left someone has stepped on one end, pushing it out of alignment and then the concrete has set overnight. Now he has to use a concrete saw to remove it and reset it, apparently a very tricky job to avoid damaging the remaining part which is not askew. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t John so we can only assume a passer-by was sticky-beaking and trod on it. Grant said he’s had a lot of interest from people passing and a request for a quote, which he didn’t take up as he’s booked out for months. But coming half way down the drive and walking on wet cement is a bit much.

John arrived home from day care and asked how I’d gone at the doctor’s. I repeated Alan’s comments and he asked, confused ‘But why are you going to a cancer specialist?’

August 26, 2022

Michelle called in sick this morning so there was a hasty rearrangement of the car-pooling plans but we all managed to fit into the station wagon, albeit with some discomfort. Dropped John off to Bronwyn and Michael and the three of them went off walking after having lunch together. We were very early to the meeting, victims of my fear of being late, but it worked out well as we could chat in the meeting room without being in anyone’s way. I thought I would be the only one who didn’t like the book so I must admit it was a bit of a relief to find that, though there was one appreciative reader, no one else finished it apart from me. There was general agreement that the author was somewhat pushy and self-aggrandising so I think her husband managed to gain a bit of sympathy. (There’s a lovely story about the author David Sedaris who noticed a woman in the queue to have his latest book signed, she was complaining about the wait and trying to queue-jump. When her turn came he smiled up at her, asked her name and signed the book, closing it as he handed it back to her. He’d written ‘You are a really horrible woman, David Sedaris’. Apocryphal perhaps, but I loved it anyway.) It was a lovely warm meeting, though there was some discussion about aging, going into care and the perils of same. Perhaps that’s an inevitable subject going forward.

Sue stayed overnight and graciously accepted the glass of rose with dinner, though I’ve discovered that it is her least favourite wine. The salmon baked with a lime and honey sauce went down well though. I’ve been buying the Aldi frozen Norwegian salmon in the hope that it is better than what I’m hearing about its Tasmanian equivalent, but in any event it’s a good staple to have in the freezer. Great to have Sue here after a break of a few months.

August 27, 2022

I got up at 6.30 as Sue is such an early riser but she’d been up since 5. After a leisurely breakfast we went down to the corner bakery for Sue to get some bread to take to her mum’s for lunch. I felt I had to apologise for its quality, I usually refer to it as ‘the bakery of last resort’, better than Tip-Top White but not by a lot. Saw John’s carer Greg down there, so he must live very close to us. I had never thought to ask him exactly where he lives (perhaps he’s not supposed to say) though I knew it was in the general area. Later in the morning John started to feel unwell so we cancelled the plans we had for later in the day. I think I may have found the culprit for treading on the newly cemented drain though, I saw that the fuse box was open so clearly the meter reader had been, only about 3 feet from the scene of the crime.

Sue mentioned that her brother Martyn had sent her an article  agreeing with his views on vaccination and Covid precautions. She sent it to me and I was somewhat surprised that there were no references for any of the figures provided. But when I looked back to see the author and their credentials I discovered to my horror that it was written by the infamous Rebecca Weisser, neo-con and Trump apologist, member of the Centre for Independent Studies, executive associate of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, fervent critic of the ABC, the WHO and the UN generally and pal of Tony Abbott. One of her many helpful suggestions includes recruiting ex-Liberal Party staffers to co-host the Insiders program!! I had long imagined Michaelia Cash as the nastiest woman in Australian politics and political commentary, but that was before I heard and read Rebecca Weisser. (I couldn’t bring Cash’s name to mind when typing this so I just Googled ‘nasty WA female politician’ and bingo, up came her photo).

August 28, 2022

During the week I mentioned to John that a friend’s husband is in a nursing home overlooking Sirius Cove. He remembered that his brother used to take him swimming there when he lived at Mosman so I promised to take him there on Sunday. He recalled the promise today so after we watched Insiders we chuffed off there. (After Insiders finished he said: ‘Well I didn’t understand any of that’Smilie: ;). So we parked at the Cove and walked the track round to the Taronga Wharf, seeing hordes of people lined up to enter the Zoo. When we got there the sign said Bradley’s Head was another kilometre so I thought we could do that with no problems. We made it eventually only to find that the toilets were out of order due to a rock fall, but we had passed a track up to Athol Hall Cafe on the way so we went back to there, but they were closed due to a wedding so it was off again to the ferry wharf, where I discovered there are no toilets at all! We discovered that an 8 km walk with no toilets is probably past us, certainly past me anyway, though it was very beautiful along the walk and the weather was perfect.

Coming home to my lovely, if half-finished, driveway is a treat and I’m sure that I will eventually forget the cost and all the extra problems we encountered and just enjoy it. I remember reading that bricks and tiles are the only building materials that don’t shrink, in fact they swell. I was once sitting on the toilet in a rented unit in Westmead when the whole floor popped and the tiles flew off the floor. Apparently the builder hadn’t allowed for expansion, it was a memorable lesson.

August 29, 2022

I made sure I was up and breakfasted in time for the driveway men to arrive by 7 am, except they didn’t. Then a text came from Grant, Perry has Covid and Grant dropped something on his foot on Friday and can’t walk. It made me realise that I will miss these men when they finish, we have a lot of laughs and the money seems worth it now that I see how meticulous they are. Grant expects to be back on Wednesday so I’d better get cooking as they love their morning teas. I commented to Grant that I thought I had found the culprit for spoiling his freshly-concreted drain, the electricity meter reader, and he remembers her coming on the day that they laid it. Mystery solved.

John has been on top of things for the last few days, from Friday to Monday his memory seemed improved, aided by visits from Sue and to Bronwyn and Michael, plus a long walk yesterday. However this morning he’s been all over the shop, asking what we usually have for breakfast, where we went yesterday and seeing things around the house that he thinks are new. He keeps asking when we are leaving to go out today, but there was no plan to go out as I’m waiting for someone to pick something up from me and starting to get annoyed that they haven’t indicated when they are coming, despite my emailing them to ask. But I hasten to add that it may be the pot calling the kettle regarding John. I just went to Goodreads to write a review of Stella Rimington’s book Rip Tide, only to find that I had read and reviewed it already, in 2018! I thoroughly enjoyed it this time and had no memory of having read it before.

That wretched Morrison has charged the taxpayers a motza for his trip to Japan. After emphasising that his and Jenny’s trip was “privately funded” it emerges that it will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars because a team of AFP close personal protection officers travelled with them. Apparently he trousered about $50,000 for speaking in Tokyo. I am so looking forward to his exit.

August 30, 2022

This morning I decided to take John to Auburn Botanic Gardens where the cherry blossom is out. Discovered that the blossom is very nearly over, but that didn’t stop us enjoying our walk around the various water features and gardens. It was very busy on a Tuesday so it’s a place I wouldn’t recommend at the weekend. On the way home I pulled up in Granville, basically for old times’ sake, and noticed among the many Arabic food shops the Fiji Supermarket and the Island Food Company, each stocking things like cassava, taro and kava. I’ve never tried kava but had both of the others in Fiji and never want to repeat the experience. I am finding that the best thing I can do for John is to keep him busy, he loved the outing today but couldn’t quite understand when I said that Granville Station was where I left for school and work each day, insisting that ‘I don’t think you’ve ever lived in this area’. We went to Moran & Cato supermarket in Granville every Saturday morning, followed by the butcher and the greengrocer, then lugged all our shopping for the week home. I told him that I was sitting in a hairdresser’s chair there when it came on the radio that Kennedy had been shot, I’ll never forget it.

I was conscious that the judge was handing down the verdict in the Dawson trial today. He started talking at 10 am, broke for lunch and resumed, but only now at 3.20 pm has he given the verdict. What a marathon for the accused to sit through, not to mention of course their children and Lyn’s other family. I had formed the opinion that if he were going to come out with a guilty verdict he might have announced it and then given his reasons, but no, he made them squirm the whole day. Hopefully one day they will discover where her body lies.


August 31, 2022

I have always thought that imprisonment was a crude tool for changing behaviour, and I still think that. But recently I’ve noticed that while the judiciary has extensive powers to ‘make the punishment fit the crime’ they don’t seem to use those powers often or wisely. Take the case of gangland widow Roberta Williams, who received a two-year community-based order after pleading guilty to blackmailing and recklessly injuring her victim at Collingwood more than three years ago. The victim was lured to a video production studio where he was tied to a chair, had his and his family’s lives threatened and was bashed over the course of about three hours, sustaining visible injuries. The judge’s summing up astonished me, she went over Roberta’s rough upbringing at length then basically gave her a slap on the wrist, saying she was unsuitable for community service (which I can understand as I wouldn’t want her helping out in St. Vinnies where many of those on community service​ end up). The young men who assisted her in the crime got similarly light sentences. If I were the victim I’d be looking over my shoulder considering their underworld links. Surely there is the possibility of weekend detention in cases such as this? I know that convicted  people hate that as a sentence, it ruins their weekends which is a good punishment in itself. One of the thugs was pictured leaving court grinning from ear to ear, as well he might.

The internet was off today due to some NBN maintenance but we had a Zoom call planned with John’s sister-in-law in the US at 2.30. I went to the library to pick up books and thought of using the computer there, but alongside me was a pesky woman who was having trouble sending some sort of communication to 52 people. I know this because she was talking to herself about it endlessly, ringing someone for help using the speaker phone and finally asking the librarian for help (at least he told her to turn off the speaker phone that was echoing the conversation through the library). Ultimately I just emailed Justine to cancel the Zoom and came home glad to be shot of her. But librarians are endlessly patient, which is why I love them. Nice people register: Librarians, ambos and firies. Not so nice people register: well I think we all have our own list and seeing there are always exceptions to the rule so I will stay mum.

September 1, 2022

I had plans for a drive and a walk while John was at day care but then Michelle rang to say she could come to clean today (now we are on a monthly clean the place is so much more liveable) so I changed tack and did some ironing of outgrown clothes of Millie’s that I’d washed for the Sallies, baked a cake, did a few jobs alongside Michelle in the cleaning department, plus caught up with some food shopping. I must admit I feel virtuous about having stayed here, after eating cake together and seeing her leave with some scarves, some tiny clothes for her dolls as well as some food. What a good stick she is.

The cake was Papa’s Apple Pound Cake, a French recipe from the New York Times Cookbook which I use a lot. It involved boiling raisins, then soaking them in a little rum and the topping is just icing sugar and rum. Being a French chef the recipe’s creator is pedantic about how the apples are cut even though they are inside the cake ‘cut the cored apples into 12 and stand them curved side up along the middle’ then the rest of the batter goes on top with another apple cut into 16 pieces topping the mix. I make a point of doing a recipe exactly the first time, then I can waver the ingredients or method however I want from then on. I may throw caution to the wind and also cut the second apple into 12 pieces next time. Anyway it is absolutely delicious and will no doubt please the pavers when they come back tomorrow after the stint with Covid.

I asked a friend who is a medical specialist in public health, a researcher and lecturer in global health and developmental epidemiology to look at an article in The Spectator about the evils of vaccination for Covid. It was written by Rebecca Weisser, she of the neo-con persuasion whose very being causes my marrow to curdle. His first reaction was that it was ‘scandalous’. Apparently the lead story in the article about the death in the US of Bobby Bolin seems to be a lift from the Conservative Daily News website. Bolin had his second Moderna vaccination on April 17, 2021 and died on August 20. He had a pulmonary embolism (along with deep vein thrombosis a not uncommon problem on long flights) while flying back from a holiday in Jamaica and the pilot got permission to fly at a lower altitude as a result. He was already on the waiting list for a double lung transplant, was on blood thinners, had atrial fibrillation and a stent and was on 31 prescription medications. Despite all of this and the four month interval from vaccination to death, the conclusion Weisser draws is that the vaccine must be the cause of his death. This woman is an absolute menace because most people just won’t take the time, or have the ability, to dissect her claims. Of the last 7 articles she penned for The Spectator, 5 are on the dire effects of vaccination and one is entitled ‘Where have all the babies gone? Progressives rage about the right to abort while birth rates tumble’. I need a stiff drink.

September 2, 2022

The driveway men didn’t come again today, Perry is apparently still sick or else still testing positive. So I decided to take John for another walk, this time around the harbour at Clontarf. I’m sure I’ve never been there in my life, it’s amazing how big Sydney is and how many little pockets get overlooked. We managed to get lost on the track but the phone enabled me to get us back to the car eventually. As we drove through Neutral Bay and Mosman John commented how long it had been since we were there, in fact we went walking along the harbour front there last Sunday. I explained that to him but he has no memory of the outing at all.

Last night I watched Foreign Correspondent, a program I enjoy when I watch it occasionally. It was on the problems Chinese people have looking after the elderly, bearing in mind that only 2% reside in care homes. But I couldn’t sleep after watching a blind man caring for his blind wife who has dementia. He was cooking with a wok of oil over gas…while unable to see what he’s doing. I was waiting for him to spill it but he handled it all beautifully. However the enormity of seeing them struggling in their humble life kept me awake and I shan’t complain for at least a week.

More news has come to light about how Roberta Williams managed to avoid gaol last week. Roberta did a deal with police, pleading guilty to blackmail and recklessly causing injury on the promise she wouldn’t do jail time. Judge Fiona Todd sentenced her to a two-year community corrections order (yet didn’t force her to do any community service at all) adding that she would have been sent to jail for 12 months if she had been found guilty at trial. The victim is victimised all over again with this outcome. A funny aside is that at her husband’s funeral, mourners were led in the front entrance of the church, then out the back and around again to make it appear to be a packed crowd. Apparently, the gold cross from the casket was stolen, as well as money of the priest’s from the rectory.

September 3, 2022

Last week when I picked John up after he stayed with Bronwyn and Michael while I went to book group she was eager to tell me when I arrived that ‘John wants you to cook lamb shanks’ so I bought some (at the astronomical price of over $30 for 4). They are so big that with vegetables I can barely fit them into my large slow cooker. I’m going to put them on tonight and let them cook overnight and Boris and Jane will join us for lunch tomorrow. Then we had a call from Peter and Dawn who are in Sydney and will come to lunch on Tuesday, so I don’t need to dream up things for John to do for a little while. Today we had a Zoom call with John’s sister-in-law Justine in the US and it always brightens him up to hear from her, though I had to remind him of his nieces’ names before the call.

I am constantly amazed at how long things take to sell on eBay these days, even at very low prices. I have just sold a small pair of Orrefors crystal candlesticks for $20, they have been listed for all of this year. I try to keep 20 items for sale all the time but that doesn’t take much work as they are there for many months if they sell at all. I am thinking of taking a pair of French plates to the antique shop in Darlinghurst, run by a Frenchman, where I got a beautiful pair of sunnies a week ago for a very good price. I’m happy to give them to him, he’ll have better luck selling them there than I will.

Reading the recently released ‘August in Kabul’ by Andrew Quilty and it is amazing to me that while people were desperately fleeing that city before the Taliban takeover he was hurrying back there from a wedding in France to witness that very event. It appears that everyone seemed to be predicting the government’s downfall for some time, except the allies supporting it. While I find the Taliban as terrifying as most others do, I can’t help feeling thankful that finally that blighted country is being governed by its own people rather than a regime held up by its invaders. Perhaps many others there feel the same way.

September 4, 2022

Well I ended up cooking the lamb shanks for 15 hours on low with carrots, pumpkin, Puy lentils, onions, dates and almonds and they went over very well. I couldn’t quite come at them (too much like legs of lambs!) but the accompanying veggies were delish and the dogs next door were extremely happy with the bones apparently. It has fined up today so Grant will be happy to get back to work on the driveway tomorrow. It is an awful lot of money which I would never have spent on my own account, but it pleases John every day to see it happening so it’s money well spent in that respect.

The My Aged Care people passed on our details to the Anglicare Dementia Advisory Service (it might have been nice to ask us first guys) and one of their staff rang me last week. She wanted to visit us at home but I said I’d prefer to find out about what they do via mail and then make a decision. However when their brochures arrived their ‘tips’ included Smile! and Be patient and calm. Mmm, I guess I was more thinking about how to be patient and calm rather than knowing that it’s a good idea. However I am feeling patient and calm today after finding my keys this morning, pushed behind my recipe books. Don’t ask, I don’t know. I just wish I had found them before I had new ones cut, but I suspected that would be the case. The other thing this group offers is Connections Groups where carers meet (for a whinge fest maybe) or others where the carers and the person with dementia come together with others for a couple of hours. Neither appeal to me at this point, but perhaps that will change one day, so I will thank them for what they do but say no to a visit I think.

I see Gary Jubelin has written a book ‘Badness’ about his past investigations and the subsequent relinquishment of his position as a detective after he was found guilty of illicitly recording conversations with a witness in the William Tyrrell case. I sat next to him a couple of times at the Coroner’s Court and he seemed intense and passionate about that investigation, which ultimately led to his leaving the force. The families of victims hold him in very high regard, so I would be interested in reading his version of events.

September 5, 2022

Reading ‘August in Kabul’ by Australian photographer Andrew Quilty is quite an eye-opener. One of the many things I didn’t know is that the ominous-looking barren mountains around Kabul were once covered in forests with ski-trails through them, that is until the Russians napalmed them. Heaven knows, but I’ve been unable to ascertain, how long the land is rendered barren after a napalm attack. In regards to the August Taliban retaking of Kabul, it seems it was more that the locals who supported them finally came out, so when the exhausted fighters drove and walked into the city there were plenty to welcome them, and those that didn’t pretended they did for their own safety. Quilty reports people seeing their neighbours suddenly wearing clothes associated with the group and with Taliban flags on their cars. All of the long-rumoured nepotism and patronage is described in the book, with government ministers demanding commissions, police chiefs taking a cut of the opium profits and army officers pocketing the salaries of ‘ghost soldiers’. ‘Revenge was meted out, often under the guise of anti-terrorism’ he says. People offered up to the credulous American intelligence gatherers business rivals or families with whom they had feuds. The author quotes a Taliban commander: ‘At first there was no support for the Taliban. It was when the Americans started killing civilians that people started supporting us, giving us food, bullets, and offering men’. In July 2002 seven 900 kilogram bombs were dropped on a wedding celebration when celebratory gunfire was mistaken for hostility, dozens were killed. This was far from an isolated event. For the 70% of people who live in rural areas, the experience of war was marked by incidents, whether deliberate or not, that resulted in injury or death to civilians from bombings to small scale attacks by ground troops. This drove people towards, rather than away from, the Talibs. Somehow we never seem to learn that invasions produce resentment, not approbation and the blessing of the populace. Vietnam Mark II it certainly was.

The paving boys are back, but Grant’s wife has put him on a diet so it was awkward giving morning tea to just Perry. I intended to make a chocolate cake for them today but in light of this news I only I made a date and caramel rum tart for tomorrow’s lunch visitors and Perry can have what’s left over from that. Then we went off to Norwest to walk around ‘the lake’, trying to keep up my practice of taking John somewhere different every day. I was naively hoping he might have had a call or text for Father’s Day yesterday but then I realised that he’s never had one in 15 years (birthdays and Christmas included) so why would it start now?

September 6, 2022

We were lucky to have Peter and Dawn from Canberra for lunch while they are staying in a caravan in Lane Cove National Park for a few days. They are between homes, their house settled last Friday and their new residence isn’t ready for a couple of weeks. Lots of laughs as always with them. I was telling Dawn, who used to be in the Democratic Socialist Party, about my friend Gail Lord who was a 40 year stalwart of that party until she died in 2007. She was a committed socialist and when she was in hospital she used to ask the nurses if they were in the union. Her father Edgar Penzig was once a socialist too, until he left his wife and married a woman with allegiance to what Gail considered far-right causes and he joined his views with hers (echoes of Sir John Kerr here) beginning a schism with Gail that was never settled. I knew Edgar when he ran a small museum in Katoomba, he was a collector of colonial artefacts, particularly firearms, and gave lectures on colonial history. I came to know Gail through the peace movement and over the many years I got to know them both I had no idea that they even knew each other, certainly not that they were related. During the Iraq War I suggested that we weave flowers through the wire fence of the Richmond RAAF Base on my day off, so I put up appropriate signs in the shop and had a few leaflets printed. Edgar happened to come in and with a scowl took a leaflet, then two hours later a couple of police arrived to question me, clutching the leaflet. As it turned out the big demo was me, a couple of my staff, one or two others and Gail and her husband Ted, plus two police cars and an SBS film crew who looked very disappointed and left shortly after they arrived. Gail was such an inspiring and compassionate woman who felt for others in a way few people do, while Edgar was a man who was firmly focussed on his own success.

September 7, 2022

A very thick letter arrived from the Department of Health and sure enough it was the adjudication of the long interview with the ACAT team. To my surprise and pleasure John has been judged suitable for a Level 3 package, up from Level 1. I was expecting a 2 and hoping for a 3 because I realised that in the 3 to 6 month time frame for the package to be put into effect he would likely have deteriorated more and we’d have to go through the whole thing again. I’m sure the assessor realised that too. This will mean that I can go to book group, medical appointments and the odd function without imposing on friends to take John, I can simply organise a carer. I’ve realised that I definitely can’t leave him alone now, as when Sue was here last week I went with her to the corner bakery as she wanted to buy bread to take with her, telling John where we were going and estimating how long we’d be away, 15 minutes. But when we got back he was upset, saying that he didn’t know where we were or why we’d gone and left him. Similarly I tried to show him how to boil an egg yesterday, he’s done it countless times before, but he couldn’t remember the instructions and kept getting the egg out, at 1 minute and then at 2 minutes, despite my repeated telling that eggs need to boil for 3. He went off with the carer today and was due home at 2pm and I was about 5 minutes late getting home so I was worried he would be confused, though luckily he was talking to the driveway men till I got here shortly after him.

I am excited to say that I’ve booked for us to go to the Blue Mountains next week, it will be a lovely couple of days away and a great celebration of getting the Home Care Package finally sorted.

September 8, 2022

I thought we’d try for a movie at Castle Hill tomorrow, foolish in the extreme of course as unless you are a teenager, like animated, high action or horror movies or speak Hindi or Punjabi, there isn’t anything worth seeing. Well there’s Where the Crawdads Sing which got an average of 2.5 out of 5 across the review sites, with one reviewer saying: ‘This movie is cheesier than a quattro formaggi! Like the backdrop of the film – marsh or swamp – it’s all a bit soggy’, that was enough to put paid to that one for me. Sixteen screens and not one worth going to.

I am getting fed up with seeing the way those who can afford high powered lawyers are walking out of court unscathed, it’s certainly becoming a two tier legal system. Solicitor Bryan Wrench of Murphy’s Lawyers seems to be able to polish the image of his clients to a shine radiant enough to dazzle the judge. A recent client admitted hijacking an Uber while three times over the limit after having 30 drinks, he had also taken the drug Stilnox and then fled from police on foot when apprehended, but our pal Bryan managed to convince the judge that despite the guilty plea his client deserved some sympathy and he was not convicted of stealing the vehicle. He was put on a bond and his licence was cancelled for six months, but here’s the kicker, he hasn’t held a licence since 2018. Bugger the poor Uber driver and the fact that he lost work time once when the car was pinched and again to go to court. My friend who is in a long-running estate battle with his siblings has just discovered that they have now hired the lawyer who represents Clive Palmer, not feeling too confident about the outcome right now.

September 9, 2022

After attempts to contact my brother by phone had failed, I rang his paramour Anne last night. He is no better and despite a sojourn in hospital there is no definitive answer as to the reason for his sudden cognitive decline. Interestingly she commented that she thought the Queen was dying as the tone of the language had changed and the statements that ‘doctors are concerned for her health and recommended she remain under medical supervision’ were euphemisms for that fact. Once again Anne’s perceptions proved correct, I so wish she were closer as I admire her intelligence, knowledge and insight.

The hospital gave Kenneth two choices: agree to home visits every day or go to a care home, which he was very much against. But apparently he resents the carers who come a number of times a day. There was some debate at the hospital about whether he was competent to make that decision, with staff voting opposite ways on the question. She recounted how K’s daughter Tanya is again staying with him, but he rang Anne saying that Tanya had left him and gone home and he was distressed as he couldn’t manage alone. As requested she rang Tanya, only to be told that she she was in fact at his house, but temporarily upstairs. Anne is going there to visit tomorrow so I might get the latest news after that, certainly the family doesn’t think I warrant the expense of a call. He has gone downhill so suddenly and I can’t bear to think about it for very long, I just have to block it out. To aid in that I decided to take John to a movie at Roseville, Full Time, a French film which effectively displayed the desperation of a separated mother trying to manage two children, a low paid job and a long commute, all in the middle of a train strike. It worked its magic and I didn’t think about any other situation once in 83 minutes.

September 10, 2022

I would be interested in talking to Sue’s brother Stephen about how he feels regarding ceremony and protocol, now that he no longer works for the Governor. He was up to his eyes in it when he was her private secretary or perhaps charge d’affaires, I’ve forgotten his exact title now. I find it all laughable when taken to extremes (this prompted by the report that the Prime Minister’s and Governor-General’s staff had to make sure that they always  had black ties available in case the Queen should die). I just can’t imagine anyone outside that lofty circle being shocked if they saw that the G-G was announcing the Queen’s death IN A GREEN TIE. How would mere mortals even know about the policy, a monarch’s death hasn’t happened since 1952? If I went to the palace, or to parliament, or something similar I would be pleased to be told where to stand or where the loos are, but if someone told me how to address the person I was visiting or how to curtsy or what to wear I think I would ignore them totally, well I hope I would. When my father worked for the Daily Mirror in the 1960s he told me that the paper had already typeset the front page for the Queen’s death, as well as for those of other various dignitaries. This I can understand, each paper wanting to get a jump on its rivals, but the colour of ties, puh-leeze.

I am used to making small eBay sales for whatever base bid I nominate but today I actually got 8 bids on an item, I’ve forgotten the last time that happened. It is a Glomesh handbag, brand new, but bought in 1980. It still has the original labels and a receipt from Grace Brothers in December of that year, an unwanted Christmas gift perhaps? We’ll never know the story.

This morning we went to the Castle Hill Farmer’s Market but kept the purchases to a minimum due to the impending break from Wednesday. I was amazed that the only stall selling baked goods, apart from bread of which there were four, was all sugar-free and gluten-free. I was reaching for a packet of lovely looking tarts when this was proudly conveyed by the stall-holder and I’m not sure if she noticed the speed with which I withdrew my hand. Lemon tarts with no sugar and no gluten equals no thanks. By 9 am we were on the road to Box Hill to pick up wood with Arvind so he can rebuild the fence panels which are missing due to the fact that his tree formed part of the fence. My station wagon was up to the job of taking the long lengths and once again it justified my decision to hang on to it. The pathetic number of dollars I would get for it is nowhere near its value in these situations.

September 11, 2022

I was looking forward to Insiders but had to turn it off when they said they were wheeling out old Howard to wax lyrical about the Queen. It’s going to be a long fortnight. But I am finding it absorbing to see the reactions of different folks. A leftie friend has responded to statements about Her Maj by Green’s Senator Mehreen Faruqi on Twitter. She said: “Condolences to those who knew the Queen. I cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples. We are reminded of the urgency of Treaty with First Nations, justice & reparations for British colonies & becoming a republic”. He took issue with this and pointed out that she’d sworn allegiance to the Queen in parliament. Many others highlighted that with three investment properties and a primary residence, she is benefiting from stolen land more than most others. I don’t take a hard view on all of this, neither criticising Faruqi nor condemning her critics, but I find it all very interesting, more interesting in fact than much of the overblown commentary which I am now tiring of. If John’s day care is cancelled the week of the funeral it will be the last straw.

It’s funny how spring always puts me in gardening mode. I’ve planted seeds today of lettuce, coriander and spinach plus some strawflowers for the front garden. Today I’ve also cut back the Hypoestes, pulled out the sugar snap peas, done some weeding and decided to remove the big woody rosemary, so I’ve planted a cutting from it in the hope of starting a new one. And it’s only 10.45, there are benefits to canning Insiders.

Thinking back to when I decided I had had enough of the Queen’s ‘celebrations’, it was the moment when King Charles III snottily fanned his hand to get an underling to move an inkwell that was in his way on the desk when he went to sign the proclamation. The fact that he couldn’t simply slide it across the desk himself told me a lot about him and the fact that none of the press seems to have thought that behaviour unusual indicates that any form of criticism is currently unacceptable.

September 12, 2022

Today was John’s Nelune day so I walked down to Hyde Park from St. V’s passing Alex Greenwich’s office. Just as I was thinking ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I bumped into him’ I almost did, as he was coming the other way armed with a coffee, but he wouldn’t have seen my smile as I was wearing a mask. However I noted that he’s even more handsome in real life than on the teev. The last time that happened was as I approached The Ivy in George St. and idly wondered if Justin Hemmes might come out, which he duly did and I was amazed at what a beanpole he is. Later I went to bill’s and had a pot of tea and some of his amazing peanut brittle, reading The Ratline as I did so. There is much about Ukraine in that book and once again a lot of reference to the support for the Nazis, before, during and after WWII, so I will recommend it to Boris whose family comes from that region. But we did get home just in time to see the pavers before they left and to give each of them a hug, they are going to come for morning tea soon. It transpires that Grant goes to the same mechanic as we do and I found out only because he was raving about how good Alex is.

I have been waiting for batteries for my hearing aids to arrive by mail, they were posted last Monday but alas they are still not here. It looks like I will have to drive to Macquarie Uni to pick some up tomorrow before we go away as I will be lost without them and I doubt the ones I’m using will last much longer, rats. Someone could have crawled here in that time.

I read the SMH deaths every week but rarely see someone I know, however this week I stumbled on Nort Crossley’s name. He was an old friend from out of Windsor where he and his wife Carrie had a pottery-making business. They rented a property near Kurrajong Village for many years with a large shed for their kilns, but eventually the owner surprised them by wanting to sell and they weren’t in a financial position to afford the market rents so they relocated to a property in Bellingen, after which we eventually lost touch. I always remember a conversation about the fact that they regretted never buying real estate when they were young and feeling anxious about that as they got older. One memory that sticks is when they came to dinner and I cooked Moules Mariniere because they were Kiwis, but they both hated them as they were cheap and plentiful when they were young and they’d had a gutful. They mostly ate bread, wine and dessert but we had a good laugh about it. Vale Nort.

September 13, 2022

I was troubled during the night about the hearing aid batteries not arriving, my brother’s poor condition, painting the steps into the garage this morning and much more, not in that order obviously but when you are generally anxious somehow it all melds into one ball of apprehension. Last night, well about 12.30 this morning actually, I rang the bro and his daughter picked up. She put me on to him and he commented that he’d slept in and the phone had woken him up, it was only later that I worked out that it was 3.30 pm over there! He told me that he is absolutely exhausted and when I asked if he’s lost weight he said he had, now weighing 7 stone 7 pounds or 47 kilos which totally shocked me. He has no appetite and has to force himself to eat. His daughters had never mentioned any of this on the occasions I’ve spoken to them. He claims the doctors don’t know what is wrong, though he seemed less confused this time compared to previous calls, constantly repeating ‘I love you, I miss you, when can you come over?’.

I decided that I needed to cross some things off the stress list so by 8 am I was painting the metal steps to the garage, after having coated them with rust converter yesterday. Far from perfect, but certainly a lot better than they were. A helpful person ‘touched up’ part of one step, but the paint was already half dry, so the touch-up just made the finish lumpy instead of smooth. Luckily I intervened before any more was ‘bettered’. I wanted to get that job done before Grant comes back to do the concrete around the garage with paving paint. John is right this minute acting as advisor to Arvind who is building a small section of fence between our properties and he is being quite helpful in terms of technique and method, with Arvind providing the muscle. Arvind this morning: ‘I’m sorry that the queen died but I’m afraid I’ve had enough queen now’, a sentiment that I’m sure is being recited around the nation. Personally I don’t understand why the Australian Parliament shuts down when the British one doesn’t, countries seem to be trying to outdo each other in devotion, with government here trying any means to get us to buy into it: free public transport to see the NSW ceremony, a public holiday ‘to mourn’ (since when do people need a holiday to mourn? will we get a holiday in future if our mother dies?). Yes Arvind, I think I’m getting over it too.

A miscalculation on my part has resulted in the Melissa Caddick inquest sneaking up on me. There isn’t a single day this week that I can go and I can’t believe that I planned a holiday for the very week it is on. Unlike parliamentary inquiries I can’t access the transcripts (well I could for $94 for the first 8 pages, and $11 for each page after that, so no thankyou). I am thinking that it will flow over into next week, even though it’s mentioned for only five days, so I live in hope. How I will get a carer is something I refuse to worry about until it happens.

September 14, 2022

First stop in the mountains was Schwarzes at Wentworth Falls for morning tea. This German bakery is a favourite and we usually have one of their cherry specialities, as we did today. On to Blue Mountains Heritage Centre at Blackheath to see Luke Kelly’s exhibition, which was all excellent, but somehow none of the pieces were as good as his painting of the fairy wrens which is hanging in the hall at home. After a picnic lunch I noticed on the town clock that the time was getting on and we should be moving towards our hotel, the Fairmont Resort in Leura, but when we got there we realised that their clock was working but wrong so we could have spent more time there. The features of the hotel are many and varied, including indoor heated pool, sauna, spa, outdoor pools, a skating rink!, ponies, a train to take kids around the grounds and a miniature railway which takes up a whole room. As we wandered around we noticed a sign showing that a conference for Link Housing was underway. An extraordinary coincidence as John was last year made a life member and has been to prior conferences. When I remarked on the coincidence he said ‘oh yes they rang me last week and invited me but I told them we were going away and I couldn’t go’. This was news to me and in the past preparations for the conferences have gone on for months beforehand. So there seem to be two possibilities: 1. He was invited last week, perhaps as a replacement delegate for someone who had to cancel or 2. It is a false memory (these happen) which arose when he saw the sign and he simply filled in the details of what must have happened. I am intrigued to know as the delegates were leaving as we arrived and sadly we didn’t come across any people we knew. I think I will have to contact Pauline and work out which scenario is the right one. If he were invited we could have had five days here, three gratis with the conference and two afterwards at our own expense.

In the evening, after suggesting she come here to the restaurant, we ended up going to our friend Sheila’s at Wentworth Falls for a night of delicious food and stimulating company, although I was somewhat embarrassed when she served individual pear and chocolate puddings with chocolate sauce and choc-chip ice cream and I had to decline. At one point Sheila, in her very English accent, said ‘I was over all this Queen business after a day’, which surprised me. I’m starting to wonder if it’s a majority view, so often am I hearing it. John was good while we were there but a little later asked ‘what did we do tonight and who were we with?’. The last couple of weeks has shown a noticeable decline in his condition.

September 15, 2022

John was really bad this morning asking what we are doing here, what we’d already done and what we are still to do. He said before we came that he hadn’t been sleeping well for  worrying about meeting with his daughter/s tomorrow for the school open day, but this morning he didn’t have a clue about it. We had asked a week ago for details of the school and the class but nothing’s come, so I’ve sent off another message. After a breakfast in the hotel we went off to Sublime Point to go for a beautiful walk, looking out over the valley full of mist and low hanging clouds. By the time we got to Katoomba Falls to do the same the rain had started so we didn’t get far and repaired to the car to look out over the valley and the Scenic Skyway while drinking piping hot tea from the Thermos. Later in Leura we bought a few makings from the deli including a delicious artichoke and green apple salad. We had lunch in our room, but discovered that, this being Leura, the very few things we bought at the deli cost as much as lunch in the hotel coffee shop would have, but c’est la vie. I love the architecture here and it is a very warm and comfy place to be, with a library and a bar as well as the large foyer with lots of sofas, though we are sticking to those places less frequented, no one seems to want the library, preferring the bar, sigh. A full sized ice skating rink has been built here as well, but is waiting on final council approval to open. When the weather seemed to clear we went out for another walk but the rain bucketed down as soon as we got outside so we thought better of it.

September 16, 2022

Well we have an answer to the conference conundrum after a fortuitous email from Jack at Link Housing. He is writing something about John and his Life Membership of Link for the Annual Report and wanted to check a few details with me. So when I replied I asked if he’d been at the Fairmont Conference (he had) and whether John had been invited as he had explained to me that he was. NO said Jack it was a staff only conference and no one else was asked to go. So John’s recollection of the invitation, specifically one that came by phone while he was being driven last Wednesday by his carer Greg, was all a false memory. He doesn’t lie, so in his mind it all happened, and he related both sides of the conversation to me in detail. That in itself was odd as he can’t remember conversations. The mind is an amazing thing as well as a complete mystery.

After a delicious breakfast we headed off to Katoomba North Public School for Tallulah’s open day and visited the classroom to see her work, followed by morning tea, then a whole of school concert including singing, dancing and a recorder ensemble. It is a small school, just 160 students, which has a really warm and inclusive feel to it. At lunch time Dan went to get Aurora from her high school in Katoomba so we all, including his mum Lynne, had lunch together from the canteen. John commented how different it was to his school, where he was caned almost every day and went each morning in fear. It was lovely to see the girls and hear how well Tallulah is doing, particularly in music and art, but she is doing year 6 maths in year 4 so she’s no slouch in that department as well. Tired but happy campers at the end of the day after the drive home.

September 17, 2022

John asked me at breakfast where we went yesterday and I said ‘to the school open day’. He then asked if he’d met Millie’s teacher and I replied that it was the Katoomba North School. After a few minutes he asked why Dav and Louis had moved to Katoomba and I realised that he had no memory of the event at all. With the help of some photos I’d taken and talking through the events I was able to remind him of the day but he has no independent memory of it and asked me who else was there. He also asked if we drove up and back yesterday, so the memory of the hotel stay has gone too. I have thought for a couple of weeks that his memory had declined a lot, but in the last week it has absolutely plunged. Going away seems to have made it worse, but perhaps that’s just coincidence. He fell over in the hotel room and kept asking ‘where am I?’ I had no idea that it could progress this fast.

Arvind and John are working on the fence today so he’s a happy chappy. I’ve been planting strawflower seeds in the front garden but decided he was fine outside with Arvind so I could get some other things done. A lady I didn’t know came from over the road to complain about the plumber’s bill they got for investigating the water leak. Apparently it was over $3500, divided by 9 units: ‘We’re not happy’ she said, which I assumed anyway but hadn’t been told directly. There’s not much I can do but suggest they speak to Sydney Water who were the ones who said it was from their property in the the first place. Not a popular neighbour right now, but Grant the paver said they should be glad they didn’t discover anything or else the bill would have been much higher, though I doubt that’s much consolation.

Peter and Dawn from Canberra rang to say that they are going back home on Tuesday and asked if they could come to visit tomorrow, so I raced up solo (John still occupied with helping Arvind) to Panetta’s to buy salad stuff, olives, cheese, rolls etc for lunch and then I remembered that I had three ripe bananas in the freezer so I will do Banana, Walnut and Honey Puddings in the morning. At Embers Restaurant at the Fairmont where we had dinner on Thursday night I had a really bad dessert, the wondrous-sounding Saffron Poached Pear with Rose Snow, Turkish Delight and Pistachios. Delish, non? It turned out to be a quartered still hard pear with an odd tasting white shaving foam looking stuff on top, barely a 1/10 and something I’d be ashamed to have served up. I should have been warned when John pointed out that the Embers sign was roughly attached to the wall with blue masking tape. The fried brussels sprouts with garlic, chili and honey were 9/10 though so it certainly wasn’t all bad.

September 18, 2022

Lunch here with Dawn and Peter was full of good conversation as is always the case.  They are off home to Canberra to move into their new place at the end of the week hopefully. Just did a salad for main but the banana puddings were well worth doing, there’s something about a hot dessert that eclipses a cold one, excepting pav of course. For fun I looked up the Tripadvisor reviews for Embers Restaurant and lo and behold there were many others complaining about their desserts. I read as far as hard rhubarb in one and hard apple in another so it seems to be a tendency. One unhappy diner sent her rhubarb dessert back and was told that ‘the chef is still working on getting this one right’ but the patron noted the worn state of the printed menu…..

Last night I finished reading The Ratline, about the movement of Nazi war criminals out of Europe, primarily to Argentina where Peron, the Fascist dictator, welcomed them. This was organised through the Vatican and the US government who recruited these virulent anti-communists, regardless of their crimes, to work for the CIA as informers and spies. Included were  Commandants of concentration camps, including Buchenwald. A figure of 10,000 Nazis is mentioned as having been spirited out via Italy in the immediate post-war years. The book is beyond depressing in one way but crucial reading for anyone interested in politics and post WWII history.

I was a bit shocked to hear in an interview that the Governor-General is younger than me, yikes. Also discovered that he isn’t a particularly articulate person. He’s okay at reading a proclamation but in an interview he is hesitant and not a comfortable speaker. I suspect he won’t be reappointed somehow, what with his dubious involvement with ScumMo, so it won’t be a big issue into the future. I’m all for no head of state at all, let the Prime Minister be our representative where one is needed.

September 19, 2022

Feeling pretty smug after doing a decent amount of weeding in the front garden today. Then Brigitte rang and said she could return my book, so we had her for morning tea but I had not a scrap of home-baked goods to offer. What with being away and then visitors yesterday I just haven’t had time to bake, but the company was the main thing. She sat down and immediately made reference to ‘the overkill about the Queen’ which seems to be a recurring opening line with everyone I meet this past week. Despite the fact that in terms of an interviewer Stan Grant is not my favourite person, I was brought to tears by his heartfelt article in the Herald over the weekend, beginning with the story of his mother initially being denied an opportunity to stand by the roadside to see the Queen in 1954 because she didn’t own a pair of socks. I well remember standing in the sun on Woodville Road at Guildford in my school uniform waiting for her to pass and waving my flag. On another occasion in the 70s or early 80s I was driving home from the beach when the lights went red on the corner of Anzac Parade. I waited…and waited…and decided that they had malfunctioned, but suddenly the Queen went past in an open convertible, right in front of me. Luckily I hadn’t decided to ignore the light that was apparently broken or perhaps the Queen’s funeral could have happened way back then and I might just be getting out of gaol.

I think it is very short-sighted of the Palace to restrict any country from attending the Queen’s funeral as it just makes a joke out of those not on the restricted list yet have appalling human rights records. Russia, Syria, Afghanistan, Belarus, Myanmar and Venezuela are non grata but of course Saudi Arabia is on the list of those welcome. You have to hand it to those Teflon Saudis, the shit never sticks. There are benefits in owning all that oil.

I thought Michelle might be bothered by the negative reports on her surgeon Munjed Al Muderis this morning so when she rang me from hospital today I didn’t say a word. However she brought it up and wasn’t fazed by the criticism. Apparently she started to watch 60 Minutes on him last night and a nurse said that everyone on the ward was watching it. Better that they’d had the surgery rather than still waiting for it I thought.

September 20, 2022

I was curious about the owner of the Fairmont Resort as it is a single person rather than a big conglomerate. Dr. Jerry Schwartz it turns out is a cosmetic surgeon, mmm, not a good start. He came from a wealthy Hungarian-born family, the father was a dentist but they owned a number of hotels and pubs. The name kept ringing a bell until finally I looked up his mother Eva and then remembered instantly why the name was recognisable. I had followed with interest Eva’s inquest in 2013 which resulted in an open finding and some very harsh words from the coroner about one Jerry Schwartz, in fact he was referred to the Medical Council for possible misconduct.

The problem was that Jerry (I am feeling as if I know him personally by now) had signed the death and cremation certificates for his wealthy mother Eva at Point Piper and three weeks later her best friend Magda Wales in Rushcutters Bay. Seventy-six year-old Eva had died in unusual circumstances at her home. Her wrists had been slashed but no blood was found on the bed where she lay. Dr Schwartz listed his mother’s cause of death as due to a collapsed lung and lung cancer and that of Magda Wales as caused by heart disease, obesity and diabetes. He aggressively tried, but failed, to gain entry to her apartment before he visited her body in the morgue and wrote the death certificate there. The coroner said Dr Schwartz was an unsatisfactory witness who gave vague and evasive answers and that his behaviour did little to dispel the impression he did not want to co-operate at the inquest. “I do not accept that the causes of death given by him for each of the deceased were either accurate or based on proper medical investigation. There was insufficient evidence in each case for him to have stated the causes of death as he did, or indeed the times or dates.” Cremation covers a multitude of sins doesn’t it?

Good old Jerry had a former partner, Liliane Viselle, who went to the police to allege that, after initially claiming his mother had committed suicide, he had confessed to killing her and Ms Wales. Ms Viselle told police he had said ”My mother was in the way, Magda knew too much, I had to get rid of them.” The inquest also heard allegations that Eva Schwartz was thinking of changing her will to include her estranged daughter, but sadly for her daughter it was all too late. Jerry inherited $70 million from his mum and bought Fairmont shortly afterwards for $24 million, though recently he added a harbourside mansion for $67 mil. Fascinating stuff indeed.

What to say about the funeral? Well as a ceremony it was pretty impressive, though I wished I still had my childhood books which explained all the different palace uniforms and their histories (I was immersed in Royal information as a child). I texted my daughters to say I hoped they were jotting down ideas for my funeral, the reply: ‘yes, closed casket, no snacks’, which wasn’t at all what I had in mind. But the ABC’s reporting all this week has been shamelessly sycophantic and over the top. Last night I sent off numerous letters to the Herald, none of which will see ink as it is infra dig to criticise at the moment. Who even wears black to funerals in Australia? I wanted to see one brave soul, just one, who had the intestinal fortitude to wear another colour, but I was sadly disappointed.

September 21, 2022

Apparently the time taken to reply to Freedom of Information requests to the Federal Government is getting longer and longer, with 51% refused altogether, making a mockery of the legislation. I remember discussing this some time ago with a high ranking public servant in Defence. ‘Oh, we’ve fixed that problem’ he said, ‘we just have one staff member whose job it is to answer all requests, then we can say that the request is being dealt with and will be responded to in due course’. I suspect that’s the lurk that all departments are using.

Normally I don’t have any interest in articles about sport, but one caught my eye yesterday. It was about Mario Fenech, long time rugby league player, who was diagnosed with early onset dementia at 53 and now at 60 is seriously affected by it. His wife told the story of his looking forward to his son’s wedding for months, then on the day he gave a reasonable speech and the event went off very well. However the next morning Mario woke up and asked ‘Oh, I’m really excited about the wedding, when is it?’. This is John exactly. In an interview with his neurologist she said: ‘Mario’s condition is advancing. It won’t long before he needs care’ and that comment really threw me.

September 22, 2022

Yesterday was my lowest day since I got back pain after gardening on Monday morning. I couldn’t drive as turning my head too far was painful. People garden all the time, I garden all the time, but for some reason I have upset the muscles bigtime. The pain affected my cooking today when the kids came for lunch, so much so that when I made some meringue with five egg whites I put them in the mixer with the sugar right at the start, a mistake I have never made before. They did whip up stiffly but somehow the meringue didn’t taste right. Then I followed the recipe for Queen Pudding and the meringue on top torched a bit, normally I’d have seen that coming and lowered the temp, it’s hard to think straight when you are in pain. The kids didn’t seem to mind and Millie opted for bread and jam instead so she certainly didn’t care. We played a game of charades after lunch and she is very good at it.

I have been thinking that Ita Buttrose was likely to blame for the all black livery on the ABC of recent times, coming from the Australian Women’s Weekly where she was used to 12 pages of Royals for no real reason at all. But I read that the protocol for the Queen’s death was written under Howard and nobody has thought to change it apparently. The government needs to be going through the things left behind by that sleazy Morrison to make sure we don’t get any surprises in the future.

September 23, 2022

Feeling a lot better this morning so I was pleased to see that Carol was cake-making today as we’ve been unable to help before for various reasons. Had a very pleasant time with just Jack, Carol and Madeleine. John was very good and was happy helping. Michelle, who is recovering from surgery,  rang and asked if I could ‘mind’ her next Tuesday while Kev goes out for a few hours. I said I could but it will have to be the two of us. On the way home I picked up a book from the library and blow me down there’s a portrait of the Queen and a condolence book to sign, will it ever end?

One of my tables in the back yard on which I have herb pots is just about to collapse after years of service outdoors, so I need to keep my eyes open for a replacement on the council clean-up heaps. It’s easier when everyone puts their stuff out on the one day as we used to, rather than ordering a pick-up individually as we do now. One day when I went to Jane’s there were numerous excellent pieces of furniture put out over there but I had taken John’s car and couldn’t fit anything in it. She is in Hornsby Shire where everyone puts out on the one day, a much more efficient choice for we scavengers. I am planning to pull out the big woody rosemary bush (and the weeds and fern around it), then grow a new bush from cuttings, freeing up room for other herbs to grow there. My lettuce and spinach seeds are going great guns in seed trays, but I’m not sure if the strawflower seeds in the ground are coming up or whether what I’m seeing is just weeds. Time will tell.

Just got an email inviting me to a Carers Relaxation Retreat, a ‘weekend of relaxation and social activities’ with respite provided for John. It goes on to say: ‘We know caring for a loved one may be challenging at times and would like to take this opportunity to give you a break for a few days. The weekend is free of charge to our carers but spaces are limited, so book your spot as soon as you can’. Believe it or not it’s at the Fairmont Resort! But the ‘relaxation’ includes ‘yoga and meeting other carers’, neither of which sound at all relaxing to me. They almost had me in with the free transport and gourmet meals though. Why can’t they just take me there and dump me, I’d be in like Flynn if I didn’t have to worry about anyone else for a whole weekend.

September 24, 2022

Well yesterday afternoon was a bit of a flurry. John went for a walk, I got a call from Tania while he was away and we talked about her recent trip to Rome and Venice (great, apart from catching Covid on the plane). Midway through the conversation John rang and was lost, but I didn’t know the street he was in at all. Looking it up on my phone it turned out to be way past Castle Hill, but in a dead end street where all the streets off it were cul-de-sacs due to a nearby creek, so the only way out was to turn around and retrace his steps and of course he didn’t know how he got there. So I jumped in the car and it took about 15 minutes to drive there but he was in a bus shelter where he’d described. On the way home I pulled into the street with our corner shop in it and it was wall to wall police; uniforms, plain clothes on walkie-talkies and an unmarked police car as well as regular ones. It didn’t seem to involve any of the shops, they were outside a private home and of course I was itching to quiz them about what was going on, but didn’t, just got the milk and came home wondering. Then, after sending an email replying in the negative regarding the carer’s retreat invitation, I got a phone call from Leeing, the Hills Community Care Co-ordinator urging me to rethink my decision. I pointed out that John had been reluctant to stay at day care for three weeks in the beginning and then refused to stay with a carer on the one time they sent a replacement, so having a stranger come here just wouldn’t work. She countered with an offer to add another day at day care just for that week and suggested canvassing friends who might be able to come here or take him to their homes for the two nights. So this morning I rang Sue who agreed happily to stay over on one night and I’m sure I will be able to get someone who would be willing for the second one. Being weeknights rules out Davina coming. Sue was on her way to Sydney when we spoke as she flies to Melbourne tomorrow for a holiday and she surprised us by popping in on her way through. Now it really seems possible that I can go to this turnout, I am getting quite excited at the prospect, yoga notwithstanding. Maybe I can say it’s against my religion?

Made a fruitcake and it was just slightly underdone so I left it for another two minutes….which turned into five and now it’s just a bit over. I hate cake overdone, the whole smell and texture changes, so I’m cross with myself. It develops a bitterness and I just hate bitter, but I’m sure the middle will be fine. I was wondering whether the leftover Coronation Chicken that Davina brought would work heated up, but when I asked Chef Google he said that it is terrific over rice, so there’s dinner with a few greens on the side.

September 25, 2022

We decided at breakfast that seeing it was such a nice day we would do some outdoor jobs after watching Insiders, but John said very quickly that he couldn’t understand what they were talking about on the program (the first time he’s said this) so I turned it off and we repaired downstairs. I had a few little jobs down there that needed two pairs of hands but he said he didn’t feel like doing any of them, so I changed tack and did some photos of bits and bobs for eBay. I had discovered an old jewellery box from the shop that I used to keep all of the costume pieces in and some leftovers were still inside it, so I’ve put them on as a job lot of 9 pieces for $25, a good score if you have a market stall or similar. We had afternoon tea at Ryde with John’s ex neighbour Ann today, so I packed a few pieces to offer her and her daughter as gifts. However her daughter didn’t come and Ann doesn’t wear gold (or in this case case gold-coloured), so she only took one piece, a bead necklace. Afterwards we walked around Ryde park three times as we chatted so that’s my day’s exercise. Spoke to a lady who was walking her obviously impaired husband around and she mentioned that she works in the kitchen at Ryde TAFE where the chefs are trained. She talked to us about coming to their luncheons, 3 courses for $25, with all of the food cooked by the students. I remembered trying to get a booking there decades ago and giving up after umpteen tries, perhaps it’s easier now.

The man who is carving John’s chess pieces texted to say they are finished after months. Neil was doing the turning and Dave the carving, but Dave only did one and threw the job in, returning them to Neil, who kindly offered to finish them. We are busy for the next two days so we’ve arranged to pick them up the following week as Neil is going away for a few days.

September 26, 2022

I have realised that although I accompany/drive John to a few family and friend gatherings I rarely ask him to tag along to things that I want to do. So today I said I wanted to go to the Melissa Caddick inquest and he was happy to come. Just as we were going in I got a phone call from the lady organising the carers’ retreat and I didn’t want to miss that, or a spot in court either, so I asked John to go in and get two seats. When I went in he had opted for back right whereas I always opt for front left, perhaps because I’m left handed and he right? Unfortunately though it meant that we were far from the witness box and many witnesses tend to speak softly. Also we were looking at the backs of the barristers’ heads so I couldn’t lip read if I missed hearing. The first witness was an AFP officer who took part in the raid on Melissa’s house on the day before her disappearance. Her husband and parents are blaming the AFP and ASIC for her disappearance, saying that she wasn’t allowed food or water for the 12 hours they were searching her house. This seems bunkum as they gave her a document saying she could either leave or stay and she had access to her own fridge and food cupboards. Their barrister Judy Swan tried to accuse them of unfair treatment but really made herself look pretty silly, in fact she was corrected a number of times by the coroner. They videoed much of the raid and we saw some of those films, so it was pretty obvious that they were searching the premises carefully and respectfully, not at all upending drawers and tipping out cupboards in the manner of Windsor Police. John slept through much of the evidence but it was understandable considering the difficulty hearing. At morning tea time Anthony Koletti, who was seated with Melissa’s parents and brother, held open the heavy door for me with a smile, which I returned.

After tea we moved to the front left and it was a different experience with sound. The next witness was an investigator for ASIC who was a very impressive witness, never needing to refer to notes. ‘When did you get that email Ms Allen?’ ‘On the 14th of July’ she answers, never blinking. What was Caddick doing during the raid? ‘She was observed filing her nails from time to time and taking a nap in the afternoon’. Not quite the ‘torture’ her parents are suggesting. Clearly the phone was monitored prior to the raid as Allen reported that Shred-X had been contacted, so there was concern about what might disappear before they got there. She also said that the CCTV cameras were removed because Caddick refused to give them the password, so the film was viewed after the code was cracked by the IT specialists. All in all there was not a riveting breakthrough moment, but lots of little insights into how the system works. (Their risk assessment included looking out for dangers to the police and ASIC staff from things as obvious as aggression from the investigated right through to the less likely electrical and radiation injury!). The funny part came as we were leaving at lunch (there’s a limit to the torture that I’m willing to put John through). He wanted to go to the loo, so I positioned myself at the corner of the corridor leading to the courts so he could clearly see me when he got out, yet I wasn’t standing outside the men’s. But I hadn’t realised that Judy Swan, Caddick’s parents and her husband Koletti were going to go into an unmarked door right near where I was standing, some sort of meeting room I’m guessing. A little later along came a man pulling a suitcase (the attending solicitor?) who growled at me ‘So are you going to loiter there all day?’ before going into the room. No time to explain that I had no idea they were going to use that room, perhaps he thought I’d planted myself there to listen to the conversation inside? Who knows, but he was a very cross man who maybe knew that his boss had had a bad day in court.

September 27, 2022

This morning Kirk came to help in the garden and I got him to dig out the huge rosemary bush that had taken over the herb garden over time. After hurting my back last week weeding I wasn’t going to attack that job. There is a limit to how much rosemary you can use in a lifetime and I need space to grow other herbs. I can’t wait till John’s new funding comes through as it will pay to get Kirk on a more regular basis. Now I just need to pick up a table or two from council clean-up in order to have my pots elevated. Went over to ‘mind’ Michelle for the day after her knee surgery while Kev went to town for a meeting. Took some cheeses, crackers and fruit for our lunches and got stuck into the book group book later in the afternoon while Michelle had a nap.

Naturally everyone is getting into a flap over the Optus hacking and my account is one of the ones most exposed. Optus sent me an email saying that the hackers have my date of birth, email, phone number, address, and the numbers of my driver’s licence and passport. I haven’t panicked over it because there’s really not much I can do, apart from changing my banking password and lowering my internet banking limits and I did both as soon as I got the email. I will trust the government to go in to bat on my behalf and sort it out.

September 28, 2022

I used my four hours today to race to the Coroner’s Court and catch up with Mr. Koletti. Luckily they started a bit late, so I didn’t miss anything. Bemused by the fact that he seems to have many shirts in an identical and unusual shade of navy, either that or he rinses the one out each night. I am starting to think that the man has very limited intellectual ability and his weird behaviour may perhaps be explained largely by that (he told us that his father thinks he’s stupid, which may explain why the only support he gets in court is from his wife’s parents). However being stupid is not a crime but a disability and he shouldn’t be criticised for that. At one stage Koletti replied to a question: ‘Your questions are confusing, the way you talk is not the way my mind works, everyone has got a different mind you’ve got to understand that’. The form of words made me think autism spectrum may be the issue, but who knows. The poor counsel assisting tried asking questions in many different ways but he didn’t succeed in getting any direct answers, yet I sensed confusion more than evasion. He asked Mr. K. if he could read and I don’t think it was entirely a sarcastic throw-away line, a note to Melissa Caddick was tendered and the spelling was lower primary level. He maintains a weary affect as if somehow none of this tedious questioning is his affair at all. At one stage his barrister tried to answer for him until the Coroner chipped in “I don’t need you to repeat the evidence Miss Swan”, ouch. At morning tea, taken early because Mr. K. couldn’t follow proceedings, I chatted with Peter and Tracey, fellow court junkies each there alone, and asked what they thought of Judy Swan: ‘hopeless’ and ‘useless’ were the simultaneous replies. That’s a trifecta then. Perhaps she isn’t used to this type of proceeding, maybe her talents lie elsewhere, but her clients here must be wondering what all their money is achieving. Tracey pointed out a fellow who had had a go at her last week and lo and behold it was the same one who had said to me: ‘So are you going to loiter there all day?’. I said I thought he was some sort of assistant to the family’s barrister as he was following her wheeling a black suitcase, but I was wrong, she informed me that he’s Melissa’s brother. I had to leave by 1 pm to get back before John’s carer left, but I went 15 minutes early because Mr. K. was taking yet another mental health break, I suspect he will soon call it quits a la Barilaro.

Greg informed me when I got home that there are three weeks in October and November that he can’t come, gulp. I will need to talk to Kristy and see if she can get one person to do those three days considering the problems we had when we had a replacement last time. That extra funding would be really handy right now so we could get a secondary carer.

September 29, 2022

I seem to be living it up this week as I went again to the Caddick inquest this morning. Koletti came back to finish his evidence, such as it is. But today three of us were shepherded to Court 2 to watch via video, which I thought was odd as it didn’t seem at all  crowded. We were encouraged to sit in the barristers’ seats with headphones and a screen each, but I decided to ask the court officer why we were being so privileged. ‘Oh just to be extra Covid safe’ she said, which I didn’t swallow for a minute because every second seat in Court 1 always has a sign on it not to be used. When she had gone Peter (whom I met yesterday) told me that after I had left at lunchtime Caddick’s brother, who had been a bit aggro with me on Monday and with someone else the next day, was stalking up and down swearing and having a go at people who were not court officers. Apparently the sheriff was protecting us from his antics, which was much appreciated. I started to hum the old Dylan number I Shot the Sheriff and got a laugh out of him, the poor soul weighed down with handcuffs, a gun, communication equipment and whatall else. Koletti was as unreliable as ever, not only claiming lack of memory of events two years past, but of what he put in an affidavit last week. ‘Did you go out on the day of her disappearance?’ ‘No, except for taking her son to and from school.’ ‘But you previously agreed with the police that CCTV footage opposite Rodney Reserve showed you in Melissa’s Mercedes.’ ‘Oh yes, that was me.’ It turned out that he’d told police in his statement that he’d been out numerous times that day. I don’t think you can rely on a single word he says, but the reasons for that remain elusive. It is somehow comforting to be with another couple of people who have the same level of interest in this as I do and it was a change to sit with someone at the tea break and discuss the evidence. Peter commented that he feels very much at home in the Coroner’s Court and I was able to admit that I do too. I still remember telling my mother when I was in my twenties that I wanted to apply for a vacancy in the old Glebe forensic science lab and being told how strange and weird I was (I still am, but thankfully now I care less about other people’s opinions).

Had a word with Kristy about trying to get a suitable carer replacement for Greg’s absences and she recalled someone called Libby whom John liked a lot way back at the beginning, so hopefully she may be available. I told her about his somewhat sudden deterioration but there’s nothing she can do to speed up the funding. She suggested a period of respite but I am reluctant because the big change could push him further in that direction, plus I doubt I would get any say in where he went and I imagine some One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest scenario which wouldn’t do either of us any good.

September 30, 2022

I went to the bank this morning to find out what ‘two stage authentication’ actually is, but there was no help available as they didn’t have a clue either, which is quite funny seeing all the papers are saying we need to use it if our data has been stolen in the Optus hack, as mine has. So I’ve decided that I would have to be very unlucky to be targeted and I will just worry if it happens.

Book group was at Carol’s with six of us, three able bodied members assisting three who have mobility issues, so we were well matched. No one was as keen on The Caregiver as I was, but I’m not sorry I recommended it as I appreciated his wisdom all over again on rereading it.

I wasn’t able to go to the inquest today, which may be just as well. The Police Barrister Lachlan Gyles was having a sarcastic shot at Koletti, presumably in a tit-for-tat attack after Koletti’s criticism of the AFP, in which he asked: ‘You’re not very numerate, are you? You didn’t win any academic prizes at school? You were at the bottom of your class in maths and English, weren’t you?’. I would have found it hard to listen to this without comment, it was a pathetic attempt to intimidate a witness for no good reason and makes me wonder if Gyles was a police officer before going into law. Yet another barrister struck from my list of options if I ever find myself facing charges, Swan for incompetence and Gyles for being a bully. Caddick’s brother was making mischief again today and was told by the coroner that if he didn’t behave he would be tossed out, so he absented himself before she sent him packing. It is now in abeyance until late November, I wait with bated breath.

Tomorrow three of John’s friends are coming for lunch and I had written a shopping list for bread rolls, cheeses, cut meats, salad. ‘Can’t we have a leg of lamb and veggies, a roast dinner?’ said John. Seeing they were coming for afternoon tea but leaving the city at 1pm, I suggested a light lunch simply because it would be too early for them to eat before leaving home. John wasn’t dazzled by that argument so I relented and said I’ll do a chicken with veg and salad instead. He is so keen to impress them even though they’ve all been here before and I don’t recall John worrying about the food before. This morning he couldn’t work out how to open his phone, the first time that’s happened.

October 1, 2022

Whoa! I just lost the whole of what I’d typed for the day for reasons I can’t fathom, so it might be a truncated version now. Dally, Kevin and John B. are here chewing the fat after lunch so I’ve repaired to the computer. Dally is here from Melbourne for the Dally M Awards and the football tomorrow where he is a guest of the NRL. They are all lovely men and a pleasure to have here. Terry is obviously the missing person at the gathering.

Tomorrow we were to go to the Botanic Gardens with Dav and Co. but she has a cough and is worried about meeting with us so John wants to go out for lunch for my birthday. I tried Sails at Lavender Bay but it was booked out, so I suggested the Public Dining Room at Balmoral and luckily we got in there. I had hoped for a big party for my 75th but it was not to be so it’s something to plan for the next life. I was looking forward to asking all the people I wanted to be with, but not feeling obliged to invite any that I didn’t. (You can do that when you’re 75).

I’m not sure what else I had written and lost, but clearly it was superfluous to requirements.

October 2, 2022

What a lovely day. John kept asking when his carer was picking him up but once we got going he had a handle on what we were doing. He doesn’t know what has happened, or what is going to happen, but is across what IS happening, so as long as we keep things moving he’s fine. We had a noon booking at Public Dining Room and I was surprised to see that it was quite full when we arrived on time. The food was wonderful, especially the taster of Fish Mousse on a Blini with Cod Roe and the Cauliflower and Smoked Mozzarella Souffle. John was quite confused by the menu and asked me to order for him, he gave his meal 9.5/10 so I must have chosen well, especially his Spaghettini with King Prawns and Trout. They make a mean White Peach Bellini so I indulged in two and then we went for a wander around Balmoral until I was sure I was under the limit to drive home. A very happy birthday was had by me and John looked relaxed and happy as well. One funny thing happened when I recognised a waiter two tables away and he recognised me. It was Mark, the owner of my once favourite and much missed restaurant in the Hills, Trellini’s. He came over for a chat and asked what we were doing so far from home. I explained it was a birthday lunch and he produced a Happy Birthday message written in chocolate on a big plate, which John was more than happy to scoff. It turns out he owns Public Dining Room which is why he closed our local, something I could never understand. Another reason to make PDR a special occasion favourite.

Last night the bro rang, accompanied by his daughter Tania and friend Anne, so I was able to have three conversations in one. He has carers coming four times a day and his daughter stays overnight. None of this waiting 3-6 months as we are currently, he needs help so it happens straight away, as it did when Mary got sick. I think Tania said he was sleeping downstairs now and as there is no bedroom down there I’m assuming they’ve also got in a hospital bed or similar in the dining room so he doesn’t have to access the stairs unless he does so supervised by a carer for a shower. Things are getting pretty grim for him but there really is nothing I can do from here.

Strangely I keep thinking about Anthony Koletti and wondering how he is now he’s got a break from the witness box and the ghastly Mr. Gyles. If he were trying to edge Koletti towards suicide he couldn’t have done a better job. Perhaps my empathy is misplaced but I do feel for him despite his transgressions, minor or major as they will be shown to be.

October 3, 2022

Last night the bro rang again to wish me a happy birthday, totally forgetting that he’d rung the night before. I ended up in tears after the call with him saying repeatedly ‘we will be together again, won’t we?’ and reminding me that he had taught me how to build sandcastles on the Lincolnshire coast the year we met, ‘making up for what I should have taught you when you were a little girl’. Of course the upset meant that I didn’t sleep till after 4.17 am (the last time I looked at the clock) but luckily there was no need for an early morning start.

Today we went to Jane and Boris’s house for lunch and she had invited Martha and Lucien as well after Claude didn’t turn up yesterday from Townsville as planned. He missed the flight, a reprise of so many other journeys. John commented that Lucien is a man now and fitted in well with the oldies, something he says hadn’t occurred to him before. It was a relaxed and enjoyable occasion, our third day of functions in a row, social butterflies that we’ve become lately.

October 4, 2022

Today’s task was to go out to Windsor to meet up with Neil who has been working on carving John’s chess pieces. He was as good as his word so now the table and pieces are finally completed. Begun as a project for his architecture degree, he finished most of it at that time but didn’t finish carving half of the chessmen and now that task is past him. Later I planted another batch of lettuce seeds, the first lot having come up nicely. All of the coriander seeds that came up have disappeared and were replaced by weeds, snails? insufficient water? I’m not sure so I need to do some replanting. Today I also planted out the Clivia seeds which took about two months to germinate, but finally did. Mr. Google says they will take about five years to flower so I hope that’s an exaggeration. Went to Plantmark at Vineyard to try to get some white flag irises to put down the driveway but they had none, nor have the Digger’s Club or elsewhere that I’ve tried online. Wrong time of year I’m afraid.

It is a bit worrying that John is having trouble opening his phone, for some reason his finger is not doing it (mine still does) and he can’t remember the password, so having it with him on a walk is a bit of a waste of time. He regularly gets lost so he needs to call me to pick him up or provide directions as he’s also unable to use the map function.

I’ve decided not to go to Colleen’s for sewing tomorrow, there are heaps of little jobs I need to do and it’s faster when I’m on my own. When I need to speak to J’s doctors, home care service or whatever by phone it’s difficult to explain things as he’s always within earshot. Similarly when people ask how he is, I routinely say he’s well and leave it at that, when  sometimes that’s far from what they are asking.

October 5, 2022

Whoa, it was jam-packed at Services NSW this afternoon when I went to renew our National Parks parking permits, which I had tried and failed to do online and then with the help of a NP person on the phone. Services NSW staff are so helpful and so patient that I always end up wanting to give the server a hug. ‘So why are you so busy today?’ I asked naively and of course it was because of all the leaked ID documents courtesy of Optus. It is totally unfair that individuals or the government (ie me) should have to pay for all of this. Optus should be footing the bill 100%. I have had a couple of lousy little one paragraph texts from them all through this, none of them telling me much at all, but I am certainly not planning to get a new licence or passport at this stage of the game.

Castle Hill Medical Centre, which we attend, has let us know that their patients over 65 had an almost 50% lower risk of mortality compared to the state Primary Health Network average over the last 12-month period. Mmm, there’s something about living in a middle income, relatively safe area with an abundance of medical care available isn’t there? I am interested to see the figures from other areas of Sydney as a comparison.

While I am generally very impressed with the government’s progress on the national integrity commission, they are making a big mistake by restricting the public hearings to exceptional circumstances (yes I know I have a vested interest, but the point is bigger than my desire to attend ScumMo’s downfall). The only person who can and should decide whether the hearings are public or private is the person reading all the evidence, the commissioner. I have complete faith in ICAC’s past commish, the lovely David Ipp who was totally in favour of public hearings, the crossbench shouldn’t budge on this one.

October 6, 2022

I find I spend a lot more time thinking on the days I’m by myself, obvious I guess, but I must have my thinking time or I sorely feel the need of it. I don’t know how very busy people manage in that respect. Today I have been tossing around the thought that the press hasn’t yet (to my knowledge anyway) pondered the question of whether Charles will join/has joined the Masons. The Queen’s father was a ‘devout’ member, her husband apparently a half-hearted one, her cousin the Duke of Kent is the current Grand Master in the UK and the Queen herself was the Grand Patroness (strange in an all male organisation), this now falling to Charles. However Lord Mountbatten, Charles’ favourite uncle, was very much against The Brotherhood, so perhaps that will influence him. The Church of England, of which Charles is now titular head, has been a bastion of Freemasonry for the last 250 plus years, so that’s a pull in the positive direction. Apparently according to Stephen Knight, somewhat of a Masonic expert, in the 1950s there were only half a dozen C. of E. bishops out of over a hundred in the UK who were not Masons. They banned books exposing or critical of Freemasonry from sale in C. of E. bookshops and I understand this still stands. I await the Guardian filling us in on Charles’ intentions when they get around to it.

I spent a few hours photographing and listing eBays so I now have 28 items listed from $5 to $500 with the majority around the $20 mark. I may live long enough to see everything sold but I doubt it. The main thing is to get them into the hands of new owners who will appreciate them. One item is a medallion from the 1st Psychological Operations Battalion in the US, listing Haiti, Panama and GTMO ( Guantánamo Bay) among their areas of operation. It is chilling stuff as their aims show: “Operations to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives and objective reasoning. The purpose is to induce or reinforce behavior perceived to be favorable to U.S. objectives”. Now I’m wondering if I should even be listing the bloody thing.

October 7, 2022

We watched the first episode of The Australian Wars on SBS on Demand (free of ads, what a blessing, perhaps I can go back to watching SBS this way). It brought me to tears and I abandoned the idea of watching two episodes straight as too emotionally wrenching. Only recently a friend of a friend commented to me that ‘you shouldn’t feel guilty for what was done so long ago’ to which I replied that I live every day benefitting from what was done, so I do feel guilty. I don’t know how anyone could watch that programme and not feel the same way. It was interesting that North Rocks got a mention as the site of conflict with Aboriginal people early on in the piece, long before any of the other suburbs around here had a name I suspect. Rachel Perkins is a credit to her father’s memory.

So far I have $265 worth of bids on the eBays I listed just yesterday, with nine more days to go! Of course they are all things of male interest, as per usual. I think if ever I started dealing again I would only sell those things that appeal to the male of the species, they are happy to pay whatever is necessary to get what they want. Pretty bits are a dead loss, even rare ones. I often had women in the shop asking me to give them a paper receipt for less than they actually paid for something, then they threw away the credit card receipt in case the husband saw it, often it was for a pathetically small amount. Some told their husbands that they picked up the item in St. Vinnies, but never once did a man ask me to downplay the cost of something.

Noticing that a protester in Scotland was tackled to the ground and arrested for calling out “Andrew, you’re a sick old man” as Prince Andrew passed was quite disturbing. No violence, just a bit of truth telling it could be argued. I thought generously that perhaps he’d been put into ‘protective custody’ considering the Royal fervour of the time but no, he was subsequently charged with something like breaching the peace or similar, I can’t remember the charge exactly now. When in Thailand I was shocked to find that criticising the Royal family is a criminal offense, the so called “lèse-majesté” laws: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, Queen, the Heir-apparent or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.” The code however doesn’t include a helpful definition of what actions constitute defamation or insult, so it is a dangerous business to test the law in Thailand. However I hope that the public solicitors in Scotland jump all over this charge and give the young man and the population generally the right to heckle without threat, anything else would be a travesty.

October 8, 2022

It was fine in the morning but rain was forecast for the afternoon, so I accepted a lift to town with Jane who was taking John to the Art Gallery for the morning while I met my girls at the Queen Victoria Building prior to my birthday lunch. I bumped into them upstairs on the way to the loos so I didn’t need to text that I’d arrived. The destination was a secret so we set out from there walking west (I had assumed we might be headed towards Darling Harbour but I was wrong there). We passed Chinatown and headed still further west, finally stopping at Gavroche in Chippendale. An upstairs room furnished very much in the French bistro style greeted us, with some parts of the decor actually taken from Brasserie Georges in Lyon (which must look very much depleted now I’m thinking). The wine list was exclusively French and judging by the excellent two glasses I had, at the upper end in both quality and price. It was a lovely afternoon with my girls, something we rarely get any more. I am very thankful to Jane who took John out and then to her home for lunch and the afternoon. He was totally confused this morning thinking I was going to book group ‘no, I’m going out to lunch’ and a bit later ‘why isn’t Jane going to the book group lunch?’. We repeated this conversation or a similar one many times over until Jane walked in the door and we were off. My red raincoat, equipped as it is with its own carry bag, proved invaluable as it was in fact pouring by the time I was leaving to come home. Numerous buses pulled up and I asked for the QVB but the drivers all said a simple no, it was only when I got to the eighth bus that I was told that ‘buses haven’t gone along George Street for three years’, aaah so I could have got on any of the previous seven, grrr. But it’s so long since I’ve wandered around town that it wasn’t at all a problem to walk from Elizabeth. One the way down Cross St in pouring rain the paper gift satchel (in which I was carrying my gifts and some table scraps supposedly for the possum) disintegrated. Luckily I was able to catch the breakable gift before it hit the concrete but the food, some of which, like the delicious remains of a baguette and some garlic croutons may have constituted my dinner, splattered on the road and even I was not prepared to scrape it up. Now I’ll just have to go back and eat another of their delicious baguettes.

October 9, 2022

Woohoo, I am up to $400 in bids on the blokey stuff I just listed on eBay, plus I’ve had some nice email exchanges with people who are bidding. One man who’s the lead bidder on a Sydney brass tram ticket is planning to write an article on it for a transportation journal and says he’ll send me a copy. I so miss the interaction with passionate collectors.

I’ve just finished reading a book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by the American poet Ocean Vuong. It’s an autobiographical story of his journey to the US as a small child with no English, living in poverty with his mother and grandmother, neither of whom were literate in their own language and never mastered English, his mother breaking a pencil as she wrote “a b c” over and over, trying to teach herself the alphabet. He learned to read at the age of eleven and is now a professor of English, quite a journey, but neither his mother nor grandmother ever got to read his work. The book impressed on me yet again the damage done to people by war, he was physically and psychologically abused by his mother and his grandmother was schizophrenic, with bizarre behaviour characterising their relationships. It brought to mind the damage being done to Ukrainians and Russians at the moment and the profound psychological damage to Putin wreaked in WWII. Vuong is clearly a poet and the language is luscious at times. I was taken with the idea that that everyone who has ever lived has seen the same sunset: “Cleopatra saw the same sunset. Ain’t that crazy? Like everybody who was ever alive only seen one sun.” Or try: “An American soldier fucked a Vietnamese farmgirl. Thus my mother exists. Thus I exist. Thus no bombs = no family = no me.” The book covers so much, the material differences in the US population, racial inequality, drug use, gun violence, as well of course the plight of the Vietnamese. “Here, good is finding a dollar caught in the sewer drain, is when your mom has enough money on your birthday to rent a movie, plus buy a five-dollar pizza from Easy Frank’s and stick eight candles over the melted cheese and pepperoni. Good is knowing there was a shooting and your brother was the one that came home and was already beside you, tucked into a bowl of mac and cheese”.

October 10, 2022

Answering an email from a friend caused me to consider which people if any I’d have trouble sharing a room with. Of course the temptation is to jump to extremes, think Donald Trump for example, but I’m inclined to think I would stand my ground and argue in that particular case. The names of those who would make my skin crawl are all women interestingly, Michaelia Cash, Amanda Stoker, Hollie Hughes and Teena McQueen all qualify, but I would be more minded to stand and fight with men of similar ilk, I am not sure exactly why.

Although I am fully supportive of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in principle, I was somewhat shocked to discover that it’s not means tested at all and has no upper limit for benefits as does the Home Care Package for those over 65. I realise that people with profound disabilities need huge amounts of care, but it worries me to hear that the government is now thinking of including things like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in its gambit. I was recently talking to someone who was pleased at having just received a diagnosis and I now wonder, somewhat cynically, if the satisfaction had anything to do with the benefits soon to accrue. It seems that we could find a pathology for half the population if we tried hard enough and it worries me that in future restrictions will be applied to the absolutely worthy because the scheme is stretched beyond its budgetary limits. I hope not.

October 11, 2022

Lunch today with my cousin Angela at China Doll at Wooloomooloo to celebrate both of our birthdays. I had indicated to her in the past that Chinese is not my favourite food by a long way and she was keen to convince me that China Doll is a long way from your suburban Chinese, where the food always seemed as if it were cooked in a factory somewhere and dealt out to every Chinese restaurant in Sydney in a delivery truck. Well she was right, the food was beyond delicious, with no sign of chow mein or sweet and sour fried short soup on the menu. (This was the first Chinese food I ever ate at age 16 in Parramatta. On telling my mother with excitement about this new cuisine I’d discovered her reply was ‘don’t be ridiculous, you can’t fry soup’Smilie: ;). It was pretty packed but we sat outside on the wharf so that wasn’t a problem. We ate lots of different bits but roast duck and watermelon salad is something I will try to replicate.

Angela showed me photos from last Sunday’s wedding of her nephew, my Timorese cousin Domingos’s son Ibrahim. What a league of nations it was as the bride is from South Africa with Malaysian heritage, her two sisters are married to a Kiwi and a South Korean, all of whom were present. I think back to when Domingos and Callisto joined the family straight from Villawood after being evacuated to Darwin when the Indonesians were invading Timor Leste. They have made good lives for themselves from tragedy, divorced from their families and culture.

Professor Brian Cox got a short interview on 7.30 tonight with the lovely Sarah, but short is the operative word, five lousy minutes. I shot off an email telling the producer that we can listen to talk of recession, power prices etc any night but we don’t often get Cox’s wisdom, it was a bit of an insult really and I think his face showed it.

October 12, 2022

Woohoo, today I finished organising for John to have people here when I go away in November. Sue is coming Thursday until the book group event at Carol’s on Friday afternoon, then Jane will bring him home from there and stay till I get back on Saturday at a time to be confirmed. She thinks he will be less confused if he’s in his own home and I think she’s right there. Both were happy to help so now it’s just a case of not getting sick and then it’s all systems go.

This morning I collected bit and pieces to go to the Sallies and seeing I would be passing Brigitte’s I offered to pick her up for the ride, which she gladly accepted. I managed to get rid of an all-weather coat I was given which proved to be too small and a few bits of costume jewellery that hadn’t sold on eBay. It seemed light on but when I got home I found the blouse and straw hat that I had intended taking as well. We had a cuppa at Dolcettini’s and there was just one person serving, the other had been called away to her child’s school so I told the man behind the counter that if I’d been there alone I would have been happy to fill in for a few hours unpaid, to help out and for the experience and I think he would have been happy to let me. In the course of our conversation I discovered that one of Brigitte’s neighbours is the mother of an old friend of mine who is now a Church of England minister so I Googled him to find that he’s at Panania church after being at Casula and Liverpool in the past. David and I worked together at Sydney Uni until he announced that ‘I’ve been called to the ministry’, something he swore he would never do after growing up as a minister’s son. It took me back to our philosophical arguments while working in the fields of wheat at the farm, gosh it was 50 years ago. Must ring him and catch up sometime, though I guess we are further away from each other now than ever we’ve been.

October 13, 2022

Decided to head to the Coroner’s Court today for a look see, though I knew there were no vitally important cases on the go, an opinion confirmed by the total lack of press there, however any case is someone’s relative so in that sense they are equally important. On the way on James Ruse Drive there was an end to end six car pile-up involving three tradies’ vehicles and three cars, one poor sod in a recent blue sedan was stove in heavily both front and back so that baby is on a one way trip to the wreckers. So there were at least six folks having a very bad day. I arrived in time, before the Coroner emerged and noted that the only other people present were 8 or 9 police, uniformed and plain clothes. They looked at each other and were clearly a little discomforted by the presence of a ‘foreigner’. Finally one of the plain clothes men came over and asked, with a smile that was terrifyingly like Barnaby Joyce’s grin, if I needed any help. ‘No thankyou, I’m just an interested member of the public’ I answered. He tried again: ‘So you’re here for the Ellis inquest?’ he asked, ‘I thought perhaps you were in the wrong court?’. By then he had convinced me that I was in fact in the right one. It was a pretty simple case of death following a vehicle hitting a tree at over 140 kph late one night in Yass. However the police had seen Mr. Ellis driving erratically and called on a nearby highway patrol to give chase, by that time the fellow had shot out of sight and was subsequently killed hitting a tree in a single vehicle event. Despite my Googling the event with name, dates, location etc there doesn’t seem to have been any publicity that I could find and I’m sure they are hoping to keep it that way. The chap was driving at high speed, was 3 and a half times over the limit, on bail for other offences and in my mind I am writing a brief report to compare with Magistrate Kennedy’s, pretty much an open and shut case I would think. From there I came home to bake rock cakes and wash up many crystal glasses with a view to finding them all a home, a day of some variety.

October 14, 2022

Managed to get a bucketful of weeds before a shower of rain stopped me and perhaps prevented the strained back I got last time I did some serious weeding, so I decided to accept the hand of fate and leave it at that. We had planned to go to a movie, The Stranger, which is a somewhat fictionalised version of the book The Sting which I read recently and was very impressed by. So at breakfast and at lunch I went through the story with John, hoping it would help him understand the movie better. Off we went after lunch but when buying the tickets I wasn’t wearing my glasses……so we were in the wrong cinema which resulted in a totally different movie coming on after the endless ads, but by then I was afraid that the movie we actually went to see may have already started, so I stayed there and hoped for the best. We were lucky that it was Amsterdam, a most unusual film that I wouldn’t have set out to see but which I am not sorry we saw. Afterwards I asked John if he’d noticed any difference to the plot I’d described but he said he couldn’t remember anything I’d told him so he didn’t know it was the wrong movie. I’m not sure how to describe Amsterdam, perhaps as a black comedy about the true events prior to WWII when there was a Fascist plot to overthrow the US government. An attempted Fascist takeover of the United States is something one would likely remember, but I had completely forgotten that it even happened so the movie has done me a favour as I will seek out more information about the actual event. I’m sure that the director’s intention was to focus our minds on the events of January 6, Trump and the threat to American democracy, but whether people will link this given his humorous approach remains to be seen.

I posted off two eBay sales, one a 1938 commemorative coin and the other a brass finial of an eagle. The latter had a slightly military feel and could be from the US or Nazi Germany or neither, though exactly what it was once attached to is a mystery to me. The coin was cast for the 150th anniversary of Australia and after it sold for $15.50 I happened to see one advertised at a coin dealership for $85, so perhaps a dealer bought it and good luck to them. My Dead Man’s Penny keeps going up, now having reached $415 with the same two bidders pushing it north, so hopefully they will continue.

October 15, 2022

Dead Man’s Penny now at $495 with 18 hours to go. If I were of a mind I could game the system as I can see the leading bidder has another higher bid in the pipeline which will only take effect if someone bids against him. Who knows what his top bid is? But I’m happy as it stands.

I’ve been thinking about the Brittany Higgins jury and feeling glad that I’m not on it. Usually it’s the reverse, I am cracking my neck to be there. But the more the trial goes on the more confusing it gets and considering that the job of the defence is to cast just enough doubt on the accuser’s story, this is not a good sign for her. Under the Scottish system of Innocent, Guilty or Not Proven there is scope for the jury to say that they think it may have happened but there isn’t enough evidence, but this jury doesn’t have that option. Bruce Lehrmann’s barrister needs to find answers to the question about why he walked into Parliament House at that hour of the night to ‘get documents’ but walked out 20 minutes later with none. Why did he leave without the person he had arranged to be signed in? Why did he say she didn’t appear particularly drunk when CCTV shows her barely able to walk and unable to put her shoes back on? On the other side Higgins barrister needs to find an explanation as to why she refused to do a police interview until she had spoken to journalists and why she insisted on the story coming out in the first week of Parliament. She did have a motive to lie, fear for her job after her behaviour came to light. Considering the competing stories and no witnesses or hard forensic evidence it seems that a cautious jury would be loath to convict, however I’ve only heard part of the evidence, just what the journalists highlight to put in print, and there are more witnesses to come. But if I were having a bet at this stage I’d go for Not Guilty, not because it didn’t happen necessarily but because it hasn’t been proven to the required degree, considering the penalty is 12 to 20 years. As I said I’m very glad it’s not down to my decision.

October 16, 2022

Millie was on the sick list Friday night and Saturday with vomiting and was sleepy and generally unwell. We were going to go to visit her this morning as she was a bit better, but just before we were to leave she said she was too sick for visitors so we changed tack. It’s a constant battle for kids, getting one thing after the other for years, I remember it well both as a child and with my children, no fun.

Well the Dead Man’s Penny sold today ….. drum roll ….. for $567 and the buyer had more bids up his sleeve. Also sold were a 1966 set of pre-decimal and decimal coins for $41 and a brass ticket for the Sydney trams for $27.20, blokey pieces all. Unfortunately I don’t think I have any other similar bits to sell, but I am flush after this little flurry so I can’t complain.

After catching up on some emails I am now looking for a nice recipe for dinner combining barramundi and trout as I have a fillet of each in the fridge. Lurve mixing seafood, just wish I had a few prawns hanging about as well. I’m still thinking about the fish dumplings and prawns in a lobster bisque that I didn’t have at Gavroche (diner’s remorse), might have to make a return visit to rid that from my culinary wishlist. I could use one of my smaller sales to finance a kir royale (or two) while I’m at it.

October 17. 2022

I wish I could stop worrying about shit and only focus on worrying about important stuff. Yesterday I sent an email around with photos of some glasses to give away (drinking glasses not eye glasses, of which I have a few pairs as well). It was a case of first in, best dressed but I didn’t check for responses for a few hours. The first email was from person A who asked for the set on the left, so I immediately replied in the affirmative only to open the next email from person B who wanted the same ones. But she had replied within minutes of the photos going out so in fairness they should be hers. I replied to person B explaining that they’d already gone but got no response, so went to bed assuming that I am a bad person for not informing person A that I had awarded them to her in error. I am still thinking about what I should do, even though person B may not have even thought about it since. On the other hand she may feel quite cheesed off, perhaps justifiably, as the process was unintentionally inequitable. Why does any kind of injustice eat my soul to this extent? I know not, but I wish I could channel it to more important issues.

Today we went to see the movie I intended to go to last week and stuffed up the theatre number. It is The Stranger, a version of the events surrounding the undercover police case in trying to bring to justice the killer of Daniel Morecombe. Out of respect for his parents the names were changed and it doesn’t focus at all on the murder, just on the police work, which is astounding and a story in itself. I realised when it was over that I hadn’t taken a deep breath through the whole film, it was so suspenseful despite the fact that I knew the story well and hence the ending. It was filmed in low saturation colour as well as being mostly filmed in dark places or at night, it’s a brooding, gloomy film with full understanding of the idiom of the criminal underclass. Eleven out of ten from me with full credit to the amazing men who formed the actual covert police team and closed this case when it looked as if a man had committed the perfect murder.

An exciting day for Carly’s closest friend Dr. Lucas de Toca who, as I type, is at Government House receiving the Public Service Medal for his work in keeping Covid out of Aboriginal communities. Carly was lucky enough to go along as his guest. Quite an experience I imagine. I watched proceedings on the G-Gs youtube channel, without Carly’s tip I would never have thought he had one. Apart from a constantly fretting baby it all went off very well.

October 18, 2022

Sad to be informed that my favourite cousin in England, my mother’s brother’s son Victor, died on Sunday after a stroke. I loved Vic and so enjoyed spending time with him and Sandra when I was in the UK. He was the first person in my mother’s family that I met and through him I got to know lots more. When I was visiting the UK I cold called him after finding his number on British Telecom and he knew exactly who I was. He said he used to look surreptitiously at my Christmas and birthday cards to my mother every year to see what I was up to. Even though I was supposedly a huge secret as far as my mother was concerned, he’d been told about me decades previously, probably by his mother. A few weeks ago I wrote to him, a common way to connect as he wasn’t on email, but didn’t get an answer which was most unusual. I had been thinking that I should ring to make sure that there was nothing wrong but expected a letter to come any time. I have been debating whether to tell John as he enjoyed Vic’s company when we visited England, but I would have to explain in detail who he was and then he would immediately forget about the death anyway, so there doesn’t seem much point.

We went out to Fagan Park for a walk, the quietist I have ever seen it there. On the way home I had a funny call from a friend and as a result of my uplifted mood I decided on the spur of the moment to pull in to Wild Pear for a Peach Bellini and lunch (Barramundi on Beetroot Risotto with Roasted Beetroot and Goat Cheese for moi). We both gave our meals 11 out of 10, a score we’ve succeeded in achieving for two meals and a movie so far this week. A party of about ten women managed to confirm that this configuration is the noisiest grouping possible, but luckily there was some distance between us and the shrieking so I was able to avoid taking out my hearing aids.

October 19, 2022

John had a replacement carer for John today but Becky was just the ticket, telling him she’d had a lovely time and hoped to come back and take him out again. They went to nearby Cumberland State Forest, did all the walks and had lunch at the cafe there, he brought me a brochure about the place not realising that we have been there numerous times. I’ve decided not to tell him about my cousin Vic’s death at all, he’d either not know who he is or else be upset that he’s died, so lose/lose.

I am currently reading Talking with Psychopaths by British criminologist Christopher Berry-Dee. It isn’t well written at all, has numerous errors that any basic proofreading would pick up quickly and it’s full of self-promotion ‘if you want to know more about this read my book Blah or watch my Youtube video Blop’. But the worst thing about it is that, as often happens with people who are involved with crime for a long time, he has become way too cynical for my taste, expressing pleasure at capital punishment and harsh treatment by prison officers. He delights in US prison officers commonly addressing inmates with “hey fuckwit”, ‘none of this leftie human rights stuff’, he says. He refers to prison penpals as ‘murder groupies’, eyeroll. Did I stop reading? No I did not, because he does have a wealth of experience in the field and I don’t have to like him to benefit from that. While the common wisdom about psychopaths is that they emerge from a childhood of abuse, mistreatment and misery I was fascinated to read about one Russell Williams, Colonel in the Canadian Air Force and Commander of Canada’s largest military base. As a pilot he flew the Queen and Prince Philip, the Canadian Governor-General and the Prime Minister in the Canadian Forces VIP aircraft. But old Russell had a nasty evening hobby, breaking into homes and stealing women’s underwear, which graduated to sexual assault, rape and then to murder. One of his victims was a female serving air force officer unknown to him. So where does his psychopathy originate? We’ll never know. Functional MRI studies show that scans of psychopaths taken while they are viewing horrific, violent images show their amygdalae remaining dark with reduced activity, whereas ‘normal people’ show a lighting up in sections which are believed to generate feelings of empathy. It gets us back to blame; how much blame can we ascribe to someone born without empathy? I hope we will eventually find a way to keep these people safely away from harming others, but without the further dehumanising treatment that prisons provide.

October 20, 2022

Excited to get the chance to go to the Coroner’s Court today for part of the inquest of  pilot Gareth Morgan and his passengers Richard Cousins, his sons Edward and William, his fiancee Emma Bowden, and her daughter Heather. They had been on holiday from Britain when on New Year’s Eve 2017, ahead of Richard and Emma’s planned wedding in 2018, they chartered a seaplane from Rose Bay to take them to lunch at the Cottage Point Inn before a planned evening watching the fireworks on Sydney Harbour. Sadly, on the return flight the pilot circled unexpectedly then took the plane up Jerusalem Bay and it finally crashed there killing all on board. Tests on the plane found no mechanical problems and there was nothing in the pilot’s autopsy or medical history to explain what had happened. Two years later, still without any explanation, it was suggested that tests for carbon monoxide be done on reserved blood from the autopsies. Surprisingly it was found in all six, with levels ranging from 4 to 11%. The evidence today centred on what three experienced forensic pathologists thought about the causes and effects of these amounts. They were interviewed together (a process oddly described as a hot tub!) and all agreed that the amounts of carbon monoxide are usually tested in suicides, after fires or similar, so the levels are always 50% and above, however the tests are very inaccurate at levels of 20% and less. So explaining exactly what the effects of 11% could be is difficult, plus the blood was two years old and had been frozen and the apparatus used doesn’t give accurate readings at low levels. This was debated three ways for three hours and I was fascinated. At the lunch break the man next to me in court held out his hand, introducing himself as being from the Australian Transportation Safety Board. He said the after lunch evidence would be really interesting too and I so wanted to stay on, but the maths told me I’d only get half an hour before having to leave for John’s return from daycare. This story has all the elements of a novel: New Year’s Eve, an impending wedding, three much loved children, a pilot who has never put a foot wrong in his career and a family with oodles of money, but sadly that made not a whit of difference to their fates. Could I possibly go again tomorrow and take John I’m asking myself……

Back to the glasses issue over which I agonised. Person A decided they were a bit too fine and delicate so I went back to Person B who jumped at them because they were fine and delicate. She also kicked off the Bill Crews collection box with a massive tin of coffee and a clutch of cans of fish, baked beans etc. Win-win.

October 21, 2022

I weakened and dragged John along to court. He was quite chuffed and got dressed up in good pants and a jacket. I must have the luck of the Irish, because as we were going up in the lift, only two floors, a man asked if we were going to the plane crash inquest and when I said yes he announced that he was the doctor who gave evidence all afternoon yesterday. I said that I had left before he began and so he filled me in on all his evidence. Talk about personal service! He gave us his history at length: medical degree, joined the army, helicopter pilot, later forensic investigator specialising in aircraft issues. I think he was delighted to have a new audience. However I think John found today’s evidence a bit dry, centring as it did on how the carbon monoxide got from the engine into the cabin. Apparently any replacement parts are supposed to be authentic ones from the manufacturer, not random ones that happen to fit, so there was a long discussion about the bolts attaching the firewall, between the cockpit and the engine. All of those recovered from the wreck were non-standard (not even matching each other) and could have allowed leakage of gases into the cockpit, three were missing altogether. The person relaying all this from the witness stand was my pal from yesterday, the investigator from the ATSB and before proceedings began he came up and introduced himself to John and filled us in on what I missed yesterday afternoon, though I didn’t tell him we’d already had it from the horse’s mouth. I’m realising that these people are besotted with what they do and are overjoyed to be able to explain it all to anyone who will listen, in this case us, as the only two people present who aren’t already party to the proceedings. So different an attitude to criminal proceedings. One of the legal teams is representing the father of the little girl who died along with her mother. Presumably if he is funding a team in Australia to represent him he is planning to sue whoever is found responsible for the crash, again deep pockets allow such options. Apparently it will go on into next week so if the gods are kind I will get an opportunity to go again.

Currently reading the novel Bon and Lesley and wondering exactly why I am doing so. It is a surreal story set in a dying town in central western NSW with four characters who drink, argue, eat junk food, drink more, watch TV, drink again and at one point burn the contents of abandoned houses. Where is it going? Why am I still reading it? There must be a point and I am keen to find it, but somehow suspect I never will. However the characters remind me strongly of people I have met in the past, particularly through the shop, whose interests are negligible and who are substantially focussed on day to day survival. I’m so far into it now I may as well continue.

October 22, 2022

Enjoyed the Farmer’s Market at Castle Hill this morning, coming home with lots of fresh goodies and an empty wallet, some of the cheeses (which I resisted) were $12 or $15 for a piece. Since then I’ve been cooking for visitors coming for lunch tomorrow, so the place is full of mess and a pile of washing up. But at 2 pm John’s friends from Melbourne rang to say they were coming at 3 pm for a cuppa, so there’s been a whirlwind of vaccing and kitchen cleaning. Not a piece of anything to give them I’m afraid so they’ve had to be content with packet biscuits. I had a pav cooling in the oven but it ain’t going to be cut today.

Doing a bit of a Google search on my new pal Duncan, the lead investigator from the ATSB, and discovered that he was instrumental in the hunt for MH370. Gosh I would love to invite the three of them here for a meal, especially seeing they are all put up in hotels and away from home, but the next few days are spoken for and they may misconstrue the invitation. I’d be happy to talk about any topic with them, such an interesting bunch they are.

I finished Bon and Lesley and am none the wiser. There are three themes that I identified with, firstly the way we take beautiful natural places and deface them with ugly service stations, shopping malls, Colourbond fences and whatever else. Secondly the appalling stuff that passes for food for some people, the ‘meals’ described are cringe-making ‘a packet of cabanossi, a bag of lettuce and some finger buns’ although others were worse, from memory hot chips, a packet of Burger Rings and some dried wasabi peas was one, anything available close by and cheap seemed to be the criteria. Thirdly the totally depressing and dysfunctional rum-soaked lives that he’s describing: ‘Freedom is having a job and not being bashed’. These four can’t manage a job between them (apart from at one point being paid to pointlessly torch abandoned houses) and freedom is hardly a word I’d use to describe their lifestyles. However I still struggle with the motivation for this book, though I may find that he’s a genius, that the surreal parts have some deep psychoanalytic reasoning, but I’m just not smart enough to interpret it.

October 23, 2022

Enjoyed lunch with Boris and Jane, did Bobotie with Ginger Coconut Rice and sides of asparagus and a salad, plus a pav to finish. They brought a lovely pinot noir which went perfectly. It finally rained as forecast so I was pleased for the basil and lettuce that I planted. I had to smile at something I saw on Facebook today “Some people want a big house, expensive car and designer clothes. Others have a garden where they can avoid those people”.

I wish I could keep my focus on the important parts of a story but I’m afraid that during Liz Truss’s famous resignation speech I couldn’t take my eyes of that god-awful podium. Who on earth thought that could be attractive? It was a different one to the one Boris always used so I wonder if it’s just been made? There is a fence on the way to Killcare that I try to avoid looking at which has a similar design and somehow I always have to look to see if it’s been bulldozed, though sadly not.

It was very interesting to watch the program about Medicare fraud and it reminded me of something that happened a few years back. A doctor whom I knew as a client and with whom I became friendly told me he was looking for a receptionist and shortly after the wife of a Group Captain from the air base told me she was looking for work so I introduced them. She got the job and a few weeks later I asked her how it was going. She confided that the doctor was running a counselling practice, no medical appointments were accepted, but once she realised this she pointed out that having clients attending for long sessions every week couldn’t be charged to Medicare as GP appointments under the rules. She said if he continued she would have to resign as she didn’t want to be caught up in Medicare fraud. He let her go and went his merry way. Only later I remembered his telling me that he never wanted to be a doctor but his famous medico father pushed him in that direction, he’d always wanted to be a psychologist or a counsellor and finally he had the bucks behind him to do what he’d missed out on earlier in his career.

October 24, 2022

With the obvious proviso that I wasn’t in court to hear the evidence, I am somewhat encouraged to hear that it’s taking the Lehrmann jury a long time to decide his fate. Sentencing someone for 12 to 20 years is an onerous task and they are right to take all the time they need, you’d need to be damned sure with that amount of time hanging over the person’s head. I am betting on a hung jury and I myself am a hung jury in this case, swaying back and forth as arguments were played out one way and another.

I’ve lived all my life with the ‘blood’s thicker than water’ idea in my mind but it seems that still isn’t enough, even when you’ve got the blood presence is also required apparently. My brother wasn’t answering his phone for a long time earlier in the year and I finally found that he was in hospital. I explained to his daughter that is difficult being so far away and not knowing what’s happening and I gave her my email address so she can notify me easily and without cost, which she indicated she was very happy to do. For the last two weeks there’s been no answer yet again, and no call or email, so I stayed awake till 2 am to try ringing at a different time to usual. Still no answer so I rang Anne and she was shocked that I hadn’t been told: he’s been in hospital for two weeks. Apparently he had carers coming four times a day, plus his daughter staying over every night, yet Kenneth got it into his head that he needed to go to the corner shop, Sharma’s, to get milk even though there was always milk in the fridge. Despite being told that it was too dangerous for him to leave the house, after the carers left he headed to Sharma’s but only made it half way up the driveway before falling and either breaking his hip or his femur, Anne wasn’t sure which. He lay there until his daughter arrived, no one apparently passed by in the street so it probably wasn’t too long, and an ambulance was called. I can’t imagine that he’s going to be allowed home after this as he’s confused as well as physically weak. He has rung Anne from hospital to say that no one ever visits despite his daughter going every day and he rings her on his mobile to complain that he can’t find his phone. As he turns 89 in December I think he’s headed to care, something he will rail against. A sad end for someone so intellectually brilliant.

October 25, 2022

Went to Plants Plus at the Forestry to ask advice about my pathetically sad Michelia which keeps growing but has hardly any leaves and has never had a flower in the four or five years I’ve had it. The young man looked at the photo and said that I shouldn’t have let grass grow up to the trunk, it’s taking all the goodness out of the soil before the tree gets any, so I will try clearing the grass and see what ensues. I am thinking of buying a snowball tree but I’ll have to find a spot first. I did weaken and buy a tall white delphinium and took great care getting it home in one piece but as I was repotting it the main stem snapped, not broken off but seriously bent at right angles, which I think will end up killing off the flowers. Some days are rust….

This didn’t help my already flat mood and I got cross with John which he doesn’t deserve. He is constantly querying what we are doing so I get him to write everything in his diary, but now he keeps asking ‘are we still going to the nursery today? are we still going to be having book group on Friday?’ so it hasn’t solved the problem. Add this to the fact that the Home Care Package was approved over two months ago and despite three phone calls this week to see where it’s up to there’s been no return call so far (well not true actually, there was one when I was driving and I missed it). He’s been invited to a school reunion in the city and is very keen to go, announcing that he’d be fine going in on his own on the bus, despite the fact that he can’t find the exit of a business or the way back from a toilet. So I’ll take him there on the bus and pick him up afterwards, finding something to occupy the three hours in between. I’ll need to speak to someone about not letting him leave the venue for any reason, everything seems to involve so much planning these days. I’d better shut up, it’s just a whinge fest today.

October 26, 2022

Had an appointment with Bob today to appraise him of the fact that I self-medicated with antibiotics for a suspected UTI and he was fully supportive of that. (The antibiotics are a couple of years out of date but Dr. Google assures me that they only lose 5% efficacy per year after expiry so I wasn’t too worried about that). The drastic improvement signifies that I was right about the cause of the pain and he’s organised for pathology to be done after two courses of antibiotics. He had a doctor with him whom he is supervising, a middle aged Indian man, so I suspect he’s a migrant applying to practise here, but that’s only a guess. Bob introduced me as one of his oldest patients, having been in his care since 1978 when he started in Castle Hill. Of course the My Aged Care people rang in the middle of my consult with Bob as I’d predicted. However I managed to get onto them again later and he is still on a wait time of 1-3 months to get to Level 3. I told her that he’s much worse than he was at the assessment and the paperwork says that he’s approved for Level 2 so I tried to get that instituted while we are waiting. But that’s not a goer as Level 2 packages are currently on a 6 month wait time and would not be actioned until after we were already on Level 3. But she said she would try to get him moved from Medium Priority to High Priority and if it’s approved that should speed things up. I had a bad day with him yesterday and that’s motivated me to persist and try to get something moving. I felt so under the pump last night that I didn’t even watch the budget as I couldn’t handle any bad news.

My friend who is in an ongoing legal contretemps with his siblings over his house is almost on his uppers financially. He’s gone from $220,000 in the bank to zero and it’s all gone in legal fees over a number of years. He built his house on his parents’ land with a granny flat for them, at their request, but after he’d been looking after them for many years his father changed his will leaving the land, and therefore the house, to his two siblings. Both parents are now dead and as well as suing him for the house they are now asking for $200,000 in back rent for a house he paid to have built. They are using top lawyers and when one move fails they just begin another. I fear for my friend’s sanity as he can talk of nothing else and he rings me almost every day going over some legal detail (this didn’t help my state of mind yesterday when other things were going wrong). He is so much more au fait with it all than I am, yet he asks me for advice and I’m never sure if I’m helping or giving him a bum steer. He feels he’s looking bankruptcy in the eye at the moment. Affidavit, subpoena, caveat and mediation have become words I am unfortunately listening to many times a week, but I’m reluctant to refuse these discussions as his mental state is deteriorating. Perhaps that’s how they are hoping to win, if he collapses and simply can’t go on. Porsche- driving mongrels doesn’t even come close.

October 27, 2022

What a disaster of an outcome in the Lehrmann trial. It couldn’t be worse really than a dismissed jury at the very end of proceedings. One of them is not telling the truth, either the accuser or the defendant, and the innocent party will now suffer for many months before the thing is retried. I thought they were heading for a hung jury, but even that is a better option than what’s occurred now, as with that the ACT legal eagles would have decided whether to have another go at trial, but the way I read this is that it will be retried in February. What a mess.

My friend who is in dispute with his siblings over property has told me today that the Supreme Court judge shook his head in disbelief at the amount being contested, about $3 million. His comment was that he’d never seen the big-shot barrister representing the siblings in any case worth under $30 million (he used the barrister’s name which I won’t). It makes you wonder if gold’s been found beneath the soil of the disputed five acres.

I chuffed off to the Coroner’s Court this morning and sat at the end of the front row only to hear Duncan calling ‘We’ve missed you’ and motioning to a seat next to the ATSB team. He briefly filled me in on what I’d missed before the Coroner arrived. The witness today was the Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (or Lammy as they pronounce the acronym) employed by AirAg, who were responsible for the repair and maintenance to the plane which crashed. It was at times disturbing testimony, although I thought the witness was an honest and credible one. He explained his using the wrong, and not permitted, bolts in question as being because ‘I didn’t have any of the approved ones so I used the ones in my toolkit that I thought should do the job’. He reported replacing aluminium parts in the engine with rubber hose, ‘because I didn’t have any of the right aluminium bits and pieces that didn’t have damage to them’. Counsel assisting asked if he realised that in each case he was breaking Civil Aviation Safety Authority rules, to which he answered ‘yes’ both times without trying to defend himself. I’m not sure about the penalties for these breaches, but surely there must be some. No accident has just one genesis, it always seems to be a cascade of things coming together, but today I think we saw one of those clearly exposed.

October 28, 2022

Because Endeavour Energy chose to replace a nearby power pole on book group day, we were forewarned that there would be no power from 8 am till 4 pm and it took them all of that time. As I result I did the cooking yesterday: an old fave, a Blueberry Almond cake, as well as a new recipe for Pear and Oat Slice, which didn’t look too exciting so I won’t do it again. John judged it ‘okay’ which makes it not worth the trouble in my opinion, although others at book group seemed to like it. It was annoying that Optus and the burglar alarm company wanted to know why I had no power but I guess that’s what they are being paid for. More of a problem is that I can never remember how to turn off the annoying power interference warning beeps from the alarm, so I always have to hunt out the instruction book to work out how to stop it. The street was full of about ten trucks and four wheel drives and some visitors had to explain to the men why they needed to access the house, important when three of our number were using a cane or a walker and one had luggage in order to stay the night. The meeting went well and the discussion was interesting, most of us found the book tongue in cheek and very funny but though Martha enjoyed it, she read it without seeing it as humorous and put that down to the difference between the American and British/Australian sense of humour. We discussed the lengthy passages on literary theories, especially deconstructionism, which I read in the novel as being as send-up of these latter day approaches to literature. All-in-all a good meeting I thought. John was tea and coffee server and then went for a walk during the discussion but Sue told me later that he’d got lost and had to ask a man to direct him home. Sue brought a ready prepared dinner which she’d made at home, all we had to do was to pop it in the oven and delicious it was. As usual we chatted into the night over the leftover wine and made plans for next weekend when we are going to stay with her.

October 29, 2022

Sue was here for the morning till her mother’s 97th birthday lunch, leaving just after noon. Her brother chose the Saligna Cafe next to Plants Plus Nursery for a large gathering and I told her that the food isn’t much chop there but it’s a nice setting. She texted me later to confirm my opinion of the food, saying that her sister-in-law had commented to the waiter that the corn fritters weren’t very nice and he replied ‘No they’re not the best, but they could be worse’!! I had worked out by viewing the menu and looking in the prepared dessert cabinet in the past that it is a shop where you can buy food, rather than being a real cafe or restaurant. But they managed to have a good time despite the food.

We went to Erko in the late afternoon to mind Millie while Dav and Louis went to dinner and a show. Carly came to Erko from Canberra for the weekend to go to a birthday party on a chartered boat on the harbour and she had a beautiful day for it. She sent photos of people jumping off the boat at Camp Cove which I wouldn’t be game to do because of fear of sharks. We wandered to the nearby pizza place at dinner time and Millie enjoyed a bambini pizza and John a spag bol, his fave. My fettucine with pesto and (frozen) prawns was edible but that’s the best I can say. Unfortunately good food and ordinary food cost just the same. Millie insisted on John reading the bedtime story as she usually does. John had been so good on book group day and during the day today, but the separate nights out for the girls just wouldn’t settle in his mind. So he spent all the evening asking if Carly is in Canberra or Sydney, whether she is with Davina at the concert, if Davina is on the boat and every other possible permutation of where they each were, ending with Carly’s arrival home and his asking her at near midnight whether she was catching a plane back tonight. I was glad to get home.

October 30, 2022

This morning Arvind gave us a barrowload of good composty soil to fill the narrow gap between the driveway and the fence. I intended to plant white Dutch irises there but I’ve missed the boat timewise. Michelle offered me some reddish ones that are excess to her requirements if we wanted to dig them up, but I have my heart set on white flowers. I have also been thinking about the delicious snowball trees we saw in flower at Fagan Park and decided to go back to the nursery this morning and get one. As well I bought a packet of 1250 Alyssum seeds to put in the narrow garden, I just love them and they are so hardy. John was digging a hole alongside Arvind’s back fence to replant a dwarf conifer to make room for the snowball. Arvind’s head popped over the fence looking a bit concerned. ‘What are you planting there John?’ ‘Oh a pine tree Arvind’. ‘How big does it grow?’ he asked with some disquiet. ‘It’s like that one there’, says John, pointing to a conifer in the yard that’s at least 25 metres high, probably more. The look on Arvind’s face was priceless before I corrected the estimation of height to about 1 metre.

I have long thought that my brother and Vladimir Putin share some physical characteristics such as size, body conformation, movement style and there is some facial similarity. When Sue was here she saw the photo of both of us on my desk and was astonished, saying that it looked like a phot with me and Putin. I’d better not let the right wing press see it or I could be in trouble. Speaking of which, Fox News is blaming Biden for the attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband and the potential attempt to murder her. He’s too soft on crime they chortle, not blaming at all the Q Anon madness and Trumpism which festers in the US. It’s getting to the point that the society could become (has become?) irrecoverable, something unimaginable just 20 or 30 years ago.

October 31, 2022

Well I sent some fuel to waste today, totally unintentionally. I really wanted to hear the summing up of the seaplane inquest so I dragged John (quite willingly, he dressed up) over to Lidcombe. As soon as we entered court I knew we were in trouble, wrong barristers and no Duncan. They unexpectedly wrapped up on Friday while we were book grouping. Expected findings in April 2023. Later today I discovered that the expanded Barilaro inquiry is back on, broadcast from State Parliament House, but I missed that and will miss it again tomorrow as we have other plans. But at least today I got 1250 Alyssum seeds planted (sounds so much better than one packet). I deliberately planted them before the rain expected at 1 pm, for which at 9.25 pm we are still waiting.

I am currently reading The Witness by an American woman who speaks for defendants in the mitigation phase of trials, where the accused has been found guilty and is facing the death penalty. It’s sad when victory is seen as getting LWOP, life without parole. I’m not far enough into the book to give an opinion, but I was interested in the opening comment that: “All capital murder cases are decided upon the emotional reaction of jurors to evidence presented to them. Jurors then search the evidence for facts which support their emotional decision”. This makes a need for a spectacle, a dramatisation which may or may not be accurate, but could sway a juror. With the prosecution batting first and showing gruesome autopsy and crime scene photos, perhaps that’s when juror’s minds are made up, before the defence even stands up. I don’t know if that is true or not, but it certainly makes the defence’s job difficult if it is. She states: “In over a hundred capital murder cases I’ve worked on about 97 per cent had very poor attachments with their parents or parent figure”. The idea is not rocket science, but the figure surprisingly high.

Louis, who loves dressing up as much as any gay man, made an elaborate outfit for himself and Millie for Hallowe’en tonight. I haven’t see the movie, but it’s a Ghostbusters theme with Louis in a blow-up ghost outfit and Millie in a boiler suit with an elaborate backpack, a proton pack with particle thrower, designed and made by Louis. He’s a dress up genius. One sorry incident was when Millie got a trick instead of a treat, an onion, and sobbed because she didn’t understand, though apparently that was short-lived.

November 1, 2022

Tell me it isn’t so, it can’t be November! Today we went for a drive to Manly and Freshwater, doing a walk along Freshie Beach and watching all the school children learning board riding, water safety and rescue. How different life is when you live somewhere like that, always a beautiful walk to be had, your kids go to beach sports instead of rotten netball and the like. I made a big mistake when I opted to stay in the west, but it’s too late now. John looked sadly at the seminary on the hill at Manly and wondered yet again why he didn’t just walk out of the place when he could. ‘Four long years’ he said dismally.

Sorted out the food donations for the Bill Crews Foundation this afternoon and found a few out of date things so I replaced them with similar items from my pantry and we’ll happily knock off the out of date ones. I emailed them this morning and asked if any of their staff happened to live out this way as I could deliver the food to them instead of to Ashfield, otherwise I would take the boxes there this week. They replied immediately that they will send a driver here to get them tomorrow, so of course now I’m weighing up their petrol costs to do so. I hope I have enough to justify the trip. Another scrounge in the pantry coming up.

At Freshwater we saw the lines of people going into the Harbord Hotel in their finery for a Melbourne Cup lunch, but I wasn’t the least bit envious. As someone who always organised the sweep every Cup Day wherever I worked, I’ve gone to being the person who doesn’t want to be involved at all. I found a dollar on the beach today and John said: ‘Put a bet on the Cup, one dollar straight to win’ but my first thought was ‘What if my horse breaks a leg?’. Nowadays I just can’t do it. As Frank Hardy said in his book of the same name back in 1976, it’s The Four Legged Lottery, but sadly the horses don’t get a say.

November 2, 2022

Boris is a bit of a volcano buff and I asked him if he’d been to Peat’s Crater and Muogamarra Nature Reserve near Cowan. It is an old volcano, yet it’s rarely mentioned. When I was going one night a week to a jewellery course at the Gemmological Association of Australia in the city a few years back we did geology as a subject and there was a hike involved to see Peat’s Crater. The teacher was a professor of geology but I can’t remember his name now, he’d written a great book on Australian geology which I wish I had bought at the time but money was a bit tight and it was $125. It nearly killed me getting back up the hill from the crater and without John’s help I may still be down there! So sadly I wouldn’t attempt it again. The other students had no problems but they were all less than half my age and the lecturer had no trouble either, but he was as fit as a flea. The lecturer stopped every now and again to discuss the terrain and he explained that the only two gems that come from the centre of the earth, and are therefore thrown up in volcanic eruptions, are diamonds and peridots. He found some tiny peridot fragments on the walk and I bought a peridot ring soon after that as a result of that information. I already owned a couple of diamond ones, one with blue and yellow pave set diamonds and the other a black diamond. Gemmological people deride many of the diamonds now sold as gems, ‘champagne’ diamonds in their view are just plain old brown industrial ones with a fancy name. I recently read of some well-known person and their brown diamond engagement ring, gemmologists would shriek. I remember seeing one of the students slowly sliding her left hand under her bum during this discussion and felt very sorry for her as her fiance probably paid a bomb for her ring nonetheless. Perhaps I will try to get that book, now that I’m a pensioner and can afford it.

I am reluctant to describe anyone as evil, but today I was sorely tempted. Trump is spreading the rumour that Pelosi’s window was broken from the inside (denied by police), that he and the assailant knew each other (also denied) and intimated some sort of homosexual tryst as the cause of the attack. Trump you are driving me very close to the edge here….

November 3, 2022

It is John’s day care centre today and I’d hoped to go out, but the world thought otherwise. First there’s the Bill Crews pickup of food and then the pavers rang to say that they could come today to do the painting of the concrete around the garage. If the plane crash inquest were finishing today I’d have been upset but as it finished up last Friday it doesn’t matter much. So I’ve got some book reviews written and uploaded, a fruit cake made to take to Killcare this weekend and some watering and weeding done, but now it’s after 3 pm and John’s home and neither the food pick-up nor the paving men have eventuated. Exodus are on their way now and the pavers came but think that the chance of rain is too great and are coming Monday instead, so I could have been out on the harbour drinking champagne and eating oysters all day.

Sooo, the Crime Commission has nabbed William Tyrrell’s foster parents for lying to them. This after police had bugged the foster parents’ homes with nine listening devices and eight hidden cameras and heard her admitting to her husband on the phone that she had hit another child with a wooden spoon, after denying that very same act occurred when talking to the CC. I am amazed that the authorities gave them more children to foster when the coroner has still not pointed the finger at anyone for William’s disappearance and they were two of many suspects. I have a pile of notes here somewhere from that inquest and I was staggered by how many suspects there were. I am desperately intrigued at how the Crime Commission people got in and out of their home undetected. Their neighbours must surely be watchful considering the wide publicity about the case. Do they use some sort of burglar’s universal keys or climb in through tiles on the roof ? Do they pose as foster care authorities? Or something else entirely? It’s spy stuff really. I know an investigator at the Crime Commission but it’s hardly a question you can ask over a glass of wine is it? I’d happily ply him with a case to get the answer though, even a generic answer as to how one would approach the problem. I guess he’s the investigator and I’m not precisely because he’s able to keep those sorts of secrets.

November 4, 2022

I am struggling today but it’s been improving as the day goes on. Being forced to do some things towards going to Sue’s tomorrow is helping but I know if I were here alone it would be a bleak time. I’m finding the death of my British cousin Victor particularly upsetting as he was the person who knew my mother well and was able to remember lots of things prior to and after my birth. His mother, now dead, remembered seeing me in hospital and tried to convince my mother to leave me with my father as originally agreed to. Vic said he followed my life by reading the birthday and Christmas cards that I sent mother, sneakily peeking at them when she was out of the room, as my existence was not something he could allude to. The three ‘new’ cousins who contacted me earlier this year from Britain and Spain are his much younger siblings who didn’t know about me until recently. I succeed in letting all of this go for a while but then it bubbles back up when something happens, like losing Vic. “You always order fishcakes Maureen, every time we go out for a meal, you love your fishcakes”. I did them for lunch today Vic my love, nothing’s changed.

This morning I copied an idea from Facebook, planting seeds in potting mix in half eggshells, which you then plant holus-bolus in the ground or pot. I’m sick of putting seeds in the ground and just getting weeds so I’m trying this trick in the hope I have better luck. I know I’m not much of a gardener, so I need any tricks I can find. But it appears that the 1250 Alyssum seeds are coming up in half the time specified on the packet, either that or 1250 weeds. I should be able to tell definitively by Sunday.

I commented recently about the absolutely ghastly lectern that the last British PM used (forgotten her name already) and then noticed that Rishi Sunak (remembered that one) used a totally different one. So either Number 10 reads this missal and junked it or else they just happened to buy a new one. So I did a bit of a squizzy and discovered that every recent PM, I went back six, has a new and different lectern! Are they desperately trying to find things to spend money on? Or perhaps it’s another example of their grandiose and pompous ‘protocol’. I’d happily dispose of the old one for them, my green bin is only half full.

I really am trying to keep buoyant today, but when John offered to take my library books back and pick up the new one on his walk just now I unwisely agreed. The library books arrived there okay but he somehow lost my card on the way. He only took his phone in one pocket and my library card in the other, so how? I guess it would be worse if he lost the books, but these things add up and just make life wearying, however I managed to say it didn’t matter and hopefully someone will hand it in.

November 5, 2022

We left early and were relaxed and ready when Bob and Nancye arrived. We had agreed to have lunch at the beach to make things easy but Sue had felt energetic that morning and made salmon quiche and salad and rhubarb crumble, so we ate in style on the verandah overlooking the ocean. It seemed to be a laugh a minute and I think we all had a great time. Clearly Sue’s place is too clean as Nancye walked into different glass doors three times and then later John did the same, but carrying a jug of milk in one hand and a cup of tea in the other and almost knocked himself out, amazingly not breaking either of the things he was carrying despite both hitting the ground. But there’s no good crying over spilt milk as they say. I wasn’t happy when I was told that I had to have stickers across my glass doors for safety reasons, but now I can clearly see why the builder insisted, saying ‘it’s the law’, though it seems not to be so on the central coast. Mine would be less of a problem though as they are never as clean as Sue’s. Woohoo, the library rang during lunch to say that my lost card was handed in so they ‘uncancelled’ it. After farewelling our friends we spent a calm evening reading and chatting and I went to bed wondering why I get so stressed at home.

November 6, 2022

I woke at dawn to watch the sun coming up over the water and was very glad that I chose the ocean side bedroom. Unusually I was up before six reading my gripping John le Carre novel. When John got up he asked when I had bought this house and after I explained that it wasn’t mine he congratulated me on choosing an excellent rental for the weekend. After further explaining that it is Sue’s house and we are visitors, he thought about that for a minute and said ‘I don’t think so, she was here visiting us yesterday, but I remember waving goodbye to her’. Later, after speaking to Sue, he accepted that my version was the correct one. After breakfast we went down the road to Bell’s, a luxury hotel, which has a small shop attached selling their own bread and baked goods as well as many gorgeous refrigerated and dry deli goods as well as wines. I intended to buy some of the wonderful olive and tomato fougasse that Sue had served yesterday and which we finished for breakfast, but they looked a bit overcooked and too brown so I gave that idea away. The server explained: ‘We have two bakers and one cooks it more than the other’ but I can pick some up another time. Then we went off to the beach and sat watching the few board riders (the flags weren’t up today so it must have been a bit dangerous). Sue and I went for a walk along the beach while John minded the bags and my water bottle. When we got back to Sue’s the water bottle hadn’t come with us so I drove him back down some time later and it was still on the seat. The man next to it said ‘Don’t drink out of it because I’ve been using it to feed my dog some water’ which I was glad to know!

Bob texted his thanks to Sue for yesterday and mentioned the Laurel and Hardy events with the glass doors. John queried what this was about and despite Sue explaining about Nancye’s three bumps and his more dramatic one, he has no recollection of any of that happening, which is so surprising seeing we were all on our hands and knees mopping up the tea and milk off the wooden floor. It has been surreal in many respects this weekend and I can only put it down to his being away from normal routine. Coming home was uneventful but traffic was heavy and bumper to bumper from the Berowra turnoff to the end of the highway.

November 7, 2022

I wish now that I had stopped to pick (read dig up) some of the thousands of tall yellow flowers growing in the bush and on verges in Killcare, Woy Woy and down the highway as far as the Hawkesbury River. I didn’t have any sort of digging tool with me and along the highway it seemed dangerous to stop. Today Mr. Google tells me they are Ranunculus lappaceus which is a native Australian buttercup. If I go up again in the next few weeks I am going to grab some for my yard, they are so happy and bright, so I’ll put them across the front near the street. My eggshell grown seeds haven’t come up yet, understandably, but the seeds along the drive are looking good.

The driveway men came back today to paint the concrete around the garage with paving paint and they are doing the back steps for me as well, using my leftover house paint. I will paint the uprights later as it is not possible for John to do that sort of thing now. We can’t walk on it for 24 hours or drive over it for a week. Today I have been sorting out a few antique Chinese coins I had saved and I’ve put four of them on eBay as a job lot. I loved holding them and imagining the hands that have held them in a different world that I’ll never know. Because they used those large bronze coins with a square hole in the middle for hundreds of years, from the 4th century through to about 1900, I have no idea of their actual age but someone who can read the symbols will know. They could be worth $5 or $500 or more, but I’ve listed the four for $20 and I’m sure eagle-eyed people will run them up a bit if they are rare ones. John offered to go to the corner IGA and the bakery just now for milk and a loaf of bread, seeing I need to be here for the men while they’re painting. He’s rung three times asking again about what I wanted, despite my having written it on a piece of paper for him to take. Then I told John just now that I had locked the back door and put the key away so we couldn’t accidentally walk on the back stairs, but when I came in from watering out the front for no more than 10 minutes he’d found the key and opened it again, though I can’t see any damage to the paint. This is getting so scary as it’s hard to think of every possible eventuality.

November 8, 2022

Today was John’s much awaited school reunion so we went to town on the bus for him to attend. He had assured me a couple of weeks ago that he’d be fine going on his own but that was clearly not the case as I needed to help him even tap on the Opal card and finding the Castlereagh Hotel in the city would have been impossible. There were a bunch of men in the foyer when we got there who were part of the reunion but John didn’t know any of them, however I asked if he could sit with them till someone he knew arrived (it turned out there was only one other person attending that he knew). They didn’t look too keen so I hung near the door watching, just long enough to see them up sticks and head for the bar without him, which I thought was pretty indifferent to his situation as I clearly wouldn’t have asked the question in normal circumstances. So I went back in and took him to the fourth floor where the lunch was being held and had a quiet word with the organiser who pointed out to him the table where he would be sitting with his only other classmate. I didn’t feel confident in going to court as I would have had to turn my phone off and I wasn’t sure that he’d want to stay. So I took off wandering around the city, much of it changed since I last went in February 2020. The Hilton loos are always lovely so that was the first stop, then I headed to see how David Jones has shrunk to one building, seemingly catering only for the well-heeled judging by the roped off Dior stand as soon as I walked in the door. In fact the whole city seemed to be given over to luxury brands so it wasn’t very interesting to me. The DJs food hall is a pathetic shell of its former self and I wasn’t even tempted to drool over anything, never mind buy. Back to the QVB (luxury brands all over again) but at least the Palace Tearoom hasn’t changed. For lunch I had a roasted vegetable tart which anywhere else could have been dull and humdrum but here was extraordinarily good, as is everything they serve. Pumpkin, caramelised onion, tomatoes, asparagus, feta, with a side salad, oh my giddy aunt it was good. I watched with interest two female tourists who ordered high tea. They each drank concurrently a glass of champagne and a pot of tea, then had a green salad which they ate alongside their double-decker plate of cakes. Trying not to stare, but I did notice they they left the macarons, a capital offence to me, perhaps they were the wrong flavour to go with the dressed rocket? I resisted the temptation to ask the friendly waiter for them and regretted that it’s taken me two and a half years to go and enjoy the place again. Another good walk before picking John up, he’d had an okay time but said that as he only knew one person he wouldn’t consider going again. Are we in Canberra? he asked as we left. Bless him, I need to take great care from now on.

November 9, 2022

Lovely day today as although John’s carer had to be cancelled due to his routine hospital appointment, I was able to catch up for a couple of hours with my cousin Angela and we went to lunch at The Butler, self-described as an Ibero-American restaurant. It has wonderful views of the city from its open deck and unsurprisingly my outgoing cousin made friends with the waitress who has an Italian/Hungarian/Aboriginal/Irish history and is stunningly beautiful. They turn out to be neighbours in Potts Point and by the time I see Angela next they will probably be friends as she was already showing Ange the dog pics on her phone. Yesterday Angela had gone to lunch at China Doll and left the pub across the road from there at 7 pm after spending the afternoon with people she’d met, who just happened to be sitting at the next restaurant table. I love the openness that allows her to ask a person their background or why they are in Sydney and then take it from there.

I have been reading with horror the book QAnon and On and I’m afraid to say that the American pile-on that we’ve sadly come to expect is taking over here as well. It’s horrendous what is being said about Dan Andrews by his Liberal opponents in the state election, backed in by Murdoch newspapers of course. One ghastly woman candidate is querying how he could have broken his back falling down so few stairs at a holiday house in 2021, trying to turn his accident into some sort of conspiracy and bemoaning the fact that he was off on sick pay at taxpayers expense! I’m afraid reading that book has made me feel even more strongly about the fact that we need to punish people who lie in a deliberately unscrupulous way. Why there are not more libel cases seems to be because of the cost of legal representation, but allowing these people to keep going costs the society bigtime.

My heart is in my mouth about the result of the US midterm elections tonight, I am almost too scared to look at the results, though I’m sure we’ll be bombarded with them soon enough. Perhaps I will focus instead on the Medibank hack and see if any of my colonoscopy photos have made it online yet. I’m lucky that I don’t have anything medical to hide, but I feel for those poor sods who have undisclosed HIV, drug addiction or who have had an abortion. It is beyond cruel to even consider exposing people in those situations and I damn to hell those wretches responsible.

November 10, 2022

Yesterday while walking around Potts Point I saw on the footpath the perfect table for my herb garden but bemoaned the fact to Angela that I wasn’t in my station waggon to pick it up. Whenever I drive locally I have been taking that vehicle in the hope of finding a small table, hopefully glass and metal, but wooden at second best. So after picking John up I drove along Victoria Street to show him ‘the one that got away’. However he was convinced that it would fit if we could disassemble it, and we did! So now my metal and glass table is sitting in the car and later today we’ll put it together,  my herb garden will be extended by whatever pots will fit on it.

This morning at dawn my bedroom smoke alarm went off and I spent a while trying to turn off the noise on my phone before realising that it was the alarm. It was a terrible racket that would wake the dead but John slept through it and eventually it stopped. The mystery is that I rang the alarm company and they had nothing on their screens to say it had gone off. They only record one alarm in the hall, so it’s a mystery why the second one isn’t connected to the system, something I will ask on the next free service rather than paying now for a technician. I hope it’s the last time I hear it.

Woohoo, we managed to get the new herb table set up down the back and then I planted some coriander seeds in an unused ceramic water filter. I love using oddball stuff that wasn’t designed for plants. I asked my neighbour about the Return and Earn app and now I’ve downloaded it I can scan bottles to test whether they are accepted by the system. Mostly they are John’s kombucha ones, and yes they can go into the reverse vending machine for reuse which is great, as I’ve got crates of them under the house.

November 11, 2022

I don’t know where to start with my bitches today, but let’s give Senator Jacinta Price that dubious honour. She objects to a government plan to appoint an ambassador to represent Australia’s Aboriginal people, referring to government Senator Wong’s Malaysian background and asking effectively if she would be happy to have an ambassador representing the Asian community. Hang on, last time I looked at history the Aboriginal folk were the original people of this land, not the Malaysians, so her smart aleck remark is a nonsense, but that won’t stop her I’m sure.

Next we have Kelsey Turner, an American woman who killed a child psychiatrist, Dr. Thomas Burchard, who had been paying her $3200 monthly rental for over a year. He made the mistake of telling her face to face that he could no longer afford to pay and was allegedly beaten to death with a baseball bat by the former Playboy model and a former beau. (How long does it take to kill someone that way? Long enough to change one’s mind and call an ambulance I’d suspect. He insisted on being driven to hospital after the first time he was hit, walked to a car and they allegedly finished him off inside it). Turner entered an Alford plea which means that she avoids a trial and maintains her innocence but accepts the punishment of a guilty verdict on a second-degree murder charge. An Alford plea apparently means that you claim innocence but admit that on the evidence a jury is likely to find you guilty, this is available in all but three US states. It’s an odd concept to me, but plea deals seem to happen more and more frequently and I guess courts decide on accepting them rather than taking the risk that the offender gets off completely.

So Covid is well and truly on the rise again apparently. Tangara School had to close last week when 15 teachers and some pupils came down with it. My friend who travelled to northern NSW for a wedding last weekend got an email from the bride a few days later to say she was positive as were other guests, so my friend and his wife did a test and yep, they had it too. They had an unfathomable episode on the way to the wedding when they had a tiny bump with another vehicle in a car park, but with no apparent damage. They exchanged details but the other driver wouldn’t accept the licence on my friend’s phone, saying it could be a fake and insisted on calling the police. Then the driver and passengers immediately attached themselves to my friend’s car, sitting on the bonnet and banging on panels to stop him from leaving. The police duly arrived and verified his licence as genuine, asking if he wanted to press charges against the people involved in the incident but he was in a hurry and wrote it off to experience. Later he discovered there was damage to his car caused by their efforts to restrain him but he hasn’t decided whether to do anything about it, they are obviously people not to be tangled with.

Sue called in briefly today and reminded John that she’d asked him last weekend to show her how to give the last rites, but he’d forgotten about doing it and in fact he can’t remember going to Sue’s at all. This was discussed because he’d told her that the church says that as far as the last rites go it’s ‘once a priest, always a priest’ and he retains the right and responsibility to do that even though he’s a non-believer, weird as that may sound. In fact he has given them once since he left the priesthood. She asked him to do it in Latin but he’s forgotten how, however he did it with no problems in English. I can now relax about one of his friends choking on a fish bone over lunch.

November 12, 2022

Early trip to the Farmer’s Market where we soon bumped into Heather, she leaving, we arriving. The place was just packed with delicious stuff and it was timely with friends coming for lunch tomorrow. I spent just under $100 on fruit and veg, it doesn’t seem long ago that I was spending $40, but the bounty was so wonderful I wanted to start eating it right there. The baby truss tomatoes, baby carrots, raspberries and asparagus were probably the pick of the crop but everything was good. When we got back to the car the glass on the back tail light was stove in, but no damage to the car, as if it had been poked with something. Luckily I’m not fussed about how cars look but I’m not sure if it will be legal next time it is being registered, however I’ll worry about that next year. After depositing the goodies at home we went to Carol’s to help with cake-making although we left before lunch to attend to some chores before beginning the food prep for tomorrow. I did a red cabbage slaw with cranberries and walnuts which looks good enough to plunge your face in, so I’ve robbed a bit for our dinner.

In its wisdom our government has allowed 800 people with Covid to walk off a cruise ship in Sydney, advising them to ‘use private transport to get home’. Many people fly in to board cruises so they will be free to infect hotel staff, airline staff and whoever else has to deal with them. It is so short-sighted, if people want to cruise then they should have to pay for quarantine so the rest of the population is protected from them. When politics versus health, politics always wins.

First World Whinge coming up: I love bread, all sorts of different types of bread, but since the Dural Bakery closed down I haven’t been able to find a decent white loaf that isn’t sourdough. I’ve had Italian loaves like ciabatta and others which are all okay in their way, but nothing like that delicious crusty loaf with a soft centre like Jimmy made. I love sourdough with cheese, peanut butter and the like but with jam it has to be something like Jimmy’s. Sue was eating olive bread with lemon curd on it last weekend which gave me pause….oh dear no, but the only one I’ve found that I like in these last months was Aldi’s Brioche Fruit Loaf, which they’ve now replaced with Choc Chip Brioche, so I’m on the hunt again.

November 13, 2022

What a lovely day it turned out to be with David and Esther. We ate lunch indoors and then spent the afternoon on the deck. They were able to talk about their daughter Mary’s death and the lack of help they got from everyone they approached. Her psychologist and psychiatrist said they couldn’t discuss her at all for privacy reasons, even after they said she was threatening suicide. One of them actually hung up on them. We decided that in a future new administration Esther would be Health Minister, David Education and Science, John Social Security and I struggled, but settled on Attorney-General seeing the Feds don’t have a Justice Minister these days (no law degree but plenty of good advisors I reasoned). It is a pity they don’t live closer as we all get on so well.

I see that the Powerhouse Museum is doing an exhibition of Carla Zampatti clothes and it occurs to me that her very negative quotes about not wanting to see her clothes on larger size women (I can’t even find them on the net to quote exactly, but certainly remember them being said) are airbrushed from history. It seems, as often happens (think Shane Warne), that it becomes a sin to speak the truth about someone once they have checked out. I am happy to praise the praiseworthy elements of her career, but surely a retrospective doesn’t equal a hagiography? A friend commented recently that my outfit was ‘very much the fashion’ and ‘very edgy’ and although I didn’t say so, I thought that the last thing I think about when I get dressed is fashion, in fact I don’t give a tinker’s cuss about it. Fashion changes to keep people buying, no other reason, and seeing I don’t buy it’s irrelevant. If I am accidentally in fashion it’s a pure fluke.

There have been a plethora of people attempting to get off criminal charges lately (and succeeding) because of ‘mental health issues’. This is something that could affect penalty, but shouldn’t affect whether a person is found guilty or not, except when the person is so mentally ill as to be oblivious to consequences. It seems as if it happens with high-profile people who can afford expensive lawyers and judges are swallowing it more than I am comfortable with. I doubt that too many legal aid lawyers are getting people off this way, but I’d be interested to see the figures.

November 14, 2022

We had a long home visit from John’s case manager Kristy today. He told her ‘I am in a bubble of now, with no before and no after’. I think she saw how much he’s gone down as he couldn’t understand some of her questions. She’s going to push My Aged Care to try to speed up the already approved package. Hallelujah if she succeeds.

Thinking back over yesterday’s conversations and the fact that Esther had been in 10 different foster homes from the ages of four to fourteen. Her siblings had been in different ones, even her twin sister. Her brother was turfed out of a foster family he loved when he turned sixteen and the payments stopped. A trip to Canada a few months ago has enabled her to assist in getting her twin and another sister moved from a prison-like nursing home into one with very good care, it seems that they have suffered in the social security system there at both ends of their lives. It is hard to imagine the pain and the lack of support that the system imposed on them when they were all separated as children.

I finally got a response from my brother’s daughter, I guess I should say my niece though it hardly feels like that, after leaving a voicemail on her phone yesterday pleading to be informed about Kenneth. I got an email back saying that he’d broken his hip on the front path a month ago (which I knew from Anne), had surgery, was in hospital three weeks and is now in a care home for six weeks having rehab. See, it wasn’t so hard to type that out was it? The old downhill slide of the elderly: hospital, care home, ‘sorry you won’t be well enough to go home’. He will be doing it tough, he hates interference in his private life, even visitors unless he’s invited them, even family up to a point. He is a loner through and through so I hope I can get on to him there by phone, but at this stage I don’t even know the name of the home so I have to play along nicely, at least until I can get on to him directly.

I’m lucky to have a car. As we were driving in Norwest a BMW came out on our left, from Carlile Swimming not from another street, and we both slammed our brakes on. It was on John’s side and he swears there wasn’t two inches between us, in fact she had to reverse into the carpark to let me continue. On the phone? Daydreaming? I’m not sure, but it was the closest thing I’ve ever had to an accident that didn’t actually connect.

November 15, 2022

I have the gardener here and I was pretty proud of what we’d got done in the weeding and cutting back department this week, filling the green bin to the top. But I asked him to weed under the trees at the front and although he was willing and is doing it, he was pretty down in the mouth: ‘I’ve been doing that somewhere else for the last 4 hours’ he said glumly. But he’s at it with a vengeance poor man.

I asked John to add sliced almonds to the shopping list and I just noticed that he did: ‘sylid almonds’ he wrote. This from a man with umpteen degrees, it’s a shitty disease. I’ve sent my bro’s birthday card off today but had to send it to his daughter’s place as she hasn’t told me yet the name of the home he is in. Also sent my Indian friend Ram his birthday gift and card and an old customer of the shop has messaged to say he is collecting baseball and football cards if I have any, which I don’t, so I’ve sent him a collection of 1954 Royal Visit match cases which he can keep or use as swaps to get cards he’s more interested in. ‘Thanks mate. You’re a legend’ he replied and being a legend to Dave was worth much more than the cards and the postage.

It occurs to me often that being a good journalist or feature writer requires a very broad knowledge of all sorts of different subjects. A recent interview in the Good Weekend mentioned the art works on the walls of the home of the interviewee and made me wonder if she had told him about the paintings and the artists or if that was just part of his knowledge base. It brought to mind a searing interview a few years back, I think in the same publication. When the reporter arrived to speak to the newly appointed head of an arts body (Australia Council or something similar?) there was music playing in the background. Aaah, said the scribe, Andrea Bocelli. Yes said the hapless man, I love her voice and it’s amazing that she can sing like that when she’s totally deaf. The feature included those words with no comment, but I’m sure the man is still cringing, I certainly am on his behalf all this time later.

November  16, 2022

Well I had a call from Kenneth’s daughter last night and the news is not good. He is a difficult patient (that’s almost a given) and in the hospital they had to have him sitting in the doorway of his room so they could watch him at all time as he kept trying to get up, with a broken hip. Now he’s in a very small care home, only 8 rooms, and seems to be well looked after but his mind is still all askew. He was told that he was having a memory test the next day and Tanya found him reading Crime and Punishment, in Russian, and very upset that he wasn’t able to memorise it for the upcoming test. This is the most intelligent person that I have ever met, it’s a tragedy. I have sent Tanya some photos of us to show him as he isn’t using his email or texts, just like John. I’ve also asked her to take a pic of him to send to me, so hopefully I will have that soon.

Kenneth always told me that reading John le Carre was a good way of finding out how the Intelligence Services really work, considering that the author, whose actual name was David Cornwell, was an operational spy in both MI5 and MI6. MI6 would not allow him to publish his first novel, ‘Call for the Dead’, under his real name so he went with John le Carré, I am currently reading The Night Manager and as usual with his more recent books there is an underlying contempt for the American equivalent services, referred to in this book and others as ‘the Cousins’. I think the contempt flows too towards the UK spy services when he feels they are too often in bed with the wrong people. I am enjoying it thoroughly but disappointed that I can’t discuss it will Kenneth as per usual.

I’ve been thinking about Julia Baird and her ongoing absence from her usual column in the Herald and from The Drum on the ABC. I am assuming, hopefully wrongly, that her ovarian cancer has returned. It was particularly nasty last time and I’m not sure that I heard she was in the clear after her surgery, not that you ever know for sure with that bloody disease.

November 17, 2022

It occurs to me that while I am very sympathetic to people who have had or continue to suffer from cancer, it rarely occurs to me that I am also in that boat. Somehow my life is so busy with other things (perhaps this is fortuitous?) that I don’t have time for cancer, which is what I told the doctor when my results came through in the first place. I’m not sure that it’s wise to ever put cancer into the past tense, though many people do, but it has a habit of tapping you on the shoulder later on when you are having a good time. So I think it’s best to assume that once diagnosed, you just consider that you have it and get on with life, rather than pretending that it’s done and dusted after treatment. That’s best for my disposition anyway.

Saw Bob yesterday and ascertained that John qualifies for a fifth Covid vaccine so I rang to organise that and they asked me to choose between Pfizer and Moderna, a decision way above my pay grade I decided. So then I had to contact Bob again for that ruling and he’s gone for Moderna, which I would have done if pushed, simply because it gives a more diversified antibody responses, therefore providing broader protection. However I’d only read that in the literature a little while back, so it could have been out of date by now and I was glad to know via Bob that it’s correct. He has an appointment tomorrow morning so I feel pretty happy about that. Next I rang Link Housing to ask why John doesn’t have an agenda for this afternoon’s AGM online. She told me it had been posted by mail in October and while she was still on the phone I rummaged in John’s room and found the paperwork on his chest of drawers. I’m doubtful he will be across the meeting but it’s not my place to tell him that, if he can’t follow it he’ll cut the link presumably.

I see the contemptible Murdoch dynasty has switched horses and is now kvetching against Trump. Vanity Fair’s headline ‘Rupert Murdoch Knees Trump in the Balls While He’s Doubled Over Coughing Up Blood’ probably explains the effect of the change better than I could ever do. While some things like their headline Trumpty Dumpty could be mildly amusing it is beside the point, which is why a billionaire can call the shots about who should or shouldn’t be the next President. Speaking of billionaires I saw that the abominable and downright creepy Gina Rinehart was in the audience when the ‘stable genius’ made his election call. What a wonderful double they make.

I asked John if we had ever been to Eugowra and he said no, but when I saw pictures of the flood it seemed recognisable and I was sure we had been there. So I searched my emails and yes, in April 2010 we spent a couple of days in that little town and in Millthorpe. With 95% of the buildings wrecked or damaged it won’t look like the same lovely little town now, it’s hard to believe that a body of water could travel across country like a rogue wave at Bondi.

November 18, 2022

We went to Castle Hill for John’s fifth Covid injection this morning. He qualifies for the extra one but I don’t, however I think it would have been very easy to get it if I were of a mind as John didn’t have to justify his. I just told them that the doc had approved it and they took my word. Before that I tried to get Millie’s Christmas present, she wants a long-sleeved nightie, but the worker at the first shop asked what a nightie was so I didn’t have any luck there. Tried Myer who had some really cute ones but nothing in her size, long sleeves are all on sale as summer approaches so I am still nightie-less. Then off to Carol’s to work on cake baking with a small team, but I think we achieved a fair bit despite the low number of helpers today.

I went to write my review of QAnon and On and found that all of my notes about the book have disappeared. This is a minor tragedy as I’d wanted to go over certain sections again, but if I have to read the whole book again it won’t be a bad thing seeing I gave it five stars.

People are funny creatures and this has been reinforced during the week when John Didion’s personal possessions were sold off at auction. Everything went for way over reserve and some things went out of the park. A pair of her Celine faux tortoiseshell sunglasses sold for $27,000 (I did say faux tortoiseshell, otherwise known as plastic), her desk clock  “that does not appear to be in working order”, was estimated to sell for between $100-200. It sold for $35,000. A pair of leather wastebaskets went for $5,500, a Random House dictionary for $11,000 and a group of desk items, including scissors, a box of pens and a clipboard, brought in $4,250. A collection of seashells went for $7,000. I have been to auctions like this in the past, when the run is on it’s an exciting place to be, sitting there watching people throw their hard-earned at stuff they will look at in the morning and say ‘whatthefuck did I want an $11,000 dictionary for?’ Of course the resale value will be in the $20-30 range at most as the provenance has gone out the window, unless of course she had signed it in which case it might bring $100. Caveat emptor. But I must admit that I would have bid on the small drop-leaf table where her husband John Gregory Dunne was sitting when he had his fatal heart attack back in 2003, an event Didion wrote about at length in one of my favourite books, The Year of Magical Thinking. It sold for $4,250 and perhaps I am as silly as the rest of them because that seems somehow worth it.

November 19, 2022

We went on a nightie hunt at North Rocks K-Mart and TK Maxx but scored zip, so we opted for the other choice, a game of Monopoly. I already had a brand new one here, it was a gift, but it turned out to be an Officeworks version that looked the part but instead of Pall Mall etc it had Officeworks Blakehurst and Officeworks Parramatta! Not quite Millie’s cup of tea so later in the morning we dropped it and a few other things (a heated curling wand, a too-small straw hat and a too-small jumper) to the Salvo’s. Weird that I haven’t thought about Monopoly for years and then deal with two brand new boxes of it in a day, synchronicity. Also chose Christmas gifts for John to post to his granddaughters, a watercolour kit with paints, paper, brushes plus a book on this artform and a biography of Truganini for Aurora. For Tallulah we got a weaving kit and a Colosseum 3D model that you build. I hope I’ve got it right but with two things each, at least one should work hopefully.

I’m reading a memoir by a British neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with a terminal illness, And Finally by Henry Marsh. He is a philosophical man who actually gave up philosophy at university to study medicine. He is somewhat shocked by his diagnosis and to realise that he had previously assumed: ‘Diseases only happen to patients, not doctors’. He realises now that his practice has always been to separate the two tribes in his mind. This causes him to reassess the way he has handled patients in his long career. But there are lots of interesting asides, such as a basic explanation of how an MRI works and the fascinating bit of data that up to the age of two all children can imitate the sounds of all languages, but after that they home in to the dialect of their background, so for example Chinese children lose the ability to distinguish between l and r. He repeats the famous quote from zoologist J. Z. Young that ‘We are risen apes, not fallen angels’. Loving it.

I have been thinking about a comment this week during a discussion about the release of Prof. Sean Turnell from gaol in Myanmar. I said that now it is time to release Julian Assange, but the person replied that ‘He should never be released, just like those ISIS women in Syria, he made his choice and now he has to live with it’. What is it now, 10 years? 11? 12? since he saw freedom. For the life of me I can’t see that penalty fitting his crime, if crime it is at all. We bleat about illegitimate locking up of people in China, in Russia, in North Korea, yet we feel morally justified in doing the same. The biblical quote comes to mind:  “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye”.

November 20, 2022

Finally got around to splitting my big orchid on the back verandah. I had noticed that I didn’t get the usual number of flowers this spring and then Esther remarked on the fact that the pot had cracked due to its growth so I was shamed into doing something about it. Now I have three orchids so that was a job worth doing. It’s as windy as hell here, I hate wind, bring back some drizzling rain (or even better mizzling rain as it was called in Yorkshire).

I’ve skimmed Van Badham’s QAnon and On again and boy, what a read! It begins with our own ScumMo and his QAnon pals but goes into so much more. There’s the Australian psychiatrist Russell McGregor who was struck off the medical register in February 2020. The NSW Medical Council had been alerted to his odd behaviour and theories and during the investigation McGregor produced 600 pages of QAnon material to the assessing psychiatrist, who found him paranoid and mentally unfit to continue treating patients. Some of the bizarre Q beliefs include that John F. Kennedy’s son, who died in a plane crash in 1999, is still alive and will emerge to support Donald Trump and become his running mate, this after having located a photograph of him with Trump. Others have insisted that Hillary Clinton was behind the plane crash that killed him, as well as believing that JFK was about to reveal the existence of a secret government when he was assassinated. Of course the poor old Jews suffer from QAnon, they claim ‘Jews function as dissembling Demons using their whiteness as a cover to stir up trouble among the subhuman dangerous base of the other races’. This presumably means black people for whom they also have their knives out. “This is the same old stuff we’ve seen down the centuries, Romans against Christians, then Christians against Jews, then Christians against witches, and then Catholics against perceived heretics”. Although QAnon embraces anti-Semitic myths it also includes the ranks of white nationalists and the racist Right, but it could be seen as people concerned less with racial supremacy but simply feeling a loss of cultural supremacy. In the US, Australia, Britain and Canada QAnon followers are “predominantly white, Christian, patriarchal, heteronormative, property owning and xenophobic”. In a QAnon piece for the Atlantic Adrian la France has described it as “the birth of the new American religion”. In 2020 a researcher was discreetly attending services at the Omega Kingdom Ministry and writing about how it functions as a QAnon church. It is a charismatic home-based Protestant religion running Zoom services focussing on QAnon conspiracy theories and the Bible (helpfully beginning with an opening prayer to protect the Zoom link from Satan). I was curious to see if this abomination had reached Australia and it took me but 2 minutes to find a congregation of OKM, in Blacktown.

November 21, 2022

The wind is really foul here, the price of living on top of a hill. Eucalypt branches that normally sit over the deck roof are banging on it constantly and giving me the creeps. My Acacia cognata out the front is being hit by the whippy wind in exactly the same way as its predecessor, which suffered a fracture to the trunk just wide enough to pass a business card through, yet it ended in the tree’s death a week later. So I replaced it with yet another expensive cognata and I will be cheesed off of it suffers the same fate, I’ve had to stop looking out of the window to see it being blasted and whirled. However I did suffer the wind long enough to top up the potting mix in the pots of the orchid that I divided yesterday, after making a quick trip to Bunnings to buy same. It was morning peak hour and it reminded me yet again not to tangle with folks late for work, I can do without testy drivers and the delinquent citizenry weaving in and out to get there 30 seconds earlier.

Last night I broke my own rule and watched commercial television (how do they bear it??). But in this case it was obligatory to watch the bizarre story of Renee Heath, the number one candidate for Victoria’s Upper House election on Saturday and a moral to win. Nine Liberal Members had previously expressed concerns to their embattled leader about the views of her and her father, the pastor of City Builders Church, but did he listen? No he did not. It’s another evangelical Protestant, tongues-speaking, exorcism- inclined, gay-hating church (are there other types of Pentecostals? perhaps not). This one’s a doozy though, in that the good pastor encouraged his other daughter to marry a man he was trying to save from a gay lifestyle. Mmmm, I’m afraid that one was doomed to fail Pastor Heath, as it surely did. Now they are spilling the beans on him and the Malaysian pastor who runs a global network of ultra-conservative churches which includes City Builders. These people are spreading like the plague it seems, or perhaps it’s that legalising gay marriage has brought them all out of their lairs.

Sue has decided to come here on Wednesday and stay till Friday, obviating the need for Kev to come and see John safely onto his daycare bus on Thursday morning as I’d arranged, so I’m busy cooking so that Sue has meals already prepared. I’ve written out a program for the days, who’s here and what’s happening, and put it on the fridge. But John keeps querying why he is going to daycare twice this week. When I remind him, he says ‘oh that’s right, you’re going away to learn how to look after me better’. Then later he asks why he’s going twice to daycare this week and we start again. Funny that I am being infinitely patient because I know that it’s only a couple more days till I go away……

November 22, 2022

Millie’s first tooth fell out yesterday and she wants the tooth fairy money to go to the Zoo ‘to buy more animals’. Kid’s on the right track. Although I must admit that in latter years I have wondered about the wisdom of locking animals up in order that we can gawp at them. Certainly the big cats, elephants and the like have very restricted lives, but places like Dubbo Zoo are headed in the right direction.

My trepidation about going back on antibiotics is playing out as expected, the interstitial cystitis is giving me a walloping today. It always seems to be that the symptoms come back worse than ever, despite the wondrous 10 days while I’m taking them. I’m just hoping it gets no worse before Thursday or I might be forced to take them again, just kicking the can down the road with a decision to suffer later rather than now.

A visit to the audiologist today was the first since Covid and I came out of it pretty well. The tests are long and interesting, though I don’t understand much of what he’s doing. My hearing isn’t down by much, a surprise, but he said that under government rules I’m entitled to a new set of hearing aids after the time I’ve had them. But there’s no point in trying to live with all my existing goods and not buying new ones yet expect Albo to fork out to replace hearing aids that work fine, so I told him I’ll wait till they play up and get new ones then. He was surprised and said most people jump at the opportunity to get new replacements, which made me more confident that I’d made the right decision. Albo will probably pop a thankyou card in the mail. Speaking of our glorious leader, I dreamed that I went to Albo’s house and he was showing me his huge collection of antique glass, all inherited from his father he said. Which is ridiculous considering his back story, with no father ever in this country. Terry would have put his psychoanalyst hat on to explain it, but sadly that will never happen again.

November 23, 2022

Last night I was as close as I could be to tears after discovering that the tube of one hearing aid, replaced by the audiologist yesterday, was falling out constantly to the point that it wasn’t usable. Try as I might I couldn’t fix it so I went to bed thinking that on top of all else I had to do today, within my four hours of freedom, I needed to go back to Macquarie University to get it sorted. But this morning I thought of Michelle who also has hearing aids from the same place so I fronted up there, getting her out of bed, and by a wondrous coincidence she had a spare tube for the left ear, which worked fine. A life saver.

I have been wondering why I have heard nothing more about the retreat in the past two weeks but then the organiser rang me today to get my car rego so it can be parked at council while I’m away. Apparently some people have had to pull out due to Covid and other medical issues so we are down to eight and the organiser. I think all are from John’s dementia day care service. So I’m packed and ready, bring it on! Where is the cocktail bar again?

What to say about the assault on local protestor and wannabe comedian Danny Lim? But it’s a curious coincidence that an old man carrying a Smile Cvnt sign is then thrown onto a tiled floor by two of them, as I’ve written to the SMH this morning. It was astounding to me that people were walking past and not intervening. The government who changed the name of the New South Wales Police Service to Police Force years ago did the community a great disservice as so many of their number take the word very seriously. Sadly only a person in uniform could get away with throwing 78-year-old man onto a tiled floor and severely injuring him, giving him a fractured skull and a brain bleed. without being charged with assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. And get away with it they no doubt will. The QVB is also at fault, it needs to lighten up and realise that Danny Lim is a loved part of Sydney‘s rich culture. The proposed snap demo this evening is a reminder that we’re not all cvnts though.

November 24, 2022

Well it’s been a funny old day. Of all times to get my Sjogren’s symptoms by the bucket load, it had to be this week. Sue was here overnight and it was a great relief to know I was leaving with somebody here who fully understands the situation and is capably in charge. I got away on time and boarded the minibus feeling wretched and drugged up. There are eight people going on the retreat, seven women and one man, plus the driver and two staff members. Unfortunately I had to ask twice for the driver to pull over so I could use a loo and no one else got off the bus so that was a bit embarrassing, but I’m used to being the nuisance unfortunately.We pulled in at the Three Sisters for a while and then went off to the Hydro at Medlow Bath for an absolutely delicious high tea of which I could only sample a few pieces sadly. While we were there Bob rang and I told him that I felt woeful, so he advised me to take the drug we keep on hand for emergencies only. It is banned in Australia, but sold over the counter in the US and it works a treat. Luckily I have been able to import a stash of it with the help of someone in the US and using it very rarely I have plenty available. Apparently it has been found to cause liver cancer if taken for a length of time but it is the only thing that works. His comment that ‘you probably won’t live long enough to get the liver cancer, so just take it’ raised a smile. By the time we got to the hotel it was 3.44 pm and the first session began at 4. It was a woman from the Carer Gateway who talked about the services that they can provide. It was interesting but they were all things I wouldn’t need if I could only get John’s package sorted, things like home help, visits to take John out etc, so I was reluctant to sign up with another organisation for help when the package that’s already been approved is so close (hopefully). She was quite an unusual person though and sparked my interest. She is only 25 but is the foster mother of a 17-year-old with autism. She had been looking after the girl as a carer on odd occasions for a few hours at a time, but the girl’s situation at home became so intolerable that she wanted to leave and Julia applied to be her foster mother. She was able to get all sorts of government help, but that will all disappear overnight once the girl turns 18 so as well as  supporting herself and paying a mortgage on a small unit, she has to look after the needs of the girl who cannot work. So she’s not just a person working for a caring organisation, she is also a dedicated carer herself and it occurred to me that it’s probably a lifelong commitment.We all had dinner in the hotel restaurant after that session which would have been in normal circumstances a delight, however although I managed a main course I had to say no to an entree and dessert and wine, all of which was included and paid for. I was a little bit shocked, knowing that the council is footing the bill for all of this, that people at the high tea and also at dinner asked if they could have wine as well, yet made no attempt to pay for it. Clearly what was provided was what was on the menus we were given  and I would have thought that anything else would come at our own expense, but no one offered to pay for the alcohol so it was paid for as part of the bill by the organisers. I was very glad to be refusing it as it felt like a bit of a corruption on the goodwill of the council. I had an early night, leaving everyone at the table ordering their dessert, tea and coffee, but when feeling unwell there is a limit to how long I could discuss the best things to binge-watch on Netflix and the relative merits of various football teams. I guess I haven’t so far found someone I feel totally comfortable with, although they are all very friendly people in their own way. Bath and bed at 9pm was bliss though.

November 25, 2022

Well two days could hardly be more different. This morning I decided not to have any tea or wine just to be on the safe side, but I was very much improved. Had a lovely breakfast overlooking the view with the group leader as we were the first arrivals and Lee talked me into getting WhatsApp on my phone and set it up for me. My cousins in England and Spain have been on my back about getting it but I didn’t really understand what it was all about and didn’t know how to do it anyway, but she has sorted all of that.After breakfast we all trotted off to the Ubika Spa which is on the grounds of the property, as is all else including swimming pools, (one heated), horse riding, a full golf course and a jolly ice-skating rink for Pete’s sake. We each got a complimentary massage which was just amazing. The last one I had, in fact possibly the only one I’ve had, was an Ayurvedic massage in India nearly 15 years ago. It was really relaxing despite being interrupted twice by phone calls before I got the masseuse to turn my phone off. It ended up being Orange Blossom Cottage ringing because the Friday group of which John was a part today was going on an excursion and wouldn’t be back in time for Sue to pick him up. So they wanted my permission for him to join a “normal” recreational group for today so he would be able to be picked up early as planned. It was good of them to ring, just bad timing.Then we had a buffet lunch, again delicious, and after that a painting opportunity. We were to paint a landscape and so I opted for what I could see out of the window, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to paint in the big gumtree which dominated the view. However I got the sky, the distant mountains and some foreground done. I could have given it another couple of hours happily and ended up with a much better result, but I may be able to finish at home. It was fun anyway. As soon as we finished the painting I raced to the pool area, had a sauna then a swim, then a spa, then another sauna to finish off. But it left me just enough time to dress for dinner which was in the little Italian restaurant in the hotel. We tried to order from the menu but then discovered that we were having a group sharing menu where they bring three different salads, garlic bread, four different pizzas, a couple of different pastas and a risotto and we all share. Our gluten-free person and our vegan person were well accommodated. Seeing I’m not that fussed on pizza I let that pass  and went straight to the salads, gnocchi and risotto, all of which were excellent. There was so much pizza left over that we asked for boxes to take it away, but we got a long story about why they are not licensed to do takeaway and all the dangers involved in transporting food etc etc but I persisted because I can’t stand waste and eventually they brought out pizza boxes, which just happened to be sitting there in the kitchen.I find Russell has the best sense of humour in the group and we have had some good laughs during the day and evening. His wife has aphasia from a stroke but most of the women have husbands with dementia. I am more than ready for bed at 10.30 and my book hasn’t been opened since I got here. It is sad that I couldn’t enjoy yesterday, but today more than made up for it. (Separately, five of the women have come up to me and said that I seem like a different person than the one they met yesterday, which I am, thanks to a banned drug).

November 26, 2022

Unusually I got up very early and was out just after dawn walking the wonderful grounds of the Fairmont in the morning mist. I didn’t see a soul except for a lady sweeping the paths as I was returning, it was weird to see the usually buzzy foyer totally empty with no one on the desk and no concierge. The most beautiful sight was a pair of black swans swimming through the mist on the lake. Back in time to pack up and go to breakfast at 7.30 where I mentioned that I should send a tip next time I pay my rates, but it turns out that the money for our jaunt comes from the Feds who allocate funds to the council to support carers and because they haven’t had a retreat during Covid we were the eight who benefited. Our driver on the way up was the loquacious and jokey Alastair and on the return trip it was the very quiet Vang, both were excellent drivers. We arrived back to Hills Council at noon and there was a certain sadness that the diverse group was splitting up. We had a Cambodian, an Indian, a Sri Lankan and a Chinese, a vegan, and just one man. As we were saying goodbye the Chinese lady, the director of a pre-school, asked: Do you mind telling me what you did before you retired? So I answered 27 years an antique dealer and 12 years as a technical officer in a scientific lab. Aaah she said, that’s why you’re different. Different from what I don’t know, but she was smiling.

Jane was here with John, having spent the night here, and we had a brief chat over a cuppa before she left. Seeing me with a suitcase he asked: Are you going away somewhere? I think he was pleased when I said I had already been. He has forgotten yesterday’s party already so when I asked if he’d enjoyed himself he had to ask Jane if he had.

I am going to stick my neck out and confidently predict that Dan Andrews will be comfortably returned in the Victorian elections today. It has been a bitter (bordering on wicked) campaign with the Murdoch media hounding the man on everything from daring to break his back to an accident his wife had years ago. The Liberals are desperate and I think people will see that and turn on them, proving the polls inaccurate in the end.

November 27, 2022

Well you read it here first folks, Dan is the Man. I am very happy to be right this time but I was despondent to be right when I forecast Trump’s 2016 victory in these pages. The Herald-Sun and The Australian newspapers were vicious every day in their failed attempt to dent Dan’s popularity, even though they must have known that their views went against those of most of their readers, proving that it is not an economic imperative but a political one that impels them. The Liberal Party polls apparently expressed the view last Wednesday that the Libs were going to win, other polling companies gave them a chance and once again I am of the view that the polls are rigged to suit their audience, either deliberately or to please their masters who are picking up the tab. No scientific method in evidence. Matthew Guy is an enigma, he looks so benign, like a very decent fellow in fact, but his actions tell a different story, good riddance to him.

Today I’m back to taws on the health front and that’s pretty disappointing, more drugs ingested and no end in sight at the moment, rats. But I’ve managed to put up and decorate the Christmas tree (with John), send off replies to numerous texts and emails that came in over the days I was away and now I am cooking a pile of duck legs which Michelle W. left in my fridge on Friday, using a Jamie Oliver recipe: Sweet Duck Legs with Plums and Star Anise so dinner is looking pretty special. Not that I should be eating anything at all after the last few days of gluttony. John has just rung to say he’s lost, in the same street and on the same corner that Sue had to pick him up from last Thursday, so I’d better go pick him up, see you!

November 28, 2022

This morning  was a bit of a farce but it worked out okay in the end. I had asked John to accompany me to the last two days of the Caddick inquest as I couldn’t bear to miss the end, but when we got there I was very suspicious as there wasn’t a TV cameraman in sight. We arrived at the appropriate court room to discover alas that it was being held at the Downing Centre instead of Lidcombe. The court officer had no idea why, but I suspect that it is for security reasons as her brother Adam was quite aggressive towards people so they had to bring in two sheriffs to keep an eye on him. Normally there are no sheriffs at Lidcombe so I think they’ve moved it to the city court where they are plentiful. So seeing we had travelled over there anyway I asked a chap in the office to recommend an alternative case and we went to that. Seeing it was just starting today we heard counsel assisting’s opening remarks (which went for over two hours) and then left. I will have to give tomorrow a miss as I don’t want to drag John into town.

Seeing my suitcase at the back door this morning, waiting for me to put it away in the storeroom, John asked ‘Are you going away somewhere?’. ‘No’ I answered, ‘I’ve just come back’ and he seemed quite relieved. I am still waiting for the wretched aged care team to get back to me about his package upgrade, but it’s no good talking to John about it because he’s forgotten what a package is and what it does, so I have to whinge here instead. I thought the retreat might be a bit of a whinge fest with all the carers together but we didn’t even want to talk about it and just tried to have a break from worrying about home care packages, aged care homes, day care, what to do when our charges decline and all the things that normally fill our minds. I am extraordinarily lucky to have gone.

November 29, 2022

Decided to head to the dreaded Towers this morning to pick up the requested gifts for our family Secret Santa, it’s good that everyone has been very specific. I have asked for two books, the new Niki Savva, Bulldozed which comes out Thursday and Clinton Fernandes’ new one Sub-Imperial Power: Australia in the International Arena. It is a sad comment on this area that we no longer have a bookshop and half of those in Parramatta are either New Age crystal-bashers or Christian bookshops. Dymocks closed a long time ago and no one replaced them, so the books are on order at The Bookery at Lane Cove. But it seems that as soon as I get back to health the old Japanese bladder packs it in again, so I’m having two good days at most and then a badden as soon as I stop taking the drugs. I’ve made another appointment with Bob though he’s already said that he’s run out of options, but I can’t go on like this. The Big C wafts across my mind and I will bring it up on Thursday, I have every symptom that’s for sure.

I am getting fed up to the teeth with that menace Jacinta Price. As soon as she came on the scene I recognised trouble with a capital C. When Nick Cater, Rebecca Weisser and all the Sky News extremists are singing her praises it’s pretty much a given that she’s an extremist too. Someone is going to have to call her out sooner rather than later, we’ve all been hesitant because she is Aboriginal let’s face it, but she is the proverbial bad apple and needs to be labelled as such before she ruins the whole barrel. I feel so sorry for all the Aboriginal people who’ve worked and struggled to get the Uluru Statement up and happening, it must be a stab in the heart to have that work pulled down by one of your own. Charlie Perkins would be spinning in his grave, I’m sure he would have called her out quick smart were he still here.

November 30, 2022

So, it seems someone has been brave enough to take on Jacinta Price after all….Noel Pearson has stepped up to the plate and good on him. While we are speaking about abhorrent people, I was pleased to be able to watch the censure motion in parliament this morning albeit on the small screen of my phone. John went off with his carer and I wasn’t up to going anywhere so I spent the time on card-making, managing to finish eight, though a number had been started previously. No red and green to be seen, no mangers either, but a card to write on and send my good wishes to friends and rellies overseas and interstate. I like using up odds and sods on my cards and my favourite of them features one of the cardboard and foil pieces that go under cakes at a patisserie, in this case Dolcettini, cake presentation boards I think they call them. I used it to glue onto the card and decorated it with some beautiful mirror-like paper that was once around a gift and too good to throw out. Apart from some watering, that filled the four hours that John was away, cutting and pasting (no, not on a computer haha, but paper and cardboard) while watching the censure speeches and finally the vote on my propped up phone, with Bridget Archer the only Liberal with the intestinal fortitude to support the motion. The guns will be out for her next preselection time.

Last week I had an audiologist’s appointment and Andrew kindly changed the tubes for me but one started falling out straight away, then I replaced it with one purloined from Michelle C. However, that one repeatedly fell out too, so I had to email Andrew for help. He said that they sometimes wear loose (it was rock solid before) and that the tubing adaptor in the hearing aid itself needed replacement. So, it must go back to Macquarie to be fixed, but how glad am I that I took out insurance on them. The repair fees on hearing aids over five years old, as mine are, is $350 to $450!! Why it matters how old they are I have no idea. So I said to them that I may as well take up Andrew’s (well in fact Albo’s) offer of new ones for free, but I was quickly told that the cost doesn’t apply to me as I pay the $45 a year insurance, which includes unlimited batteries, tubes etc as required, with postage thrown in. Now I won’t bitch about having to drive there and back to get the job done. I can also pick up the books I’ve ordered at Lane Cove on the same outing. It will kill me to let John wrap up the Niki Savva one till Christmas though…..I am just in the mood for some serious Morrison hammering.

December 1, 2022

At the visit to Bob this morning I didn’t need to ask for any investigations of my ongoing malady, I think he took one look at me and decided it had gone far enough. So I’m now back on antibiotics at an increased dose, plus the pain-killing tabs, plus a scan tomorrow at Westmead Private Hospital. I don’t have a carer for John but I’m sure he’ll be fine in the waiting room for that amount of time. (Did I mention the buggers at ACAT who never ring me back re getting more care?? Yes, I think I may have). However after Christmas Bob wants me to have a cystoscopy as well and he won’t be able to wait around for that one, however I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I came home straight after that and didn’t feel like doing anything standing up so I did some more cards, this time watercolours and some with pressed leaves. They are not at all Christmassy so I may keep them for other occasions, they are wish-washy pastels as I was in that sort of floaty mood. That’s the good thing, the cards reflect a mood at the time and so are always different.

John came home from day care to sing me a song they had done about an Australian Christmas, lots of koalas, utes and swaggies in the lyrics. They also decorated the centre’s Christmas tree and he enjoyed doing that. When I was on the retreat Lee signed me up to WhatsApp and used it to transmit messages to us all as needed. I have watched it since then, waiting to see if anyone would want to keep in touch, though I didn’t initiate any contact myself. But last evening one person sent a message around and the thing was pinging away for an hour or two as everyone else replied. It seems this disparate group has somehow coalesced into a coterie of carers plus our two advocates. Let’s hope it continues in similar vein.

I am proud to say that I think I have finished all of our Christmas shopping. We have the Secret Santa gifts from each of us sorted, plus the Millie gifts and some for each of John’s grandchildren. I found a new shop in the dreaded Towers called The Uncommon Collective and just loved the bits I bought there, a cardboard put-together pirate ship with textas to colour it, this from Denmark, a gorgeous unicorn toy made in wool from a women’s collective in the Himalayas and some divine cards printed from black and white pen drawings by an Australian artist, these of animals but with their fur or scales made of intricately drawn flowers (these are for a gift, not to use myself). Commendation to self for getting the gifts sorted, now to planning the food.

December 2, 2022

Phew! Just home at 3.30 after getting a motza of assorted jobs out of the way. First to Officeworks to pick up my diary pages, always a priority at this time of the year. Next to Westmead Hospital for a bladder scan but despite drinking one litre of water as requested, when we arrived they were running very late and said to go to the toilet and then start the one litre guzzle all over again. We got there early for an 11 am appointment but didn’t leave till 12.30, however the scan itself went off without problems, results next week. Then to the Hearing Hub to pick up the repaired hearing aid, followed by the Bookery at Lane Cove where we got two books, my Christmas presents from John. We shall see if the wrap stays on the Niki Savva one till then….

In the press there’s been a huge fuss about the royal household’s Lady Susan Hussey asking a Caribbean woman where she was from. Admittedly she laboured the point, but that’s something I do all the time. It’s a conversation starter and I did it as recently as last week. My daughters are mortified if I ask a taxi driver where his family is from yet I’ve never felt the slightest reluctance from the person asked, in fact they are usually more than keen to talk about their country of origin. I guess I will have to curb my tongue in future if it’s now become such a sin, even though I am delighted to be asked when travelling.

Currently reading Somebody I Used to Know by Wendy Mitchell, who has early onset Alzheimer’s, and it’s been helpful in understanding John’s confusion and memory loss. Some things she mentions haven’t happened to him, but others are very familiar. One strange experience was when she looked outside and saw that her garage ‘had been stolen’, just a concrete slab remained. She was deciding whether to ring the police or her daughter when it suddenly ‘reappeared’. She has also seen both her mother and father at different times in her home, both of them are long dead. John said today that it would be good to get a brain transplant so I’ve said I will keep an eye out for one and we laughed about trawling hospitals and cemeteries looking for one that’s no longer being used, preferably younger and fitter. He’s been asking me all day what we are doing and now we’re home he’s asking what we did, where we’ve been is a total blur to him. Tomorrow we go to Dav’s place and he enjoys seeing Millie so I keep reminding him of that.

December 3, 2022

Card-making on the agenda today before we went to Erko. I think I’ve made a rod for my own back as I intended to do just a few and now I feel as if it’s a slight to send printed ones to the remaining people so I’ve committed to make them all. But at least it’s only the overseas ones that need doing by Monday and I don’t send them to Sydney folks whom I see routinely, just those somewhat distant. Luckily I had a supply of pressed dried leaves and decided to leave some natural and paint some, so that has worked nicely. I don’t even know where to send my brother’s card (I’m not risking a gift just yet) as I still haven’t been given the name of the care home, but I’ve emailed Tanya and asked for an address. We shall see. Another job out of the way was a hand-written letter to the ACAT team explaining my need for John to be put on a high priority list and letting them know that my three phone calls so far have gone unreturned. I think I’m whistling Dixie there but anything’s worth a try. Apart from going down and making a fuss in person I don’t know what else to do. I’m trying to be the squeaky wheel, but it’s feeling more like the screeching and grating one.

Davina made a lovely paella and Millie wasn’t keen until she said it was Spanish, whereupon Millie asked if her friend from school Francisco would be eating it in Brazil where he is currently on holidays. Once it was established that yes, he may very well be eating it, Millie decided it was good stuff. Carly emailed to say she’s got the dreaded Covid but her symptoms seem to lean more to exhaustion than to coughing, however she’s been in bed constantly.

December 4, 2022

John seems to have gone downhill again this weekend. He has spent months colouring in cards to send at Christmas but yesterday he managed to write only two before getting distressed and deciding it was all too hard, as he couldn’t work out who people in his address book were and even whether or not they were alive, some of these were close friends seen only recently. Luckily just then Lynne rang and said that she’s not sending any Christmas cards this year so I suggested that he abandon the idea, as Lynne had, and it gave him an out which he happily took. I’ve done six more cards with painted and natural leaves and I’m quite in the swim of it now, having finished all the overseas ones and made a few now for interstate. Rang Jane at the hospital and she’s coming along as expected after her knee replacement, however John has forgotten about where she is so they chatted about general stuff and we left it at that, no point upsetting him unnecessarily. He was quite chuffed when the Link Housing annual report arrived (a thick glossy tome which would have cost plenty) and he was featured with a double-paged spread thanking him for his work for them over 12 years as a tenant advisory group member, going to conferences on their behalf and making street libraries for their tenants. Well-deserved recognition.

December 5, 2022

I’ve been harping on this for years but I’ll do it again: There should be a ban on breeding or selling dogs with killing in their nature, starting with pitbulls but not necessarily ending there. There dogs were purposefully bred to possess aggressive and violent characteristics and it is not wrong to stereotype certain breeds of dogs as being inherently dangerous. Pitbulls caused a whopping 71% of fatalities in the US where figures are kept, despite the fact that they only account for 6% of the total U.S. dog population. Perhaps the biggest reason for their violent behaviour is the task they were bred for. Every dog was bred to accomplish a specific task and pitbulls were historically bred to kill. They were initially bred to bite and hold the head and face of large animals such as bears and bulls (ringing any bells here?) but when this practice was outlawed in the 1800s they started being used in the ‘sport’ of dog fighting. This resulted in deliberate breeding based on the degree of aggressiveness. Then of course there are rottweilers, Rhodesian ridgebacks, American bulldogs and dobermans (should that be dobermen?) but let’s get rid of pitbulls first and then see how we go. When was the last time you heard of a labrador ripping a person apart? Charging those whose dogs cause injury or death is an important step too. I couldn’t believe the police quoted this morning after the tragedy of the meter reader’s death: “The owners of the property are very upset because they really loved their dogs”. Give me a break, a man died here people.

This is becoming a boring blog about Christmas cards but it’s also a mirror of what’s happening in this house. Yesterday we had the great Christmas card meltdown when John got so upset about the mechanics of actually writing them that some were torn up and a decision made to abandon the process, but this morning he calmly announced: ‘I think I might do my Christmas cards today’, apparently forgetting yesterday altogether. I couldn’t think of anything to say but okay, however it’s afternoon now and it hasn’t been mentioned again. It must be so terribly bewildering to be in his shoes at the moment, so discombobulated all the time. In some ways it will be better when he forgets that he forgets, if that makes sense. It is paradoxical that I only started making my own cards as company for him while he was sitting colouring in and now I am the only one making them.

I spoke too soon. He has now done the list of who to send to and I’ve interfered by removing the dead, the ex-wives (that might have caused some consternation) and the relatives who have clearly indicated that they don’t want any communication. Thank god they are not being written today as well.

December 6, 2022

Off to St. V’s for John’s monthly treatment and I wandered in to Ovolo Hotel at Woolloomooloo as usual to use the loos, but enjoyed their Christmas decos and the sculpture exhibition in and around the hotel. I asked about non holiday room rates and found they are about $400 a night so I can’t see we’ll be going any time soon, perhaps for a celebration sometime. Met up with Angela for a Christmas lunch and had a crab lasagne and a salad, though it was disappointing that we has to ask for dressing on the rocket salad, the chef’s day off perhaps. I had some port glasses I had promised her from my overstocked collection of glasses and I put them under the table, I thought out of sight. But the maitre d spied the nasty plastic bag and almost insisted on putting them in the storeroom, but I suspect it was the plastic bag rather than a parcel that offended, a Hermes bag would have looked the part at the venue and remained there. We usually have sweets but unfortunately this was the one day that John was finished in 2 hours instead of 3, I had to leave as soon as he rang and so our Christmas lunch was foreshortened. Next time.

We went then to Millie’s school where she was doing athletics. Her face dropped when she saw us, not happy as we expected, but it turned out that she was disappointed, thinking we were taking her away from athletics. We watched till she was done and then took her for an iceblock and to the park while mum and dad were working at home. It’s a different world down there, with mums with blue hair and covered with tattoos picking up their kids. Whatever they do is accepted thereabouts, whereas around here it would cause a few funny looks. Just the driving and walking absolutely exhausted me (only one drink I promise) and I was in bed by 8.30, sad geriatric that I am becoming.

Justin next door told me he is doing a bit of landscaping with a friend in Rose Bay. The owner bought a harbourside house for $6 million, demolished it and built twin four storey apartments at a cost of $3 million. He’s going to live in one and sell the other for $12 million, another world again. The view looked divine in the pic, but four storeys sounds like a pain in the butt, though I guess there’s a lift. I would never get in a private lift without my phone though, I’ve read too many creepy stories I’m afraid.

December 7, 2022

This morning John’s replacement carer Beckie came and suggested that she take him to Newport for a walk on the beach and fish and chips. First she had to clear it with Wendy’s Home Care to make sure he had the funds in hand for the petrol. They said it was okay but the funds are low and they probably can’t do it again till they are topped up. This made me hopping mad but I told Beckie to take him anyway, then I got onto My Aged Care and struck a lovely man in Queensland who spent half an hour going over the boring story. He was shocked that no one at ACAT ever returns my calls or the hand-written begging letter (using my good fairy wren stationery no less!). He told me to get my home care provider to ring them but I explained that they don’t answer her calls either. He went off for some time, perhaps trying the number himself, but came back saying he would email them marked URGENT to get them to call me. When John was at Lane Cove he got fabulous service from the Northern ACAT, it’s only the Western Suburbs one that we’ve had trouble with, not a coincidence I’m sure. I was still as cross as a hornet so I rang the local Federal Member Alex Hawke’s office and got a good hearing. I was very pleased to discover it is a federal issue as the State Member and I do not get on due to my letters to the press about his government and him in particular. But Hawke’s office said that they would ring his Parliament House office and try to get some action. Bless.

Pastor Brian Houston, ex Hillsong, is in court this week charged with concealing a serious indictable offence for not reporting his father Pastor Frank Houston for abusing a boy in his congregation. Houston Jnr allegedly told the man “you know this is all your fault, you tempted my father”, the abuse occurred when the man was seven. He was paid $10,000, in his view to keep quiet. Another pastor Rose Hardingham told the court that she didn’t report the abuse to police either, because it should be sorted out within the church “not in the secular courts”. What planet do these people live on?

December 8, 2022

I had some more interesting things to talk about but as happens at the moment ACAT dominates yet again. Kristy rang them three times today and left messages so finally the assessor got back to me. Hallelujah! I thought, but after lots of questions she said that ‘the criteria for raising a package to high priority are very tight’ and she doesn’t think that it will be approved. She also wrongly claimed that she’d told me it would be at least 6 months before the funds become available but as I’ve said to her it was definitely 1 to 3 months, which is exactly where it stands now. At least she rang me on a mobile so I have a more direct number now, but for what?

December 9, 2022

It was interesting to read of ‘Prince’ Reuss and his Reichsbuerger and QAnon pals who are accused of trying to overthrow the German government by violent means, January 6 in the US probably having given them courage. Various supporters in the police and army were also arrested as well as a judge. The army people had been ‘procuring equipment, recruiting and holding shooting lessons’ according to reports. It seems that around the world the ‘forces’, be they police or armed services, are the centre of right wing thinking. I can’t forget my friend’s quite normal son who became a racist and right wing conspiracy theorist in a matter of months after joining the army and a school pal of my daughters who was described by her mother as having become a ‘very tough nut’ after only a few weeks of training in the police force. I am so glad that neither of my girls showed interest in either career. Journalist Umair Haque has been warning of the rise in this thinking and action for a few years now and I totally agree with the proposition that the times are getting more and more like the 1930s.

In similar vein, a report on ABC news breathlessly proffered the idea that if inmates were well treated in gaol they may have a better chance of rehabilitation. My goodness, who would have thought? A pilot project has prisoners working in the mornings and doing art and other classes in the afternoons. They live in dorms instead of cells and the problems in the gaol have halved. Sometimes I wonder at the mentality of the officials who think they’ve reinvented the wheel with this stuff. If you treat people as people they will respond, unless they are impeded by mental illness, in which case they shouldn’t be there at all, but being looked after in a forensic mental health facility. Prof. Tony Vinson taught us all this stuff in the 70s and yet Corrective Services has gone down the retribution road ever since. I doubt I will see an improvement in my lifetime.

Medibank Private has kindly informed me today that the following personal details are now showing on the dark web: My full name, gender, date of birth, email, residential address, phone number, policy number, all health provider numbers, dates of hospital admissions and discharge. Well it could be worse I guess…..what have they missed? Passport perhaps, credit card details perhaps, but really it is such a huge thing that I don’t have the mental energy to del with it. I am more concerned about why John is getting so exhausted. Today he sat in the car while I went to the Post Office, then drove to the print shop and then the library, now he’s sleeping it off. It’s another thing that’s come on suddenly, but is now consistently happening.

December 10, 2022

We were at the Farmer’s Market at 8 am and got lots of lovely stuff including zucchini flowers which I adore and will stuff with goat cheese and anchovies and cook for dinner tonight. But when we unpacked the car the beautiful Irish bread, a loaf of which weighs a ton, had disappeared as well as the cloth bag it was carried in. If someone found it and took it home I’m delighted, but people are so germ averse that it may very well end up in a bin which pains me to think about.

John asked me to help him write a newsletter to send in his Christmas cards and I was able to copy his hand-written draft into a document complete with a couple of photos. But when I printed a test copy it was grey rather than black and the photos’ colour was distorted, but try as I might I couldn’t fix it. So I got Arvind to have a look and he couldn’t fix it either. He came up with the idea of emailing it to a neighbour and getting him to print a copy, it was perfect. So it seems that the brand new cartridge I bought on Friday is faulty perhaps? Printers are demonic, I got rid of mine to the storeroom years ago and now John’s is here to drive me deranged. This bloody Christmas card business will be the end of me.

Alex Hawke’s staff were as good as their word and got onto My Aged Care for me yesterday. Not that it helped, Therese from ACAT is still saying that they won’t review the timing of John’s package because he is too close to getting it (in one to three months) and an appointment to review his case can’t be organised until, you guessed it….one to three months. I think I’m vanquished, but at least I can stop carrying my phone in my bra on the off chance that the good Therese will ring.

December 11, 2022

I beat the demon inside the printer with the help of the Cartridge World owner Jeff whom I emailed in desperation. Not expecting a reply till Monday I was very surprised when he replied, despite the shop being closed on weekends. Have you shaken the cartridge hard? he asked. No, I hadn’t, nor did I know I was supposed to, but clearly the demon who lives within is a delicate soul and once shaken vigorously his powers were crippled and I reigned victorious…..this time…..John’s newsletters are done and posted. Sue rang asking if we wanted to do a house swap with her Kiama daughter in mid-January. Kiama, omg how I’d love to go, but I think we need to continue pulling our heads in for a bit and not tempting fate. John is getting exhausted about lunchtime every day and needs a long sleep, plus I could see him being upset if his room is annexed and with a family of five that’s inevitable. Best to say no and hope for an opportunity to get away when he is a little more relaxed.

I was thinking about our interview in August with Therese and whether or not I imagined an intake of breath when John divulged his past employment and offered “But I’m an atheist now though”. Surely that wouldn’t have had an effect on the outcome? No, that’s too close to a conspiracy theory to entertain, though thinking back the intake of breath and the hurry to the next question sticks in my mind.

Thinking this morning about the people I’d be really happy not to hear about again when I open a newspaper. Meghan Markle of course, but Lisa Curry is right up there. There are various Kardashians and Hiltons and that ghastly woman from the Eastern Suburbs whose name I am happy to have forgotten, David Warner, of course Shane Warne absented himself from the list. Many of these sporting has-beens (think Curry) suffer from irrelevance syndrome and for some it is actually pathological, they simply can’t live out of the limelight. So we are constantly bombarded with articles, pictures, interviews with people who will go to the opening of an envelope. But at the other end of the spectrum is the decent and impressive actor Richard E. Grant whose book, A Pocketful of Happiness, I am currently reading. Of course he’s in the limelight, at the Oscars, whatever, but he just seems to be a mere mortal doing a job to the best of his ability. His openness and honesty are disarming. I loved the story of his lifelong adoration of Barbra Streisand and the letter he wrote to her as a small boy, asking if she wanted to come and stay with his family for two weeks. Even now the fascination persists, he has commissioned a bust of her and it stands in his garden. Bless.

December 12, 2022

Well Bob has decided today that it’s probably the anti-inflammatory part of Keflex rather than the antibiotic part that’s working on me as I don’t have an infection, just all the symptoms of one. So we are having a trial of a low dose of the antibiotic for 40 days (sounds very biblical, but actually it’s just the maximum he can prescribe). We shall see whether this works but the upside is that if it doesn’t I can self-medicate to full dose until I can see him again to rethink. While I was seeing Bob Heather came and stayed with John, bringing sandwiches and cake for them. She was early and this allowed me to also duck into Alex Hawke’s office to thank his assistant Linda for shaking up My Aged Care for me last week. I am not usually of a mind to praise young Alex and his team, but credit where it’s due. I explained to her that I didn’t get a satisfactory result, but that I was more than pleased with the fact that she’d tried and put a slight tremor in the voice of the chap who rang me: ‘ah um Alex Hawke’s office asked me to ah um ring you’. Great work Linda, you did well even though I told you that I bat for the other team.

Finished the Richard E. Grant book and it was heart-warming to read that Prince Charles, on a number of occasions, had his secretary ring to ask if he could come around to visit Joan, arriving with an armful of roses and produce, both from his farm. Richard praises Camilla highly as a warm and caring person. It’s good to hear of people from the inside and to hear of their human characteristics. The finger-licking Nigella Lawson is given high praise too, regularly sending a home cooked meal in a taxi to their home. His wife Joan, a dialect and voice coach to the stars, had an interesting theory that landscape and climate directly affect accents. Flat Norfolk accents parallel flat US mid-western ones while up and down accents are typical of hilly places like Wales. She says the nasality of New York and Liverpool accents are related to the fact that both cities are ports with sea air. I will have to try thinking of exceptions to that but one that comes to mind is the Caribbean, you can’t get much more up and down than West Indians. Needs more cogitation.

I texted our friend Kevin yesterday to get an address for someone who has moved and he called back to say that he’s been in hospital since Thursday for breathlessness. They’ve drained two litres of fluid off his lung but don’t yet have a diagnosis. He doesn’t have any flu-like symptoms so pneumonia isn’t the cause. I don’t like it.

December 13, 2022

What to say about the Queensland shooting tragedy? I sent off a letter to the Herald which pretty much corrals my thoughts, apart from feeling gutted by it all. It read: “I fail to see how a call out to the remote property of a known conspiracy theorist with a hatred of police and a wife who left her government position over the vaccine mandate could in any way be seen as ‘routine’. The tragedy seems to hark back to inadequate intelligence, much more needs to be done federally to identify and monitor those who have gone down this rabbit hole before we lose more innocent people to this madness”. I think that both state and federal governments have failed to understand the ferocity of feeling that these people have for government in all its forms. This puts all public servants in danger of at least aggressive behaviour, and at most murder, as we saw in this case. It takes a depth of callousness to look into the eyes of a young woman begging for her life and to fire your gun into her anyway.

Well after a 45 minute consult with Bob on Monday in his confined office he went home and tested Covid positive. We had quite a few texts flowing back and forth yesterday and I laughed as he described his ‘covert operation’ to get a packet of Paxlovid in the carpark of his local pharmacy. It involved hanging a bag with the script on the external rear vision mirror and having the assistant deposit the drug and remove the script from the bag in a socially distanced operation. He is missing three rehearsals for singing at the Sydney Festival. I am not too concerned about catching it, but it will indeed be a test of the N95 mask’s effectiveness. another friend was testing herself last night too as she had a sore throat. Personally I wouldn’t trust a RAT very early in the piece, too many false negatives.

Late yesterday I wrote three book reviews before returning the books to the library today. Mere hours later I saw that someone had ‘liked’ my review and to my great surprise it was the author! It was the New Zealand novel Paper Cage by Tom Baragwanath, which I had given 4.5/5. I try not to just talk about the plot in the reviews, but to try to get to what was the overall intention of the author, it seems I may have hit on it with this one, unless of course he sits on his computer excited to see anyone at all who has read and liked his book.

December 14, 2022

I’ve been watching Scott Morrison on the Robodebt Royal Commission and he just waffles on and on and doesn’t answer a simple question. The commissioner has called him out a few times but it’s like water off a dog’s back: “You come from a background where rhetoric is important, but can you please….. Just answer the question”. He’s not listening and doesn’t look the least bit chastened, his pouty lips looking scarily like John Howard’s.

An hour later: God, he just won’t be told. Counsel assisting just said that Morrison had taken 10 minutes to give a simple answer of No to a question. He intimated that Morrison was dragging out his answers in order to run out of time, which had occurred to me. He is enough to drive the Counsel to drink. I am screaming at him just before the Commissioner says the same thing to him more politely. He’s started again: “I’ll give you an example…” No, don’t give us an example Mr. Morrison! she retorted. He knows he’s doing it and he knows it’s driving everyone nuts, but the showman in him keeps pushing him forward. I’ll have to turn it off before I have an apoplexy.

In the last day or two John has had a couple of texts from his granddaughters, I have had some messages from one on Facebook Messenger independently and he’s had a good long phone call with both of them. It turns out that their mother went to a conference in Wollongong at which everyone in her group caught Covid, but further communication has established that virtually everyone at the conference got it. So until she recovers, the girls and Dan are sleeping in a ‘studio’ that he has built in the backyard, complete with a shower and gas cooker! That’s the first time they’ve communicated with me directly and I’m chuffed. Long may it continue, though I think things will revert to usual once their lives get back to normal and the studio is not their interim home.

December 15, 2022

Sometimes there isn’t much of interest in the Good Weekend magazine, apart from the recipes, but last week’s was a bottler. First was an interesting story about the child of a GP and a cancer researcher who sadly suffered from diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a childhood brain tumour that is always fatal. It raised interesting questions about the parents’ desire to keep the child alive for as long as possible. It seemed to me that, despite the natural desire to have her with them, it didn’t do the child any favours to extend her life. Her father goes on to say that his life has been overtaken by the desire to find treatments, and hopefully a cure, for other sufferers and that the only time he is not thinking about the disease is when he’s running or playing football. That is hardly a healthy situation for a man with three surviving children, though it’s a totally understandable way to deal with the grief from his personal point of view. The next article was about the life and character of golfer Greg Norman, in which people referred to him as ‘an arsehole’ and described his obsession with money and power. I can only say that anyone who has listened to GN over the years and not realised this obviously has their arsehole detector permanently turned off. Let’s waste no more time on him and go to his diametric opposite. This was a lovely story about Matt Green who has given up his apartment and possessions and walked nearly every street in the five boroughs of New York, carrying a little spiral notebook and copying details of animals and birds, people and buildings and even bits of metal he finds on the road as he passes them. He is dismissive of people saying things like, “You’re white, so you can’t walk through that neighbourhood.” His answer is: “Yes, you can feel tension sometimes if it’s a neighbourhood that’s predominantly one race, and you’re not that race. Someone might walk down the street towards me, and they might be glowering. So I just put a smile on my face and say, ‘How’s it going?’ and it’s amazing. Nearly every time they’ll smile back, and sometimes they’ll even start a conversation. We’re so quick to judge people, but you’re half of any interaction with someone else. So, if you make your half of the interaction a 100 per cent positive, that’s a lot of power towards winning over that situation.” How uplifting is that statement? I loved it, it made my weekend.

Rats, I’ve accidentally done something to my Hotmail and it’s only showing me the unread emails (some old as the hills) but I can’t get the current ones back. I tried sending one to myself and it didn’t appear, yet it shows up on my phone.

December 16, 2022

It has always seemed to me that evangelical religion and conspiracy thinking are close bedfellows and so it seems in this terrible case of the murders in Queensland. The father and father-in-law of the shooters was interviewed on television and seems blissfully unaware that his background of writing books about the ‘Masons being the children of Lucifer’, preaching about demons and devils and whatever, has led to bringing up children who believe implicitly in this tosh and then take it to the next level. The videos and online statements that they have produced over years clearly show that they believed that ‘God’ is on their side. Various friends of mine who were or are steeped in religion are the only people amongst my acquaintance group who subscribe to conspiracy thinking. The religions are different, varying from Pentacostal to Baptist to Seventh Day Adventist but the common thread is that they are deeply immersed in religion now, or at some previous part of their lives, and they have a terror of the consequences of a lack of religious faith and a fear of this other world of the occult. The father of one of them commented to me years ago that his greatest fear was of being put in a gaol cell with a non-believer, it struck me as weird then and even more weird now, considering all the terrible things that could befall a person. He too was a ‘demons and devils’ believer and I recall him burning beautiful and valuable old items from his home because they ‘were possessed’. In the 1990s 55% of Americans believed in the Devil as an actual being, that rose to 70% in 2000s. The belief in the concept of religious evil has been increasing in recent times, hand in hand with conspiracy theories like QAnon and others which thrive in evangelical communities. I don’t think we have yet seen the peak of this phenomenon.

December 17, 2022

In the oven as we speak (I guess I’m doing the speaking, rather than both of us) I have a pavlova made to a new recipe by Adam Liaw and featured in the Good Weekend. It throws out the universally accepted method of whipping egg whites and then adding sugar a spoonful at a time. This recipe tosses everything in together, but using icing sugar. I had my doubts that it would work but it certainly looks the part, we shall see how it cuts and tastes. Another rigid rule bites the dust.

A friend from Grafton sent me a pic today of flowers on the grave in Macksville of VC winner Frank Partridge, a cousin of my very ex husband. When I told him the relationship, he replied that he thought FP was my uncle and he’d wasted his money on the flowers. I shot back that if he raced to the shop and explained they may give him a refund, though judging by the look of the flowers I think they were actually left a while back, by someone else entirely. Nick was always a tease.

I came across an Oliver Sacks quote: “If a man has lost a leg or an eye, he knows he has lost a leg or an eye; but if he has lost a self – himself – he cannot know it, because he is no longer there to know it”. It made me think of John and the fact that he does know it. He has been complaining about not being able to turn off the taps in his bathroom, I’m always finding them dripping. So he asked me to get the plumber because they need new washers and he’s forgotten how to do it, but unfortunately the plumber showed me that they are severely corroded inside and need replacing altogether. This morning when I said I have to go to the plumbing supply place to choose new taps, John told me I was wasting money and that he can turn them off, if he just puts his mind to it. I went in and found them still dripping, so I will go to get new ones after all and end the tap discussion.

December 18, 2022

Last night late (I was finishing Holly Throsby’s wonderful new book ‘Clarke’ till midnight) I checked the news before going to bed and the lead story made steam come out of my ears. Apparently Nathaniel Train, the person whom the Queensland Police were looking for in a ‘routine welfare check’ which ended three people’s lives, was known by the police to have travelled illegally into the state during the Covid lockdown. He was seen by a local farmer trying unsuccessfully to break through a locked border gate between the states, then cutting off the padlock with an angle grinder and driving through. He then stalled his 4 WD going through flood waters and tossed the contents of his car into a nearby flooded creek before phoning someone who then came to pick him up on the Queensland side. Once the water went down locals discovered loaded guns, ammunition, ‘Rambo’ knives and a crossbow along with medical and other paperwork clearly marked with the man’s name. The farmer reported the illegal entry, filmed by government installed security cameras, to local police who ignored it. Later he reported the guns as they emerged from the flood, but the police allegedly said ‘the car’s not stolen so we can’t do anything’. I was flabbergasted at this and the fact that not only had his actions been identified twice to police, but it was all on file 12 months before they were doing a ‘routine welfare check’ at the property where the shootings took place. No wonder the police were cagey when asked about whether they had had been any previous interactions with the brothers. On Thursday, not 24 hours after the murders, police turned up asking the farmer to show them what had been retrieved from the vehicle a year ago, but he had disposed of it all long ago. If I stole a packet of biscuits from the IGA I’d be in more bother than this bloke was for illegally entering Queensland, destroying government property, being in possession of loaded weapons, having unlicensed guns and I’m sure they could dredge up a few more charges than those. What a debacle.

When I read the guts of the article out to John this morning his reply was ‘what siege is this you’re talking about?’, he’d forgotten it entirely since Thursday. Something still zinging my brain has already gone from his, which reminded me how much we are losing. Communication, shared passions, shared memories. He asked me at breakfast this morning if the 2001 Toyota he owns now was the first car he bought after his motor cycle accident, in 1971, and if he’d owned any other cars in the interim. He’s asked a few times if it is right that Terry, his closest friend, has died as he doesn’t want to make a mistake about that when three other friends come to visit on Tuesday, one of whom he can’t remember at all apart from the name being familiar.

December 19, 2022

I have been puzzling about why NO other media outlets had repeated the ABC’s story about Nathaniel Train illegally crossing into Queensland, with a cache of guns. I couldn’t understand it as to me it was front page news. I checked every news outlet and the only one running it was in New Zealand. So I started to think that maybe they were waiting until the State funeral planned for Wednesday, out of some erroneous idea that telling the truth would offend the police department. (Am I becoming a conspiracy theorist?) But now the story has been picked up (modestly) by a few outlets and while I can’t understand their reticence at least it’s out there at some level.

Seeing something online about radio man Doug Mulray yesterday reminded me of an incident decades ago when he came into the shop on a quiet afternoon and we just hit it off. He stayed for some time and I remember we discussed the idea of ‘love at first sight’. He had just hooked up with Miss Lizzie, later to be his wife, and explained that he went to a party (Christmas party perhaps?) at his radio station and saw her across a room. They walked towards each other and both expressed the view right then that they were meant for each other. They are still happily married by the way. He is the second person to tell a similar story, the other is a psychotherapist who met his now wife across a crowded room at a psychology event in London. He wrote a beautiful poem about their meeting but sadly I lent the book of poetry to Brian once and while he was away for a weekend his son and girlfriend ‘cleaned up’ for him, tossing a number of my books in the process, including a first edition Graham Greene. Grrr, it still rankles.

I recently came across the words ‘like a stork that’s fallen through a wardrobe’ in a fiction book. Now every time I look at Dominic Perrottet I can’t not think of it. There are parameters of size and shape that we get inured to and for me he always makes me want to say ‘gosh you’re tall….and thin’ which is pretty pathetic really.

December 20, 2022

Expecting a number of John’s priestly pals for lunch, all ex-priests not current ones. Two people have said that the name of the only one of them that I don’t already know is shared with another priest whom I have been told by one person is ‘very conservative’ and by another is ‘intellectual and conservative’. So I hope we are getting the other one who’s moderate and if not he’ll have to take me as he finds me. Unfortunately John can’t remember the chap at all so that’s no help. He’s been beyond delighted about them coming and asks about it every day, though today he saw me in the kitchen cooking but still asked: Are we going anywhere today or just staying here? I’ve tried a new coleslaw recipe with a dressing of coconut cream, very crunchy peanut butter and sweet chili sauce which tastes alright but looks a bit stodgy, so I’m not sure I’ll do it that way again. But the potato and asparagus salad and the avocado and mango one both look good and should go well with the fried trout fillets. (When Boris came I did a baked fillet of salmon with asparagus, which he relayed to Jane as baked salmon with asbestos). Made a Lemon Polenta Cake for dessert. My Kitchen Whiz has carked and after chopping everything by hand today I decided to break my usual rule of not buying new stuff and have just ordered a Continuous Grater and Slicer Attachment for my Kenwood Chef. Stupidly excited, and if it comes before Christmas I shall wrap it up and give it to myself.

Yesterday we had a call from John’s case manager from Wendy’s Home Care to say that his regular Wednesday carer Greg has come down with Covid last weekend, which means he got it just about the last time he was here. That was a close shave. She also relayed that John’s Home Care Package increase is showing on the My Aged Care website now as ‘less than 1 month’ instead of the previous ‘1 to 3 months’. After the call, which was taken in the car with the speaker on, John asked who it was and what she was talking about. I explained, but he didn’t understand and said he didn’t know anyone called Kristy at all. She was here in the house in early December for a couple of hours and he has often spoken about how much he likes her and how good she has been for us. Later in the day I had a text from the ACAT assessor to say that he had moved up into the ‘less than 1 month’ category. Is this just natural movement up the list or due to intervention by Alex Hawke’s office? Who knows and who cares, but it’s coming at the right time.

Well it was a lovely gathering this afternoon, lunch went off well and it turns out that the visitor was the ‘good’ John after all. When it was said to him that there are two he laughed and said he knows the other one and he’s a ‘very scary priest whose parishioners are all afraid of him’. We got on famously and there’s talk of him coming back with his wife. I think I’ve made a pal there. As soon as they left we darted up to the Farmer’s Market, but there were limits to what I could buy, too early for berries and greens for Christmas Day for example.

December 21, 2022

Glad to see Julia Baird’s name on an opinion piece in the Herald today. She disappeared from The Drum so suddenly and without explanation so I’ve been worried that it was due to a return of her cancer. and suspect it must be. Her comments were as usual wise and valid, regarding the contemptible criticism of Meghan Markle by that awful excuse for a human, Jeremy Clarkson. It’s true that Meghan isn’t someone I’d want to spend a lot of time with but I don’t ‘hate’ her or hope that she has shit thrown over her, I’d simply like to hear less of her and about her. But just as my mind filters out ads I can quite easily filter out Harry and Meghan so it’s no big deal.

John’s latest carer Rochelle, here because of Greg’s bout of Covid, was lovely and happily took him on a drive. Now we have four people that he’s happy to go with and one that he never wants to see again, so that’s a pretty good team. Bob is back at work after his second Covid and rang yesterday evening, his morning shift finished at 5.30 pm and he says Covid is ‘rife’. I have been ‘making a list and checking it twice’, not of Christmas wishes but things that I want to do once I’m left to my own devices for longer next year. Swimming is a high priority, I haven’t even seen the new Waves centre at Baulkham Hills yet, then I’m hoping to do some art classes, preferably watercolour. The Botanic Gardens has some classes in January in botanical watercolour but they are for Intermediate and High Level not beginners, so they are not for me. Then of course there is court, ICAC, lots of interesting stuff to do. There’s a Chinese lantern-making workshop on in Glebe in January that I’d like to go to, but I’m getting ahead of myself. If I get too excited John’s Home Care Package will take even longer to come through.

Last year I ordered a turkey breast for Christmas and did the same this year. My preference is for seafood but I’m trying to please everyone. But today I realised that I had accidentally bought a 1 kilo one when I’d assumed it was the same size as last year, 2 kilos. Stupid mistake, but I have over a kilo of duck drumsticks in the freezer courtesy of Michelle W. so I’m going to bake them in red wine and quince as well as the turkey. Perhaps we’ll be glad about the mistake on the day.

December 22, 2022

Out visiting this morning when Australia Post sent a message to say my Kenwood attachment was being delivered this morning but it had to be signed for or they would take it back to the PO. Grrr, I came home to find it on the doorstep (not signed for, don’t tell Kenwood). They are a great company to deal with, sent it Express Post and free postage, can’t ask for more than that. Guests this week had supermarket coleslaw with a homemade dressing, but now I can go back to pushing cabbage and carrots through a machine which I find strangely satisfying. Then went back to buy yet more food! Which is ridiculous as the fam is only here for one day and I have bought jointly from the Farmer’s Market and today: watermelon (John has forgotten that he doesn’t like it), four big mangoes, nectarines, peaches, bananas, grapes and blueberries. Making a whole cauliflower au gratin tonight with a few soft tomatoes pushed into the gaps, looking yum.

The Queensland Police Commissioner said today that four police were sent to the Train property because of an arrest warrant issued for Nathaniel after he dumped loaded weapons and crossed the border illegally a year ago. Which contradicts her answer to a reporter’s question about whether there was a reason four police were sent to the job and she answered: No, a risk assessment was done and it was decided it was safe. They were just helping each other on a routine call. Mmm, not so sure about that and I doubt the Coroner will be either.

John, who more than once insisted on my picking him up from Orange Blossom Cottage because ‘I hate it there’ arrived home today full of the fact that they had a Christmas party today ‘with three singers and games and a special lunch’. ‘I love going there’ he announced while unpacking his lolly bag and putting his present under the tree. He assures me no one else got a gift, it looks like a Christmas cake so perhaps he won it, I don’t know, but anyway he’s a happy chappy tonight.

December 23, 2022

When I saw the folk demonstrating in China’s streets about the harsh Covid lockdown conditions I immediately thought ‘Be careful what you wish for’. Now there is talk of a million people dying in coming months. Although a British professor of public health says that it is not because they lifted the restrictions too soon, but because it was too late. The protective effects of the massive vaccination program have now worn off, as it was not topped up with the effects of natural infection. As my mother would have said: Sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong. I feel for the Chinese who did whatever seemed feasible to avert this tragedy but ended up just kicking it down the road.

So it seems that I wasn’t too far out when I predicted the truth would come out about the Queensland police murders pretty quickly once the funerals were over. It’s pretty clear that the police are on the back foot over sending four innocents into a situation that two would never come out of alive. The police commissioner it seems speaks with forked tongue (how I love that American Indian expression). Before the funerals: It was just a routine welfare check. After: The police were attempting to serve an arrest warrant. Before: There were four police because in the country they help each other. After: Four police were sent because of an outstanding warrant for the arrest of Nathaniel Train. Before: There was no evidence that police had been to the property prior to that day. After: They admitted that, although wrongly interpreted by the conspiracy theorists, the killers were right when they said police had attempted to come on to the property a number of times prior to that day. When something like this happens it serves no one for authorities to duck and weave when clearly all of these facts were known to police on day one. One wonders how the parents of those poor young coppers feel now they know the truth.

Just back from the final, final, final food shop at Aldi. All out of sour cream but apart from that we dun good. The parking took longer than the shopping. I think the Aldi checkout operators are hired for speed. I can never get the goods packed before they’re handing me the bill. We got another call from Aurora and Tallulah, seems to be very frequent now while mum and dad are at work, probably the first year they have been old enough to leave at home. We are both thrilled about this development.

December 24, 2022

Taking a break from Christmas food prep, it’s 3 pm and the duck legs are baked, ready to be reheated in the red wine and quince sauce. Potatoes par-boiled and coated with the duck fat from the legs, ready to roast tomorrow. Turkey breast ready to roast, cauliflower au gratin made, dipping sauce made for the prawns, pavlova in the oven, mango, strawberries prepped to go on top, passionfruit can be added last. I think I can take a break.

Tired because I got up at 4.30 to ring Anne in Ripponden UK to see if she has news of the bro, but she’s been kept out of the loop as well and could only say that he’s in a care home in Mount Tabor, a biblical sounding small town on the outskirts of Halifax. However the British directory of care homes doesn’t show any homes in that town, so I decided to email some random business and see if they knew its name. The main business seems to be the pub, but its website says ‘Permanently Closed’ so perhaps it’s a ghost town with a ghost home as the photos of the place are only of the pub and fields and a Methodist chapel. Talking through how we’ve come to this it was suggested by Anne that it’s a case of wanting total control, keeping out anyone but the daughters (now where have I come across this before?).Kenneth discovered an older cousin a few years ago, he had been adopted out of the family but he’s since died at the age of 90, though his daughter has kept in touch with Kenneth and they were fond of each other. Apparently she either came over or phoned, I can’t remember which, and Anne said the response from the daughter who was there at the time was so ‘snippy’ that she’s unlikely to try again. Perhaps they are worried about a claim on his estate? There’s never been any suggestion of that so it doesn’t make sense, but what other explanation is there to cut out family? So I’m reduced to emailing any small care homes in the general area (Anne said she was told there are only 15 or 20 beds) in the hope that one will come up as correct. But what with privacy laws being what they are, will they even tell me if he’s there? Anyway all that occupied me till morning, with the occasional wasted call to his landline and mobile just in case.

December 25, 2022

Well things don’t always turn out the way we expect do they? At a little past 7 am Davina rang to say she had tested positive for Covid, so the family Christmas went out the window there and then as Carly had stayed with them overnight. They were planning to drop her back to Canberra on Tuesday on their way to Jindabyne for a week. This had to be cancelled but luckily it was within one day of the cancellation time limit, otherwise it would have cost them $3000. So now she is flying home tomorrow. John, who has been beside himself with excitement about Christmas, was morose and just standing about with a faraway look in his eye. He was sitting sadly on the back verandah when Jane rang to wish us a happy Christmas. They’d had their family celebration the night before and hearing John’s tale of woe she suggested that they come for lunch, a change of plans that we both welcomed. So they came straight over and we sat down to a platter of prawns and dipping sauce with a glass of bubbly, followed by the traditional two meats and lots of veggies with a pavlova to follow. Prior to this we had a good conversation with John’s granddaughters, calling while their mum was on a run. Of course we are disappointed at how the day turned out, but it is what it is and we were delighted to be able to share the meal and company with Jane and Boris. However I feel for Dav and Louis who were so looking forward to their holiday and now will go back to work having had no relief from routine, better to have had Covid on the boss’s time but it isn’t optional.

No joy from any of the care homes I’ve contacted in the UK trying to find the one my brother is in, I guess it’s a busy time for them but still I’d hoped to hear something by now. I’ve sent another pleading email to his daughter but it’s the last. If I don’t get a reply to this one I shall move into FU mode.

December 26, 2022

We have now planned to drive to Canberra for a few days next Saturday, leaving enough days before we go to make sure that Carly hasn’t caught the wretched plague. Yippee, I will get to see the Cressida Campbell exhibition after all! Managed to get an apartment in the Deco Hotel for three nights, after which the place is booked out for all of the following week. We’ve stayed there before and although it’s on Northbourne Avenue, it backs onto Carly’s street so her place is only a five minute walk. Then we will catch up with Dav and family after that. Carly is flying home as I write. All of these changes have discombobulated John, who asked today why the gifts were still under the tree and why the girls haven’t come. I was distracted and just answered: Covid and then he asked if they didn’t come because we both have it. I’ve explained what day we are going away and returning, where we are staying etc and got him to write it all in his diary. However I should know by now that it’s a bad move to flag something that far ahead because he keeps asking: are we staying there overnight? should I pack now? is it tomorrow we’re going? and getting upset because he can’t remember the answers. Writing things down is less effective than it was as he can’t understand the meaning of it anyway. The ACAT assessor asked me if he paces which he’s just started doing, as when you can’t read or concentrate on TV and it’s too hot to go for a walk the answer seems to be to pace. As a result I can’t relax and read because I feel I need to entertain him. It reminds me of a tiger in the zoo and it’s a natural reaction to boredom. It is so disappointing that our much anticipated Christmas didn’t come off, I can’t help wondering if he will understand and be up to celebrating Christmas at all by the time it rolls around again.

December 27, 2022

I am actually getting excited about Canberra, especially since I booked the three of us into the National Gallery at 10.30 am Sunday for the Cressida Campbell exhibition. I realised I could get in free as a carer but decided it would be a bit mean for a one off visit and paid up. My logic for the time slot is that a lot of folks will get up late on New Year’s Day, but we’ll see. Carly got a bottle of very good Champagne when she left her previous department so we plan to try that out on NYE and I will take some food from here in the Esky to have for dinner as she says all the restaurants will be booked out by now and it’s safer eating at home anyway. Canberra has a very vibrant restaurant and bar scene and it’s hard to get in at any time. I am enjoying not getting back out into the rat race, no shopping (food or otherwise), no driving, just hanging here doing some watering, enjoying the garden, reading and painting the odd card. Fridge is still full of food so I don’t think I will need to get back into society before Saturday.

I learned a trick yesterday with John: he constantly gets stressed about anything ruled out in his diary, was it intended? why did things change? so finally I went through it and hit any changes with white out, he immediately stopped stressing and doesn’t even notice the changes now. I wish I could work out a few more tricks like that one. Interestingly John has forgotten that he doesn’t like raw tomato and watermelon (he’s disliked both all the time I’ve known him) so I am serving them both regularly, in case he remembers and I have to take them off the menu again. Makes lunch an easier proposition.

Yesterday his nephew Damien rang and we both had good conversations with him. He is such an interested and interesting person with a real joie de vivre, although he was bemoaning having turned 65 recently. He’s now into vintage cars, collecting the model that his father had when he was young, plus he runs a thriving business and has six hours a week of one-on-one Chinese language lessons direct from China, this on top of learning Thai after meeting his Thai wife. As a result he has made a number of Chinese friends and is able to ring them and polish his skills. He says even those in remote Western areas are suffering badly from Covid, so sad.

December 28, 2022

Okay, so I’ve played nice and got nowhere. Not one of the care homes in Halifax has answered my emails asking for an address or phone number of any home in Mount Tabor. Tania isn’t answering my emails either so this morning I have emailed West Yorkshire Police telling them that I can’t locate my brother in the place I’ve been told he is staying. My experience of British Police has been very good in the past and I am hoping that they keep up that reputation by at least replying and making a suggestion.

It was John’s carer day today and we had Karen, a very nice Korean-born lady. She was a bit nonplussed about where to take him so I suggested either Koala Park or Parramatta Lakes, but in the end she took him to both, coming home with photos on his phone of their adventure. It’s good to see that he managed yet again with a new person, it’s always a bit iffy. Martha came over for a cuppa, it’s been a while trying to get our schedules to coincide. Then I had another go at a small painting of a stormy sky, it’s far from great but as good as I can get it with my lack of skill. I’ve emailed the Sydney Art School asking about their watercolour classes, which are showing as only available at night. Hopefully a day class may pop up while I still have the motivation to attend.

Froze the rest of the turkey, going back to fish tonight, woohoo. Still loads of veggies to get through, but we are getting there. I am really enjoying the Simnel Cake which I did in lieu of Christmas Cake, but I’m conscious of making it last till the fam can come.

December 29, 2022

Well the good old Bobbies came to the party in as much as they replied immediately, but said that ‘due to data protection requirements’ they couldn’t help. So I wrote back explaining that I don’t want them to find my brother, just find me the details of any home in Mount Tabor or its vicinity. Another reply came: ‘I am sorry Maureen however like previously said by my colleague, due to data protection we would be unable to provide this information’. So apparently the location of British care homes is secret stuff, perhaps they have the old folks locked up in classified locations, behind razor wire. So I am waking every morning about 4 am to try ringing his mobile, which always goes to message bank.  When I was once contacted by a complete stranger in Britain to try to find a long lost friend who’d migrated to Sydney in the 1960s, I did internet searches and finally drove to Bondi to do a house to house, eventually putting them back in touch. I need someone like that in Halifax, other than my two nieces of course. I was able to find my niece Jane’s address but sadly it seems as if her landline is extinct as British Telecom doesn’t list it, bugger. I thought she may be more helpful than her sister. There must be a way.

Now it looks as if Louis might be getting the plague too, just as Davina was hoping to salvage something out of their holidays. We also heard from our friend John who was one of the ex-priests who came for lunch on the Tuesday before Christmas. He was hospitalised with Covid before Christmas and has just come out. So if he was so sick before Christmas, it’s a moral that he had it on that Tuesday, another bullet dodged. I read an interesting article by Peter Doherty, the Nobel Prize winning medico, who says it’s a mistake to think of Covid as being somewhat akin to pneumonia. “It took us a while to work out that unlike influenza, but like measles or polio, Covid-19 causes a systemic infection, with the virus distributed to internal organs via the blood and it can have the added complication of being a coagulopathy, a blood-clotting disease, via mechanisms that are yet to be understood”. With so many folk we know falling victim at the moment, I wonder if this wave is actually the biggest wave we’ve had.

December 30, 2022

News from my cousin Angela on holiday in Melbourne, she has Covid and managed to give it to her cousin on Christmas Eve. She’s holed up in a two storey luxury unit overlooking the Yarra and the city, but not able to see the extended family since Christmas. I think it must be grossly underreported by people only using RAT tests and not bothering to notify Health.

Busy packing for us both as John asks: Is Davina coming with us? (no, she has Covid) and Are we going for 1 night or 6 nights (it’s 3 actually so he’s maybe half right). Yesterday he said: Don’t worry that the watering can is not on the front verandah, I’ve found a new home for it down the back. Today we’ve both searched, but the new watering can is nowhere to be found. Sort of like my brother, no luck there either, with emails and calls to various organisations being a waste of time. The Halifax NHS Headquarters can’t even be contacted by email with a message coming up: ‘This site can’t be reached, took too long to respond’ and I am not talking about once, but constantly. It would be funny if not so tragic.

For Christmas John got me a book by former Intelligence Officer Clinton Fernandes, whom I’ve been following for a while but no one seemed to have heard of him. Yesterday he had an Opinion piece in the Herald and today there’s another article about him and his book Sub-Imperial Power. The unfortunate thing is that I haven’t even been able to open it, what with everything going on with the bro, Covid, John and all the other shit clogging up my bandwidth. I need to go on a retreat, oh hang on I’ve already done that, seems like a year ago. One positive today is that I found a friend willing to look after John while I go out on January 9. Orange Blossom Cottage can’t take him because it’s a women only day there on Mondays and it was looking a bit dicey that I’d find somewhere. A group of women who used to meet monthly have being getting together on Zoom for nearly two years, but it’s just not the same and it’s awkward now with John. They’ve decided to get together face-to-face for the first time and I have been hoping to go, now it’s looking possible, if I can dodge Covid. Feeling pretty negative, I need to buck up to go away tomorrow.

December 31, 2022

Sue popped in yesterday and complained about the traffic being horrendous going both ways, so I was expecting it to be heavy coming to Canberra. However it was no different to usual so that was a pleasant surprise. We stopped a few miles (miles is a blast from the past, but just came into my mind) after Berrima at a little picnic spot and enjoyed our Thermos tea and some Christmas cake. It was wonderful to see Lake George so full of water after decades of seeing it as a dead flat feeding spot for sheep. I wonder where they’ve taken them all? I kept thinking of the couple who rolled their car in WA just 10 km from their destination and were killed on Christmas Day, trying to keep my concentration up, this drive seems to get longer as I get older. We arrived at Carly’s on time and shared our provisions with hers for lunch. Booking in to our apartment I was a little disappointed to find it was facing west and hence didn’t have the great view we had last time, but we were lucky to get in at such short notice so I can’t complain. Carly came over bearing a bottle of very good French champagne and I heated up food brought from home and made rice, asparagus and salad to go with it. We watched the 9 o’clock fireworks and with the rider that fireworks on TV are just a tiny fraction of the experience of the real thing, it was an excellent show with just glorious colours. I had no inclination to see the New Year in and neither did John or Carly so we all opted for an early night. However, this building has fancy schmancy light switches that control electric curtains, a fan, mood lighting etc, which are fine enough in the daytime but I sadly discovered that at night they light up like Christmas trees, on the wall near the door and on either side of the bed making sleep impossible. After a long time awake I relocated to the lounge but couldn’t sleep much there either so it was not the restful night I needed. I vowed to have words with the lovely man on the desk tomorrow.

January 1, 2023

Gawd 2023, I can’t believe it. Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. The new year seems very like the old I’m afraid, but we feasted on avo toast and tea before picking Carly up and heading to the NGA for the wondrous Cressida Campbell exhibition. There was not a single painting that I didn’t like and so many that I simply adored. My faves are the room interiors and the still life masterpieces. Who paints a vase of flowers and just focuses on the stems in the glass vase? Her nasturtiums could almost be picked off the painting. Her taste in interiors is just divine and when she paints a wall of her house it has half a dozen of her paintings hanging on it, those same paintings that we’ve just looked at in a previous room. If I could do just one of those pictures I’d consider my life to have been worthwhile. Off to the Botanic Gardens for a light lunch outside before walking through the delightful Rainforest Gully, misted with water and glistening with life, lots of birds, reptiles and insects, especially butterflies. Home for a rest and a change of clothes before heading off to Monash in the south of the ACT for dinner with Peter and Dawn in their new home, but before we left my pal on the desk came up and taped folded sheets of newspaper over the offending switches, solving the problem. Querying ‘I’m not the first one to complain about this problem then?’ and he admitted that was the case. I guess the architects wanted all mod cons but they don’t sleep there so the issue wasn’t anticipated. We sat outside and had a lovely meal and the conversation was wonderful as always. They are off to Japan soon and in February Dawn will be part of Mardi Gras as a 78er, one of those arrested in the first ever gay rights march which eventually became Mardi Gras. I remembered to ask Peter if I could look at his watercolours and enjoyed seeing those he’s done on his travels, my favourite is from Moscow, but others were from Italy, China and South East Asia. He is very talented and along with his skills in languages and as a diplomat I guess you’d have to call him a polymath. The trip home was a bit hairy as I am no longer happy driving any distance at night, but it was safely accomplished and the sight of the papered over switches made me smile.

January 2, 2023

This morning we decided on a trip to Murrumbateman with Carly, just a tiny village surrounded by rolling hills with wineries and vineyards everywhere. First to Clonakilla which Carly and I had visited many years ago but now it has a much bigger tasting room set-up with a verandah overlooking the vines and a stone fireplace for winter. John amazed me by being part of the tasting and though the wines were excellent the reds are not my favourite styles. However we got a bottle of 2015 riesling and eventually moved on to Gallaghers Wines, who specialise in riesling as well as bubblies, which was the attraction for me. They were excellent and I bought a bottle of Duet, their sparkling white pinot noir and chardonnay blend and a 2015 Blanc de Blanc bubbly. Carly bought  sparkling shiraz after the owner convinced her by offering it with a piece of dark chocolate and she agreed with him that it was just like a Cherry Ripe. She’s looking forward to sharing it with her friend Lucas who is both a wine buff and a dark chocoholic. Back for a late lunch, just a fridge raid at our apartment after which I fell fast asleep on the lounge. Later John said he’d like to go for a half hour walk, which I was a bit dubious about, but he promised to stay on Northbourne Avenue for 15 minutes, then turn around and come back, but half an hour later he rang up lost. He can’t use the maps on his phone but clearly he’d turned many times judging by where he was. He was able to ask a lady where Northbourne was and I could hear her directing him to go to the next lights and turn left. I told him that he needed to head west and despite the fact that the sun was setting he couldn’t work out which way west was. It took a number of calls before I finally found him, and certainly not anywhere near where he was meant to be. Clearly I can’t let him go off by himself again unless it’s from home, and perhaps even that won’t be possible for much longer. I was sure that if he stayed on the one street he couldn’t get lost, but he’s lost any sense of direction at all. After all that we walked to Carly’s and she ordered in some Greek food for dinner, but walking home it was clear that John didn’t have a clue, even when we got to the hotel he didn’t recognise it. He asked if we are going to the art gallery tomorrow but I explained that we went yesterday, however he’s forgotten going to the exhibition altogether. I want to weep, but seeing I wasn’t in a helicopter at Sea World today, I don’t have anything to complain about.

January 3, 2023

We called in to see some friends on the way out of Canberra but only stayed briefly before setting out for Berrima. Although they are my friends originally, John has had a bit to do with them and we’ve visited a number of times before, but he didn’t remember them at all and was out of the conversation really. Went for a walk through Berrima, very warm there, and found that my favourite shop The Little Hand-Stirred Jam Shop has closed, as I’d been told. For decades there was Mrs Oldbuck’s Pantry who sold out to the above business and I understand there was an agreement not to set up in opposition for a period of time, but soon after that the original one reopened (dirty pool?) and although the two have coexisted in the same street for quite a few years now it seems that Mrs. Oldbucks has won out. It’s a shame as I always preferred the Hand-Stirred products. Off to the Gumnut Patisserie for lunch but as John had asked me for a meat pie and they were sold out I went outside to ask if he wanted a sausage roll, a pastie, a quiche or whatever. But a big family got in the queue and said ‘we’ll have the lot and we’ll divide them up’, so that was that. Ended up having a picnic of leftovers from the food we took to Canberra, cheeses, avocado etc which we had on bread and decided that we enjoyed that more than the absent pastry goods, loving the Maggie Beer Truffle Camembert. The traffic was pretty bad but moving and in a way it’s less stressful driving at 80 than at 100 so I wasn’t complaining. When we got home about 4.30 the television had turned itself on, something it mysteriously does but hadn’t done for the past couple of years. I went to turn it off and realised it was a program from Britain about people finding their long lost relatives separated by adoption, in one case a sister found in New Zealand by the program was reunited with her brother in Wales. So of course I sat down and watched it in a gush of tears. Wendy’s Home Care rang to say that John’s carer for tomorrow has been altered to someone he’s never had so it’s touch and go whether that will work out, but here’s hoping.

January 4, 2023


After emailing many care homes before we went away looking for Kenneth, without a single reply, I noticed that one, Valley View in Moor End Rd Pellon, had a different email address on its Facebook page to the one I’d used so I sent off a message and within 15 minutes I’d had a reply. Yes he is there, but had been taken to hospital on December 30 and was expected back that day. Julie the manager suggested that we make a time tomorrow for me to ring him. Unfortunately she sent another email to say that although he had been brought back briefly he ‘needed admitting back to the hospital ward he was on, but he was muddled up about where he is, bless him’. But oh joy, finally I’m dealing with a human. I have replied asking for the name of the hospital and the ward. Only a day or two and we’ll be back in touch. Still deciding whether to keep that fact a secret from the daughter or not, I’ll be advised by him.

John’s replacement carer was a lovely Korean lady, somewhat older than the other girls he’s had but very kind as I could see by her eyes. She took him to Parramatta Lake for a walk and lunch, Orange Blossom Cottage is still on holidays so he won’t be going there tomorrow. I went to ‘sewing group’ at Colleen’s but I’ve decided that I’m not even attempting to do any dreaded sewing, so I took the dried leaves I’d collected and traced copies of them onto cardboard which I will cut out and paint to intersperse with the real ones on some cards. The huge eucalypt ones I got in Canberra are too long for my normal cards so I will need to make some bigger ones and use business size envelopes for them. It would be a tragedy to cut them. On the way home I stopped at a house where bark is peeling off a tree in great swathes. I knocked and asked if I could have some of the bark and collected half a dozen pieces, some as long as I am tall. Delicious.

January 5, 2023

It has become my usual practice now to wake in the middle of the night, ring Kenneth’s mobile (always unsuccessfully) and go back to sleep. Julie from the care home hasn’t replied as yet to my email about the name of the hospital he’s gone to so I am sending emails to the likely candidates, or at least trying to. I’m having difficulties because none of the hospitals have an email address separate from the NHS itself and of course they’re not answering. But I think I have some terrier genes as the more they block me the more determined I am.

John can’t turn off the taps in his bathroom properly and the plumber couldn’t fix them with new washers as they are all corroded up inside. He needs to replace all the piping underneath as well as a new spout and tap handles, but the local plumbing supply place didn’t have the right gear. So today I went to Cook’s Plumbing at Windsor and got all the right bits, confirmed by sending a photo of them to the plumber, three cheers for modern technology, hip, hip hooray. Of course it turns out that he leaves for two weeks’ holiday today so he can’t come till the 25th, but at least it’s in train. Unusually John stayed in the car at each place we went, first calling in to check that an old customer in South Windsor didn’t have anything valuable in a raft of pictures he’s been given that were on their way to the tip from a deceased estate, then Cook’s, then Woolworths. He said he was too tired but I wonder if he’s not sickening with something as now he’s abed, but before he went he asked if we had been out today, he gets worse by the day but I keep saying that don’t I? The only pictures that were interesting were a few pretty embroideries of old cottages, but they are frightfully unfashionable these days and not worth much, if anything, and a fetching decoupage of flowers which I could have bought for $20 and still may, there again worth $150 or more back in the day and a measly 20 bucks now, despite the many hours of work that went into it. The rest of the stuff was pretty much unsaleable, the old girl who died had pretty bad taste bless her. It occurs to me sometimes that craft is what humans do in order to fill in the hours till death, and I suppose that I could buy cards for $1 instead of spending a long time making them. Our labour-saving devices just give us more time to fill with stuff that will be tossed into the Sulo bin when our kids are trying to clear the house for sale.

January 6, 2023

Well am I the cat that swallowed the canary? You bet I am. This morning at 6 am I got an email from Julie, that gem of a manager at Kenneth’s care home to say that he was still in hospital and giving me the name of the hospital, the ward number and their phone number. By 6.05 I’d rung them and confirmed his presence there but the phone was a desk one that can’t be moved. Eventually she came up with the idea of giving me a hospital mobile number and she took the phone to him. He was in good form as I told him the hoops I’ve jumped through to find him. The reason that his mobile doesn’t answer is that he left the charger at home. He told me he’s been in three care homes and two hospitals since we last spoke and he seemed quite lucid, discussing his time with me in Australia and our adventures in England. I really don’t care what he tells his daughters, they are as useless as marshmallow hubcaps as far as imparting information is concerned. Dads and daughters, harrumph, I think Freud had something there, they are as green-eyed and distrustful as can be from my experience, both here and in Halifax. Kenneth said I’d have been good in his job, I’m assuming he meant the intelligence service rather than surveying! I’ll take that on board as a compliment Kenneth my darling brother, thankyou.

All else pales beside this morning but I have been more patient and obliging with John now that my mind isn’t half occupied with the search. I didn’t even complain when I saw that the alarm man had ticked off a lot more tests on the system than he’d actually done. He helped me make a slice, prep dinner, we did a load of washing and hung it under the deck, dealt with the alarm maintenance man and I put together my Christmas present to myself, the Kenwood Chef Continuous Grater and Chopper and with it made a carrot salad. As usual the busier John is the happier he is. I did get a letter off to the Herald but I’m sure it won’t get in, however it keeps my letter-writing neurons active. It read in part: “‘Simple, sombre and sober’ funeral with 130 cardinals, 400 bishops, 4000 priests and a pope. I will now put ‘simple, sombre and sober‘ into my funeral instructions as I know what it means in practice.”

Did I mention that I spoke to Kenneth for 20 minutes?

January 7, 2023

Aurora rang this morning to let us know that she and her sister were at their grandma’s house for a couple of days so we planned to go there to visit them this afternoon. Lovely visit from Carol and Jack for morning tea discussing books and much else and I was glad to get the visit in before Jack goes to Gerringong for two weeks, and happy that he took a couple of good books to go down with him. After that I got things together to drive to Cranebrook but discovered John had changed into ‘house clothes’ and was playing cards so it took a bit to get him organised to go out, he had completely forgotten and couldn’t remember the arrangement even after I mentioned it. The visit enabled us to deliver the girls’ birthday presents, they are 3 days apart in mid January, with 4 years difference in age. They are delightful children and loved being with John. Lynne showed me some of the many things that Ivan had collected, books, pewter, an English pub style bar well stocked with every type of liquor and every type of glass, a huge model car collection, hundreds of videos and CDs, a Gestetner machine and so much more. Then there are the vintage cars and the guitars……

I’ve realised once again that both of my girls consider my kitchen practices very lax. Apparently you can’t freeze something you’ve cooked if any of the ingredients were previously frozen (oops) or use a board to cut something if it’s had meat or chicken on it, thawing must only be done in the fridge, not on the cupboard top no matter how briefly, anything spilt onto the table can’t be eaten (is the floor alright?) and use by dates, my goodness they are immutable. But even though I am lax no one has ever got poisoning from home cooked food here though I myself have had it badly three times, every time from a restaurant or caterer. Perhaps I’ve built up a resistance, yes I’m sure I have, so that out of date sour cream that tastes and looks fine can still go on my potato tomorrow night, or later in the week maybe, anyway next time I do jacket potatoes.

The beautiful Julie from Valley View Care Home emailed me again, I get some correspondence daily, to say that the hospital has decided that Kenneth isn’t well enough to return there, as it’s a home for the ‘medically fit’, they will be placing him somewhere else where I am unlikely to find another Julie. However she volunteered to find out where that place is so I don’t lose him again. What a trooper.

January 8, 2023

I’ve had an eBay drought for about a month, but now a small vintage flag for an Italian soccer team has sold, to an Italian of course, then 50 cigarette cards from 1930 went to a good home in the central west. All this for a massive $40 less fees, but satisfying nonetheless. Seeing the stuff that Lynne’s husband left behind for her to deal with has once again focussed my mind on finding homes for things.

We had a belated Christmas at Davina’s today though of course timing is everything and this was sans tree, Christmas fare and champagne, but we made the best of it. The most appreciated gift was Millie’s Monopoly set, she was wildly excited and we all played during the afternoon. She has a good understanding of the concept and was muttering ‘I need to get rich’ and did so, ending up with hotels on Mayfair etc and skimming us all of our hard-earned Monopoly money.

A few people have recommended that we watch Our Dementia Choir on ABC and we’ve caught a couple of episodes on iView. But I just can’t get past the 31 year old former drummer suffering from Alzheimer’s, diagnosed at age 30, close to the first birthday of his twins. His father died at 36 from what has been retrospectively diagnosed as dementia and it’s clear by the severity of his disease after just one year that his life will be short and brutal. After that I just couldn’t muster up any sympathy for those in their 80s I’m afraid.

January 9, 2023

Today I went off to Killara to catch up with some folks I used to meet with pre-Covid. Dropped John off with Bronwyn and Michael at Lane Cove and while I was away they spent time playing Scrabble and then went for lunch at a nearby cafe. I enjoyed seeing friends again, though as a larger number than usual turned up (10) I didn’t get to talk one on one really. Will plan to see Jenny, Di and Greg separately at some point. This month is extraordinarily busy with only a few odd days blank in the diary till the end of January. Boring medical stuff, minding Millie some days, friends from New Zealand visiting Sydney, book group at Killcare, phew! I’ve told a few people today that we’d have to plan something in Feb as this month is a wipeout. After so much anticipation, today was a bit of a let down really, sometimes you can wait for something so long that it doesn’t live up to the internal hype.

Just read The Premonitions Bureau which was an odd book in many respects but I did find some interesting facts in it. It tells the true story of John Barker a British psychiatrist who in 1966 set out on a project to establish if peoples’ premonitions came true. So folks logged their premonitions with him and he recorded them to see which if any materialised into fact. His methods were totally unscientific in my view and it seemed he just set out to prove his own theories (whether or not all psychiatrists are a wee bit mad is a subject for another day). He began retrospectively asking people if they believed they had a premonition about the Aberfan mining disaster, guaranteed to bring all the crazies out of their wardrobes. Then he followed up with those who said they did and added more over time. He was a show-business fanatic, appearing in every article and on every television programme who would have him. He pioneered aversion therapy (boo hiss) and seemed to have an abiding interest in the occult. He had an interest in ‘psychiatric orchids’, or unusual mental conditions. Barker had conducted studies on Munchausen syndrome, sufferers of which feign illness and was in the midst of researching Scared to Death, a book about people who accurately foretold their own deaths. Yes I have had premonitions by the way, and some have come to fruition, but I would not for a minute think that this proves anything one way or another and his research, set up so haphazardly, would not either. Some Yorkshire relatives of both the adoptive and natural families attended Spiritualist Churches and it seems that was a fairly common thing in that part of the world. Kenneth and I attended his grandmother’s church in Keighley one night and were overcome by stifled giggles when the person leading the meeting was desperately trying to find connections that weren’t there. (I’m hearing from a Bernard, does anyone have a Bernard? No, well there’s also a Peter? Anyone waiting to hear from a Peter?). Eventually we had to flee when her desperation and the bizarre nature of the service got the better of us. We sat in the car and laughed till we cried. But back to the book….I did learn about the nocebo effect which describes adverse symptoms induced independently of the active component of a treatment, the opposite of a placebo effect. This occurs due to negative expectations or perceptions of a treatment, which can be influenced by factors such as healthcare beliefs, media, or suggestions of adverse possibilities from a medico. All of this stuff is fascinating to me but it needs to be studied very carefully, and not by a devotee of a particular theory.

January 10, 2023

A couple of people have suggested that John should maybe go to respite occasionally to give me a break, but I have reservations about it after hearing plenty of stories of people deteriorating rapidly once they spend time in an institution, even temporarily. I think that he would see it as the thin edge of the wedge, which in a sense it is. There is a harm in ‘incarceration’ regardless of the setting. The strange surroundings and people, the enforced change to normal routines can cause a person to give up on a confident idea of the future. Of course if I fell ill for an extended period that would be different but as things stand I’d prefer not to do it, even though I crave some time when I don’t have to clock watch for the end of the carer’s time. Yesterday I had to leave early from the group so as not to stretch the friendship with the friends who were looking after him.

Well before John’s dementia took hold he had a strong tendency to drop everything if asked to do something, particularly for any family member, but even a doctor’s receptionist could give him a totally inappropriate date yet he would accept it without a peep, even though another date would be perfectly fine with them. Yesterday his cousins from Narromine rang and said they would be in Sydney on Friday and could come and visit at ‘any time of the day’. His immediate reaction was to say he’d cancel his carer for the day, but eventually they said they could come after 2 pm so he was convinced not to do that. Once off the phone he asked: ‘Remind me who those people are who just rang’. They have rung again this morning to say that their plans have changed and they will come in a couple of weeks so I’m glad he didn’t cancel Greg.

We will be staying with Sue for a couple of nights at the end of the month and I’m thinking that seeing we are more than half way to Newcastle we should use that opportunity to go and see Stephen and Deborah which was on the cards to do early in the year. So I rang Rydges Newcastle where we stayed last time and they had rooms available. I like it there as it’s right on the harbour edge and I love watching the ships going past the windows. I joined their loyalty programme last time and it does mean a decent discount, which is a help as being a sort of holiday weekend the normal rates are a bit steep. Looking forward to it all very much.

January 11, 2023

I’ve been trying to decide what to do about a workshop I’d signed up for last year to make a Chinese lantern for their New Year. I had hoped then that John’s new package would have come through by the time it came around, but sadly no, it’s still showing as under one month, the same as in December. I was going to cancel but then this morning I thought of asking if he can come too, something he is quite amenable to, and the answer was ‘yes of course’. So we are off to that next Tuesday. One of the hard things about looking after him is never being able to do anything spontaneously, even it’s planned way ahead as this was you can’t just say ‘Oh I think I’ll visit so-and-so on the way home’ or go out for dinner afterwards for example as there is a committed time to be home to relieve the carer. That won’t improve with more hours on the new package as each respite time will be from x o’clock to x o’clock, but it will help as I can allow extra time just in case.

All the usual suspects are singing the praises of George Pell of course, as people always do once you are dead. I’ve yet to see a notice in a Saturday Herald saying ‘Joe Blogs he was a thief and a career criminal, but much loved by his wife’. I feel sorry for those who are currently suing the church and Pell as his absence will make their case more difficult. But it did firm up my resistance to ever having a joint replacement. I’d need to be in agony, having seen how badly they can turn out. Luckily I’ve never played sport and it seems people who have are more likely to end up under the knife.

Today I got the required raft of blood tests done before I see Glenn Reeves on the 27th. The phlebotomist was a man in his 50s with an unusual name, so I asked about his origin (my kids would be mortified) and it turned out he was an Afghan. It seemed perhaps an odd career for a refugee, which he was, and I guessed correctly that he had been a doctor in Afghanistan. Once here he did a medical science degree intending to do research, but couldn’t get a job anywhere. I asked why he thought that was and he replied that ‘contacts are everything’ and he’s not wrong there. We talked about charity workers in Afghanistan, though perhaps I won’t go into his comments here. I felt right from the get-go that there was a real sadness about him and his lost opportunities career-wise seem to account for it. Although I agree with the government’s strict criteria for approving doctors trained overseas, there must be many stories of failed ambitions as a result and being there with all the young people doing the same job, when he is a medico with a medical science degree on top, must rub salt in the wound every day.

January 12, 2023

What to say about Pell? Tony Abbott thinks he’s a saint, which says more about him than about Pell. Now they are saying he came from humble beginnings….excuse me, his father owned a pub! He was the sort of person that any normal person would resile from on first meeting and I can’t think of a single priest, ex-priest or nun out of John’s many friends who has a good word to say about him. Peace to those who are suffering, perhaps it’s a comfort to know that he’s no longer looking up at the same moon as you tonight.

Tried to get hold of Stephen and Deborah but so far haven’t succeeded, however Pell’s surprise death may have meant a few press interviews are happening which involve him, I don’t know but hoping that’s the answer. Today I decided to paint for the morning and although my bunch of leaves looks seriously like a bunch of spinach, I decided that renaming the picture simply Spinach would solve the problem. I shall try again and hopefully get it more like what was in my head. If the image is there, why can’t I reproduce it, the way I can with colours for example? Following that I took myself off to the movies (gasp) to see The Banshees of Inisherin at Castle Hill. The rest of the films are either in Indian languages or animated so I was lucky that it was there at all. The only way this story makes any sense to me is to view it as a message about the pointlessness of simply disagreeing to the point that mutual destruction results, that view seems all the more apposite when during the film we are periodically hearing gunfire and explosions from the mainland due to the civil war. So here you had two sides, almost as close as relatives, who decide to destroy each other rather than find a way to solve their differences, is that not war in a nutshell? Perhaps the director sees it differently and the reviewers too, I deliberately haven’t read any reviews, but that reading seems like the only way the movie speaks to me.

January 13, 2023

As soon as I heard of Dominic Perrottet’s fall from grace I immediately said ‘that smells like David Elliott’s work’ and so it has come to pass. It is one thing to have made an appalling decision at the age of 21, it is quite another to be a back-stabbing disloyal wretch at the age of 52 (I was going to use the word weasel instead of wretch but I’m trying not to attach any derogatory human term to an animal). But now exposed, I hope any future employer will discount him as totally unable to show any sort of allegiance.

The Pell caravan rolls on, now he’s been outed as the author of an anonymous and highly critical public letter criticising Pope Francis. The poor old Pope now has to be part of the mourning ceremonies for Pell, knowing that he’s a back-stabbing disloyal wretch. If the rumours are true that the federal government is paying for the repatriation of the body of George Pell, then it is certainly time that we think about withholding our taxes, not that I pay any I hasten to add. The current estimate of the wealth of the Catholic Church in Australia is $30 billion, that’s billion with a B. Surely they can afford to transport a box by air freight.

I have resisted reading Julia Baird’s article on Prince Harry and his book, simply because I don’t want my feelings on the matter to be coloured by her views, especially as I respect her greatly. I feel for him and am sad that his pain is on such public show. But he is a man who lost his mother twice, once to separation and again with her death, whose paternity is so publicly in doubt, a victim of primogeniture, who along with his wife has been pilloried in the gutter press. With all of this in his past and present I can’t bring myself to criticise his lashing out, I just want to give him a hug, a glass of plonk and a home-cooked meal. Anytime Harry.

While we are on about justice, and I guess that’s the theme running beneath the previous  paragraphs, it is so concerning to me when magistrates seem to be hoodwinked by pathetic excuses dreamed up by defendants and their lawyers. Perhaps it’s because prisons are so crowded and so unnecessarily punitive in themselves that they are reluctant to send even the deserving there. I am not a Laura Norder zealot, however I am a believer in restorative justice and I’m seeing too many escape both types of justice. Go figure how a self-identified Nazi who attacked a coloured security guard, punching him in the face six times and knocking his head against concrete, was given 150 hours of community service in part because his partner is 36 weeks pregnant and it would be stressful for him to be in gaol at that time. Who exactly is he going to do his community service with? Working in the Sallies shop? I think not. He showed his thanks for the break he got by giving a Nazi salute on the court steps on his way out.

January 14, 2023

The Pell extravaganza rolls on. The gubmint has decided in its wisdom that we needed to send some ‘Australian officials’ to supervise his body being brought back here. What an absolutely ridiculous waste of money, not just because it’s Pell, but for anyone. Have they not navvies in Italy who can carry a heavy box? Surely a couple of burly chaps from the fruit markets should be able to heave him onto the jet and all the paperwork can be done online. At least we don’t have to suffer a state funeral, in fact why does anyone need a state funeral? Except for a pauper who can’t be buried any other way. Which brings me to a memory from a Coffs Harbour guest house I stayed in a few times in the 60s. One old man who lived there died unexpectedly and no relatives could be found so a pauper’s funeral was arranged. The sole people at the funeral were the elderly proprietor of the guest house and a couple of other folks who also lived there. The proprietor went up to the funeral director and told him that she thought it was the wrong coffin as it was small and the man was very tall. No it’s the right one he said, they only pay for the cheapest coffin so we just cut his feet off and put them under his arms.

My brother’s daughter finally got in touch with me to let me know what is going on with him, after he’s been in three different care homes and two hospitals. She says he has Alzheimer’s, though I’d been told that his brain scans just a few months back didn’t show any signs of it. His cognitive decline came on so suddenly a year ago after an operation to replace a heart valve so I suspect it is actually related to that and not Alzheimer’s at all. Perhaps she is using that as a generic description for dementia, I don’t know. However it’s pretty clear that once he goes my contact with the family will fizzle instantly. On my mother’s side though, despite the loss of my cousin Victor a few months back, the other three cousins who appeared out of the ether a year ago have continued to stay in touch, Carole in Spain contacting me almost every day. A parcel arrived from her this week containing a ceramic plate with a symbol on it that is only found in Almeria Province where she lives and is thought to bring good luck and good health, so aye to that.

After surprisingly getting a booking to go to Newcastle following the stay at Sue’s at the end of the month, we discover that Stephen and Deborah are going away for most of those dates. I was sooo looking forward to it and it had the advantage that I don’t have to drive so far, as Sue’s is already half way there. Not sure what to do now as I had primed up Damien that we could be in town then and he was going to tell his brothers as well. We’ll have to have a think, of course John says he’ll do whatever I want, so really it’s only up to me. One of his questions today: Are we a republic now or are we still under Queen Elizabeth?

January 15, 2023

John had no prior mental image of Mary and David from New Zealand whom we met today for lunch, but luckily remembered them as soon as he saw them. He couldn’t though remember anything about the two week holiday we had with them in NZ, their house or anything about where we went while we were over there, in fact he doesn’t remember going there at all. But we had a lovely time, the food at The Palace Tearooms is always great and the salmon fishcakes hit the spot perfectly for me. The staff there are particularly good and it was funny when David dived to the main counter to pay while I dived to the till at the front with the same intention, we couldn’t agree so we just laughed and went halves. They are off to Griffith tomorrow where he has a job as a mediator for a family wine company that is in serious financial trouble. I wish they lived closer, I just love being with both of them and we get to see them so rarely. First we wandered around the QVB shops and wondered at some with hardly anything to sell, probably 50 items of clothing in the whole space and the only way to make that a feasible proposition with those rents is to sell everything at 1000% markup. I didn’t feel at all envious as the dresses in the windows of some of the shops I wouldn’t wear at a gift, or even on the $2 rack at the Sallies, but it takes all kinds. In one shop they were selling the most impractical shoes I’ve ever seen, covered in purple fabric, they had huge bows in front that literally dragged on the ground, so every step you take that’s not on white carpet soils the shoes irrevocably, I don’t even want to consider rain. What would possess someone to spend nearly $1500 on shoes to wear two or three times? I did see though a piece of solid opal in matrix that had been polished as a whole. Paperweight? Just a beautiful thing? I didn’t ask the price and they don’t have prices visible in those sorts of shops, but I could see myself fondling its lustrous surface while reading and enjoying it immensely. I guess not everyone could understand that, so I can’t criticise.

January 16, 2023

Whoa, what a day. We were at Erskineville a little after 8 am and walked up to St. Peters Station with Millie for the train ride to Town Hall, then down to Darling Harbour which looks a mess due to various construction projects. There is a Sydney Festival event there called Cupid’s Koi (the name relates to nothing I could see) which is a series of large blow-ups which sporadically emit water. But first we went to two permanent water features in the park which Millie loved to play in, particularly one with moveable dams, pumps etc to control the water flow. After a couple of hours there, we headed off in search of the ferry to the Quay, but the usual wharf was now a private one and a walk to Bararangaroo ensued. Stressed, hot, confused, I took a call from Sue and misinterpreted what she was trying to tell me. Wrangling two people, a biggie and a littlie, is hard work. Eventually we took a leisurely ride to the Quay and looked for another ferry to take us to Watson’s Bay for lunch. There I encountered a surly employee, unusual for ferry people in my experience. We had gone to the right wharf but were on the wrong side of the central dividing fence so I said to the fellow ‘I think we are on the wrong side of the barrier?’ it was meant as a question I guess. The reply was ‘well wadda ya want me to do about it? just walk around like everybody else does’. Seeing I didn’t expect him to bodily lift the three of us over the fence, I thought it was the reply of someone not comfortable with customer service. The ferry across to WB was a delight, stopping at Rose Bay next to Sydney Sea Planes terminal where I said a little prayer? entreaty? appeal? (what does a non-religious person do?) for those folks whose inquest I’ve been going to, who came to grief along with the pilot in Pittwater. How can a sea plane crash on water I kept asking myself, answer: quite easily if the pilot succumbs to carbon monoxide in the cabin. But I’m jumping the gun, the coroner will hand down her decision next month, wise woman that she is. Note to self: follow up on when the finding comes in, I want to be there.

My Opal card chose today to malfunction, but when I tried to top it up manually instead of by automatic bank transfer as usual, it came up as an invalid card, despite being used on Sunday to go to the city. So I got through using Millie’s and carrying her, which we needed to do in any event as she’s frightened of the barriers coming in and squashing her. Her fears are diverse. On the way home I tried to hold on to her Opal card in case she lost it, but was told that ‘you can’t have it grandma, because it’s MINE’. Not wanting to make a fuss I let it pass till we got to St. Peters and saw it being entered into a drink machine, and then a gap between two bins, so I was mean and confiscated it. This got me a lecture about property, ownership and rights, however I still held firm to the card. John insisted on holding her hand along a very busy road and she appealed ‘grandma, he’s breaking my wrist’ so I decided it was a good time to return the Opal card and suddenly holding hands ceased to be a problem. All in all a great big day out which she enjoyed and which totally exhausted me. No dinner and a flop on the lounge ensued, thank goodness for home made cole slaw and a tin of salmon which made an easy dinner for John.

January 17, 2023

Yes I will speak ill of the dead, George Pell and Jim Molan gone to their rewards in the one week? Let’s hope their respective replacements will be more gracious, kind and fundamentally decent human beings. I have to add that Renee Geyer’s passing after a hip replacement kind of caps off a weird week.

Well the long-awaited Chinese Lantern Workshop was…how to describe it…a fizzer, a debacle, disaster is perhaps too strong a word. After driving all the way to Glebe with John in tow it was a bit surprising that the ‘Chinese’ design was a floral one with a rabbit which we were to colour in. Despite John colouring in every day he didn’t do more than 5 minutes before he declared that he didn’t like it and sat there with his eyes shut. There were folks at home on Zoom too which was a bit disconcerting, but I could have managed. However after half an hour or so I could see that this wasn’t going to work so I gave our apologies to the somewhat nonplussed group. I was kind of glad I’d kept a mask on so people won’t recognise me if we meet again, haha. Feeling sorry for the lady who tried so hard to involve him but I could hardly say ‘don’t worry he’s got dementia’. On the way home he kept saying ‘I don’t want to join that group’ despite my saying repeatedly that it was a one-off. Then later he kept asking where we had been and I just said I’d forgotten as I didn’t want to keep going over it again.

Made a call to the St. Vs clinic for an appointment for my 2 year check-up after the bowel cancer op, waiting for a call back. I hope it’s not going to be from February 14 till the end of the month though as they are all gay in that clinic and it’s the period of World Pride, somehow it doesn’t seem auspicious or opportune, or something, but tricky to say that. Perhaps I can just be busy all February. Anyway it takes some hours so unless John’s funding comes through I can only do Thursdays anyway and that may not suit them.

January 18, 2023

No call back from St. Vs so perhaps they are already in party mode and I get a leave pass till March? I saw John’s haematologist reported in the Herald this morning saying that fatality from Covid for people with lymphoma is 30%, so John was extremely lucky to come through it as well as he did. The doctor herself suffers from long Covid.

I sent an apologetic email to the artist from yesterday and got a lovely reply back saying that she’d like to keep in touch. Gosh that happens a lot, but I’m getting hard pressed fitting in all the people I need to keep in touch with. I have followed her on Facebook and that’s probably enough, then I can see when she has an exhibition or whatever. Some of the designs she’s done for Maxwell Williams China are really pretty. I have cut out and painted some of the designs from the lantern project and will use them on cards with a watercolour painted background, so it hasn’t all gone to waste.

Apparently there was a birthday party last Sunday for John’s granddaughters at Bronte Beach. I know they would have been delighted to see their grandfather there, but we only heard after the event from others who were invited. They had to drive within two streets of our place on the long drive from their home to the beach, so picking him up and taking him with them was a very easy option. I decided not to even mention it to John, why upset him for no purpose?

I’ve typed out the cancellation email to the hotel in Newcastle but just couldn’t press send so it’s sitting there as a draft just in case it all turns around and we can go. John has never been as keen to get away as I am and now he wouldn’t care if we never went anywhere but I need to, so another holiday plan will need to replace this one.

January 19, 2023

Well I’m too cool for school now that I was told this morning that John’s home care package has come through (vale little old man or lady who either died or went into a home for this to happen). I immediately rang Sydney Art School who informed me I’d better get weaving as the class I wanted has a maximum of 12 students and they already had 11 enrolled. Communication with Wendy’s assured me that there would be ample funds so I booked the classes and Kristy will sort out a roster of carers next week when she’s back from holidays. I would have much preferred daytime but it was better to start somewhere.  St. Vs rang me back and I didn’t need to worry about seeing the docs during World Pride as they’re already booked out till April, enabling me to kick that can down the road. It’s a Tuesday and I will be able to get a carer with no problems now. Bragging here…

My cousins in Spain and England who first contacted me just a year ago have become my most frequent correspondents. I have been able to ascertain that my mother’s brother was short and dark and they used to joke after his visits to his sister in Florida that he’d have trouble getting back into England as he looked for all the world to be another ethnic group after just three weeks in the sun. I’ve sent them a photo of my feet which have brown stripes after one day in the sun in sandals last week, thanks for those tanning genes mother. My DNA showed about 26% old Roman genes and I wonder if that’s where their dark skin and eyes came from? Mine is diluted via my dad, but mum and her siblings were short and dark, her brother could have got a bit part as a Calabrian don. I was able to dig out photos taken in 2005 in England with my cousins Vic and Brian and noticed that the dress I was wearing still hangs in my wardrobe and it doesn’t look the least bit fetching in the pics. So yesterday I washed it and it’s now headed for the Salvos, well done good and faithful servant. It is very freeing to be able to part with something and not feel wasteful so I’m glad I dug out those pics.

These blessed sovereign citizens are becoming a pain in the neck. An extension of the bleeding libertarians and often tied up with the QAnon conspiracy movement, this group is much more dangerous than their petty arguments would indicate. We only need to look at recent events in Tara to see that. I have always maintained a right to ignore dangerously bad laws BUT I realise I must accept the penalty attached to making a protest by breaking those laws. It often seems to me when looking at video of these people arguing with police or whomever, that they are far from bright and of course it’s impossible to argue with people with no relationship to logic. A pox on them.

January 20, 2023

So John tells me this morning that I ‘need to do a workshop about looking after a person with no memory’ after I requested for the hundredth time that he write down the answers to frequently asked questions on a little pad, which I have provided. The little pad idea is clearly a no-go and to him just represents my failure to happily keep repeating answers endlessly. We took his car to the mechanic for service this morning and are waiting for a call to pick it up. I loathe driving other people’s cars as I know I’d be sleepless for weeks if I had an accident. It wasn’t an issue when Alex was in Castle Hill but now he’s in Blacktown it’s a pain, however he’s too good to change mechanics so no point whingeing. He’s just rung to say the car needs new brake linings and discs for a total of $1450, which is a neat figure seeing John has $1558 in total in his bank till next pension day. As long as there is enough, who cares? But even if there were $10 in the account he’d happily flash the card and attempt to pay, money matters are beyond him now. That $100,000 that he’s been deplorably accused of stealing would be very handy for him right at the minute.

John’s friend John de Luca, a retired priest, died yesterday at his home in Maroubra. His family was from Salina, an island north of Sicily and were famed here as high end greengrocers in the city. His cleaner alerted the concierge of the apartment complex when she could not gain entry to John’s apartment. Together, the concierge and cleaner, found him dead at his desk. He had bought that loft style unit with a view of the beach and with very high ceilings to take his pipe organ which graced the loungeroom, alongside the grand piano and the harpsichord. While studying and later working as a priest he simultaneously studied for a Master’s and then a PhD in music at Sydney Conservatorium. Christmas carols around his piano with his sister singing were really something else. I put off telling John till after dinner, thinking he would be very upset, but he just said: That’s no good, are you right for me to wash up now? It’s very difficult knowing how things will go.

For the first time I can remember all five books that I ordered from the library today were available, as in they exist in the catalogue, even if they are out on loan. Perhaps I’m reading more popular and mainstream stuff these days? There were no classics in my requests this time but I was particularly glad that they had How To Catch a Killer by American criminologist Katherine Ramsland, with whom accused murderer Bryan Kohberger was studying for his PhD in criminal justice. She is a forensic psychologist which serves to  remind me of the forensic science course I had signed up for at UWS which was sadly cancelled due to Covid. Decades ago I did a great forensic psychology course which  sparked my ongoing interest in reading about the subject and I can’t wait to get into this book.

Pretty pleased with the two cards I’ve made from the artwork provided at the ill-fated Chinese lantern workshop. I’ve cut the pieces up and painted them, then made collages. It was fun and I’ve still got quite a few more bits to work with. Some good comes out of everything as they say. But I am loathe to part with some cards for a while, they’re my babies till new ones surpass them.

January 21, 2023

Good day with Greg and Linda, friends from Sans Souci, who came for morning tea at 10.30 and left at close to 4 pm after a hastily prepared lunch of cheese and tomato toasties with a bit of salad. They are great company and we learned a bit about life in Switzerland where they lived for many years. Apparently everyone must carry photo ID at all times, everyone does military service with their salaries paid by their employers, initially for 3 months and from then on for 3 weeks every year. Those over 40 work at fire stations, a disaster organisation or in hospitals. Greg worked as a medical assistant at a hospital that is completely underground, safeguarded from atomic fallout or biological weapons by elaborate systems. I was interested to know that every house and public building must have a functional bomb shelter underground, fully stocked at all times with water and food. Linda likened it to a police state in some ways, but interestingly commented that unlike Australia and the US ‘there are no crazies’ and people respect the laws. Switzerland breeds sane people due to the quality of its societal rules: discuss. Apparently much of the Swiss military apparatus is kept under mountains, including massive hangers for their fighter planes. It was not only a fun day, but an educational one.

We raced up to Castle Mall after they had gone and I expected it to be very quiet. But due I guess to Chinese New Year the place was rocking, a big queue for barbecued duck and a maze of barriers to walk through to get to the seafood shop counter. But I got the last of the black tiger prawns to toss through some fresh pasta for dinner so no complaints. The fruit market had navel oranges for $1.49 a kilo, as distinct from $7.99 in another shop a few days ago or $5.99 at the supermarket for American ones, which I would never buy as it’s always better to simply wait till local produce is available again. Don’t get me going on that disgusting Chinese bleached garlic, ugh. I started wishing random Chinese people a Happy New Year and got a number of beaming responses and good wishes and left the shops feeling well blessed.

January 22, 2023

Sent off a card to Duncan, the friendly Australian Transportation Safety Board investigator whom I met numerous times at the inquest into the Pittwater seaplane disaster. He was so helpful, unasked for, in explaining the more technical parts of the evidence and he introduced me to the doctor who first promoted the theory that the pilot may have been accidentally under the influence of carbon monoxide, this after the investigators had run out of feasible theories. I asked him for the date of the coroner’s final decision as now John has more hours of care available I want to be there. He is past being able to come with me, it is just too confusing for him these days, even on the only time I took him last year he told Duncan that his evidence was ‘too boring’, while I was enthralled.

Tried to read Christos Tsiolkas novel 7 1/2, but had to pack it in. I like his writing usually but in this one he is the main character and his efforts to write a novel are explored, however I decided that he is so full of himself that he doesn’t really need me as a reader, if that makes sense. Also an example of ‘autofiction’ is The Eulogy by Jackie Bailey. In contrast this was a book that I really didn’t want to finish and thought about for days afterwards. It documents what could only be described as child abuse by the mother character which each of the children deals with in their different ways as they grow up, however none of them take the perfectly understandable choice to cut ties with her altogether. Of course the questions remain about what parts of this ‘autofiction’ are true and which are fictional, but that’s something we’ll never find out I suspect. This is the problem with the genre and why I would prefer a straight out memoir, but in this case I just considered it all as fiction and got around the problem that way.

I know everyone is sick of Harry and Meghan (or Ginger and Whinger as my friend David calls them) but I keep coming back in my mind to exactly what he’s being criticised for: telling the truth as he sees it, exposing the back room secrets of the Palace and its intrigues, but most of all for having the temerity to put a number on the people he’d killed in Afghanistan. Apparently that is a no-no, of course it is, it humanises the enemy and we can’t have that! It is considered ‘bad taste’ to reveal how many people you kill, but not bad taste to kill them in the first place, in fact if you kill enough (and keep the number secret) you’ll get your own little window in the War Memorial. Killing is not beyond anyone, but I’d like to think that I could choose my own target, not just be sent out with an assignment on behalf of faceless superiors and government ministers. Soldiers suffer PTSD for a very good reason, they have been asked to do what is forbidden in any other walk of life and I commend Harry for having the courage to put a number on his trespasses.

January 23, 2023

I’ve been awake since 2 am due to forgetting to take my once a day antibiotic on Saturday night. I had cleaned up when we were expecting visitors that day and put my tablets in a drawer in my bedroom out of sight, clearly out of mind as well! It just goes to show that the treatment is barely holding the problem at bay and it isn’t really a long term solution. I can’t bear the thought of going to a fourth urologist when the first three did nowt that worked. But after a couple of extra doses I’m feeling fine now. Sue popped in to give me the key to her place in case she’s down here seeing her mother when we are due to go to her on Thursday. It’s a bit of a nuisance that we can’t just cancel, but I need to see the immunologist at Erina near her place on Friday morning and I can’t really afford to put it off as the wheels are falling off a few things at the moment. It was perfect timing with the book group meeting at Sue’s which has now been cancelled, but them’s the breaks.

I’ve spent sooo long on phones today juggling the pharmacy order, trying to get a phone appointment for John with Bob, trying to see if the new home care package will fund a handrail at the front steps (yes they will) and dealing with the offer of an extra day a week at dementia care and then after accepting it, trying to alter all the appointments for the next two months that fall on that day of the week. The catch with the handrail is that they will pay only if I get an occupational therapist to come and then write a report to say that he needs a handrail. I’ve decided that the government paying someone $330 to approve it is wasted money from his package so I just ordered and paid for the bloody thing myself. I know she (OTs are always shes) would just be one more person to deal with and it’s worth the price of the handrail not to have to answer another whole raft of questions.  So I ordered it and paid for it online and it should be here from Melbourne this week. John is out of money till pension day thanks to the car repairs and his card bounced at the pharmacy so that was something else to sort out. What also prompted me to refuse the OT was a series of messages from an acquaintance urging me to apply for a government grant that she herself had just received. It wasn’t peanuts, but went to six figures, and I can’t for the life of me stomach anyone freeloading a system designed to help those at the bottom of the pile. Frustrating too that I applied for the council’s day bus trips for the over 65s to give John another day out opportunity and was told I had to get permission to use the service from My Aged Care. Jumped through those hoops and got the permission numbers but now the council has rung to say that John is ineligible because he’s on a Home Care Package, but I am welcome to go, hardly the point. I had told the council person on day one about his package, but clearly the message didn’t get through. Pity as it would have saved me driving him places, but fair enough now that he’s getting the other assistance that he needs. I need to apply for a secretary to deal with all this bureaucracy, perhaps I could get a six figure grant for that…..

January 25, 2023

Went up to Castle Mall to pick up John’s scripts from Bob’s office and came across a Chinese New Year celebration with lion dancers, drummers and percussionists. Who needs to go to Chinatown? Followed them through the centre and particularly liked seeing them behind the counter of my usual fishmonger. What fun, I’m happy to celebrate whatever’s going, apart from Australia Day obviously.

John’s latest thing is the inability to dress appropriately for the weather. Yesterday when we were taking Millie out all day, including the beach, he was dressed in singlet, warm shirt and jumper. I advised him at breakfast that it was too warm, but he said a bit grumpily: ‘I’m dressing for now, not the middle of the day’ and then complained all day about being too hot, despite the fact that I had talked him into leaving the jumper behind.  He did the same thing this morning for going out with Greg and often wants the aircon on at 8pm when it’s quite cool. Another oddity to deal with.

I was pleased to discover that the messages about government grants that I had thought were from my acquaintance weren’t at all, but from a sophisticated hacker/scammer who seemed to know her quite well, perhaps via her Facebook posts? It irks me no end that I actually communicated back and forth with this person, but thankfully showed no interest in what he (it’s usually a he) was peddling. I was surprised though at how easily he gave up when I said I had no reasonable criteria for applying for a grant, usually they are much more persistent than that, so it won’t surprise me if I hear from him again.

Mmm, got an email from The Painting Teacher telling me what to bring next week. The brand of paints I bought previously and have been using, Reeves, isn’t in her list of preferred ones and the colours don’t cut the mustard either (Don’t buy cadmium lemon yellow, oops). No one told me that there would be a list of things to bring so that’s a bit annoying, I’ll have to top up at Eckersley’s next week with a few more colours and turn the brand over on the existing ones in the hope she doesn’t notice. My paper probably isn’t up to scratch either though it works fine for the cards I’m making. I wonder if Van Gogh and Monet had the right brands?

January 26, 2023

Off, along with half of Sydney, to the central coast. We pulled in at Woy Woy for a break and I was amazed at the two pubs we saw, both full of early drinkers quaffing schooners. No entertainment as far as I saw, just boozing. Is Australia Day becoming like Anzac Day? Just an excuse for a piss-up. We enjoyed milkshakes by the water and I considered going on a round trip to Empire Bay on their little ferry but it only goes a few times a day and it just didn’t suit timewise. However we drove on to Umina, where I tried to get a park from one end of its long beach to the other to take a dip, it was wall to wall people on the beach and the streets were parked out for miles so that plan didn’t germinate. On again to Hardys Bay, not far from Sue’s, where we enjoyed a walk on the wharf and a bit of lunch at the cafe, an okay salad for an okay price but a $10 surcharge for Australia Day! Nothing else was open so no other choices. I can’t understand why so many businesses were closed, why would you pull up the drawbridge on one of the most popular summer days of the year, unless of course you were objecting to the day on principle and I very much doubt that was the reason.

The side of salmon I took up for dinner was amazingly still mostly frozen so no need to worry there. Sue added green beans picked from her farm a couple of hours previously and a potato and parsnip bake made with similarly sourced veggies. It was a Nagi recipe that I intend to emulate once the markets reopen and I can get lovely fresh parsnips. We watched a couple of episodes of the ABC programme Better Date Than Never which was somewhat excruciating, seeing the lack of confidence of the people shown. I can’t see that having your shyness and diffidence exposed on national tv can be a positive experience, but I hope I’m wrong. These people are at the extreme end, really needing a lot of help, which I hope materialises as a result of the programme. John found it so mortifying that he asked if he could wash up instead. Sue and I both had the same reaction, wanting to hug them, especially the young Chinese man who is pathologically shy.

I wish George Pell were still alive. I should probably qualify that to: I wish George Pell were alive long enough to hear Pope Francis say that homosexuality should not be against the law and that gay people should have all of the benefits of the church. Perhaps Pell would have keeled over there and then, making it doubly newsworthy, but perhaps Francis has found his voice because he hasn’t got Pell looking over his shoulder, who knows? But one thing is for sure the Pope seems infallible only until some cardinal or other disagrees, then they ignore that concept entirely. You can’t have it both ways boys, sorry he’s either infallible or he ain’t.

January 27, 2023

Off to Erina to see Prof. Reeves for an appointment that ran to half an hour. He has another idea to try for the interstitial cystitis, something that ‘calms the mast cells’, another thing I’ll need to read up on. So if the antibiotics fail to work long term at least I know that there is something in reserve. His dictaphone letter to various other doctors is always amazing, he is so good at covering every aspect of the half hour of discussion and putting his views and mine cogently so others know exactly how the appointment unfolded. A funny thing happened at the desk when I was paying. There were three women there instead of the usual two and one asked how I was and if the appointment had gone well. ‘Oh yes’ I replied ‘it always does, he’s such a lovely man I could happily take him home with me’ I said. ‘Well maybe not’, the new woman laughed, ‘I’m his wife’. But her sense of humour matches his, so I was very happy to have met her and had the interaction.

In the afternoon Sue took us to Patonga, somewhere I hadn’t been since my girls were born. I took note of the ferry which travels between there and Palm Beach, another possibility for an outing with John. We also drove down to Pearl Beach and through Umina again, marvelling at the numbers of people on the beach. We decided to eat at the local Empire Bay Tavern at night and then watched a doco on Netflix that I had read a review of recently. Into the Deep was about the murder of a journalist in Denmark on board a home made mini submarine. It was as riveting as the review claimed and I’d happily watch it again if we had Netflix. Reading about psychopaths is fascinating but seeing an interview with one is totally engrossing.

January 28, 2023

This morning we headed down to the beach and I had my first swim of the year in delightfully warm water. This after a walk along Killcare Beach to Putty Beach and back. Then by chance we got into conversation with a couple from Lane Cove, she a retired teacher, he a history academic, specialising in India and the relationship between Christianity and other faiths. I wrote his name down, particularly to look into his books but he warned me that ‘they are heavy’. It turned out that he was best friends with Charles Birch, the amazing biologist, entomologist, ethicist and theologian who was an idol of mine back in the 60s and 70s when I was working at the University of Sydney, where he was a professor. A huge cat lover to boot he always had a cat with him when he was interviewed. So we ended up exchanging phone numbers and we’ll see where that goes. If it’s nowhere we still passed a lovely morning with them. The trip home was a dream compared to the trip up on Thursday, partly due to traffic and partly due to the fact that I’d just had an invigorating dip.

I have been having trouble sleeping for months, waking at 2.40 am most mornings and often failing to get back to sleep, however at Sue’s I slept like the proverbial fallen tree trunk both nights. I’m sure this was due to the fact that I relaxed up there with no concerns about appointments, home care plans, prescriptions, ACAT etc. I noticed as soon as we got home John was getting back into the habit of asking the same questions repeatedly, whereas at Sue’s he was much more relaxed too. Moving in with Sue is perhaps the answer I’ve been looking for. She has taken up my suggestion of keeping her Kirribilli unit rather than buying a place in the inner west and is now looking to furnish it. It appears she will take John’s leather sofa which I’ve been trying to offload for months, woohoo!

January 29, 2023

I got an offer on eBay for three non-working watches, $15 instead of the advertised $20, which sounds like an offer I can’t refuse. In fact any offers fall into that category at this stage. We got a phone call yesterday asking if John’s Narromine relatives could come for morning tea and it was good to see them after some time. He doesn’t know exactly how they are related but that proved not to matter. Chris is a truck driver and has offered to take John with him on a trip, but then I think he wondered how that would work and said he’d just take him to Campbelltown and and back next trip. Perhaps he’s seeing how it goes before doing a longer country journey, which is wise. Their lives are so different to ours, with crops, horses and various jobs all competing for attention. But I think it would be great for John if a longer trip ensues, giving him different experiences and someone new to talk to.

Outside at the car I heard my name being called and eventually realised it was Paul who used to live across the road. Many years ago he had a disastrous and life-changing accident when he was working as a self-employed builder and was hit by a car while standing at the back of his trailer. His legs were terribly damaged and his career cruelled, but luckily he had invested in excellent insurance which paid him his normal wage for a few years and then negotiated a lump sum because he would never be able to go back to working. He used the money to buy a boat and now lives on it with his partner in North Queensland, while his daughter and family rent his house here. He loves the life, fishing for their food, travelling up and down the coast at times and he says he thinks that they will live on the boat indefinitely, they’ve already been on it for ten years and he’s only in his 50s. Different lives, but a success story from a catastrophic accident.

Started reading a Cormac McCarthy book, The Passenger, and I don’t think there’s another author who does suspense like him. I don’t mean suspense as in some criminal creeping up behind you, but suspense in an ordinary situation that will probably come to nothing…..yet you are holding your breath just in case. I remember Bob discovering my blood pressure soaring and it was purely because of No Country for Old Men, so gripping that I could barely breathe, I’m not sure he believed me but it was way lower next time I saw him. This one has alternate chapters describing the illusions (or more properly delusions) being experienced by his sister and these are disturbing in a different way. But just a description of his diving with scuba gear is creepy as you are always waiting for the calamity to occur.

January 30, 2023

This post was gobbled up by something in the blogosphere, so I’m post-dating my recollections. I went to Eckersley’s to fulfil the obligation to the painting teacher and have all the items she prescribed. The staff there were great but on eyeing the list they rolled their eyes and said: ‘is this really for a beginner class?’. I wasn’t expecting a sheet of watercolour paper to cost $55, maybe $5. But ever helpful they rustled around out the back and found a leftover pack of one of the approved brands (must be 100% cotton, must be cold pressed) in a 3 pack that was previously on special for the same amount. Paints are priced depending on the pigment, except the Reeves range which I’d already bought and which is apparently infra dig, but the list has specific colours and brands which vary from $15 to $50……per tube. No wonder Blue Poles is worth $550 million, it’s the paint. Anyway I was lucky in two respects, one that the two women were super helpful and two that we were the only people in the shop. An hour later I exited with paints, paper, tape, whatever and with a somewhat reduced bank balance.

Next I attacked the Dental Clinic at RNSH and was told that despite John having been on the waiting list for 4 years he now has to go to Westmead and start over because of the change of address. Feeling confident after my success at Eckersley’s perhaps, I simply refused and after some consultations I was told he could have an appointment in 6 months. Nope, not good enough, I replied, his teeth are falling out, no doubt a result of radiotherapy. How about February 9 she said and I accepted immediately, despite it being the day care bus trip to St. George Rowing Club, I thought I’d pushed my luck as far as I could.


January 31, 2023

The Catholic Church has clearly had a word in the ear of the police who have applied to the Supreme Court to ban a demonstration passing the cathedral on the day of Cardinal Pell’s funeral. How bloody typical. As Frances Sullivan, who was CEO of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, pointed out last week when the church was cutting down ribbons tied to the cathedral’s fence in memory of victims: they have learned nothing. This follows the appalling ‘revelations’ in last night’s 4 Corners programme about the work of Opus Dei, particularly in respect of its schools, sadly located not far from here. Every man and his poodle is acting surprised about this organisation, do they not read? Opus Dei supported Franco in the civil war in Spain, supported various right-wing dictators in South America who murdered thousands and still support corporal mortification (read self-harm here). But we as tax-payers support them financially, along with Scientologists and other crazies. A pox on the lot of them, but please don’t say ‘we didn’t know’.
I scored a leave pass today and it was revitalising. It is John’s friend John de Luca’s funeral today and I intended to take him over to Coogee, however last night his friend Phil rang and asked if he’d like a lift. It freed up most of the day and I have put it to good use making pikelets and a batch of coleslaw, getting my stuff sorted for painting and doing some hand washing. Sue called in briefly to inspect the colour of the lounge which she may take for Kirribilli but I couldn’t press her into having a pikelet as she’s trying to lose weight. I explained that death is a certain weight loss method and she should wait for that, but she looked unconvinced.
February 1, 2023
A message from a good friend this morning freed me of the (very pleasant) obligation of lunch with her tomorrow, if I wanted to go to the Pell protest. I like to be known as someone who doesn’t renege on an arrangement, a friend years ago used to call it ‘always waiting for a better offer’ so I hadn’t brought up the possibility of going. But I really DO want to go to the protest and especially so now that the police are trying to have it banned. So I’ve been down in the storeroom cutting lengths of ribbon to tie onto the cathedral’s fence and I assume my friend will act for me if I happen to get arrested. Looking at the diary for the first few weeks of February it is following last month in filling up fast, mostly with medical appointments for John. His carer today has said he will do some of the stints needed for my painting classes so it will be good to have his familiar face. Yesterday John got home from the funeral with Phil after 6 pm but by 7 he asked ‘where did I go today?’. When I filled him in, thinking that he would then remember, he replied ‘but how did I get there?’
After watching the absolutely horrible murder of Tyre Nichols I thought it couldn’t get much worse, but I doubted the depth of America’s plunge into oppression by police. I just watched video of the murder by cops of Arthur Lowe Jr, a black man of course, a double amputee who got out of his wheelchair and was chased by police while running away on his stumps, I repeat that, while running away on his stumps. He was killed with eight bullets to the chest ‘because the police feared he might throw his knife at them’. What a gutless bunch, words fail me.
Typing this while listening to the Robodebt Royal Commission, currently speaking is the Dishonourable Alan Tudge. He’s doing a Morrison, slow to answer questions, wavering, sorting through papers, trying to get through the day saying as little as humanly possible. Yesterday his former media adviser (and lover) Rachelle Miller told the Commission that she had leaked to the ‘right-wing press’ personal details of welfare recipients who had spoken out against the Robodebt scheme, in order to discourage others from coming forward. The Federal Government (ie us) has recently paid Miss Miller $650,000 for hurt, distress and humiliation she alleges she suffered while working for Tudge and another minister whose name I choose not to type on an empty stomach. Just wondering why we need to pay this woman, in a relationship with her boss, against all protocols of government?






































































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