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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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