Life Notes 11

February 1, 2023 expanded

It seems I had inexplicably lost the entry for January 30 and the last two days’ posts are a bit bunched up and the spacing seems unfixable, so I’ve decided to start a new post in the hope that whatever problem exists will sort itself out. I went back and rewrote January 30 from memory but I’m sure I must have said something else so profound that it would echo through the ages, which at this point is lost.

Today I had a home appointment with a My Aged Care operative who rubbed me up the wrong way at the outset by suggesting that I needed to put John into a home because: ‘you only get one life and he’s just going to get worse over time’. This was after: ‘I had to step over a plant to get in here’, later investigations proved that it was one single Agapanthus head that had fallen over the path. Anyway I’ve decided it would have been better not to have her here at all, but you live and learn. John has a haematologist’s appointment with Nada soon but today they rang to say she’s still too unwell with long Covid and hopes to be back in March, they’ve been saying next month since August. So we have a Zoom with a different doc which that saves me the drive into town anyway.

February 2, 2023

This morning I headed into the city on the bus for the protest at Pell’s memorial service. I have never in my life seen so many police in the one place, streets blocked off and shoulder- to- shoulder cops all around the cathedral, both sides of the road lined with vehicles. I had pre-cut plenty of ribbons to go on the fences but my first attempt was thwarted by cathedral security. However I managed to find a spot on the inside of the queue of people heading into the cathedral and luckily they were mild-mannered folk, although one man of Middle Eastern appearance objected, but the police sided with me. A young woman approached and asked what I was doing and why and, apparently satisfied with the answers, she announced that she was a journalist and requested a photograph. During the protest in Hyde Park somewhat later she came up again and gave me her name, phone number and email address so then I knew she was from the BBC. When I got home I looked up Apple News and her article was the first one on top of the list, including the photo she had taken. The speeches at the rally were interesting and gave some personal details about Pell and Cardinal Gilroy that I won’t discuss here, considering Australia’s strict libel laws. When we marched along College St most of the people sitting outdoors ignored us but some of the Lebs went wild, as is their want. Police had to restrain a few of them who would have gladly belted us to kingdom come. All in all we made our point and I was very glad that I went.

So to the watercolour class last night….. The building faces west and it was early evening on a fairly hot day. I tried the door at 6.45 but it was locked, however the teacher was inside. A few others did the same but then we repaired around the corner into the shade and at exactly 7pm she unlocked the building, No welcome, just ‘find yourself a seat’. Not looking good so far. There were 12 students, 6 returning and 6 newbies. Firstly she gave the old hands a photo each and they were instructed to paint that ocean scene. Then to us: despite having bought umpteen colours as requested she said that we only need 2 blues, 2 reds and 2 yellows and will mix all other colours from them. We then used the very expensive paper to paint a colour wheel (which could have usefully been done on the back of an envelope). She showed us some exercises she had set in the past and they were all very realistic, often figures of people, not at all the style I’m trying to learn. As tactfully as possible I suggested that I presumed she taught all different styles and she replied firmly: ‘No, I only paint realistic pictures and that’s what I teach’. So I am stuffed, having already paid for 8 weeks. Now I can only hope that some techniques applicable to this realism will be useful in what I want to do, simply to paint as beautifully and sensitively as my friend Di.

February 3, 2023

Sometimes you start to read a book and decide straight away that you have a lot in common with the author, in this case it was the reverse. Heather Rose’s ‘nothing bad ever happens here’ left me rolling my eyes in every chapter, but I persevered to see if things changed closer to the end. In some ways the chapters seemed like separate essays and one near the conclusion, where she walks a remote trail in Tasmania with her son, was interesting. Another chapter, about her chronic pain, again seemed like an essay unrelated to the chapters before and after. Her constant pain from ankylosing spondylitis, an autoimmune disease, is barely mentioned through the book and then there’s a whole chapter on it. But back to the eye-rolling. After a period in a Buddhist monastery she relates that she can ‘suddenly eat whatever I want…that I can speak with people…that I do not have to wake at 3 am to meditate or chant…that I can drink beer…wear whatever I like’. Yes, that’s why the rest of us are not living in a monastery. Before going to an American Indian sweat lodge she buys a new dress ‘long and tie-dyed’, well of course it was. Back in Australia she goes ‘sun dancing’ exposing herself to 48 degree heat in Central Australia: ‘to survive, some part of me has to leave my body’. Don’t try this people, the part that leaves may very well be your mortality. ‘Of the 42 people there, 12 of us lose our faculties for days or of us ends up in the psychiatric ward of the Alice Springs hospital. Some of us go mad years later’. Yes well, what can I say? Apart from the fact that a psychiatric assessment may have been warranted before setting out. Being a pedant, I want to criticise the misuse of the word ‘enervating’  when she means its opposite, but even though a good editor would have picked that up, it is such a small thing compared to the enervating effect this book had on me.

It occurred to me that yesterday I was filmed close up by a huge video camera operated by two people and it had on the top in navy blue AFP, which at the time I assumed was some news outlet that I’d never heard of. But on the news last night in an unrelated article I saw the logo of the Australian Federal Police and….kerching, they were one and the same. It’s just like the old Vietnam protest days all over again, glad to see a new generation hard at work, though I am hoping that they got some good footage of the febrile Lebs across the road, who were much more of a worry I’d say.

Speaking of irksome acronyms, this morning I had an email telling me that I’d have a visit from APM Assessment Services on February 1 and giving me a list of things I need to assemble for their inspection eg Medicare and pension cards, home care documents etc. There were also three videos explaining what would happen and why, none of which I’ve watched as it’s all past tense now. Firstly the person came two days before the email, secondly I collated no documents and was not asked for any and thirdly, who the hell is APM? Further research discovered that they are a multi-national company who ‘undertake My Aged Care Home Support Assessments on behalf of the Australian Government’, something brought in by Tony Abbott in 2015 apparently. When John was first assessed years ago we had a public servant who was endlessly helpful, but clearly things have changed and this explains her disagreeable comments. Interestingly they have not been allowed to take that role in Victoria or WA, both with Labor governments. Without the benefit of getting the email before the visit, I had no idea that I was dealing with a company and not a government official and apart from giving her name there was no introduction, business card or paperwork to allow me to find that out. I’ll be more wary about who I let into the house next time.

February 4, 2023

Planning to barbecue some corn as part of dinner, my recipe book says it is more ‘corny’ if barbecued in its husk so I’m trying it out, though I’m doubtful I’ll pick the difference. It is part of a Mexican salad with avocado and other things and it has a chili mayonnaise dressing. I opened a jar of jalapeno chillies as apparently they are the closest to the poblano ones in the recipe, and supposedly mild, but these are very hot so I will just use my normal ones out of the garden.

I’m feeling sorry for the poor old minks. Firstly they were bred for their beautiful fur and killed en masse with carbon monoxide, then they caught, and formed a reservoir for, Covid19 and in Denmark alone 17 million were killed. Now they’ve caught jolly bird flu H5N1 and 50,000 minks have been killed in Spain as a result. It may have marked the first known case of mammal-to-mammal transmission of this deadly virus. Avian influenza has a near 100 percent mortality rate in birds and while mammals apart from minks aren’t catching the virus at the same rate as birds, it’s still a serious problem. Bird flu has a global mortality rate of greater than 50 percent for humans so I won’t be cuddling a mink any time soon. The two books which forecast many of our problems at the moment I read decades ago, The Coming Plague and The Population Bomb, but I don’t hear anyone praising the authors’ foresight. Some books from the 1980s and 1990s forewarned about climate change but it was much earlier than that when scientists first began discussing the issue. We are slow learners, especially if we think we’ll be disadvantaged, we are like Horatio Nelson when he said ‘I see no ships’, looking at the evidence with a blind eye.

I’ve had a few emails and texts from people who saw the BBC article and every one has been congratulatory, but then I realised that anyone who doesn’t approve wouldn’t call so it means nothing at all. However Stephen was very pleased that I’d hung green ribbons because of his Irish heritage, so that’s the only person I need to worry about.

February 5, 2023

I am wondering how on earth Facebook has worked out what sort of clothes I like? I’ve never once bought a piece of clothing online, but a couple of companies are now constantly putting ads on my Facey and the clothes are divine, just my taste, and cheap to boot. I met a woman a while back whose clothes always fitted perfectly. Asking who her tailor was I got the reply: ‘I buy everything cheaply online, mostly from China, two sizes too big, then I take them to an alteration place and get them adjusted to fit’. I am itching to try that idea but as I’m still on a ‘buy no new clothes’ bender the ads are deeply frustrating. Stop before I weaken people.

I had another attack at some boxes in storage today and managed to scrounge some Singer sewing machine accessories and manual, an antique cut throat razor, an antique set of steak knives never used, a darning mushroom and two boxes of genealogy computer disks, never used. All are now up for sale on eBay. John came down with me and wanted to cut back a small branch, so I sent him to the garage for secateurs to do the job. Sadly both sets are missing from their usual place, apparently since we were both cutting a few things back in the front yard and he offered to put them away. A search of the garage and elsewhere has proved fruitless so we now have no secateurs at all, at least for now.

In clean-up mode I finally got around to trying out the Planet Ark recycling service at Baulko. Even though I downloaded the app months ago I’ve been reluctant to go there in case I can’t work out how to use it. I had no reason to be concerned, it’s as easy as, and there were plenty of people there to help me out, even offering to let me go first with my miserable seven bottles against their trolley or van full. Either people are besotted with soft drinks or else they are scrounging the bins. By the time I got home the 70 cents was deposited into my account, so now I can start taking up the many boxes under the house. They are all John’s kombucha bottles as neither of us drink any sort of pop. I really dislike his kombucha, though it’s not quite as disgusting as the Bambu he drinks daily. I don’t fare well in the drinks department, disliking many more beverages than foods. Coffee, all chocolate drinks, kombucha, whisky, gin, vodka, Ouzo, Sambuca, Pernod, absinthe, limiting my choices to tea and milk in the hot drink department. I well remember going with a group for an evening meeting and they ordered, in fits of laughter, 12 cappuccinos and a milk shake.

February 6, 2023

Lovely time at Boy Charlton Pool today while John was at Nelune. I think I will keep going there while ever the weather holds out. I parked as usual at Woolloomooloo and then walked to the pool, the walk was a lovely part of the occasion and much easier than driving back to town and then getting parking near the gallery. The water was divine, with views to match and a little cafe to have a snack afterwards. It’s called Oh Boy and is new as the old one fell over during Covid, however the staff were seriously wanting, though trying hard. Perhaps Oh Dear would have been a better name than Oh Boy. I’m reluctant to give them a bad review as I think the place is understaffed but there’s certainly no chef judging by what I saw coming out of the kitchen. Better to stick to a milkshake and enjoy the view. Pity as it’s a perfect spot for a beautiful lunch.

I got a thoughtful call this afternoon from Therese at the ACAT team who valiantly attempted to get John’s package through more quickly. She just wanted to make sure that our needs were met by the new package and reminded me to contact them again if that ceases to be the case. She also recommending counselling for me, something I don’t intend to take up, but I thanked her without mentioning that fact. I can’t imagine getting a follow up call from that bloody APM woman who came the other day.

I’ve been reading How to Catch a Killer by Katherine Ramsland, the famous professor at  DeSales University. She teaches forensic psychology, focusing on extreme offenders and as she has written 69 books on related topics, I was expecting more than a long list of serial killers and their crimes, something I could have Googled. Many of these people live on my bookshelves and much has been written about them, so I was expecting more of the why and less of the what, but sadly no. However it is fair to say that having them all in the one place enabled me to appreciate once again the things that they have in common: overwhelmingly male, many having done military service, though not necessarily in conflict zones. A large number were adopted and those who weren’t come from homes where the parents separated when the child was young or else they stayed together in a violent or abusive relationship. Many were farmed out as children to drunken or abusive grandparents or other relatives. So it seems that the same circumstances that produce borderline personality disorder sets up children for the risk of becoming serial killers. Perhaps they are extreme versions of borderline personality? But you would never glean any of that from this book which is simply an extended list of facts without much analysis.

February 7, 2023

So the balloon came crashing down after a missile strike (remind me how much missiles cost again? oh I looked it up, an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile is about $400,000, not as much as I was expecting). Considering that in the 1970s I read that American spy satellites could read something the size of a number plate over the entire world, I wonder if this response just comes down to PR and target practice. That fact about the number plates was in the context of the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland when the Brits got the US to track IRA cars by number plate so collaborators with the IRA could be identified. Presumably by now it’s the size of a stamp. In 1998, a technical malfunction meant a Canadian research balloon accidentally drifted across towards Norway before finally landing on Finland’s Mariehamn Island. Panic? Non. Missiles? Non. But of course the Scandis are a very different breed of human.

I’ve gone back to my Cormac McCarthy book, but I’m still struggling. But how can you put aside a book which has lines like: ‘he watched the lights moving along the causeway like the slow cellular crawl of waterdrops on a wire’? or this about an underwater view of a plane crash: ‘The people sitting in their seats, their hair floating. Their mouths open, their eyes devoid of speculation.’ I can see that image so clearly. So I will keep going in the hope of reading memorable lines like these even if at the moment I don’t know what the hell is going on.

Talking of mysteries, I’ve just been on a hunt for the person who made John’s dentures, such is the way of my life these days. When we were at Sue’s another tooth fell out, this time at the front so I had a battle royal getting him in to the public dentist, though I succeeded in the end. But after he gets the rest of the tooth removed (surgery possibly?) he will need new dentures to include that tooth. Back in the mid 2000s he had dentures made which were totally useless and as they were plastic they weren’t adjustable, so he just threw them out and went elsewhere. The second chap was fabulous, making them quickly and then adjusting them over weeks, they were metal based so easy to alter till they were perfect. But of course John has no idea who the chap was or where. I sort of thought Chatswood and started ringing around, finally finding the helpful Nikki who got into the records and discovered that it was her boss David Rozen who did the teeth. But then I had to make sure he was the good one and not the dodgy one (41 reviews of the practice, all 5 stars, made me think I’d got it right) and yes he made them largely in metal. Phew, now we just need to get the dentist out of the way on Thursday and we’ll head to the splendid Dr. Rozen.

This morning I went to Pine Coffee and Tea to get some of my favourite smoky Russian Caravan tea and also found some very coarse sugar crystals that I’ve been trying to source to pop on top of cakes or buns, recipes show them but I never see them for sale. Also they have very fine filters to put into a teapot for particularly small leaf teas, of which I have one that was gifted to me, but it comes through the strainers I’ve got so it tends not to get used. I will take the teapot up to them and get the right size that fits inside the pot. Next to the Sallies where I dispensed with a dress and a vase, but came away with four rolls of loo paper, two tubes of toothpaste (they always have some new stuff at the Dural one) and a 1000 piece jigsaw for John. He was playing with one that Sue had going, but had said before that he can’t do jigsaws any more, so we’ll see. It’s a scene of Santorini, brand new and unopened, $4. Pay dirt.

February 8, 2023

Gosh I didn’t think I’d ever give a Cormac McCarthy book two stars, but there it is. After finishing The Passenger I needed to read some other (smarter) reviewers to discover that it was actually about what I thought it was about. Clearly I am not smart enough for this book. I did love the other one I’ve just finished though, a yellowed 1968 copy of Philby: The Spy Who Betrayed a Generation. I loved this detailed account, not just of the actual spying and capture, but of the background story. Well stories actually, because the authors go into great detail about Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean as well as Philby, covering their interrelationships and backgrounds. It is as good as the best spy thriller, though if it were a novel we would all be saying that MI6 could never have ignored the suspicions about Philby’s guilt for so many years, disregarding their sister agency MI5 who were repeatedly telling them that he was spying for the Russians. Fascinating stuff and a lesson to the Brits: the assumption that choosing your spies almost entirely from the upper echelons of society guaranteed loyalty was never a smart idea.

I’ve just been photographing three pieces of jewellery and offering them to Bargain Hunt and Barsbys auctions for appraisal. A solid opal brooch set in gold, opal earrings also gold (neither of which I’ll ever wear as I don’t do gold) and a chunky Georg Jensen 1960s silver bracelet which I love, but have almost lost twice when the catch came undone unexpectedly. But now Bargain Hunt has replied and they weren’t keen to suggest a reserve, so I think I will wait for Barsbys. If they feel the same way I may eBay them to have more control of the prices, particularly as old Jensen pieces are super popular these days, some rarer ones selling in the thousands. I had an old darning mushroom and darning egg on eBay and it was spied and commented on by my customer and now friend Antonia in Melbourne so I’ve taken the ad down and will pack them up and gift them to her. She’s a good stick.

What can anyone say about the massive Middle Eastern earthquake, particularly after talking about jewellery? Not only those who’ve lost loved ones, but the rescuers, will surely be damaged by this for the rest of their lives. I can’t even imagine the state of a person’s body in a collapsed high rise building. I guess the only feature that slightly eases the situation is the fact that it is a natural occurrence and not deliberately caused by anyone, something that those in collapsed buildings in Ukraine must surely be more pained by. Not much of a consolation though.

February 9, 2023

A bit of a frustrating trip to RNS for John’s appointment at the public dentist. He saw a lovely woman who did X-rays and said that what’s left of his front tooth has to come out, which we knew. She was very thorough and I thought we were home and hosed, but then when she went to do an appointment for the extraction she saw John’s address on his pension card and said that we have to ‘get that changed back to Lane Cove’ otherwise we can’t go any further. So I’m flummoxed about what to do, Bob’s away till next week so I can’t discuss it with him. Thinking, thinking, waiting for a lightning bolt.

Then we went to Barsby’s Auctions and I announced: ‘I have an appointment with Alex, she knows I’m coming’ which produced a puzzled look on the face of the young man I was dealing with. When Alex with a beard arrived to meet me I understood why. Funny how you make assumptions and then it tips the applecart briefly when the assumption proves wrong. But what a wonderful Alex he turned out to be! His family own the Mayfair jewellers G. J. Dennis, his father and brother both high-end silversmiths and goldsmiths. He showed me photos of the FA cup, many other important trophies, a brooch made for Camilla Parker-Bowles and lots more. They make and repair jewellery for the royal family. He took one look at my Georg Jensen bracelet, declared it was made in the 60s, designed by Ibe Delquist and gave me a dissertation on Jensen jewellery and its designers. How do you know all of that off the top of your head? I asked. I wrote a book on Jensen, he replied. Enough said. So the bracelet, which I almost lost when it fell off while we were with Mary and David recently, is listed for sale with an estimate of $650 to $1200 but may go higher. I was also happy with the estimate of $150 to $300 on my opal brooch, however the opal earrings, while also 1960s and good quality, are plated so they didn’t pass muster.

Last night’s painting class was somewhat the same and somewhat different to last week’s. Same: The door opened at 7 pm, not a minute before. No chatting, just go in and set up. End of night is 9 pm, doesn’t matter if you are half way through doing something, as I was, you are out the door. I carried a palette of wet paint to the car but it spilled over and mixed the colours together, hugely frustrating. I’ve decided to redo all the work we did at class so I can make a better job of it without time pressure. Different: I did try to adapt to the situation as it is and to absorb as much as possible, even though the style and copying photos isn’t what I was hoping for when I signed up. I did learn a bit and I’m persevering to try to get the most benefit possible.

Hawkesbury Library is offering a course in Eco-Dyeing, at least I think that’s what it is. It was advertised as Eco-Dying and that’s what caught my eye, thinking that it was ‘weave your own casket’ or ‘paint your own coffin’, but no. It turns out to be printing on paper or fabric using the natural dyes of leaves and flowers, right up my alley. So I will organise a carer and then book in, a full day on February 25.

February 10, 2023

Kristy informs me that the cost of a carer on Saturdays is $86.55 an hour, as against the usual $60.05, so although John’s package would cover it, it seems a profligate use of his funds to go to the workshop . However the alternative is either not going or else asking someone to take him for the day, neither option appeals, so I’m thinking.

I’m thinking also that the option requested by the dentist yesterday, to ‘get the address changed back to Lane Cove’ on his pension card is a bad move as it looks dodgy, even though ultimately it’s even stevens as the government is paying his dental bill whether we go to RNS or wait on the list at Westmead, possibly for months if not years. I will have a chat to my private dentist and see what John’s looking at in terms of the cost to at least get the extraction done. Currently his bank balance is $17.82, but his pension is due tomorrow, bless.

Shopping this morning I wanted to buy corn chips to do a dish for dinner tonight but couldn’t find the Mission brand I prefer (answer from the staff, oh they are in the Mexican section, not the chip section). Then to the soy sauce department where there was absolute rows of different permutations of soy sauce, but not the Kikkoman brand I wanted (answer from the staff, oh it’s in the Japanese section). Clearly I need a map of the store with a key for each brand, but John plods patiently behind me with the trolley while I read descriptions, agonise over brands and try to find clandestine labels. Last night we watched You Can’t Ask That, a programme we usually ignore but it was on dementia. One man made me laugh, he has Lewy Body Dementia, probably the worst one, as it involves hallucinations. He regularly sees crocodiles in the loungeroom so when he saw a donkey in the backyard he ignored it, assuming it was more of the same. That is until his wife came out and asked: why is that donkey in the backyard? He got LBD at the age of 42, what a tragedy. All of the folks interviewed commented that losing their licence had a big effect on them, mentally and practically. There were profound differences in their symptoms and limitations.

I have avoided unpacking the stainless steel railing for the front steps that was delivered last week, as I am so unmechanical that I know I won’t understand it. I am reluctant to ask Arvind for help unless I have it all laid out in the place it needs to go and he only needs to do the screwing in. I will tackle it, but not for the time being. Dentists and soy sauce have used up all of my available mental assets for today, wimp that I am.

February 11, 2023

I was right about not understanding the instructions for the railing and I’ve sadly discovered that John is now worse at these things than I am. Too hot today to bother Arvind so I have emailed the company telling them that I am as dumb as a doorknob and can’t work it out. The handrail will have to wait. Maybe I need to hire someone who knows what they are doing, which would of course mean that I made the wrong decision on paying for it myself, as if I’d gone through Wendy’s they would have covered a handyman too. But I baulked at wasting $330 of government money on an OT to say that an 81 year old demented man needs a handrail. I know, I know, it’s all part of the paperwork, but still.

Thankfully the farmer’s markets were on again today so I can get inspired with cooking (Nagi’s Island Bliss Prawn Salad with Coconut Lime Dressing for dinner tonight). Apart from reading it seems to be the only source of joy for me at the moment. I forgot that I needed one lonely apple for the recipe but Mala next door had one so I didn’t have to go out again. I swapped her two tomatoes, which seemed fair. Jane and Boris came last Saturday so John spent all morning today (exaggeration, but I can’t help it) asking about when they are arriving. No that was last week, no it’s not today, no look in your diary, just NO.

The Briars at Bowral must be having a bad week as they sent an email offering 2 nights’ accommodation, 2 breakfasts, a gift and a bottle of wine for booking any nights from tomorrow to Thursday for $329 all up. I grabbed the diary in anticipation but medical appointments preclude every bloody day. I’m consoling myself with the fact that the Southern Highlands needs cooler weather, fog, rain, snow even. I might get just off their mailing list in silent protest.

Just finished reading This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, made up largely of diaries he kept during his training as an NHS doctor. At first I thought it was pretty flippant and irreverent (it is) but he grew on me and it is obvious that his sense of humour is his way of coping with appalling hours, low pay, massive responsibility and the anxiety that comes with having a big heart and fearing that at any moment you may do someone harm. Picked up two more non-fiction books yesterday so I’m looking forward to getting into Raina MacIntyre’s book on pandemics and biosecurity. It has become obvious that the advice to government about the ‘short and sharp’ Covid surge over Christmas was a pot of wishful thinking, giving the government what it wanted to hear perhaps. Paul Kelly didn’t convince me back then and as a result I will take his words with more than a pinch of sodium chloride in future.

February 12, 2023

I got cross with John again this morning and I have to stop before it becomes the usual. I explained that I wanted an hour to watch Insiders, for the first time this year, but 10 minutes in I hear sawing coming from the kitchen and get up to find him cutting off the tops off milk bottles with my good Global knife, the best way to blunt a sharp knife is to cut plastic. So I went off about my sacred hour and using my best knife to cut milk cartons for no explained purpose. Turned off the telly and gave up on seeing Jim Chalmers’ interview. Later I asked if he still wanted the half cartons and the reply was: ‘I don’t know, what are they for?’ Note: Patience (noun) = the ability to wait calmly; if you have patience, you are able to stay calm and not get annoyed, for example when something takes a long time, or when someone is not doing what you want them to do. Where do I go to buy a packet of that stuff?

I put the abandoned telly time to good use and photographed four pieces of jewellery to send to my new mate Alex at Barsbys. A very large sized ring with sapphires and diamonds, another with an old cut diamond and rubies, a Victorian lava cameo ring with an intaglio unicorn and a gold necklace with a jade pendant replete with a pearl to one side and a Chinese character to the other. Pity that I don’t wear yellow gold as some of the rings are decent stones and all have age. I so miss the thrill of auctions, but that’s all in the past now. I well remember thinking I would bid on a small page size piece of calligraphy in Arabic if it went for $100 or so, within the estimate, but two foreign phone bidders from Malaysia pushed it up to over $10,000 very quickly. It was an antique page of the Koran which I’m guessing is now in the wonderful Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur. Those were the days.

The leftover prawn salad from last night made an absolutely delicious lunch today, the dressing is a keeper with garlic, ginger, lemon and fish sauce in a coconut cream base, making it good enough to drink. John of course had forgotten that we had it last night and thought it was just a plain green salad, until he delightedly announced: ‘I found a prawn!’ He has also forgotten that he doesn’t eat prawns ‘because they are bottom feeders’ and I don’t intend to remind him as it opens up the menu to lots of delicious meals. At this stage of the game, from a health point of view, I doubt that it matters much what we eat.

February 13, 2023

Decided that we each needed some time away from home so we went to see The Whale at Castle Hill. I am still reeling from it. I hadn’t even realised that it was a Darren Aronofsky film or I would have been there on day one. If that isn’t Oscar material I’ll eat my ticket. Apart from the main character Charlie, I just loved Liz, his friend and nurse. I don’t want to write a spoiler, and anyway if I did write more I would start crying again and seeing John’s relative from Narromine just rang to say she’d be here in an hour, it wouldn’t be a good look.

Yesterday Arvind came over and looked at the handrail, he thinks that between the three of us it’s a snack to put up, so the search for a handyman is off. Then I discovered accidentally that the workshop I want to go to is March 25, not February 25, so the search for a carer is also off, at least temporarily. Thank goodness for small mercies.

The jewellery auctioneer replied to my photos that all four items are saleable and the lava cameo ‘will do great things’ so, seeing we have another hospital appointment tomorrow, I will take them over to him if he has free time. Often in the shop I was forced to underprice things just to get turnover, while consigned items had to go for the agreed prices as often the consignee wouldn’t budge, hence my preference to own everything.

I’ve been thinking about all the sympathy I wasted on Rachelle Miller (not to mention my wasted share of the government payout that she got). After watching her at the Robodebt Inquiry all commiseration for her circumstance ran down the gurgler. Similarly with the people who climbed to successes on the back of their Whitlam-funded free education and then cut it off to all those who came after them. The appalling Clarence Thomas in the US had the benefit of a Jesuit school, taken in as part of a black recruitment programme, then he did law at Yale on a programme for minorities, but turned his back on his people and his class once he got where he was going, sadly ending up as a Supreme Court judge always backing the wrong team. How did a judge with barely a year of experience in the judiciary get nominated, never mind elected? How did a judge accumulate assets of over $10 million? A cynic could say that it’s the price of going over to the dark side. Sadly it seems that riches will almost always win over principle.

February 14, 2023

Off to RNS again today and while John was down having his yearly heart ultrasound (to check the stents and replaced valve) I went back to the dentist to see if I could at least persuade them to share his x-rays, but nah, no can do she says. I pointed out that they are part of his medical record and that too many x-rays are not a good idea, but all I got was a phone number for the patient advocate, Julie. I raced back in time to go in with John to see his cardiologist Gemma who was sporting a buzz cut. It turns out John’s tests are fine but Gemma has breast cancer and is undergoing chemo, while still working. Gosh, Gemma with cancer and Nada with long Covid. I don’t have the puff to deal with the dentist issue again today but Julie sounds like a good start. Then on to see Alex at Barsby’s and he was happy to take my pieces and of course was full of information about them. The lava cameo ring is in his opinion obsidian, which occurs when lava cools rapidly at the edges of a lava flow or during sudden contact with water or air, he could tell this by the slight shine versus the matte finish of straight lava. Of course, silly me. The ‘jade’ pendant seems to be Peking glass, though still valuable, but apart from those two details my descriptions were accurate. I held back the diamond and ruby ring to wear for a bit and I will give it to him next sale next time. From there to Oriental and Continental Foods at Artarmon where I really could go bananas with a credit card. I told the owner that one day I’ll get lucky and win the prize to fill my trolley for free. I was able to get lots of goodies that are unobtainable in the usual shops, like frozen peeled broad beans, canned kippers, sweet chestnut puree and Gochujang, that delicious red chili paste which is a savoury, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment popular in Korean cooking but adaptable to other cuisines. Apparently the ingredients are gochu-garu, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum and salt, none of which means anything to me, apart from the salt, but it tastes great and with a bit of garlic it can double for sriracha. Stocked up on other goodies too, like fish stock cubes for when I run out of prawn heads, risoni pasta and preserved lemons. Bliss.

The rain is increasing my optimism by the minute, feeding off John’s natural optimism isn’t working lately but rain always bucks me up. I redid my painting work from last class as it was rushed and wrong, hopefully she will okay this version. Not that she refused to accept the last one, but said if you never get it wrong you don’t learn anything, which is pretty much saying the same thing.

Yesterday we got a surprise visit from John’s first cousin Madeleine from Narromine. She at 80 next month is a force of nature, having driven down here for a week or two to visit friends, she found her way here with a malfunctioning satnav, talked non-stop and complained that after bringing her boogie board all this way, no one wants to go surfing with her. She still works, as a nurse at the gaol, lives alone on her property, still rides her horses ‘I’ve had to rig up a pulley system to put the saddle on’, is writing a book and if I’d asked her to put up the handrail I’m sure she would have done that easily. I should introduce her to Michelle.

February 15, 2023

Wow, what a morning. Louis sent me a YouTube link to the talk he gave at a conference in Sydney a little while ago. It blew me away in that all of the ancients he quoted live on my bookshelves, but in the 15 plus years that I’ve known him he has never mentioned anything remotely philosophical, so it would never had occurred to me to discuss anything like that. He is certainly quiet and shy but in this case the ‘still waters run deep’ saying certainly applies. I must admit that I cries while watching it as it reminded me of the discussions John and I had regularly when we first met and for years after. How things have changed, now it’s: do we need to water? do you have any washing? would you like trout for dinner? This video led me to look for my trusty Seneca, that beaten up little book which has been with me over 50 years and is my guide to life, but somehow it is missing. I am trying to be Stoic about its peculiar disappearance, but if it isn’t found soon I will need to replace it for sure, though I hope that won’t be necessary. I am such a proud ma-in-law today but conscious that given the circumstances of our lives, I doubt that we’ll ever sit down and discuss these ideas.

Wow number two: I watched the beginning of the ‘Parliamentary Inquiry into Allegations of Impropriety Against Agents of the Hills Shire Council and Property Developers in the Region’ and what a beginning it was. Businessman Frits Mare told the inquiry that he was approached by Jean-Claude Perrottet, along with Christian Ellis, son of a Hills Shire Councillor, and asked for a $50,000 contribution to help unseat Alex Hawke. All happy Liberals here, but from different factions. The fact that both Perrottets and both Ellises are in hiding, with a hope of dodging the summonses, is enough to suggest that there is truth in at least some of the allegations. The fact that accused developer Jean Nassif is hiding in ‘a remote part of Lebanon’ is no coincidence. Here’s hoping that the inquiry is able to flush some of this scum out of the Hills altogether. For reasons that escape me the papers haven’t featured this evidence, at least so far.

Just had John’s appointment with the lymphoma specialist via telehealth, and oh that is so much easier. His blood tests and lack of symptoms indicate that he’s still in remission, unlike his regular doctor Nada whose long Covid persists. Her replacement may have been a 15 year old on work experience judging by her looks, but she was absolutely delightful and very professional. Great to get his check-ups over before mine begin.

February 16, 2023

Finally got on to Julie, the patient advocate at RNSH, and wow was she good! I explained about the problem with getting John’s X-rays from the dental people and she asked me to hang on while she rang the clinical director of the department. I thought she was just going in to bat for the X-rays but she came back quickly to say that this ‘series of treatment’ will be completed at RNS and can we make his next appointment now? So it’s not just getting the tooth out, it is the fillings she recommended as well. It’s not what you know but who you know and I’m so glad to know Julie now. The only downside is that that dentist is part time and only works on days when John is at care, but we’ll just have to apologise for that to the day care people.

Had lunch with Carol which was delightful as always, a great escape from the varied  restrictions on both our lives. I came home feeling much lighter and unencumbered by the usual stresses. Missed Michelle Byrne at the Hills Inquiry but will be able to catch up with it once the transcript is published in a day or two. The committee has cleverly adjourned to February 23, two days after the next Hills council meeting which the missing councillor Ellis is due to attend, so she either has to come out of hiding or miss both events. Rats, I’m seeing the surgeon that day so the transcript will have to do, however the masochist in me likes to watch and it is so much easier to tell truth from lies if you are eye-balling the person.

Millie’s birthday this year is at some sort of kids function place and the family party is the following day so I am freed from the full fondant decorated cake and I think I’ll do a carrot hummingbird one, with cream cheese icing. Much easier and less fraught. I have loved doing the heavily decorated cakes each year but I do find it nerve-racking in advance wondering how it will turn out.

February 17, 2023

Sue called in unexpectedly while John was off with Greg, his usual Wednesday outing being delayed due to medical stuff. I was having a painting day as somehow whatever I paint at class is awful so I redo it in peace at home, after which it is a bit less awful. I find the environment at class rushed and a bit stressful but maybe that’s just me as everyone else seems to cope with it. Oddly I’ve been deluged with offers of painting classes on Facebook, all watercolour, some online and some in person, which is very, very weird as I’ve never accessed anything like that online. Yesterday I had a dozen posts in the first few minutes of checking my page.

Briefly: 1. President Biden looks to me like someone with incipient Parkinson’s. 2. Perrottet will lose the election. 3. Charlie Teo was saying something often said by doctors: that ‘a brain tumour is the best fucking way to die’ (perhaps they say it without the cursing, but still). Brain tumour patients often tend to sleep themselves away and this comment can’t be regarded as an unusual one, I’ve certainly heard it before. Let’s stick to the warranted criticisms and not resort to sillyness. 4. I’m sick and tired of people falling over themselves to insist that we are at imminent risk of invasion by China. I feel as if I’m back in time, just replacing whoever we were hating last time with the new enemy, enough. 5. Do NOT offer to buy a friend or relative a balloon ride when they are visiting the US.

So Biden has said that the intelligence community’s current assessment is that the three objects recently shot down were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.” Now I suppose the government will need to reimburse the owners of these perfectly innocent airborne items, at least they should be paying considering they were nothing threatening or even unusual. It’s just part of the current China hysteria, shall we discuss how many countries China has invaded in the last 50 years compared to the US? That question always shuts down the debate doesn’t it. It won’t surprise me at all if yum cha restaurants become frowned on pretty soon if this madness continues. Stock up on five spice and oyster sauce people and have a covert meal at home.

February 18, 2023

Last night I finished reading Elliot Perlman’s The Street Sweeper, a book where I decided to forgive the coincidences that occur in order to just wallow in the narrative. It dives deep into both the Holocaust and the injustices of America’s treatment of its black population, bringing together both of these major stories of the 20th century. These two heinous episodes were major influences on my youthful understanding of racism and injustice and the dangers of both in a population, particularly when combined with sympathetic political regimes. Perlman lays out the intergenerational effects of both, in a 544 page epic that won’t be easily forgotten. I am committed to newspapers tonight as I can’t imagine starting something else until it has stopped washing over me.

It seems that the missing Perrottets are in deep cover, but surely someone knows where they are and can make a surreptitious phone call. I can’t believe there would be many people who would countenance their behaviour so where are the curtain-twitchers, snoops and informers when you need them? Paparazzi do your thing! I penned a line to the SMH on the matter: “May I suggest a solution to the problem of the mislaid Perrottets? Their brother the Premier could pretend that there is a serious health issue with someone in the family and ring his brothers. When they answer he could inform them of the subpoenas outstanding for their attendance at the Hills Council Inquiry and at the same time ask why they have ceased reading newspapers, watching television and listening to the radio. Because surely they must be completely oblivious to the proceedings.” No publication, but half the fun is in the writing.

Today is one of those days when I can justify being indoors quite easily, 38 degrees outside but I don’t have to consider what time it would be reasonable to start the aircon as John is a master of the handset these days, sneakily turning it on and lowering my usual temperature until I suddenly realise that the thing is pushing out arctic air, then I just as sneakily turn it up, if not off. Apart from doing some watering early I have devoted time today to clearing the decks, my desk, dressing table, vanity etc, dealing with all the things I was gunna attend to when I got time, that time is now. Too hot for baking so that’s out, therefore I will get to the papers earlier rather than later. Life’s good.

February 19, 2023

Unfortunately the manager of the new care home that Kenneth is in is a far cry from the last super helpful one. In reply to the email I sent each of them months apart, the first offered to take him in to her office so I could ring him on their landline. This one replied: ‘We have checked your brothers mobile phone, which is fine and working, may I suggest you keep ringing it as the signal is quite bad at the moment’. I have done as she suggested but he hasn’t picked up once. I think it’s too complicated now for him to ring me with all of the codes required to get out of Britain. His friend tells me that he is complaining that I am not ringing him. She also told me that he gets very confused, for example he rang her upset that he’d lost his phone, yet he was ringing her on it. Managing dementia face to face is difficult, managing communications problems due to dementia from 17,000 km away is just about impossible without help at the other end. I have no solution, emails to his daughter remain unanswered.

It seems that stories about the capability of American spy satellites are coming to me unasked for. After reading that in the 60s and 70s they were capable of identifying a number plate in Northern Ireland when Britain was opposing the IRA, I have now come across a story about US spy satellites identifying a biological leak from a bioweapons facility in Russia in 1979 after spotting road closures around the plant. Then Martha told me that when she was growing up it was reported that the Americans could read a newspaper being held by a person in Moscow. All of this makes a mockery of the whole spy balloon business, if the US has that capability then you can bet your sweet bippy that the Chinese and Russian have it too.

Raina MacIntyre’s new book Dark Winter is fascinating and not all about Covid as I had expected it to be. She discusses advances in genetic engineering, past deliberate and accidental releases of viruses, bacteria and toxins from various countries including a 1950 event where a biological aerosol spray of bacteria was silently pumped from a ship in San Francisco Bay, untold people were infected and one died. It was the son of the man who died who persisted with a lawsuit that took 27 years to prove that his father’s death was caused by Operation Sea Spray, a US Navy biological warfare experiment. They had released enough bacteria to infect the entire population of San Francisco as well as cities and towns beyond. Similar events occurred in the UK. The conspiracy theorists actually get it right sometimes.

February 20, 2023

Interesting that John is happy with the temperature in the house on a hot day then at about 8 pm each night he complains about being hot and puts the cooler on. I wondered if it were night sweats, but his temperature has been normal each time I have checked it. Perhaps it’s digestion related after dinner, I’m not sure but it’s as regular as clockwork. He has finally decided to stop drinking the ghastly Bambu that replaces tea for him after I contacted the distributor and there isn’t a single place in the area that sells the stuff. Now I might get some of the packets of herbal teas used up as no visitor ever wants one. Still can’t believe that a book I read recently was recorded on Goodreads as having been read in 2020, I had written a review then but I had completely forgotten about it till I wrote a second one, at least the scores and comments coincided. No comments about John’s memory for a while I think.

Finally got to book for the Eco Dyeing Course at Hawkesbury Regional Gallery in March as Jane has said she will take John for the day. I like the fact that all materials are included, especially after I have invested in so much stuff for the painting classes which I may or may not continue. I have done the next steps in the landscape that we started last week but I’m still not happy with it. I’ve already redone it once so it will have to stay as is now, too much else happening this week to be bothered with it. Got to get back to Raina’s book, I may have to buy a copy to indulge my itchy underlining finger. There’s certainly lots that I want to remember.

February 21, 2023

I took a shopping list of queries to Bob regarding John’s preparation for the dental treatment and he’s now faxed reports to the dentist so I can tick that off. Talked about getting the fifth vaccination, which John has already had due to his medical conditions, and it’s up to me whether to go with Moderna or Pfizer, so that’s another job to do, looking into both and making a decision. For someone pretty well I spend a hell of a lot of time making medical decisions lately, though most are not my own.

I’m thinking of penning a note to John’s amazing orthopaedic surgeon Andrew Ellis whom we no longer see. This has bubbled away in my mind ever since John started telling people that his knee was replaced over 50 years ago when he had his bike accident, when of course the second and hopefully last op was in 2019 and the first about 2017. It pains me to hear him tell that story as Andrew was so awesome and, although I wouldn’t let him know that John has completely forgotten him, I would feel better knowing he’d got a blast from the past communication from a thankful patient.

So back to Raina. In September 2019 she wrote a paper about one of only two labs in the world that house smallpox virus, one being the CDC in Atlanta and the other the Vector Institute in Siberia. Of course both house samples of many other dangerous bacteria and viruses as well. There had been an explosion that September (presumably noted by the spy satellites) in which all of the glass in the 6-storey Vector building was blown out by a huge explosion. Both the Russians and the US downplayed the incident saying that any viruses released would have been destroyed in the ensuing fire. Raina disbelieved this and consulted engineers who said that the shock waves carrying the virus and bacteria samples would have been propelled well in front of the flame. In the paper published in a Global Biosecurity editorial she stated that diseases may take several months to be detected and advised Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan to monitor closely for serious emerging epidemics for the next three months (that is till the end of December 2019). We all know what happened during that period. She is not saying that this is any more than coincidence, but what an interesting coincidence in any event. She was howled down for even mentioning this as a possibility. Trying to avoid buying this book, but it’s only the lack of a local bookshop that’s holding me back at the moment.

February 22, 2023

I spoke too soon about ticking off the dental stuff. Bob rang last night and said it would be better if John didn’t have an extraction if there is an alternative. I didn’t ask why as I was a bit taken aback, but I’m assuming it’s the infection risk after two previous bouts of septicaemia. Of course I couldn’t sleep and feel like a soggy doormat this morning (I know that doesn’t make much sense but the words came unbidden). So do I contact the dentist by phone or email asking if there’s an alternative? Do I go back to Bob for elucidation? I don’t know.

Nearly a month after emailing my niece in England for details on my brother and getting no reply, I went through the whole search procedure again, turning him up this time in a home near Bradford. He isn’t answering his mobile so I emailed the home and asked if I could ring him on their landline at an agreed time, but they replied that ‘there is nothing wrong with his phone’. Still no answer on the mobile so I emailed again and asked them if they could help him to dial my number, something that could be difficult for him now. Reply: they have spoken to Tanya who will ring me. No call, but an email from her this morning to say that he’s been back in hospital with bladder problems and has now returned to the home. But this circuitous route to get a simple reply to my emails to Tanya is ridiculous and I still haven’t spoken to Kenneth. It is very interesting though that we both have ongoing bladder problems and also brain issues in relation to movement, his being Meniere’s Disease which the neurologist told me is closely linked to what I have. In the old Nature versus Nurture argument I see so much that comes down on the side of Nature. The way things are going I am expecting not to hear anything until he dies and I just don’t know how long I can keep playing nice. Is it fear of a claim on his estate? What have I ever done to raise that as a possibility though? Jealousy maybe? That’s not unknown. I need an advocate in England but have no idea how to organise that. I know he wants to hear from me regularly, something he voices vigorously when I manage to speak to him.

I had plenty of time last night to think, probably unfortunately. The world seems to me to have got to its peak and is now tipping over to a big slide down the other side. Consider overpopulation, climate change, pollution, widespread hunger, war, species extinction and the rise of Fascism in many places. Now for the up side, well there’s incredible scientific advances, particularly in medicine with CRISPR technology for gene editing which will lead to cures of genetic diseases, but these advances will be limited to the wealthy countries and can also be used negatively in eugenic type experiments or to artificially create desired traits in a population. So it’s not a clear benefit. Huge leaps in information technology are also in the positive/negative basket depending on use so I am struggling here in trying to find outright positives. The fact that a country can justify war over any issue at all in the current state of the world is mind-boggling to me. We are talking our way into a war with China which might just be the end of everything. So the best I can hope for at this point is that the downhill slide will be slower than I’m thinking and that our grandchildren get some sort of life before the roller-coaster picks up speed. I’m afraid our great-grandchildren are screwed whichever way I look at it though. So unbearably sad.

February 23, 2023

Today the gods shined on me in a few ways. It was fine when I left to go to the hospital so I took no jacket or umbrella, then it teamed all the way down the M2 to the city where I got a close park, and thankfully no sign of rain. As soon as I got inside the hospital it poured again until I came out by which time it had fined up. So the joy of rain but not any of its inconvenience. But most importantly Alan the surgeon said I will live the six months till the next appointment. So good news all round.

This morning Bob rang again about the dentist issue, sounding even more reluctant for John to proceed with it. We’ve decided that if it boils down to just a cosmetic issue he will say no (or more to the point I will) and the dentist needs to show some clinical reason for an extraction that is problematic enough to risk an infection. Bob pointed out that John’s had septicaemia from a much less invasive procedure in the past. I said ‘we have to go for safety in the end Bob’ and his reply was ‘yes, and it could be the end if it goes wrong’. That pretty well made the case.

I have been trawling the net for a second hand copy of Dark Winter and of course it’s too soon after publication to get one, but Big W of all places has copies for $24, so I can’t argue with that and bought one, big spender that I am. I planned to do a cake for book group this arv but have come home to a blackout, so I think it will have to wait till the morning, giving me an excuse to finish the picture I’m working on. Somehow I still need excuses to do things that are not ‘work’.

Thinking about the rise of Fascism in many places I went back to reread a well-known assessment of Hitler: His primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never concede that there might be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it. Hitler touched on these principles in Mein Kampf, a book that almost got me thrown off a bus from Parramatta to my work in Castle Hill in the early 1970s. A very aggressive man asked the driver to put me off but I accepted the compromise of putting the book in my bag for the duration of the journey, though even then I was roundly hissed when I alighted. But back to the assessment: I was amazed at how Trumpian it all sounded, I would suggest that he’d read Hitler’s book except it was widely reported that he simply doesn’t read. The line never concede that there might be some good in your enemy is an interesting one and always something that we need to watch out for personally. It has come to the fore recently in discussions about Charlie Teo for example, it’s easy to be ‘for im or agin im’, but harder to tease out the faults from the virtues. An important strategy used to soften people up for an impending invasion or war is covered by concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong. Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan anyone? In fact the recent rhetoric regarding China involves good examples of both of the last two propositions. But I won’t go any further on the China issue right now as I don’t want to spoil the good run that the gods have provided today.

February 24, 2023

There are some wonderful spoofs on Facebook on the subject of the missing Perrottets and Ellises, the best being a take on the famous parrot scene from Fawlty Towers where the shopkeeper is looking into the cage held by John Cleese and saying: ‘No sir, they are definitely not dead. What would seem to be the case is that your Perrottets are simply missing.’ Classic. Another shows Jean-Claude dressed in drag as a participant in the World Pride March, an excellent disguise I would think. I joined the fun and added a piece to the mix. Perhaps they all (coincidentally of course) developed a longing to return to lockdown and those simpler days when one’s choices were limited and we led uncomplicated lives.

Book group was fun and very welcome after such a long break. Our numbers are shrinking slightly but that’s not surprising considering our ages and the various situations of our lives. It was good to have Sue here for the afternoon and overnight, before she goes to Kirribilli to check on the work the painter has been doing this week. She’s left colour decisions up to him as those details aren’t of much interest to her, but I’ll bet it will be various shades of white which has been all the goes for many years now. I wonder what Dulux colour consultants do these days? Not a lot I suspect. The only downside of the day was that John’s precious diary has gone missing. He consults it many times a day to know what we are doing and I have no idea what could have happened to it. As I was doing his checklist before leaving we went through hat, glasses, water bottle, coloured pencils and paper. He waved the diary at me saying I’ve put the paper in here and I almost said that I don’t think it’s a good idea to take the diary out of the house, but thought better of it. When we got to Carol’s the diary wasn’t with him and when we got home it wasn’t here either, a complete mystery. The evening was spent disposing of a very good shiraz.

February 25, 2023

Sue brought with her some tomatoes, eggplants and a pumpkin from the farm, as well as the heaviest watermelon I have ever picked up. It was a round one, not terribly large , but it weighed more than my scales were happy with, so I knew it was over 5 kg. After cutting it I weighed the pieces and it was nearly 8 kg, so at $2.99 a kg that makes it a $24 melon. I insisted that she take some, or most, of it to give her daughter as we would never get through it. I hope she is happy at Kirribilli after I went in to bat for it so strongly against the alternative of Marrickville. I’m really looking forward to seeing the unit after the carpet layers are done. Funny that she’ll just be a short walk from the ‘lady’ who ripped her and the hospital off to the tune of $5000 for a painting never delivered.

Carly arrived late morning after a flight from Canberra. I always half expect a plane crash and hate knowing that anyone I love is in the air. Yes I know the statistics but that doesn’t ease the anxiety. I loved getting the rundown on her meeting this week with one of our political icons and she was excited to tell me how sharp and intelligent the person was at a private level, just as we’d guessed would be the case. Yesterday I did a cake for book group that did all the right things but today I failed to repeat the performance doing one for Millie’s party tomorrow. It is a hummingbird cake and I had put it back in the oven a couple of times before deciding that the moisture on the skewer must be either pineapple or banana and, afraid of drying it out, I took it out of the oven looking perfectly level with the top of the tin. Sad to say it proceeded to sink in the middle so I misjudged that it was cooked. Now it’s either fill the hole, cut it down in height or take a circle out of the middle and make it a ring cake. As it is going to have cream cheese frosting, the latter seems the best choice.

Still no communication from the niece who promised to call me in a conversation with my brother’s care home manager. I keep saying ‘no more Mr. Nice Guy’ but then I keep being nice, just in case my displeasure gives her an excuse to cut me out. However I adopted that tactic with some of John’s family for years and it didn’t do us any good at all.

February 26, 2023

Managed to salvage the cake by cutting out the centre and making it look as if it were cooked in a ring tin, iced with cream cheese frosting it looked the goods. Louis’s mum Sue and nephew Beau were down from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for Millie’s 7th birthday party and we also welcomed old friends Ryan and Terry and Beth and Andre with their son Elliot. Unfortunately John couldn’t remember any of them and kept asking me ‘who is the lady in the black dress?’ (Louis’s mum whom he’s met many times over 16 years) and despite my answering that question repeatedly he was none the wiser when we got home. He couldn’t keep up with the fast moving conversation and it was obvious that he felt out of it so sadly we were the first to leave. I left a present for Louis, a book from 1940 with the complete extant works of the four Stoic philosophers on which he based his recent talk at a conference.

For some weird reason I was feeling exhausted when we got home and, strangely for me, not at all hungry despite only eating one piece of cake at the party, though that won’t do me any harm.

February 27, 2023

Despite being very tired I couldn’t sleep for more than half hour stretches last night but luckily we had no plans for the morning. Sold a German cut throat razor on eBay and got that posted, hopefully solving the recurring dream from last night that I’d forgotten to do so. I’m wondering if I have sleep apnoea as I am sleeping so badly but don’t want to go through the testing procedure as it would mean finding someone to mind John all night.

We met up with his old neighbour at Lane Cove and that went well. We were to meet outdoors at 1.30 but when she hadn’t turned up by 2pm I texted her and luckily she was in town but had mixed the time or the date or something. However we had afternoon tea at Cake Time and all went well after that. I took the opportunity to peruse the Lifeline store which is a cut above most of them in quality. I eyed off a Stella McCartney coat without initially knowing who designed it, just that it was stylish, but resisted the temptation. There were lots of cookbooks there, all in mint condition: Heston, Damien Pignolet, Gary Mehigan, Curtis Stone and many more. I got books by the latter two, for the vast expense of $5 and $8, but resisted all else. On the way home there was an almighty traffic jam for a long way till we came to Beecroft tunnel where a bus, a couple of tradie’s vans and a car had had an end to end pile-up, quite seriously damaging all of them. I’ve been wondering how the passengers got out but I suppose the police would have stopped traffic for them when a replacement bus arrived.

Just had a knock at the door and it was a man returning John’s diary! He lost it last Friday and I have been saying that the only possibility could be that he had put it on the car roof, so I’ve driven slowly along our route but failed to see it. Huge relief to know what actually happened and to get it back as it holds all his contact information as well as forward appointments.

I realise I hadn’t commented on Mardi Gras. It was great to have it back on Oxford St and I did love many of the participants, excepting Look at Me Thorpe who becomes more annoying all the time. However I did miss the edgy political floats of years ago and some of the over the top costumes which were in short supply. I guess that many of those grand costumiers are dead and gone now. Great to see Dawn marching as a 78er, all in all a great night, even if only vicariously via tv.

February 28, 2023

Luckily it is the start of 3 days when John is taken care of. I can’t eat so I’m living on milk. Pretty wobbly and very tired so I’ve spent the day in bed. Not sure what’s going on but I’m sick of it now. Debating whether to text Bob or assume it will resolve.

March 1, 2023

Texted Bob and he came at 7.30 this morning. Says I have a kidney infection and wanted to put me in hospital for IV antibiotics. I did a deal that we’ll try drugs by mouth for a couple of days and see how we go and if that fails I’ll have to go to hospital. Greg, John’s carer, drove up to Baulko and got the drugs so I’m on them already.

March 2, 2023

Poleaxed. No food since Monday, except milk.

March 3, 2023

Well I’m out of bed and camping on the lounge on the back verandah pain free. John looked surprised when I refused breakfast, he seems to have little or no recollection that I’m sick. His comment on Tuesday was that it was nice Bob had come to see him. I think his main concern is that the standards at this hotel have slipped dramatically. It’s so different to the way he used to be, and I know he can’t help it, but it hurts just the same.

March 4, 2023

I am back at the computer briefly and also able to read now, both massive improvements. Although it’s strange, I’m not concerned about the no food thing, but happy to accept the eight pounds I’ve lost so far and any more to come. It’s currently a mystery to me how I could ever have been so focussed on food and sweet stuff in particular. I had a recipe book open on the coffee table with a meal I had been planning and I was happy to fold it up and not to have to see the pictures. But I guess eventually I will be having daydreams about Dolcettini and KOI, I just can’t imagine it right now.

The Monthly arrived in the post yesterday and is the best issue I can remember. Cover story by my fave Rick Morton is worth the sub on its own, then a surprise article by Elliot Perlman reprising his marvellous book 3 Dollars, published 25 years ago. Good timing as I’ve not long finished his great novel The Streetsweeper. Then on top of all that comes a lengthy story on author John Hughes and his long career as a plagiarist. All of his excuses are gone into, but none of them washed with me. I could be a great author too if I copied great swatches of The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina and All Quiet on the Western Front and so many, many more wonderful novels. My question is how he got away with it for so long? Surely agents and publishers are well read people? A mystery.

I watched the news last night and unfortunately saw a promo of Annabel Crabb’s new show Back in Time for the Corner Shop. God I’d hoped I’d never again see that ghastly overacting, lay-it-on-with-a-trowel woman that they use for these shows, but we’ll be deluged with promos of her and her family for weeks now. Any audition person would ring the bell at the first utterance, but apparently the ABC finds her appealing. Hit the mute button and shut your eyes, all things must pass. Until someone rings me to ask if I’m watching it…..

If anyone dreams of burying me in a lime green coffin remotely like the one used today for the chap shot outside the gym in Sefton, be warned. You will be found, you will be haunted, it really isn’t worth the risk.

March 5, 2023

Highlights today: Watching Insiders and enjoying it (apart from the ghastly Angus), being able to drive up to Baulko to pick up a massive bag of medications for John and then Dav and family coming in the afternoon armed with a pile of bananas, oranges and a bowl of stewed apple. I had asked for two bananas and two oranges but got 8 bananas and six oranges, loaves and fishes. We sat on the back deck and chewed the fat, metaphorically only! The drive was fine for that short distance but it convinced me that taking John to St. V’s tomorrow for his treatment is definitely off, I was going to make a decision in the morning. I’ll ring them to postpone but they won’t be happy, as it will be an 8 am cancellation of an 11 am appointment, but better than wiping out some poor soul on the way. I wonder how John would get this treatment if he were in aged care? I suspect he just wouldn’t as I can’t see them organising a driver once a month. Perhaps that’s why people often go downhill fast in a home, because their treatments and specialists’ appointments end and they get treated by the visiting GP. Also cancelled the replacement art class that they were letting me attend tomorrow night, we’ll see if they offer another alternative or if I just miss the boat for that one. Pity if so as I’ve done the sky and background for a picture of the Swiss Alps at dawn or dusk but I have no idea what to do next.

Stewed apple for dinner and life’s good.

March 6, 2023

Last night I had a call from Michelle telling me in part that she was sorting out her jewellery and deciding who she should leave it to, with a view to writing her will. This reminded me that I was also involved in a pre mortem clearance, with my jewellery sales at auction coming to fruition yesterday. Goodness knows when I would have checked the result otherwise, as it was not in my mind. I went online and discovered that to my surprise all six of the pieces had sold. I was very happy with the results, particularly the Georg Jensen bracelet which went for four times the reserve! I hope that the new owner gets as much enjoyment from it as I’ve had. So now I will send another tranche, after first checking if there’s anything that my girls want, though our jewellery tastes are fairly different.

It was planned today that John go to St. V’s for his treatment but it was clear this morning that driving to the city was far beyond my capabilities but they are unusually busy at the moment so he must wait till next Monday, which is probably a good thing from my point of view. Mid-morning I got a phone call from someone saying ‘I’ve got a flower for you’. I repeatedly asked for his identity, thinking it a scam, but all I got was ‘I’ve got a flower for you’. He asked if I were at home as he was outside and then the penny dropped that it was a florists’ delivery driver. Going outside I saw a van parked in next door’s driveway and soon saw the driver with a huge bunch of flowers from Carly which he had been trying to deliver next door! Two strokes of luck there, one that it could have been on my neighbour’s porch all day in 38 degree heat and barring his address mistake that if we’d gone to St. Vs it may very well have been left on mine. The bunch is so sizeable that I didn’t have a vase big enough, but they look wonderful in an antique wash jug.

March 7, 2023

I have managed to dip in and out of the Robodebt Royal Commission live feed and I’ve decided that if brain transplants become possible in my lifetime I will opt for the one currently owned by Commissioner Catherine Holmes, thanks very much. She misses nothing, she’s deadpan in a way I could never be, she’s just bonza. I think if Stuart Robert called her ma’am one more time she may have leapt the bench and pulled his throat out, but then she’s so cool that I can’t be sure. Today Kathryn Campbell, former secretary and one of the founders of the scheme, was brittle and rigid, clearly wanting to be anywhere else in the world. After Robodebt collapsed in a fireball she was moved to Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, despite a complete lack of experience in the field, reportedly as a reward for her support of Morrison and the programme. Thankfully for this family she no longer resides there. It is pretty obvious where Holmes’ axe is going to fall and it is amongst particular politicians and public servants who are now being recalled for second or even third appearances. One of those who hasn’t appeared at all, Malisa Golightly, died at an early age from unknown causes some time after Robodebt had been found to be illegal. I’m not sure how Holmes will handle that tricky one but I trust it will be totally appropriately. Perhaps Morrison, followed by Robert and Tudge, were the most slippery of witnesses, but Rachelle Miller was irksome and downright nasty, with no apparent understanding (nor care) of how her actions had affected victims. She was responsible for digging dirt files on any person who spoke negatively to the Press about Robodebt and she was totally unapologetic for that action, or any other. I would like to have the 65 cents I contributed to her settlement (basically for having an affair with her sleazy boss) returned post haste. Robert helpfully pointed out that if a person was on benefits for 11 months and earned $1 million in the 12th month (not a totally impossible scenario) the programme would have shown that they earned $83,333 per week and were scamming the government. I don’t think this is more than high school maths, yet no-one in the department or the various ministers’ offices considered that the idea of income averaging simply couldn’t be reliable. It is apparent that they are not all stupid, so the only explanation is that they knew but just didn’t care.

March 8, 2023

I was totally disgusted by the war-mongering story on the front page yesterday, unsurprisingly authored by the China hawk Peter Hartcher. There are a lot of issues I would like to take up over Chinese actions, but I am hamstrung defending them for those things they are accused of but haven’t done. I penned a letter to the SMH  as follows:

Dear Editor,I often tell people of the TV ads that the government ran trying to bolster support for the war in Vietnam. They showed troops of Chinese soldiers carrying rifles, marching south across the Harbour Bridge. Though laughable at one level, they were in fact a cynical attempt to terrify the populace into supporting a war which we should have refused point blank to join. I didn’t think that decades later this tactic would be repeated on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald.

It followed a previous letter a few weeks back which listed the countries China has invaded in the past 50 years compared to the same list for the USA, apologising for taking up so much of the Letters page with the latter list. I feel as I did prior to the Vietnam and Iraq invasions and I suspect our voices will similarly be ignored. America lives on having enemies and has a misplaced and inflated self-belief which clouds all judgments. Usually they attack people over whom they can ultimately prevail, despite the ruination of the country concerned. This time they are biting off a much bigger mouthful than they can safely swallow.

Saw Bob this morning and told him that if I could have the current zero pain, zero discomfort and zero loss of control for the rest of my life I would be a very happy camper. But I have finished the antibiotics now and we can only wait and see, I accidentally typed ‘wait and wee’ which is possibly more accurate. He can’t the drug as an ongoing medication in case we lose this last line of defence. We should know in a week if it’s going to hold, toes crossed. But on the exhaustion and eating front there is only minimal improvement, strangely I only want fruit or fish, so it’s fruit for breakfast and lunch and a tiny portion of fish for dinner, but there’s plenty of food in the freezer for John.

Over the last months I have been interested in the trial of Alex Murdaugh, the wealthy scion of a North Carolina legal family for the murder of his wife and son. To see his conviction taking the jury only three hours was surprising. The judge’s remarks were memorable: that he had had to remove the portrait of the accused’s great-grandfather from the court in the interests of justice as his family had dominated the court for generations as prosecutors and judges. It was also a black judge sitting over a very famous white man and the profound message in that must have been obvious to everyone. But perhaps it was his final word that were most disquieting: “I sit here in this courtroom and look around at the many portraits of judges and reflect on the fact that over the past century your family, including you, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom and many have received a death penalty for lesser conduct.”

March 9, 2023

Well Andrew Wilkie has come out with serious accusations against Hillsong under parliamentary privilege, and none too soon. He said: “I am shocked that when (the documents were) offered to the ATO, ASIC and ACNC last year, under whistleblower legislation, not one of those agencies acted. And that is a failure of regulatory oversight every bit as alarming as Hillsong’s criminality.” Hear, hear to that. I interviewed Wilkie at his Sydney home (was it in Waverley? somewhere over there anyway) for a Sydney public radio station many, many years ago and found him forthright and honest. It was in relation to the false US intelligence reports coming out of Iraq. He commented at the end that it was a very good interview, though I’m sure he says that to everyone as he’s a nice man, but I had his mobile in my phone for years after and perhaps I still do. He would be my go-to guy if I stumbled on any sort of serious malfeasance that could be exposed in parliament. Hillsong’s business model was explained to me years ago by an ex-member. They pay huge honoraria to their overseas pastors, along with business class travel to Australia and luxury accommodation, and then the overseas pastors give the Houstons similar gigs with similar conditions in their countries. Accommodation vacancies currently exist in Long Bay, Silverwater and Parklea I understand, transport included.

I have spent the whole day doing Sweet Fanny Adams, watching the Robodebt Royal Commission and seeing Mr. Greggery ever so politely pull the ex-Ombudsman into small pieces, reading a couple more articles in The Monthly, wanting to paint but the effort of setting up the paper and brushes seemed too difficult and finally sitting on the front verandah just waiting for John to come home. Bob, Kristy and others think it wise that I take a break and give John a week in respite. Apparently it’s a matter of ringing around one’s chosen facilities and discussing their rules and regs and more crucially, their availability. So on Monday I rang ARV, the place I have most knowledge of, and asked for assistance. I was assured that I would get a call by Wednesday morning, but despite ringing again I’ve heard nothing. (I’m glad I didn’t say yes to hospital and have to do this from the back of an ambulance!) This was why I ruled them out as home care providers, their appallingly lax administration. So this arv I tried again, this time with Baptist Care’s Gracewood at Kellyville, recommended by Tania, who is in the know about such things. They rang back in five minutes and were helpful: yes to private rooms, yes to ensuites, yes to an accessible garden, but they require a minimum of a three week stay. Too long I think, and I’m not prepared to pull him out early as they will charge for that time and as he only has approval for 61 days a year in total I don’t want to waste virtually half of it. So we begin again. Perhaps the gods are thinking that by the time I sort it out I will be well enough not to need it? They have a sense of humour those gods.

March 10, 2023

Today Jane and Boris offered to take John for a drive in the afternoon, so I took the opportunity to use the family Christmas gift of a massage. Because the local Endota Spa is in the dreaded Castle Towers, I had planned to find one in a main street setting, in Balmain for example, but that’s not an option today so the Towers it is. I must admit that once inside one could be anywhere. Rooms are labelled with names such as Believe and Breathe (I don’t need to be reminded, but thankyou for the tip) so it’s very New Age and not really my scene. But the girl was nice enough in a totally impersonal way and explained that after the massage she would advise me on ‘products’. Not wanting her to get excited about this idea, I mentioned that I had no need of products so that was unnecessary. The massage was very relaxing and when I commented on the lovely scent of the oil (ylang ylang and patchouli) I was reminded that I could purchase some as either oil or as a room infuser, so I decided to cease all comment from then on. On leaving I was approached at the desk with ‘I know you said that you weren’t interested in products but these three are highly recommended based on my experience of your skin’. A shake of the head was enough I thought, but then ‘would you like to book your next appointment while you’re here?’. No thankyou and I am off into the melee of the Towers, deleting their survey from my email when I got home. This pleasant afternoon completely buggered me and I was in bed and asleep by 8 pm, but very pleased that John reported a lovely visit to the Botanical Gardens and came home a happy chappy.

John’s carer Greg was off this week (was it a colonoscopy?) so he was replaced by a lovely Indian lady from South Africa. It was only when they came back that she divulged that this was her very first solo caring appointment, having been trained by Wendy’s but previously working with a buddy. She’s actually an accountant. They got on well and it’s good to add another familiar person to the list of possibilities for the future. It’s slightly worrying that Greg is now not working next week either so there’s concern that he’s had a negative result. We have no personal contact number as part of company policy so I could only send a message to him via the office but I really hope he’s okay. Next week I need to take John to appointments previously cancelled so every day is taken, either by those or by home  carers or day care. I know how lucky I am to have these options and even though the government’s intent is to keep him out of care for financial reasons, they’ve done a good job of setting up the alternatives.

Sadly the same can’t be said for the Robodebt scheme. It is patently clear that the planning was deliberately cruel and punitive and intended to punish those who were relying on Centrelink benefits. I watched the very end of the Royal Commission yesterday with an appearance by the mother of a boy who suicided hours after receiving two notices, one that he owed $2000 because his income and benefits didn’t tally and another to say that his Newstart Allowance was cancelled because of said debt. After he died his mother got a letter to say that his debt had been recalculated to a little over $1000, for no apparent reason, but also saying that it would be wiped due to his death making it ‘uneconomic to pursue debt recovery’. Who sends such a letter to a grieving mother? I hope once the Hillsong crew go to some ‘correctional facility’ there is still room left for Morrison, Tudge, Robert et al. They can all pray together and speak in tongues, just as they did at the Commission. Catherine Holmes was in good form at the end, when her lackey announced that ‘the Commission is now adjourned’ she snapped ‘no its not, it’s ended’. Ouch.

March 11, 2023

Up early to get the respite emails written and out of my hair for the weekend. With ARV I gave a blow by blow account of my attempts to connect, not exactly complaining but asking for email answers to my six questions as I’ve been unable to speak to a person. Then, in case I need to go with Gracewood, I sent them all the documents they had asked for. I am wondering if they want these details to weed out anyone who looks as if they might cause a bit of work for the staff. I don’t know, but I won’t hear from either till Monday so that is somewhat of a relief in that I can safely leave my phone in another room without panicking about missed calls. Heather rang this morning and I asked her about the Brethren home. She said that they had received so much bad Press that they opened it at much the same time they were bringing across hay from WA to help drought-stricken farmers. It was all over the news at the time but apparently it was almost all going to Brethren farmers. She surprised me by saying that she wouldn’t get involved with them, this from someone who spent her first 20 years or so in that faith, it was the religion of her parents and grandparents. We went up to the shops briefly and ran into John’s pal from day care, Logan. I always wave to him when I’m seeing John off as he sits right behind the driver. His wife was with him and I’ve decided to have them round soon for a cuppa as it would be good for John to bolster that friendship. He is back to his old self now that I’m doing the things I normally do around the house, even though that’s precious little as yet. The papers are getting well read though.

I painted a card this afternoon of a beach scene and it was pretty crap so I’m glad I didn’t attempt to finish the Alps picture for which the teacher has sent instructions. I missed two classes but made sure that the owner of the school knew exactly what was happening, however Krista said she had no idea why I didn’t turn up and whether I was coming back. Surely this is not such a massive operation that two messages can’t be passed on? Back in my day…. well I guess in my day with no email and no phone in our house there weren’t any messages passed on so I’d better shut up.

March 12, 2023

John has just packed up the 1000 piece jigsaw that I bought him recently. It had become obvious that I was the only one who was doing a bit and he now says it’s too much for him. Was worth a try though. He must get so sick of playing patience and colouring. Even the papers are too much now, though he looks at the headlines. Yesterday he unusually looked at the deaths and commented that there was a Peter Downie there, the name of a close friend. I told him that I think we would have heard if it were our Peter but he wasn’t convinced, so I asked if it listed the man’s wife’s name. Yes, Rosalie, he said questioningly. Well if it’s not Dawn we’re okay I answered, but he wasn’t happy till he checked the birth date, oh it’s 1933 so it’s not him he said happily. I’m not sure I’ll tell Peter. John phoned Stephen this morning and it ended up with me doing all the talking as when I prompted John to talk about his escapades out with carers or with Jane and Boris for example he couldn’t remember any of them, so it came back to me telling his stories.

Carly rang last night and she isn’t getting a weekend, needing to go in to work both days. It’s all about the May budget and submitting figures for what her department wants to do. I guess it wasn’t long ago that I needed to work 7 days at times, though I can’t imagine what that was like now. I feel as if I have gone so far downhill since then. I think there’s truth in the idea of never retiring because all the passion goes and the energy with it.

Although I stuck to my plan of not worrying about John’s respite over the weekend, I did have a sneaky look at the online reviews for both of the homes in question. The ARV ones were a mixture of good reviews and others like ‘Absolutely pathetic RNs here. Do not send your elderly relatives here – unbelievable lack of empathy from staff. Would rate 0 if I could’ and ‘Most frustrating place to try and speak to a resident outside working hours. Only public number is a central Anglicare number and goes nowhere on a weekend or after hours. Even when I finally found a number to a ‘nurse on the floor’ it went to message bank. This is simply unacceptable for any retirement home’ and ‘Can never get through to reception. Being an aged care facility, you should be able to get through to reception at all times’. On top of my experience with their administration phone, this is looking a bit too much like a pattern. The Kellyville one was pretty uniformly good. I’m glad I looked.

March 13, 2023

Well the angels were smiling today as I left Baulko in rain to drive John to St. Vs for his belated treatment. But when I’d dropped him off and got to a parking spot at Woolloomooloo there was still some blue sky there, but with big black clouds rolling in from the west. I hurried to the pool and managed six slow laps in that divine saltwater pool but the rain still hadn’t hit so I was able to camp there and read for a bit. Met a chap called Peter in the pool who couldn’t wait to tell me that he’d been to Harry Triguboff’s 90th birthday party at Sydney Town Hall on Saturday night ‘amazing food, the entertainment was unbelievable with scantily clad acrobats hanging from rings in the ceiling’. He was joined by 420 of his ‘closest friends’. Apparently it was very political as one would expect, Morrison, Dutton, Howard, the usual suspects. He was welcome to it, although I didn’t burst his bubble by telling him that as he seemed pretty happy about it all.

I was disgusted to read that the Herald wouldn’t print any of Paul Keating’s scathing rebuttal of last week’s Red Alert series, Peter Hartcher’s desperate attempt to scare us all into a more aggressive stance on China. I think I shall have to wipe Hartcher’s other articles in future, if I don’t agree with his assessments on this so how can I trust anything else he writes about? I disagree with PK on a lot of things but he’s usually spot on about foreign affairs (as he was about the colour of my loungeroom).

Yesterday we had a long chat with Stephen and he asked John if he had been lost on his walks lately. John had forgotten ever being lost but replied that he always stuck to the same route. Shortly after he went out and an hour later rang me from the other side of Castle Hill, lost 6.2 kms from home, but happily sitting on someone’s front fence waiting to be picked up.

March 14, 2023

Well today I was determined to finish the painting that I missed doing when I wasn’t there for two lessons. Krista kindly sent me a video of her online students doing the same work and I can see how it has its benefits to do it that way. You can stop and start the video as you work or go back if you need to, perhaps it’s worth considering this as I wasn’t going to continue next term as I have to get an evening carer but now I will have another think. Although I see faults in my painting of the Alps, I also think it’s probably the best one I’ve done.

Quite an interesting conversation with Iris whom we bumped into at the shops the other day with her husband Logan, John’s friend from day care. She has taken two weeks off work looking for respite care for him and she rang ARV as her first choice, but has had no reply in 12 days! She is excited by the possibility of he and John going somewhere together, which would be wonderful if it could be worked out. So I’ve given her Gracewood’s details and she’ll follow it up. I’m still waiting for the ‘clinical team’ there to decide if they can take John……

I say this with a gulp but I think I have just read a book worthy of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, big call. I have been trying to get a copy for a while and Hills Library acceded to my request to buy it. Called A Guardian Angel Recalls by Willem Frederik Hermans, written in Dutch in 1971 but only recently translated. It is narrated by a guardian angel sitting on the shoulder of a public prosecutor during the days prior to and just after the German invasion. The angel tries valiantly to keep its charge safe and ethical and just, but with the accent on safe, however humans being as they are the successes are hard won. If I could give this book 10 out of 5 I would, despite it being a subject not usually within my style. It is all written as a contest between the inner voice of Bert who sinks into his obtuse fantasies and resurfaces to think sensibly, for short periods at least. Who could think sensibly with Hitler on the doorstep? The author describes the Dutch Army as ‘ninety percent conscientious objectors in uniform’, high praise in my opinion and I suspect in the author’s. A couple of lines meant for me: ‘One often suffers bitter tears, from suffering one only fears.’ I cried a few times, not least when I finished it.

March 15, 2023

Someone from Gracewood rang at 8 am and asked a motza of questions about John. I have no idea which criteria they are using to decide so I just answered everything honestly and we shall see, though she certainly didn’t indicate that there were any problems. I think she said there is a room in the dementia locked section and one in the ‘normal section’, but surely that’s a no-brainer? Now it goes to the manager for decision apparently. Yesterday afternoon I told John that Heather was popping in shortly and his answer was: Do I know Heather? That’s the first time he’s failed to recall someone that we know well and see often.

Today was a return to the dentist for John at RNS. I explained that Bob was wary about her pulling his broken tooth out lest septicaemia is the result. But she thinks it’s risky to leave it as it is, so she’s going to ring him. Let them fight it out. She took an age to very thoroughly fill two teeth so that’s another job off the list. Then to the auctions where I put in a clean-up of my jewellery drawers, but nothing as exciting as the last lot. While there I was invited to look over the upcoming antique sale which was a big mistake on my part. There was a delicious sampler from the 1800s that I couldn’t go past without leaving a bid. Where I will hang it I have no idea, but it spoke to me and as I’ll be cashed up from the jewellery…..

March  16, 2023

Momentous day as I was invited to Gracewood at 9 am to inspect the facilities, so clearly his respite application was looking good. They are meticulous about taking temperatures, supervised RATs and hand sanitiser. But most of all meticulous about paperwork, I came out with a bundle, he’s starting there next Monday, woo hoo. One reads: If you were ill and couldn’t go to breakfast what would you like on the tray brought to your room? The list was longer than a motel breakfast chitty, but it seems such a hypothetical…. The best bit though is the place itself, quite new, spotlessly clean, the staff professional at the same time as being very warm and the facilities are amazing, from the hairdressing salon to the coffee shop to the dining room with chefs cooking food from scratch in an open kitchen, multiple choices at each meal and a menu that changes daily. Downsides? Just one and we’ve managed to dodge it. The dementia unit was straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As we walked into the locked unit a lady came up to me distressed saying ‘My husband died last night’ so of course I was sympathetic. But as we moved away Anu whispered ‘Her husband is alive and well, he visits her every day’. Add this to the moaning and noises and people wandering aimlessly and I was very glad to get the hell out of there. So when I said yesterday that it was a no-brainer which section he would go in, I was clearly wrong. They’ve decided that he’s not demented enough to go in the locked ward thank Buddha, with one proviso: If he goes out through the front doors of the building it will be assumed he’s ‘absconding’ and he’ll go to the locked rooms. So I’ve been explaining this to him constantly, not as a threat or mentioning the dementia unit, but saying that they are frightened he may get hit in the carpark and be sued for millions. He agreed that would be a terrible outcome and promised to stay away from the foyer, but we’ll have to see how we go there.

Spent the afternoon beginning the ‘urgent’ forms needed for them to draw up the contract before Monday. I signed him up for the ‘special extras’ such as the roving icecream cart and drinks at Happy Hour, just in case he decided not to stay a teetotaller (he did after all join in the wine tasting at Murrumbateman). Perhaps now I can sleep without this weight of guilt about putting him in some place that turned out to be dodgy, I’d be happy to go for three weeks if I had to.

March 17, 2023

This morning at 9 am we were both at Gracewood to submit the most important of the documents and Anu offered John a tour and showed him his (lovely) room, introducing him around as we went. John was very happy with it all and I think he was genuine in saying that he’s looking forward to going on Monday. He asked if he could go there permanently if I were unable to take care of him and the manager answered ‘I’m sure we could arrange it’. It is such a weight off both our minds as when I was really sick I considered the possibility that the treatment wouldn’t be successful and John would be left high and dry. Now it’s all about getting everything in order for Monday, from paperwork to clothes etc. I suddenly realised that having John included in my forward legal planning no longer works so I need to have those documents redone, as clearly they can become very important very quickly.

I just got a call from Iris. Her husband Logan has finally decided that he wants to go to Gracewood with John after initially resisting it. So she rang Anu immediately and had his clinical assessment done, but they’ve refused him on the grounds that he needs a bigger bed! He’s not huge by any means and neither of us is sure whether that means forever or just that the bigger beds they have are in use. So disappointing and I wasn’t surprised that there were tears, she’s exhausted, working full time while he goes to day care five days a week and then looking after him nights and all weekend. I don’t know how to help.

John’s carer came today because he missed out on Wednesday due to the dentist. Debbie said that it was too hot to go walking about so she suggested tenpin bowling, as it was in air-conditioning, something that John was very excited about. I am so grateful to Wendy’s for the quality of the people they send. My Vanuatuan friend Alice messaged this morning: “I am happy because I’m grateful. I choose to be grateful. That gratitude allows me to be happy.” It lifted my day.

March 18, 2023

The paper screamed this morning that: ‘Army investigates neo-Nazis in its ranks, the Australian Army has launched an urgent investigation after discovering serving soldiers have links to neo-Nazi groups’. Yes well perhaps if they had taken notice of that trend ten or twenty years ago they may have less of a problem now. Is it because people of a domineering and authoritarian nature are attracted to the police and military (particularly the army) or is it because they go into the service young and innocent and are swallowed up by the prevailing culture? I have personally known incidences of both. But the uninhibited racism and far right views of members of the services is apparent and very depressing. I think the army has Buckley’s chance of rooting them out now.

It seems that it’s a hard time for a number of people at the moment. A friend, who has looked after her mother for years at home, rang to say that her mother is fading fast. Bob was there Friday and Saturday, despite the fact that both of those are his days off. Iris, a community nurse, tells me that he is the only doctor doing home visits in this area, hence he gets all the palliative care work. I have recommended him over the years to three people who have been looking after dying relatives and he has attended all of them until their deaths, often daily at the end.

March 19. 2023

Iris brought Logan over this morning to see John before he goes away. Logan got up early to make us some sun-dried tomato pesto which we sampled at lunch and very good it was too. Currently we are doing John’s packing, as well as clothes there is all his drawing and colouring equipment and enough drugs to tide him over the first week at least, and of course the chocolate stash. He is happy about it now which is a huge relief and a credit to the staff’s welcoming attitude.

One comment that Iris made chilled me somewhat, that when they arrived from South Africa she couldn’t understand ‘why white people were being nice to us, what they wanted from us’ so they were naturally suspicious of any positive attention. What a sad commentary on their previous lives that they felt that way, it’s a terrible burden to live under and sadly many people all over the world have to bear it. When will people get past racism? Sadly in recent years we seem to have slipped backwards with all the uber nationalist and anti-Semitic groups popping up.

I sold a 1920s cutthroat Bengall razor on eBay and the fellow will pick it up in the next day or two, a rarity as almost everything gets posted. Because I will be here on my own, the thought crossed my mind that he might take its use literally and cut my throat with it. Such a thing wouldn’t even cross my mind normally and it’s quite silly really, as how would John protect me from a knife-wielding psychopath?

March 20, 2023

What a damned depressing day. We were both quite positive this morning, but that diminished as the day went on. First they took all of John’s clothes to label, which was fine in principle, until he got cold in the air-conditioning so I had to go hunting a jumper for him from the laundry where such activities take place. No biggie. Then they took all his medications, despite his having them sorted into a Webster box, and knowing clearly what to take when. I could foresee an initial stuff-up and it wasn’t long coming, no-one appeared with his pre lunch antibiotic until I asked about it. I decided to stay with him for lunch and the staff had kindly seated him with two men and I was added to the table, though I didn’t eat. Neither was very friendly so I started a conversation with one: ‘How do you find the food here?’ Reply: ‘It would make a dog sick, never mind a human.’ Okay, perhaps I’ll try the other chap. ‘So how long have you lived here?’ ‘I don’t remember, a long time, maybe 13 years but I want an end to it.’ Um, the place has been open for less than 5 years, but it occurred to me if this is the chosen pair to meet John on his first day, what are the rest of them like? (A strange woman came up and told me how glad she was that we’d met up again and how she looks forward to seeing more of me). The food looked perfectly fine, lots of choices, he picked Indian lamb curry, rice and vegetables followed by banana caramel pudding. He rolled his eyes during grace, I hadn’t thought of grace when promising him there would be no religion and it won’t take much to start him on an anti-religion roll. Unfortunately Tuesday morning’s activity is Devotions….but it seems to be only once a week. He looked so sad when I left, saying at the lift ‘Please don’t die before me, I don’t want to stay here’. So now he’s sad and I feel like a heel, great outcome.

I was planning to do my painting ‘homework’, the sky and clouds of a new picture, a seascape with lighthouse. I have till Wednesday night to do it, but thought it would be a good way to spend the afternoon after a taxing day. However I feel I would stuff it up right now, so I will do other things which need less concentration. Like ringing John, who enjoyed a concert that happened this afternoon and met someone he knows, Harry who was a worker (the best one) at Orange Blossom Cottage, but left last year. Two positives I am trying to hang onto, he liked an activity and if Harry is there it’s an okay place.

Well you wouldn’t read about it. On the very day that John goes into Baptist Care, Anglicare finally rings, two weeks late and only because I added a comment to their Facebook advertising asking for a call back. (I’ve been deluged with Anglicare ads ever since I’ve been trying to get through to them, go figure?). I explained that John was now sorted but pleaded with her to ring Iris to try to get Logan accommodated. She must have rung straight away as Iris texted from work to say she’d had a call. I should have used that technique earlier as it’s worked so well in the past with Optus and others. Those monitoring Facebook are much more responsive than others in an organisation, fearing you will give them bad comments publicly, something I had refrained from doing. It’s not about satisfying the client, it’s all about PR. I think that minor victory entitles me to a bath, with some smellies and bubblies in it. I’d have a glass of wine too if I were game, but better not tempt fate.

March 21, 2023

Off to a long-planned lunch with Di, Jenny, Greg and Linda at Cockatoo Island. Initially it was planned for John to go too, but we can do the trip another time as I would really like to climb up and revisit the seagull rookery which I discovered accidentally last time we were there. I seemed to field a lot of calls and texts today but they were ones I couldn’t ignore. Iris rang as my pleas to Anglicare on Logan’s behalf bore fruit today when he was offered a place at ARV, but it is in the dementia unit and he doesn’t have a diagnosis of dementia, it’s Parkinson’s. She is naturally wary and asked for a tour, which was denied unless she makes a commitment to admit him. This sounds so unreasonable that I suggested she make the commitment verbally and then do the tour, only going ahead if she’s happy that it’s suitable for him. Also I missed a call from John’s floor at Gracewood which worried me a lot as when I rang back it went to message bank. However the RN Cecelia rang me back to say that John had eaten breakfast and lunch and was socialising and joining in the games. It was good of her to take the time to ring. My sense of it today is that his anxiety is less and he told me he’d had porridge for breakfast and sat next to an ex- fireman, so thankfully he got away from the negative pair he was with yesterday.

I gave up watching Q and A when Stan Grant became the host, he’s just too overbearing and it drives me nuts. Now he’s in bother for talking over Geoffrey Robertson. Why don’t they get rid of the guests and rename it The Stan Grant Show? I’m curious too that he gets darker and darker, I don’t know what that’s about but I watch with interest.

March 22, 2023

The IPCC Report is deeply depressing but not nearly as depressing as the knowledge that it won’t be heeded. How can countries who wage war possibly be interested in climate change and the welfare of the planet? Likewise countries who manufacture weapons (as we do) or plan to spend multiple billions on submarines with highly enriched weapons-grade uranium for fuel? We’re screwed in my humble opinion. By all means continue the protests, but also realise that we’re likely to get the same result as we did trying to stop the Iraq War.

Looking at the photos of convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh, his son Buster and son Paul, whom Alex was convicted of murdering, it occurs to me that they are all very unpleasant looking people. I’m sure that they were all lovely babies, but somehow in that family the boys are clones of a father with very disagreeable looks. Now the bodies of both the family maid and a friend of Buster’s are being disinterred as their deaths are considered suspicious, one already listed by the police as a homicide. Could be more to come in this grisly tale.

This morning I rang John who asked ‘Why am I in hospital when I feel fine?’ so I explained for the umpteenth time that it’s not a hospital and why he is there (‘it must be, there are nurses here’ he said) . He asked again how long he’ll be there and then ‘How many weeks have I been here now?’ Francis the nurse told me that ‘it usually takes a week for people to get used to things and feel more settled’. Luckily I remembered today to notify Centrelink about where he is, so my carer’s allowance can be stopped for the duration. Headed to pre-polling after the visit and gave some assistance, as well as voting. Luckily I had ordered John a postal vote as I’ve seen no messages about voting at Gracewood. He was very clear about his vote and understood the ballot paper perfectly, it’s so strange that he can do that but not remember a phone call he’s had two minutes ago.

10.30 pm: Painting was cancelled tonight due to the teacher being sick, which was a huge relief as I hadn’t done the homework and wasn’t up to being with other people after today. I had looked forward to tonight as I didn’t have to book a carer for John and could just mosey up and back without rushing, but it was not to work out like that. I hadn’t counted on how mentally taxing visiting him would be, but not visiting him is worse. In tears tonight after five phone calls from John between 6 and 8.45 asking where a particular medication is. Each time I explained that all his meds are being held by the nurses and he needs to go and talk to them, each time the answer was ‘Okay I will do that as soon as I hang up’. Then an hour later the same question and he had no idea we’d already discussed it. Finally on the last call I said to take his phone to the nurse while I was on the line so I could ask her myself, but she saw him coming and I heard her say very nicely ‘John I told you before that I’m bringing your medications at 9.30’ so he had probably been asking her after each time he rang me. He is getting worse by the day, but it’s not because of the respite, it’s been happening for a few weeks now. Perhaps it will be a blessing for him when he forgets even more and gets past obsessing about everything.

March 23, 2023

There had to be a crash day for me and this was it. The realisation of how much John’s condition has deteriorated hit me like a hammer, but I think not going to visit today and leaving him with a bus excursion, a visit from Jane and a movie, was probably good for us both. He was so looking forward to the excursion but afterwards he didn’t know if he’d been or not.

When watching the riot outside Mark Latham’s Belfield talk I had the distinct feeling that the people there were the same mob who tried to terrorise us at the Pell demonstration, but dismissed it as unlikely. However my first instincts were correct, when police revealed that the man arrested for assault was also cautioned at the Pell protest and the night before that for cutting down ribbons attached to the cathedral fence. There was a photo and he was the same chap struggling against the police cordon, attempting to get to us. There were no women amongst the group (surprise), they were all dressed in black and all ‘of Middle Eastern origin’. I ask myself if aggression is part and parcel of Lebanese culture or is it a heritable trait? Whichever way I want nothing to do with those passionate religious men of either the Maronite or Muslim bent. I’m sure Chrys Stevenson didn’t realise how prescient her last week’s article on Christofascism would be:

March 24, 2023

I was gently chided today for arriving at 8.30, before the admin staff start, so it’s after 9 am from now on. Kevin arrived about 10.30 and he’s so good with John and with the staff, calling them all by name and having a chat. Just what you’d expect from an ex-priest and then hospital social worker, he had the morning tea server eating out of his hand and we were served tea and pumpkin scones along with John. I left them before lunch, chatting out in the garden. Next week Kevin is bringing Pat, the only remaining serving priest from John’s class and a beautiful human who insists on being called Brother Pat by his flock as he feels Father is a patronising title.

I had some extraordinary luck today. I have been trying to get a ticket to see Joseph Tawadros playing his oud in Vivaldi’s Four Seasons either at the Recital Hall or the Opera House, willing to break my ban on going to concerts for him (I’ve kept a couple of the now unobtainable duck-billed masks for just such a circumstance). But when I tried to get into any of the concerts they were booked out, even the standing room. I mentioned it in passing to Jane and told her that I was surprised that there wasn’t even a solo seat. It turns out that she and Boris had booked and he insisted on giving me his ticket on the grounds that they had also been invited to the rehearsal and he had therefore already seen the concert in its entirety. Talk about serendipity! So Jane and I will be going and I am completely stoked.

Kevin rang to say how much he enjoyed seeing John and acknowledging how much he had deteriorated. At lunch he had no idea where to sit until guided by Kev. Tonight at 10 pm on the dot John rang to say he couldn’t find his medications and we went through the whole scenario of the nurses dispensing them, but he said they hadn’t. Half an hour later he rang again with the same concern so I got him to find a nurse who assured him that they had been given earlier in the evening, so I can only trust that the staff are right on this one and my boy is confused as he doesn’t know his arse from his elbow at the moment.

March 25, 2023

A weird election day when I’m not handing out, but somehow that date didn’t occur to me when I booked the eco dyeing workshop. There was certainly plenty of plant material to choose from, eucalyptus leaves, maples, grevilleas, plus flowers like roses and irises. The first project was a cotton square about the size of a cushion which we covered with leaves, rolled around a fat dowel, tied up and boiled for a couple of hours in a solution with a mordant, in this case alum or another solution made with rust in water. One mix was boiled avocado seeds which put a pink cast on the fabric. Then we attacked a white silk scarf using the same method, only this time I used a mix of leaves and brown onion skins. This one gave a wonderful result that I was very happy with. Next came boiling sheets of  watercolour paper, pressed and tied between two tiles, into which I had pressed a grevillea flower and leaves. This was the least successful, but I can paint over the sections I’m not happy with. Another technique involved hammering flower petals between pieces of paper until the colour leached out into the paper, giving an abstract colourful design. I am fired up by the possibilities of these techniques and enjoyed it more than the painting.

On the way home I visited John with a leftover rose from the class and stayed till his dinner was served. He was the best I’ve seen him so far, quite relaxed and happy. Woo-hoo we might be over the worst.

March 26, 2023

John and I had a wager on the election result but it’s too soon to know who collects the prize. John said Labor would pick up 11 seats and I said 7, we shall see later in the week who won the bet but the most important contest is for the government of NSW, now firmly back in Labor hands. Perrottet’s concession speech was the most gracious I’ve heard and Minns followed suit. It was a very satisfying evening despite the lack of the usual seafood and champagne. I’d had cheese and crackers at the dyeing workshop so I settled for a glass of milk and called it dinner.

Carole invited me over to watch Insiders on a day when that invitation worked perfectly with the existing plans, going with Jane to the Tawadros brothers concert with the Australian Chamber Orchestra at the Opera House. The doorman to our section was none other than my friend Robert Tuzee so a big hug ensued and that was a wonderful start to the event. Richard Tognetti, playing a 1743 violin, was superb as always, he seemed to lock eyes with Joseph Tawadros through the whole performance and clearly they love playing together. A weird looking instrument sort of like a long necked oud or lute turned out to be a theorbo, who knew? The concert was a great end to a pretty ratty week. Here’s hoping it is a sign of things to come. John didn’t have visitors today as far as I know yet he seemed happy and settled at 6 pm. He wants me to bring a print from his wall tomorrow, a Rembrandt that he lately tells people is a Picasso. I think that indicates that Gracewood is feeling a little more like home to him. I was going to pack the car tonight but apart from his print and some clothes on hangers I’ve decided I’m too tired and it will all have to wait till the morning.

March 27, 2023

Last night I crashed at 8.30 which is pretty pathetic but it’s been a big two days. But this morning I was up early and energetically packing the car in the rain, but who cares about rain when I am getting away? Loaded up summer and winter clothes, books, all the weekend papers and the house insurance bill to pay. Got to John at 9.15 and he was happy, particularly because I brought his print to hang. Later I found out that he’d requested a handyman to come to his room to move the picture-hanging cords together so the hooks are all behind the picture and not visible. I could have done that but I think that he was enjoying the idea of getting someone in there to talk about the picture. Francis his nurse came and sat with us for a chat, he’s such a lovely young man who said he could earn a lot more money elsewhere but he loves working with old people. He used to be an agency nurse and has worked in about 30 aged care homes from Wollongong to Newcastle but says Gracewood is the best by far, citing the quality of the nursing and the food as standouts. My drive to Leura in rain was uneventful and I decided to have a salad for lunch at Leura Deli but it was on more of a platter than a plate so I had to ask for a takeaway box for half of it, there’s more than enough for lunch tomorrow. Posted Carly’s birthday presents at Leura, after adding a magpie brooch and a small rusted metal bird figure that I saw in With Max and Me, a favourite shop in the Mall. Then to Fairmont where the concierge unloaded my car and took everything to the room while I booked in, commenting on the big pack of rocky road he saw at the top of a bag, a gift for Dav and Louis as I explained, though I’m not sure he was convinced. Cecilia from Gracewood rang to say that the Valium, which John takes very rarely to sleep, wasn’t in his drug supply though I am almost certain it went in with him. I’m either mistaken or it walked before she came to lock it up as required, but I promised to take more in on Thursday. Went for a walk in the grounds here and although the pool looked inviting I decided to leave that till tomorrow and just enjoy a restful time in the room catching up on the weekend papers which I’d had no time to read.

Dinner was a small bowl of soup and I was hoping to have the delicious sounding caramel tart with champagne sorbet, but no way could I fit it in. No wining and dining here by the looks of it but in some ways that’s a good thing, although I know that when I am craving these lovely dishes some time later at home they won’t be an option. Still haven’t got to the papers, but will try before next weekend’s arrive. On 7.30 tonight there was a report on killing pigs with CO2, just appalling stuff, which must be devastating to the brave man who broke into the piggery to film. Made me glad I keep up my contributions to Animals Australia and very glad that I had corn soup for dinner.

March 28, 2023

I’m not at all sure that I agree with Minns’ decision to keep Gareth Ward out of Parliament if he wins his seat. Accusations are not a finding of guilt, he needs to be given the benefit of the doubt until he’s convicted, unless of course there is filmed proof of violence for example. John went to a Housing Conference years ago and was very impressed with Ward’s address, he was the relevant minister at the time. He said it was as if he were listening to a Labor pollie. But we’ll see how it all plays out, he may yet lose to the Labor candidate which solves that immediate problem, but if he is acquitted after losing his seat due to the charges it will leave a sour taste.

This morning I wanted to go to the bank but the Leura one has long closed, so I went to Katoomba for opening time. The main street is a sad affair now, quite a lot of shops for lease, the poor old Paragon Cafe still vacant after all these years. It was such a drawcard, its 1916 Art Deco interior as well as the lovely sweet offerings saw a line out of the door every weekend. The landlord refused to repair the water damage or reduce the rent back in 2018, so he’s had no money coming in ever since then, which seems a ridiculous business decision. While waiting for the bank to open I wandered up to an antique shop to see what he had but it was closed, however the cafe was open and the waitress informed me that ‘he’s retired but he comes in and opens at the weekends….sometimes’. I have had dealings with the chap and he’s at the chancy end of the dealer population so I’m not sorry to hear that he’s getting out of the game, however the 2 storey shop seemed packed with stock so who knows what’s going on. There was a free paper there that looked a bit interesting and so it proved to be. Called The Light it’s a 16 pager with anti-vax articles, anti-WHO, one on the New World Order which manages a large photo of Hitler and Mussolini, anti-trans, anti-refugee, anti pretty much everything really. I tried to pick up a copy without being seen, not that anyone would care as they were proudly holding copies but perhaps they were just curious like me. Katoomba is a hotbed of hippies and alternatives so they have a ready made market. Remember when the hippies were all for inclusion and loving their fellow man?

Just rang GIO to somewhat alter and then pay my home and contents insurance. Speaking to Darren in the Philippines I as usual asked simple things like the time there, the temperature, his city etc. At the end of the transaction he said ‘I’m sending virtual hugs to you’ which I of course sent back and then got off the phone in tears, not that he would have been aware. Somehow those distant contacts with a disembodied voice in a far-off land always make me feel wistful, imagining their different lives and circumstances, such as riding a motor bike through Manilla traffic as in this case. His virtual hugs really hit the target today.

March 29, 2023

I always enjoy hearing the views of constitutional lawyer Anne Twomey, but today I was particularly pleased to see her on the front page of the SMH echoing my opinion regarding Gareth Ward’s exclusion from parliament due to historical sex charges, which he denies. As Twomey says, the voters went into the election ‘with eyes wide open’ about the accusations, and wanted him anyway, so in one way I’m kind of glad that he’s cocked a snoot at the Liberals by standing as an independent and I doubt he will be too keen to side with them after the way he’s been treated. Minns needs to rethink his exclusion policy.

I think if I owned this place I would employ a painter fulltime and then a peeling exterior wall or handrail could be attended to without waiting till there was a heap of work to do. There seems to be a very big staff about the place and one lowly painter wouldn’t add too much to wages bill. The cost of running this outfit is a bit mind-blowing to think about, all the reception, catering, pool maintenance, gardening people everywhere. All things considered I think the tariff is reasonable and I just love the spaciousness of the place, its bush outlook and the grounds.

I did a stupid thing this afternoon and watched half of a 4 minute police video which was on the news on the computer. It was bodycam and I suddenly realised that I was falling sideways off the chair so I turned it off immediately. But the damage was done. I decided to walk it off, which sometimes works, and went outside to pad along a bush track and around the little lake, but unfortunately the world was spinning so I came back to the room, darkened the place and had a short sleep. You’d think I would have learned by now, but later I went to the pool and did some swimming so all was not lost.

John seems to be quite settled. He had four visitors today and when I rang him this afternoon he didn’t seem to want to talk but I discovered I’d interrupted a game of bingo so I will ring later.

March 30, 2023

My twin girls birthdays today and I managed to call them both early. Carly had received a text about her gift parcel posted on Monday but dismissed it as a hoax, so now she won’t get it till tomorrow. Davina is flying to Canberra tomorrow for a long weekend with her sister, the first since Millie was born. Louis took her out for the day to a movie and lunch with some perfume shopping as well.

My trip home was very smooth until I hit Blacktown where I went the wrong way trying to get to Gracewood despite the phone guiding me. Doing a back road detour to get on track I passed Crudge Street and boy it was indeed pretty crudgy and I’m thankful that I don’t live there, even though I often refer to Baulko as Blacktown Heights. But I made it eventually after getting reminder calls from John’s nurse Cecilia to bring more Yakult and a particular medication they were missing. Took both but when I got home again I had another call from her to say that the meds were out of date so they will have to be thrown out, here we don’t worry too much about such things but of course she has to play by the rules. While I was there I reminded John that it was afternoon tea time and he had no idea if it would be brought to his room or where it was likely to be served, or if it needed to be ordered in advance, in fact he said he didn’t know afternoon tea was served at all. He commented ‘I live in a total state of confusion’. He had filled me in on the bus tour to the men’s shed last Thursday but when I mentioned it to Donna who organises such things she told me it had been cancelled due to rain! So he obviously feels as if he needs to remember things if asked, even if they didn’t happen.

Thinking on the Gareth Ward situation and somehow it seems that a fundamental point has been made by the vote for him despite his upcoming court case and perhaps that principle is more important than getting Labor over the line, seeing it still wouldn’t give them a majority. I hope Minns does the right thing and lets him take his place in Parliament despite the hysteria that would bring.

While it’s sad that the roof is leaking in the National Gallery, the $14 million dollars it has just paid for the Lindy Lee sculpture would surely help its bid to waterproof the building. I simply can’t get my head around a sculpture costing that much money, how is that even possible? Twenty-three outdated Australian bridges are being replaced in a $50.3 million government programme, that’s about $2.2 million per road bridge, so the sculpture is the price of about 6 and a half road bridges. Sorry, fix the roof and then bargain her down if there’s money left over, much as I like her work.

March 31, 2023

Oh what a night. I can only describe it as severe anxiety, expecting Gracewood to ring to say John has Covid, worrying about Millie if Davina’s plane crashes today, worrying about the weeding of the front garden for Pete’s sake. So I got up and attacked the weeding, the only problem I can control, cutting back may bush with an old breadknife as John put both pairs of secateurs in a safe place weeks ago and a thorough search has failed to turn them up. Unfortunately weeding is more tricky as bending over causes an attack of vertigo so I have to pull some weeds, stand up, cut some bushes for a while, then weed again, all a bit tedious. But putting things in perspective, Doug Mulray died today and that knowledge really hurt. He was a rare shop customer and a delightful man. I fondly remember one quiet Saturday afternoon when he had nowhere special to go and with Miss Lizzie, his adored partner, we had a long discussion on his dealings with the vile Kerry Packer, on love at first sight (with special reference to Miss Lizzie), on comedy and how it changes us and gives us new perspectives. I wish now I’d accepted your offer of a cuppa next time I was in the Northern Beaches. Vale good man, I haven’t seen you in years but it was wonderful just knowing you were out there.

Interesting to see the Foreign Correspondent programme on the rise of Welsh nationalism and the effects of Brexit. Come to think of it, I don’t hear much from the few pro-Brexit folks of my acquaintance these days. Having buyer’s remorse are we? A figure of one child in three living in poverty in Wales is depressing in the extreme. Wales was one place where I was really happy to travel, driving and enjoying the unpronounceable signs in Cymric on every corner and hearing the language routinely spoken.

It’s weird that I can’t seem to either cook or read, my two favourite activities. Managed to finish last weekend’s papers last night but couldn’t manage to reread the book for today’s meeting, nor to cook something to take. It would have been easy to make a few coconut macaroons, but easier to pick up some coconut scrolls from Panetta’s. But the book group was a small intimate affair at Jane’s and I was glad that I went and enjoyed it very much.

April 1, 2023

No-one has pranked me yet for April Fool’s Day but there’s time yet. I went out to see John and was approached again by the lady who thinks she knows me declaring ‘I am a police officer you know and my husband is on a submarine’. I’m thinking that both of those are in the newspapers a fair bit, but it’s so hard to tease truth from fiction that it’s not worth trying. She has fastened a label to her chair so no-one else sits there for meals, thank goodness that we ensconced ourselves at another table for morning tea. The menu said tea and shortbread biscuits and although I was expecting Arnotts or something worse they turned out to be delicious home-baked ones still warm from the oven. I keep being surprised by this place. There are few activities but a host of religious ceremonies there over Easter, going through from Thursday to Monday, which is a pity as he loves the games. John was working out how to avoid the religion as they will knock on his door to remind him. I suggested picking up his phone and pretending to be deep in a phone conversation with his cousin Enzo from Swaziland, a plot he enjoyed. I plan to go to the Christian Men’s Choir on Sunday as I always love a choir, whatever they are singing about. Their motto is ‘Proclaiming Jesus – No Other Name’ which is enough to put off any Hindu or Muslim people who just want to listen to the singing I would have thought, but anyway we shall see.

April 2, 2023

Spent yesterday afternoon polishing all that remains of my sterling silver, including the superb four piece tea service which rarely gets used these days. I don’t know what it will bring but I am guessing somewhere between $1500 and $2000, perhaps more. There are a few Georgian spoons and sauce ladles as well as some Victorian and Edwardian teaspoons. I may take the remaining jewellery as well if I can bite the bullet and get rid of all of them at once. Sue came yesterday to stay overnight and insisted that we go out for dinner, so I booked La Boucherie, the newish place in Baulko as she loves all things French. I apologised for the fact that I would only be able to eat an entree and then foolishly ordered a main course, a decision that I have paid for all night, waking every hour and feeling quite sick. Totally self- inflicted and stupid after I managed to eat so little at the Fairmont and stayed feeling fine while there. We then came home to watch the Aston by-election which I wasn’t too worried about because of the recent Melbourne hoo-ha after the anti-trans campaign, assisted by various balaclava clad neo-Nazis. I just couldn’t see young people voting for a party which is following the American conservative playbook and using social issues as a cover for their lack of real policies, thankfully that was right. I am always fascinated by Kosmos Samaras and Tony Barry, strategists from the opposite sides of the political divide, who agree wholeheartedly about the demographics and the likely future decline of the Liberals. I occasionally dip into the blog Kos writes and find myself thoroughly agreeing with both of them, so different to listening to the excuses and justifications of the pollies themselves. I loved Barry’s comment on the future of the Liberal Party: ‘It’s going to get worse before it gets worse’. Sue is going to lunch today with her next door neighbours who have a poster in their front yard for the Liberal candidate for Terrigal. I think she’s kind of hoping that politics doesn’t come up, but I told her not to be so reluctant to espouse her views. Perhaps being the only girl in a family makes it harder to go against the prevailing perspective, but her neighbours are not backward in coming forward so she needs to stand on her dig and I’m sure they will respect her for it.

I didn’t go to see John today as I wasn’t feeling great, but sadly no-one else did either and he’s missing his games. ‘It must be Sunday today as it’s all religion here’ he rang to say. It’s such a pity that so much of his last week at Gracewood will be bereft of his beloved games and full of religion instead. Yesterday he was told there was a game of bingo going on the second floor and so the nurse took him up, but he took one look at the ‘high care’ patients and announced that he didn’t want to play bingo with them as they are all ‘too old and decrepit’. These weren’t even the folk in the dementia unit, just those in wheelchairs or with mobility difficulties, so I’m not sure that he could manage at all with the locked ward crew. I was planning to go in the morning before heading to the city to see Millie go for her martial arts white belt, but he tells me that he’s going on a bus tour for the morning so that complicates things.

April 3, 2023

Well I thought that I may have overstepped in telling Sue to stand on her dig with the neighbours but she says that she took the advice to share her views and it seems it improved her enjoyment of the lunch and possibly improved the relationship. I find the neighbour a bit hard to take but I think I will follow my own advice next time we meet up. It looks as if Sue is coming back tomorrow but it depends on the weather as she had a horror trip back in the rain on Saturday.

Wrote a letter to the SMH so I must be improving. It baffles me how the Libs didn’t take on board the result of Labor bringing in an out of area but popular ex-premier in Kristina Keneally last election, only to see her crash in favour of a local candidate. Why would bringing in a barrister from Brunswick to the outer suburbs of Melbourne have a different result? This is apart from the farce of electing Moira Deeming who said in her first speech that ‘equality has been taken to extremes’. When they get this rubbish into the party they can’t expect to have a chance at winning. Not that it’s new, Greg Mirabella and his gonzo wife Sophie have been at the centre of Victorian Liberal politics for decades, a new broom is needed down there if ever they hope to turn things around.

April 4, 2023

Yesterday afternoon I went to Erko and took Louis and Millie to her yellow belt grading at the Australian Martial Arts Academy in Marrickville. It was an eye-opener to me as I know nothing about this stuff. Millie was confident and able to do all the moves required of her, eventually resulting in her getting the yellow belt, along with a medal and certificate from the Grand Master. I was impressed about the subtle guidance included along the way about not using the skills to fight with siblings and only using the defence moves if attacked or bullied. She seems very keen and it will be interesting to see if she keeps it up when her after-school coding classes start next term.

Saw Bob who thinks my lack of appetite and energy has gone on too long to be put down to the aftermath of the kidney infection, though it is an extraordinary coincidence if I got two things at exactly the same time. He’s ordered blood tests and the note on them listed anorexia as a symptom, technically correct but a hoot when I am usually such a glutton. Possibly another ulcer and probably a worsening in the 2009 diagnosis of gastroparesis and oesophagus problems linked to Sjogren’s. Still think it’s a huge coincidence though. I told Bob that I don’t have time for anything serious at the moment so hopefully the tests will show that this will go away or at least minimise in its own good time.

I was expecting Sue this arv so I left John this morning cooking cake and some sort of little nests for Easter eggs. He was a bit reluctant as the other takers were all women, but Donna had set up a little oven, an electric beater and ingredients so I encouraged him to have a go. I know he’d rather that I sit there with him all day but it really defeats the purpose. I had a long list of things to do while he was at respite but apart from going to Leura they haven’t happened. Some people have broached the subject of my making his stay at Gracewood permanent. The advantage of that is that he’s guaranteed a place, whereas if we apply for him to go at some future time he may be rejected due to all the places being filled. It’s not a case of all the 120 odd rooms being full, but whether the small number of rooms put aside for government funded residents are full. He would be able to come and go, say come home for a weekend or a few days, or go on a holiday, but of course he doesn’t see any admission problems up ahead and isn’t ready for that option. I am not really ready either, but having found a place that ticks all the boxes I don’t want him to miss a place there and end up in some dive. Sue has rung to say that she is coming late afternoon today and staying over.

April 5, 2023

Sue’s birthday today and we were both up at 6 for an early breakfast of toast and a pot of tea, as against a mug, because it was her special day. She drove me to my appointment with the lovely Alex at Barsby’s Auctions where I deposited the sterling silver tea service and a bunch of silver spoons. David rejected the mid-19th century European hand-painted ceramic teapot and sugar due to the damage to the spout of the pot. This was entirely expected but it was worth a try. He said it might bring $30 but people wouldn’t understand what it was and it was better to enjoy it at home, a sentiment I agreed with. From there we went to Sue’s unit at Kirribilli which I was surprised to see was right next door to Kirribilli House with a bird’s eye view from the side windows of what is going on in the grounds there, so she could have overlooked Obama in the garden with Albo the other day. From the loungeroom and Sue’s bedroom there is a point blank view of the Harbour overlooking Fort Denison with Garden Island in the distance. We went down to the Kirribilli Wharf Cafe and shared some smoked salmon, asparagus and poached eggs on toast (with Sue having the poached eggs, but everything came with eggs as all were too big a serve for me). We got back past North Sydney when Sue remembered that she had opened the big windows in the loungeroom to show me the view, so she had to turn around to go back and close them. It was lovely having here here, especially celebrating her birthday together.

I just looked at the list of things I set myself to do while John was away and discovered that although some were achieved, many weren’t. A movie, a ferry trip on the harbour to Watson’s Bay or Cockatoo Island, a mooch in Cabramatta or Auburn to take in the multicultural flavours, a visit to the State Library and the new Art Gallery extension were all listed but these can be achieved over time. The next few days are hardly the right time as the city will be overrun with holiday makers and ideally I’d like to do these things with as few other people as possible.

April 6, 2023

Whew, what a day. It’s 19 years today since I found my brother but I didn’t tell anyone as I think John has forgotten all about him and there’s no point in going through the whole saga again when he will forget it instantly, so I just carried it with me all day. I got a call from Kerry at Baptistcare to discuss John’s exit from respite on Monday. She pointed out that there’s no guarantee that he would get a room, either as respite or permanently, when it was needed in future. But she said that if we went for permanency he could come home for 52 nights a year and any amount of day trips and his place would be guaranteed for life. It was quite a shock in one way yet not in another, I didn’t think that I’d be facing this decision so soon. So I said I’d think about it and drove to Gracewood, but then I couldn’t bring myself to go in and broach the subject with John. Luckily for me, I was able to speak to Carol and then Bob rang to say that my blood test results were ‘missing’ so I told him where I was and what I was thinking of doing. He had said to me a year or more ago that he would tell me when he thought John should go into care and apparently he’s been working up to telling me these last few weeks, so he was totally of the view that it’s time.

I brought up the subject with John and he was more accepting of the idea than he had been when we discussed it only theoretically. He was very keen on keeping that same room that he’s become accustomed to, so during his lunchtime I went to see Joanne the manager and explained that the room number was important to him as ‘When I’m 64’ was the way I’d told him to remember it so it’s the Beatles room to him. She told me to go to Centrelink first thing Tuesday to get a Means Test Assessment done so when I got home I rang for an appointment as you have to deal with an Aged Care Specialist not a counter jockey. After waiting only 20 minutes or so (much better than usual as everyone is out buying groceries and Easter eggs this afternoon and not ringing Centrelink) Nicole told me that the first appointment is not for 2 weeks. I explained that nothing can happen till I get the form so she rang John to get permission to speak to me and then did the lot over the phone herself so now it’s a done deal and she will send Gracewood the necessary paperwork and send a copy to me. I don’t know how I feel now, relieved, guilty, elated, exhausted, optimistic, sorrowful, probably all of them at once. But on a positive note John rang to say he’s counted the hooks on the wall and he can hang six pictures there so he’s looking forward to coming home and choosing them. Also he hadn’t realised that he can sit wherever he wants for meals and today he was again stuck with the miserable Ken so he’s told Jenine and Ray, the latest permanents, that he is joining their ranks and asked if he can sit with them for meals in future. She is a good scout and quite with it, but I suspect Ray has dementia. So now I will be accused of dumping him in a home once his daughters find out, but I have weathered everything else they’ve blamed me for, so I will weather this as well.

April 7, 2023

Big news last night was a call from Kenneth on his mobile. Tanya had dialled for him and it was our 19th anniversary so it couldn’t have been more perfect. At the end of our call I spoke to Tanya and asked again if she knew why he never answers his phone. The reply was that he has a new phone and number because he dropped the old one in the sink (how many months since he had a sink I ask myself?). She promised to email me the new number, but I am not holding my breath. The call came to my landline so I couldn’t save the number unfortunately. At least now I know I was right when I thought that I had been given a wrong number so it is great to know that I’m not going completely mad and imagining things. Why I didn’t get the new number is a different question of course, but one I will probably never get a decent answer to.

Last night John told me he is so pleased that he can keep his room as he loves watching the trains going past at night and the cars as they go on the overpass. It is actually the construction of a dual carriageway road, any railway is miles away, but I didn’t want to dampen his enthusiasm. I went out to Gracewood this morning and we sat in the garden for tea with half a hot cross bun each. He is still confused about everything but it will settle in time. Apparently part of the extras package I purchased is postage and there’s a little post slot near the lifts, so I am encouraging him to write letters on the backs of his colouring pages which will pass the time and also be exciting if he gets any replies. As I was leaving Logan rang and was very disappointed to find that John is becoming permanent and will no longer be going to day care, but he insisted that Iris take him out to visit John this afternoon, so that’s a bonus for them both.

4pm Things were going too swimmingly. Just had a call from John asking why he’s been put into an institution and saying that he hadn’t been asked and hadn’t agreed to it. Neither are true, but they are in his mind. It has all happened so quickly and perhaps too quickly for him to absorb. He asked if they will hold his room for the future if he comes back to live here and I had to tell him (as I had explained before) that there is a limit to the number of nights that he can stay away from Gracewood. I can’t believe how things have changed since I left at lunchtime. I was afraid of this happening but we had gone over the pros and cons so thoroughly yesterday and he seemed content, but what a pig’s breakfast it is now.

April 8, 2023

Last night I got a few calls from John, quite the reverse of his 4pm call, saying how pleased he is that ‘the government has bought me a unit’. I guess all of these positions are simultaneously true. Jane is visiting today so I don’t need to worry about him too much. He is very keen to get some of his artworks hung in his room, so I will bring him home on Sunday to organise that.

Went down to Erko and Dav and I went out for the day to Woollahra for her birthday, while Louis took Millie to the Museum. She’s very keen on minerals and crystals so that was their focus. It was a very interesting day, observing that no-one over there has a car more than two years old, a range of Mercedes, a brand new Rolls Royce, BMWs, Porsches, Teslas and even a Polestar which was of interest as Carly’s pal Lucas has just bought one. I was kind of sad that we’d got an Uber as my car would have been considered a vintage one and would perhaps have drawn a crowd. Most of the fashions in the shop windows I would not have bought in the Sallies if they were on the $2 rack, so no tears that they were out of my price range. The only remaining antique shop, Michael Greene Antiques, was crammed with stunning things, especially silver, and it was lovely that he remembered me after all these years. He used to occasionally buy from me at Windsor and seeing the prices I understand how that would be economic. Perhaps I should have offered him my silver rather than going to auction as he could have made 200% easily, but it’s too late now. Interestingly I was able to buy two items that I haven’t been ably to find out here for years: Irrewarra granola/muesli and Dutch fruit loaf, both from Victoria. The granola is packed with whole macadamia nuts and fruit so I’m hoping it will encourage me to have more for breakfast than just the glass of milk that I’ve been having of late. The fruit loaf is edge to edge fruit in this brand with just enough dough to hold it together, rather than a few sultanas being thrown from the Eiffel Tower as most other brands appear to be. We lunched at Bistro Moncur and I had the best fish dish I’ve eaten in a long while, Murray Cod with Vongole in a sot of saffrony, lemony sauce. Bob’s new drug worked a treat and I didn’t need to ask for a doggy bag, I would have licked the plate had I not been in Woollahra. At a nearby table a woman in her 30s had such a deep cleavage that I needed to glance over every now and again to make sure she hadn’t sneezed and had a wardrobe malfunction but her husband, closer to 60 than 30, seemed quietly confident. An interesting shop was Tanora, who make woven raffia items, bags, cushion covers, placemats, hats, in their family atelier in Madagascar. I got Dav a couple of placemats to use on the table for hot items, they are tea- dyed and very finely woven. What an interesting and productive day.

April 9, 2023

No Insiders this morning because of Easter! They need to move it to a Wednesday, Easter I mean, not Insiders.

Well we achieved something today in that John came home for lunch (precious little here, just crackers, cheese and avo, though the freezer is chockers) and then we loaded his chess table, rocking chair and a small antique table for his colouring work as well as some pictures for the wall. The hooks were too high for us but Francis has booked a visit by the maintenance man for Tuesday. All the activities will resume then so he’ll have more to do. Even though he missed lunch they saved him a cupcake with an Easter nest on top from afternoon tea. Plenty of visitors around this weekend whereas I am usually the only one, people have time to visit the olds I guess. I suggested that we plan a trip of a few days away for his birthday in June and suggested some venues, but he said he wants the destination to be a surprise till he gets there. I think the southern highlands will be perfect for that time of year so I will look into options, though I have a sneaking suspicion about where we will end up.

April 10, 2023

I’m not going to Gracewood today as I had Kirk here in the morning to cut the grass and Arvind in the afternoon to put up the handrail, with me as his able assistant, well assistant anyway. John has rung eight times so far today, mostly querying the whereabouts of his drink bottle, so I’ve told him to write the answer in his diary but then he goes out of his room and rings again. He had wanted some small family photos hung up in his room but then decided that it looked ‘too busy’ so I’ve brought them back and he just wants one of his father in uniform and one of his parents and siblings all together. Martha came over in between the two jobs so that worked out well, we had tea and some cake she brought out on the front verandah. The handrail took longer than I thought to put up but looks good. John rang three more times while it was being done but I had left my phone indoors, however he then texted, reminding me to bring his drink bottle……

This last few days there has been the case of the Brisbane woman who police suspect may have been murdered due to her obsession with going through people’s bins and separating their rubbish into recycling and non-recyclable. Then yesterday a ‘high-flying executive’ apparently stabbed his partner of 13 years and killed her, there were other cases too, already half forgotten. I can understand being angry, I can understand being really, really angry, but surely once the blood starts flying we all have an automatic off switch that kicks in and shuts us down, except some of us don’t apparently.

April 11, 2023

Last night on Australian Story there was a story about a man who suffered sepsis originating from a sore throat but spreading to his limbs, resulting in all four being amputated. His wife had taken him to Canterbury Hospital on Christmas night due to leg pain, but it was misdiagnosed as sciatica and sadly he was sent home. By Boxing Day he was in agony and he ended up in Concord Hospital where sepsis was diagnosed but by then it was too late and by New Year’s Day he was a quadruple amputee. It took me back to John’s two bouts of sepsis, both amazingly occurring while we were together so it meant he went to hospital fast. The first was when he became suddenly ill here and went to bed at 6pm without dinner, an unheard of situation. At 11 pm it was obvious that he was very unwell so I drove him post haste to St. Vincent’s, not wanting to sit hours in Westmead as had been my experience in the past. By the time we got there he couldn’t walk and was wheelchaired in, the staff recognising serious illness when they saw it. Weeks of hospital ensued but he pulled through. The second time we were at Lane Cove when he snapped at me ‘you haven’t dressed me warmly enough, I’m freezing and need a jumper’ which was bizarre as I neither dress him nor choose his clothes. A few minutes later I found him in bed under a quilt shivering from head to foot, totally different symptoms from the first time but concerning enough to ring 000 for advice. They dispatched an ambulance immediately and he was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital, again an A grade establishment, where sepsis was diagnosed and treated. Had he been alone on either occasion we could have been looking at a very different outcome as I doubt he would have recognised the seriousness of his condition and was too sick to think clearly.

I’ve arranged with John that he will come home next Monday, stay here overnight, and then I’ll take him for his monthly treatment on Tuesday, returning him to Gracewood after that. I’ve managed to juggle his appointment so it coincides with my own six-monthly check-up. His takes roughly three hours and mine about two so it should work out well. I missed two calls and an urgent-sounding email from Gracewood, it was Anu the client liaison officer who has been off work for two weeks and she was in a panic that John hadn’t been picked up yesterday! No one had told her that he was made permanent last Thursday and she was very worried that he’s there without a contract having been signed. She wants me there first thing in the morning to sign the contract, but I will be taking it home to read before I sign anything. I rang John to fill him in but he said ‘Sorry I’m at a very interesting talk on Morocco so I’ll ring you back’!

April 12, 2023

It’s now well into the afternoon and so far the only things I have done since I got up today have been to do with Gracewood. I visited John, saw Anu and was given a massive contract to sign, which I refused to do seeing it went over 60 pages and needed careful reading. I find it has a bill of $750,000 for his accommodation, which I don’t intend signing up for as his guarantor! They haven’t yet been notified by Centrelink that the government are picking up the bill, so all of the figures in the contract are the normal prices, not the Commonwealth supported ones. I hope that Centrelink gets some notification to Gracewood quickly so the contract can be altered, signed and done with as I am already sick to death of the many phone calls and emails. One was from My Aged Care to say they have cancelled all of John’s home care services, they can only have had notification from Centrelink as I certainly didn’t call them, but Centrelink hasn’t informed me, John or Gracewood that he’s actually permanent. All my intentions for this afternoon are blown out of the water and I’m so sick of talking about it all that I am going to have a bath and will be leaving my phone out of earshot.

April 13, 2023

Last night after failing to speak to a real person, I came up with a cunning plan, to go to the MyGov website and click on document upload, then send a hand-written note to Centrelink asking them to fax Gracewood with acknowledgement of John’s permanency. Once this is done we should be able to sort out this contract stuff. Having got that done I felt okay doing a couple of cards this morning: beating tibouchina flowers and Brazilian nightshade berries from the front garden onto wet watercolour paper. I wanted to use my big wooden mallet for the job as we did at the dyeing workshop. It lives downstairs and after we got the driveway done John was convinced that it had been left behind by the landscaper. I convinced him eventually that it was an antique mallet that I’d had for decades but the one time I needed to use it, it’s missing in action. I was able to do the job with a hammer but it split the paper and wasn’t really the right tool for the job. Hopefully he may remember where he put it but I think it’s unlikely.

This afternoon I am going to Dav’s to mind Millie so they can go for dinner and a concert at the Enmore Theatre tonight. It is Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats as well as St. Paul and The Broken Bones, I have never heard of either of them but somehow I’m glad that I’m not going. It’s going to be a late night so I will sleep over and go to see John straight from there. He’s asked me to take all his figurines but there’s no way he has enough shelf space, so I have packed up half of them and he can keep half in his room, if I’ve chosen the wrong ones that can be redressed on Monday when he comes home. On Tuesday my artist friend Luke Kelly is giving a bird-painting demonstration at Parramatta Arts Society which I’d really like to attend. Pity it’s after a big day at St. Vincent’s for us both, but I will do my best to get there. Most of Luke’s events are in the Wiseman’s Ferry area and this venue suits me much better.

I respect the work of artist John Olsen, though I am divided between those works I love, like the Lake Eyre series and Sydney Sun, and some others like his Archibald winning portrait that I wouldn’t hang as a gift. His work has always made me think of Aboriginal art, it’s as if he sees landscape from a plane or somewhere in the air, just as First Nations artists do. However despite the esteem in which he is held I hope no-one comes up with the idea of a state funeral. We paid $1.6 million for Shane Warne’s funeral and I for one resent my 60 odd cents worth (though perhaps it was only Victorian tax-payers who got slugged). The man was a multi-millionaire whose family could well afford a planting and associated celebrations. Likewise for Olsen, say thanks, have a function at the Art Gallery or in the park nearby, BYO, costs zip.

April 14, 2023

Spent the night at Dav’s wrangling Millie. She asked ‘who is the first person in my family?’, confused by the question I said her dad as he is the oldest but she corrected me, ‘no all my ancestors’. I asked if that meant right back to the caveman and she said yes, she hoped so. She came out from bed and slept across my lap while I read. I’ve been having problems concentrating on reading and tried A History of Opium but let it go, interesting as it was. Then another non-fiction and a fiction I’d got in from the library with ditto result. Finally I got Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, she can always get me involved in the family dynamics of her characters and she has done it again, dying to know the end.

Went straight to see John who was being tested for memory, he passed all of the why was Stalin famous? type questions but couldn’t remember the words apple, table, penny for even a minute despite getting hints from the nurse. I took out half of his figurine collection and set them up in the shelves, it’s looking more like a home each time I take something else out, making sure I leave at least half of the items here so as not to spoil his room display. He seems much more relaxed with the staff who are so uniformly good it’s hard to have a favourite, but Francis is the titleholder for me as he actually sits down with John and has a conversation, something that can be missing in his circumstances.

I flipped on the 1pm news and saw the Secretary of the Health Department tearfully announcing the death of a paramedic attacked at McDonalds while getting a 5.30 am coffee after his shift. I don’t know the details but who cares, it’s a tragedy whatever they are. If there are ill-natured paramedics I have yet to meet one, I had a weep with her.

April 15, 2023

Michelle W. arrived early bearing a very tall glass vase she had found at Vinnie’s to replace the battery acid jar which I sadly broke some years ago. It is 18 inches or 46 cm tall, perfect for agapanthus which was one of the main uses for the antique one. I’m spoilt by Michelle every time I see her. I pointed out the 1837 needlework sampler that I have just bought and as expected she loved it, so it confirmed my decision to give it to her come her birthday or Christmas, if not this year then next.

I got a text from Logan (‘hi sweetheart’Smilie: ;) inviting me to go for afternoon tea today at 2 pm, a request I immediately acceded to, but later there was another from Iris saying that he had sent the text while she was out and asking if it could be tomorrow instead and for both of us! It’s hard to know what to do in a situation where there is a bit of cognitive impairment, do you assume the other half knows or not? Perhaps not is safest, but I didn’t want Logan to hear a text coming in to doublecheck the arrangement. So I will pick John up tomorrow arv and take him for tea with them. Today I took out yet more figurines to him, but I am scared of the cleaner’s feather duster snagging them with disastrous results so I will need to make a sign asking her (all the hers) not to dust the shelves.

It was a mistake to look at the Facebook page of murdered ambo Steven Tougher, but I did. His donations to various charities, his solid support for his union, pics with Julia Gillard and the ACTU president, happy snaps with colleagues and from his recent wedding all point to a genuine decent bloke. Life just isn’t fair.

April 16, 2023

I am not at all sure that we made the right decision about John staying at Gracewood now. I think we will only know as we look backwards from the future. Although I go nearly every day the initial surge of visitors ended very quickly, so it’s becoming a routine of seeing me in the morning, playing games or doing activities in the afternoon, followed by a very long evening and night. We speak on the phone numerous times a day, sometimes eight or ten times if he’s forgotten our previous conversations. I am not using the free time to any great advantage, so was it worth it? Perhaps that’s why Centrelink is taking its time to send the paperwork so we can duck the whole idea? But then how will that work when he does need to go into care, I’m sure there is a cost to reneging and they have already cancelled all his home care services, they did that immediately. That is the only way I know that I didn’t dream the whole approval conversation with Centrelink as I can’t get anything from them in writing, as much as I try. I only started feeling somewhere near normal this week, before that I was still having the aftereffects of the kidney infection, so maybe I just needed extra help until that occurred. Emails to some of John’s friends and relatives updating them on his changed circumstances have gone unanswered, something I am taking as disapproval, but then they haven’t contacted him either so perhaps they are just slack.

Reading Apples Never Fall I came across a few words that immediately made sense of John’s inability to defend himself when verbally attacked, something that is a puzzle to him as well as to me. The author describes a main character as having ‘a defenceless ego’, saying that he had always known that ‘women had the power to draw blood with their words’. This phrase echoes John’s comments about verbal attacks within his family, something he says he is powerless to defend himself against. ‘He had no arsenal of clever words with which to defend himself. He quailed and recoiled. He shut down and went silent. He took it and he took it.’ I have watched this play out at times and not intervened, trying not to make matters worse, seeing him struggling to handle the attacks. In latter years he’s asked me never to let a situation arise in which he has to deal with this on his own. It’s something I’ve done ever since that request but of course if it should happen at Gracewood I’m just not there. God what a mess.

April 17, 2023

Picked John up first thing and headed home. We just had a relaxing day here, with Michelle and Kev coming over for afternoon tea before their trip to Japan. Happily John got a message from Services Australia confirming that he will be a Commonwealth supported resident but Gracewood is still to be informed, however there is still pressure on me to sign the contract for him to pay the full price of $750,000. “In the meantime, please I need the original contract to be signed. I will do a variation agreement once I receive our copy of the letter.” This doesn’t seem right to me and I am ignoring it, but it’s awkward.

I’m not sure what’s happening about Carly’s three birthday presents, posted in late March. She got a text to pick up the parcel and dismissed it as a scam. This morning I got a genuine-looking Australia Post text saying that a parcel couldn’t be delivered, so I assumed it was kosher and clicked on it. Only when the website came up did I notice that it was sent from Texas, so I deleted it immediately. So we are between a genuine text and a scam one but who knows where the parcel is, I hope Carly went to the PO today to sort it out. Tonight’s Four Corners is on the topic of scamming I think and I hope there is government action on it soon as it’s getting to be a pain in the arse.

Cooking a favourite dinner for John tonight, but I think I made enough for a party, luckily it will freeze. He is very confused about how long he’s going to be here (only until tomorrow afternoon) but hopefully his enjoyment isn’t overshadowed by the confusion. I am working out how to return him without being seen by the woman pushing me regarding the contract but I need to walk right past her open door. A balaclava perhaps?

April 18, 2023

It worked well to align my appointment at St. Vs with John’s just down the road. As I was picking him up I ran into Fran and Bill coming out of the centre. I asked Bill how he was and the reply: How would I be coming out of the Kinghorn Cancer Centre?’. Apparently the radiotherapy hasn’t worked so they put him on immunotherapy at $16,000 a pop and it didn’t work either. He’d just been told that he must start a stronger regime of radiotherapy tomorrow and then another drug in tablet form that is so expensive that the oncologist asked the drug company to let him have it as a humanitarian gesture and they’ve agreed. I guess if you don’t have the dough for these expensive treatments you just miss out, more likely you never find out they they exist. My appointment was a bit disappointing in that he found an area of bowel that wouldn’t take up the iodine, apparently normal tissue stains and abnormal doesn’t, but there was quite an area where there was no uptake. He’s taken a biopsy (ouch) and I’ll get the results in a week or two. All I need at the moment is another bout of surgery. I guess everyone says that as there’s no good time, but perhaps there’s another explanation for the anomaly. John seemed happy to get back to Gracewood, which he routinely calls Gracelands, particularly as they had locked his room in his absence and the precious figurines were safe. I snuck past Anu’s room while her head was turned.

April 19, 2023

Last evening I was due to go to the Parramatta Art Society to see my friend Luke doing a demonstration painting of a cockatoo. I was certainly not in the mood to go out but I forced myself and was glad I did. The universe approved apparently as it provided a parking spot right at the door so I didn’t need to fantasise about hooded stalkers on my way there. Seeing him painting in acrylics made it obvious to me that I chose the most difficult medium when I went to classes in watercolour. Perhaps I will do his workshop there in May but I am always reluctant, the way life is at the moment, to agree to anything in advance.

I decided to try to get some pressing jobs out of the in tray today so, seeing my printer is stuffed at the moment, I went to the library to use theirs for a couple of things. John wanted to post out some letters to friends letting them know that he is at Gracewood, so I typed that up from his draft and got a dozen copies done. Then I reread their bloody contract to get my head around it. Next a knock on the door proved to be his ex-carer Greg, just calling in to say hi. He’s going to try to get permission from Wendy’s to visit John in a private capacity, which would be much appreciated. The ADT man came right on time to change the burglar alarm from 3G to 4G, thankfully at no cost to me. I didn’t even try to get an explanation of what it all means which is unlike me.

Father Bob Maguire has died and it will be interesting to see the church back-peddling over the way he was treated by them. It wouldn’t surprise me if they want to make him a saint now he’s out of their way. I must reread his biography which is on the shelf. The news also delivered the expected report that Fox News and Dominion have reached a settlement. This was always on the cards as it would have been even more damning to have their star attractions having to admit under oath that they were lying. Even more embarrassing for its head, Murdoch, who never likes to have his nose rubbed in his own shit. Pity though as I would happily have watched them squirm, however the $1 billion plus settlement must smart and that’s a good thing.

April 20, 2023

Today I so keenly wanted to get that damned contract off the desk and now it is done. Went to see Carol who echoed my concerns about the wisdom of signing my assets away to keep Baptistcare happy until the approval letter arrives from Centrelink. But when I got to Gracewood neither Anu nor the manager were in, so I had the damned thing put into Anu’s locked office and emailed her that I had done so. This morning there was a snafu when John was told that he alone couldn’t board the bus for the outing because he ‘is on respite not permanent’ but a staff-member intervened and sorted it out. It didn’t make sense as he was going on the bus when he was in respite, but by the time I arrived to see him he’d forgotten all about it, so I couldn’t get any more details or find the person responsible. Staff were wearing perspex full face covers as well as the usual masks so I assumed they have a Covid case there. I asked the lowest ranking person, the lady replenishing the water jugs, as I was more likely to get the truth that way. She confirmed that there was, ‘but in the other side of the building’, which of course is on the same floor with a corridor meeting the combined living and dining areas.

Rang Kevin McC to see how his hospital stay was going and learned the shocking news that he is at home with a diagnosis of terminal lung cancer, mesothelioma. Thanks Hardie Industries. That company claimed that when they first started manufacturing fibro cement sheets they had no idea of its dangers. Bunkum. An early 1950s medical book I once owned had a large section on the dangers of asbestos and the effects including mesothelioma and asbestosis. Speaking later to Peter D. he mentioned that Dally and Father Bob McGuire were good friends. Apparently Bob would contact Dally when he was approached by divorced Catholics who wanted to remarry and Dally would do the services. But later Bob decided to do the weddings himself, further deepening the rift with the conservative wing of the church. I bet they will want a state funeral (if anyone deserves one he does) but I maintain that it’s a political decision and so best not embarked on for anyone, by any government. Peter commented that it’s always a worry when Christians get to positions of power in the church, so Bob had to be eliminated by the hierarchy as best they could achieve it.

April 21, 2023

Well what a day it’s been. Off for my 10.30 am appointment with Louise Herron, CEO of the Opera House, regarding an offer made by the previous CEO Richard Evans. John had written to him in 2010 asking for permission to have his funeral somewhere, anywhere at the OH, citing the reason that he wanted it in a ‘sacred space, but one which isn’t linked to religion’ or words to that effect. Richard invited us for morning tea in his office overlooking the harbour, agreed to the request and showed us to the ‘cleavage’ where the sails meet. He offered seating, a lectern, a microphone and facility to play John’s choice of music, all in exchange for an unspecified donation, also saying that if it were raining he would relocate the ceremony to the Drama Theatre. Unfortunately when John moved here he filled two Sulo bins with the contents of two of his three filing cabinets and many important documents were lost, including the OH confirmation letter. So I emailed and then phoned to get a copy and to my amazement was told that they could find no record of it. I smelled a rat immediately and my sense of smell was very accurate.

Today I approached the stage door as requested and told a security guard that I had an appointment. Who with? he asked. The look of disbelief on his face when I said Louise Herron was worthy of a photograph but I didn’t have my camera out. Does she know you’re coming? he said (I would have thought that’s what an appointment means, but anyway). I was ushered upstairs by her EA and Head of Protocol, the charming Anthony, and as soon as I walked into her office she said how very nice my blouse looked and commented on the unusual buttons, so I knew the venture was doomed. In short order she said that they can’t find any letter received or sent but she had spoken to Richard Evans who confirmed the arrangement made with John. However she said she didn’t agree to it and would never have agreed to it. As an alternative she offered a function room with tea and biscuits for 40 people….for a donation of $10,000. I refused of course, after which she asked what kind of donation John was willing to give and I said that it would depend on what was left of his finances at the end of his life, to which she replied ‘so we’ll probably get nothing’. She opined that ‘Richard didn’t last long in this job because he was too nice (or soft, I can’t now remember which) and that’s typified by the agreement he arranged with John’. I couldn’t resist saying two things at the end: Firstly that I knew as soon as she invited me to tea that she was unwilling to honour the deal and secondly that I am not the type of person to publicise this as I don’t want to bring the reputation of the Opera House into disrepute. I also asked what her attitude would be if I could find the letter and she said it would be exactly the same. Then Anthony took me to the cleavage and offered a standing room only assembly for 40 people with no chairs, lectern, microphone or facility for music, but for free or whatever donation John could come up with. But how did he know the exact spot Richard had offered if he’d never seen the correspondence? They were lying through their teeth in my view. I accepted on condition that he put it in writing, we shall see if he honours that. Richard was a lovely welcoming man who entertained us warmly, talking to John about religion and how one loses faith, amongst other things. The morning tea with Louise consisted of a cup with no saucer and Louise instructing Anthony to ‘just add some hot water to that pot on my desk’.

Coming home I spied a pile of stuff outside a house that included a very nice crystal table lamp and a crystal clock, not working but it probably only needs a battery. They looked particularly good quality lead crystal and so I lugged them home, only to discover that they are both Irish Waterford! What sort of person puts out Waterford to be munched up by a garbage truck? An ingrate who doesn’t appreciate the fact that soon lead crystal will be a thing of the past due to the dangers of its manufacture. I feel sorry for the person who bought them originally for very big money, clearly not the same person who put them out for the tip. I feel like going up there and telling them off for being lazy coots who can’t be bothered driving a kilometre to the Vinnies and the way I’m feeling tonight I might yet.

April 22, 2023

Picked John up for the day at 9 am and we just poked around at home, made mushroom soup for lunch, he collected a couple more pictures for his wall, plus his childhood toy koala, delivering him back in time for dinner. I had queried John twice about whether he’s told the nurses that he was going out for the day, but shortly after we got home the charge nurse rang to say they couldn’t find him. I will need to notify them myself in future. I photographed the cleaned up Waterford lamp and some plates for Barsbys to consider, as well as an antique Irish Orange Lodge collarette which would be quite sought after in far-right Protestant circles I imagine.

Thinking back to yesterday I am reminded of those people coming through the stage door who were clearly from the ballet, one man in particular was well over six feet tall but super-slim, with the longest thinnest legs I’ve ever seen. Also remembered Louise complaining about people wanting the sails of the Opera House lit up for their particular cause or occasion: ‘You let one do it and now everyone wants it’ which I’m sure is true. When I got home I saw that the sails will have the NSW Ambulance symbol on them for the weekend, in memory of Steven Tougher so I suspect that’s why she was antsy about the sails. Also she was going on about how she’s used to dealing with famous people ‘We had Barack Obama here last week’, yes I do read the papers Louise. I felt like saying that she had invited me to tea, not the other way around, so she had nothing to bitch about. The fact that she was slumming it was her choice. When I got home I had a call from Tim about the verity that we are all sovereign citizens and the police and courts have no authority over us, about an American spy base in Exmouth W.A. shaped like a Star of David and the fact that the world is run by the Masons who underneath it all are the Jewish Kabbalah, it was not a good day.

While in town I did attend to one issue that’s been left too long, the Captain Cook Cruises High Tea Cruise tickets that were sitting here since the booking was cancelled by them due to Covid in 2021. The girl didn’t quite roll her eyes but close to it, however when she rang the boss he said I could rebook if I paid an extra $20 each to allow for the increased price over time. I didn’t mention that he’s had my money over time just thankfully coughed up and we are going on May 3. Walking through the QVB I played my game of pretending that someone runs out of each shop offering me the choice of any item in the window for free. Sadly the clothes were so awful that I didn’t score anything there but came home with a lovely imaginary emerald ring from a jeweller.

April 23, 2023

Every ANZAC week, it’s never a day let’s face it, I look out for the person that the ABC or other media outlets have dragged out of obscurity with a new and unheard story. There was always one to be found and John used to laugh when I announced each year’s winner. But they have outdone themselves this year with not one untold story but a whole ship full of stories. The location of the wreck of the Montevideo Maru has been a mystery for more than 80 years, but how they managed to conveniently find it in ANZAC week will remain forever a secret I expect.

John’s dear friend (and mine of later years) Kevin was hospitalised last year with breathing difficulties and had two litres of fluid drained off his lung. The docs took a ‘wait and see’ approach and nothing was done till last week when, at RPA’s Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, they finally did a lung biopsy. It revealed terminal mesothelioma, caused by asbestos. Kevin has communicated by phone a couple of times this week but I was reluctant to ask about the asbestos contact, however it was by email that he explained: “When asked where I worked with asbestos, I explained that when I was a curate in an early parish an old fibro parish hall had to be demolished to make way for a new church. To save parish finances, I led the demolition with the safety gear of a pair of shorts and T-shirt, without knowing the dangers of asbestos. Throwing myself into physical activities, both in the seminaries and in parishes as a priest, had been my habitual and totally ineffectual way of trying to resolve struggles with my vocation and to prove that I had a vocation. Now mesothelioma! An unusual and ironic way of giving one’s life for the church. God has a strange sense of humour – a bit like mine, I think. 

Kevin’s unique sense of humour aa well as his sense of obligation to his friends and relatives (and strangers with whom he comes into contact) has always been part of the wonderful package that makes up his personality. Who else when visiting John for the first time at Gracewood would seek out the manager and the chaplain to commend them on the running of the place? After being a priest, he was a social worker in hospitals and nursing homes, so he knows a good one when he spots it. Let’s hope that those who now have the responsibility of looking after him are as skilled and empathetic as he has always been.

April 24, 2023

When we were in Woollahra I managed to spot two products that I used to buy regularly but haven’t been able to find for years. So I Googled Irrewarra Granola and discovered that the only place around here to stock it is Woolworths Metro at Knightsbridge and sure enough they had it, at $1.85 more expensive than in a Woollahra boutique grocer! Still trying to source the Dutch Fruit Loaf made in Victoria though. They put me on to a distributor in Adelaide who hasn’t got back to my email and phone call, but I will persist. I made do for a long while with Aldi’s fruit brioche loaf until they replaced the fruit with choc chips, ugh.

I have sent pics to David Barsby of the Waterford crystal lamp and clock that I found on the kerbside and he is keen to have them, so on the way to John’s dentist appointment on Thursday I will drop them in. My silver all sold over the weekend with the tea service bringing $1900 and the six silver serviette rings with an estimate of $80 brought $240. The remainder sold but at the lower end of the expected range, still I’m very happy.

I have been snappily deleting emails and texts from a company in China telling me that my delivery is arriving soon, of course I thought it was a scam. That is until DHL arrived this morning with a piece of hardware that I’d ordered from Melbourne. Carly made the same mistake with an Australia Post text and as a result her birthday presents are on their way back here from Canberra. Sod the wretched scammers.

Yesterday John was at a loose end in the morning, hunkered down in his room avoiding the religious service, but looking forward to the 3 pm movie. However he rang me very disgruntled because ‘the movie was stupid’, this at 10 minutes after 3. He was wanting to know why he’s there at all and can’t we just forget about it all and I can bring him home. I’m wondering whether getting him home on Sundays in future is a good idea as there are less activities on the weekend and so he has more time in his room to think about things. But today has turned out to be similar because he didn’t want to go to the ANZAC ceremony which occupied the morning. I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time doing Gracewood stuff and making phone calls, this morning it was Centrelink ringing me asking why I hadn’t cancelled my carer’s allowance when John went into care. I was able to assure them that I had and also to give them the date of the online communication which obviously wasn’t acted on, so she apologised. It pays to write these things down. Sensing an opportunity, I asked if she could speed up their approval of John’s permanency but she said she can’t discuss his issues as they don’t have a copy of the Power of Attorney, so now she has to send a form for John to sign and I will post it back but that will take weeks. Of course the printer croaked with a ‘paper jam’ right when I started needing a lot of printing done. I certainly can’t see any paper so it needs a more technical head than mine.

April 25, 2023

I noticed how quiet it was today, then saw that the neighbours’ cars were all there and decided that perhaps they were sick so I brought in their numerous bins. Eventually realised that it’s a public holiday. No noise there at all so I suspect they’ve gone to the club, my worst nightmare, a club on Anzac Day. I was confused because John had an Anzac service at Gracewood yesterday so in my mind it was done and dusted. It surprised me that he didn’t want to go, I imagined him sitting there proudly with his father’s portrait on his lap, but he was adamant about not going. I suspect it was the expected religious content. I’ve always been puzzled about the tight connection between Anzac Day and religion, as if there were some sort of integral link. So I have discovered that I’ve carried the phone around all day in case the hospital rings with the biopsy results and now late in the afternoon I find it’s flipping Anzac Day and it was never going to happen.

I spent the morning doing a little gardening (very little) then putting some stuff on eBay, starting with a few books such as a signed copy of Alcatraz from Inside as well as a 1300 page tome called A Dictionary of Dairying, with loads of diagrams and photos. It’s a 1950s one that could be a collector’s item or could be worthless yellow bin material, we shall see. Also put on some jewellery that the lovely Alex rightly rejected as not valuable enough, such as a tooth (boar?) on a gold plated chain and a carved bone necklace. EBay wouldn’t accept bone in the description as it violates their code (I’m assuming because people use it as code for the banned ivory, so that’s fair enough). However whether folks will buy now I’ve relisted it as just a ‘carved necklace’ remains to be seen. Did some painting in the arv, pretty ordinary results, but I like letting the paint just run where it will. I’m calling it Blue (and red and yellow) Poles and some poor bastard will get it as a card down the track.

Jane commented a while back that I seem to have an awful lot of friends that I keep up with, I can’t remember the context now, but I decided to count up how many people I regularly or occasionally visit, email or ring. I stopped counting at 150. But what is the solution? Reply to an email ‘sorry I’m over budget for friends at the moment so I won’t be replying, try again in 2024’? I’m thinking it’s a good problem to have, although any more long conversations about sovereign citizens, kabbala domination of the world etc may change my mind.

April 26, 2023

Brought John home today via a visit to Logan in respite at Warrina Village, run by Anglicare. This was the one I tried to get John into but no one would reply. Logan seems okay there but complained that he is lonely because all meals are being served in his room due to the place being in lockdown due to a Covid outbreak. (Might have been nice to know that before we went in there Anglicare!). While the communal area was attractive enough, his room was quite a bit smaller and darker than John’s so although it’s fine for a couple of weeks it’s not big enough to be a home in my opinion. When we got home I decided to hassle Centrelink again about the damned confirmation letter. I struck a goodie, Gordon, who checked and found that it was marked as posted on April 12, two weeks ago. When I told him that there was pressure on me about it he said he would post them again today just in case they had gone astray, unlikely considering I was supposed to get a copy too, but perhaps they only post in bulk but rarely? Anyway I am hugely relieved that he told me not to worry because it’s all sorted at their end. Bless.

So Julie Bishop has another career, as an influencer apparently. What a comedown for a woman of her ability. She is promoting her freebie stay at a five-star hotel in New York, which costs around $2,800 a night and of course her freebie Louis Vuitton earrings, which retail for $36,910 and her $800 scarf. It won’t surprise me if she’s plugging her knickers next. Jacinda Ardern, on the other hand has been appointed to dual fellowships at the Harvard Kennedy School, a contrast which says it all really.

Just got a reply from Anu at Baptistcare after I informed her of the date of postage of the missing letter. She said: ‘Other fees are building in his account but not charged and will be cleared once we get the letter.’ What fees I wondered? Has he been going out with a paid carer? Having massages? Running up a tab at the coffee shop? No, when I queried the charges she replied ‘It’s the room charges, which was mentioned in the contract which you crossed off. To remove those charges, I will have to wait for Centrelink letter.’ So they are being accrued even though I ruled them out on the contract. See you in court on that one my dear. Talking about court, my pal Tim was in the Supreme Court yesterday in his ongoing fight with his siblings over the property he built and has lived in for 28 years. Neither barrister turned up and the judge was not happy. Tim’s barrister sent a replacement who knew next to nothing about the case but the other barrister was absent ‘because the firm closes down today’. The judge wasn’t having a bar of it and said they were ‘delinquent’ so Tim’s back in court today. The beak made it very clear that neither law firm was to charge its client for yesterday. Never a good move to make the judge cross I would have thought.

April 27, 2023

Off to Barsbys with a few low grade jewels and both of the Waterford pieces that I found on the council cleanup, plus a Loyal Orange collarette and a Victorian photo album with a non-working musical mechanism in the back. I’ve had the latter two for too many years but now they can be someone else’s responsibility. I may have done my dash with Alex when I commented that older people of the right would possibly like the Loyal Orange piece, he bristled and told me about his Lodge in the centre of London, clearly a young Mason, who then filled me in about how the Masons set the Enlightenment in motion. The man never ceases to astound me, and educate me. Is there a subject he knows nothing about? I suspect that not only is he from a family of London jewellers, but that he could very well be from the nobility end of the spectrum as well. His manners are impeccable.

From there I took John to the dentist to have his broken front tooth removed, a fraught undertaking weeks in the planning as Bob and the dentist debated the likelihood of his getting an infection leading to septicaemia, with the added problem of his having to go off his blood thinners for a couple of days despite his stents and artificial heart valve. Right up to going through the door I was fielding calls and texts from Dr Castro, Gracewood’s medical officer, about when he should go back on the drugs. Too soon and he may bleed profusely, too late and a clot may form. We decided to let the dentist be the decider and she opted for tomorrow morning. While in the waiting room a doddering, shaky man, whose age was indeterminate, came in to make an appointment. It is all done via a call centre and the staff were much less than helpful, sending him downstairs to look for a phone. Eventually he came back with a female security guard who pointed out that the man has no mobile or home phone, but still they were disinterested. I offered him John’s phone (mine still being in use due to the great tooth debate) and the guard dialled for him, but then we were called in. I wondered if we’d seen the last of his phone but during the procedure she came in to return it and we agreed that the lack of empathy was pretty poor. Finally, with no answer from the call centre, she had shamed them into contacting the centre themselves while the poor soul waited. I just don’t understand how you can work in a hospital without doing everything for a man who was so clearly in need and perhaps even homeless. But all credit to the security guard, she was a champion.

Drove John back to Gracewood and stayed a while to make sure he had no symptoms that needed action. He is so vulnerable now. When we arrived at RNS he realised that his partial dentures weren’t in, which wasn’t a problem except that we didn’t know where they were. He rummaged in the bag we’d taken and then rummaged in the glove box, to which I said ‘They wouldn’t be in there’, knowing his tendency to germ phobia, but then that’s exactly where they were, kicking around with maps and used masks and all manner of crap. He started to cry, saying ‘Why would I put my teeth in the glove box, nothing I do makes sense anymore.’

April 28, 2023

Made passionfruit biscuits for book group and then fielded a call from John saying that he doesn’t want to stay at Gracewood any more and that it was a bad decision to agree to residency. This after yesterday saying that he had settled in, loved coming home, but was very happy there as well. I know he’s having Bronwyn and Michael visit today but I didn’t tell him as the surprise is better. I didn’t have an answer though to the question: ‘Why have none of my family offered to take me, even part time?’ I booked myself for a flu vax next week and suddenly thought that perhaps I should have booked John in as well, but a quick text to Cecelia reassured me that they will be doing that for the residents, with their own doctor.

The Barry Humphries controversy burbles along. I saw him live a few times in the 60s and 70s and found him incredibly talented and side-achingly funny, but it was humour based on cruelty and I wouldn’t have wanted to be a member of the audience that he picked on. Dame Edna was based on his snobbish mother and as he aged I think he became more and more like her. So you can’t really enjoy Edna and Sir Les without realising that Barry shared their values, also looking down on others who were less intelligent, less stylish, lower class, less like him in other words. Two sides of the one coin.

April 29, 2023

Lovely warm book group meeting at Rosanna’s yesterday. Sue was here and drove Carol and myself so that was great. She had brought some cooked chicken for dinner so I heated that up for her and made some veges for myself. Sue slept over and this morning we went over to see John, then to Pine Coffee and Tea to get her some of the Russian Caravan blend tea that she enjoys so much here. Nobby Kitchens at Castle Hill was the next stop to look at possibilities for Kirribilli. Most are too modern for my taste but there were a couple of options that might work and Sue took samples of cupboard colours and benchtop finishes. I had the feeling that she would be looking at big dollars there, but the reviews were very good unlike another local firm who had an average score of one, which is pretty appalling considering that it’s not possible to give a nought. Photos of cupboard doors that don’t meet in the middle, showing the pantry contents through the gap, stories of kitchens taking 12 months to finish, shoddy workmanship, wrong measuring of benchtops, it sounded like a nightmare for each of the reviewers. Seeing it’s still raining heavily this arv Sue has decided to stay tonight as well to avoid the M1 in these conditions. We may go up to Andaz Indian restaurant tonight for dinner I think.

John was cheery, one never knows how it’s going to be. We discussed his visit from Bronwyn and Michael yesterday and a few minutes later he said ‘Gosh it’s a long time since we saw Bronwyn and Michael isn’t it?’ Reminded that they visited yesterday he went quiet and I wished I had shut up. Later at lunch he rang to ask if he is allowed to have a hot drink after his dental work despite the fact that he had a hot tea with us this morning. His friend Garry who has been having chemo for three years has just been diagnosed with fast deteriorating Alzheimers, not a coincidence according to my recent reading.

April 30, 2023   (written on May 4)

Well a lot has happened since my last post. On Saturday afternoon after Sue and I had visited him in the morning, John rang crying, saying that he had made a big mistake in going to Gracewood, that he hates it there, and that it reminds him of being abandoned to boarding school at age 4 and a half after the next door neighbour in New Zealand complained to his parents about his crying at night while they were out at diplomatic functions. Although a babysitter would have been an option he was shunted off to boarding school almost immediately. It broke my heart when he said ‘Please bring me home, I’ll be really good’, echoes of that little boy and what he couldn’t say to his mother. Shortly after I started to feel sick but I had already booked to take Sue to the Indian restaurant and didn’t want to be ‘an Indian giver’ (is that racist? yes I guess it is) so we went. However I could barely eat anything and ended up bringing the leftover food home to freeze. It’s quite put me off going there again as just the smell of curry is offensive at the moment. Sue headed off back to Killcare about 10 am Sunday and I headed off to bed.

May 1, 2023   (written May 4)

Slept all day yesterday and today but no improvement. Unable to walk a straight line, falling if I don’t hang on to furniture, pain, here we go again. Difficult to keep drinking as water tastes foul. Late in the day I was wondering if hospital might be on the cards, so I texted Bob who prescribed antibiotics and Arvind went up to Sharif to pick them up. Bless them both. Bob was on his way to the Opera House to sing with the London Symphony Orchestra, conductor Sir Simon Rattle, he certainly moves in high circles.

May 2, 2023   (written May 4)

Went to pathology and as I was leaving Bob rang and said to come up for a consultation. He’s sticking with a kidney infection diagnosis but said he’s also considering the possibility that it’s an autoimmune attack on the kidneys. Apparently bad tasting water and aversion to food is known to be linked with kidney failure yet recent blood tests don’t seem to support this in my case. Cancelled our much anticipated harbour cruise booked for tomorrow, adding another $40 in alteration fees, but I made the new booking for the end of the month so hopefully we won’t need to cancel again.

May 3, 2023   (written May 4)

Thank goodness, the pain has eased. The relief is amazing. Able to get up for a while in the daytime, though reading or doing anything useful is still out of the question, but watching the wind in the trees was lovely. John has been really good, ringing me numerous times a day. He complained once about wanting to come home but I told him that I can’t deal with it at the moment and I’ve heard no more of it.

May 4, 2023

Well it seems the government has responded to my communications about banning vapes (of course I’m sure that they could see the madness of them without my assistance, but nice to be on the same page). Greg Hunt needs a mention as he was passionately opposed (perhaps due to his nurse wife?) but that disgusting excuse for a human Senator Hollie Hughes was so vigorously campaigning for vaping that it’s hard to believe she isn’t on someone’s payroll. She is on the wrong side of every argument and it’s a worry to know that she’s a close friend of our current speaker, how could be in the same room I ask myself?

This last week has made me realise that the decision we took for John to go into care was the right one. Back when I first got sick on February 28 I had a feeling that this was not a one-off and the recovery was so slow that it made me suspicious as even after the treatment I just didn’t get completely better. Seems that feeling was well justified (perhaps my body just doesn’t like the last couple of days of a month?). I was in Leura for those days in March so perhaps that’s the antidote, head there on the 26th of every month and stay till the 3rd of the next one. In some ways it’s a huge relief to know that my instincts were right and that we did need a backup plan for John to be looked after. I’ve often told him that he will outlive me and right now that seems very likely.

Peter has organised a roster of John’s friends to ring him each weekday, all of them are interstate, which is why visitors are not frequent. But Michael, a friend from a different group, went from Lane Cove to Chatswood a few days ago, then got a metro to Bella Vista Station and then walked 3.5 kilometres to Gracewood, a mammoth investment in time and energy for a man his age. Many of my friends are interstate or in coastal NSW too so that doesn’t help, funny that I had never realised till now what a disparate lot we are.

Saw Bob again late this afternoon and he’s written Glenn Reeves a love letter so I will ring tomorrow and get an appointment hopefully. Afterwards I tried to buy 2 litres of milk in Castle Mall. Sounds simple? No, not at all. The Indian supermarket had none, the Chinese supermarket only had A2 or soy (yuk) and the now Chinese run fruit market no longer sells milk at all. Clearly milk doesn’t play an important role in the day to day shopping of those cultures.

May 5, 2023

Rang Glenn Reeves’ office at 9 am and there were no appointments to be had in the next while so she put me in for his lunch hour next Friday, poor man. Then I got onto paying my hearing aid insurance, then John’s pharmacy bill, then got a call from Gracewood because their pharmacy was having trouble working out the formulation for a medication John gets, so I phoned them and was able to sort that out with some help from our pharmacy in Baulko. Tried ringing St. Vs to see if my biopsy result has come back but got a recorded message from that office. Next I filled in Centrelink forms necessary to be able to deal with them by phone on John’s behalf so now he can sign them tomorrow. John used to call all this ‘domestic administration time’ and it seemed to take most of the morning, however I am thankful that I had enough oomph to get this backlog reduced, even if I am buggered after doing it. I have had an ebay sale today of a book, Inside Alcatraz, a signed copy for 10 bucks, but I can’t do any more today. It will wait till Monday for the next ‘domestic administration’ session.

Just got a call from St. Vs, my biopsy is a low grade abnormality, not cancer (though perhaps pre-cancer) but caused by the same virus that was responsible for the previous cancer and not unexpected. So the doc wants to discuss it with the Prof. next week and they will decide how long to wait before I get tested again. It’s a lifelong ferris wheel that I’m on with them as they can’t get rid of the virus, but I’m very lucky and glad to have their expertise. The Prof. is just back from Washington where he was at a conference which was on cancers caused by this virus, his micro-specialty.

May 6, 2023

Picked up the boy wonder about 9.30 am and brought him home, then before noon I took him to Jack and Carol who will transport him to the newly revived First Saturday, this time at Jane’s and in future held at lunch time due to the difficulties we olds have of driving at night. He is happy to be home but commented that he is best at Gracewood in current circumstances. It makes me wonder if he’s got over his emotional meltdown last week or forgotten all about it but either way I don’t intend to raise it.

I am very attached to my glasses and they are on their third set of lenses, so it was very upsetting when they and their case disappeared last Saturday. Sue rang the restaurant and later in the week I tried the tea company and the kitchen place we had been to that day. But this afternoon I spied them between the legs of the teddy who sits in a highchair in the loungeroom. The little blighter was doing his best to hide them but in the end it was unsuccessful. Great to have a win this week.

Terry Lewis, corrupt police commissioner and buddy of Bjelke-Petersen, has died at 95. As usual the good die young and the mongrels go on forever. Putrescet in infernum.

Carly rang with the news that she went to Flight Centre to get her tickets for the NZ holiday on May 20, only to find that they had done nothing. The excuse was ‘not enough staff’, but she had taken a day off work to sort it all out and now it’s budget week so there’s no chance of getting even an hour off. Every other agent is closed till Monday and Qantas Travel works Monday to Friday.

May 7, 2023

What to say about the Coronation? Well heaps, but it’s being said by everyone at the moment. One thing though, the verb is crowned, NOT coronated! I can’t remember which journo was guilty, but the proof-reader must have been drunk. I hadn’t intended to watch but John seemed mildly interested so we did, and every hour or two I said ‘I think I’ve had enough now’ but he hadn’t so we watched till the flypast. Perhaps of all the words written and spoken these by Rob Harris stuck in my mind “A man was given a hat. He didn’t seem overly keen on this hat. But he embraced the moment. For all its quirks and oddities, this was a spectacle for the ages” and it was. I am a Republican of course but a ceremony with that sense of history and majesty, with traditions going back 1000 years, can’t be disregarded. I have a false memory of seeing the last Coronation but perhaps it was a long news cast at the movies, because there was no TV. I do distinctly remember reading aloud The King Is Dead on a banner outside the Berala Newsagency and my mother being aghast, ‘What a thing to say’ she said before I pointed to the sign.

It was lovely having John home for the weekend. He said this afternoon that we got him in there just in time as his memory is so much worse. This was after I found him in his room carefully packing a suitcase with everything from thongs to undies, shirts and trousers, plus a pillow. Gently asking what he was doing he answered “I think I’m going to live somewhere else but I don’t know where or what I’m supposed to take”. When I explained that he was living between two homes now and has a full set of clothes at each he started to cry and said ‘It’s all so confusing, I don’t know what’s going on most of the time’. A cup of tea and a Scotch Finger biscuit after we unpacked the case seemed to improve matters. I’m sure those he socialised with yesterday would have no conception of how much he is struggling.

Seeing something on the news about Russia reminded me how much I hate flat land. The bus travel across Russia seemed endless, it’s somehow depressing to me to see flat land to the horizon in every direction. I could never live in such a place. Arriving in Melbourne from the north is similar, with depressing treeless black-roofed houses edge to edge as far as you can see. They use the image of this urban ghetto (one of many I suspect) repeatedly on TV when reporting on housing or finance, I can’t help but wince. One of the criteria of buying this house, hose out wreck that it was, was being on the top of a rise.

May 8, 2023

I’ve been thinking a lot about the many public servants in past couple of weeks who were sentenced to death or serious injury for their trouble. First the ambo stabbed to death for no reason, then the two SA Police similarly attacked, followed by the Fire Brigade officer killed fighting a fire with her partner badly injured, and again a Service NSW employee critically injured in a stabbing attack in Sydney. The fire case was an accident but the other three were attacks by ‘crazies’, which begs the question of why there are so many of them around. There is the argument that in the past many of these people would have been in asylums, but I think it’s more than that. As a society we have been inured to believe in the rights of the individual over the rights of society and now we are seeing the end result in people who have grown up in a world where just paying tax is seen as an imposition. Libertarianism, the sovereign citizen movement and far right politics are the consequence of many factors but surely the cult of individualism is a big one.

Centrelink’s internal machinations are a mystery. After contacting them a second time to ask about John’s permanency arrangements, I was told that confirmation letters were sent on April 12, along with forms to seek approval for me to handle his dealings with them. The chap promised to resend both sets of documents and this week two copies of the power of attorney documents arrived (sent by each of the operatives I’ve dealt with) but no copies of the Gracewood permanency documents. I do not intend to stab anybody in order to achieve my aim here, but if I happened to do so I would claim ‘mental health issues’ as this seems de rigueur now whether you are charged with domestic violence, murder or stealing a packet of biscuits. Mad or Bad? I suspect the judges roll their eyes whenever they hear ‘mental health issues’ just as I do.

May 9, 2023

Carly is in in Budget Lockup all day today until the Treasurer begins speaking. It is a literal lockup, you can’t get out, even to eat and your phone is confiscated. It’s a mix of pollies, senior public servants and journos who can write their stories all afternoon, seeking any clarification from the pollies and public servants about any details that they don’t understand. At the same time she is trying to organise a holiday in NZ for when this is done with, but the folks at Flight Centre took all the details and then did nothing, claiming understaffing. Now she is using a friend of Sue’s in Sydney but of course without a phone Carly can’t liaise with her today, so I rang to make sure the agent got all the appropriate information and is acting on it, which she is, thanks to Sue.

John has a note in the diary for 2.30 pm today: ‘filming bucket drum’ but neither of us has the least idea what it means. It will be interesting to talk to him later and find out what it’s all about. Clearly Centrelink read the blog yesterday and were shamed into acting; John’s formal approval for Gracewood arrived there late yesterday afternoon, though John’s copy hasn’t turned up yet. So he’s secure there now and I can breathe again. I sign the reworked contract tomorrow.

Crime in Queensland and the NT has reportedly surged in the last six months but that situation isn’t helped by the vigilante group in Rockhampton harassing those accused at their homes. Then of course we discover that the instigator of the ‘public meeting’ is a local gym owner, past One Nation candidate and the national president of the Patriots Defence League, an anti-Islam group linked to the American Proud Boys. Maybe not just the general public after all then.

May 10, 2023

I picked John up and brought him home for the day. The ‘filming bucket drum’ turned out to be someone coming in with a whole bunch of buckets for them to use as drums, with proper drumsticks, and it was filmed by Baptistcare staff. He must have had a ball because he rang me three times to tell me about it. One of the staff showed me a photo of John drumming with a bright green staff scarf tied around his head, looking like some sort of rock star. I hope I can see the video! He seems very happy at the moment telling me that he’s enjoying Gracewood, long may it continue.

Carly had an amazing time at Budget Lockup being quizzed by Steven Dziedzic, Matthew Knott, a fellow from the AFR whom I’ve forgotten and a heap of others. She said it went against the usual rules about not being able to talk to journalists and she enjoyed it immensely, all those late nights were worth it apparently. But she’ll be glad to get off to NZ in a couple of weeks. I so wish I were going with her, having seen the itinerary it’s just my idea of a trip, moseying down the east coast of the south island bussing between destinations, as sadly the train along the coast only runs from September to March.

Trying to decide whether to drive to Erina on Friday, then stay over at Sue’s and come home Saturday or to stick to plan A and get the train tomorrow, but that means Sue picking me up and then driving me to the Friday appointment as there isn’t any appropriate public transport. Still cogitating, but it’s great to have feel well enough to have the choice.

May 11, 2023

Today I decided to go through some paperwork of John’s and arrange it in some sort of order…..and bingo, I found the two missing letters from the Opera House confirming their assent to John’s request to have his memorial service there. They were mixed up in the file of copious legal letters regarding the theft of a large amount of money invested with the disgraced solicitor John Lundy, but that’s a story for another day. A few weeks ago I was invited to ‘morning tea’ at the office of Louise Herron, CEO of the Opera House (just as an aside ‘morning tea’ is not a saucer-less cup of half cold tea from a pot left over on the CEO’s desk). She assured me that although her predecessor Richard Evans’ letter agreeing to the arrangement may well have been written (she had confirmed this with him by phone, but couldn’t find a copy), a 2014 letter while she was CEO certainly wasn’t. There was no such letter in their files she assured me and said she would never have agreed to such a thing. I didn’t believe a word of it as I had seen both letters and now I have them in my hot little hands I’ve sent photographs of each to her Executive Assistant for comment. What’s the betting that the email goes astray too? But I am happy to keep sending copies by email, text and snail mail until the lying coots admit that they made this commitment to John. A deal is a deal is a deal.

I actually did some house-cleaning after this as I was so buoyed by my find. Many dust balls are now stowed in the bin and the place feels a lot better. It’s amazing how much better I am feeling, I am sure I will look like a total fraud seeing Glenn tomorrow. I emailed Sue to ask what she preferred me to do transport-wise as I feel I am up to driving now. She replied that a few things have come up at her end so if I can drive up there tomorrow it would be good for her, but she’s willing to pick me up at Woy Woy station if things go pear-shaped. I will come back sometime Saturday.

The current charges against celebrity jeweller Elias Germani who was arrested this week and charged with aggravated robbery, depriving a person of liberty, attempting to dishonestly obtain financial advantage by deception, publishing false misleading material to obtain property and participating in a criminal group contributing to criminal activity related to a ‘fake robbery’ after which Germani allegedly claimed $2.8 million dollars from his insurance company. If he’s convicted, he’s a very naughty as well as a very stupid man. His poor shop assistant who was tied up and threatened by knife-wielding ‘burglars’ had no idea that it was possibly an inside job. It reminded me of a similar event from decades ago which was miniscule in comparison but gave me a huge laugh at the time. It concerned a laneway coffee shop in Baulkham Hills owned by a gay couple whom I didn’t know personally, but they were friends of friends. Late one night the place went up in smoke from an apparent arson attack. Commiserating with my friends they laughed uproariously, telling me that the boys had set the fire themselves as they were going broke, only later when they claimed the insurance did they discover that neither of them had paid the premium. Ooh I just love justice, however it’s delivered.

May 12, 2023

Nervous about driving to Erina, but then I’m nervous about everything at the moment so that means little, however I had a perfectly fine trip arriving early (natch) so I went to Terrigal to watch the ocean for a while. Went to the Surf Spot cafe right at the beach and noticed a special of avo and tomato on a bun with a coffee for $13 so I ordered that, but telling the girl that I didn’t want the coffee. She charged me $15 because I didn’t want the special and it was only later that I realised I should have had the coffee, given it to a stranger and saved myself $2. But I was slow on the uptake. However the ocean looked divine and it was a perfect spot. Then driving back to Erina Gracewood’s pharmacy rang and said his Duodart medication is unobtainable at the moment and the replacement is $40 a packet, not on the PBS, so not wanting to fall for a trap twice in one day I said to leave it with me while I rang our pharmacy to check. They had plenty of supply so I bought two months worth. Perhaps the $2 was well worth paying to motivate me to querying the pharmacy.

Waited till 1.30 to see Glenn who listened to the symptoms without saying much and then asked ‘How’s John?’ I explained about the respite and the permanent care with no detail or discussing his difficulty settling in and he said that it appeared to him that my immune system had ‘gone over a cliff’. He said negative emotions can cause people to have sudden lower levels of certain immune system cells, including natural killer cells and lymphocytes, allowing inflammation and infection to occur very rapidly. He then shocked me by saying ‘I usually see this in cases of grief, loss or guilt, do you think any of these could apply to you?’ He talked about mind-body connection and the fact that it isn’t psychosomatic but an actual physical reaction to overpowering negative emotion. So his recommendation to Bob was to concentrate on supporting the mental side in the hope that the physical will rectify itself. Not what I was expecting but probably accurate.

Sue and I had a quiet night in, I didn’t even take a book with me, but we were both happy to chat. Slept like the dead in that lovely airy upstairs room.

May 13, 2023

Up early for olive toast and fromage dauphinoise with a pot of Russian Caravan. We went over to the farm and netted a lemon tree that the cockies are attacking before settling in to read the paper while Sue did her French lessons. We met Anna at Mooney Mooney for a spot of lunch and then she drove Sue back up to Killcare while I headed for home, arriving at 4pm. A chap started randomly talking to me about having had lunch at the Mooney Mooney Oyster Shed next door, sitting at a table in the shallow water with some sort of waterproof pants on while eating prawns and oysters, fresh shucked off the rocks around them and throwing the shells into the river as they ate. He wanted to know where I lived and commented that it wasn’t far from him, at Blakehurst! Mentioning that the lunch was $200 a pop made me think that it was all a pick-up line so I said I was in a hurry to catch up to my friends. Dav has invited me to Millie’s martial arts in the morning, followed by the markets at Marrickville, after I’ve promised John that I’d pick him up at 9.30, caught in the vice once again and I hadn’t even got home. Why are so many things lose/lose at the moment?

May 14, 2023

Made the lose/lose situation into a win/win by going to Dav and Co in the morning and then picking John up after lunch, he didn’t seem upset at all but I’m never sure. I make the vice (or as the Americans spell it, vise) for myself, no one is pressuring me to do competing things but I always feel as if when I make a choice I’m letting somebody else down. Watched Millie’s Ta Quan Do lesson and again I am impressed with the discipline regarding not using the skills for anything other than defending themselves. Then we had a little look at Marrickville Markets next door but I only got bread (which is delicious) because none of the many fruit and veg stalls had prices on anything. When there is a queue to be served I didn’t want to get to the top of the line and then hold people up asking prices. Clearly that doesn’t bother their clientele because they were doing good trade which suggests deep pockets in that area. Lots of computer boffins maybe.

John has had what was happening today written in his diary for a week but since we got home he’s asked me ten times if he’s staying here tonight. We found a beautiful bunch of flowers on the front verandah, from my girls, and I came inside to bring in my handbag before getting them. When I did so it was a surprise all over again to John and again when I put them in a vase. So far he’s had three pleasant surprises regarding the flowers and I expect there will be more to come, one of the few advantages to dementia.

May 15, 2023

Wow I don’t think I want to drive anywhere at all tomorrow after trips up and back to Killcare over two days, followed by two trips to the city in the next two days. I almost fell into the garden coming in just now but I’m pleased to have got all those jobs done and dusted and by tomorrow I will be back to rights. Had a bite to eat in the cafe at the National Art School opposite St. V’s. The cafe is probably the worst I’ve ever been in, three dishes comprised the total menu: all wraps, two veggie or one ham and cheese. I had the falafel wrap and could only eat half, it was so dry and tasteless. I was watching people putting their leavings in the bin but wasn’t quick enough to grab them for the possum. No wonder the students were eating things brought in from the cafe over the road, but you live and learn. Just love the buildings and it would be great to have a tour around the historic gaol. One very small stone building near the gate had a skull and crossbones carved over the door along with an hourglass and another thing that I couldn’t make out. I am assuming it would have been the mortuary but why would you put it just inside the gates? No refrigeration would have meant a ghastly smell in summer, but perhaps it was so the people picking up the bodies didn’t have to enter the compound proper and risk escapes? I don’t know but want to find out, there were no plaques to explain the history, except on the building housing the cells from the early 1800s. On the way home I called in at the library to pick up a couple of things and reserved The Island of Missing Trees which is due back in 4 days. No definite word on what we are supposed to be reading for book group but Ruth, Sue and I will all be reading this one rightly or wrongly.

May 16, 2023

Carly is on holiday and back in the land of the living after months of work almost every day. It seems so weird to ring her and get an answer. She had a strange experience yesterday with Appliances Online, which I have used and recommended, when her purchase of a vacuum cleaner failed to materialise on the due date for delivery. She rang them and was told that the order was cancelled by their fraud department, but they still have her money! No explanation was given but the bank says if she can’t get the vac or the money then they will retrieve it from them seeing she paid with a credit card. She is counting down to her NZ holiday, beginning in Wellington next weekend. Tragic news from there today after the oddly named Loafer’s Lodge went up in smoke killing at least six and probably more. Arson is suspected because fires were reported in two different locations in the building. The place is used for those waiting for public housing, newly released prisoners, hospital staff and people who have been deported from Australia, so a motley crew. I hope the name isn’t some sort of sick joke to describe the underprivileged who reside there, but perhaps there’s a totally different reason for that name, apparently tourists don’t stay there so it’s likely all Kiwis who have died.

Peter and Dawn contacted me by WhatsApp from Japan where they were about to board a bullet train to Hiroshima. In Paul Ham’s fascinating book Hiroshima Nagasaki he posits that the atomic bombs were dropped on those poor souls at the time they were because US intelligence considered it possible that the Russians may invade from the north, claiming Japan for themselves and the Americans wanted to beat them to it. Whether that is true or not, the suffering then and for many generations due to radiation induced disease and abnormality makes those attacks one of the lowest points in the history of the human race, targeting civilians and killing at least 215,000 in the initial attacks alone. Peter, who speaks fluent Japanese after working there as a diplomat, will be the most wonderful guide for their trip. Dawn has a long history as an activist in many fields, particularly in gay rights as she is one of the revered 79ers who were arrested at the very first march and who are lauded each year in Mardi Gras, but also in the anti-war movement and supporting Aboriginal rights. She is following in her mum’s footsteps. June was a nursing sister during the war when she organised a clandestine cell of the communist party at the Alfred Hospital and she had a lifelong abhorrence to war, racism and inequality. When Frank Hardy’s book Power Without Glory was banned during the Cold War her mum secretly worked with others to hand print and distribute the book. When she learned of Stalin’s atrocities June left the communist party and was shunned by most of her lifelong friends from then on.

May 17, 2023

Just finished reading A Serial Killer’s Daughter, written by the daughter of the American BTK serial killer who murdered at least 10 people from the 1970s to the 1990s. She had a pretty normal home life and writes about her own life growing up at the same time that her father was doing the murders. He was caught in 2005 and sentenced to 175 years in gaol. It made me think about a lot of things, but particularly what triggers someone to go over into psychopathy, how clever and devious psychopaths can be, in this case being a scout master and church congregation president. It made we wonder also if people like Trump and George Santos are part way down that road, narcissistic in the extreme and pathological liars. His daughter stayed sane, but only just, using her religious faith to get through the shock and trauma of finding out exactly what her father had done. She continues to write to him, feeling that she has an obligation to forgive, though his replies make it clear that he doesn’t have any empathy, either for his victims or for his family. What to do with a person without empathy? I guess try to lock them up as soon as possible and throw away the key, sad as it is I can’t see another solution. But I came away from the book with a lot of admiration for her and her struggle over decades to stay sane and somehow move on.

Sadly today I emailed both Orange Blossom Cottage and Wendy’s Home Care to confirm that John’s permanence at Gracewood has become official. They were notified by Services Australia that their funding must stop from April 10, weeks before either Gracewood or we were informed that he was permanent. I am sorry that our association with the wonderful people at both organisations has had to end. Also today I was sent the minutes of the Residents Meeting held last week at Gracewood and my gosh they either need a proof- reader or else a new minute taker. It is hard to work out much of what was discussed but ‘screening more scutinize and carefull with alchoholics, aggressive behaviour’ was an interesting one, though it’s anyone’s guess what ‘followed up Snake Update- Machine from Bunnings are bought and put around the facility’ could possibly mean. Taking notes when your English isn’t that great is a hard task, but there needs to be a way for someone else to make sense of the meeting’s decisions or there’s not much point in reporting them to an aging and overwhelmingly Anglo audience. I considered offering to proof-read them but it would probably mean I’d have to go to every meeting as I couldn’t possibly work out what was said from these notes, best to pull my head in I think.

May 18, 2023

After trying really hard to take Glenn Reeves’ advice to avoid anxiety-producing situations and engage in activities that give me pleasure, I was plunged into hyper-anxiety after John rang me last evening to say that his daughter has found out where he is and wants to take him out for lunch on Sunday, the first such offer in at least 15 years. He said he wants me to come, probably the last thing I would opt to do this weekend after walking barefoot on a bull ants’ nest or being water-boarded. So that was the end of a pleasant day today as I was worrying about what has occasioned this and whether it’s all about his ‘things’ as usual. After a fitful sleep I realised that this is just the sort of thing that will put me back in bed if Glenn is right about the cause and that will not help anyone. So I’ve tried to focus on things that need doing like checking who was listed as the beneficiary of my super account. The bank couldn’t tell me, I had to ring Commonwealth Super directly, but was pleased to find that all is in order there. Lots of phone calls this morning, none of them of the cheering up variety. A close friend told me that her husband has been the victim of a scam and lost bigtime, but he won’t reveal to her how much has gone, just saying ‘everything I had’. Here’s hoping the bank can claw some of it back but it isn’t sounding promising. The same person told me of a close friend of hers who has a serious cardiac condition but has no will and keeps putting it off, ah the old ‘death will wait if only I don’t make a will’ idea seems to be a common pipe dream for some people. Then Tim rang and told me I was sounding like Ita Buttrose, with a lisp, querying whether I could have had a stroke. The sassy statistician sailed the Mississippi, no lisp. My goodness perhaps I should get into my PJs now at 4 pm and send this day off into the s-s-s-s-sunset or should I say thunthet.

May 19, 2023

My friend’s husband just got a call from NAB to say they have retrieved his scammed money, so that’s a relief for them. I fear we are in for more and more of this and it will be a wild ride.

I see that the Powerhouse Museum is running an extravaganza entitled just Zampatti. It’s so disappointing to see what subjects they are choosing in recent years. The old museum was a wonderful display of all sorts of technology but it has gone downhill into some sort of fashion/pop culture display. It was Carla Zampatti who said, when asked why her sizes stopped at 14, that she wouldn’t want anyone over that size wearing her clothes. I found her a terrible snob, but apart from that I wonder why any designer is getting megastar treatment in a what is supposed to be a science and technology museum?

Derrian, on hearing on the grapevine that I had been ill lately, emailed me asking if I would be willing to have a free consultation with her. She has been a practising herbalist for 40 years and said she was sure she’d have something to help. My inclination is to respect double-blind controlled trials as gold standard, so this was certainly outside my usual panorama. However I don’t want to keep going the way I am (up sick at 4 am again this morning and I’m putting that down to trepidation about Sunday’s lunch). So I went today and will take the herbal remedy she has made up for me. If in fact Glenn is right and there is a psychological involvement in my immune system crashes, then perhaps I just need to have faith that she knows what she’s doing and give it a try. It was good of her to offer and I want to take her contribution seriously. As often happens my worries about the lunch may be unnecessary anyway. Davina and Louis are booked to go to a B and B in Bundeena tomorrow night while Millie goes to a sleepover with her friend. But Millie has come down with a cold and Dav has asked if we can potentially take the booking, though a final decision will be made in the morning. I was bringing John home first thing tomorrow anyway, so it will be a case of driving down there instead of home. He is quite prepared to ask for a postponement of the lunch if that happens so it’s in the lap of the gods now.

May 20, 2023

While I was picking John up I got the message to say that we are appointed recipients of the Bundeena weekend so it was a quick trip home arriving at 9.25 am and I was packed and on the road by 10.05. I texted his daughter on his phone (John’s instigation) apologising for the postponement of Sunday’s lunch and suggesting next Sunday instead. The reply came from Dan, totally fine and they will be in touch. Carly meanwhile left Canberra on the 6 am flight to Sydney and was ensconced in the Qantas First Class Lounge courtesy of her friend Lucas. She texted me the menu which was heavy on things like egg white omelette (eye roll) and lots of gluten free options. I noted there were no prices but she said it’s all included, natch. She flew off safely to Wellington about when we set off for Bundeena. I found the drive via Auburn, Bankstown, Menai and Sutherland quite stressful and was really glad to get there. We had a walk on the beach and wharf, then some lunch at a food van in the main street before driving to our digs. The two units were attached to a private home and access was through their living spaces. It was an architect designed build and interesting in many ways with dry stone feature walls and zinc cladding, very Grand Designs. However there were some weird aspects, such as the bathroom being completely open, no door. Later we were to discover that the two recessed lights in the high ceiling coupled with the fancy pants globes in the bedside lights were totally inadequate for reading. I tried to read the newspaper at 5 pm but couldn’t make out more than the headlines, unable to check whether my letter was published though a text informed me that it had been. John was completely thrown by the bathroom situation and asked me constantly where the door was. If a person came to the door of the unit, their eyeline would be directly towards anyone perched on the loo, so I understood his confusion. We went for a walk through the Wiggly Forest, a large woodland of Angophora costata and went through them to Jibbon Beach and then back via the road. The trees have amazing horizontal branches going out double the height of the tree, they are really something. Later in the afternoon, after I had booked us a table at the Bundeena Community Club, Fran rang, just a coincidental social call. It turned out they were at their Bundeena house and she suggested that they join us for dinner at the club, barely a block from their home. I had a dozen oysters and after I saw the size of John’s meal I was pretty glad that I hadn’t ordered a main. Bill and John were both very quiet but Fran and I found plenty to natter about. She commented that they don’t go to their daughter in Richmond in one trip any more, the road is too taxing so they stay at Elizabeth Bay overnight on the way. This made me feel much better about my reaction to the drive. A funny aside: when we arrived at the club we were asked to sign in and to show a photo ID. Of course John doesn’t have one any more so he tried his pension card, credit card etc to no avail ‘sorry sir we can’t let you in without photo ID’. ‘Okay’ I said, ‘we’ve booked a table in the dining room for four people but I guess we’ll just have to go somewhere else’. Shrugging his shoulders he groaned ‘just go in, we’re pretty lax here anyway’.

May 21, 2023

The bed was comfy, the room warm with underfloor heating and cooling (don’t ask me how the latter happens) and we got used to the bathroom. In the bright light of morning I was able to read the home-produced colour brochure about the accommodation, which had some zingers. A sample: Brightwater Retreat, now referred to as BRW; trees berried in sand; you can hear whiplash birds and rare specifies like oyster catchers; there is a Webber baby Q for your use (this one freaked me out thinking of slow roasted babies). Bless him, I shouldn’t laugh but I can’t help it, I’m a bad person 🥴 Breakfast was served in his kitchen, eggs, bacon, tomato or any combination of these with a mug of tea. Perfectly adequate, but no sign of the usual juice, cereal, jam etc though we weren’t complaining. Headed off to the National Park nearby for a walk to The Balconies, towering cliffs over the ocean. It is only about a kilometre each way but is the beginning of the 26 km coastal walk, which some were perhaps starting seeing the size of their packs. I have always hankered to see Wedding Cake Rock which is about 6 km return further on but decided 8 km on a rough track was a bit much for us. Drove back to the big smoke of Bundeena and on the off chance I went to the IGA in the hope of finding some of the Dutch Fruit Loaf that I’ve been trying to buy ever since I spotted it and bought some in Woollahra when I was there with Davina weeks back. I’ve emailed and rung the makers in Kilsyth Victoria and they have given me Adelaide and Brisbane suppliers but nothing for NSW. Now I think I see the reason: the manager says he orders large quantities and gets them delivered directly from Victoria so clearly there mustn’t be a local distributor. So I bought 36 dollars worth and I shall freeze them, eureka! Decided to come home via Heathcote Rd, the M5 and M7 and boy was that an improvement, 20 ks longer but a much easier drive. My favourite nurse Francis welcomed John home and enquired about whether he was hungry after the drive, quickly producing a plate of sandwiches, a piece of lemon cake and mug of tea, he’s a very sweet man. John is completely confused about what the weekend entailed, firstly asking as I drove home if we had been on a Gracewood bus trip, then if we’d been to book group, then if we had travelled down there this morning. I got him to write some details about it in his diary when we got to Gracewood as the whole weekend has completely gone for him now. It makes me doubt the wisdom of the four days I have planned at Bowral for his birthday, perhaps it’s a waste of time (and money) for him to stay that long?

May 22, 2023

I planned to get the car rego done today but they are a bit busy, so that’s on tomorrow’s agenda instead and I will get the flu vax today, always something. It’s a pain in the butt having to schlepp to Blacktown now that Alex had moved his business to there but I don’t want to change mechanics. I asked John to walk down the corridor and ask Francis if he will be getting the flu vax there or whether I need to organise it, but by the time he walked back to his room he’d forgotten the answer, so I rang him and they will sort that out there.

I received on Facebook an invitation to participate in a double-blind placebo controlled trial for a new vaccine to prevent urinary tract infections for women over 60. No one else I know who’s on Facebook seems to have got this, clearly it is targeted to women over 60 who get UTIs and live near Westmead Hospital. So how exactly did they know to send it to me I wonder? I expressed some interest in finding out what it is all about and now they are haranguing me about joining up. It is a study which begins with the participant getting an experimental vaccine and then being followed for three years. But of course 50% of the people get a placebo but still have to have all the follow-ups etc. Still thinking about whether I will do it or not.

Thinking about the two police attacks on female nursing home residents and pondering the fact that if every ambo in NSW were given a Taser and handcuffs tomorrow to protect themselves it would be unthinkable that either would ever be used in these circumstances. If you have a Force you will undoubtedly attract a minority of people who want the job because of their attraction to the force element. Just look at the stats for the NT Police where a big majority of serving members are ex-military. I once visited the old Rydalmere Psych Centre and one of the patients, a man in his twenties who seemed quite normal, asked me if I would be interested in going out with him. I replied that I’d have think about it and shortly after the poor fellow came out dressed in a suit and tie, ready to go. I was hugely embarrassed but it got worse. Because he walked up behind the male nurse who was sitting down (apparently they had to approach nurses from the front or side) the ‘nurse’ jumped up, pulled the man’s arm up behind his back and threw him to the floor very roughly. I was mortified and sorry for my own part in the fiasco but the nurse shrugged his shoulders and said ‘They know the rules’. None of the other staff seemed to think it was any way unusual and I realised that sadly the culture of psychiatric nurses was a very different one to what applies in dealing with medical patients.

May 23, 2023

Monday night is my weekly TV binge and last night didn’t disappoint. Australian Story featured a woman with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer who took part in a trial to assess the usefulness of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, combined with psychotherapy to relieve mental anguish in the terminally ill. Her husband has early onset dementia so she will be leaving her children effectively orphaned. It reminded me of Brian’s stories of being given LSD at a private hospital where they were trying to treat his alcohol addiction. Considering that this is touted as a first, it made me wonder if that hospital were doing it on the quiet. St. Vincent’s on the other hand took 9 months just to write the proposal to have it approved. It appeared to have been very useful and the woman’s comment that she couldn’t put the experience into words echoed Brian’s attempts to explain it.

After that on 4 Corners an investigation into the cocaine trade, unusual in that it consisted of interviews with the actual dealers and a ‘door’, someone who gets the drugs through the airport. They were all masked of course, but although many had their words printed on the screen, others didn’t and I missed a lot of the dialogue from those people, a fact I pointed out to the producers and the journalist by email after the show. One part showed a man making ‘cocaine’ by crushing aspirin and covering it with hairspray to get it to clump in the way that the real stuff does. Amazing that people trust these folks and ingest what they sell, real or fake. It really was a doorway into another world and the journalist Mahmood Fazal deserves plaudits for getting so many people to cooperate in the making of the program.

I had plans to get the car rego done today and to pick something up from the council chambers but unfortunately the Norfloxacin honeymoon which has kept me well for weeks came to a crashing end last night and I have been in pain since 2 am. I am hoping to recover by tomorrow as our harbour cruise has been cancelled three times already due to illness and I can’t bear to cancel it again, not to mention the $40 fee that yet another change will bring. Not sure how to move forward here, waiting to hear back from Bob who must be heartily sick of me by now.

May 24, 2023

Bob worked his magic yesterday and I was well enough to do the long-awaited Captain Cook High Tea Cruise this afternoon. So then I could focus on the important things in life, such as seeing nurse Francis without his mask for the first time and discovering that he is handsome as well as kind and efficient and then the fact that three people on the bus to town were reading actual books, with pages! Throwing in a third piece of trivia, I am amazed that Jeremy Fernandez’ thumbs are so ‘opposable’. I know that’s a good thing and helped us make tools and whatever and get where we are in an evolutionary sense but goodness, that man could hold a jeroboam in one hand.

John was most confused about why we were in the city but eventually cottoned on to the boat trip idea, commenting that he hoped it wasn’t going to be on the Carnival Splendour which was in dock. We got window seats due to the few takers today and were presented with three tiers of yummies: hot veggie morsels on one, cold savoury things like prawn blinis and sandwiches on another and a range of sweets on the third. I planned ahead and took a plastic box for leftovers and they were all sweet things which I divvied up between us when we got back to Gracewood. I certainly won’t be having dinner but I bet John does because he will have forgotten about the high tea. It was a lovely afternoon and if Sue were in residence at Kirribilli today we could have waved as we went past. Sydney Harbour looked a treat, we had the perfect day for it.

So Rolf Harris has ended a life of highs and lows, once again showing that being an arsehole is the trick to getting a long life. I took the kids to see him in Parramatta Park when they were very young and although I would never say I had any idea about his offending, I somehow felt a resistance towards him that I couldn’t explain and didn’t go back to see him when he appeared on future occasions.

May 25, 2023

So today I was catching up on all of the things I planned to get out of the way on Tuesday. First to Blacktown for car rego, but alas the mysteriously broken glass on one headlight and one taillight has to be fixed. It’s a mystery how both were broken while parked with no damage to the car, almost as if someone had pushed a screwdriver through them. I sat for an hour while they rang around trying to get replacements from the wreckers, which they ultimately did, but it was going to be up to two hours before they could collect them so I will go back next week. While I was waiting I pored over a hardcover large format book about the Black Saturday Bush Fires in Victoria. The photos and articles were quite incredible, including about one couple’s horror ride, passing four cars which had crashed into each other in the darkness taking six lives. Put out by the Country Fire Authority, I think it was the best description of those tragic events that I’ve seen. Next to the Hills Council Chambers, the road to which took me right past John’s window at Gracewood, though he was out on his weekly bus trip. The organisers of last year’s carers’ retreat had left Mother’s Day gifts for all the attendees and it turned out to be matching slippers, eye mask and hot water bottle cover, I feel undeservedly spoilt. Next to the Chocolate Warehouse to pick up John’s bulk barley sugars (and a little block of mango macadamia nougat for moi). Then to the library where I thought I was picking up my latest reservation. Unable to find it on the shelf I asked the librarian who said I picked it up on Monday. I didn’t believe her and thought it was a mistake but it’s on the dining room table so clearly I did! This made me remember a recent event where I was sure I had been overcharged at a shop, just $26 odd in total, but for the life of me I couldn’t add up the three items in my head in order to query it. Later looking at the receipt I found I was overcharged on one thing, but by then I decided I couldn’t be bothered going back. For some reason mental arithmetic is now outside my skill set, along with brain surgery and sport of all types. When John was asked by the neurologist to count backwards from 100 in 7s and I only got to 93 without a struggle.

Totally pissed off that the decision of the Coroner in the Melissa Caddick inquest was announced today at Lidcombe when I understood it was to be in the city and so decided against going. The last hearing days were in the city, probably due to her brother the Ghastly Grimley monstering people at Lidcombe where there are few security staff. But I rang the court a while back to check the date and venue of the decision and was told it would also be in the city. Grrr…after going to the inquest as many days as I could I wanted to hear her full findings. From the little I’ve seen I think they were the correct ones though much of the mystery remains. But the things we discovered without doubt are that her husband is somewhat slow, but perhaps also devious, her brother a nasty piece of work and her parents very hard people, certainly not a family you would want to mix with if you could avoid it.

May 26, 2023

No clarity about whether the book group was going ahead today after a suggestion it be changed to next month due to the low number of people available to go. A couple of opinions each way but no conclusion so I decided to stay in my dressing gown until it was sorted and at 11am, two hours before I intended to leave, it was decided to go ahead, but whether we are discussing the book or not is still up in the air.

Carly’s photos and descriptions of NZ are buoying me at the moment. A huge factor in the beauty of that country is the ban on advertising hoardings, it is pristine in that respect. Although some are seen in the cities the country is delightfully free of them, but sadly we have followed the US (naturally) and favoured commerce over all, ruining our country scenes with billboards. Today’s pics show her at dawn in Kaikoura on the pebble beach and rocks watching the seals cavorting unrestrained and footloose, if you can be footloose without feet. I am soooo envious, it’s my dream trip. Perhaps it will be possible one day though I somehow doubt it.

When I was told recently that my killer T cells are ‘depleted’ it reminded me of looking after dearest Karl-Heinz at the end of his life, cruelly cut short by AIDS. It was always about what the T cell count has gone down to. I think normal is up to about 1000 per cubic ml but people used to start getting really worried when they dropped to the low hundreds. It was always the first topic of conversation when the boys got together, ‘what’s your T cell count this week?’ Oh 150, that’s not too bad, then some downhearted soul would report a count of 60 and we’d change the subject. I think Karl got down to 17, although I met people who were down to zero, but of course not for long. I would buy the Sydney Star Observer each week and look through the obits to see if any more friends had gone, it got to the point that I didn’t go to funerals unless they were very close and there were quite a lot of them. Somehow Covid, as bad as it was, never hit me like the AIDS epidemic did, a diagnosis then was a definite death sentence.

May 27, 2023

Tried to ring Milton Park a few times over hours regarding the latest date and time we have to cancel the trip planned for John’s birthday next month. Eventually I emailed them and a fellow rang me shortly afterwards. So I have till Tuesday to decide whether to cancel the trip due to my unpredictable health and be on the safe side, or persist with the booking and risk a more than $500 cancellation fee if we can’t go. In the middle of last night I was definitely cancelling, but this morning I just don’t know what to do. I have to see Bob again on Monday and perhaps he’ll have some opinion, though last week he was confident that the current treatment would work, at least for a time.

I am glad I went to book group even though we couldn’t discuss the novel because the member who suggested it wants to introduce it herself. Ruth has missed her calling, she definitely should have been a diplomat. Between pleasing the aforementioned member who wanted the book delayed and dealing with a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the recent planning, she hosted an afternoon tea while very firmly pushing future arrangements into a more organised pattern. I dips me lid. Unfortunately the meeting clashed with the final verdict of the Coroner in the matter of the seaplane that crashed on the Hawkesbury. From what I’ve heard briefly it seems that the findings fit exactly with those of the ATSB’s inquiry, odd and non-standard bolts were used by the company’s maintenance contractors, allowing carbon monoxide to infiltrate the cabin because they couldn’t be properly screwed in. Despite the difficult technical aspects, which were patiently explained to me at the time by the ATSB chief investigator, during the breaks, it was one of the most fascinating inquests I’ve been to. It was frustrating that it clashed with book group and I was very tempted to go, even though that would have been the end of the quorum I suspect. I look forward to reading the full transcript, sadly without my technical advisor on hand. I predict the beginnings of a huge lawsuit emanating from the British families of those who died in the plane, presumably against the maintenance company as well as the seaplane operators who hired them. There were always people rivetted to the evidence and writing feverishly in notebooks, and they were certainly not casual observers like me. Perhaps I’ll get to go to the court cases that ensue.

May 28, 2023

Had a lovely morning, till into the afternoon in fact, with Carol and Jack. It reminded me how much I miss talking to people about ‘stuff’. John’s wits are about him in terms of logic but he can’t remember anything he’s heard on the news, been told, or thought about yesterday, so it limits our conversations a lot. It was lovely for both of us to have him here for the weekend, just pottering. I needed to wake him up to go out this morning so he had a good rest as well, not that sleep has been a problem at Gracewood. I commented to Bob last week that he will probably outlive both of us and he said that in his experience people’s physical health improves when they get dementia, high blood pressure often becomes normal and other illnesses recede, so although I was speaking in jest he agreed in fact.

Carly is in Akaroa tonight, somewhere I remember well from my NZ travels. In the ocean-filled core of an extinct volcano it is a divine little village, with a cemetery for each religion and ‘dissenters’. Despite being tiny there is an English and a French quarter, with heritage buildings celebrating its 19th-century British and French colonial history.

I’ve given up on the idea of going to Vivid tonight or in the next day or two but I’m hoping for Thursday night, fingers crossed. We used to go a few years back but got out of the habit, though I think it has improved a lot now. I planned to go through the light show in the old railway tunnels which you can do day or night but Dav and Louis did it yesterday and said there were signs warning people about the flashing and strobe lights and telling them to stay still and put their hand up if affected and someone would come and rescue them. Dav seemed to think it was iffy for me to do it and sadly she’s probably right, but there are plenty of other options in the open air.

May 29, 2023

Feeling much more optimistic now that I’ve seen Bob and he has put me back on industrial strength antibiotics (the usual phone call to Canberra for permission took place) with an immediate follow up of a more common antibiotic daily for the foreseeable future. So I’m not cancelling our trip to Bowral in two weeks and as well as that I’ve booked a room at Swissotel in the city for Thursday night to see the judgement in the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation case in the morning, then on to Vivid in the evening. Perhaps I will go to the Archibald or the new gallery, or both, on Friday. Woo-hoo, I know from experience that I will have at least a couple of weeks with no symptoms on this drug, and perhaps quite a few weeks, so I will pack in as much as I can in that time. Bob agreed with me when I said I think it’s time to start spending my super a bit more freely so I may go to see him singing with the SSO next week as well. While I was there the receptionist came to the door twice about the previous patient who was insisting on getting an Endone script. Bob said he’d just spent 15 minutes telling the patient why he won’t give it to her, but soon she was back again saying that the pharmacist had said the one he had prescribed was the wrong drug for her and she really needs Endone, so Bob said that the pharmacist could give it to her if he wants but he certainly wasn’t going to prescribe it.

John had ‘pet therapy’ on his itinerary today so I said to ring me as soon as it was over to tell me if the pet was a rat, a wolf or crocodile. He did ring straight away but couldn’t remember anything about it, not if it was a dog and what kind or even if he went. I am trying to get him to take photos so he can show me and we can discuss it but he can’t seem to remember to do that.

My cousin Domingos who was battling bowel cancer all last year has died. He and his brother were rescued from a tinny in which they were out fishing when the Indonesians invaded in 1975, watching the planes and knowing that their family was being attacked, They were brought to Darwin and then Villawood from where they were adopted by my cousin Ruth and husband Greco. The boys both converted to Islam and Domingos was particularly devout, which I hope gave him some comfort through his illness and early death, leaving 7 or was it 9 children? I think 9 was the last count.

May 30, 2023

So pleased to have scored one of the last tickets to Mozart’s Mass in C Minor on Thursday next week. I haven’t been to hear Bob singing since Covid started so I’m really looking forward to it, despite the need to be heavily masked. I decided to cram in as many good things as possible in the next two or three weeks while I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be feeling fine. Folks can keep their heroin and fentanyl, I will stick with my drug of choice, norfloxacin, love it to bits.

Very disappointing news that Uganda is once again cracking down on gay people while the ghastly Florida Governor de Santis signed a bill that will let the state take transgender minors away from their families if they are supporting them in their aim to change. Social morays seem to be circular not linear and just when we were congratulating ourselves about gay marriage it all heads back the other way. In fact I think it is likely because of gay marriage that the wheel turned backwards. Watching the documentary Folau it occurred to me that before colonisation the South Pacific had such liberal customs around sex and marriage, but now they cling tightly to the philosophy of the oppressors, which of course is a similar story to Uganda. The zeal of the convert is common in many faiths, something particularly noticed in Britain where Muslim converts have been more likely to show extreme devotion than those born into the belief and are more likely to become jihadis. African Catholicism is renowned as being more hard line than it is in other countries and it seems that Italians are much more inclined to adopt a laid back attitude to the rules of the faith, having been immersed in it for two millennia. However we can’t wait and watch these extremists for two thousand years and hope that their faith wears off over time. The answers are far from simple, but keeping Trump and de Santis out of the White House would be a good start.

May 31, 2023

Whew, just home at dusk after taking John for his last dentist’s appointment at RNS. The car almost knows its own way to Gracewood and back now. I find the driving exhausting so I’m glad to only be using the bus tomorrow, split infinitive but who cares?

Talking to my friend David from the south coast who tells me that his wife Esther has been called to her twin sister in Canada who is suffering the last weeks of breast cancer, to the point that her body is no longer making red blood cells and she needs to have regular transfusions. Thankfully their daughter has made that taxing journey with her. Her sister is in a care home and apparently the doc there didn’t notice anything wrong until it was far too late. It got me to thinking that I am taking John to his specialists’ appointments and to the dentist but I have never once observed any other resident being taken out except for one couple who are picked up regularly by one or other of their children for social reasons. Of course I’m not there all the time so I don’t see everything. I don’t know what people do there if they need a specialist’s opinion rather than having a full on emergency in which case an ambulance is called. If they don’t have immediate family around to take them, I suspect they just don’t go. Worth asking.

June 1, 2023Can’t believe I’m writing June 1, the first day of winter, but the warmest one for a few weeks I think. Got the early bus into the city, worrying about where I would put my luggage if it were crowded, but as usual my worries were totally wasted as I got a double decker with a big empty luggage rack. Walked a few paces to the Swissotel and was surprised to be told that my room was ready before 9 am, despite check-in time being 3 pm. I’m on the 19th floor, gulp, with a view across the road to the State Theatre, and to the north, pretty scary but I guess I’ll get used to it. I’ve always been one who likes to keep feet firmly on the ground. So far, the hotel service has been exceptional with someone showing me the various services like the bar and restaurant, the spa, sauna, gym and outdoor pool which is pleasantly heated. Damn, I didn’t bring any swimmers but I’m sure I can rig something up with a pair of black tights and a similar top. Check out tomorrow is not till 11, so I certainly want to have a swim today and perhaps in the morning as well. Noted a queue forming at the Hermes shop waiting for opening time, everyone appeared to be Asian. Sydney is turning into a luxury mecca, from my room I can see Hermes, Tiffany, Prada and more, soon there won’t be a shop in the city that a normal person can buy something in, which is a real shame. I wandered up to the King Street courts to double check the time of the Ben Roberts-Smith case as lately court systems seem to have been pulling some tricks on me or else I’m losing my ability to navigate the system. A photographer waiting outside confirmed the time, but said that the man in question is reported to be in Bali and not intending to come to court, not that it matters. The lovely old King Street court was all closed up so I went via Hyde Park to the old Mark Foys building to see what was going on in the courts there. Along Elizabeth St I saw the fattest rat I’ve ever seen racing towards me, but I clearly worried him and he turned and ran the other way. The Downing Centre is a really poor restoration job of this important building and hopefully it will get a redo in time. The Chris Dawson trial was of interest of course but there was a big Closed Court sign on the door. Despite the judge deciding that it was to be a public trial this clearly doesn’t apply to the ‘offcuts of the general public’ as an old friend used to say. It’s only open to the media, which makes sense though in that they would understand and be bound by the secrecy provisions which apply to the identities of the witnesses. Later I headed to the QVB for a light lunch at The Palace Tearooms, salmon balls with a fabulous salad of fennel, green apple, cucumber and radish. Somehow the city is a different animal when you are not wondering about getting the bus home and whether if you go at a busy time you will miss out on a seat or not be able to cross Old Northern Rd safely. I feel like a tourist in my own city which is not at all a bad thing.

I was in place at the appointed time on the 21st floor of the Law Courts for the BRS defamation result. There were lots of reporters of course but also paralegals who were there for the experience, a fact which I discovered by talking to the young man I was sitting next to. The judge arrived on the minute of 2.15 as planned and proceeded to find against BRS and despite this not being a criminal trial and therefore requiring a lower level of proof, his reputation is damned for all time. While he was finishing up I raced out to text Carol as promised. I’m thinking that old Ben knew the writing was on the wall and got out of the country before the decision, pretty poor form when he was the one who brought the action in the first place. What an own goal it turned out to be. Back to the hotel for a celebratory swim before heading out for the evening to Vivid. Walked down to Darling Harbour and Barangaroo, both of which were very busy with most of the restaurants doing a roaring trade. Got the ferry to Circular Quay and wondered how the private boats get any business when people can get great views of the lights simply using their Opal cards. Particularly loved the light show on Customs House and the Opera House, which displayed various John Olsen paintings. I really love his ‘aerial landscapes’ but some other pieces leave me cold, including the famous Five Bells mural at the Opera House. Before getting the tram back to the hotel I got on the long queue for two scoops of Messina icecream, which considering my lunch was an adequate and delicious dinner. Bob texted and he was pleased to hear where I was, saying that he was glad that I am spending some money enjoying myself and that at this stage of our lives we have to assume that this is the rainy day we’ve saved for. A good thought to sleep on.

June 2, 2023

Well sleep was a bit of a theoretical proposition I’m afraid. I tried curtains open, curtains shut, but I think I was always conscious of being 19 floors in the air. No matter, it was a beautiful room to lie awake in. I think this hotel’s staff are as good as any I’ve experienced, up there with the delightful people at Treasury on Collins in Melbourne. Breakfast fit for a queen included all the traditional stuff plus Asian and Scandinavian options as well as a large honeycomb to directly scrape one’s honey from. I would like to return when my appetite is back to normal and try one of everything! Leaving my luggage with them I wandered off to the Art Gallery and discovered, not for the first time, that I am an art philistine. The new modern gallery is an amazing building to be sure, but as a gallery it’s a fail, all glass, vaulted ceilings, escalators, stairs, coffee shops, but where’s the art? I did see one painting that I would be happy to bring home and hang but that’s about it. The much vaunted Tank in the basement, an oil tank during the war apparently, contained some huge agglomerations of ‘stuff’ that were never really explained to my understanding. The Tank would have been of as much interest, if not more, without the ‘art’. Why couldn’t they just have put all this stuff into the Museum of Modern Art at the Quay and saved us a motza? Not a photo did I take. But then the Archibald called and I always get my money’s worth there, though the children’s art section as usual outshone many of the adult works. I totally agreed with the decision of the judges in the Wynne prize, a stunning Aboriginal painting that stopped me in my tracks.

Thinking back to yesterday I realise that a persistent image of Gladys’s boo, Arthur Moses, sticks in my mind. He looked just like the ‘plague doctor’ from the 16th and 17th centuries. Perhaps it’s the fact that he stoops over somewhat, rarely smiles even when things are going his way, has a prominent nose and with those long black robes he’s for all the world like those old engravings. Now I can’t unsee it. With Our Glad coming up for judgment at ICAC soon, she may very well need a freebie for his professional services. It’s a strange thing really to go from being the partner of a crook to being the partner of a barrister in one fell swoop, but there’s there’s nowt so queer as folk.

Breakfast lasted me all day, but it was a weary soul who trudged down Cross St in the afternoon, dumped her case and crashed on the bed for a nap, something I very rarely do. I would have to call my mini holiday a success and look forward to our trip to Bowral in just over a week.

June 3, 2023

Picked JMM up early so I could get into cooking for First Saturday. Tried Adam Liaw’s Rice Pudding with Apple Compote and Walnuts but I don’t think I’ll do it again. You cook the rice in a lot of milk for 75 minutes but to my mind it’s a bit stodgy after all of that time and gas. The apple was just stewed and topped with cinnamon and butter fried walnuts so nothing new there. But then two people brought very extravagant cakes so most folks went for them and I don’t blame them. We were going straight to Dav’s for dinner afterwards and Louis seemed to like it so I left the big serving dish full of it there. So to First Saturday….the Aboriginal lady who was doing the talk couldn’t come at the last minute so two women from Circle of Peace came in her stead. They had each done a course on The Voice and both were well-meaning and good people, however it somehow left me thinking that they were ill-equipped to answer any tricky questions. They were mostly preaching to the converted which I think was just as well because when two people asked neutral, rather than supportive, questions it was members of the audience who gave the answers when they were not adequately resolved from the chair(s). Another thing that worried me was one speaker claiming that hospitals ask people if they are First Nations or not (she refuses to answer the question) so particular doctors can treat them. I just don’t think that is true but I aim to find out. She cited an Aboriginal woman waiting 16 hours for treatment until a particular doctor arrived, but I think it was a one-off that’s being extrapolated into a policy, something I’m not at all comfortable with. The hostess had very interesting collections of silver, figurines, china and more that I would have liked a better opportunity to look at and perhaps will in the future, she and her husband went to a lot of trouble and were very welcoming. John forgot his water bottle and on the drive to Dav’s he was constantly searching in the glove box, under the seat, in the holder between the seats and asking where it was. In the end it was starting to annoy me so I diverted my mind to counting how many times he’d asked me about it. When I got to 20 I told him that it was very distracting while I was driving and asked him to stop. So then it changed to repeating ‘Don’t bring me anywhere in future without a water bottle’ and I started counting again… the time we got home from Dav’s I was sapped and ready for bed.

June 4, 2023

I was in my PJs watching a very good Insiders program and Michelle had texted just before, offering to bring over a book she wanted to lend me so it was a quick rustle up of Arnott’s biscuits and a few chocolates before they came. Iris and Logan popped in as well so we all had a good natter but the best story went to Logan who talked about the stinking town up near the Himalayas where Zoroastrians, commonly known as Parsis, had their temple. In that religion no one is cremated or buried but put onto the roof of the temple to be taken by vultures and Iris said the whole town stank to high heaven and made them sick, but the pinnacle of the story was when Logan said that a vulture flying overhead dropped a hand to the ground, I think that’s a storyline for a horror movie. Talking about horrors, last night there was a heavy rainstorm and I woke up not knowing what the noise was. My first inclination was to jump up and find the fire stairs as I thought I was still 19 floors up. In the hotel I had carefully checked the location of the fire escape, to the left of my door, but charging out I discovered only the kitchen at Cross St, though that experience shows how much being at that height had sunk into my consciousness.

June 5, 2023

The apologists for BRS are all scuttling out of the woodwork, led of course by the ghastly Peta Credlin who said she ‘won’t join the pile on’ regarding his guilt. Many Australians have such a sycophantic and fawning relationship with the military that they take criticism of it as a reproval of themselves. The West Australian newspaper has been reluctant to print anything but positive things about him all the way through and that will no doubt continue, just as the Courier-Mail will likely sink the Voice to Parliament.

I broke my time-honoured rule of not buying any cheddar cheese that is not either Epicure or aged for its equivalent of 32 months. I’ve had some very nice English ones from Aldi but shopping there yesterday I bought a regular cheddar (yes it was on special…I’m an idiot) and for lunch today had a toasted cheese sandwich which could have been a Sunlight soap sandwich except that my mouth didn’t foam. Will I do it again? No I will not, special or no special. Life is too short to eat mild cheese.

An article in the SMH entitled ‘What happens when the drugs don’t work?’ details the results of this happening, focussing on the Mycobacterium lung infection which Deborah has with all of the difficult treatments described, and secondly on drug resistant urinary tract infections which I have. They are the only two examples mentioned so perhaps they are more common than I thought, even though I’ve never met anyone else with either of them. I am still trying to decide about whether or not to sign up for the clinical trial at Westmead. I sent the details to Glenn Reeves but no reply as yet.

The sand between the bricks in my driveway is somewhat depleted after some heavy downpours so this morning I rang Grant who did the job to ask what sort of sand to buy. By 1.30 he had delivered me a bag and said to call him when I need more. It is so good to have used such a competent and caring tradesman.

June 6, 2023

I need to get back to my regular pattern of going to court cases and the BRS judgment last week has whetted my appetite for more. Today I was back at the Coroner’s Court to listen to evidence in the sort of case I am particularly interested in, at the intersection of medicine and the law. It is about the death of a young man, badly injured in a car accident in the Riverina and brought to St. George Hospital for surgery for serious facial fractures and other injuries. He improved after surgery but then developed a problem with the tracheostomy, setting off an alarm which brought staff from hither and thither. However they failed to stabilise him over about 40 minutes and a junior doctor ordered rocuronium, a relaxant, to make it easier to treat him. It was overlooked that the tracheostomy tube could have moved and was not actually in the trachea at all, this in fact had happened but went unnoticed while other measures to treat him were tried, until he ultimately died from cardiac arrest due to lack of oxygen. If it were not for the family’s medical background things may have ended there but his mum is a vet and his sisters are a paramedic and a lawyer. They insisted on an inquest and here we are. Today it was the turn of a current intensive care doctor from St. Vincent’s who had been the registrar at St. George caring for this patient at the time of his death. He and others more senior to him were baffled about why the patient was sinking lower in oxygenation and favoured the theory of a blockage, which they tried to clear. He was an excellent witness and gave calm detailed evidence for two hours, before being asked at the end if he had anything he wanted to say. The poor chap broke down totally saying that he goes over this case every day, wondering if the death could have been avoided and how much responsibility he bears, he is still receiving counselling. What a huge responsibility we put on people to do their best in extreme and difficult circumstances. I await the findings on this one, hoping that improvements in care happen, but not at the cost of people like him who simply did their best in a confusing situation, yet fell short.

The newspapers are all over the Kathleen Folbigg pardon. I followed that trial at the time and was comfortable with the guilty verdict back then though I started to have doubts at the first appeal, unlike the Lindy Chamberlain case where I was convinced of her innocence throughout and got into a few rows over that opinion. It is a tragic life Folbigg has lived and her husband still believes that she is guilty, so he is in a terrible situation as well. May peace materialise for both of them.

June 7, 2023

Always seem to be sent surveys, probably because if you answer one you get a heap more, so this week I got one on the Sun-Herald’s colour magazine Sunday Life. I was happy to answer the question about the best thing about the mag, ‘it gives me heaps of laughs each weekend when I see the ridiculous prices in advertisements for clothes, homewares and beauty products, wondering who are the people who buy this stuff?’ Another question asked us to assign a celebrity’s name to how we feel about the Good Weekend and Sunday Life magazines. I went with the first ones that came into my head, Laura Tingle for GW and Roxy Jacenko for SL, giving the reason in the latter case that ‘the mag is all about the exterior but is hollow in the centre’. I know nothing much about the woman but she is on my list of those I’d be happy never to hear about again.

As is typically the case I’ve had a number of offers to do things on the days we are going to be away and a couple of the theatrical shows I would have liked to see end around this time. But we can’t attend/read/hear/celebrate everything, not enough hours in the day when I’m well and too many when I’m sick. However I am so thankful that at the moment I have choices and anything I attend is a bonus.

June 8, 2023

Off to the city by bus followed by some brunch at the Palace Tea Rooms. Skipping breakfast to justify the treat, I wondered if the chef would throw a hissy fit at my ordering just a plate of ‘sides’ rather than a full meal but they were fine about it so some roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, homemade hash browns and spinach with toast ensued and as always it was delicious and enough for the day. Walked to the Quay and later tried to get a pot of tea at the Opera Bar but they don’t serve tea which was amazing to me, so I went without and drank the free water in the foyer. A lesson for the future about not passing up the dozens of wonderful teas on offer at the Palace. Sitting next to two old dears in the foyer I heard the story of the friend of lady one who ‘dropped her daughter off at an ashram in Bali when she was 12 where she was abused by the head man until she was 16 when she she said she wanted to leave and they gave her $200 to come back to Australia because he’d got a new and younger girl’. Mmm, I love sitting alone and Hoovering up conversations and that was a goodie. Old girl two got onto the military and how the BRS case has confirmed her opinion that the Army, and particularly the SAS, is not a force for good as far as young people are concerned (echoing my own view of the military in general as a necessary evil).

My late booked seat was perfectly fine, at the side of the stage with good views of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Philharmonia Choir in Mozart’s Great Mass in C Minor. I will never be a musical person, even with the help of a very good programme. What to make of comments like: ‘The ceaseless double-dotted rhythm of the orchestra and the free use of a ground-bass passacaglia principle derive from Handel and Bach’. Better for me to just sit back and enjoy it without knowing what the devil the experts are on about. Bob of course was superb, no partiality to see here folks. Later I met him at the Stage Door and we went up to the Green Room where he showed me the ropes and we had a drink (clearly heavily subsidised judging by the price) looking out over the harbour. Trammed it back up to the QVB and got the front seat on a double-decker bus home, the most difficult part of which at 6 pm is trying to cross Old Northern Rd in peak hour, so I got off at Baulks to cross at the lights and amble home (perhaps trudge or plod would be better words as by then I was totally worn out). A good day.

June 9, 2023

This morning I discovered that John’s car wouldn’t open, neither with the remote nor the key so I got the spare and managed to open the passenger side. Neither of the keys would start the engine so I rang my mechanic who diagnosed a flat battery, though why that would affect the key locks is anybody’s guess. Called the NRMA and got a lovely chap called Jerath who diagnosed a dead flat battery and found a light on the passenger side had been left on. I hadn’t even noticed this light, only the one in the roof, so presumably it’s for someone using the glovebox. I know I didn’t turn it on and will need to watch that my passenger doesn’t in future. I suspect it was part of the desperate search for his missing water bottle last weekend. So I put the car down to the back of the driveway so I could leave it going for an hour with no fear that it would be assumed to be a freebie or part of a council clean-up, then took it for a little drive to the pharmacy and the library.

Jerath’s father paid $120,000 for him to come here and study engineering (he said that it cost him $3 million Sri Lankan rupees for the visa alone, for which he could have bought a Rolls-Royce). But he talked of other friends now here who came by boat as refugees and succeeded in their claims, despite no fear at all of persecution. He commented that he was lucky that his father has the funds to pay while his friends from the same community had to go by ‘the refugee route’. You would need the wisdom of Solomon to sort that situation out and I suspect many ineligible applicants succeed while worthy ones suffer or are returned.

June 10, 2023

I’ve discovered that it takes thrice as long to prepare for a trip away on your own compared to doing it together. I actually washed John’s car today so it will look the part at the posh hotel (perhaps it was more because the dirt had turned green mouldy on the eastern side of the car, ugh). Car-washing is such a rare event for me but I actually enjoyed it in the early morning sun. Then finding the Thermos, picnic plates, cutlery etc was slow as although I have cleared a fair bit out of my storeroom, John has added even more than I removed, so finding the packed picnic basket proved impossible which meant making up a picnic set with odds and sods, very frustrating when it there is a perfectly good set there somewhere. Note to self: attack the storeroom with gusto.

Last week I happened to see a number of people who had been at First Saturday and I intended to bring up the misinformation that was given about First Nations people ticking the box identifying themselves as such in a hospital environment. But before I had chance Gaby brought it up, saying that she was very concerned about the issue and had contacted Hornsby Hospital where she used to work to check the facts. They were horrified at the story as given, as were RNS Patient Advocate staff when I called them last Monday. So Gaby volunteered to write a letter to the speakers basically pointing out that one incident doesn’t represent a policy. The letter is very diplomatic, probably much more so than if I had written it, but it should get the message across and she will copy it to those who were there to correct any wrong impressions they may have. But the most interesting point about all this to me is the fact that not one of us was game enough to question the speaker, which should have been done at the time. I didn’t want to be the lone interrogator when everyone else seemed to accept what was said, but clearly some others were just as concerned and they kept quiet too. Groupthink in action perhaps or no-one wanting to upset the smooth running of the conclave, but no excuse in hindsight.

So Boris Johnson is gone, at least for the time being, but on his way out the door he handed out more than 40 honours and peerages, apparently 100 people were nominated, every one was to go to his closest friends and allies. His attempts to give a knighthood to his father and to other relatives was blocked, but the gutless Rishi Sunak allowed these to go through. However it is the irresponsible rule allowing this sort of cronyism which is at fault, it should be abolished on day one of a new Labour government.

June 11, 2023

My goodness I make such an epic out of preparations for just a few days away. Today it’s garden watering, food packing, clothes packing, clearing out the veggie drawer and cooking the remaining spinach, zucchini and whatever to freeze, readying possumable leftovers for his tea tonight, like the rock hard half a croissant that’s been sitting there in the fridge for weeks. But I like to come home to an ordered house so it’s worth it in the end. I need to fill the car up too and was cogitating about whether to do that at Castle Hill or North Rocks, when I remembered some talk about an online petrol price guide. Sure enough I found it straight away and put in my postcode. The North Rocks servos were a full 10 cents cheaper per litre than the Castle Hill one, despite one of them being the same brand, I shall use this regularly now which is probably what everyone else has been doing for years, late adopter me.

Yesterday I saw my friend Michelle W. and her birthday is shortly after John’s. Recently I bought a large framed hand-sewn sampler dated 1835 and she had remarked very positively on it, so I said it was hers in my will. Thinking it over I wondered why she had to wait, I’ve enjoyed owning it and it would make a perfect gift, so that’s what happened. She has no family background or training in antiques yet her taste is impeccable. She showed me her latest acquisitions, a superb French inkwell set, carved from one piece of wood and adorned with animals and wheat sheaves and an ebony and ivory jewellery box with intricately carved ivory faces applied to top and sides. I could let her loose in any antique shop or charity shop and she would home in on the best thing there with laser-like accuracy. Her collection must be worth a few bob now and I’m happy to add to it over time. Other people who were spotters for me in the shop never developed an ability to know shit from clay, it’s not something you can teach, it’s an innate skill somehow.

Unfortunately I have a habit of judging the cut of clothes on people on TV, male and female, not to be critical of them personally, more their dressmakers or the sales assistant as we can’t always judge how something looks on us. First it’s the shoulders and sleeves, a common problem, then the way a jacket closes (or doesn’t) and how it drapes. I don’t even bother with Ashleigh Raper any more, all of her clothes are clearly tailored and are always perfect. Jeremy Fernandez is pretty good, though his jacket waist is a mite too tight. Poor old Sarah Ferguson, whom I love as a reporter, wore the blouse from hell one day last week but the prize for the most ill-fitting jacket of the year goes to boom-tish: Samantha Maiden on Insiders this morning, jeepers I doubt we’ll see it again once she looks at the replay.

Later: Woo-hoo for the Fuel Check website. It caused me to meet a bikie chap at the bowser and we got to talking, as you do, first about the various badges on his leather jacket and the cost of a Harley-Davidson but then he noticed that I’d been assiduously cleaning the windows and I commented that it was most unusual for me to have a clean car, but I was taking John out of his care home tomorrow for a holiday in Bowral and I wanted his car to look schmick. This led on to a conversation about his father-in-law with dementia whom he and his partner look after and the fact that they are looking for a care home for him. Of course I recommended Gracewood and he put the details into his phone. We talked for a while and parted buddies so I thank the website as I was meant to be there, right at that moment.

June 12, 2023

Everything went very smoothly picking John up and on the drive down to Bowral. Luckily I saw the sign to Lydie du Bray Antiques at Braemar, recommended by Michelle W. We spent some time wandering around the massive barn full of genuine French antiques, not a repro in sight, then went through the rooms in her house which were also open. I spent not a dime but enjoyed the experience. Then into town which was packed, with a queue of about 20 people outside the patisserie, two hours later when we walked past it again the queue was still about 15, so I was amazed that they had anything left to sell. I wanted to take John one night to the lovely French restaurant in Bowral that we went to a couple of years ago, but the website said it is permanently closed, along with a separate cafe and a patisserie owned by the same Frenchman. So I asked at the tourist bureau what had happened as every cafe was full so I couldn’t see there was a lack of business. ‘Oh no, he didn’t go broke’, he said, ‘he embezzled a lot of money and has fled the country’, which fitted with the fact that the fridge in the closed patisserie is still full of drinks, indicating a hasty exit. Shame for everyone except his opposition who is no doubt enjoying his demise. We went to our go-to place in Bowral, Your Vintage Occasion, the cafe inside Dirty Janes Emporium, but it was gone. However one of the staff told us it was now in the Old Milk Factory, a short walk away so we were able to enjoy the fabulous scones with jam and rose cream and some of their selection of 25 different teas. I guess it is similar to the Palace Tearooms in the QVB, all old worlde, with vintage china and a lovely atmosphere. When I went to pay the bill I came back to an empty table, no John but my handbag and both phones sitting there. The waitress and a couple from another table helped me in the hunt for the absconder but we found him in the end. Note to self: do not leave him alone for a minute, take him with you everywhere or face the consequences. Later we went to a couple of op shops and I saw a set of three matching but different bangles that I really liked and asked the price which was $5 each, but before I had time to pull out the $15 she said ‘or the three for $5’ so John decided to shout me as he had just $5 with him for spending money for our trip. I love them and will get a lot more than $5 worth of pleasure out of them.

Booked into the delicious Milton Park Hotel set on 32 acres of gardens and fields, once the home of the Hordern retailing family from 1910 but built in the late 1800s I’m guessing. Our room looks over a large courtyard with a fountain and although I expected air conditioning it is centrally heated and very warm. I had bought some salads and a smoked trout in the yummy Bendooley Providore for a cold dinner in the room, booking the restaurant here for tomorrow night, and delicious it all was. John had some cards (including a spectacular dried flower one made by Heather) and gifts to open once we got here and quite a few people rang or texted him during the day. He said it was a wonderful birthday, even though he commented about the fact that he didn’t hear from anyone at all in his family.

June 13, 2023

Last night proved a bit of a trial as John kept waking up not knowing where he was and also not being able to find the bathroom, he seemed frightened by it all. Between this and thinking of people squashed under a bus in the appalling accident in the Hunter Valley, I didn’t get much sleep. The night seems to have unsettled him as today he can’t really work out where we are and why, thinking that this is a place like Gracewood and I am just visiting. When I asked what time he wanted me to make the dinner booking he said that at Gracewood the mealtimes are fixed so he had assumed that it would be the same here. Enjoyed breakfast in the Orangerie and then took a drive to Bowral and Moss Vale, enjoying the trees there all bound up in winter woollies, lots of fun, similar to what was done when we went to Tasmania years ago. I had assumed we would see the end of the autumn colours here but they are well and truly gone, apparently there was a dusting of snow on Mt. Gibralter a couple of weeks ago. Later I had a swim in the beautiful classically decorated indoor heated pool and after that we went walking in the grounds, again John was surprised that we are actually staying here. We’ve been invited to a surprise party in Canberra for Peter’s birthday on July 1 and I have already talked to Gracewood about taking John out for that, however I am not sure now as he is so discombobulated by the travel. Coming to my place is fine, but it’s confusing for him if it’s anywhere else. I think we need to do anything we may want to do together pretty soon as his cognition is heading south all the time.

June 14, 2023

Celebration dinner last night in Hordern’s Restaurant here. I think the chef has perused lots of restaurant reviews with pictures and tries to emulate them, but doesn’t pull it off flavour-wise. John had the steak with parsnip puree and nasturtium….mmm does one nasturtium flower on the side need to be mentioned on the carte? I had the fish du jour, red emperor, with a saffron emulsion and shitake mushrooms, in fact a good piece of fish with some suds and fungi, nice enough but not nearly worth the price. John’s dessert, ‘Treasures of Earth’, looked like a pile of garden soil with a scoop of sorbet on top and to me tasted just as disgusting, but then it contained two of my worst things, licorice and dark chocolate, he called it ‘interesting’ rather than nice. I’m sure I’ve seen a picture in a magazine of something similar at Quay. John was much more settled last night, was it the rare glass of red wine or the pile of soil? We’ll never know.

Today I drove us to Fitzroy Falls where we did some walking in cool but sunny conditions. Sad that there have to be numerous Lifeline signs put up, surely there are easier ways to die than splattering yourself on rocks? Have they not heard of heroin? Perhaps the local drug dealer’s phone number should be there as well. It discouraged me from leaning over too far to take my photos that’s for sure. Back via the other side of the circle road, so we saw some new territory, all as green as Ireland. The problem with coming to the Southern Highlands for a few days is always trying to decide what to do, there are so many options and so little time. When we returned to the hotel John asked ‘what’s this place, why are we stopping here?’ having no recollection of the grounds or buildings at all. Rather than pinch bread from the breakfast buffet this morning for our sandwiches for lunch (plenty of butter, cheese, tomatoes, avo etc in our fridge) I asked if I could have four slices and when it was handed over they took my room number, so presumably it will be billed on top of breakfast. Theft would have been preferable I think.

Gaby tells me that there’s been no reply to her email from the First Saturday speakers about the advice given re people not ticking the box as Aboriginal. Her questions to Hornsby Hospital staff on the issue has caused a minor rumpus: ‘It’s opened a ‘pandora’s’ box, with ex-colleagues keen to put the record right’. Somehow I’m guessing that the information won’t end up where it’s needed but hopefully I’m wrong. I am hoping that I don’t miss seeing the ICAC findings about Our Glad. I rang them and left a message asking if they would be delivered in open court but the buggers didn’t return the call. Figuring it’s only days away now, I feel it in my waters.

June 15, 2023

Ate out in town last night at Onestra Cuccina and it was much better than Hordern’s at half the price. I just had the stuffed zucchini flower entree and a banoffee tart, but that was more than enough. Clearly the room was filled largely with regulars judging by the conversations between customers and staff, I’d be happy to go back. It’s a pity that both Milton Park and Fairmont, neither near other restaurants, are let down by their dinner options as it would be great to just eat in, especially when I am reluctant to drive dark roads at night for fear of hitting animals. But in every other way, Milton Park was the goods, wonderful ambience, open fires, great staff, delightful gardens, superb pool, spa and sauna, everything you could want. No mention on the bill of the four slices of bread I cadged from the breakfast buffet so the chef clearly thought that was fair enough. Sadly we had to leave today, not least because we only brought enough of John’s medications for the predicted stay, but I’d have been happy to extend it by a day or two or five. We met a young woman who was sitting in front of the fire drinking a bottle of wine who said she has booked a few nights stay there each winter for the last 10 years. Walked around the gardens once more before leaving and I noticed that their roses were already pruned, though I’ve always understood that August is the right month for that job, depends on climate maybe. Bob rang and told me to get another antibiotic script filled, he thinks that I should stay on them permanently now seeing how well I am feeling on the new combination of drugs, so I drove into Bowral and did that on the way home. The drive was as good as it could be, not many trucks and we did very good time but I realise that much further than that is outside my capabilities now. John was warmly welcomed back at Gracewood and there was a big Happy Birthday sign on his door.

Thinking about the Greta bus crash, how can you not? and it seems very odd to me that the driver reached 58 with no problems and then apparently went haywire with his driving. Drugs are a possibility, but he’d be a late starter, however I’m wondering about early onset dementia or some other brain malfunction. His legal team should have that investigated I think. The Premier has offered $100,000 for the families affected but I don’t see the sense in this when if those 10 people had been killed in 10 accidents they wouldn’t get a cracker. Best leave it to the legal system if they decide to sue I think.

June 16, 2023

Thinking on the quality of absolutely everything at Milton Park I regret my decision not to go for the taps I really wanted when my bathroom was built. They were the ones in the bathroom at MP and were a pleasure to look at and to use. Mine look spindly and boring by comparison and it just goes to prove that you enjoy beautiful things long after you’ve forgotten what they cost. Another quality purchase there were the terry towelling bathrobes, so different to the thin ones usually provided. They weighed a ton and were quite warm enough to wear walking back from the separate pool building to the hotel in a Bowral winter.

On the surface it appears that Peter Dutton has done the right thing by banning David Van from the Liberal party room after three women came forward with complaints against him. But knowing Dutton of old I strongly suspect there are other issues at play in his decision. Van was a fluke in the Senate, someone willing to stand for an ‘unwinnable’ third place on the Victorian list, so no one worried much about his credentials until their surprise when he actually gained the third spot. I am sure Dutton has a better person in mind to take Van’s spot, a Dutton acolyte to be sure, and that’s why he’s going hard and fast on him. I’m a bit puzzled as to why the commentators haven’t stressed this point but perhaps they will.

Some bastard has cleaned out my packed street library while we’ve been away, everything that is except a small book of the gospels and a Readers Digest condensed book, perhaps I should be congratulating them on their taste as there were quite a few good novels, a thesaurus and some non-fiction worth reading. But the garage holds plenty more so no tears. I will also put in Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest, a book of short stories called Nocturnes which was not at all to my taste so I didn’t finish it. It was given to me by Michelle who only read 2 or 3 and passed it on for my opinion. I’m surprised as usually I would jump at any book with that name on the cover.

June 17, 2023

Bussed into town to see the film Japanese film Monster with Carol. Interesting from a cultural perspective, though confusing in parts, we both agreed it was a 7.

Finished reading the wonderful An Untouched House by Dutch author Willem Hermans. This is only the second book I’ve been able to find by this author because so little of his work is available in English. In both cases I was blown away by the writing and by his honesty. It didn’t make him popular in 1951 to write about the transgressions and cruelties of soldiers on his own side, just as today we want to paint all of the opposition in any war as murderers and rapists (non-humans) while our side is peopled by white knights in some sort of heroic dream. This book is anti-war, period, focussing on the absurdity, cruelty and pointlessness of it all. The Germans show respect for the untouched house, as does our Dutch narrator, but ultimately it is his own side who senselessly trash it for amusement. Would that Australians could find such wisdom.

My cousin Carole in Spain has been the victim of identity theft through a SIM hack, something only just being talked about here. Both she and her husband lost all phone connection, plus they cannot connect to Facebook or the internet. When I got home from Bowral there was a letter waiting with the details and new mobile and landline numbers. It’s a scary prospect as the bad hats can often access bank accounts as well, though I never do banking on my phone for that reason. I read that having your birthdate visible anywhere is a problem too so I changed mine to 2023 on Facebook!

June 18, 2023

Victory over the Opera House meanies!  An email from Anthony Carthew reads: “Just staying in touch to let you know we have further discussed John’s arrangements and we are happy continue with the plan for the cleavage area. In good faith of the original correspondence Louise has approved to fund a small sound system and we will arrange some chairs for the guests, on the assumption that the total numbers will be several dozen people or thereabouts. As mentioned at our recent meeting this will be a one-off for any event in that space moving forward due to the significant changes in the overall security considerations in recent years. With that in mind, I will present to you in due course some other locations at the House we believe are much more appropriate for an occasion of this kind, providing better privacy, easier access for the guests, and a wonderful view of the harbour and bridge. I’m conscious though that the original location discussed is the cleavage which we will honour, but do have a think about it – at most times it’s a very unfriendly environment being weather dependent and nearly always very windy etc. Louise and I are on leave until 3 July so let’s chat when I’m back”. So it’s gone from hostility to ‘let’s chat’. I am not fooled for a minute by the offer of another part of the Opera House, it has nothing to do with wind and everything to do with keeping us hidden from view, but that’s fine. I’m not going to argue with shelter and ‘a wonderful view of the harbour and bridge’. of course if John outlives me, as well he might, I may not be the person there on the day so perhaps I need to appoint someone else to stand in my stead and keep the Opera House to their word.

Martha emailed offering me two movie tickets at the Palace Theatre but although I am going to be right near there on Tuesday when I take John to St Vs for his treatment, it takes three hours but the movie doesn’t fit within that time, and the later session is way too late to keep him out, which is a pity. All things considered, it’s probably a good idea for her to offer them to someone else as I have commitments Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week. Phew, not my usual week but I’m not complaining.

June 18, 2023

Perhaps I was right in saying that it suited Dutton to get rid of David Van and that’s why he acted so quickly. Word is that those jockeying for his seat are John Howard-lover Roshanna Campbell and Greg Mirabella (ugh, anyone who would share a bed with Sophie Mirabella is very bad news). Both of these would suit Dutton’s purposes much more than the Van Man, but he has a mining lawyer for a wife and smartly jumped ship before he was made to walk the plank. Why would he not? A backbencher’s salary for two years is nothing to be sneezed at and who else would employ him at the moment? Personally I’d rather see the Van Man stick it out than have another Mirabella in parliament, plus of course it’s a very dodgy look for the Liberals to have him sitting there as a constant reminder of their lax investigation into his past treatment of female MPs.

Still wondering why the death toll in the Greta bus accident was so high. A bus tipping over should be survivable, with some broken bones and bruises sure, but surely death isn’t assured when there’s no other vehicle involved and it happened on flat ground? This is an inquest which will hopefully answer these questions, not least of which will be the health or otherwise of the driver.

June 19, 2023

Late last night I got a call from Gracewood to say that there is a flu outbreak in John’s wing so they are in lockdown, putting paid to his coming home today for a couple of days. There are four cases, but residents are confined to their rooms, all activities are cancelled and staff are in full PPE. I texted Bronwyn and Michael thinking that they may want to postpone but they preferred to come anyway. I had a baked a peach and berry cake and the main was supplied by Aldi, their Salmon Wellington, so I only needed to do the greens and a salad. They were here till almost five so I think it went off okay. Although I got John to rule out the plans for today and tomorrow in his diary and write an explanation, he still kept ringing to ask why he wasn’t coming home. It’s very difficult not to come out of your room when you aren’t able to read. Martha had offered me a double pass to a movie and I’d refused as I had plans for tomorrow, taking John to St. Vs for his treatment, but that’s had to be cancelled so I rang her back and took up the offer.

June 20, 2023

Michelle agreed to come to the movie with me as it seems a waste to let one ticket lapse. It was only on at Verona so I took myself in early for some breakfast/brunch at Palace Tea Rooms on the way, seeing the movie covered lunchtime. Trying to decide whether to go for savoury or sweet, my favourite waiter suggested that I have a ‘morning tea selection’ so I went with that. My goodness it was a selection alright, two finger sandwiches, four tiny and very delicious sweet things and a scone with jam and cream. What to do when I had no way of carrying them? I guessed the only option was to eat the lot and have extra tea to wash it down. Next time I will order that when there are two of us. Met Michelle at QVB and we travelled together to Verona seeing the Moroccan movie The Blue Caftan (misheard over the phone by Michelle as The Blue Trash Can). What can I say except that it was a 10/10 if not 15/10. I think on that basis I need to downgrade the Japanese one I saw on Sunday to 6/10 if we are working on the same scale. On the way home I felt queasy on the bus and thought it would soon pass once I got off but no, it was the beginning of a vestibular episode so I was forced to lie down in a dark room for a couple of hours till it eventually passed. No dinner for me so it seems that the waiter made the right call this morning.

Watching the news about the missing sub set my claustrophobia off bigtime, just seeing them putting in the 17 bolts that hold the occupants captive made me feel physically sick, but perhaps it was also a vestige of the bus trip. Why do all these people seem to have a death wish? Climbing Everest, trying to go to stratospheric heights, going down in subs, just enjoy life people and don’t spend all your time tempting the Grim Reaper. Could there be a worse death than knowing you are a billionaire and waiting for the oxygen to run out? Plenty of time to rue the day that you signed on, but let’s hope it was catastrophic and very quick.

To take my mind off the sub I set to thinking about Amanda Stoker’s hair. Did she iron it each morning before parliament or has she now had a perm? Is she a blonde or not? But then there’s that damned submarine……

June 21, 2023

Poor John will be locked in for some time and he keeps ringing and asking if I am coming to visit and when he can come home. The flu toll is now up to six and if they keep falling ill the lockdown will be extended of course. I haven’t had the heart to tell him that it was initially for seven days and now could well be more. Pity I didn’t get him home on Sunday night as then he’d have been out of it for a while at least. I suggested that he ring a few friends and tell them about our holiday, but he said he doesn’t remember the holiday, so I said to tell them he’s in lockdown, anything to pass the day. Noises are reported from the sub, this is like the Thai cave rescue all over again, maybe we need to send that guy from Adelaide to see if he can pull off a second miracle.

I have secured a couple of greatly reduced-price tickets to the Good Food and Wine Fair on Friday at Darling Harbour, paying $10 each instead of $69. Michelle is available so we are meeting up at QVB once again. It’s freebie week in the Partridge household, if one person can be a household, long may it continue. Looking forward to coming home with lots of new cooking ideas, if not samples.

June 22, 2023

So, I rang ICAC and the judgment on Our Glad and Dirty Daryl is not going to be delivered live ‘unless something changes before next Thursday’. It’s a bummer but I guess the full report will be accessible on their website, so I’m not just relying on what particular journalists cherry pick from it. Usually they get the gist of it right but sometimes I have found nuggets of important stuff that never gets reported in these things. Roll on Thursday.

Yesterday my garden helpers cleaned the deck gutter at the back and in the process fastened the back screen door open using its closer mechanism, however when they had gone I couldn’t get the bloody thing to close again and eventually had to remove the mechanism for a closer inspection. It was jammed open but with the aid of the end of a tablespoon I got it loose, however now my hands aren’t strong enough to pull the spring out to reinstall it. Nothing is simple. But I’m not in the sub, so no complaints from me…… There are lots of stories coming out about folk who booked and then cancelled due to qualms about the project and a harrowing description by a fellow who went down last year and actually got caught by the Titanic’s anchor for about an hour while the ‘pilot’ rocked the thing back and forth in the pitch black until he freed it, with bits of rusting metal from the wreck raining down on the roof. My giddy aunt, why did they not tell these stories before? Perhaps they did, but no one was interested.

John has stopped asking when I am coming in so the lockdown has sunk in, however he isn’t complaining which is stoic, as he often is. Brought up by a Victorian mother and a military father complaint wasn’t an option I suspect. I haven’t told him that it’s a 7 day affair and maybe longer, perhaps his dentist and hospital appointments for next week will need to be postponed yet again.

June 23, 2023

Off to town to meet Michelle at QVB for the second time this week, then a walk down to Darling Harbour for the Good Food and Wine Fair. They were selling single glasses held in a lanyard so people could taste at many of the wine and spirits stalls, but there were also tiny disposable cups available. We walked our feet off tasting numerous cheeses, sauces, dips, biscuits, chocolates and whatever else, but gave the wine and spirits a miss despite there being literally dozens on offer, knowing we had to walk back up to the bus stop didn’t make the thought of alcohol appealing. I only bought a Jambalaya Mix to make soup (with lots of different beans, rice, dried veges, herbs and spices), also a dip mix and then four cheese logs rolled in various yummy savoury or sweet coatings. They were $12 each, two for $20 or four for $12! I pointed out that there was a mistake on the sign but she insisted it was right, ‘a show special’ so four it was, all different. But some people were still buying one, go figure. No need for lunch as we sampled our way around the stalls and we turned down more than we accepted, so I figure we well and truly got value for the $20 entry fee.

So the former police commissioner Mick Fullofimself is mixed up in the swirling PwC scandal, albeit on the periphery, because he and his pal from the Federal Police were negotiating a deal that came to fruition between PwC and the Feds. Why does his name seem to pop up whenever there is a whiff of dodgy in the air?

My friend and client Judith from Windsor, who owns a historic home there, has surprised me by announcing that she has bought a gorgeous house in Launceston — sight unseen! Well she’s seen photos but never seen it in the flesh. Either mad or crazy brave, but I think the latter. It’s all leadlight windows, fireplaces, window seats, fully restored and totally to die for. My long-term plan was to retire to Kiama, but then John came along unexpectedly and things changed. Now I can’t see that I’ll move from here, until the undertakers come for the one way ride to Gerringong.

June 24, 2023

Quite the gadabout this week and today I motored to Erko to play games with the fam. Carly is up from Canberra and staying there, so we played a number of bouts of a game called Werewolf, I think that was it anyway, but the strategies required were a bit above my IQ level I think. Lunched there on hummus with crudites and smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels. I am very much regretting only buying one of the packs of soup makings yesterday as I gave that one to Dav and Michelle texted to say that she cooked hers today and it was delicious. Must look up the website and see if postage is feasible.

Thinking about the pull that the Titanic has on people and how that massive story is still so big, well over 100 years later. Then realised that in my bathroom I have a collection of ceramic pots from around 1900 which contained various creams and potions, one of which I bought solely because it was the toothpaste pot supplied in first class on the Titanic, it reads to the lid Cherry Toothpaste, Patronised by the Queen. So I am clearly one of the Titanic tragics, just at a very low level.

I’ve put my name in a ballot to win a seat at the Opera House on July 16 to see World of Opera with performances by members of their Young Artists program with a repertoire of classic arias from Verdi, Puccini, Bizet etc. The tickets are free but given out on a ballot, hopefully I am lucky enough to score a couple.

June 25, 2023

On what planet does a leader live who doesn’t see a large private band of mercenaries, financed by a billionaire, as a potential threat? I thought that Putin was smarter than that. Mercenaries are the lowest of low life forms and it is entirely predictable that they could change sides if they see benefit to their cause or if more power is on offer by serving another master. Russia is certainly looking like an anarchic state. Also in the ‘more money than sense’ department, people (all men of course) are crawling shell-shocked out of the woodwork to report their experiences in backing out of bookings on the Titan. Email chains are being published showing the CEO of Oceangate urging possible takers to sign up for a trip to the Titanic at ever lower prices, going from $250,000 to $150,000 over time. An American billionaire and his son were urged to take up this bargain price but the son was dubious, their places were taken by the poor Pakistani man and his son. I wonder if they got a discount, poor bastards.

Last night I rang Anne in far off Ripponden and she said she sees Kenneth weekly, travelling quite a distance by buses. She was apparently telling his daughter that I have been unable to make contact with him and that explains the one-off call to me from Tanya a while back, not to keep in touch but to get Anne off her back as she made a pint of telling Anne that she had done so. Kenneth apparently has sunk deeper into dementia, appearing to have a normal conversation but then repeating it over and over. He often believes he is responsible for the care of the other olds. He thinks he is in charge, which absolutely fits with his personality as when has he not been in charge? But the place he’s ended up living in doesn’t sound bad in Anne’s telling. I gasp at the gods’ gallows humour in taking the two most important men in my life away, though continents apart, in the same year. I hope they enjoy the craic this provides them, but I refuse to let them break me.

Reading our book group choice for this month, Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout, I realise that in each of these books the main character (and I suspect the author) thinks about things just the way I do. Whenever something occurs in the story my initial reaction is followed immediately in the book by Lucy’s very similar one. I think I would like Elizabeth very much. Her tendency ‘to imagine her way into other lives’ is one I delight in.

June 26, 2023

I am convinced that the high end of art is bollocks. I caught the tail end of the program Fake or Fortune where the owners of a painting that may or may not be by Ben Nicholson were breathlessly awaiting a decision by the experts. Genuine equals 200,000 pounds, not genuine equals zip. If the painting has intrinsic worth how can that be? It’s not Michelangelo we’re talking about here so antique value doesn’t come into it. The decision was that it was painted jointly by old Ben and a friend somebody Murray, also an artist, so it was worth 100,000. It was painted onto a wall so the owners had to get a section of their external brick wall plus the painting removed in order to sell it. But for 100,00 pounds I guess that’s worth doing.

Had to go to Blacktown to get John’s car registered today. Alex my mechanic tells me that if I sold either car, they would be considered unregistered (unless sold to another pensioner) because we both get free rego. He said if I have any thoughts about selling either I should have done it before I paid the CTP on each of them this month, but at this stage, being a Libran, I am not doing anything in a hurry. He says that to buy John’s I’d need to pay 3% stamp duty on it and offered to sell either one for me if I go that way. He is such a blessing that man, I’m glad I took cake for them all today.

John has been in lockdown for a whole week due to a flu outbreak so I thought he’d be very happy today to see people again. But when I rang and asked how it was he didn’t know what I was talking about and said he’d had his breakfast in his room. Confused I texted head nurse Cecilia and found he’d eaten in the dining room. This prompted me to ask her opinion of his memory and she confirmed that it is much worse. I think now that I got him in there at the right time and not too early as I’d feared. He’s rung me back three times since saying he has missed a call from me (he hadn’t) but though I suggested he delete the missed call he can’t work out how to do it, then forgets the conversation and rings back again.

June 27, 2023

The wife of the convicted cocaine smuggler shot dead in Bondi Junction this morning, Natasha Moradian, runs Kiana Organics, a food shop in Richmond. Once again the Hawkesbury draws in the big hitters in the crime world as well as the rabble of small time crooks. Alen Moradian was gaoled for 16 years from memory in about 2011 so I’m guessing he’s not long out of the cooler on parole. Mmm, maybe he’d have been safer inside but I guess you have to come out and take your chances. Their West Pennant Hills home in Glenhope Rd., sold for $5 million when he went to boob, was internally decorated in Versace at a cost of over $1 million dollars just for the furniture, paid in cash of course. A crooked cop in Windsor once told me that they have a hard time of it, can’t put money in the bank, can’t be seen buying expensive property or cars: ‘All you can do with it is eat it,  drink it, screw it and gamble it in the end’ he declared wisely. But that was in order for them to keep their jobs, when your fulltime job is crime I guess you tend to get less careful.

Life gets exhausting when you have to become an instant expert in so many things. One week you are are pontificating on the future of PwC, the next weighing up the structure of deep submersibles and debating carbon versus titanium, before you are called on to understand the internal politics of Russia (at least I had a handle on the geography, having been in Minsk and Smolensk in ’73), next week who knows? But whatever comes we experts have to give it our best shot.

I was in the corner shop when the woman before me bought some cigarettes, paying $37.20, so I assumed it was a carton but the server handed her one measly packet of 30. So a smoke costs $1.25 a pop. I was astounded (clearly I’m decades out of date). I guess it’s comparable to a chocolate bar and less inclined to put weight on, but still….

June 28, 2023

Today’s was John’s Nelune day so off we went to St. Vs in the morning. I had intended to walk to Woollahra and back in the three hours but rain made me look into the possibility of a movie. It has never quite worked out when I’ve tried to do this in the past, but today the planets aligned and one began half an hour after his appointment and ended about when he was due out. It was a French film One Fine Morning and I knew nothing about the story, however it was about a daughter looking after her father with a rare form of dementia related to Alzheimer’s, just the thing for my time off! It was beautifully done and superbly acted by the father character, apparently the filmmaker used audio and diaries from her own father who suffered from this disease, which explained why the dialogue seemed so convincing. It showed the difficulty of finding good residential care as he moved through a few places over time, which made me appreciate having found wonderful care for John on the first try. As I left and turned on my phone he rang to say that he had finished and it was just a short drive to pick him up, so perfectly timed. It was strange when I got there and, as usual in a barely populated cinema, ignored the allocated seat number, two woman asked if I had chosen my own seat and when I said yes they both moved….right next to me for some reason. Perhaps they thought there was strength in numbers if we were challenged.

I’m wondering why these crims keep going to the gym? It seems that it’s a regular feature in descriptions of underworld executions: they are killed on the way to the gym, at the gym, or on their way home. I guess it’s part of the hypermasculinity that these guys seem to be afflicted with. You would think that we would be rid of most of them by now considering the number who’ve been assassinated, or else it is a very big pool of bad guys we’re dealing with here. Thanks Malcom Fraser, you really screwed up with your changes to immigration policy and we are still paying for it nearly 50 years on.

So Chris Dawson was convicted today of carnal knowledge of his student, later to be his second wife, once he got rid of the first one of course. Seeing he won’t get out of gaol outside a box anyway I am wondering why he took the news so hard. But perhaps he was thinking of his twin brother, accused of similar behaviour and still on the outside?

June 29, 2023

Shit, my day is spoken for, the whole ICAC report into Dirty Daryl and Our Glad is online.

2.10 pm Oh, my shoulders ache from huddling over the computer and my legs ache from the cold, so I am off to do some gardening to warm up. Only finished the first volume, 318 pages, so about another 200 pages to go. DD is looking at a long holiday at His Majesty’s Pleasure is my reading so far and if Our Glad stays at Optus it will show that corruption is well and truly regarded by big business. Funny how you never read anything with the name Waterhouse attached that’s not dodgoir in the extreme. Bill and Robbie are famous for the Fine Cotton substitution scam and now Robbie’s sister Louise is up to her neck in this ICAC investigation, then there’s Gai of course…. but gardening calls.

5.40 pm Still haven’t finished reading but I need a break. ‘It is true that Ms Berejiklian was an unsatisfactory witness in many respects with a tendency to view the witness box as more like a husting than a place from which to respond directly to the question…..her answers can be supercilious and unworldly. She would not engage with the questions, was argumentative and frequently asked rhetorical questions with the intention of deflecting the questioner.’ Yes absolutely, that was my feeling when watching the live proceedings. But more interesting, and shocking, is the fact that she argued that the impartiality requirement didn’t apply to her ‘because she was the Premier and not a minister’! She said the requirement for a minister to divulge a conflict of interest to the Premier couldn’t occur because she was the Premier, that she had no requirement to act impartially and there was no obligation not to be political in her decision making. This stuff is absolutely unbelievable. Her defences beggar belief.

I have learned some new words today like jurat, otiose and indicia along with quite a few Latin phrases, but I can’t go on tonight, I’ll have to finish it tomorrow. I wish I could write like that though, they see through every deceit and communicate it perfectly. I don’t have that ability I’m afraid.

June 30, 2023

I appeared to be making good progress yesterday when I got to 300 pages of the DD and OG report and thought I was nearly through the 500 pages that Ashleigh Raper said existed. But when I kept going I discovered she was wrong, there are 688 in all, so I wasn’t even half way through. My idea of gardening to warm up was a good one but I could only tip a bit of potting mix into a shallow garden alongside the driveway and replant a couple of rogue Alyssum there before needing to rush back to the computer for a fix. (Cheaper than cocaine but just as addictive, I should be glad about that I guess). There were lots of interesting bits to read, but the reaction of business owners in Wagga Wagga to an offer by Dirty Daryl to get an employee from China for free was particularly disappointing. Only the manager of the RSL there saw through it as a scam and pulled out, refusing to sign papers to say he had looked for, and failed to find, an Australian employee for the fake job. All of the others asked signed up, including the owner of Cottontail Wines who put $30,000 cash in his safe, his payment for falsely signing up Daisy, a supposed accountant from China. He first told ICAC it was a much smaller sum, then the next day, realising that he could be in deep doo-doo if he were found out, recanted and offered another interview where he fessed up. But he was only one of many who took the cash and told no one (especially not the Taxation Department) when the ’employee’ didn’t actually materialise.

Which brings me to an observation: what do Barilaro, Dirty Daryl and Mr. Robertson from Cottontail Wines have in common? None of them seem to be able to string a sentence together with any sort of resemblance to English grammar and in the case of Pork Barilaro and DD, their spelling is low primary school level. So does this mean that they are low on IQ but high in rat cunning? I don’t know, I guess there are lots of crims with a good education (BRS for example went to the top private school in Perth) but the ones I’m reading about lately seem pretty dim. Likewise many of the underworld people, but they are often working in a second language so there’s that factor to take into account. Carol and I took a jaunt on the way to book group today to visit the previous home of Alen Moradian and his wife Natasha Youkhana in nearby West Pennant Hills. There was an old man sitting on the verandah but we didn’t make the mistake of stopping for a chat, figuring that the type of person who would fall in love with that house was perhaps not our cup of tea (in fact it was a ‘property developer and his wife’ so I’m guessing the old bloke was just a rellie). It occurs to me that Youkhana is a name I’ve never come across except in relation to crime, there are three I can think of, all bad eggs (related or unrelated, I don’t know?). I loved the way the clever detectives brought her to book, by convincing them that they were crooked cops who could get them out of the country for $1 million in cash, after Alen had repeatedly told them that all their cash was confiscated in the raid(s). He was in custody, she wasn’t at that stage, so good old Alen got her to gather up the million from cash lying around the house at West Penno and deliver it to the cops. Poor bugger could only find $760,000 so she took that in a black garbage bag to which the cops said ‘Thanks very much and you’re under arrest’. Love it.

Talking of stringing words together, I am getting very fearful of the next US presidency and no I don’t just mean Trump! My observation, mentioned here previously, is that Biden has dementia of some sort, sad as that is. He just got to the job too late I’m afraid. My own loss of the ability to remember numbers and to do mental arithmetic shows what can happen with age and no diagnosis of dementia, but he is failing very obviously. It’s a worry. While we are on the subject I don’t like Alan Kohler’s breathing lately, I hope his doctor is checking it out.

July 1, 2023

I’ve had six calls today from John who is all psyched up about his daughter’s visit tomorrow. He actually said he was ‘frightened’ which is so sad and confirms the fact that I must go, much as I really don’t want to get involved in it. Then there was concern about what to wear and he wrote that down, later he rang to say ‘I am all dressed and ready’ and I had to tell him again that they are coming tomorrow, not today. It’s a lot like Our Glad with Daryl, this inability to stand up for yourself against just one person (in John’s case two people) despite being able to handle everyone else perfectly well. I remember that feeling well, I couldn’t stand up to my mother and that never changed so I can’t be critical.

Went to First Saturday and enjoyed the talk on owls and wildlife rescue in general, but it shows again that having things on the screen of your computer just doesn’t work, even in a close setting the images could have been of an owl or a rattlesnake, for my vision anyway. Martha has plenty of dessert to finish as no one stayed for that, so the complete cake and the various biscuits weren’t touched, though she has a crew there who will polish them off in no time.

Further to Biden and his woes, a possibly cognitively affected candidate standing against a totally mad one is not a good prospect. He has that Parkinson’s walk, the festinating gait causing him to constantly attempt to keep his centre of gravity in the right place and taking small steps to avoid falling. This could of course be the cause of his possible dementia. I would be delighted to be wrong but somehow I don’t think so.

July 2, 2023

4.11 am: I’ve been awake since 1 am so I might as well get up and write about what is in my head. At book group I had cause, for some reason I now can’t remember, to mention my time working at the Sydney University agriculture faculty. I was so excited to have got a job there, thinking I would get an education in all manner of things not necessarily to do with agriculture. However I soon learned that at this insular research farm where I was largely based there was a toxic culture which thankfully didn’t exist when I worked at the main faculty on occasion. There were three field staff who did things like driving the tractor, ploughing the fields, fixing the sprinklers etc but very few non-academic staff and I was the only female. One of these workers was an Exclusive Brethren (‘I don’t break bread with non-believers’Smilie: ;) who ate all of his meals in his car and the other two often took their breaks together in the machinery shed. This left me with the academics whose main way to pass the time seemed to be to mock each other (and me). There was one mild-mannered and humble Associate Professor who was unfortunately saddled with the first names Eldred Percival but was known to all as EPB. My friend Heather was his assistant, but worked at the faculty as she was mainly responsible for his teaching facilitation rather than research. It was here that I fleetingly met Robert Read, a student who graduated and then went to study medicine, much to the dismay of the staff. It was not till about 2002 that we crossed paths again and became firm friends. But apart from EPB the others were products of the land, outspoken to the point of cruelty and very narrow in their world view. I learned that there was no point mentioning a movie, a musical performance, any sort of art or a novel as they couldn’t see the point of any of these. Their interests were uniformly agriculture, science, the stock market and right wing politics. I could occasionally throw in something I’d read in Scientific American and get a conversation happening but generally speaking the breaks were for snide attacks of one sort or another, so I had to learn to play euchre with them to pass the time more tranquilly.

On one occasion EPB was being mocked for being unable to say whether or not he was coming to the Christmas party (I was tasked with doing any sort of entertaining, usually in my own time ‘you’ll fix up a Christmas party for us won’t you?’Smilie: ;). He quietly gave the reason: ‘my wife is dying and I may have to look after the children’ after which he retired to his office, but rather than getting sympathy there were just raised eyebrows and some eye-rolling. He once asked me to work back on Christmas Eve, outdoors in blistering heat, and embarrassingly pressed something into my hand as I left. It was two 20 cent pieces delivered with the comment ‘Buy yourself a chocolate or something for Christmas’. But at least he tried to be sociable even if it mostly didn’t come off too well. My direct boss, who was totally a researcher, was off a cane farm and the only one in his family who left to go to university. He was at a complete loss with people so when visiting academics came I was asked to come to his home for dinner ‘to keep some conversation going’. On one occasion in mid-winter my boss came to the door rugged up with a beanie on as he and his wife didn’t believe in heating their home. The overseas guests arrived and the wife began to shiver noticeably. Rather than turning on a heater he said: ‘no wonder you’re cold, you are not dressed for winter’ but helpfully went upstairs to get a jumper of his wife’s for her to pull on over her ‘going out for dinner’ clothes. Prior to this he had a second storey added to his house and asked me over to see it. I remember asking what colours he was going to paint the three bedrooms he’d added and he didn’t seem to understand the question replying ‘just the usual, one pink, one blue and one lemon’. He went to the US for a year and we communicated by letter all of that time as I was continuing his research while he was away. With extraordinary luck I made a long sought after breakthough while he was overseas, isolating a telocentric chromosome in wheat, and when he returned he said we would be joint authors of the paper to be written about the discovery. He was as good as his word and I still have a copy of the publication somewhere, but the other academics were pretty scathing about it on principle, one comment being ‘why don’t you borrow his big hat seeing you’re trying to grow his brains’. It was toxic as I said, but luckily for me my boss, while gauche in many respects, was not overtly cruel. We had a lovely visitor from Saskatchewan for a year and one day Prof. Knott asked me to come into his office and shut the door. I thought this was odd as I didn’t report to him at all, but he said he wanted to apologise for the way I was treated, saying that it would never be allowed in Canada and he wanted to reassure me that not all agricultural scientists behaved like this lot. He suggested that perhaps there was a complaint body at the faculty to handle such people but if there was I was too divorced from the big smoke to know how to find one and I was afraid to rock the boat. But he made my life so much easier with those few comments and we exchanged quiet smiles whenever the going got rough. One of the visiting academics I met in that period, David Jones, migrated to Australia eventually and is still a close friend. Another, JanBert from the Netherlands, did the same and I maintained a friendship with him and his wife for decades before his untimely death. All of us would retell stories of the unbelievable things that were said in that tearoom. How I got through 13 years there I still wonder but positives existed, such as the university paying for me to do a Diploma of Biological Science part time over six years, something which reinforced my love of science and all things medical.

July 3, 2023

We were feeling steam-rollered after yesterday’s lunch with John’s family and last night we couldn’t do much more than sit and stare at each other. Although the day went well in one sense, the restaurant meal being good, the conversation pleasant and the children lovely, we are again left searching for china pieces that I have no idea how to locate. I suspect that perhaps the odd bits and pieces requested were part of what John got sick of packing up at Lane Cove as I know he said he’d put ‘some stuff’ on his kitchen cupboards and asked the neighbours to come in and take whatever they wanted, which they did. Particular pieces were requested like ‘a deep brown bowl in the shape of a chicken but with the head broken off’ and I can imagine that the Sulo bin may have devoured that one. It amazes me that the requests are so specific after the best part of 20 years, but that’s where we are. The three station waggon loads we delivered last year were described as ‘some cutlery but not much else’. I need John to outlive me as the descending shitstorm the day after his death would be unendurable.

After a sleep we both felt brighter and I suggested we go out to lunch as last night I could only manage a toasted sandwich for John and a mandarin for me, such was the prevailing mood. However I discovered that the nurse packing John’s drug supply had forgotten today’s drugs, only giving me enough till bedtime yesterday. I rang and asked if she thought he could miss them till mid-afternoon (I thought that would be okay) but she decided that wasn’t a good idea seeing the most important ones are given early in the morning. So I delivered him back there just before lunch, he confused and me deflated, a wasted couple of days. Though there has never been a mistake before I will double check the doses in future, the nurse apologised profusely when I took him back.

July 4, 2023

I had big plans for today but again I couldn’t sleep so I didn’t feel much like going in to the Salon de Refuses as planned, although perhaps I should have forced myself as it’s a wasted day. To say that dealing with the ongoing disputes about ‘John’s things’ saps the will to live would not be such a huge overstatement. It certainly saps my will to do anything positive. It’s hard to focus on anything else when you know that whatever you do to appease will never be enough. But I’m trying hard to count the positives: It’s raining, that’s always a positive; the medication is still working; Sarah’s jacket last night on 7.30 fitted very well and was a fetching shade of green to boot.

Made a trip to the bank to top up John’s account from his little bit of super. Although Gracewood takes about 90% of his pension, I figured that he doesn’t really have any financial needs so it wouldn’t matter much. However there are ongoing bills like the pharmacy, his phone etc that I hadn’t thought of, so I think he will exhaust the little bit that’s left before too long.

I have always admired the way the French take their politics so seriously unlike the Aussies, many of whom are politically uninvolved, but this week in Paris has been appalling. Setting fire to a mayor’s house with his wife and children inside did nothing to advance the cause of freeing the police from racist elements. When the family fled they were beaten by the mob with the wife suffering a broken leg and a child suffering a head injury. Although it is an unpopular opinion I’m sure, there’s an argument for limiting the amount of migrants to a country if it is causing the whole society to form into partitioned groups. Many nations have been relatively culturally and ethnically similar going back for long periods and that has been one of the bases on which national solidarity has been built. What happens when that similarity has been very quickly altered is worth noting. In Scandinavia as well as in Britain and France there is a resistance to migrants from the rural and regional populations whereas attitudes in the cities have been more accepting. However the current troubles in France have been centred on cities, especially Paris, so perhaps the cultural diversity has come too quickly. As an internationalist by nature who hopes one day to see all borders evaporate I hate saying this, but it has all the hallmarks of a situation where too many people coming too quickly into a society makes it difficult to retain a sense of cohesion and stability, feeding into an extremist political response. I’m glad I am not charged with the responsibility of dealing with France’s problems.

July 5, 2023

I finally got my mojo back and today went to the Coroner’s Court in the case of Ada Holland, a 91 year old who went for a morning walk on the beach near where she lived, only to be attacked by a trio of ‘bull mastiff and bull Arab cross breed’ dogs which had escaped from a nearby property. In past years the Shoalhaven Council had repeatedly investigated and fined the owners of the dogs for lack of microchipping and registration for quite a number of dogs they had owned. They paid the fines but still didn’t get them registered. A week before the death the dogs had escaped the inadequate fencing and bitten a woman causing rangers to again visit the home, but the dogs were never impounded or declared dangerous. Evidence was given that for the previous couple of months the dogs’ food had been reduced to kibble due to the finances of the couple being stretched. A vet who euthanased the dogs testified that they were in a poor state, suffering noticeable malnourishment. I was lucky to go on the day when both of the dogs’ owners were the ones giving evidence and in the case of the man at least it was obvious that he’s not Einstein and had some trouble answering the questions, to the point that he needed to have explained to him the difference between an oath and an affirmation. Both were given privilege in respect of self-incrimination, so they cannot be prosecuted as a result of their evidence which involved admitting to previous drug use. My interest stems from the fact that I have written a number of letters to the state government, local council and the press, plus Facebook posts pleading with authorities to ban these breeds. They know what to do and know that it needs doing, but no authority wants to see headlines like ‘They are coming to get your dogs!’. Queensland has recently acted and hopefully after the Coroner reports we’ll have a better chance in NSW.

Coming out of the court the sky was absolutely stunning. I don’t know enough about the names of clouds to accurately describe them but all the way home I looked for a place to pull over and take a photograph, however the view was always polluted by power lines or ugly buildings so I didn’t bother.

Just got a message from Gracewood to say that there is a gastro outbreak on Level 2 and it is closed to visitors and in lockdown. Luckily John is Level 1 so hopefully it won’t spread. I am hoping to take him to the Salon de Refuses exhibition at the Erwin Gallery on Saturday. Last year I remember telling the lady on the door that he has dementia and wanders off, asking her not to let him out so that way he can move around freely rather than being limited to looking at pictures together. It worked well so I plan to do the same thing again.

July 6, 2023

Had a delicious and convivial lunch with Carol, such a different experience to the one on Sunday, even though the food there was pretty good too. One day I will order something other than the barramundi at Wild Pear, I will, I will. Of course other desserts just can’t live up to the pav with watermelon and strawberries so I doubt that will change. WP was selling individual serves of cakes and biscuits today which is something to think about in the future. Arrived home to find a welcome bag of books on my front verandah and now I should be doing a few overdue jobs here but instead I’m writing this. One of the tasks is getting back onto AGL about their claim that I’ve used 7 times as much gas as the same period last year, patent nonsense but hard to prove that it’s not so. Perhaps the energy ombudsman is the way to go but I don’t want to spoil the feelgood morning with a piqued afternoon, so I’ll bask in the residuum of the one glass of prosecco at lunch and maybe have an early bath, because I can.

John rang to say he’d walked out of the movie they were showing, The Rabbit Proof Fence, because it was too sad for him, he is easily upset by things these days and it’s totally understandable. He enjoyed the bus trip this morning though he had no idea where they went. He always likes to give me a running update on things before he forgets them altogether and I try to answer if at all possible as I know from experience that if I ring back he won’t have a clue what he wanted to tell me, getting him to write things down doesn’t work somehow.

July 7, 2023

I did have today in my diary as the date for the release of the Robodebt Royal Commission Report, but I have some things that need doing here and then a concert to go to tonight. It’s pretty cruel to hand it down with a sealed section recommending prosecutions which of course will remain sealed until some bugger undoubtedly leaks it (what’s the betting that the G-G takes a tiny little peak and lets his mate Morrison know how deep the shit is rising around his ankles?). Perhaps the holiday in Italy was a pre-trial break to spend with his kids before Long Bay becomes home? I’m sure good old Stuey Robert has resigned ‘to spend more time with his family’ for precisely that reason. Perhaps they could form a prayer group in boob, that would be a delicious outcome. No don’t get excited Maureen, it’ll never happen, but it is sooo good to think about. Considering that I have John home for the weekend I think I will have to do the 990 pages over a few days, perhaps after he’s in bed, rather than my preference of sitting down to it all at once. Would I rather be listening to the SSO tonight or reading the report? Mmm that’s a tough one (certainly I’d forgo a concert for the sealed section) although I am very happy that over coming days I will be able to achieve both.

Yesterday at Wild Pear I bought a lovely 3D card which I’ve sent to my cousin in Spain this morning. Sometimes I really am a dope, because after searching for an envelope big enough to take it and failing, I then got out brown paper and paste to make one before opening up the card for the dimensions and finding it comes with a perfectly sized envelope in the pack. I am amazed sometimes about how I can be smart about one thing and simultaneously dumb about another.

Just turned on the noon ABC news and of course it was 100% Robodebt. Watched Dr. Darren O’Donovan, Senior Lecturer at La Trobe Law School, who was struggling to hold back tears while talking about the victims of the system, including suicides and self-harm. His specialisation is in administrative law so he knows of what he speaks. He told of a man in his 60s who was afraid to come out of his house in case the debt collectors came for him and a legal support service member went to his front yard to keep watch so the man could feel safe leaving. And they talk about living in Russia……..

July 8, 2023

Last night I joined Michelle for a wonderful concert, the SSO with Simone Young conducting Tchaikovsky’s Ballet Music. Before the concert I went to the talk on my own and was really glad I did as I found out a lot, despite being a lover of the composer since my teens. He talked about the celesta, which looks like a tiny upright piano only square and sounds a lot like the glockenspiel because the keys cause the hammers to strike orchestral bells. I’ve heard it many times in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies in The Nutcracker Suite but didn’t know what it was. Apparently the composer found such an instrument in Italy and had one brought to Russia secretly because he feared Rimsky-Korsakov or another composer might discover it and get to use it before he did. For the same reason he wouldn’t let it be played for practice until the last minute. He also told us that Simone Young and other composers don’t like conducting for the ballet because the timing has to suit the dancers, not the musicians. She refers to this concert as ‘ballet music unencumbered by dancers’. Planning to get a tram to the QVB on our way home we were waiting on the platform when someone told us that the trams are not going at night this weekend for some reason so we slogged up the hill to Clarence St for the bus and I managed to get to bed a minute shy of midnight.

One thing that always interests me with the SSO is the comparatively large number of blonde women among its members. I am guessing it is for the same reason that you see so many more blondes shopping in Mosman than in Blacktown (let’s forget bottle blondes for this exercise). Perhaps men do prefer blondes and in the upper class suburbs they can afford to pay for them. Then plenty of money=good school=music=the orchestra? Surely it can’t be coincidence. Simone Young looks so ordinary and her outfit would have been unremarkable in the IGA queue in Riverstone so that’s comforting. She’s quite an exception to some of the female artists with their Jimmy Choo shoes (my god, how do they walk in stilettos that high and fine?) and diamond rings so big that they were dazzling me even in Row K.

Today I picked up John and drove in to the Ervin Gallery on Observatory Hill to see the Salon de Refuses exhibition, something we do every year. I love agonising over the vote which gives a $3000 prize to the winning artist. There were so many pictures I loved and it makes me wonder how they could have failed to get into the Archibald and Wynne prizes. Sue came down by train and met us there and we had lunch together in the cafe, always a lovely place to eat. I had a Caesar Salad and it just occurred to me as I was typing this that they didn’t put bacon in it, I knew something was missing but hadn’t worked out till now what it was, but it was a delicious egg salad in any event. The lady who runs the place is notoriously cranky, bordering on rude, and we had a competition to see who could make her smile, which I succeeded in doing eventually. When I asked for a pot of tea she said ‘what sort’ so I asked what she had. Big mistake: ‘well, we’ll be here all day if I have to tell you, what do you want?’ she snapped. So I said Russian Caravan and she just rolled her eyes. I settled on English Breakfast and still have no idea what others were available. Previously Sue and I with our poor hearing had to ask her to repeat the specials and I said I had heard the salmon to which she replied abruptly ‘NO, IT’S TROUT!’ When I went to pay, the waitress commented ‘oh you were served by bossy boots weren’t you?’ and asked if I could pay cash as ‘the boss loves cash’ so I compromised with $50 plus a card. I would hate to work for her but find it funny to go in to battle with her once a year. I look forward to asking for Scottish Breakfast next year.

July 9, 2023

A nice relaxing day at home, John did the watering at the front while I weeded. The paper delivery man never seems to get it right, bless him. I changed from getting The Saturday Paper plus the SMH on Saturday and Sunday, which has been the norm for years. I dropped the Sunday one and replaced it with Monday’s instead but it took him a month to catch up, delivering the Sunday Telegraph as well as the Sun-Herald sometimes and yesterday 3 papers, including the Weekend Australian! I don’t know who’s paying for all the extras but it’s not me. It’s anyone’s guess if I get a paper at all tomorrow.

Thinking back of yesterday’s fun at the cafe and wondering if the bosslady is paying a simple rent or if it is combined with a share of the profits. In the latter case the National Trust is getting fleeced bigtime. Also there were two tables each of about 8 or 10 and I commented on leaving that it was a good crowd. The waitress rolled her eyes declaring: they are all the boss’s relatives. In the middle of the night it concerned me that maybe there’s a mite of corruption going on there, it’s not at ICAC-able levels but it concerns me enough to keep thinking about it as a member of the National Trust.

John’s niece and family are on holiday in Italy and I’m looking longingly at the Facebook posts, but then when I realise that it involves flights and airports and forms and bags and stress on steroids, I decide that sitting safely in Baulko looking at the snaps is good enough. I do wish that I had travelled more when I was young though, especially to those places so long on the bucket list: Iceland, Newfoundland, Labrador especially but also Malta, the Greek Islands, where do I stop. But I did get to play a few notes on Tchaikovsky’s piano at his house/museum, ride a gondola in Venice, stay on the mountain top of Assisi in Umbria, ride a cable-car to the top of Mt. Titlis in Switzerland, visit the Isle of Capri, climb the heather-clad hills of Scotland, wander the streets of Paris and much more, so who’s complaining?

July 10, 2023

As mooted here yesterday the paper failed to arrive this morning. It was April when I first made the change and I doubt if I have had two weeks correct in all this time. He must be consuming a hell of a lot of illicit substances and it is costing the SMH for each delivery that fails, as well as extra papers on the days that they are not supposed to come.

More gossip comes from Michelle W. on our recently deceased drug importer friend Aden Moradian. Her favourite antique shop in Richmond was apparently a common shopping place for him and his wife. On a recent visit he purchased an antique rug ticketed at $5000, but when time came to pay instead of trying to do a deal our friend peeled off $7500 from his bulging wallet and said that was near enough. I am not sure if I’m angry that he was still clearly involved in crime or jealous that in 27 years of owning my shop no one ever offered me more than the ticket price on anything.

Today I went on a tour of Bella Vista Farm and really enjoyed it. Embarrassingly I was greeted by name by the two women in charge, though I had to read their nametags to respond. I remember years ago selling them a kitchen dresser which I saw there today, but had forgotten that they had bought many more things including furniture and smaller items. As the tour progressed Sharon said things like: note the lovely green kerosene lamp bought from someone who will remain nameless. There was a trash and treasure room in the barn which had some extremely worthwhile items for sale. I bought three Limoges mugs for $20 as well as two bangles for $2 each and took an invalid feeder from their free box to add to the pharmacy related things that live on the tiled ledge around my bath. They asked me if I would be interested in valuing things for them from time to time (which I’m happy to do) and I gave them opinions on a few things they asked about today, including two framed pictures which subsequently sold to people on the tour. Now I have another place to offload things I have or which I pick up off council cleanups. Interesting that the south of the property drains into Toongabbie Creek and the Parramatta River while the northern side into Strangers Creek and ultimately the Hawkesbury. It is certainly the high point of the area. At the table having Devonshire Tea someone mentioned that this week they are going to the Ervin Gallery and I jokingly told her to watch out for the cranky owner but it turned out that she knows of her very well and can’t believe that she is still there considering the way she talks to the customers, but we agreed that she is a Fawlty Towers character who adds spice to the visit so we want her to remain.

July 11, 2023

Michelle C. had asked me to return a book to Parramatta Library for her and today was the day I decided. Bussed down and went first to Riverside Theatre to book for the flamenco dance artist Pepa Molina in August. That done I walked through town, observing that the much lauded Eat Street area of Church St looks pretty sad and down at heel at 9.30 in the morning and I suspect it doesn’t look too flash at night either. Looking for the now defunct Red Cross shop I found instead Grace’s Place, an op shop supporting children affected by homicide! Things are getting very specific, but all power to them. It is named after Anita Cobby’s mother Grace and they are building a residential and counselling centre at Doonside. I added to their funds to the tune of $34 for two very nice jumpers, slightly lighter than winter weight, but perfect for spring. I don’t make a habit of bargaining in a shop that’s charity based and I was glad to have stuck to that after I decided that the three Limoges mugs I bought yesterday at Bella Vista Farm could do with three friends to make a set. So I Googled them and gosh, they sell for about $120 EACH. I paid $20 for the three, so I’m afraid they will have to cope without any friends. Walking through Parra now is like going to a different city altogether as the Town Hall, once imposing, is now a runt at the base of a massive tower block of offices, although the attached library is wonderful. There I went to the Creatures Interactive exhibition and sat there spellbound as three walls of the basement were illuminated with scenes which altered according to how people moved in front of them. I don’t know how it’s done but it’s pretty damned exhilarating. I wonder if I can get John there before it closes on Sunday as he is now renowned for getting up and dancing at Gracewood whenever they have someone playing any sort of music, with this he could be influencing the visuals as well. The bus trip home was interesting as the Sikh driver obviously trained at the Punjabi version of Le Mans, braking severely and just in time at each light and I feared he would hit the kerb, so close to the edge was he travelling. He did eventually, but the bus’s big tyres cushioned the blow to just a bump. Much further and he would have had a clean-up job in his bus, the reason I don’t go on bus tours is for fear of a driver like him.

So Toplace has gone bust, no surprises there. What a terrible situation for those who’ve bought into Jean Nassif’s many dodgy buildings. I looked back at when I started writing letters about that company and it was over 10 years ago, but the arsehole went from strength to strength. All power to our wonderful Building Commissioner David Chandler for the work he is doing but the laws are not strong enough to extract money for reparations. How could we have let Nassif travel overseas with the sorts of obligations he had here? I’m sure he has plenty of money stashed overseas to enable him and his distended-lipped wife to live a long and happy existence, though he has left his lawyer daughter here to face the music and possibly a gaol sentence. I can’t wait for the NACC to get to Hills Shire council and to act against his enablers there.

Just had a knock on the door from a resident in the town houses down the back to say that my big palm is pushing the fence over…..he seems a nice fellow and I will see if my handyman Kirk is able to rectify the problem. We swapped numbers and I assured him I will attend to it asap.

July 12, 2023

Today has been an ‘attending to outstanding matters’ day. Firstly I contacted the Energy Ombudsman about my disagreement with AGL over the supposed sudden increase in my gas usage, they will look into it and get back to me. Then I put together a few things to take to Barsby’s Auctions tomorrow, much of which they may not take, but nothing lost if they don’t as I get to mooch in their saleroom and see what’s doing, hopefully I won’t find something I can’t live without. I also started a box to donate to the trash and treasure barn at Bella Vista Farm, mostly stuff I’ve had on eBay a few times which didn’t sell so it ended up under my feet when I sit at my desk. Oh I also culled my jumpers, well actually I culled one, a pure wool number that is in good nick but is too short for my taste.

A United Airlines flight from Houston to Amsterdam had to land in Chicago to offload a business class passenger who was unhappy with the menu. Business class passengers flying on that day had a choice between seared beef short rib, seared lemon grass salmon, or ricotta salata and wild honey manicotti as their main meal. I’m not sure what he wanted exactly, perhaps he was a Trumpist and wanted McDonalds, but apparently none of the meals listed were acceptable. The kerfuffle and additional landing added three hours to the journey for the rest of the passengers but our friend may have to book with another airline in future, unless they all get together to ban him. My friend who was a Qantas steward reports that passengers become incrementally difficult as you go from economy to business to first so I guess it could have been worse.

I have finished watching Jonestown (produced by Leonado DiCaprio) on iview and although I remember the events happening and thought I knew the story pretty well, I had only remembered the half of it. It was so shocking that I was holding my breath in the last two episodes, hoping for a different outcome. Early in the piece the film of Jones reminded me of Brian Houston in the one time I was silly enough to go to one of his services, back in an industrial unit at Castle Hill, with people falling backward in a trance and speaking in tongues. Later he became much more dangerous, faking a shooting attempt on his own life with the aid of blanks and some blood, to show his flock that he could be shot and yet beat death. It got me thinking about people with charisma, that magnetism and drawing power that is so dangerous. Hitler had it bigtime, Ghandi had it, Trump has it, Houston too and certainly Jim Jones had it in spades. When I hear his early sermons about socialism and overcoming racism I can see why so many of his followers were black, and I think I would have been pretty impressed by him too, early on at least. But 918 true believers died and those few who escaped lived with the tragedy forever after. What fools we are.

July 13, 2023

This morning I picked John up to get his new teeth after he had a front one extracted a few weeks ago. As we were travelling along Old Windsor Rd there was a convoy of four police cars and two unmarked cars with lights and sirens, going in the opposite direction at great speed. It’s bothered me all day, wanting to find out what the emergency was, in fact I was tempted to call in at a police station that we walked past to satisfy my curiosity. However policemen can be strangely suspicious of women with an overdose of curiosity so I desisted. But this arv I see that it was a police chase that started at Lalor Park and went all the way to Katoomba, two men in their twenties being arrested. I know that if you are being chased your instinct is to bolt, but did they really think they could escape that lot, and doubtless many more? Aaah, the confidence of youth. I wish I had some of it, but I didn’t have it in my youth so I doubt I’ll get it now. We got to Chatswood too early but there were no earlier appointments available, so we walked the streets and I confirmed my long-held hatred of the place. None of the buildings talk to each other as there’s been no effective planning and it’s all as ugly as a hatful. We walked past the Westfield and it is just a long brick wall on two sides with no openings, why did they not put shops on the outside, even if the bottom floor is a carpark? Beats me. But eventually we got in to Dr Rozek and he found that the new tooth he added is a millimetre shorter than its mate next door, so now we have to go to the godawful place again in a couple of weeks. ‘My mistake’ he said cheerily. Luckily we weren’t booked for parking while waiting to see him, that would really have ruined the day, because I couldn’t leave John on his own in order to go and move the car.

I had on board a small box of goodies for Barsby’s Auctions but their little car park was full and street parking was impossible so in the end I said FU to Barsby’s and headed homewards. John had well and truly missed lunch by this time and so we pulled up at Bella Vista and had some at Trevi, overlooking the pond (which they call a lake but which actually does have a fountain), a relaxing end to a somewhat frustrating day. Arriving at Gracewood we were met by one of his pals, Janine, who told him he had missed ‘the big news’. It turned out to be that the girl who serves their meals in the dining room has been moved to level 2! He didn’t seem to know or care about the girl but his pal persisted: ‘They can’t just do that to us with no notice, but don’t worry John I’ve already put in a complaint’. I left her to take John upstairs, relieved that I got out of the signing in and out process for once. Martha rang as I was coming home about 4 pm to ask if I wanted to go to a charity dinner tonight but I’m too buggered with all the driving and parking and not parking and screaming sirens and whatever else, a wimp probably, but there you are.

July 14, 2023

Went with Martha and Gaby to the annual North Shore Craft Group sale at Thornleigh and managed to escape without a purchase, though both Gaby and Martha bought something so we weren’t a complete waste of their time and effort. Next I attacked the issue of closing down my super account and transferring it to my bank. It can’t be done over the phone and not in person either, so I rang them to get the required online form (which I had to sign with my finger in some weird spidery looking writing which could have been done by anyone able to run their finger across a computer screen). The account has barely increased since I retired due to the fees eating up the miserable amount of interest that they pay. I should have done this long ago but I was worried that Centrelink may have some negative view of the move, something that both Mohammed and Dean from the Centrelink office assured me they didn’t. So I’ve sent off the online five pages of requested information to Commonwealth Super without a great deal of confidence that the procedure will work. Will the money actually arrive in my bank account? Will it end up instead in Malawi? Only time will tell.

Thinking about Ukraine, as we all are perhaps. It comes down to this: Ukraine wanted to join NATO and Russia doesn’t want it to. Okay, there’s the argument that Ukraine is a sovereign nation and has every right to join, but if one looks at the bigger picture it seems that the desire to join has cost tens of thousands of lives, Ukrainian military and civilians, Russian military, mercenaries (less sympathy here I must say) and foreign fighters. Then there are the future losses including those killed in battle and air strikes as well as by cluster bombs for the next 50 plus years. Negotiation will end the war, no one will win militarily. If we rerun the events after the 2019 election and Ukraine agreed not to join and Russia still attacked them we would be in different situation, but as it stands you have to ask the question: Is Ukraine joining NATO worth the lives lost? I would answer no and I don’t think history will worship at the altar of Zelensky in the way we are all expected to do at the moment.

July 15, 2023

Took John to Parramatta to see the Creatures Interactive exhibition and he enjoyed it but clearly wasn’t as smittled with it as I was. However we walked around the square and listened to an excellent busker so it was an enjoyable morning. I’ve been sorting two boxes of ‘stuff’ to be divided between the auctions and the trash and treasure at Bella Vista Farm. It’s all washed up and ready and I just need to decide what’s going where. In the middle of that Sue turned up and we all had a good natter, she’d been to Winning Appliances looking at kitchen electricals, sinks etc but couldn’t stay over unfortunately because she had guests coming tomorrow.

Thinking about Charlie Teo of whom Sue is very critical, understandably. But I think some of the blame has to fall on patients who want to live at any cost, I am sure they begged and pleaded for his intercession, though censure must fall on him for using those desperate folk as guinea pigs for his techniques. I well remember Chris O’Brien’s wife Gail, who was an occasional customer, telling me how much he appreciated Charlie operating on him and giving him both hope for the immediate future and an extended life compared to the estimates of his confreres at RPA who flatly refused to operate. They remained friends till Chris eventually died, which they both knew was inevitable. Where I am very critical of Teo is in the fact that he drops his failures like hot rocks and that is both inhumane and unprofessional. He is a very complex character with many flaws, but also someone who has a fierce band of supporters on whom he’s worked his magic.

July 16, 2023

In December 2022 our friend John Butcher had a very severe bout of Covid, complicated by his diabetes, which necessitated hospitalisation for a week or more at RPA and then a later return to hospital as well. Since then his diabetes has been unstable but on discharge and subsequently he has shown signs of forgetfulness now necessitating daily supervision by his wife. Last week he disappeared for a whole day to Bronte to have a swim and no one was aware of his whereabouts, causing great concern. His return was a huge relief to those trying to track him down. That’s now three people we know whose physical or mental condition has deteriorated markedly immediately after Covid. Apart from John’s doctor Nada, still unable to work after well over a year, another friend Garry had a similar severe bout of Covid in early 2023 requiring hospitalisation and since then he has been given a diagnosis of advanced Alzheimer’s Disease despite having had no symptoms before. Already he is totally non-verbal and entirely unable to converse, in less than six months! It is a fascinating illness and we have barely scratched the surface in terms of understanding its long term effects. I’d like to read the books about it in 20 years (if I am still here and able to hold a book) an unlikely scenario but it’s still worth looking forward to.

Today one of my tasks was to take up an op shop pair of Cotton On jeans I bought in Bowral. So I carefully measured the inside leg of two pairs which are the right length and both were 67 cm. So then I pinned up both legs to that measurement, however when trying them on prior to stitching, one leg of the pants was significantly longer than the other. I double checked and still the same but John solved the problem when he told me that ‘clearly you have two legs that are different lengths’! All these years and I hadn’t noticed.

Again thinking about Charlie Teo, I wonder if his problem is an intense fear of failure, such that he just can’t bear to see the people who’ve come off worse as a result of his surgery, but basks in the company of those he’s cured, or at least helped. He’s renowned for forging personal relationships with his (successfully treated) patients. Atychiphobia is the Greek based word for this fear and Teo may be a classic example? Certainly he’s a complex man, of that there’s no doubt.

July 17. 2023

Kevin rang today after speaking to John who assured him that I hadn’t taken him home for the weekend as is usual, also denying that he had a visit from his friend Pat Hurley during the week. Both things Kevin knew were not right. It may be why John has been ringing me a lot day despite my telling him where I was going and that I’d be driving. Also it’s probably why he sounded disappointed after asking what I was up to today, he clearly expected that I was coming out to see him. This is another new thing, they come thick and fast, you get used to one and then another one comes along.

Watched a presentation by Scott Ritter, the ex U.S. Marine intelligence officer and  lead inspector for the UN Weapons Inspectorate. It was on Vlodymyr Zelensky and Ritter’s view that he is a puppet for NATO and the US government (pretty much what Boris had said). It showed the numerous multi-million dollar properties that he owns in Florida, Israel, London and many other places around the world. If half of what was said is true about his past we need to be very worried indeed. The revelations come from documents in the Pandora Papers, which apparently show that Zelensky and his partners are involved with offshore  companies based in the British Virgin Islands, Belize, and Cyprus. Don’t let the humble T-shirt fool you is perhaps the take home message.

I’ve been putting off replying to an old friend’s email till I could strike the right tone. My friend is an eminent scientist, now retired, but in his last missive said: ‘I wouldn’t worry too much about scary predictions on climate change. It just snowed in Johannesburg! It’s all very political now with the left believing and the right denying. I personally think it’s hyped out of all proportion. Sure temperatures are increasing slightly, but is this all caused by humans?’. I mulled over the response but think I got it about right in the end, saying that my cousin in Spain had contacted me the day before to say it was 120 degrees F  where she lives, almost 49 degrees in our money. She puts the sheets in the freezer in the evenings, then makes the bed just before they get into it assuring some sleep, at least early in the night (they don’t have aircon). I told my friend this story but pointed out that the temp in Spain and snow in Joburg are weather events, climate must be viewed much more broadly in terms of trends over time. I haven’t had a reply yet but I suspect I have not made the slightest dent in his opinions, nor he mine I have to say.

July 18, 2023

Busy morning taking a box of stuff to Bella Vista Farm for their sale tables, some costume jewellery, a pair of computer discs to record genealogy, a handbag, belt and a bunch of old china. They took it all which is great and told me that most of their stuff comes from Dural Sallies (ha, my op shop) when the Sallies cull what hasn’t sold they box it up and sell it to BVF for $5 a box. As long as things don’t get trashed I don’t mind where they end up. Then to Norwest to my favourite fish shop for prawns and a piece of trout but when I got back to the car and took off my mask I was missing one hearing aid. Panic stations, retraced my route through the shops, searched the car but no luck. However passing Heather’s on the way home I stopped in and blow me down she found it in the back seat, clearly I’d taken the mask off carelessly and flung it into the back, where I had already looked incidentally. Heather gave me a few handfuls of Spanish Moss from her copious growth on trees at the front so I’ve been draping bits over the branches of the jacaranda and the Robinia and hoping it survives. Just now I’ve been busy hauling out all my spring/summer tops, quite a few I can assure you, and ironing those that need it while rolling the others so I can actually see what I’ve got. I suspect some of these haven’t seen the light of day for a few years so it was a case of ‘welcome back’.

Considering recent interactions I have been thinking lately about how to deal with people (not many thankfully, actually just one) who sap all my energy and enthusiasm for living. A really difficult person just consumes too much of your emotional energy to continue the relationship. Changing them is a lost cause, it doesn’t matter how nice you are in response you will never succeed as they believe that their animosity is entirely reasonable and nothing you do or say will change that. So I think I have to get better at setting rules ‘no you can’t come over here’, ‘no, I don’t want to meet up for lunch’. I will be attacked even more but at least it will be said to others so I won’t be there to hear it.

I have settled my argument with AGL, for the time being at least. It wasn’t the size of the bill that was the problem but their claim that my usage was up 7 times that for the same period last year, an impossible figure. My bill is almost a flatline all year as I only use gas for the stovetop, then it rises steeply in June and stays there till September while I am using the gas fire. This bill only went to June 15, but the steep rise in usage occurred in March according to their graph, so I knew it had to be wrong as I always hang off turning on the fire till June 1 unless there is a really cold snap. No help or explanation was forthcoming from AGL so I went to the Energy Ombudsman and they replied on the same day, reiterating my concerns to AGL by email. That was Friday, on Monday AGL rang me to ‘assist’. After listening carefully the man offered me $20 off my bill, but I explained that the money was not the problem, it was their wrong assertion that usage was up 7 times. He raised his offer to $25 but I reiterated the fact that if this happened on my winter bill it would be a disaster. End result: We played poker till his offer got up to $40 off and I decided to take the money and run, if they make the same mistake on the next bill I can just go back to the Ombudsman can’t I ?

Latest Johnism: Is that fireplace in the loungeroom something that you turn on or is it just an ornament? (This is the fireplace he designed, the one we had enjoyed sitting in front of together the night before).

July 19, 2023

Today I wore one of the mid-season tops that I unearthed and ironed yesterday and with a couple of scarves I was warm enough. But I wonder how many horizontally striped black and white tops one person needs and it seems that the answer is 9, plus one similarly striped in navy and white plus a grey and black one. For some reason stripes clearly appeal, though seeing some have tiny holes or are so old and faded that the Sallies wouldn’t want them, they are destined to remain in use here. I finished sewing up my op shop jeans, taking two inches off one leg and three off the other, with no rational explanation except that they were made wrongly in the first place.

Made a salad with red and green cabbage and carrot cut as per coleslaw but added fingers of apple, plus celery and walnuts. Heather said that my choice of Pink Lady apples over green ones would cause them to oxidise more quickly, so I dipped the apple pieces in lime juice and they seem okay. I want to try Adam Liaw’s recipe for Everything Fritters, the first ingredient being: 2 cups “something” (mixed raw vegetables, cooked leftovers, kimchi etc), roughly chopped. I love it as I always have plenty of ‘something’ in the fridge. I was tempted to do them tonight till I remembered that I bought prawns and trout yesterday so the fritters will have to wait. I used to do a fillet of fish for dinner with a few veges, now I do half a fillet with a few more veges than before and enjoy it just as much. I’ve also discovered after 55 years of cooking garlic prawns in the oven (pretty wasteful on power) that they cook very well in two minutes in the microwave, who knew? When I got the recipe from the chef at the Leaning Tower of Pizza at Lidcombe all those years ago microwaves didn’t even exist. Before microwaves came to Australia my oddball friend Alan in Parramatta somehow got one via a friend in Customs and invited his friends over to see ‘shows’ in his kitchen such as putting together a vase of flowers and giving it a buzz in his microwave, laughing like a drain at our amazement as the whole bouquet shrunk to nothing. We were easily pleased back in the 60s.

July 20, 2023

I’m glad that I made today a home day. Some lunatic was being chased by police down Windsor Rd to North Parramatta, then up to North Rocks, going through red lights and often on the wrong side of the road, where he ultimately crashed into traffic lights. Police say that they call off chases when it’s dangerous to the public but they clearly didn’t call this one off, the unmarked car pulled up three seconds after the crash. How he didn’t kill a few people is more luck than good management. I was safely ensconced in the kitchen using up a big bunch of celery by making Celery and Cheese Loaf with the heart (too delicious for words with butter, straight out of the oven) and Cream of Celery Soup with the rest of the bunch. Then I went to see my neighbour down the back who has complained that my palm is pushing the fence over. I couldn’t see the problem from my side but it is clear from his side that it is actually doing as he says. He only has a share of two green bins for eight units so not only will I have to pay to get the offending fronds cut off but I’ll have to get rid of them as well. But seeing I planted the tree, a little too close to the fence, I guess that’s fair enough.

I sent Michelle C’s Zelensky email to Manjula who sent back a host of stuff from various sources such as Noam Chomsky, John Pilger and others pointing to similar doubts about his motives. ‘Follow the money’ is always a good adage and one wonders how an actor only known in his own region could have amassed those multimillion dollar properties in numerous countries. Personally I wouldn’t trust Putin or VZ to be telling us the truth about the time of day.

Sue rang and suggested that she could come down here tomorrow with a friend in tow, but as is absolutely typical, it clashes with my going to Riverside Theatre and so I had to decline. Particularly annoying when I have Celery Soup and matching bread to offer for lunch! I think people somehow have access to my diary and do it to vex me.

John rang this morning excited because the Thursday bus trip was to go shopping and he would be able to buy the soap that he’d asked me to get. But at 10.15 (and 10.20 and 10.25) he rang disappointed that after ‘dressing up’ to go he had somehow missed the bus. He was sure that they should have come to his room to get him but they meet in the foyer at 9.45 and he’d forgotten that. No games happening as most people are on the bus Smilie: :(.

July 21, 2023

Bussed to Parra’s Riverside Theatre to see Perceptions, a flamenco music and dance programme and it was quickly apparent that almost everyone in the audience was a Spanish speaker. Waiting to go in I only heard one woman with a child who were speaking English, but dozens speaking Spanish so perhaps they were in a group, perhaps a bus tour? Pepa Molina was the headline, along with a male dancer Jesús Fernández, but in my opinion he outshone her by miles. There were just five performers, Pepa, Jesus, a singer David Vazquez, and two guitarists. I am fascinated by the fact that flamenco artists can make music with their feet and these were no exception, I love the so-called ‘talking’ footwork. In fact one number was done just by Jesus hitting the floor with a pair of flamenco shoes and another by the singer and Jesus hitting a small wooden table with their hands and knuckles to make the music, no backing required. The singer had that wonderful haunting Gypsy style that is typical of the genre, although of course I didn’t understand a word of what he sang, but the audience sure did and were very vocal with plenty of Oles being hollered. Afterwards there was going to be a Q and A but seeing I hadn’t heard a word of English all through the show, I decided to leave it that way and left, the memory of the dancing doesn’t need any words and perhaps they would have detracted from the experience.

This morning on the news there was a story about a terrible accident in Federal in Queensland with three people killed and one man injured. I said to Arvind that I bet the survivor caused the accident, so often does it happen, and this afternoon it was announced that was the case and he’s under police guard in hospital. There must be a reason for this, it happens too often to be coincidence. Perhaps it’s because the person travelling at speed is tensed and concentrating hard, whereas those hit are taken by surprise, driving along on automatic pilot and therefore unable to quickly take evasive action? I have no idea but an explanation there must be. If ever I get to meet a traffic accident specialist I shall ask the question. My list of questions for experts of all sorts never seems to stop growing, but answers seem to come very slowly. It’s like my list of books to read, I have so many and I mark them off in texta as I read them, but it’s conglomerative and will never be worn down.

Yesterday we had the ‘missing the bus’ drama, but last night and today we’ve had the ‘missing teeth’ drama. Apparently at dinner last night a nurse gave John the tablet he was supposed to have half an hour before food so he wrapped his lower denture in the serviette to take the tablet and the rest is history…. I have had numerous calls from him last night and today but his teeth have gone, just when we’d got the upper ones fixed, so now there will be a big bill for new lower ones. What can you say? It seems that the mini disasters are getting closer and closer together.

July 22, 2023

Today I took John to Parramatta Park straight from Gracewood because it’s so damned cold in the house and so lovely outside. We had a good wander around the park and along the river, then I came up with the idea of taking him to lunch at Circa in Parramatta near the station, but although we’ve parked near there before, this time they’ve changed the signage and there are only three parking spots in the whole street, all were taken. Clearly it’s a venue only accessible by bus these days. After driving around the area for a bit I saw that it was a hopeless task, Parra is just too built up these days for anything but multi-storey carparks and I didn’t want to get hooked up in one of those, so we went home for celery soup on the deck.

After lunch I got John to help me prune the rose bush, tricky since he mislaid both pairs of secateurs, but we managed using other tools. Replanted some Alyssum seedlings that had come up outside the garden and was buggered after doing it, pathetic really. I will do a good water later on this arv and the rose should be a happy chappy since today I’ve added the special fertiliser that it likes. I got a pair for my 70th birthday from Heather but one bit the dust while still in the pot. Heather has a fabulous commissioned dried flower arrangement in the window of the Sydney Art School in Baulko, it was worth the walk to get a close look at it, close to 3 metres across I’d guess and hanging from the ceiling.

I was pleased to get a survey about the flamenco performance yesterday so I could give kudos to the man who should have had star billing, Jesus Fernandez. Looking forward to seeing On the Beach in August with Carol. I need to find a foodie friend to try some of the long list of restaurants that I want to experience. John and I loved dining out occasionally but I’ve discovered that he’s just as happy eating here these days so there doesn’t seem much point. It’s become usual that I keep the names in my phone until I hear they’ve gone out of business, often years later, before I have managed to get there.

July 23, 2023

Toddled down to Erko this arv for lunch with Dav and Co, taking a crockpot cooked main with us. Had a go at Louis’ new Too Many Sheep video game which he has developed and which launches online on Wednesday. It was the first time that I’ve ever played a video game of any sort so I had to learn how to use the handset, John seemed to pick it up more quickly than I did. We all played a bear game with Millie and witnessed her first front tooth had fallen out. I dropped John back to Gracewood minutes before dinner time, although we were not that long up from table having apricot crumble and ice cream. Too tired tonight to philosophise on anything but the appeal of getting into one’s jamies.

July 24, 2023

Last night John had two calls from A, again about wanting his ‘things’. The planned family lunch at Glenbrook, which we had agreed to, has morphed last night into Jane picking him up on Sunday and taking him there, while I am no longer invited. I should be used to these backroom deals, I’ve had them for over 15 years, but each one hurts as much as the last, apart from the obvious pitfalls for John of that little circle. He rang this morning very pleased with himself, saying that he wants me to be at Gracewood when Jane picks him up on Sunday so we can all go together…..I can imagine how that would go down. So it remains up in the air and as Jane is on holidays I don’t intend to ring her to find out what prompted the change of plans, though I can guess.

After an email exchange with Manjula I took up her recommendation to sign up to Scheerpost, a news website which she spoke of highly as ‘independent”. However rather than a weekly overview a la Pearls and Irritations, I am getting numerous posts (6 or 7 a day) which just fill up my inbox leaving me overwhelmed and guilty that I’m not keeping up. So I decided this morning to unsubscribe, though Scheerpost was one of about a dozen sites she recommended, clearly she is more committed, or has a lot more time than I have. Better to dip into all these sites when time avails itself. It was interesting that I mentioned reading The Atlantic and Vanity Fair, both of which have good political articles from time to time, but she said she doesn’t read The Atlantic as it is owned by Laurene Jobs (Apple founder Steve’s wife) so it has ‘a philanthrocapitalist backing’, a new word for me but an interesting one.

After lunch (or I should say after lunchtime as I hadn’t eaten) I was feeling so sad that I decided to go to Norwest and buy prawns for tea, my oft used treat. What the hell I thought, so I bought 8 prawns instead of the usual 6, then in Coles getting some things for John I saw that Peppermint Crisp bars were half price so I got 2, along with a punnet of raspberries. I think it’s called retail therapy, something I don’t normally indulge in, but I will enjoy the fruits of it tonight, garlic chili prawns followed by raspberries and cream. Mmm-mm.

It is becoming increasingly hard to get the books I want from the library because when I try to reserve them they are available, but only in electronic form. Out of 12 I tried today I could only get 5 and I’m sure this problem will increase over time, which means paying $6.70 for each one I get by inter-library loan.

July 25, 2023

My wondering about how the perpetrator always seems to survive serious accidents that kill the random road users involved clearly has an answer in the recent Queensland case. The man, in a stolen car, rammed a ute containing his ex and forced it into the path of another vehicle, killing three. However my point still remains in general and I will try to get an answer to it to settle my curiosity.

Yesterday while at Norwest for fish (the owner always walks towards the prawn section while saying hello, I wonder why?) I took the opportunity to call in to the Indian restaurant there to show the owner Sunny my photo of the lovely Sikh man Satinder whom I met there. They are friends and he texted the pic to Satinder, which was exactly what I had hoped he might do. Then on the way back to the car I passed a burger joint with outside tables and there was the piled remains of meals that were clearly way too big. A deft sweep into a bag and I have plenty of food for the birds for a few days, although the possums aren’t averse to some tomato and the odd chip. I guess people assume I’m a poor old pensioner looking for a free dinner, but do I care? No, not a jot.

Sue has asked a few times if I’m lonely, as she is at times, but apart from bad weeks like this one I can generally answer no. Her solution is to keep busy every day: tai chi, French, pilates, working in her fruit and vege garden, her Shakespeare group, visiting friends. By the time I see John three days a week, spend time writing letters or going to court, do a bit of gardening, read every night, there isn’t that much free time. But I am realising that when things are bumpy I need to do more than usual and seeing I’ve been up since before five and had read the papers, answered emails and had breakfast before six, I think I need to go out. So I’m off to town to see the Opera House 50 th birthday exhibition at the Museum of Sydney (at least I think that’s where I’m going, it’s not outside the bounds of possibility that I’ll end up in court). I so miss being able to talk things through with John who always understood, now I’m more like his mother, looking after his needs rather than having a supportive relationship. Kenneth has effectively gone too, what a shit of a year this has been.

But not as shit as that of author Tracy Sorensen (loved her book The Lucky Galah). Her new novel centres on her recovery from cancer, ooh straight away the thought came that she was tempting fate there. Now just as the book’s published her cancer has returned after 8 and a half years. People love to say they’ve been cured of cancer, rather than that the cancer’s in remission but as John Wayne learned after saying ‘I beat the Big C’, cancer tends to have the last laugh. She expresses “exasperation and fear around anti-science sentiment”. Pseudoscience, she says, “overlaps with climate scepticism – so it’s just a terrifying bundle”. Last night on 7.30 there was a psychiatric nurse who was taken in by a fake psychic, perhaps she needs to have a chat to the professionals where she works about why she needs one in the first place, although I must admit psychiatrists are near the bottom of my list of trusted scientists when I come to think about it.

PM: Today was one of those days when serendipitous ‘ships passing in the night’ moments lit up the firmament. First at the Museum of Sydney I saw a man wearing a crop top and trousers made out of mesh, not with an undergarment, just the mesh. The trousers had big wide frills sewn into the outside seams and he looked vaguely like an Elvis impersonator. There were only the two of us in the exhibition at the time and so of course we got to chatting and front on I saw he had a very tiny modesty triangle but nothing at the back (where does he keep his wallet?). I wish now that I’d congratulated him on his guts, but instead I ignored the fact that he was almost naked and chatted on. Later I went to the Palace Tearooms and enjoyed a glass of one of the best bubblies I’ve had in a long while, a Louis Bouillot French number which I will surely have again. Unfortunately my favourite waiter Christian was serving those sitting in the walkway, ugh, so we only exchanged hello and goodbye. But sitting next to me were two men who initiated a conversation with this lone old lady drinking bubbles and it came to pass that one of them has just bought a unit off the plan at 111 Castlereagh St, being built on top of the David Jones building. He pulled out the pics on his phone to show me the expected view over Hyde Park to the Heads and then proceeded to show me pics of the harbour views from the Bridge to the Heads at his current digs at the top of the Horizon building. So I asked if he had sold at the Horizon or if that would happen when the new one is finished ($7 million he’s paying in case you’re wondering, $700,000 deposit paid). His answer floored me a bit, he’s keeping both for a year in case he misses the expansive views from the Horizon unit, then he’ll decide which to sell. He is half my age incidentally and I was dying to ask if he were a drug importer but decided not to rock our cosy little boat. So which was the highlight of my day? Mmm, hard to choose but I think the man in the mesh outfit is something I won’t see again outside Mardi Gras.

July 26, 2023

I woke up wondering where Mesh Man keeps his phone and his keys, surely everything can’t be electronic? I wish I had thought to ask him as now I’ll never know.

Last week my neighbour behind in the townhouses came to the door to politely complain about my palm tree down at the fence. It appeared fine from my side so I did an inspection at his place and clearly the weight of the fronds pushing down on the fence top is a problem as the upright support has buckled and distorted. So today I got my pair of helpers, Kirk and Dean, to have a look. They will come next Monday and remove the offending fronds, Kirk saying gravely ‘oh it’s a big job’ with Dean echoing ‘yes, big job’. I love that both their names are ecclesiastical, I’ve never managed to give them a cuppa and point that out, they are always ‘flat out’.

Interesting interview with the Miles Franklin award winner Shankari Chandran where she commented that she wanted her book to be a Trojan Horse, “I wanted the readers to walk into a bookstore and to see this beautiful, intriguing and engaging cover and the quirky title, and to think that they were going to pick up a novel that was full of whimsy and wit, and interesting, somewhat eccentric characters at a nursing home. And then as they read it, I want them to see these deeper, darker, harder themes that are very much a part of Australia, and a part of my family’s own homeland in Sri Lanka, and indeed a part of the world.” I wish some other novelists were as clever, but I can think of plenty of books where what you see on the cover is all you get unfortunately, thinking of you Eat, Pray, Love. Also read a review of the Oppenheimer film which I will go to see but it already irks me that it’s not factually correct. It apparently shows his meetings with Einstein in the 60s, meetings which actually occurred in the 40s and 50s. I’m sorry, if you are telling the story of an important scientist, biopic or documentary, you sure as hell need to get the facts straight, not mix them up like alphabet soup to suit your needs.

July 27, 2023

Driving off to Barsby’s this morning I noticed the Fire Brigade in Baulko so of course I was rubber-necking while stopped at the lights and discovered that it was the new Grill’d burger restaurant, burnt out. It was grilled alright, but too well done. I continued on to Barsby’s and Alex took a couple of rings, a pendant, some Ching Dynasty Chinese coins and a framed sterling silver engraving of a Picasso’s Le Chasseur, done in 1975. It was sold by Ronald Coles and his business card and information about the piece are included. He operated the eponymous gallery in Kenthurst dealing in ‘investment art’ but was a crook, offering to ‘store’ people’s investments and then reselling them numerous times. In 2014 Coles was sentenced to eight years in jail, with a non-parole period of five years, for 15 counts of fraud and deception as a director, and to larceny as a bailee (whatever that may be) for crimes worth nearly $6 million, but another 77 charges were not proceeded with. I hope they write a bit about my piece’s history in its description, even though I’m only hoping for a couple of hundred bucks for it.

That fire site has history, it was once St. George Bank and as I walked past with my small children a little old lady lost control of her car at the intersection and shot in front of us, crashing into the wall which held the ATM. It looked a bit like a heist but as we saw when we stopped to pull her out of the car it was clearly just an accident. Lately it was a large Salvo’s store but the rent beat them and just before the pandemic they moved out and it’s been vacant ever since (who’d invest in commercial real estate?) till a few weeks ago when it opened as Grill’d. Electrical fault? arson? dunno, but I look forward to finding out. One strange thing is that the spherical glass light fittings hanging from the ceiling all seem intact, another thing I’d like to have asked the firies about.

Perhaps my long held dislike of the south-western suburbs of Sydney was prophetic considering the number of people getting bumped off there lately. One of the latest targets, Mahmoud Abbas, a 35 year old Bankstown lawyer, was shot leaving for work but thankfully survived. His house looked pretty impressive on the teev, so his practice must be quite successful. I remember selling a cedar table to a brand new barrister years ago and she had such tiny chambers that we had to find a desk or table that 4 people could sit at without touching the walls. She explained how poor young lawyers are at the beginning of their careers, but not solicitors perhaps by the look of this abode.

July 28, 2023

Thinking this morning about Sinead O’Connor and her sad life, which brought me to tears yet again. I often imagine how people would react to those they idolise from afar, but who are ‘difficult’ up close. Watching the movie Cabaret years ago featuring the character of young, highly promiscuous American Sally Bowles and how the blue-haired matrons in the seats in front of me were gushing over her. Had they come across her in real life I suspect they would have been mortified by her behaviour and similarly with Sinead. I just can’t see one of us inviting her to join book group, daring and beautiful and talented as she was, which of course would have been our loss in the end.

July 29, 2023

John has been off-colour for a few days, but has tested negative for Covid, all types of flu, RSV and a few other things. He promptly told me that he isn’t well enough to go to the mountains on Sunday so I said yes when the kids asked to come tonight to stay over. Dav and Louis will go out to dinner, then to see Oppenheimer while I mind Millie. John sounded disappointed that I wasn’t coming to take him out today but I’ve promised to do so tomorrow. ‘Are you well enough to go out?’ I asked and he replied that he was fine, but clearly not fine enough for Glenbrook. I can’t help wondering if this mysterious illness with very vague symptoms was a convenient excuse not to go as he’s been worrying about it all week. I’m still undecided about how to handle the situation as he is very reluctant to go without me, but isn’t able to say that to others involved. If it’s affecting him enough to make him sick, then something has to be done.

I’m pleased that the Friends of Bella Vista Farm have got back in touch with me to say that they do want the loose pages of a Victorian scrapbook that I’ve had for years. They are too fragile for their trash and treasure stall and the Sallies would bin them instantly, but they’ve decided to use them somehow inside the house as decoration, one less thing that I have responsibility for, woo-hoo. They are coming round shortly to pick them up. I had taken three rings to the auctions this week but wasn’t altogether pleased with the prices offered, so I wore the large opal one home with a view to keeping it for a while and wearing it, despite it’s being set in yellow gold and being a white opal and not my favourite black. But by the time I got home I’d decided that it wasn’t for me and rang Alex back to tell him to include it in the auction, one less thing etc. Arvind came round this morning looking for some paint so we hauled out the copious rusted cans under the benches in the garage, but thankfully I convinced him to use a clear finish and not paint on the workbench he was seeking to protect and sent him home with a tin of Feast Watson, another thing gone.

It seems that four soldiers have been lost in a helicopter crash near Hamilton Island, it’s a disaster to lose someone in war but to lose them practising for war is even worse for their families I think. Now we are getting into manufacturing and exporting munitions it seems. Perhaps we could stamp the missiles and ammunition and whatever else with a little kangaroo and a heart so the targets know we’re really caring and sentimental souls underneath it all.

July 30, 2023

Last night when minding Moo I came up with the idea of a drawing comp and after doing a few drawings in tandem suggested doing animals that are crossed eg a koala with an owl, a human with a possum and naming them accordingly. She immediately drew a dog crossed with a cat and called him Dat. When it came bedtime she got her pyjamas and asked ‘is it alright if I get changed in my room for privacy?’ which I thought was a mature idea for her age. Dav and Louis had a Middle Eastern meal and enjoyed Oppenheimer while Millie only ate a bit of mashed potato and broccoli as my dinner didn’t appeal to her, though she filled up on milk and shortbreads. We had three possums waiting when we took the food out, they are coming quite early now, but unlike my old white eye they run off if you approach but come back once the predator (in this case the food provider) is safely indoors.

After feeding breakfast to the crew I picked John up and we went to Windsor, perusing the markets at which I bought a dress for Millie and a small tray suitable for serving which has seashells set in resin in a wooden frame. It will be a present for someone but I’m not sure who at this stage. Walked over the new Windsor Bridge to Macquarie Park and had lunch at the restaurant/takeaway there. The area was full and had plenty of utes, tattooed men (some full body including the head) and dogs of the breeds I’m not particularly attracted to. However they were all family groups and some large ones at that and everyone seemed to be having a good time. We got a good outdoor but shady table and had fish, chips and salad, the chips and salad were excellent but the grilled barra was either frozen here or imported, I suspect the latter. If I go again I’ll make sure I choose Australian fish. However we enjoyed our day out and it’s a handy distance from Gracewood. I asked John if he is feeling better now and he replied: ‘Why? Have I been sick?’

July 31, 2023

One of the advantages of living alone is being able to eat when you feel like it. I had muesli and banana at 6.30 am, expecting my garden helpers who are usually here before 7.30, though they still hadn’t come at noon. So at 10.30 I got the munchies and had a Cheshire cheese toastie. If John were here he’d be very concerned about whether this is morning tea (inappropriate choice) or lunch (too early), but I can just enjoy it without giving it a name. It remains to be seen which it is depending on when I next get hungry. I have learned though that although Cheshire cheese is a favourite and I love its salty sour taste, it loses its distinctive flavour when toasted so I’ll stick to strong Cheddar for toasties in future.

Each week I spell out to John which night he’ll be coming home and which days we will go out and to where. He writes it all in his book, but lately in the mornings he still asks ‘Are you coming to take me out today?’ and conversely he’s surprised when I arrive on days we’ve arranged. I think it makes both of us sad when I have to tell him I’m not coming but I don’t know how else to organise it. I noticed yesterday when I rang him from the foyer to come downstairs for our drive to Windsor, rather than my going through the whole check-in and RAT procedure, he arrived accompanied by Francis his nurse, who clearly hadn’t thought he was okay to come down one floor in the lift alone. Last night I had a mini panic when he didn’t answer 11 calls from me over a couple of hours, so I rang the nurse who checked on him and the phone was showing ‘no connection’ and hadn’t registered any calls. I checked his bank account and the bill had been paid only a few days before so Louis recommended turning the phone off and back on, but John wouldn’t be able do this so I rang the nurse again and asked her to get a helper to do it for him and hey presto, it’s fixed. So stressful yet so easily remedied.

Fran just emailed to say that Bill is ‘doing it tough’ and is now in the care of the Sacred Heart Hospice team, but they are hoping to keep him at the flat for as long as possible. How fortuitous that they chose to buy in the city, right within walking distance of all the services Bill was going to go on to need. I have had a couple of friends in SHH in the past and they do a sterling job there including in one case, which I won’t discuss in detail here for legal reasons, where the wishes of the patient and his partner were met humanely, even though it involved acting against the policy of the institution.

I noticed the 10 most viewed stories in the SMH today: 1, 3 and 5 were about cricket; 2 was about football and 6 and 7 were about the Logies. I know I overthink everything and that’s not good, but jeez Louise it would make me very happy to see more people thinking about the things that matter. I went up to get my reserved library books and noticed a new one about a family where the mother was white and the father African American. No big deal you would say, except that it was the 1940s and they feared prison time or lynching for violating anti-miscegenation laws, so they fled Indianapolis to marry in secret in Buffalo New York. It still astounds me that these laws were only overturned in 1967.

August 1, 2023

Just back from seeing Oppenheimer and it was engrossing. Though I felt bad initially for not taking John, I can see now that the jumping back and forth between timeframes would have confused him no end and the length would have been a problem too. I thought the lead actor (I can never remember actors’ names so I won’t even try) was superb and the actor who played Strauss was able to pose encouragingly, yet at the same time let his real feelings for Oppenheimer show through the mask, quite a feat. One thing that did disappoint me was the total lack of discussion of the fact that the bomb was dropped not just to end the war (perhaps not even to end the war) but to avoid a possible invasion of Japan by the Russians. Togo, who was subsequently part of the surrender several days after the atomic bombings in August, was dealing with Russia as far back as June, appealing to them to act as a mediator in peace talk talks with America, but was receiving no concurrence. Intercepts of diplomatic cables kept the White House fully aware of Tokyo’s repeated appeals to Moscow, trying to avoid a Russian invasion of the country. Unbeknown to Tokyo, the Americans had long been monitoring their communications and intercepted comments to Moscow to the effect that the Japanese were giving consideration to the termination of the war. Despite having this information, the US decided to drop the bombs anyway. Paul Ham in his book Hiroshima Nagasaki discusses this in detail. As we have seen many times since, politics rules the military and those on the ground, on the water and in the air (or at Los Alamos for that matter) have little knowledge of the bigger picture. Were the Russians planning an end to the war by invading Japan? We’ll never know, but we do know the US nuclear attacks killed 110,000 instantly and many more over time.

Once a month I get an account from the pharmacy which Gracewood uses. I check it carefully and that’s lucky because this month there were a few queries. I rang them and found that it was ‘an error’ that he’d been charged twice this month for 30 tablets of the drug Duodart of which he takes one a day, also the antibiotic he was prescribed for 6 days for the mild illness last week was charged 3 times (this is apparently because it comes in a packet of 2 tablets, when a course is 6 days!!) and his usual antibiotic appears twice this month when I’ve calculated that each lot should last a month. They’ve told me not to pay the bill till they sort it out and I sure as hell wasn’t going to.

Listening to the friend of lawyer Mahmoud Abbas who was shot last week gave me pause for thought. The friend, Ahmed Dib also a lawyer, told the ABC that ‘he shouldn’t have been shot, not in broad daylight and not in front of the house where his family resides’, which made me wonder if it would have been mostly okay if it were done at night and in a location far from Greenacre. Perhaps next time it will be, seeing he survived, what a way to live. Strange though that I can remember these guys names easily, but not the actors of a movie I saw today….. though I guess they relate to crime and court don’t they.

August 2, 2023

In a delightful example of synchronicity, this morning I suddenly remembered the name of my Canberra friend’s company (GEObjects, I always remember the GEO and forget the end bit). So I read the latest posts on their Facebook page and popped off an email with its name to my climate change skeptic friend on the South Coast. Then I checked the street library and someone had left Professor Ian Plimer’s 2017 book Climate Change Delusion so I hoyed that in to read or at least browse through. I’m wondering if he’s changed his tune in 2023? Anyway that was enough climate change thinking for one day but later I got a phone call from Mark in Canberra and discussed the coincidence of the day and much more before discovering that his call was totally unrelated to my tapping into his page, he didn’t know that of course, he was ringing about something important but altogether different. The religious among us would read something into these coincidences but I’m happy to just sit back and say ‘that was fun’.




































































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