Life Notes 13

January 20, 2024

Mark informs me that the total of my blog now has more words than War and Peace, so I am starting a new iteration before the thing chokes on the upload. We are not long back from the pool. I only took cash which they no longer accept so I thought I’d have to go home for a card, but no, she let us in free. I offered to pay double next week but she said not to worry about it, poor old things she was thinking. John loved it just as much as last week and apparently Waves is open all year so we can go to the heated pool in winter too. I noticed that his sun hat was starting to lose some feathers so when we got back I repaired it with some craft glue. It’s a genuine Panama which I bought him at Strand Hatters years ago in a fit of madness, hand woven in Ecuador (not keen to go there at the moment to replace it!). I’m not sure what the feathers are, quail maybe? but they are darling and I’d be very disappointed if he lost even one of them.

Thinking about the wretched US supply of bombs to Israel and it occurs to me that it’s not just about wanting to keep some control in the Middle East, but not wanting to lose votes amongst the Evangelical Christians, who are far more numerous than Jewish people I’m imagining. In their world view, the 1947-8 creation of Israel was a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and the Palestinians either don’t count at all or are ‘the enemies of God, because they are the enemies of the State of Israel’. The Christian Zionists believe that four thousand years ago God promised the land to the Jewish people, who will rule it until the rapture and then the second coming of Christ. In this scenario, Christians will be saved and ascend to heaven while those adhering to other religions will be sent to hell. There’s also a big slice of US voters who also believe in the ‘prosperity gospel’ who think that blessing Israel results in personal and financial gain. Considering that the polls tell us these folks are largely Trump supporters it would be a brave president who riles them in an election year. So Palestinians in that sense could be seen to be the victims of the election cycle, if indeed Biden would act in their favour at any other time, which of course is doubtful. Soon Israel will have killed as many people in Gaza as died in the Nazi attacks on London over eight months, but he’s managed it in less than four.

January 21, 2024

Sue came yesterday afternoon and we all dined together here, with a bottle of Taylors shiraz which she brought. Lots of discussion about her need to clean out her mother’s cottage at ARV asap since she has moved into the nursing home. Sue had rung the Sallies to arrange a pickup of those items that were not assigned to various family members, nor wanted by anyone. Today she asked if we could go with her to the house for an opinion about whether the Sallies would be willing to take those things. The answer was a resounding yes, but the fact is that everything is far too good for that. Her parents had great taste in antiques with Belleek, Moorcroft, Wedgwood, Doulton, Maley and others of their ilk as well as bronzes, antique clocks and alabaster. So she was looking to potentially send a load to Barsbys Auctions when everyone has had their picks. It was soon obvious that there were other views on that topic so I decided to beat a hasty retreat, not wanting to get involved in family dynamics.

Carly has been told by Foreign Affairs that they need a copy of her will before she goes away (what will?) so there’s another task to add to the very many piling up. The stress must be getting to her as the days count down, it’s certainly getting to me.

John rang four times within 15 minutes tonight. He’s lost: his new diary (the previous one I bought him has never been found), his Akubra, his football jumper and something else I’ve forgotten. Now he’s just rung again and his phone charger has disappeared over the weekend. I’m wondering if someone is going into his room while he’s away, because the charger is a fixture in the power point. I used to lock his room at weekends but because of Covid outbreaks I haven’t been going upstairs and he would never lock it himself.

January 22, 2024

Today I’m planning to investigate landlord insurance for Carly. Have quite a few companies to start with and I’m sure one will pull away from the pack once I concentrate on it. Also filling out the pages of forms to get a Companion Card for John so I can take him to more music and theatre. Swimming has been a great discovery, but music is important too so hopefully it will go through without problems. I thought I was going to have to make another complaint about non-delivery of the Monday Herald, but on my second trip out to look for it at 7.45 the man arrived and hurled it well onto the property, instead of the road or the verge as usual. The sight of the old bird in her dressing gown gave more power to his arm. No letters of mine published over the last few days, which is fine, but I am incensed that in the last few days not one letter about Netanyahu’s pronouncement about Israel going ‘from the Jordan to the sea’ has been printed. How is that not major news? Is the Herald following others in caving in to the small but influential Zionist lobby?

John’s tablemate told me on Saturday that she was assaulted by another resident. She didn’t report it but two other people who saw it happen reported to management so she was called down to discuss the matter. Then police came and took him away for questioning, later returning him and she describes that he ‘went back to lording over everyone as usual and constantly complaining about the place, the staff and everything else’. I’m not sure if it’s the same man that John complained about re his inappropriate dress at meals, but she is seriously considering leaving Gracewood and going to live with her daughter after less than 12 months. I would not want to be in the position of trying to sort that mess out. In fact I am temperamentally unsuited to any position in that place or its ilk.

Read an interesting obituary of Sydney Jewish doctor George Cohen who was born in South Africa and worked alongside missionary Albert Schweitzer, providing free medical care to a leper colony in French Equatorial Africa. He served in South Africa’s parliament on an anti-apartheid ticket before migrating to Australia. He was active in supporting marriage equality and as a result his daughter Dawn could marry her partner of 40 years. What a life, sadly ended by heart failure as a result of a fall and hip replacement surgery. This is the trifecta, George Pell and Barry Humphries coming to their end in the same circumstances.

January 23, 2024

Thinking about the demise of Pell, Humphries and Cohen it is a bit surprising in the sense that they were all hip operations, even though we’re always told that knee surgery is much more problematic. However statistics also tell us that elderly people who break a hip are 60% more likely than their unaffected peers to die in the next 12 months.

It’s only 9 am but I’ve already had five calls from John and I’ve made five on his behalf. There is a downstairs garden at Gracewood which can be entered from a door near the coffee shop. Because John has missed the excursion bus twice recently I advised him to go to the foyer early so as not to repeat that disappointment. He decided to wander around the garden while he was waiting, but then found the door was locked when he tried to get back in, so he rang me in a bit of a panic. I then tried his nurse who didn’t answer, the floor above likewise, another nurse, same story, the main desk (she doesn’t start till 9.30), and finally the retirement village next door. But eventually John alerted somebody through a window and they let him out. Was the door actually locked? was he trying the wrong door? where is the phone charger? where is his Akubra? Let’s just hope he doesn’t miss the bus.

Today was set aside to organise the Companion Card application. A day? Surely not. But it’s 2.30 and I have just managed to get it done. First a trip to Bob for him to sign his part of the 6 pages, mine having been done prior. He was running very late so an hour passed there waiting. He told me that I need to get a shingles vaccination and also that they have none! I asked at the desk if I could put my name down to be informed when some doses arrive but they have nothing set up to do that, so I decided not to get shingles in the coming weeks or months. Next I went to Services NSW to hand in the paperwork, but they don’t accept applications for this card. Someone valiantly tried to assist me by scanning the documents but then said that it had to be a passport photo of John not the phone camera one I’d artfully done (which in fact looks like a police mugshot, but anyway). So another hour passed there during which I phoned the relevant department and spoke to a super helpful lady who suggested that I post the forms in and email the photo as is, not requiring a passport one. Getting home I decided that photographing the pages of the document and emailing them along with the photo of John should do the trick and shortly after I got confirmation that it had arrived. I need a secretary.

Another panicked call from John, he’s lost the good ‘suit’ hat he’s been wearing while he can’t find his Akubra. I’m sure he would have taken it out this morning as he did in fact make it on to the bus trip, perhaps it’s on the bus. But he now has a telephone charger again. ‘Where did you find it?’ ‘No, it just appeared’. I did advise him to see if he could borrow one from either the staff or a resident until I can buy a new one, but now he has no idea if he did this or not. I am used to dealing with this stuff once a week but doing so more than once a day is getting tough.

January 24, 2024

Stayed last night at Erko ready to take Millie to the first session of Wonka at Palace Central. I discovered that the smallest size popcorn (ugh) is massive and Millie had more than enough to finish despite spilling some. The movie was absolutely wonderful, I think I enjoyed it more than she did. I don’t know how they do the special effects but I dips me lid. There were only two other people in the theatre of just 34 seats and the sat right in front of us but happily they moved. Millie sat on the floor for much of the movie peeking between the seats in case it got scary, at one stage disappearing behind the wall curtains next to us for the same reason apparently. Then off by tram to Wynyard and a walk to Barangaroo where we lunched at The Canteen which gave us a good choice of cuisines at reasonable prices, the serving size for $15 meant that I brought half of mine home for dinner. We loved the blow-up octopus floating on the harbour and the ferry trip to Circular Quay from where we trained home to St. Peters. By then I was barely able to walk the rest of the way but we got there. Altogether a great day out.

January 25, 2024

New Zealand’s list of banned baby names is taking things much too far. Among those banned are Princess (I know one person with this name in Australia), Queen (this was the name of an elderly shop client, now dead but she was in her 90s), Justus (an ex Archbishop of Canterbury) and Isis, a not uncommon female first name being Greek for throne. I am hardly a libertarian but all of this is a step too far for me. Then the new conservative PM in NZ is trying to follow the US culture wars (or following our Coalition who are following US culture wars) by messing with the Waitangi Treaty. Don’t do it my friend, Maori people will rise up in the streets, they are a warrior culture.

Preparing for book group tomorrow by making a Persian Love Cake and buying up berries for an Eton Mess. Only 7 people altogether but it will be worthwhile as I’m sure we all enjoyed the book, Wifedom.

John’s missing bits and pieces seem to be sorted out, but in one case disastrously. His phone charger ‘appeared’, his formal hat ‘appeared’ but his beloved Akubra was returned from the laundry (where it went only for a name tag after someone noticed that it didn’t have one) completely ruined. They had put it through an industrial washing machine and dryer! Despite a large tag saying it could not be washed or dried in any way, only sponged clean or with dry cleaning fluid. It cost $250 years ago and they are a lot more than that now. He is pretty devastated about it and wants me to formally complain.

The elderly Brisbane couple caught red-handed keying the sides of a Tesla and a BMW have pleaded guilty after being caught on camera. He says after being told to pay about $3500 in damages that he’ll pay them at $50 a fortnight: ‘Electric cars, I’d never buy one, not that I could afford one, I’d love to see a Tesla pulled up on the side of the road on fire. I’d get out and I’d stand there and I’d clap.’ Is this sounding like the remorse he talked to the judge about? ‘One person said we keyed a Ford Mustang, which is crazy, because I support blue (Ford) all the way,’ he said as my eyes rolled back in my head.

January 26, 2024

Unbelievably hot outside, it was 32 degrees in the shade of the back verandah at 8 am and very unpleasant when I went out briefly to check the street library. However someone had left a Hamlyn 200 Veggie Feasts book so it was worth going out to snaffle that for Davina who is on a veggie cooking roll. John has an Australia Day Celebration at 10, then an ‘Australian Lunch’ (meat pie with dead ‘orse?) followed by a Happy Hour at 2 so he’s fully occupied, but he doesn’t understand why he’s not included in book group here today, remembering past times when the men met as well.

I read the full list of banned NZ names and it gets worse the more you read, even Fanny a classic name derived from the French is banned. What a job, sitting around looking for double entendres in people’s name choices. King is also banned despite Kingi being a very common Maori surname, which should be open to use as a first name too, in fact I suspect many of the banned names were suggested by Maori people.

Carly has had a bit of a set-back in her preparations for India. Lola had to have a series of rabies vaccinations, which have been done, but the import people in India want the serial number of the vaccine which wasn’t recorded as it isn’t necessary under Australian practice. Now she has to start again on Monday, but the shots are a month apart and must be administered 30 days before departure, hence it looks as if Lola will have to be kept in a cattery here until that time is up, throwing Lola’s trip on Carly’s flight out of the window. Naturally she’s upset.

January 26, 2024

Book group went off swimmingly with 100% of attendees registering respect for the author and great pleasure in reading the book. We sorted out the books and hosting plans for the next 6 months or so, I think I am hosting again in June. We had a mountain of food, even after some people took a doggie bag and I gave Justin and family next door a boxful. Interestingly not one of the 18 lamingtons went, I hate them because of the chocolate and John because of the coconut, so Michelle took a few and some went next door, leaving others in the freezer for some poor sod in the future. Many people spoke of examples of patriarchy in their pasts and presents and others about men who didn’t fit that mould at all, although we agreed that women are so used to it that sometimes we barely notice. It was an elevating discussion.

Just after everyone left Iris rang, very upset at Logan still being in lockdown at ARV where the policy is to lock down everyone if there is a single case, unlike Gracewood which just locks down the wing. She was so upset that I asked her to come over for dinner which she declined, but later rang to say she’d like to come. Iris is vegan and it just happened that Sue was making us a vegan eggplant recipe tonight, so it was meant to be. It was good for them to spend time together because Sue’s mum is now in the very same corridor as Logan and was diagnosed with Covid yesterday morning. It helped for the three of us to be discussing the difficulties of aged care, and the benefits. As a nurse Iris knows this stuff all too well. She and Sue bonded and will no doubt see each other there.

January 27, 2024

After an early breakfast of leftover rock melon and Sue’s delicious cheese spread on some toast she left and I picked up John for a day into the city via the bus. We walked from Wynyard along the harbourside to Pier 2 where we saw the spectacular blow up artwork by British sculptor Michael Shaw called Hi-Vis. It is ‘a luminous, site-specific sculpture wrapping its way round the pillars and ballooning into the space’ of Pier 2/3 and it’s strangely appealing. Wandering around and within it we saw heaps of people painting or sketching it and the quality of their work was astounding, so I assumed they were art students. But no, they were the Sydney Sketch Club who go out together and well, sketch.

I suggested getting the bus to Barangaroo but John wanted to walk and it was delightful doing that. He has more puff than I do and I tire more by the end of a long day. We repaired to The Canteen where I took Millie on Wednesday but instead of being packed with workers it was nigh on empty with the outlet I bought from the other day being closed at weekends! So I bought us a meal from one of the few places open and it was both delicious and huge, we both ate our fill from one meal and took the rest home (note to self: I must make red cabbage cole slaw with dates and feta). Then we wandered to see the octopus, somehow the way that it moves with the waves is quite arresting. Decided to get a ferry to Parramatta but it was standing room only, so we went outside and stood by the edge. After a while a lovely young Indian couple stood up for us, which was good as the trip is over an hour, but the seat was the least of the benefits.

When we were getting off I thanked the couple and asked where they were from. It turned out that they only arrived here two weeks ago from Kerala, so I told them that we had stayed a couple of weeks in Kannur and amazingly that’s exactly where he is from. He knows the guesthouse where we stayed and her father lives near the town where Ram lives south of there. We exchanged numbers and last night Rajin texted to say how much they’d enjoyed our conversation. He suggested ringing Ram and telling him in his native Malayalam that they’d met up with us, so hopefully that will happen. They are looking for a unit to rent so presumably his company has put them up in the meanwhile. What’s the chances of meeting this pair out of 1.4 billion Indians? A walk to the station from the pier nearly finished me off but we got home by evening and ate leftovers for dinner thank goodness.

January 28, 2024

I try to read as many worldwide news outlets as time permits but just looking at the headlines of The Australian is enough to make you slit your wrists, so I can’t do it I’m afraid. Occasionally I see it in the library or somewhere and I browse but honestly it is worse every time. Then we have Kimberley Lynton Williams appointed as head of the ABC, what to make of that? He does have history with the ABC but jumped ship to work for Murdoch. Two things in his favour, he’s a musician and he was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War, saved from prison only by Whitlam’s election. I cling to those two positives.

We had a dies non today and boy did I need it. John has more stamina than I do and probably could have gone out again. But we pottered in the garden, he watering and me digging tranches for a few days worth of tea bags, tea slops and any sort of food refuse that the possums don’t like. I made Sue’s Chinese Eggplant dish again for lunch, this time adding a green capsicum, John said it was okay (a common description) while I rated it fantastic, but then I get more excited by food than he does. I made enough to see me right for another meal during the week, though I could eat it right now with little encouragement.

In communication with Rosanna about the neo-Nazi arrests in Turramurra she says that the guide hall where they met is just near her house and she walked past it this morning. Apparently the leader Thomas Sewell was staying in the suburb, which isn’t quite where you would expect a common or garden criminal to be domiciled (except for white collar criminals of course) but there you go. Prominent Jewish organisations have compared these people to pro-Palestinian demonstrators but one group wants to rid Australia of ‘coloureds, homosexuals. Communists and Jews’ while the other wants to stop wholesale slaughter in Gaza. Sewell is a long time troublemaker and criminal. I once had Jim Saleam the famous Nazi fellow come into the shop, he was well known for many years from television and print and was later Secretary of the Australia First Party, standing in a number of elections. He is quite dangerous as he’s been convicted of a bombing and various serious assaults as well as having been seen in full Nazi regalia. He wanted me to put up a sign in the shop to complain about the Windsor/Richmond cemetery having a Muslim section. I laughed and said I’ve never heard of anyone being hurt by dead Muslims, but he didn’t see the funny side and his eyes narrowed in a way that was chilling. I made a mental note not to laugh if he came in again. 

January 29, 2024

Despite the forecast suggesting rain for three days, it was hot and brilliantly sunny today. However not so hot that I failed to enjoy a meet-up with friends at the Botanic Gardens. I was so controlled in my ordering after overeating eggplant these last days that I shared half a panini with Jenny, Mediterranean eggplant and capsicum which is funny when you think about it. Luckily there is leftover Chinese eggplant and rice in the fridge so I don’t need to cook tonight. I saw a plant at the nursery there and fell in love with it, but realised that carrying it home would be difficult on two buses. However I was still thinking about it at the end of lunch so I went back and bought it just as they were packing up at 2pm. Because the nursery is staffed by volunteers it only opens 11-2. The lovely Ralph put two little stakes in the pot with some string tied around the plant and I got it home safely. It’s a Crucifix Orchid from Venezuela or Colombia and the flowers look a divine orange. They had done their till so couldn’t take payment but I convinced him to take a $10 note which included a tip and to put it in the till tomorrow. I got off the bus at Baulko as I had secreted the car there to avoid crossing Old Northern Rd and had to walk past St Vinnies. Got an unusual dress for $18 and I’m looking forward to wearing it, although it would look better if I could lose a few pounds. Perhaps the dress will aid that happening.

January 30, 2024

It was reinforced to me yesterday how tenuous is our grip on life these days. In talking to my friends I discovered that one’s husband has bladder cancer, which I knew, and now he has been diagnosed with unrelated mesothelioma. This is a bloke in a cycling club and a bushwalking club who is super fit and thinks nothing of a 12 km walk. Naturally his buoyant personality has been severely dented. Another friend’s husband is dealing with a stroke and may need to go into care and a third has a husband with bowel cancer. I have just passed the 2 year point from my operation and see the surgeon for the six-monthly check-up in a couple of weeks. Strangely I never think about it except when the visit is due. As a perpetual worrier I find that odd, clearly my psyche doesn’t think that death by bowel cancer is my lot.

In the Herald this morning they identified one of the neo-Nazi demonstrators as Jack Eltis a tradie of north western Sydney. Of course I looked him up on Facebook but his page has been closed down, so then I looked up his business, an air-conditioning company which he owns. However no address is listed, it just has Sydney as an address so I was thwarted. But then I had a brainwave, put it in Apple Maps and bingo, his company is in Annangrove, in the next street to Tim in fact. While I certainly wouldn’t have him in my house, it could be counterproductive if his business is completely blacklisted because these people thrive on the belief that the world is against them. He spent his holidays rereading Mein Kampf apparently but I hope his little girl is never mistreated as a result of her father’s beliefs. However I pity any of the hated quadrella: ‘coloureds, homosexuals. Communists and Jews’, who have used him in the past, it would make your home feel violated that’s for sure.

Had lunch with Carol today at Wild Pear, it was delicious as always. I determined to have an entree instead of a main and they had Zucchini Flowers on so there was no contest, alongside the House Hummus and the Cos Salad which we shared, both fabulous. Then they offered dessert, what a silly question when you’ve tasted their pav, so no dinner for moi tonight, just water. Bob was here when I got home, but I couldn’t get him to partake of any of my leftover sweet stuff (are you trying to get rid of it? he asked) so John will have to help with that at the weekend.

January 31, 2024

Early start today on the bus to Brooklyn for a trip on the Riverboat Postman. I absolutely loved the journey, the views, the commentary and the lunch so 10/10 from me. But the biggest thing for me was the number of jellyfish I saw, there must have been tens of thousands along the whole trip, great big beautiful ones that I wanted to play with, dumb as it seems. They were reddish-tinged with the big cross on top, about 25-30 cm across, just like I remember in the lake at The Entrance as a child. I used to carry them about in buckets of water, put them on a board and push them along the water, never had a sting from one though. Hard to photograph them, I took about 30 shots to get one that I was happy with. We passed the original HMAS Parramatta, now a wreck which has been aground there since 1934. The bow and stern sections were subsequently converted into memorials, one at the Maritime Museum and one at Parramatta, the bow and stern having both been cut off the wreck by the Navy to achieve this, perhaps making it the longest ship in history. Also loved stopping at the little settlements, of from 2 to about 100 people which aren’t accessible by road. I noticed that the ferry staff gave a piece of meat to any dog accompanying the mail picker-upper waiting on the wharf and in one case when it was just a boy, he got a bag of lollies. While the people on these bus trips are basically friendly enough, there is certainly no one so far who has been anything more than polite. They tend to sit and look out of the windows rather than going outside, taking photos or interacting with each other. But it’s the trip (and the not driving) that I’m after so I won’t lose sleep over that, I had a ball.

God Chris Minns is a conservative wet blanket, I wouldn’t have picked it when I voted for him. Pandemonium, a concert headlined by rockers Alice Cooper, Deep Purple and Blondie, had been planned for April 25 until Premier Minns stepped in to pull the pin. Of course the move followed criticism from RSL NSW president who claimed his organisation “had not been consulted” (why should they be?) and that a rock concert would intrude on a day for “respect and quiet contemplation”. Bullshit! It’s a day for a dawn service, a march (both of which would be unaffected) and a total piss-up from then on.

February 1, 2024

I sent off a hurried letter to the SMH along the lines of the last paragraph about the cancelled concert but it wasn’t printed. However many important letters were and that’s the main thing. This morning I’ve been dealing with a carpet layer in Canberra who is going to repair her carpet where Lola has used it for a scratching post in order to demand entry to the bedroom. Luckily he could come on Saturday. Finally the Lola rabies vaccination drama seems to have been sorted with countless emails to and from India, many visits to the vet and documents signed and stamped. Carly has an address over there, in Anand Niketan, an upmarket suburb home to many diplomats, now she just needs the visa to come through and she’s sorted.

John rang me very excited with ‘big news’ which was that he’d had a haircut, forgetting that I was the one who recommended it this morning. Usually I give him cash but this time he was told ‘it’s all sorted’ so presumably that means I will get a bill. He was proud that he’d found the hairdresser downstairs and sorted it all out himself. In conversation with Lynne this morning she told me about a few things that Ivan used to do when suffering from dementia, such as driving 20 kilometres to Penrith after his licence was cancelled in an unlicensed and unregistered car, getting out of the day care facility and walking home and repeatedly trying to buy a phone from Optus after his was taken away. This morning I visited an old man down the road, the same age as John but looking 10 years older. He lets me take bark from his front yard for using on my garden and to line pots, so I took him a couple of bits of cake.

I’ve had a few calls from Tim and the latest ‘offer’ from his siblings is as follows: the house is to be sold and the money divided three ways, which is bad enough when he built it, but the kicker is in the small print. Everything in the house and his dad’s attached flat is up for grabs; each person to do a ‘walk-through’ choosing one item until there’s nothing left. Except while the furniture in the flat is nothing special, Tim’s two storey house is packed with a lifetime collection of antiques and artworks in every room, not one piece of which belonged to his father. Of course he’s said no, but this seems to be never-ending, putting up scenarios that they know he will never accept, presumably to bankrupt him with legal fees. He sounds sad when he hears I’m out and about, I think the only time he goes off the property is when he has legal appointments.

February 2, 2024

Got a letter up in the SMH today on Chris Minns’ silly Anzac Day concert ban. A typical stuff-up between departments of the same government, coupled with a powerful lobby group being heeded by an immature politician. They wet themselves if the RSL, the horse-racing industry, the gambling industry or the Jewish lobby make it known that they are unhappy, in fact often even before they are unhappy!

Had a great swim at Waves this morning. It was quite busy with the Northholm Grammar School having their swimming carnival in the biggest pool but not the one I usually swim in. I was amazed to see that all of the students have expensive-looking swimming togs with their school name on them, that was a new one for me. Came home in time to finish off the last of the Chinese eggplant for lunch and resisted the desired bread to have with it, even though Sue brought me some loaves of my favourite from Killcare yesterday. The problem with finding bread that you love is that it makes a lovely addition to whatever else you are eating, or just a crust and butter for no reason, but I need to make room for a fancy dinner tonight.

Saw on 7.30 an item about the Metro rail construction chief, querying the fact that two highly-paid contractors, earning more than departmental secretaries, were also running consultancy firms awarded work with the agency. It reminded me of going to a luncheon on the deck of said chief’s waterfront home a few years back. It was an interesting day with people trying to find out what others did for a crust and whether there was any way they could ‘intersect’. Despite saying I was just a small-time antique dealer, I still have a couple of business cards from people who said to ‘give me a ring if I can ever be of assistance’. So far I haven’t needed to call in their services. I was seated next to an academic from the Notre Dame medical school and we had an exchange of emails for a while on issues of belief, medicine and prisons, some things that we both had a special interest in.

I may have said this before, in fact I’m sure I have, but I get very bored with designers and architects following fashion. Just seeing high-rise buildings with vertical slabs of colour will forever be a sign that they were built in the 2020s, ghastly lime greens and yellows through to various shades of shit as seen in buildings on Delhi Road, close to the M2, whenever I go to town. Just as the 1960s was all about the horizontal, the past couple of decades are all about the vertical. Every two-storey house seems to have square columns at the front accentuating the vertical. Why do all that study just to draw the same boring fashionable houses over and over?

February 3, 2024

Great dinner last night at Lazy Thinking restaurant at Dulwich Hill, courtesy of Carol and Jack, for anyone who helped with the cake baking last year. The food was exceptional and the service very warm and friendly. A rousing rendition of I am Australian was enjoyed by all. It’s a pity that the place is so damned far from here or I would pop in from time to time to time, even just for a drink and a snack.

Today I picked John up for the weekend as usual and it occurred to me that Janene always comes down to the foyer with him now, which is odd as she is in a different wing altogether so how does she know exactly when I’m coming? John said it was a pity that she couldn’t come with us to First Saturday as I had suggested, except I didn’t suggest it. However he said he’d asked her, saying that I would drop her back to Gracewood and she had said no apparently. I really enjoyed the afternoon for many reasons, the topic being one that interested me (the Vikings), the company in general and meeting a chap called Alan who, when I first spoke to him, immediately said ‘I hear that you are a court watcher, so am I’. So we compared trials and courts and judges. He emails himself a brief summary of the judge’s expected final decision and then compares his own with the official one when it’s handed down, even I don’t do that. He watched the Lehrmann defamation trial and asked me for an opinion on the final result, which I gave him and it agreed with his summation completely, though we could both be completely off the mark of course. We shall see. The closest I come to that habit is at the weekend bail court when I note briefly whether I would give a chap (it’s almost always a chap) bail or not, comparing it to the judge’s decision over many cases, and we mostly concur. Barry asked John for his email to keep in touch as it turns out that they were both in the seminary together, but I need to contact Barry as I would be very surprised if the email given is the correct one. He suggested that John join a Zoom group for their compatriots every Thursday but I’m not sure how that would work as John can no longer use a computer and certainly can’t Zoom. Whether Gracewood staff could help him I’m not sure.

February 4, 2024

I asked John this morning what we did yesterday and unusually he remembered much of it, however when I asked for his email address it was completely wrong so I’ve emailed Barry the right one. Yesterday I brought home from Gracewood the monthly printed colour newsletter of many pages, it’s the way I find out what goes on out there. There were heaps of photos including one of John singing, walking a dog! and doing some sort of exercise routine. It also forecasts upcoming events such as a Valentine’s Day high tea and shopping trips which I got him to write in his diary. But I also got some sort of cockeyed email from Gracewood entitled ‘acuity scheduling’ about visiting and ‘external excursions’ which I intend to completely ignore. It has times to ‘book in a visit to your loved one from 10 am to 2.40 pm daily’. But even worse is the ‘family gatherings and external excursions’ section which has times from 10 am to 3 pm when residents can be picked up, saying ‘the visit/excursion should be limited to 2 to 4 hours’. What sort of bullshit is this? Has the place become a prison? I will not respond to it but if asked why I haven’t used the ‘acuityscheduling’ app I shall fire with both barrels.

This morning I asked John if he wanted a swim at Waves and he said no, but that he was happy to watch me. Knowing that he would want one I suggested he wear his togs just in case and as soon as we got there he was in and swimming laps. I did the same and then tried out the heated pool with a view to swimming there next winter, which would be blissful. I’m thinking of going to Boy Charlton Pool, a venue I love, when John is at Nelune next week. We came home for a lunch of salad rolls and I put on an episode of Hoarders, an SBS show about extreme hoarders in the US. I never watch SBS but I got an email from them about this show, which was a bit creepy as if they somehow know that I’ve got a dose of this gene, as my storeroom and garage attests. John wasn’t interested but I loved it and will watch more.

Carly is proud that she dropped off her dry cleaning and was able to greet the lady in Hindi and understand the reply. She starts the formal lessons this week. She’s stocking up on heaps of stuff that they’ve told her may be hard to source in India, this will go in the ‘uplift’ but it takes 6 weeks to get there so she needs to take in her luggage enough clothes, toiletries etc etc to last that 6 weeks. It’s getting very complicated with instructions hither and thither, but she’ll get there in the end.

February 5, 2024

What is this obsession with piling flowers on the spot where a death has taken place? Okay, send the rellos flowers, but in TV footage about the murder of a Brisbane grandmother there was footage of not only bunches of flowers, but potted orchids being piled up. They won’t be watered, no one will take them and they’ll die, what a waste of money as well as a waste of effort on behalf of the grower. Florists must be laughing though.

While I am on a bitching session I may as well continue: I am constantly amazed at how little people understand about politics. Nothing could show this up more than the number of times I hear people mention something bizarre like Nazi Communists, which was what the man on Hoarders called those who were the local equivalent of our councillors, trying to get him to clean his joint up. Similarly I’m sure that the high school students (always boys) who are reported as giving Nazi salutes wouldn’t have a clue about the history they are embracing.

Two doors up, Jeet and his wife Rina are planning to build a 5000 square foot house, demolishing the one in which they now live. But there’s a big problem: it will block out 100% of the sun in Arvind’s backyard and onto the verandahs across the back of the house, only his pool right at the back will be spared. It is so tall that the shadow cast comes across my property by 3 metres, affecting both the sun and the amenity of my deck. I wasn’t included in the automatic council request for objections as I’m two houses away but I will be putting one in anyway. Apparently the next house along to the applicant is going to be a similar size and that’s already passed council. I will soon live in a street of mansions.

Too hot to garden, so I spent my time listing some costume jewellery on eBay today. I have well over 100 pairs of clip-on earrings from the 1950s. 60s and 70s that I’ve been gunna list and haven’t. That show Hoarders has motivated me so I am trying to sell them at 20 pairs per listing asking $40 for each group and we’ll see how they go. I bought them years ago from the widower of a socialite from Roseville, who lived in one of those two-storey Deco houses that always remind me of a cruise ship, the inside with its sweeping staircase did nothing to change that thought. There were photos everywhere of this woman at the races, the theatre, at luncheons, always dressed to the nines. But it puzzled me why her jewellery collection was somewhat down market, she must have gone for variety. As well as the earrings I have shoe boxes full of fake pearl necklaces too. Her wardrobe was about 30 feet long and full of clothes but I didn’t even look at them. The jewellery wasn’t right for the shop I decided and the auctions wouldn’t take it so I was left with it till now. Fingers crossed.

February 6, 2024

Today was John’s treatment day and I decided yesterday to pack my swim bag to fill in the waiting time at Boy Charlton Pool. However it was raining this morning and the forecast was for rain in town, so plan B emerged to go to a movie at Palace. But the traffic was terrible today and it took us way longer than usual to get there, plus John had to have a blood test upstairs and there was confusion about the form, so by the time I got him settled at Nelune it was too late for the movie. Plan C evolved only because I realised we needed some petrol and there aren’t any options around Darlinghurst so I decided to drive to Bondi (only one servo in that whole journey, so they aren’t too many over there). I parked at one end of the beach and walked along the shopfront, only to find nothing interesting at all, just branches of shops you get everywhere with lots of foodie places but nothing much different to Castle Hill. So I went for a walk and enjoyed seeing the sea and feeling the wind. It wasn’t raining and a swim would have been very possible, but of course I didn’t bring the togs. Met a lovely young man called Matteo who is Italian but has been in Spain for 6 years. He’s only just arrived and already has a job as a waiter at Icebergs. Ultimately I sat reading my book at Bondi until John was ready, it used to always be 3 hours but now it’s never less than 4 and sometimes more.

My protestations about his ruined Akubra ended in a result, but not a completely satisfactory one. They admitted responsibility and bought him a new hat, but he assures me that the label inside says that it’s made of…….paper. I will get him to bring it home on Friday so I can check, perhaps it’s straw as paper seems weird. John has been complaining for a while about a fellow who comes to every meal in shorts and a singlet. He complained to the staff and nothing happened, but yesterday John was watering the garden and the man was sitting in the gazebo so he told him that he loved everything about Gracewood, the staff, the activities, the design of the building, but the only thing he doesn’t like is this man coming to meals dressed like that. The fellow apparently took the criticism well, saying ‘I must rectify that’ but came to breakfast similarly dressed…..we shall see who wins this battle over time.

February 7, 2024 (written 8/2)

Today I went on the bus trip to Woronora, somewhere I’ve passed on the overbridge but never gone down to actually see. We stopped at Picnic Point to check out that part of the Georges River, but somehow between floods and loud jet skis and skiers on the water at weekends, I wasn’t wishing for one of the mansions there. Eventually we got to The Boathouse, a lovely riverside venue where we were booked for lunch. The pre-ordered lunch was a while in coming so of course we chattered around the table, including to a new couple on their first bus trip. He opined that we shouldn’t worry ‘about climate change and all that, let the next generation sort it out’ when she chimed in that ‘that’s right, but the next generation is so hopeless’ to which one of the group asked why. ‘Always doing demonstrations’ was the reply. I think the other two women at the table were as equally offended by all this as I was, but we just changed the subject to the lunch ‘how far is it from here to the Fish Markets?’ he asked apropos of his slow order of squid and chips and then there was a later comment about the fire at Grill’d in Baulkham Hills being a Jewish stocktake, a comment that went over my head completely. It turned out that they are both members of Probus, which didn’t surprise me as I’ve heard some pretty racist and right-wing stuff coming from others in that group, which is why I’ve been hesitant to join despite enjoying a couple of their events. (I later discovered that a ‘Jewish stocktake’ is a disparaging comment alleging Jews light fires in their own shops in order to claim the insurance, a ridiculous proposition considering that the restaurant had only just opened when the kitchen fire occurred). Apparently Grill’d advertised 174 free burgers on Tuesday to celebrate the re-opening and there was a queue around the block, perhaps that was one for each day closed, I’m not sure, but it was an epic refit. Anyway although they were a very friendly pair they were tiresome in the extreme, but I played nice.

The return trip was without incident (on the way there a tyre stripped off a double semi-trailer and our driver had to do some fancy steering to avoid it, I would not have liked to deal with in a car). But part way home I started to get symptoms of vestibular migraine so I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Sadly though it didn’t work and by the time we got to Oatlands to drop someone off (I am amazed that Oatlands is in our Shire) I called out to the driver to drop me off asap. He delivered two others on the way unfortunately so by the time I got home it was too late and I threw up immediately upon leaving the bus and a couple more times before getting to the door. The driver must be thanking his lucky stars as I still had one foot on the bus step when it started. I am disappointed as I’d got through the other bus trips unscathed, but this was both long and windy. So that was me finished for the rest of the day unfortunately.

February 8, 2024

Last week Martha asked if I wanted to go to KOI for morning tea one day as she had seen Reynold Poernomo cooking on a television programme. My only free day this week was today so despite feeling pretty fragile after yesterday I didn’t want to pull out. Almost all of the desserts are different to last time I was there, I chose a Strawberry, watermelon, chia seed and rose jar while Martha went for the Black Forest jar with raspberries. Superb. Reynold’s mother came out to say hello which she always does when I go, although my visits are so rare that I’m not sure why she remembers me.

Weeks ago I asked Martha if she wanted to go to Divas, a performance at Riverside. She said she couldn’t go because of a Probus dinner at Castle Hill which she invited me to go to instead. I booked and paid for that as I haven’t been to this Lebanese restaurant, Two Brothers. Then I got an email offering me two free tickets on the same night to Divas so Martha suggested that I cancel the restaurant and go with someone else. I tried to do just that but all the tickets were gone, so I stuck with the restaurant booking. Now this afternoon Martha emailed to say that Riverside has offered her two tickets for the price of one to Divas, so now we are doing both the restaurant and the show, weird how it’s worked out.

It is puzzling and disturbing to read that 80% of British Conservative MPs are members of Conservative Friends of Israel. According to a documentary on Britain’s Channel Four programme, donations to the Conservative party ‘from all CFI members and their businesses add up to well over £10m over the last eight years’. They also fund the individual election funds of their members and supporters. CFI member James Cleverly, foreign secretary since September 2022, has backed Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians including halting water, electricity and food from going into the Gaza Strip. One wonders about how many of our politicians belong to a similar group here? The groups here are more diversified it seems, but working to the same aims. Pro-Israel lobbying is the domain of three different organisations: the Zionist Federation, the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and and the Australian Israel and Jewish Affairs Council but they don’t seem to mention their membership numbers from what I’ve been able to glean. However since 2002, AIJAC alone has hosted more than 500 Australian journalists, politicians and senior public servants on guided tours of Israel. Some politicians privately deride the tours as propaganda exercises, yet they are a powerful advocacy tool used by the organisation to build political support and sympathy for Israel. What hope do Palestinians have of putting forward their view?

February 9, 2024

Well last night I reminded John that he had a haematologist’s appointment here tomorrow afternoon via Zoom. It was booked six months ago, so I told him I would be picking him up for it Friday morning to which he agreed. Later I realised that I hadn’t received the usual Zoom link so I phoned the hospital and they said someone would ring me back. Much later a new doctor rang to say that she has taken over John’s case and is not happy that he has been seen recently only on Zoom so she had rung him and changed the appointment to a face-to-face one on a day next week, a day which I can’t do. I explained that in future she needs to make any changes with me, then rang John who confirmed that he knew all about it but didn’t think he needed to mention it. Then he said ‘oh I’ve also got an appointment with the cardiologist next week and they rang me up to say that I need a new referral’. If the doc had said meet me in the carpark at 7pm wearing a blue shirt he would still have faithfully written it down in the diary. I’ve managed to change appointments, but it shows how the wheels can fall off when they ring John. Later I realised that his first appointment is on Valentine’s Day at 1.30 so I booked for lunch at bill’s just around the corner as a surprise, but thinking about it later I guess everything is a surprise. However I’m sure he will enjoy it.

So I had a free day today and decided to go to Palace at Central to see the movie Anatomy of a Fall, however to my great surprise I discovered that it is on at the Towers. A French film at the Towers, who would credit it? So I drove up to the Mall at 9.30 am to discover not a single car spot, just queues of cars driving around looking. I thought perhaps they were having lion dancing like they did last year for Chinese New Year, and yes they are having it but not until the weekend. It was all about the food! Long lines at the fruit market, the butcher and the duck shop but the queue at the fish shop went out of the door, along with my plan to have fish for dinner. I seemed to be the only non-Chinese walking through at the time I was there, it is usually pretty much that way, but today it was 100% so it was a cheap trip to Hong Kong. Forget how the fishmonger looks on Good Friday Eve and Christmas Eve, this was double that and if the smaller stores don’t sell out today I’ll eat my hat. Hopefully one day I will get to go to one of these family festivities and see how it all ends up on the plate.

But then the movie: oh my goodness me, it’s a 10/10. Superb performances from every actor and it had me from the first minute, but I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone else by going any further. That doctor yesterday did me one big favour, perhaps I would have missed this great film otherwise, plus I’m still wobbly since being sick on Wednesday, needing to hold on to things as I walk, so it’s good that I’ve got another day before I have to look after John.

February 10, 2024

Picked John up as usual and did some shopping on the way home. Went down to the fridge in the garage to put some things in the freezer and smelled death straight away. The fridge was off and everything in the freezer was rotten. On Wednesday power went off in the kitchen while I was making some toast for a scratch dinner, so I assumed that the toaster had died. The safety switch was off so I thought I was clever in simply putting it back on and planned to ditch the toaster. I wish now that I’d asked Arvind for help. However it turns out that it was actually the power board into which the fridge was plugged that had blown. I am not tall enough to see the top and didn’t realise that there even was a power board. So we spent the morning tipping into the Sulo bin: 3 sides of salmon, 2 whole snapper, 2 lots of flathead fillets, 2 bags of duck legs courtesy of Michelle and lots lots more. I still can’t get the smell off my hands despite scrubbing them. The bread survived, wrapped in plastic bags which I changed. There would be some people who have never afforded a side of salmon in their lives, so I feel rotten (no pun intended) about the waste and had a small weep, but it didn’t solve anything. I keep getting that smell of death despite all the food being in the bin on the grass verge.

After lunch we went to the auction of our neighbour Gail’s house, there must have been 100 people there and quite a few were bidding. It is as neat as a pin as well as spacious, with a separate granny flat in the back yard, and after a long battle it went for $2,190,000. The guy holding the paddle looked nice enough but the two men with him, who seemed to be advising him, looked shifty to me. Arvind commented as we walked back that ‘gee I’m glad they are not going to be my neighbours’, as he had the same vibes as I did. No more Christmas drinks at number 38 I’m thinking.

So poor old Nissy Nassif is complaining about being ‘left stranded’ at a suburban shopping centre when her infamous $480,000 Lamborghini was repossessed. She has a Range Rover at home, but has the woman never heard of Uber?

February 11, 2024

I have watched with interest ever since a very large multi-storey apartment block was built by dodgy developers Dyldam at the major intersection at Baulkham Hills. Unfortunately I see it from my deck and bedroom window, but it seems very lacking in illumination at night and so it appeared to me that many units were empty. I started asking questions of people who might know something and so far I have been told by different people that: they can’t sell the units because now people know that the developer was dodgy; that there are many units suffering water damage from poor waterproofing of bathrooms; and the top floor residents have moved to other units because of rain ingress, the questions will continue. None of the row of shops at the base of the building has ever opened or even been advertised for lease and it is obvious that putting the building so close to the road on that busy corner means that a much-needed left turn lane can never be built. One wonders how it got council approval, a dodgy deal there as well? On New Year’s Eve 2020, all of the many companies in the Dyldam group went into administration owing half a billion dollars to creditors. I’m sure that all of the Fayads and Khattars will find a comfortable retirement in waterfront mansions, unfortunately not at Long Bay though.

I see that media mogul Harold Mitchell has just died from surgical complications due to a knee replacement, joining George Pell, Barry Humphries and George Cohen, who all died as a result of joint replacement surgery in the last year. Nope, if it’s suggested I’ll tell them that I’m keeping the pins I’ve got, but thanks very much for asking.

I remember someone telling me years ago that no one wanted to have a beer with the local undertaker after work because of the smell emanating from him and I thought it was really because they were uncomfortable with his profession. But after getting rid of that rotten food yesterday I just couldn’t get that death smell off my hands after three washes, so I ended up putting my hands in bleach and water and that worked. Later in the day I kept getting a whiff of dead fish but it must have been psychological as there was nothing in the house to cause it. So now I give the pub story some credence, perhaps he didn’t want to have a shower in bleach.

Thinking back to the auction yesterday and why both Arvind and myself had a negative reaction to those supporting the winning bidder. Usually a man in his thirties buying a house is supported by his wife, his partner, even his mum, but not by two slightly older men seriously involved in telling him what and how to bid. Brothers perhaps? mates?…mmm didn’t feel like it, male partner? definitely not. So it didn’t look as if it was going to be a family home, I think I would put my money on development there, bulldozer fodder is the feeling in my waters, I hope I’m wrong.

February 12, 2024

Heather’s birthday, over 55 years of friendship despite our many differences of views and beliefs. I mentioned to John that he may like to give her a ring but he has forgotten who she is despite seeing her quite frequently here and daily when she brought him food when I was sick.

A day of gardening was on the cards but when I noticed that John hadn’t rung me by 9.30 I rang him, only to find that he was quite sick, complaining of dizziness and being unable to lift his right arm. This was worrying as a week ago he told me that he couldn’t lift his right arm at breakfast and was seen by Gracewood’s doctor, then on Saturday night he was suddenly dizzy and needed to be helped to a chair where he recovered after about 15 minutes. Of course a mini stroke came to mind immediately so I flew out there with a view to taking him to casualty at RNSH before they could whisk him to Blacktown, half expecting to see an ambulance in the driveway. But to my great surprise he was happily sitting in his chair doing puzzles in the newspaper and feeling fine. He’s not a complainer so the symptoms are real but I will run them past Bob when I see him this afternoon for a previously planned appointment. It does disturb me that for the first time ever, while we shared morning tea, he told me that he had thought that he was dying. He’s never said that before even when he almost was. I went to see Janine (the sign on her room used to say Janene, but she tells me it was a mistake which they rectified when she moved rooms) to return the $50 that she lent John on the bus shopping trip last week and which has been worrying him every day since. I was shocked to see that she had a gash on her nose and two very black eyes, from falling in the bathroom last week and hitting the towel rail. Unfortunately she couldn’t reach the call buzzer and lay there till the next mealtime when someone came to look for her, as a result of her injuries she’s been in her room ever since.

Life goes on though and I’ve now planted my new jalapeno and cayenne plants. They have to be out front as they need at least six hours sun a day, though my previous chili plant which bore much fruit was in the back yard in shade, but eventually turned up its toes. But being out the front I could smell my bin from 20 metres away, I’m glad its contents and the surrounding swarm of blowflies will go tomorrow.

Bob agreed that a mini stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) is the most likely diagnosis of John’s symptoms, but the treatment is blood thinners of which he is on the maximum dose. ‘He will either keep having little ones which will increase his dementia, or else he’ll have the big one’. Phew I need a drink, but I’m damned if I’m going to open a bottle just for one, a nice cosy wine bar on the corner would be just the thing though.

February 13, 2024

I’m having trouble with feeling that I’m waiting for the next of John’s mini strokes and I need to get out of that way of thinking and live in the moment. Perhaps it’s months off and perhaps never, so just get over it I tell myself. However John is blissfully unaware of what this all means and for the first time I’ve decided that there’s nothing to be gained by telling him. When I asked him how he was this morning (answer, fine) he said ‘I wonder what that arm business was about’ and I lied through my teeth and said ‘who knows’.

I finally caught the man who regularly puts a James Patterson novel on my front verandah. He is so quiet that I haven’t been able to tell him that I’ve pulled out a couple of his favourite author and saved them for him. He followed me to the garage and took what I had saved so that was one long-standing job done. I didn’t mention the miasma of a mortuary still hanging there and hoped that he has no sense of smell.

A man whom I babysat regularly in Parramatta, when he was a primary school boy and I was a young woman, reported on Facebook that his younger brother Anthony died yesterday in Canberra after a few days in a coma following a heart attack. In my mind he’s still little 7 year old Ant and for the life of me I can’t imagine him as a grown man and certainly not one old enough to have had a heart attack. His brother John, the one I minded most often, sought me out at the shop many years ago, riding to Windsor on a motorbike while in Sydney briefly from his home in Alice Springs and it was a totally unexpected reunion.

Everywhere I looked yesterday in newpapers and on TV, there were reports of the American Football Super Bowl. I have never in my life heard a real person express interest in this sport, not one. So why are we bombarded with it? One report said that ‘the Taylor Swift romance has captivated the world’. I am uncaptivated. I have heard of Taylor Swift, though I couldn’t report a single song she sings, I have even heard people talk about her, but the Super Bowl? Give us all a break from this stuff.

February 14, 2024

Picked John up just before 10 am as arranged but some crossed wires meant he’d had early breakfast and had been sitting in the foyer from 8.30, despite insisting that his pickup time was 10 and showing the staff the time in his diary. Not sure how it happened but he was understandably unimpressed. I got a park close to the hospital and was looking at the sign and trying to work out if, with John’s parking permit, we had permission to park there for the required number of hours. Then a man pulled up in front of us in a flash car and I noticed that he had a blue and white checked lanyard on. ‘You’re not a cop by any chance’ I asked with a laugh and he said ‘yes I’m a detective’ so I queried the parking situation and was assured that we were fine. We had a Valentine’s Day lunch at bills in Darlinghurst replete with a glass of wine for the tee-totaller, his choice of dish was interesting: pork sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs and tomato, for the man who doesn’t eat pork. I said not a word and he thoroughly enjoyed it. They had a VD special dessert (referring to the day, not the disease) so we shared that, a Peach Melba, poached peach with raspberries, fresh raspberry sauce and honeycomb ice cream. The lovely waitress got so excited because we were the first people to order it. She is half Swedish, half Australian with a delightful accent and a super personality. I silently drank a toast to poor Bill Granger who succumbed to cancer at 54 last Christmas Day. On the drive home I reminisced that it was a lovely lunch and John said ‘oh did we have lunch out? sorry I can’t remember it’.

Through the window we had been watching four workmen demolishing a house across the lane from the restaurant and when we left they were eating lunch on the footpath and asked us who of them we thought was working hardest. This led to a chat and we discovered that all of them were Lebanese so then we got onto Palestine and would have been there all day if we hadn’t had an appointment at 1.30. But they said the building, which was residential, was owned by an elderly lady who wouldn’t sell out to the hospital so it has stood empty for a while and now she’s died so St. Vs have bought it from her estate. When we got to Kinghorn the receptionist told us that John’s appointment was cancelled yesterday! I checked his phone and there was a 9 am text telling him that it was postponed for a week but he never checks texts. The kind young man on the desk emailed the doctor who rang me to say that she would walk down from the main hospital to see him in 20 minutes, a great outcome. Because he hasn’t had a scan done since before Covid she wants one done now, but is happy if we get it done out here to save travelling. I decided not to mention the mini-stroke diagnosis of Bob’s as I couldn’t speak to her out of John’s earshot and it has no bearing on his haematology situation anyway. The doctor had what appeared to be a large bruise on her forehead but she pointed out that it is Ash Wednesday and said that John had forgotten, I guess knowing that he is an ex-priest from his file. I was hoping that he wouldn’t spout his atheism just yet and he didn’t, she clearly takes it all very seriously and we need her onside.

Once again I try to write something about Gaza but it is so dispiriting and disgusting that I just don’t know where to start. I have zero animosity towards Jewish people and a massive animosity towards the Israeli government, but any sort of criticism gets you labelled as an anti-Semite. The whole thing stinks and particularly the fact that the US and UK are supplying the armaments. What does Israel have to do to lose their support?

February 15, 2024

John may not remember our lunch yesterday but he’s rung three times today ‘just to tell you that I love you’ so though the memory of that outing has gone, the feeling it engendered has remained. I was feeling overloaded with decision-making about medical stuff this morning but decided to go to Waves for a swim and wash it all off. Good move Maureen. I invested an extra $4.60 to have a spa, sauna and steam as well, money well spent. Kept my mouth firmly shut to counter the current cryptosporidiosis outbreak across Sydney. In the spa a man whom I assumed to be Japanese began talking to me with much difficulty. I got ‘learn English TAFE’ and realised that he wanted to practice so we had a chat with much hand signalling. It must be so hard to do this at 68 (he held up fingers as he didn’t have words for the numbers). I learned that he is Chinese, and that the name You-Pong is pronounced You-Ping, so the communication taught me something. I think we will cross paths again if I keep going to the pool as planned.

My three lots of 20 pairs of clip-on earrings sold on eBay today, all to the one person in Tasmania, so I have packed them up in a box and will post as soon as payment comes through. His eBay page shows 686 pairs of clip-on earrings for sale!! His vary from $5 to $20 a pair and he bought from me 60 pairs for $120 so good luck to him if he has the time to spend selling them one pair at a time, I hope he does well. When he gets these and is happy I will tell him that I have many more pairs still to sell.

There are heaps of bright pink crepe myrtles flowering now but somehow I don’t get too excited by them, that is until I saw a beautiful white one in Darlinghurst. Oh my goodness how delicious it was. I can’t understand why they are not propagated more. I’m wondering where I could fit one now.

After last week’s disastrous bus trip I was having doubts about going next Wednesday, but the Hills Council who lady rang to make sure I was going assured me that it will be straight travelling with no windy roads so I said I would go. Sue has invited me to go from her place on a bus trip to Morpeth next month and that is a much more risky proposition. The lunch choices for next week were a strange mix: Halloumi and melon salad (nope, halloumi is overrated in my view), Chicken Caesar Salad Burger (what? run that by me again, sounds like a chicken burger with Caesar salad dressing, nope) and Carrot and Corn Fritters with Smoked Salmon (yep, done deal). Last week’s excursion had everything coming with chips except my Caesar Salad so that narrowed the choices for me, not that I don’t like chips but too many is well…..too many.

Well my Tasmanian eBay buyer just paid for all his earrings so I will drag my sorry carcase up to the Post Office, no doubt to stand 15 minutes in a line. I prefer the helpful couple at the little Dural one but I don’t see the sense in going there just for one parcel.

February 16, 2024

Well I’ve done it now after a few days cogitation, enrolled in a Forensic Medicine and Crime Scene Investigation Certificate at UWS. It’s in May but I am beyond excited. I had enrolled and paid for this course in 2020 but it was converted to online only due to bloody Covid so I withdrew and got a refund. They sent me an email a few days ago to say it’s on again face to face. I don’t know why I didn’t enrol in an instant but I guess I had a few other balls in the air, however it’s done now.

So Israel’s government was a big advertiser at the Super Bowl football this week, paying $7 million for each of their 30 second ads to capture the 123 million viewers, the biggest number since the moon landing. The ads end with a call ‘that we must all come together to oppose anti-Semitism’ and gives a website address to contact. In 2021 vast amounts of pro-Israel money flowed into the campaign of American Congresswoman Shontel Brown who was a little-known but strongly pro-Israel candidate standing against a democratic socialist. He was the national co-chair of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 election campaign, and a strong critic of Israel’s policies. If we had any doubts before, it goes to show once again that the cause with the deepest pockets is the most likely to win.

To a more mundane issue, no one has explained how asbestos has been so widely found in garden mulch all over Sydney. Surely this is made up of formerly living materials such as grass, bark, sawdust etc so how the hell could asbestos be in so many batches? Next question: what will they do with tons of contaminated mulch? It has so much volume that surely it has to be dumped somewhere?

February 17, 2024

This morning I picked John up and a bit later we headed to Sue’s mum’s house where the final stages of emptying is under way. All of the furniture is gone, some of it and the whitegoods to an outfit called Providential Homes which sounds like a building company but is actually a charity for people needing temporary emergency accommodation. The items specifically designated to various people have gone, so it was a case of unpacking lots of boxes that had been packed up as surplus to see if anything was worth selling. Back in the day all of it would have been greedily taken by auctioneers as there wasn’t a cheap piece amongst the lot, much of it Doulton, Royal Albert, Carltonware etc, but these days there aren’t many lovers of fine china about, so the auctioneers are way more fussy. However I photographed a couple of table loads and a few single items including some Belleek, three pieces of Mary Gregory glass, a Stuart crystal comport, a delicious Murano glass paperweight, a Shelley vase, a delightfully good piece of pokerwork and a piece of Maling. We shall see if any of them tempts David at Barsby’s Auctions when he sees the photos next week.

So Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny will be a name long remembered, but gosh he was so young and so brave. The Russkies have always treated their political enemies badly, going back to Tsarist rule, but of course we hoped that his world wide fame would protect him. Not so sadly. I have my doubts that things would change if Putin were toppled (or topped), there are too many oligarchs with too much to lose and a long antidemocratic custom to overcome.

On Thursday night I went with a group to Two Brothers Lebanese restaurant in Castle Hill where we were each served a platter of food big enough for two. Almost everyone asked for a takeaway container and John and I will both have a meal out of my leavings! I had a glass of Lebanese red wine from the Beqaa Valley (I had never tried Lebanese wine before but all of their wines were from there). I’m thinking that seeing I’m down to my last bottle of red I might ask if they are interested in selling me a few or else telling me where to get it. Lebanon is such a cot case that any business they can do would be a bonus for the producers and the country.

February 18, 2024

I have ants. After 3 or so years since the last mind-numbing infestation they are back, but so far not in big numbers. I haven’t been able to find the ingress point and strangely they are hanging about the marble slab in my kitchen. The only clue to why is that I discovered that the container in which I store potatoes was a quarter full of stinking water with 10 potato skins floating in it. I’ve never seen potatoes do that ever, no shoots, no rot, they literally just turned to liquid like a body in a hot climate. Most of the ants were nearby, though not in the container. I guess tomorrow they will either be gone or it will be like it was before, with thousands descending.

Thinking back to Sue’s mum’s things and it’s a pity but antiques are a fashion item like everything else. I would have Hoovered up all of that china and glass back in the day and paid good prices, but thanks to IKEA and minimalism……. It reminded me of a client who put every spare dollar into Royal Doulton for decades, seeking out the rare and expensive in particular and saying that it’s okay because it was his superannuation. Except when he retired and decided to sell, the Doulton boom was over and I couldn’t get rid of it at any sort of price. Doulton brought the crash on themselves, deciding to have some of their production done in a new factory in Asia. Their fans were mortified and proceeded to dump their collections onto the market, sending the prices into freefall. As a result the original factory in Stoke closed down and Doulton was no more, they had succeeded in trashing a brand that went back to 1815.

John asked me today why Sue is going into care and despite numerous explanations of yesterday’s visit to her mum’s it’s all been lost today, but it gave me something to rib Sue about which is all to the good. We went out to the Hawkesbury Art Gallery today to see an exhibition with a paper theme. But the best part was seeing the fantastic art glass selling (or perhaps more likely, not selling) at the gallery shop. It was by Keith Rowe from Blackheath and if I were not the age I am I would have been very tempted, got some photos though. The only people in the gallery were the parents of the volunteer on the desk, which was a bit sad.

February 19, 2024

Gosh I’m still reeling from Tim Winton’s new book the shepherd’s hut (no caps in the title), which didn’t go anywhere that I was expecting. It’s the dialogue that seals the deal for me, I could hear the protagonist Jaxie’s voice on every page, as if he were reading his lines to me. I saw the light on the salt, felt the cold, the wind, the smell, the dust, the isolation, but especially heard the voice. “I ran for a bit. Right into the setting sun. But the salt surface was iffy and I had no puff in me. So I settled for walking hard as I could for the shepherd’s hut and all me stuff. He kept calling and yelling behind me but I wasn’t having any of it. I couldn’t fucking believe I’d walked into this setup like a retard. I was that angry with meself I could off bitten off me own face in the mirror.” Does this author ever have a fail?

I see the pastor in the mushroom poisoning case in Victoria is back in church. He told his congregation that he thanks god for never leaving him, apparently quite comfortable that he/she/it left his wife and two of her relatives to their poisoning fate. I don’t think I will ever understand these people.

Another mob I will never understand are the alternatives rubbing frog toxin on wounds to make themselves vomit, hell I can vomit with a few bends in the road, no frog toxin needed. In a ‘kambo’ ceremony, a person’s skin on their arm or leg is burnt before the skin of an Amazonian tree frog is dabbed on the open wounds. Of course this occurred at a ‘wellness retreat’, wellness is a word to be very, very suspicious about. An inquest into the death of Jarrad who was 46, has heard that he died from a perforated oesophagus, likely caused by the excessive vomiting or attempts to vomit. What a senseless way to end a life. A ‘counsellor and psychotherapist’ Dominique who was there to assist the participants watched him deteriorate and eventually die but she ‘didn’t want to invade his energy field’. Jesus wept.

The ants are still here but not in large numbers. I decided to leave yesterday’s little corpses where they lay as a reminder of the price of invading my kitchen, something I’m sure I’ve read of a military doing in the past. This morning no ants near the marble slab, but some in the pantry, so I killed them and left them there. It is so weird because I love ants and take great care not to step on them where they gather at the foot of the street library. They are socialism in action, but inside it is as if they are a different species in my mind, enemy number one and I kill them without compunction. Perhaps that’s how nationalists feel about everybody else.

February 20, 2024

I went to the Coroners Court today for the inquest of a man in Tregear who had been killed by dogs. But when I got there, I discovered that it was actually an inquest into seven, yes seven, different people who had been killed by dogs. One was a three week old baby pulled from its mother’s arms by their American Staffordshire Terrier, which was actually a pitbull. Apparently no one wants to admit to their dog being a pitbull these days because of the restrictions on the breed, so they are being sold by breeders or on Gumtree or privately as American Staffordshire Terriers in something called rebranding. In fact the vet who euthanased the dog recorded it as a pitbull but the council ranger asked her to change its breed to an AST, she did so because of the difficulties of telling them apart.

We heard from Professor Paul McGreevy, a Veterinary Ethologist or animal behaviour specialist, who gave evidence that the two breeds are closely related, pitbulls were bred for dogfighting and the less aggressive ones are now on the dog show circuit as American Staffordshire Terriers. However, he pointed out that ASTs were bred from pitbulls in the first place and the genes for aggression can be shown in the DNA sequences that both breeds share. American Staffordshire Terriers are taught to allow for some handling at a show, but that does not alter the aggression in their genes. He described both breeds as ‘bold, aggressive, and importantly, they both take initiative’. So they don’t wait to be attacked or hurt in some way, they take the initiative and attack first, as a fighting dog needs to do, and therefore we can never be safe from them. Central Coast City Council rangers had given the couple 28 days to prove that their dog should not be declared a pitbull and therefore restricted. The father of the dead child requested a stay because they were dealing with a new baby and this was granted, two weeks later the baby was dead. They had owned the dog for nearly six years with no previous problems. Both breeds need to be restricted, with compulsory desexing. It’s the only way to eliminate them longterm.

Well I’m learning a bit about ants. I watched like a hawk yesterday and didn’t see one so I decided my ‘leave the corpses’ theory was a winner. No ants by 4pm so I did another task, but at 5pm there were at least a hundred all over my marble slab in the kitchen, despite my having scrubbed it and removed all the enclosed biscuit and cracker jars behind it, just in case they were gazing at the contents longingly through the glass. My question is this: Did an ant around 4 pm communicate with its peers saying ‘come on, we are going to stage an attack at number 30?’ Or does one ant head out and then all its mates follow in a conga line to wherever? I would seriously like to know. None today, but I will be watching closely at 4 pm.

Apparently a man in Baulkham Hills and his wife and child in North Parramatta have been found dead in the last few hours. Police are looking at whether a man who presented at hospital for injuries last night is involved. After having a man murder his wife with a stonemason’s hammer just up my street a few years ago I shouldn’t be surprised, but everyone interviewed in these cases always says the same thing ‘oh, but it’s such a quiet area and nothing like this has happened before’ however none of us know what’s going on behind closed doors.

February 21, 2024

Thinking back to the inquest yesterday, Prof McGreevy pointed out that the best way to solve the Staffordshire/Pitbull question is to take tissue samples from any dog put down due to an attack on a human or the winning dog in any pitbull fight, to ascertain exactly which gene sequence accounts for the aggression and attack initiative. He has twice applied for a grant tp do exactly this but was knocked back both times. Eventually a DNA test would be available to distinguish which dogs needed to be restricted.

Today I went on a council bus trip to the Lewers Gallery at Emu Plains and enjoyed the day despite being pretty unimpressed with the current exhibition of large photos of Penrith locals. Too much football players, fans and gang members for my taste. But the cafe was a surprise, outdoors and with the best meal yet on one of these trips, Corn and Carrot Fritters with Smoked Salmon and Salad, absolutely delicious. Others were similarly impressed.

Watched poor old Brad Banducci (maybe not so poor) being rolled over in an interview for 4 Corners. It’s apparent that the big money Woolworths is earning hasn’t been put into media training, but I have to admit that the interviewer was a bit too smug for my taste.

The case of four people being hit by lightning under a tree in the Botanic Gardens reminded me of what we learned in medical science training: the two injuries which always get worse before they get better are burns and electrocution. We were told that even if the patient seems relatively okay, you need to keep them in hospital until after that worsening happens. These poor sods did what would come naturally in a severe downpour and took shelter under a tree, the worst thing you can do, apart from of course grabbing something metal.

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Life Notes 12

August 3, 2023

Today was an all-day Dementia Australia workshop, held at Castle Hill RSL, but luckily I didn’t sight a person on a poker machine so that’s a positive. Did it help me? I’m not sure. There were 5 participants, well 6 but one left at the morning tea break, and 3 presenters. It was more about looking after me whereas I wanted more strategies for looking after John. Three people were looking after elderly mothers and two had partners with dementia. One segment that I found somewhat interesting were the tips: 1. Shit happens, suffering is part of life. 2. Don’t lose what you’ve got grieving over what you’ve lost. 3. Ask yourself if your actions are helping or harming, it’s your judgment, not someone else’s. Have a pity party if you need to, but set a timer for how long you can sit around feeling sorry for yourself, then get up and do something positive for yourself. But did it help me work out how to help John? Not really, it’s just a day at a time, changing tack as the illness does.

August 4, 2023

Only writing a little bit as the blog is currently down, but hopefully will be all fixed tomorrow. Today was very exhausting. Picked up John about 9 to go to Nelune for his treatment, but first we needed to go to the floor above to get a blood test done for his haematology appointment next week. That was completed but then he wanted to go home thinking that we were all done. Luckily I had gone in with him or else he would have gone out the front to wait for me, but I was able to explain that the treatment wasn’t finished, in fact it hadn’t begun. I chuffed off to Woollahra and mooched in Simon Johnson, buying cheeses for First Saturday (Italian gorgonzola was one mmm-mm) instead of the cake I had intended to make. Looked in Kidstuff for a game for Millie but thought everything looked overpriced and underexciting. But I did spend in Woollahra, the only place apart from Bundeena where I can buy my favourite fruit loaf, 3 of them to freeze, and my favourite Irrawarra granola. I’ve asked the makers to help me track down suppliers out here in the sticks but it can’t be done apparently. Gracewood rang to ask if it’s okay for John to be assessed by a specialist geriatrician who would come in and see him there. I suspect it’s because of the same deterioration I’m seeing, so I said yes provided he/she doesn’t change his medications as they are finely balanced. Cecilia assured me that if that is recommended it won’t be done without consultation with me, but I do worry a little that he could end up in the dementia unit which I would definitely fight against. Sue rang and I sat on a seat and chatted with her for half an hour, before realising that John should be well and truly cooked, but his phone went straight to message bank. I panicked a bit and raced back, parking in a loading zone and racing in to Nelune to find that he was only half way through and his phone was accidentally on silent. As his treatment always takes three hours I queried this and was told that he’d always had an American blood product but this time it was an Australian replacement which can only go in at half the speed, hence six hours versus three. Went back out and luckily found a legal park so we could chat for his remaining time, reminding me of the endless weeks I spent sitting at Nelune while he was having chemo. I had been quoted $600 for a nurse to take him from Gracewood for the three hours so I can’t imagine what it would have been today, but luckily I can still keep doing it each month. Drove home in peak hour but what was really dangerous was the angle of the sun, at some points I had to slow right down on the freeway as I couldn’t see a thing in front. We passed a car on the breakdown lane which was dented in at the front and I suspect that was the reason, scary drive.

August 5, 2023

I saw that the publicity cost of the Barbie movie is more than the cost of making the film, unbelievable as that is. Warner Bros production cost of the film was $145 million and the marketing budget was $150 million. I can quite believe it as the ads are everywhere, not to mention the free publicity on TV interview programs and the like. The last straw was going to Castle Hill RSL and seeing a Barbie display in the foyer, and the connection is….?The blog has been down for a few days while it’s being transferred from one server to another, three attempts at download have now failed, I don’t understand why. Somehow the idea that it may not get back up somehow impedes the thoughts of what I may write, silly as that is. The book I’m reading Say I’m Dead is a fascinating biography of an educated American woman whose parents fled Indianapolis in the 1940s rather than being gaoled or attacked for marrying, she a white woman and he a black man. The daughter graduates, marries a black man and gets a good job in a New York company but they accept a transfer to Baton Rouge Louisiana in the 1970s, beginning an unending period of discrimination and harassment, including the old flaming cross of the Ku Klux Klan hammered into their lawn on the first day of occupancy of their newly bought house. The first house they chose, on a new estate, was eliminated when the salesman refused to sell to a black man, on the grounds that the rest of the houses would be unsaleable. The part about the 1940s was shocking but not unexpected, however the terrors they experienced in the 1970s knocked me for six. It is an eye-opening book, at least it is for me.

August 6, 2023

After attending a First Saturday presentation yesterday, we decided to just have a home day today, with a bit of gardening, making some pumpkin soup for lunch, changing over the gas bottles on the BBQ, exciting stuff to be sure, but we enjoyed ourselves. I’ve discovered that adding some paprika and a little chilli to pumpkin soup just before serving is a piquant improvement on having it plain, last week I tried adding julienned fresh ginger at the end and it was delicious too. I’m glad we’re back to soup weather, it makes lunches so easy, but yummy, I’m in no hurry for summer. Of course we read the Sunday paper too, which we continue to enjoy and yet not pay for, as despite how many times I report to the SMH that we don’t order or pay for a Sunday paper, we get it anyway. Blessed be the delivery driver.

Reading ‘5 Minutes with Fitz’ in said paper. He interviewed a Vietnam vet as Australia will commemorate 50 years since the end of its involvement in the Vietnam War this month, but the more I read it the more depressing it became as the interviewee seemed to have gained no inside on the war in all these years. He was asked whether he “wanted to serve Australia, or stop communism“ giving him the opportunity to show some higher aim, but admitted “my main interest was to go overseas and experience life“. Later, he says that he was “hoping the war would not be over before me and my mates got there and got into it“. Regarding the protests at the time, he says: “we deliberately placed ourselves in front of them to provoke them, and we got into a bit of a rumble, a bit of biff, and the police were there, and broke it up“. He says “as a young bloke I didn’t have access nor did I really want to research the reasons why Australia was involved in the war, I was just glad to be going”. Perhaps understandable considering his age and that of his confreres. Well he has that opportunity for research now and one day I hope he takes it up, though somehow I have my doubts.

August 7, 2023

Today while shopping in Baulko I happened to spy some English spinach at the front of a Korean supermarket and it reminded me that the greens here always look just picked. While I was browsing the owner approached me and said that he goes to market every day for their greens ‘and then I sell them at prices that make sure that they all sell by tomorrow’. Sure enough his greens were $2 a bunch or 3 bunches for $4 and I could have munched them there and then, buying spinach, shallots and bok choy blossom, a new one on me. Actually there are no flowers on them, just fleshy stems and green leaves, but I’ve found a recipe for them grilled with a ponzu sauce so I will have that for dinner. I tend to avoid Asian greens, but only because I don’t know what to do with some of them. 

Yesterday after a lunch of pumpkin soup and toast I made a cup of tea and John politely asked ‘At this time of day, don’t we usually have something more than a cup of tea?’ I told him we’d just had lunch and he asked what it was, even after being reminded he had no memory of it, just in the time it took to boil the jug. Also we had seen Sue on Saturday yet he commented at breakfast that ‘it’s a long time since we saw Sue isn’t it?’. So scary the way this disease takes hold, but we need to be thankful that he is perfectly happy in the present moment.

While on a bit of a texting fest with Sue yesterday morning I picked up my beloved glasses to answer her and they simply fell into two pieces at the centre of the bridge, not dropped, not roughly handled, they just gave way. I know I’ve had them about 20 years and they are on their third lot of lenses, but still I love them to bits. However it is better that they died at home rather than getting lost somewhere, to be always missed. Perhaps the lenses can go into optometrist Ralph’s collection for poorer countries. I went up to Ralph’s but there was a sign on the door to say he was off sick, however I am overdue for the ophthalmologist so I’ve booked there on Friday. He’s not particularly personable (the doctor, not Ralph) but he has all my records and it’s just easier to put up with it on the rare occasions I go, as I’m sure he does a professional job despite his personality bypass. But on my fleeting visit to the shops this morning I noticed a pair of glasses that I really liked, a colourful creation that I only later discovered on their website is an Aboriginal motif designed by Helen Dale Samson, a Warnman woman from the Karlamilyi Region of WA. I think I’ve fallen in love with them, which makes me such a shallow person, to find a new love in the glasses department while still mourning my old ones, before they’re even cold you might say. But as they told us at the dementia workshop, ‘don’t lose what you’ve got now grieving for what you’ve lost’.

August 8, 2023

Went up to try on the glasses I saw fleetingly yesterday and really liked, but the man told me that they are too big for my face because the frames touch my cheeks. Why is everything so complicated? Now I will wait till after I get the script from the eye doc on Friday and decide then.

I rang John and told him that Bill had died last night, but he couldn’t remember him, which leads me to the question of whether it’s appropriate to take him to the funeral of someone he doesn’t recall at all? Why upset him? Particularly when he doesn’t like to go to a Catholic Mass at the best of times. When we went to Bishop Bede Heather’s funeral John insisted that we stand outside and watch through the windows, even though he remembered Bede perfectly and liked him a lot as his teacher at the seminary. Another one to wait and decide later. I had to smile at a journalist in Leongatha in Victoria who was reporting on the deaths of a number of people poisoned from eating mushrooms. One was the local Baptist minister’s wife and the others close relatives and fellow congregants and the journalist told of interviewing the parishioners ‘as they came out of Mass’ something that Baptists believe to be blasphemous. No prizes for guessing the religion of the young reporter. 

I am quite dumbfounded at the news that ex judge Walter Sofronoff leaked his own report to journalists before giving it to the ACT Government, as well as giving the press secret briefings during the inquiry. I am fairly used to governments leaking like a sieve, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a judge leaking his own report before. I did watch a bit of the inquiry and my gut feeling of the man was quite negative. I didn’t like the way he addressed the witnesses and he came across as arrogant in his style. But arrogance is one thing and leaking to the press is quite another, the whole business is outrageous, but how many more dollars are we going to throw at the whole Higgins/Lehrmann debacle. It occurs to me that if Lisa Wilkinson had managed to keep her mouth shut about it all, the trial would have gone ahead earlier with a different jury, likely with a result one way or the other and all this could have been avoided. Of course I didn’t go to the trial, but the more reporting of it I read, the less I was convinced that a crime had been committed.

Seeing reports of the Matildas win last night in the Women’s World Cup, I thought about the fact that each sport has a predictable way of celebrating the end of a match. If you are a tennis player you have to lie flat on the ground, preferably in starfish mode; if you’re a footballer you must give a group hug, those at the periphery leaping onto the backs of the huggees; runners keep going along the fence, interacting with the spectators; car racers waste perfectly good bottles of Champagne (this is my personal bugbear, it’s both wasteful and stupid). I’m waiting for a footballer to do the starfish collapse for a change but I’m not holding my breath. 

August 9, 2023

Left early on the bus to go to the city, wanting to taken my time walking again around the Harbour foreshore and under the Bridge and looking at the sculptures displayed along the wharves, particularly loving a large stainless steel octopus and an endlessly looping circular one which I could happily ensconce in my garden. Lunch at Venuto with Martha and Jane consisted of entree servings with a shared salad before heading off to the Wharf Theatre for the play Constellations. I’m afraid I’m not clever enough for this play which (I think) expects us to imagine a human relationship between a bee-keeper and a cosmologist in terms of quantum mechanics? string theory? or something? where multiple realities co-exist. Some scenes are repeated five times with varying outcomes, something that could easily resemble a drama school exercise or be repetitive and boring. In fact that’s exactly how it was for me, patiently waiting for the end. I saw Jane checking her watch at some point and thought that said it all. None of us would recommend it, though we all thought the actors were excellent. Thankfully we then had a glass of wine on the magnificent deck outside the theatre overlooking the harbour and that was probably the best part of the day.

I’ve been thinking about a man in front of me at the Coles checkout who was complaining to the server that ‘we are being governed just for the minorities these days’ to which the server agreed. This is the core of Trumpism surely, the idea that the ‘we’ are being subsumed by the ‘them’. You do see some black faces with Trump hats on but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Latino one, anyone south of the border being the current ‘them’ I think. It appears to me that the US always has to have an enemy, both internally and externally. I really hope that the ‘we’ in this country are a little bit smarter than that, though I am not at all confident.

August 10, 2023

I decided this morning to approach the admin at Gracewood to point out that John’s overnight ‘social leave’ from there is rarely social and almost always medical of late. I suggested that seeing he has an appointment at the dental prosthetist today and the haematologist tomorrow, it would be good if he could have two consecutive nights away this week to actually do something social. But that idea was quickly jumped on as apparently the restriction is not imposed by Gracewood, but by Centrelink and each week Anu has to inform them how many nights John has spent away. She pointed out that she was going to ‘have a word’ with me because I’d taken him out two nights last week, having cleared it with the head nurse who isn’t across all the rules. This is only because Centrelink is picking up the tab and if I go over the allotted amount they will say that he doesn’t need to be in care because he has sufficient support already. Annoyingly I discovered that the total goes from June so I could have doubled up before then without any penalty. They only tally it yearly but Anu pointed out that at times like his birthday and Christmas I may want to extend his leave so it’s better not to get ahead of myself. Bum is all I could think to say, but I waited till I was out of earshot.

At the dental guy we discovered that the cost of John’s lost partial denture is $1800, reduced from the usual $2200 because he’s a pensioner. Ouch, that was an expensive loss. He had the mould taken today and we go back in two weeks, bum I said again but this time I was happy to say it in front of Dr. Rozek whose opinion of me carries less consequences than that of the Gracewood staff. They are a lovely couple, he the professional, she the receptionist, who are endlessly helpful and patient with John, which is good because it offsets my distaste at having to go to bloody Chatswood. I bought sushi to have in Lane Cove National Park on the way home after which I pulled up at North Rocks to look again at the glasses. The lovely Paul there doesn’t think that they are too big for my face and I decided I don’t care anyway, them’s the ones I like and them’s the ones I will buy (or at least the ones Medibank Private will buy for me). Apparently you get two pairs for one price there and I rummaged around trying to find a spare pair that I liked but they were all pretty boring. Then Paul recommended a polka dot pair (“you look like the polka dot type” he said). Mmm, seeing they are only a spare and nothing else appeals more, I’ll go with the polka dots. Still feeling sad about the restrictions on John’s home time as we have two more appointments with Dr. Rozek yet to do, but that’s the price you pay when someone else is paying your bills.

We lost two friends last Monday night I’ve discovered. Margaret Casey at 7 pm and Bill Warner at 9.30 pm the same night, both to cancer. Although each was expected, somehow it is always hard getting your head around a person no longer existing. You’d think humans would have got used to the idea by now. Two funerals happening next week, Wednesday and Friday at Wollongong and Bundeena.

August 11, 2023

What a frustrating and boring bloody day. I loathe going to the ophthalmologist because it’s always an epic, but today it really was a saga in the negative connotation of the word. Prof. Reeves gets on my back to get my eyes tested for a rare ocular complication of a drug I am on. I am supposed to go once a year, but this time it’s been three years because it’s so damned time-consuming. Got there at 10, dragging poor John with me, and got out at 1 after 4 separate eye tests, with different people, and then a session with the doc. I don’t have the dreaded complication which is very rare anyway, but apparently I do have cataracts, which he says will need to be operated on in about a year. He asked if I’m having trouble with headlights at night, something I wouldn’t have said I did, but I admitted that I don’t like driving at night any more and he says that’s the reason, whether I’d identified it or not. You would think after all that I’d have a new script for my glasses, but no. He says that they don’t test for that part, so get the optician to do it. Far out.

Then we came home and had a late lunch of Hungarian Mushroom Soup which I’d thankfully mostly prepared before we went, and got ready for John’s haematology appointment. Poor Nada is still off with long Covid, must be 2 and a half years now since she’s been able to work, so we are seeing Dr. Cashman, but after that I have to take John back to Gracewood as Anu didn’t want to give him a second night away. So far we are 50 minutes past the appointment time but we’ve been warned that she ‘is in a meeting’. Anything else I can complain about? Give me a minute to have a think, mmm oh yes, the book group novel is only available from the library as an e-book and I hate e-books, my hair is an absolute mess and I can’t find a day to go and get it cut. That will do for now.

August 12, 2023

What’s the best way to get over a dose of the whinges? Go to the ocean! So that’s what I did today, picking John up on the way for a surprise day out. We had a couple of long walks along the beachfront before and after lunch and then had ice cream at Anita’s Gelato where the queue was way out the door. I took John’s to the table and went back for mine, returning to find him feeding his to two little girls with a spoon! But they are such big scoops there was plenty to go around. We watched a young kid who was busking, playing a keyboard and singing and he is sure to be the next big thing, his name is Taiyo Marchand and he’s confidence personified. I looked up his Facey page and he’s done a busking tour of Europe in the past, he is 13 and has been busking since he was 6. Weirdly when we got back to Gracewood the doors wouldn’t open and visitors were stuck on the inside trying to get out while we were trying to get in. Lights were flashing, buzzers were going, but we never succeeded in getting the doors open, I rang a nurse who came down and took John in through the garden, then she was going back to bring the visitors out as well.

I meandered in a couple of optometrist shops and clearly all the plain designs get sent out to the burbs. There were oodles of bright colours, even some psychedelic ones and lots of good shapes to choose from. I found a brand I really like, The Elusive Miss Lou, so now I will try to find a stockist west of the beaches. My last pair, RIP, lasted me through three lots of lenses over 20 years so it’s not as if I go through them apace.

Thinking about throwing a dinner party for my least favourite people and serving a special Beef Wellington, but there are logistical considerations: firstly, where to find the death cap mushrooms for the duxelles and secondly, how not to get caught after serving them. Perhaps I can watch the current case in Victoria first and avoid the pitfalls that have occurred there, as I can’t even imagine how you’d get away with poisoning a number of people in this day and age, forensics being what they are now. The Alnwick Garden in Northumberland in England has a small but deadly Poison Garden filled exclusively with around 100 toxic, intoxicating, and narcotic plants. The boundaries of the garden are kept behind black iron gates, it’s only open on guided tours and it’s something I would have loved to see. (I wonder if they have a gift shop?) But I think I’ve missed the boat on it now, so that might be curtains on my plans for the Beef Wellington.

August 13, 2023

I watched an old episode of Grand Designs New Zealand on Friday night (just to see Chris Moller as I’m a bit sweet on him and not on the new host). But sadly the female client drove me crackers. She is a feng shui practitioner (marrying a super wealthy New Zealander) and everything has to be angled according to her little wheel. One ‘interesting’ aspect of the design include a small room room, with a door which no one is allowed to enter, which is only there to ‘capture’ negative energy. They have to sleep away from the stunning sea view, because sleeping facing southwest is incredibly negative, a ‘disaster’. The house was supposed to be New Zealand style with Oriental touches but ended up looking like a lift from Imperial China. I’m not sure which I disliked more, the house or the woman, but thankfully I don’t need to live there (or with her). I’m trying not to be a total skeptic here, but in actual fact that’s my comfort zone. She is supposedly a biomedical scientist and I’m sorry but the two don’t compute.

I see they have decided to shoot the brumbies in Kosciusko National Park. I don’t want them destroying the natural vegetation there, but my goodness I can’t imagine anyone shooting a horse from a helicopter, it’s obscene. I’m so glad that I am not the person to make that decision. Couldn’t they have given them injections to stop them breeding decades ago?

My blog now has a new hosting service, in Australia not in Britain, but it is so out of my realm of understanding that I even had to get help from Mark to understand the emails they sent me, but it’s done now and he says I just need to pay the quarterly hosting fee and the annual use of the domain name and all should be well. The last post I did before the thing crashed was a review of the play On the Beach but it sadly died, as did all the characters in the play, so it was quite appropriate really.

I’m not at all a sporty person but I watched the second half of the Matildas game last night after my cousin in Spain contacted me on WhatsApp to see if I were watching it. I just saw one of my replies to her during what was apparently a penalty shootout: “They are taking turns hitting goats but I don’t know how many they have to take??” So that is the level of my understanding. Women running around the field, hitting goats.

August 14, 2023

I am still thinking about On the Beach, the play I went to see a couple of weeks ago with Carol, and that’s a good sign. I remember thinking at the beginning that they were going to lighten the story up when the Moira character was pretty flippant for someone facing radiation poisoning, but that lightness disappeared in the second half. I loved the imaginative sets, particularly the large fabric sheet billowing in the wind to suggest the threat in the air, it was both beautiful and ominous considering what the wind was to bring. The most nuanced character for me was Dwight, the captain of the submarine USS Scorpion, who had lost his wife and children to the radiation in the northern hemisphere and is one of just a few Americans who escaped the country’s fate. On a trip north to measure radiation levels with a CSIRO scientist on board, one of the crew decides to leave the sub and simply succumb to the radiation in the city where all of his family have already died, a poignant scene and an understandable reaction. This production, combined with the film Oppenheimer, has caused me to read again about the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and everything I’m reading seems to confirm the suggestion in Paul Ham’s book that it was not at all about winning the war. Take this from Eisenhower on learning of the planned bombings: “I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and voiced to Secretary of War Stimson my grave misgivings, on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary. I thought it was no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’.” To me it is one of the great shames of humanity, but to those of a military bent it is something to be celebrated and some still want to believe that it ended the war.

I have been avoiding reading any more about The Voice because it is so depressing to hear the antics of the No campaign and I fear the cause is screwed. When Sky News sets up a 24 hour news channel just to fight it you know that Murdoch is really determined on this one. I was invited to a lunch at Parliament House in a couple of weeks but declined as the speaker was talking about the issue. I’ll never be able to look an Aboriginal person in the eye again if it goes down.

Looking again at glasses and the store person mentioned that they had an optician’s appointment available in five minutes, whereas the next appointment with the person who does the tests for my usual fellow Ralph is on the 22nd when we are busy and then not another for two weeks. So I got the thing done and asked for a copy in case I decide to go with Ralph for glasses. This hinges partly on whether he can get in the ones I’m leaning towards and that’s no certainty as they may say he has to buy too many pairs to make it viable for him as it’s not a company that he usually deals with. However I always give Ralph first offer if I can, sticking to the old principle than once you find a skilled and helpful craftsman you stick to them.

August 15, 2023

Feeling somewhat depressed about life in general today so I went up to visit Logan who is in respite at the Anglicare village in Castle Hill. I had on an N95 mask which I was told I had to take off and use one of theirs. Theirs were the blue surgeon’s masks which are totally unsuited to protection from viruses, they are splash masks, nothing more. But they have their silly unscientific rules there and if you want to get in you have to abide by them. I’m really glad that they stuffed me around so long that it was too late when I tried to get John in there for respite, at least at Gracewood they have a basic understanding of PPE. John is having two visitors today and I wondered whether to tell him or not, perhaps I made the wrong decision as now he’s ringing me repeatedly, asking me what time they are coming and I have no idea. I hope they don’t change their minds, but they are very reliable people. I think reliability is one of my top preferences in the character traits department.

I went up to see my optometrist mate at Castle Hill and was shocked at how much weight he’s lost and how he’s aged since last I saw him. I pop in whenever I’m over near him as I’ve always thought he’s a lonely soul, living on his own since his wife died, so I think it is only six months or so since I’ve seen him. It’s a small one man business so there’s always time for a sit down and a chat, rarely are we interrupted by a potential customer. He is the same age as me and drives six days a week from Springwood. I used to take him cake but lately I just haven’t been baking so I went empty handed today. He knows I like glasses that are quite different to his conservative range and was excited when I showed him some unusual ones online (on my phone, as his computer is so old it wouldn’t bring up the website!), immediately ringing the rep and arranging for him to meet us both there tomorrow at 10 with a case-full of the sort of things I like. It was very generous of him and it’s not to get a sale, I don’t think he cares any more, the shop is there to give him a reason to get out of bed in the mornings. He has two styles for ‘jazzy people’, both of which have sat there for 20 years or so that I know of and I doubt he has sold one pair. One is an Edna Everage style with frames in the shape of the Opera House! The other has frameless lenses in the shape of Australia (minus Tasmania of course). Great for a bit of fun from a $2 shop but certainly not something that you would pay money for. I always smile to myself to see how long I’m in the shop before he mentions his hero Trump, today he brought him into the conversation in about 60 seconds, par for the course. He has 26 reasons why Trump should be President and thankfully I only had to listen to a few today. He quipped that maybe we should just talk religion and sex instead and I agreed that either would be preferable to Trump. Of course he’s a big Sky News fan and loves Rowan Dean, James Morrow and Rita Panahi in Outsiders on Sunday mornings, probably at the same time I’m watching Insiders. He did use the argument that Biden has Parkinson’s and I couldn’t argue with that one. I’ll be sorry if he has to close up shop, but I can see the writing on the wall.

Trying to keep out of the misery mire, I tidied up the herb garden and planted some seeds: coriander, some small tomatoes that produce stripy green fruit and a couple of pots of Calendula Orange Flash which are edible. I prepared a big pot for planting spinach seeds and then lost the packet! I’ve searched everywhere, at least everywhere except where the packet went, perhaps it blew away or the fairies took it, I don’t know. Martha gave me some leftover larkspur seeds a couple of months ago and I’ve looked after them carefully but it seems I only got two plants out of them all. Seeds are difficult I’ve discovered, you either get none or a zillion to germinate.

August 16, 2023

Showing once again what a pessimist I am, I really thought those Aussies and Indonesians missing from a capsized boat off Aceh were gone for all money. But now all but one have been found and searchers continue to hope for the remaining crewman. How lucky that the tourists had their long boards with them or it would likely have been a different story. It reminds me of the two sons of a friend who went missing in a plane crash during a surfing trip to Indonesia decades ago. Was it the late 80s or the 90s? I’m not sure. David had come out to his family as gay after falling in love with someone whom he met through his business, a gift shop in Baulkham Hills. He came here a few times with his boys in tow and they astonished my daughters with their boisterousness. He soon moved in with his new partner and not very much later his only children, the two sons, died in the plane crash. I’ve often wondered how his wife coped with it all. David died a few years later from multiple myeloma and it made me think of the statistics about cancer and personal tragedy.

Finally the glasses hunt has come to a close. Naturally I got to the appointment a bit early and steering Ralph away from Trump meant getting onto the stolen generation and then colonialism and whether or not the countries overtaken were better off. Luckily the rep Gerard arrived and saved my bacon on those two topics. I picked a pair from The Elusive Miss Lou range that I’m happy with (a colourway known as Riot) and which will come in way cheaper from him than they are selling for in the posh suburbs. The original ones with the Aboriginal design were declared ‘too big for your face’ and I had heard that comment enough times now to finally admit defeat. They both benefitted from the appointment as Ralph chose a number of the less unusual styles to buy for his shop and I had fun modelling them for him. I tried to get him to lash out on a couple of slightly funky pairs but lost that argument. He also offered to repair my much loved Prada ones which he can do because Prada uses some expensive type of plastic which can be melted and welded together again (he told me the name of it but I’ve forgotten) so gluing the two halves together, a poor solution, isn’t necessary.

Poor John has developed a cough and is therefore in iso again since this morning. It puts paid to my taking him out for the day tomorrow as planned, but it’s better than next week when we have so much on. Cecilia says she’s sending off samples for pathology and we should know tomorrow if he’s got anything to worry about. Trying to think of a way to reward Cecilia for her superb caring, without putting anyone else’s nose out of joint. Needs to be something in an envelope that she can slip into her uniform pocket.

August 17, 2023

Yesterday afternoon I picked up my daughter from her job at Eastern Creek where she had been giving training in consent and sexual assault education to groups of 200 employees at a time in a large company there. The GPS said 35 minutes from here, haha is was more like an hour and a quarter, so on the way home I didn’t tick the toll free option and got home in under an hour on the M7. It is truck city out there, massive semis coming and going from the many factories, I saw one labelled ‘carrots’ and can’t imagine how a truck that size could be full of carrots. We had dinner together at home so we could be ready to watch the Matildas get into the final at 8 o’clock, but sadly it was not to be and England won 3:1. That’s the second time I’ve sat right through a football match, the first being in an anti-apartheid demo in the 70s. This morning we left here at 7.15 to take Dav back to work, she driving my car to get some more practice up for getting her licence. It was a road unknown to her, in heavy traffic, in fog, with loads of trucks, but she got us there in one piece which was a champion job. I then decided to do some visiting as I can’t got to see John, heading straight for Warrana to see Logan and then to see Brigitte in the same vicinity. Had a good jaw with each and then headed home for a tuna sambo lunch. I’m sure there will soon be a warning in the SMH about eating too much fish, we had it for dinner last night, then my lunch today and I have a piece of barra in the fridge for my dinner. Tomorrow will likely be a repeat, perhaps with some salmon paste on toast for breakfast.

Louis, never an exaggerator, said getting home from the match last night was ‘a nightmare’ so I’m sure it really was. Two men aged 47 and 33 have been arrested for vandalising a railway signal box and cutting cables inside it. I can understand theft, but jeepers what sorts of people vandalise something they partly own and frustrate tens of thousands of people on a happy night out, many of them with kids in tow? Selfish pricks is the answer, and if I were the magistrate I’d give them some serious penalty for so doing. Unfortunately we have never come up with a good system of deterrence, prisons are cruel and inhumane and community service is a joke. We need serious, considered interventions to both punish and simultaneously support and tutor these people, though I have to admit I’d like to give them the rounds of the kitchen with a wooden spoon myself at the moment. I am very keen on restorative justice but it’s so rarely used, in Australia anyway. “Let the punishment fit the crime” goes back to Cicero but few have had a serious stab at making it work.

Later: Apparently the blokes who vandalised the signal box were homeless and living in the damned thing. This goes to explaining their behaviour but doesn’t excuse it. Homelessness/inequality/mental health/drug abuse/education/crime/restorative justice, where do you start? Too late to start tonight on that mess.

Just got a message to say my adoptive cousin died this morning from pneumonia, decades after his first wife died of the same thing. He was 87 but Robyn was very young and died after a local GP, without putting a stethoscope to her chest, told her to go home and go to bed, she just had a cold. She did as she was told and died a couple of days later from pneumonia. That’s two friends and one cousin gone in one week, they talk about things coming in threes but still…….

August 18, 2023

The day started with a plan to meet Iris, after seeing her husband Logan twice this week in ARV on respite. She works fulltime but had today off so she rang last night to arrange to go for brunch or morning tea depending on our moods. However she texted early to say that Logan had fallen so she was off to see him. In the afternoon she texted again, she was in the emergency department at Hornsby as he’d fallen a second time and done himself more damage. I remembered his diagnosis which I’ve had trouble keeping in my head, it is supranuclear palsy which sounds like something radioactive but is in fact a brain condition. Cecelia rang to let me know that John has tested positive for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, a nasty beast that tends towards pneumonia in the elderly. Bob told me weeks ago that it is more severe than Covid (in an immunised patient). I woke at 2 am after a dream that he had pneumonia so that threw me a bit, but Cecilia has been terrific as usual in keeping me up to speed and assures me there is no pneumonia as yet. It makes a mockery of his being refused a second night at home last week as he’s had none this week and likely will have none next week either as he’s on a seven day isolation. So yet again I’ve had to alter his appointment for dental work next Tuesday.

Sue has invited me up to Killcare, tomorrow or Sunday, and if all is okay with John I might take her up on it. I’m finding that I really want to be out and doing things, but at the same time can’t get up the motivation to start. Somehow my frame of mind has slipped in the last week or so and I’m having trouble staying positive. But I did go to Carol’s and work on the cakes today even though curling up under a blanket was what I really wanted to do. There were nine volunteers plus Carol and Jack so I think we got a fair bit done and had a wonderful lunch to boot. My faves were the pumpkin and mushroom quiches and the pumpkin and potato salad but I was very impressed with the salad greens which unfortunately can only be bought as part of a regular weekly box of veges, but if that changes I would certainly get some. I love greens that I can’t name.

August 19, 2023

Decided that part of my problem is not having anything concrete to look forward to, so I booked a seat for The Importance of Being Earnest in September and immediately felt better. The last time I saw it was when my friend Owen was drama master at Kings School and it was an all boy cast who did it wonderfully. I remember Owen telling me never to believe anyone who went to Kings because they are ‘trained to cover up their feelings, be diplomatic and bugger the truth’. He hated the school’s philosophy and after having a meal with him in a restaurant (which was where the Riverside Theatre now stands) I wondered how on earth he fitted in there as he shovelled the food into his mouth with bits flying everywhere like the bachelor he was, but it was hardly what was expected in the dining room at Kings. He was teaching in America, literally writing on the board, when the FBI arrested him, having discovered that he’d been in the USSR but hadn’t declared it. The Ruskies always offered not to stamp your passport in case you wanted to go to the US and he’d happily agreed. However the long arm of the law got him and he was deported, something Kings obviously didn’t find out about back in those days of limited technology.

A friend told me to check out Long Lost Families which is on ABC at 4.40pm, not a time I’m ever watching the teev, but I looked up the first episode on iView. Maybe it was a good idea or maybe not. They do two stories and one was of a woman who didn’t know she was adopted till she found her birth certificate when she was 7, mmm a bit too close for comfort that one. She was 66 and trying to find her twin sister, which of course they achieved or else they wouldn’t have made the program. She lived 3 miles away! However, although I was happy for them I felt sick watching it so I’m not sure how many of them I can handle. The other story was a missing father who had left his pregnant girlfriend at 18, they found him as a successful businessman in Canada and he was overcome with joy, but also deeply affected by the guilt of his youthful behaviour.

I called in on Ralph briefly (no time to get on to Trump on a flying visit) and also picked a bunch of flowers from the garden and took them in a vase to John. Camellias, white iris and a stolen rose from over the fence in Arvind’s, seeing I’ve already pruned mine I had to steal one your honour. We talked on the phone, with him in the window of his room and me in the car park, just as if he were a Long Bay inmate, although at the Bay you can’t get that close. I have confirmed with Sue that I’ll go to Killcare tomorrow and come back on the train Monday or Tuesday as I have a commitment on Wednesday.

I came across a new word, anankastia which means ‘a focus on a rigid standard of perfection and right and wrong, while controlling one’s own and others’ behaviour to conform to those standards’. In other words, most religions. I love it, it reminds me again that your religion doesn’t prohibit me from doing anything, it prohibits YOU and you should learn the bloody difference. I only hope I can remember to say this if I am ever unlucky enough to come across that pesky newish Anglican archbishop of Sydney or his predecessor Glenn Davies. I rarely find the right words when I need them, though I’m an expert at knowing what to say afterwards.

August 20, 2023

In a new paper in Nature Human Behaviour researchers reviewed the evidence regarding ‘happiness strategies’. The professor of social psychology culled many papers that she thought too small, or poorly designed and focussed on the rest. She found that among the most important things were gratitude, talking to strangers (this is a huge one for me), being in nature (yes to that!) and acting in a more extraverted way than you feel. However there was a lack of strong evidence that mindfulness and meditation or physical activity benefit our happiness, yet I know a lot of people who find enormous comfort from those. I guess the answer is: if it makes you smile it’s probably doing you good.

Reading this morning that the names and addresses of the Georgia Trump Grand Jury members have been leaked online was certainly depressing, not just because of the danger to them and their families personally, but because it will frighten off the decent people that juries should be comprised of. We don’t need just the warriors of one side or another but a collection of people, as randomly selected as possible. I can imagine folks who are called up in future may very well decide to refuse, or to find legal excuses not to go, for their own safety.

Packet falafel are a quick and easy lunch heated in the microwave with a few leaves added and some yoghurt or hummus, but the packet had four left and I foolishly ate all four instead of leaving two for another day. Now I feel as if I’ve eaten an elephant. Perhaps the happiness list should include ‘don’t overeat, there are no food shortages at the moment’, but certainly eating things you love in moderate quantities should be added to the list. Fish of all sorts (except deep sea bream which is gross and of course basa out of the polluted rivers of Vietnam), stuffed zucchini flowers, oysters, fresh lettuce with a good dressing, snow peas, baby kumatoes, chestnut puree, pavlova ‘these are a few of my favourite things’.

Going to Sue’s this afternoon is one of my ‘good things to look forward to’ which is a key to happiness for me. After my surgeon’s appointment next Thursday I plan to head to Woollahra to get some more lovely cheese from Simon Johnson, pick up my favourite fruit loaf and granola and maybe grab a bit of lunch. It is a moot point whether John will be well enough to go to his appointment at Nelune which I so carefully arranged to happen at the same time as mine, but if he can go, and my doc is on time, I should still be able to fit in some time for lunch before he’s done. Instead of thinking about the driving and the surgeon I am thinking cheese, another strike for happiness.

August 21, 2023

It was so relaxing to be at Sue’s looking out over the water and seeing the sunrise from the bedroom window. We didn’t turn on the teev last night, just got into our books in our jimjams after a pub meal nearby. I had an entree of tempura prawns which was well and truly enough for me. Sue went to pilates this morning while I wandered around Avoca, walking on the beach and popping into the antique shop. They have a show and tell cabinet with unpriced things just to talk to people about, including a beautiful Roman gold and garnet ring which was found washed up on the Thames and has been professionally authenticated. I would have guessed it to be Georgian by the style but it just shows that you can be a couple of thousand years out if you don’t know what you’re doing. I wouldn’t like to be paying their insurance bill as there were many pieces of jewellery in the tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds more pieces in the range of a few hundred to many thousands. Perhaps they have a very large fire proof safe and take the risk themselves, I don’t know. I liked looking but didn’t walk out wishing to own anything, except perhaps the Roman ring which luckily wasn’t for sale.

Later Bob came over and we went down to the Killcare Beach kiosk for lunch overlooking the water and after that a walk along the beach. Unusual for a man to order a salad roll for lunch but that was what he did. I like him a lot, you could describe him as ‘an old-fashioned gentleman’. I lent Sue Miriam Margolyes’ autobiography which she is loving and Bob immediately commented that Miriam is ‘very rough, but somehow she gets me in’.

Sue has a painting done by one of the original owners of the Killcare house and decided that she didn’t like it much and so was going to put it out next to the bins. Of course I had a fit and convinced her to let me get an auction appraisal of it as the artist is ‘a known’. Even if it only gets a couple of hundred dollars it’s better than nothing and doesn’t waste a lovely picture. So I did photos and sent them off to an art auctioneer for an opinion, still waiting on the result, but I will be very surprised if he doesn’t want it.

We went to Umina to the Copperpot Indian restaurant for dinner and I agreed with Sue that it’s a good one. We shared a huge entree platter and a main and still brought home enough for another meal. Fifty dollars total with tip and delicious.

August 22, 2023

Went down to the Fat Goose at Hardys Bay for a mid-morning coffee for Sue and a milkshake for me to fortify us for the trip to Sydney. While there I got a loaf of their fabulous wholegrain bread and a spinach quiche for dinner tonight. I insisted to Sue that I was going back on the train and she insisted to me that she wanted to drop me home and then go looking for appliances for the Kirribilli kitchen project. So we ended up at home in Baulko for lunch and then went to Winnings in Northmead to look for a fridge, oven, cooktop, dishwasher, rangehood, sink and taps. Phew! It was lucky I went as Sue had real problems understanding the man who was patiently explaining each appliance. I said to him that ‘you’ve heard of the blind leading the blind, but this is the deaf leading the deaf’. This morning in the cafe she asked me if she were talking too loudly and the man at the nearby table said ‘yes’ but I don’t think she heard him, which is funny in itself. The appliance choices are so complex (and the prices so huge) that we were both exhausted by the end of it, however I am very pleased that I don’t have to pay the bill at the end of it. Sue couldn’t find the email with the layout so it looks as if we need to go again on Saturday and confirm that the things she’s chosen actually fit.

Martha has just let us know that Nada died unexpectedly from a heart attack. It has been a very bad couple of weeks for losing friends that’s for sure. I had not long ago expressed the view to Martha that Nada had seemed to get old suddenly, something that happens frequently and is not accorded to any particular age, it just seems to be individual and one day you think that someone has aged significantly. He was a good man and I’m sad to hear that he’s gone.

August 23, 2023

Just back from the city by bus after stopping off in Castle Hill to try on my new glasses before the lenses go in, one advantage being that I didn’t have to risk life and limb crossing Old Northern Rd. Ralph was in a chatty mood today (not a word about Trump) and told me that I am ‘arty’ because I’m a Libran. A discussion about birthdays ensued and it turns out we share the date but he is one year earlier. He is chuffed that he now has a fancy display with the new frames he ordered from The Elusive Miss Lou, it came with little artificial (but cute) feathered parrots to display with the glasses and it looks terrific.

I haven’t had chance to read much about the Lucy Letby judgment but I’m surprised that no one seems to be mentioning Munchausen’s by proxy as a possible reason for her murder of umpteen babies and attempted murder of umpteen more. Of course there needs to be some sort of punishment, but if it’s Munchausen’s then she has a (maybe treatable?) mental illness and perhaps should be in a mental institution and not a gaol. I’ve only come across one person who had this disease and he feigned leukaemia to his live-in girlfriend after coming to Australia from Britain. He was often ill and once was admitted to hospital before being turfed out when it was discovered he didn’t have the disease at all. However in a random call from his mother in England the girlfriend commented that his leukaemia was now in remission to which the mother was aghast: ‘Oh he’s not doing that again is he?’ Apparently he’d fooled his previous girlfriend with the same story but was eventually exposed. Doctor Google says that recovery tends to be slow or non-existent and treatment is rarely successful as people refuse to believe that they have the condition. She will be in solitary, or bashed, for life and though it would be an unpopular view I feel very sorry for her. Surely there must be a way to accommodate people who are like this in pleasant enriching rural surroundings with access to nature, birds and animals, and with good treatment to hopefully live some sort of fruitful lives?

August 24, 2023

Phew! That day is done and dusted and it seemed to take an age. It was inly when I got under the shower in the evening that I noticed that my dress was on inside out! Luckily it was black so I doubt anyone noticed. First call was to Gracewood to get John, then to Nelune to drop him off, then to Alan Meagher for my six-monthly check-up, but he had an urgent surgery so that meant reading a book near his office for an hour or so. (I did offer to don PPE and talk to him in theatre, which got a laugh, as if it were a joke.) He gave me the tick of approval for another 6 months, though I declined his suggestion of a PET scan on the grounds of the radiation risk. His comment was that in years past it wasn’t even offered, so he’s cool about my refusal. Then a flying trip to Woollahra for a few bits for a cheese platter for book group tomorrow. I was going to do a Limoncello Cake but seeing it’s now lunch… Drove back to get John but parking was at a premium so I decided to sit in an empty loading zone as he was soon to come out. When he didn’t exit on time I rang him and was told 40 minutes more, then after 45 minutes I rang him again and was told 30 minutes more. I’m not sure what went on there today but I had to skip lunch as there weren’t any parks where I could risk leaving the car. It will probably do me good, but dinner will be very welcome. It’s a slice of baked eggplant with cheese but I think I will stretch to a slice of bread with it. I have a bit more to say but I’m too bloody tired to type.

August 25, 2023

Aaah, a 10 hour sleep and I’m a new person. Had a long call this morning from my friend who has been battling his two siblings for the last five years over their father’s will. The siblings showed no interest in the father until he was very demented and approaching death, at which point they spirited him away to a friendly solicitor to write a new will leaving everything to them, cutting out my friend from both the proceeds of the will and his joint executor role. He has just received a report from a professor of geriatrics who was paid as an independent advisor. He advises that going back through brain scan records held at a hospital and reports from the numerous nursing services who refused to continue attending to him due to his verbal abuse, he considers that the father had moderate dementia from the age of 59 (he died at about 80). Later scans show that he had severe dementia and would have been unable to form a view about his accommodation or care, never mind signing a legal document. The report charged $7000 for 10 hours work but is worth every cent I think. The previous geriatrician’s report also found severe dementia, but an email trail uncovered by the solicitors showed that his siblings were sending many messages pressuring the doctor to alter her report and tone down the diagnosis, which she eventually did. What a saga it has been and still is, he could sell the movie rights. He’s now expecting an offer to settle……to be continued.

I had a call from Dally in Melbourne hoping to visit John this weekend while he’s up here for the 50th anniversary celebrations for the start of civil celebrancy, a movement in which he was intimately involved. So he’s coming for Sunday lunch and we’ve added on Kevin and Pat who would love to see John as well. Both of these have had to give up driving, Kevin due to mesothelioma and Pat because of eye problems. Pat is a priest, but (why did I type but?). I will rephrase that: Pat is a priest, a good friend to us both, and a very decent human. Planning to do a dip with crudites (ha, I first typed crudities, probably not the best plan for a priest and 3 ex-priests, though a bit of crudity certainly wouldn’t faze Dally or John), a side of salmon with an orange glaze and a salad, probably a cake to follow. They will all come on the jolly old 610X bus from the QVB, my well-loved lifeline to the city.

August 26, 2023

Went to the Castle Hill Showground Farmers Market this morning and got some fabulous olives as big as cumquats for the guests tomorrow, as well as some smoked garlic and other odds and ends. I noticed that the prices on some cheeses, fish, meats and deli lines are pretty eye-watering, it’s a market for the well-heeled. Managed to resist some fabulous earrings made from….boom tish….recycled skateboards, certainly a conversation item, though for someone else’s conversation sadly. Not long home when Sue turned up unexpectedly, on her way home from Winnings where she’d settled on all the appliances we looked at the other day. She changed to a different salesperson and was able to understand him much better. We did some watering in the afternoon and then Dav rang to say they were nearby, they came for a cuppa, so I was able to give Millie the dress and some books that I’d bought for her. Sadly Kevin has had to pull out of the lunch tomorrow as he’s just not feeling well enough, so I’m unsure if it’s just Dally coming or Pat as well, we shall see in due course.

My inability to let stuff go takes ridiculous forms at times, such as the 10 year old lipstick which is down level with the case top, but I still feel the need to dig out the remnants with a cotton bud, despite having a holder full of others. If anyone says that they’ve bought a new one but didn’t like it, I always add it to my collection rather than see it go into the bin, so I have the few I’ve bought at the makeup remainder place at Erskineville and a heap of others passed on to me from family and friends. So why exactly do I need the last gram out of the one I’m using? Your guess is as good as mine, but I suspect it dates back to managing with very little as a child. Each Saturday I used to buy out of my pocket money a bubble of shampoo from the chemist (was it Sunsilk? or Clinic?) as there was never enough money to buy a whole bottle, my mother used soap and thought my shampoo purchase was more than a bit luxurious. With the rest I usually bought her a bunch of flowers. From memory I got 3 shillings pocket money on Saturdays but then I started fulltime work when I turned 14. I know for sure that I earned 3 pounds 2/6 there and from that time on I bought full size bottles of shampoo and thought that the chemist should be mightily impressed.

August 27, 2023

A great day was had with Dally and Pat, quite a contrast in characters but both lovely to be with. The salmon was cooked for half the recommended time in my ‘hot as the bowels of hell’ oven, yet the skin on the bottom was black due to the orange and maple syrup glaze, but interestingly when the salmon was all gone we fought over the burnt bits of skin. Had pastry custard rolls for dessert and I think a good time was had by all. John was in great form though five minutes after they left he asked who had visited. Dally is going to the US Consul-General’s Office tomorrow for an audience so I told him to ask for Julian Assange’s release as he is leaving.

Heather rang to say she is going to Bathurst for a funeral, having lost six friends in the last month, going from her old car club days right up to floral art people of recent years. I said I thought we’d done badly with four in the last fortnight but perhaps it’s just par for the course at this age. I noticed that Nada’s birthday was August 20 and I think he died on the 17th, though I’m not sure of his age. Dally said his doctor told him that if ever he got prostate cancer the doc would recommend doing nothing as once you reach 80 something else will get you before the prostate cancer does, a wise decision I think.

Interesting to read that supermarkets are installing cameras to stop people cheating at self-serve checkouts, clearly that’s cheaper than actually paying staff to serve us. The average Woolworths has 62 CCTV cameras throughout the store and it will cost $40 million to upgrade the systems. Recently I was buying bananas and put them on the self-checkout scale, but while I was looking for the right fruit and veg button to press the screen came up with bananas and their weight and price. I looked around for a camera but couldn’t see one. Good old Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci says stock lost costs between $22 million to $25 million per week, not per year, per week! Yikes, perhaps we’ll end up with attack dogs trained to rip stolen stock from the hands of the thieves, at this rate we’ll need a police station in every shopping centre. While I have a great deal of sympathy for those on low incomes I also know the lengths to which charities go to make sure people are fed.

I haven’t yet seen the new incarnation of ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet yet, but I remember how uncomfortable I felt watching Annabel Crabb schmoozing politicians from all sides. I don’t expect her to go in boots and all, ready for combat, but I do expect a little more serious discussion than I’ve seen in the past. It’s almost as if she says ‘come on my show and I promise not to ask too many tricky questions’ but even then it’s a bit too smarmy for my taste.

August 28, 2023

Bussed up to Castle Hill and picked up my glasses from Ralph, no Trump talk today but plenty on UFOs. He showed me pics of his young life, an only child living in a unit in Double Bay near the water till his mum decided that she wanted to live in England and deposited him at Sydney Grammar as a boarder for the whole of high school. One photo was of his large new car, bought while he was boarding, against all rules, but parked nearby for trips with his pals. He now gets up at 4am on Sundays, his only day off, to watch Hour of Power, then Mass for You at Home (despite not being a Catholic) then Turning Point with Dr. Jeremiah. What backstories you get about people’s lives when you just sit and listen.

I planned to write quite a few cards and letters today but it’s now nearly 5.30 and it’s clearly not happening. Ram in Kerala is on the list and I just got a message from him wishing me a Happy Onam, so I had to look that up before I wished him a happy one back. Apparently Onam is a festival celebrated by Malayalis in Kerala to mark the homecoming of the Great King Mahabali. It also marks the harvest season for Kerala. I’d like to hope I will see Ram again one day but the chances are near zero. However an email just received tells me that my friend Mary from NZ will be in town this week and suggests Friday for a meet-up, the only day for which I don’t have plans, wonders will never cease.

Just watched the replay of Nada’s funeral and as is always the case, I learned a lot about him from the eulogies. I didn’t understand some small elements of the service but I will make a point of asking what was happening at those junctures. Mostly it was easily understandable, non-religious in the most part, in English, with lots of people giving speeches about him and his interests, in fact it was a long funeral at over one and a half hours. Vale Nada, you were a good decent human.

August 29, 2023

Thinking back on Nada’s funeral, it was noticeable how excellent the speakers all were, especially his brother from the UK I thought, but perhaps that is because of their uniform level of education. Each speaker mentioned the huge influence his beloved wife Sunetra had on him, his brother saying that she made him a better, more compassionate person. Apparently his parents disapproved of the marriage (the reasons were not given) but he went ahead and this caused a fracture in his relationship with his parents resulting in his not seeing them for many years. Why is it that we only find out the backstory of our friends at their funerals? It makes me even more determined to sit and listen to the stories of those around me.

Harking back to my trip to Lawton House yesterday and I commented that the Douglass, Hanley Moir offices look like a public toilet, with brilliant white walls and fluorescent lighting. I suppose they are trying to communicate ‘clean’ but I was told to look at what the owners have done to the public toilets in the building, bright white again with huge white tiles. Gone are the beautifully coloured Zimbabwean tiles which graced these rooms, chipped off and replaced with ‘clean’. Why? I asked and the answer was that the tenants had complained that the toilets were ‘too old-fashioned’, so the owners relented. As my friend Trevor used to remark about such people: ‘it’s like feeding strawberries to pigs’. It reminded me of a unit in Sue’s Kirribilli building which is due to go to auction, in this late 1940s building the owners had done it over in white, white and white, marking it forever as having been renovated in the 2020s. I’m sure it will sell for a zillion, but I guess someone in the future will paint it, rip out the kitchen and bathroom and redo it to suit another fashion trend.

Watching Australian Story last night (why do we only get AS for a few months of the year these days? the Morrison government’s funding cuts I assume) I was blown away by the story of Gina Chick. She was the winner of the TV series Alone Australia in which the participants were dropped off on their own in various remote parts of Tasmania to live off the land, which she did for 67 days. To call her unusual is a huge understatement, she is perhaps my antithesis. She is supremely confident and does not let the opinions of either family or society interfere with what she wants to do. After the death of their daughter Blaise she willingly let her husband go so he could again become the father he had always wanted to be. I didn’t watch the SBS show, it’s not really my thing, but I dips me lid to this amazing woman. However I think I will now have to look at a couple of eps to see how she managed to outstay all the other contestants, by sheer force of will I suspect. One very interesting point was the discovery that her mother was adopted, she is the child of the famous author Charmian Clift. It’s easy to see connections between Charmian and Gina, once again moving the nature versus nurture argument firmly in the direction of nature.

August 29, 2023

What a dreadful double those Anglican Jensens are, although most of the Sydney Diocese seem much the same. Now Phillip Jensen has come out with a swipe at eulogies saying they bring no comfort to the grieving friends and relatives and calling out ‘inane’ and ‘silly’ comments. So we should go to funerals and sit back to listen to what are effectively ads for the church, devoid of any reference to the person who has died. Cardinal Pell, that great authority on compassion, agreed that eulogies shouldn’t be allowed in churches at all. How long do we need to wait for these old blokes to die off, it seems to be taking a while, then they can enjoy the hollowed out funerals that they want to inflict on everyone else.

Took John to the dental prosthetist again today but instead of picnicking or eating something on the run we came home and made soup from the week’s leftover vegetables. Celery, leek, carrots and potatoes don’t make a bad soup I discovered, especially with a bit of Louisiana Creole spice thrown in the mix. John loves to be sous-chef, chopping and stirring, so we make a good pair in the kitchen. I was hoping for a bit of leftover from that delicious baked salmon for dinner tonight but the platter was left completely clear, which is a good thing when your visitors come back for seconds.

Reading a book called Cured, written by a doctor, which talks about spontaneous recovery from various serious illnesses such as cancer. It has some interesting parts but so far it’s boiling down to people being unexpectedly cured by diet changes, meditation, acupuncture, even by hiding a terminal diagnosis from the patient! But then the doctor is a psychiatrist, mmm. Spontaneous remission happens, no doubt about it, but he agrees that there is no way to tell which intervention works, or if any will, so there really isn’t much point in knowing this stuff or ascribing what you think may be the cause. I’ve known people who went down this path, doing the lot and still died and also one person who had kidney cancer where the blood vessel feeding it got knotted and cut off the blood supply, killing the cancer and saving the patient. Sure that’s spontaneous remission, but by doing absolutely nothing. The author uncritically retold a Dr Oz episode about a faith healer, but really this is like recommending a jar of coloured jelly beans and saying just the purple ones may work, or perhaps the red ones do, or all eaten together, but in the end he can’t tell us with any kind of certainty (ever heard of medical statistics?) whether any of them do, or perhaps we should really throw out the jelly beans and change to acai berries.

August 30, 2023

So I finished reading Cured last night and sadly realised that I’d spent many hours on it that I’ll never get back. I feel a bit conned, because the first third to half of the book spelled out concepts that I was familiar with and so I felt a false sense of security that the guy knew what he was talking about. But the ride got wilder as the book went on, focusing a lot of ink on a Brazilian dude called Dr. Nemeh (actual qualifications not mentioned) who seems to be more of a faith healer than a doctor: “Whether it is a laser or love working on the quantum field, I believe they have the same effect” says our doctor. The latter part of the book is focused on him and his amazing ‘cures’. But it was when the book addressed something I knew a little bit about, the Benson Prayer Study, that I really started to worry about the author’s credibility. In 2006, Benson et al did a rigorous study on the effects of prayer and surgical outcomes, the largest prayer study ever done. It was randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled, in other words watertight scientifically. Over three years the team organised intercessory prayer for 1500 people undergoing cardiac bypass surgery. The results were more than interesting. Of those who didn’t know whether or not they were being prayed for (half of these actually were being prayed for and half not) the effect was an almost identical rate of complication and death. It gets more interesting in that those who were actually told they were being prayed for had worse outcomes than usually recorded! The famous conclusion is: ‘Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications’. Then he discusses why this may be the case. So what is our author’s take on the three years of Benson’s study? “Ultimately, I couldn’t take the result of this study – rigorous as it was – as a final statement on prayer. Perhaps prayer could be transformative, or it could be utterly powerless – depending on what you believe”. So prayer is just a placebo effect then, which is what many have been saying for centuries! He finishes the chapter going back to good old Dr. Nemeh and the people he’s cured with prayer, science be damned. I’m pissed off right now that I took this book as a genuine investigation into spontaneous remission and ended up just feeling conned, which of course I will ultimately record in my one star review on Goodreads.

Thinking back about reading The Eulogy and the dire state of affairs which befell the author’s sister, it occurred to me that we don’t have any idea about the brain surgeon responsible for her operation. But if he were Charlie Teo, we would certainly learn all about it I’m sure. Brain surgery by its very nature extols its successes but buries its failures and I’m sure every person in the role has horror stories of surgery gone wrong and people spending long lives in care. My sister-in-law’s brother was ‘successfully’ operated on for a brain tumour (successful in that he didn’t die) but he lived decades in a care home, fully aware of his circumstances, because he was too disabled for his wife to cope with him at home. Certainly Teo did himself no favours with his arrogance, but I suspect he’d argue that he has plenty to be arrogant about. My concerns about him are around giving people false hope (as is the case in The Eulogy) and overcharging, but as for his technical skill, that’s another argument.

August 31, 2023

Up to Bob for a health check for my driver’s licence, he is as puzzled as I am about why this is always done at age 75 but it has occurred for me coming up to my 76th. I told him excitedly that I am going to see Wynton Marsalis with the SSO tonight and he told me excitedly that he will be on stage singing! He says it was some of the most difficulty music he’s ever had to learn and he’s in awe of Marsalis. Can’t wait. There are a lot of different Marsalis concerts in the next couple of weeks, one entitled Jazz at the Lincoln Centre and another is the Marsalis Violin Concerto performed by Nicola Benedetti, so he’s a busy boy.

Poor Boris is having bad luck with his pacemaker. First the leads became detached from his heart and he had to have surgery a couple of weeks ago to reattach them, then on Sunday it stopped working again, but this time he was sent to RNS. It’s always the case that when things go wrong during or after surgery you get sent to a big public hospital, which is why I’d rather be there in the first place. They have a team operating again at 1pm today after a raft of tests to sort out the problem. The cardiologist said that although there is a 1% complication rate for this surgery he personally had never had it happen, so the universe has decided it will give him a biggy.

I watched two episodes of Alone Australia so I could again ogle the amazing Gina Chick. One male contestant gave up early on day two, mainly because he missed his family so much and a female one gave up in the afternoon of day two because she just couldn’t cope with the whole thing. I suspected she would leave early when she was quite obsessive about every noise in the bush, wondering if it were an animal. No judgment here, I am too cowardly to even consider going on this program, but it did surprise me that these people with wilderness skills threw in the towel so soon. I might just need to watch a bit more, though Davina assures me that the American one is better, there be bears!!

September 1, 2023

Well last night’s concert was something else! I don’t know how to describe it as I’ve never heard music quite like it. It was a cross between classical, jazz, gospel and any other music style you want to throw into the mix. To say I understood it would be an exaggeration but it was certainly a new experience. Oddly Wynton Marsalis was not visible at all as he was directly behind the conductor and I didn’t see him till he came forward at the end to overwhelming applause. How do you describe a piece where the lyrics go: “A hundred and a hundred, a hundred and twelve. A hundred and a hundred, a hundred and a hundred, and a hundred and twelve.” This was based on ‘a little chant my son Simeon sang for about two hours on a train ride’. Some of the latter pieces seemed to be a call and response from saxophone and trumpet, but I just don’t have the terminology to describe most of it. I think 90% of it went over my head, though I loved watching the 10% going past. Even the programme, which I read today, talks in a language I don’t understand. Got to talk to Bob about it as he texted me at interval offering a lift home.

Today the Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing a blitz on Cross St. As I was leaving this morning I was greeted by two beaming women at the front steps (I’ve been around long enough to know that beaming equals selling). I took their brochure to save time, only to see a few minutes later another pair putting stuff in my street library. Later at the end of the street I was greeted by a beaming male and female (see previous note re beaming) so it was a concerted effort to save us today, but I got on the bus to town and thereby saved myself.

Met up with Mary and David, our friends from Auckland, for lunch at Glass in the Hilton where they always stay when David is here on business. After eyeing the prices I reminded them that there is a daily business lunch served in the bar area of the same restaurant at which the prices are a third to a half of those in the main part of the restaurant. So we upped sticks to that area, despite the frowning waiter, and all had Barramundi with Bok Choy and XO Sauce, with a side of their fabulous truffled mash at $25 per meal, plus $12 for the mash. David comes here in his role as a mediator and it seems that it’s usually about wills, farm foreclosures or people suing hospitals for some medical misadventure, and so it is this time when he has four mediations to do. I think about them both often and wish we were closer geographically. I remember how many times my friend Mike insisted that I meet David, convinced that we would be firm friends, even offering a birthday present of a return flight to NZ. But sadly we met on either side of Mike’s open coffin at the funeral home following his unexpected death, each of us recognising the other from the descriptions Mike had given us and he was right, we hit it off immediately.

September 2, 2023

I was suddenly motivated this morning to book a couple of days at Fairmont this coming week and then I thought about the Wynton Marsalis concerts still to come and the fact that I doubt he’ll be back here while I’m in a position to go (read above ground) so I booked for his Violin Concerto with Nicola Benedetti. I was literally just about to press the button to book when Sue contacted me and when I told her what I was doing she said she’d like to come too, so I changed from my favoured matinee to Friday night when she can go. I couldn’t get a pair of seats together as it’s nearly booked out but I got two in a box, one in front of the other so that will be fine.

Then I picked John up and was met by Cecilia who returned my gift of a credit card for Messina Icecream because it is over the $20 gift limit, which of course I didn’t know about. Easily fixed as we will go and have a couple of double icecreams ourselves and that should reduce the card down to the allowable 20 bucks. Then we went off to Cake Decorating Central to pick up some bits for making Boris’s birthday cake next week. Walking around that place always gives me ideas and so it was today. I didn’t need to buy much, just getting the decoration sorted in my mind was the main thing. I plan to find a tiny basket for the top of the cake, one that will tip on its side, and have caramel lollies, maybe chocolates ones too, spilling out of it. I didn’t see anything like that, but the place just focusses my mind on cakes I think.

Off from there to the Botanic Gardens where first we went to an exhibition of the Australian Watercolour Institute at Lion Gate Lodge in the gardens, and oh my giddy aunt, didn’t I love it. There were a heap of paintings there that I’d consider buying if I still had wall space. Some were so extraordinary that I have no idea how the artists got the effects they did. I bought a raffle ticket and the first six or so out of the hat get to choose one from a group of paintings (none as good as those in the exhibition of course). There is a ghastly George Gittoes one that could be worth sending to auction as he brings decent money, so I would be a bit tempted to pick that one and if it came up trumps I could buy one of the divine ones in the exhibition and lean it up against a wall. Actually there is room on my bedroom walls but I’ve always limited that room to a couple of pieces of Chinese art and nothing else however if I win we shall see. I can always say that the gods decreed it. The Spring Walk was just that, loaded with delicious flowers. We had some lunch at the cafe in the gardens where the ibis are always a problem on the ground hankering for scraps but suddenly I was hit in the face by the big wing of a bird I didn’t see coming and when I got over the shock of that I discovered that the remaining lunch I was holding had disappeared from my hand! Neither we nor the people at the next table actually saw the bird, I was blinded by the slap on the face, but I assume it was an ibis. It was worth losing the rest of my lunch to be smacked in the face by a bird’s wing, both hard and deliciously soft at the same time. Previously I had been hit in the face by a microbat in a cave at Jenolan and I still remember that day with affection.

September 3, 2023

We’ve had a lovely day at home, pottering in the garden in the morning, having a special Father’s Day lunch (John had no calls, as expected) and then going off in the afternoon to collect bark to lay down in the garden. Planted Green Zebra tomatoes, to be picked once they get yellow stripes, basil, coriander, mini wombok and edible calendula flowers to mix up with the nasturtiums in salad, all from seed. I think my containers for the tomatoes are too small, it says on the net only one of these per pot, but I didn’t see that until later. Anyway I can always thin them out. Last night at dinner I said to John that at least no bird will steal this meal, but he had no memory of the bird event, even after I repeated the story. I turned on an episode of Alone Australia last night, thinking he would like the beauty of remote Tasmania but he said it was a silly show pretending to have people alone when clearly there was a cameraman with each of them. I explained about their cameras but he still thinks the whole idea is pointless. It did give me some inspiration last week watching them building primitive structures single-handed. I was going to get Kirk the mowing man to stake up a tree that is leaning over towards the sun, but I thought it was a silly thing to ask and found a stake in the garage and did it myself. A small feat but inspired by Gina. David, who has family connections with Samoa, reported that the Survivor series filmed there was a con, the contestants were actually in bush next to a five star hotel where they all traipsed to sleep at night. Pretty disappointing story, even though I’ve never watched it.

Reading the Deaths column in the SMH and noted as usual that everyone was ‘dearly loved’, ‘missed always’, ‘a wonderful friend to all’, I wonder where the death notices of horrible people are published? Perhaps no one bothers to waste money on an ad at all? Of course they all ‘passed away peacefully’, after reading these for over 50 years I’ve never come across anyone who died in pain, funny that.

I’ve just sent off an email to Media Watch with the report of Amanda Vanstone’s major blooper on ABC Radio. Thinking that the interviewee had hung up she mocked his voice and then said that the programme would have to be edited so he didn’t ‘sound like such a fuckwit’. The guest was Corey Tutt who is the founder of Deadly Science, which provides remote communities with educational resources and was named the 2020 Young Australian of the Year. He was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in last year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to Indigenous science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. He’s an Associate Professor. Who’s the fuckwit now Amanda? I notice that none of the ‘mainstream media’ mentioned this over the weekend as far as I could see. The ABC has ‘counselled’ her, I wonder what you have to do there to get the sack? While I’m having a bitch about the ABC I was somewhat shocked to see Julia Baird push back against a guest who commented that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had not done anyone a favour by hanging out till the end and not allowing President Obama to choose her replacement instead of Trump. I totally agree with his point, but Julia is a huge RBG fan and told him snappily that it was Mitch McConnell they were there to discuss, even though it was the issue of ageing and the ability to continue in politics that was the real point. Later someone else mentioned her and her response was: ‘Oh we’re back to RBG again’ shutting him down too. The first chap looked cheesed off till the end of the show and I don’t blame him. But hey, compared to Amanda…….

September 4, 2023

I wish my mind knew how to turn off at night, there should be a button. After trying unsuccessfully to find a tiny basket to go on top of Boris’s cake, I decided that a wine glass lying on its side with the goodies spilling out could be a good look. But all night I dreamt of glasses falling off cakes, liquor spilling out of the glass, round chocolates rolling off the cake, really dumb stuff. So this morning I went back to the Chocolate Warehouse and bought one of their surprise lucky dip goodie bags which had lots of things nearing their end date and some that went through to December. Now I am not using anything that rolls and have lots of different choices including eggs, broken pieces of dark chocolate, brandy filled chocolate bottles, gingerbread fudge and a marzipan log, which will be enjoyed by moi once I shave the dark chocolate off it, I can use that as sprinkles on the cake too. Went to Messina to swap Cecilia’s gift card and although there were staff inside they wouldn’t open the door till noon and as it was only 10.30 I had to pass on that one. Came home to continue my fight against the broadleaf weeds in the grass verge, no matter how many I get rid of, triple that number replace them.

Yesterday I Googled the new Farnham ad for the Voice and couldn’t turn up anything, but then in the evening it was showing up everywhere. I watched it with tears in my eyes and I think it will affect a lot of people that way. It’s certainly affected Dutton enough to suggest a second referendum. Insert eyeroll emoji here! I’m sure the No campaign is trying to find an equivalent but hopefully this will win out. I have been to many Farnham concerts and he is an amazing performer, hopefully he will help to get us across the line at the same time as lifting his spirits after whoever is running this show decided to give a singer mouth cancer. I have sent off a number of emails trying to get a YES sign for the front garden but all I get back is ‘thanks for supporting us’ generic messages so I sent another one this morning. Decided to head back to the watercolour exhibition tomorrow to attend a talk and demonstration in the afternoon, someone confiscate my credit card!

I painted a card this afternoon, the first one for months. It’s not wonderful, it’s not even good, but it was very satisfying. Watercolour is just so watery and ethereal and fragile somehow. I did send off four cards to various people early in the week and though I’ve still got plenty to be going on with, it’s time I started to replenish the stock. I want to get back to doing some paper dyeing too while there are flowers about, though most of mine are white, so they’re no use, but I want to try the Clivias and seen how they work. Perhaps after I go to the talk and class tomorrow I will have stumbled on the trick of doing watercolour well. I will pick John up to come too and as he says, the paintings will all be new to him. I can’t even imagine not having any memory at all of the recent past, but it must be so bewildering. Janene rushed to tell me that ‘he came to breakfast in his pyjama pants with a football jersey on the top!’ but I decided that fact was better left to waft into the ether.

September 5, 2023

Eggs-austed, too tired in fact to cook an egg for tea. Picked John up this morning, drove to Baulko, bussed to QVB, bussed again to the Botanic Gardens and lunched there without an ibis attack. In fact the clever birds know there aren’t as many people as sources of food on weekdays and their numbers drop significantly. John asked if we had been to the gardens since last spring and wouldn’t believe me when I said we were here on Saturday. Mooched around the gardens taking a few pictures as requested by Donna the activities officer at Gracewood and then went to Lions Gate Lodge to see the watercolour exhibition again. We were joined there by Jenny and Mike, to whom I’d raved about the exhibition during the week. We went to a watercolour demonstration by Ian Chapman, who has a painting on show. He learned his craft during 6 hours per week of training as part of his architecture course, back in the days when plans were rendered in colour. I was later able to ask him some questions about the techniques used in a few of the pictures and his knowledge was really helpful as I had no idea how the effects had been achieved. It was a long slog home but I’m glad I chose not to drive in, I am over battling tradies at peak hour.

September 6, 2023

Davina got her driver’s licence today! Third time lucky, so now they are on the lookout for a car. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to worry about stuff like that, though I suppose I might have to one day if mine carks it or I run it into a ditch. I think I’m rusted on to Toyota now so at least that would make the shopping easier.

This morning I bussed down to Parra and visited Court 1.4 to see William Tyrrell’s foster parents at the trial of the mother. She has pleaded guilty to assaulting a different foster child, though not guilty to two charges of stalking and intimidation. Considering the four hours of audio evidence she could hardly have contested the assault as she admits on tape kicking and hitting the child and threatens to do it again. She’s using the barrister John Stratton, who represented Eddie Obeid and latterly Adam Cranston, both of whom are serving long prison sentences, so although they clearly have deep pockets to pay for him, they may be wondering about his track record. I happened to sit next to a detective whom I saw at the inquest into William’s disappearance, which made me wonder again if bringing these charges is part of a plan to try to get more information about his disappearance. The foster father will be tried separately over the assault and intimidation accusations, then they both face a charge of paying a dummy bidder to raise the auction price of their $4 million house. All of this was exposed when their house, car, landline and mobile phones were bugged for many months in 2020 and 2021. Pity the poor transcriber typing up every word either of them spoke for about a year or so. The dossier they were using today was over six inches thick and only related to the four hours. The detective told me that the magistrate has the entire transcript, not just the four hours aired in court. Apparently the child will be a witness on another day, by video link. Whether they are capable of doing harm to William or covering up his accidental death is another question, but they certainly come across as both controlled and controlling. Saying to a friend that her husband was ‘mean and cruel’ to the 11-year-old girl, she continued ‘life does not work to (JS)’s time frame. He does not run the world’, though it is the mother who seems to incite the most fear, judging by what we heard today. I can only hope that child is in a better home situation now.

September 7, 2023

Finished Boris’s cake and iced it at home but decorated it at their place as it involved lots of chocs and treats on the top which wouldn’t have carried well. Boris seemed chuffed with it, so that’s success. His daughter knocked on the door and she had flown from London without telling him so that was exciting, it should be a good party on Saturday. Jane made me a cuppa and it was served in a Maxwell Williams cup and saucer that I was sure was designed by Gabby Malpas, a Sydney artist with whom I’ve been in email contact regarding adoption issues and I attended one of her design tutorials last year, somewhere down near the fish markets. When I got home I hit the internet and sure enough it’s Gabby’s design called Peony. I’ll keep an eye out at the op shops as it sells for $75 or about $40 secondhand. Jane’s is red which is lovely but the one I saw on the net is a fetching aqua and I’m a sucker for aqua. As well as painting she is a potter and licenses her work on scarves and other items, makes pottery and does commissions for businesses. She has entered the Gosford Art Prize which opens tomorrow, so I must go up and see her work there. It’s watercolour everywhere I turn at the moment, telling me something.

On the way home I went to the chemist and Sharif, who is very good to me, bailed me up with ‘Great letter in the SMH today, can you write one about how pharmacies are affected by the new 60 day prescription rules’. I’m thinking nooo…I actually support those rules and his arguments were pretty thin, such ‘as it’s not safe for people to have that many drugs around the house’. But I think the main argument is a financial one so I tried to beat a retreat, however he called ‘bring me in a copy of the letter as soon as you’ve sent it’ so I’m glad I stocked up on drugs today as hopefully he will forget, but he’s got the memory of an elephant unfortunately. He suggested that I send an accompanying photo of us both….. The letter got the headline spot, so that was good apart from the pharmacy problem, it read: ‘The current debate about the fault or otherwise of Alan Joyce in the customer dissatisfaction at QANTAS misses the point. Joyce puts his shareholders benefit above those of its customers, which is what he is required to do. The problem is the privatisation of our nation’s airline. Had that not occurred we would all be the shareholders and then our interests would be paramount. You can’t have it both ways. Rather than dishing out billions to QANTAS during Covid, it might have been the perfect time to buy back the farm’. I rather suspect that Sharif didn’t share the thrust of it anyway, but he’s a great businessman.

I was lamenting not being able to go to court today when the foster child concerned, now aged almost 14 I calculate, is appearing via video link, but I can’t be everywhere and I needed to get that cake done. Perhaps I can squeeze in a morning there tomorrow before Sue arrives. The two memories that stick with me from the William Tyrrell inquest are the amazingly long list of paedophiles who were suspects in the local area, I have all my notes from the time with names and their association eg the man who works in the local servo and a few men in the Port Macquarie Lone Fathers group. Secondly the startling differences between the birth family: casually dressed Westies, upset, looking discombobulated by the court situation but with supporters and the foster parents: immaculately dressed, austere, controlled, emotionless, but alone. It will be interesting to see what the magistrate decides, though I did see her wipe the corners of her eyes with a tissue during the tape recordings of the girl being cruelly berated.

September 8, 2023

Well I made the right decision to do what I needed to do, instead of what I wanted to do, yesterday as the foster child in question in the Tyrrell foster parents case was heard in a closed court so neither I, nor the press, heard her evidence. Only the counsel and the magistrate were present so I can’t draw any conclusions from that evidence. So I decided not to go in today as it may very well have been closed court again. As a result I got some tidying up done before Sue arrived before lunchtime. As part of that I tossed all the paperwork from the Dementia Australia day-long workshop as I don’t really need ideas about what to eat, advice about exercise, sleep, mindfulness and a support network. All this is pretty basic stuff and I went there for information on dementia and how to deal with it. But they meant well and perhaps some people need that sort of advice. Also threw out a $30 Sussan voucher with purchase which expired June 30 and as a reward I found a new one in the letterbox expiring November 30. The gods are always watching and clearly they liked my tidy up.

Sue and I went in on the bus and had dinner at Manon at the QVB, excellent food and wine. It was at the end of their Happy Hour (which goes for 2 hours, but anyway) and Sue got a glass of wine for $8, then ordered another of the same wine 15 minutes later at a cost of $18 as Happy Hour had ended. We noted that going to dinner there a bit earlier is very advantageous, for both wines and snacks. Sue had the Spaghetti Marinara (very seafoody says she) and I had the Souffle a la Suissesse, with gruyere, asparagus and hazelnuts (to die for). We will return. Trammed to the Quay then went to the pre-show talk at the Opera House, which unfortunately Sue couldn’t hear. The main attraction was the Marsalis Violin Concerto, with a John Adams piece, Short Ride in a Fast Machine, as an appetiser. It was his reaction to accepting a lift along an American freeway with someone that he found had a Ferrari and drove like a maniac. This was his depiction of that drive in music and it was wonderful, as was the main course by Marsalis. Violinist Nicola Benedetti played her heart out for its 40 minute length and it was a joyous piece of music that scored a long standing ovation during which Marsalis was coaxed up on stage from the stalls to take a bow. The second half was Stravinsky’s Firebird c.1910 which was an early influence on Marsalis. After the show I decided to hunt for a programme each, as they were all sold out when I tried earlier. Raiding a recycling bin like some sort of well-dressed ibis, the hunt proved successful so tomorrow we can each read up on all the things we missed as well as the background to the pieces.

September 9, 2023

So the Freedom of Information Commissioner is resigning, what a hopeless job that would be, trying to get any politicians to fund giving information out to the public. Every opposition wants to be informed and every government wants to conceal. Years ago someone I met was going into a new job in Defence and I asked what exactly he’d be doing. Well, looking after FOI he said, which is easy because there’s only me doing it so I just add the requests to the pile as they come in. He thought it was quite a sensible way for the government to deal with the problem of these pesky people asking too many awkward questions, just reduce the staff to one. Best of luck to any new commissioner who may be appointed.

John is home for the weekend as usual and yet he’s asked me repeatedly if he’s staying overnight. ‘I live in a world of unknowing’ he said. I put a short comedy show on iView for us to watch but he wasn’t laughing and afterwards I asked what he thought of it: ‘I didn’t understand it’ he replied soberly. Gracewood got a geriatrician in to see him on Thursday so in due course I will get a report, however I think I have a fair idea what it will say so I’m in no rush. Cecilia was surprised that he hadn’t rung me, apparently that’s the usual procedure and she offered to email him, but I told her I’m not in any desperate hurry for the report. There is a large green button at the front doors at Gracewood to exit the place but lately it has been covered by a temporary looking ugly hinged piece of hard plastic, so I asked if the button were malfunctioning. ‘No’ she replied, ‘we have absconders’. It sounded like escapees or fugitives or gaol-breakers, but I couldn’t think of another less pejorative term to suggest. Thank goodness John isn’t ‘an absconder’, I should be thankful for small mercies I guess.

September 10, 2023

Today I gave John a choice of three things to do and he came out strongly for the Kenthurst Fair. It was just a folksy affair with a couple of bands, the SES and Rural Fire Service trucks, the local pre-school and school marching, as well as only four scouts and two girl guides (scouting and guiding are clearly on the nose these days, surprise surprise). The roads were parked up for more than a kilometre in each direction and no side streets so, knowing that John couldn’t walk that far, I asked one of the marshals to let us through a barrier so I could park behind a shop. I’ve noticed just this week that his physical abilities have declined markedly. Happily there was a YES stall there where I was able to procure the street sign I wanted, so thankfully I can stop annoying them with emails. But as we walked around the fair I was approached by an officious young Rotary person and informed that ‘you can’t carry that here!’. ‘Why not?’ I asked and she said that no ‘political signage is allowed’. I explained that I was on my way to the car but she persisted so I told her that the referendum is a moral issue and not a political one, however she laid down the law so I took my sign and left. When we got home Arvind bolted it onto a power pole in front of the house and then John insisted on wrapping tape around it as well, but of course vandals and NO voters can easily rip it down if they feel inclined.

Stopping at Dural on the way home I thought about the fact that I was always a rusted-on Woolworths shopper, but now I go to all three of the big ones. Aldi is cheaper with good own brand groceries but in a few things I am brand conscious: it has to be Sirena Tuna for example, I’ve been eating it since I was a kid and on the rare occasion when I’ve changed brands it was a let-down. Also the Hart and Soul soups and Tilda rice products are non-negotiable, as is Connoisseur Ice Cream, so Woolies or Coles get my business if those things are part of the shopping list. Somehow though I feel as if I’m cheating when I’m in Coles, old habits die hard. However today I discovered a new Sirena product, tuna in a jar! That suits me perfectly as I can just ‘fish’ out as much as I want and fridge the rest, in fact I might do just that for dinner tonight.

John told me this morning that he couldn’t have his shower because he was ‘waiting for the electric razor to heat up’ but shortly after I discovered the real reason, he’d been reading a book of politically incorrect jokes, some of which he read out to me. He still has his sense of humour anyway, though not so much if it’s a TV program or film where he loses the plot. He always laughs at funnies that I point out on my Facebook feed though. He commented this morning that: ‘I live in a world of constant unknowing’ which is a profound description of his circumstance.

September 11, 2023

Fifty years ago today Allende was overthrown in Chile and it sticks in my mind as I was in Italy where all hell broke loose, big demonstrations, riots, graffiti everywhere ‘Viva Allende’ but of course he didn’t survive the generals’ coup. Although I couldn’t understand the Italian reports the signs were clear, with the CIA and MI6 being seen as the organisers and culprits. Now after 50 years the papers from the time have been decommissioned — and the demonstrators were spot on. Communications from the British Embassy there talk about the need to keep their heads down because of worldwide protests and of the fact that the new government will ensure supplies of copper being guaranteed. They acknowledge the murders and torture (which went on for 17 years with over 40,000 people affected) but say that these shouldn’t be publicly discussed. American governments are often nasty and don’t care too much about being seen to be nasty, but the British like to keep up the veneer of class while getting down and dirty with the worst of them. I am sometimes ashamed of having that heritage but proud that my ancestors were never powerful enough to have blame fall on their shoulders.

Watched another episode of Alone Australia last night and marvelled again that the two ex-Army chaps are so ill equipped to deal with the loneliness and isolation. I would have though that would be part of their training. I was amazed at the one of them who built a kayak with next to nothing, something I thought would fail miserably, but then he couldn’t cope with not catching a fish. I remember my client Jerome telling me that he was ‘tortured’ at Holsworthy with all night loud music, no food, harassment and whatever in order to toughen him up for Iraq, but I guess you know that it’s a war game and not the real thing. However the people in this ‘game’ know that they can get out with a phone call so the same should apply.

Carly has a big week as every couple of months she is rostered to lead the crisis team, reacting to events around the world. She gets up at 4.45am to be ready for the reports which come in at 5, then if necessary sets up a 24 hour team to act on dealing with the situation. Last time there was a big emergency while she was on and this time there’s the earthquake in Morocco, but I guess it’s always something.

September 12, 2023

Just sent off an email to Woolworths (and both of the companies involved) about the two packets of granola I bought there this week. One was Farmer Jo Honey Granola and the other Blue Frog Macadamia, Almond and Manuka Honey Granola, both on special for about the same price. Normally I pick up granola from a little supermarket in Woollahra where they stock my favourite brand but since I’m not over there till next week I thought I’d give the Woolies shelves a try as granola is really the only cereal I like to eat. The Farmer Jo one was only so-so, but the Blue Frog was fabulous, so I looked at the ingredient list and the Farmer Jo has 7% nuts and seeds, while the Blue Frog has 87% nuts and seeds! I wish I had read the packet more carefully but the lesson has been learned, I can actually buy a decent granola locally so that’s a win. Then I found a photo from 2020 of a pile of 10 blocks of chocolate, that came as part of a Woolies online order done for me by John. The order arrived with a note that they were out of the other flavours he’d ordered Smilie: :)

After the last Marsalis concert with the SSO I was puzzled about a huge tuba-like instrument played near the end so I sent off an email to the SSO expecting a one-liner in reply, but got a great explanatory missive telling me about sousaphones, with links to articles about both the instrument and New Orleans Brass Bands. It was from the delightfully named Pim den Dekker and he has added to my understanding enormously. That got me thinking about the endless debate with the Opera House over John’s funeral and the fact that in July they promised to come up with a written agreement which hasn’t yet materialised. So another email went off and was quickly replied to (only part of which follows): “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. We are in a very busy time at the moment preparing for the 50th anniversary events etc next month. Can I come back to after all that is over?” Of course I replied that I’d be delighted to come in to look at the other locations as he suggested and on we go. He always asks after John and I suspect they are enraptured when I report his good health.

My friend who has endured an expensive, soul-destroying, almost five-year legal battle with his siblings over his father’s estate had a little win recently when a professor of geriatrics sent an independent report saying that his father’s medical records, scans etc showed unequivocally that the father had serious dementia when he was carted off to a solicitor to change his will in their favour, in fact his dementia began at the age of 59, decades before the last will and his death. After refusing to speak to my friend for years, but having read the report, his brother sent a jolly little note saying ‘we should be able to sit down and work this out as a family, when would be an appropriate time’. I won’t repeat the language I used after hearing this but I’m sure you get the drift. Remembering Tolstoy’s “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, yet money-grabbing at a death or approaching death seems to be a consistent pattern amongst those who are reluctant to do anything for their relatives when they are alive.

September 13, 2023

Got an unwelcome text from Jacinta Price, as did a number of people I’ve spoken to, and it has a link to apply for a postal vote, but clicking on it takes you to a Liberal Party site, not the AEC. It is probably just as well that my reply ‘failed to send’.

Yesterday I watched another ep of Alone Australia and as well as noting the inability of the ex-military people to manage alone, I also pondered on the fact that of the three women contestants two are gay and one bisexual, perhaps this is a coincidence or perhaps not. I am taken enough with the character of the contestant Gina, who has no problems at all with being alone, to begin reading her mother’s book Searching for Charmian. Suzanne Chick discovered in mid-life that she was the daughter of famed writer Charmian Clift, who had given her up for adoption at the age of 19. I mentioned my interest in Gina to a friend and she produced the book to lend to me, I began it last night and so far I’m very impressed. She can really write and her line drawings decorate many pages, adding an even more personal touch to the story. The physical similarities between Charmian and Gina are obvious, but it’s the mental parallels that interest me more.

A Sydney vascular surgeon is mounting a one man campaign against illegal tobacco sales. He asks his patients to identify, using online maps, where they purchased the illegal cigarettes and records the businesses in a makeshift database. It reminded me of when I decided to map where the drug-dealers’ houses were in Windsor, not that anybody gave two hoots, but my drug-using clients and drop-ins were happy to oblige with the information. I guess they knew that the police wouldn’t be interested and right they were. So if a surgeon can get this intelligence so easily, what are the detectives doing? It is such an easy crime to stop: random searches of shops and storage facilities, seizure of unexplained large amounts of cash, sending in plain clothes detectives to be fake buyers, gosh I could set up the plan in an afternoon. So it begs the question, are the cops on the payroll? I think the evidence has to point in that direction.

The Brits are debating whether to ban the XL Bully dog breed, which came out of America of course, and grows to over 60 kilograms. Four breeds have been banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act: the American pit bull terrier, the Japanese tosa, the Dogo Argentinos and the Fila Brazileiro, all are bred as fighting dogs, so it seems obvious that this one will be added to the list. But it seems crazy to me that they let the first one in, what were they thinking? Doctors inform us that because the dog has such powerful jaws, the wounds are worse compared to other breeds. It’s a crushing or a tearing injury and once they grip they lock their jaws and don’t let go. Perhaps we are all expected to carry a weapon against savage dogs, but it’s something we absolutely shouldn’t need to consider.

September 14, 2023

Making corn fritters for dinner and my hands smell of the delicious smoked garlic that I buy from the Farmer’s Market, however it smells so good that I don’t want to wash it off. I had a lucky combination which did my dinner for two nights this week, a bunch of broccolini in a baking dish, topped with fresh corn kernels, then I sliced a sad half cucumber that needed using and then raw pieces of fish topped with a cheese sauce and baked. Mmm-mm it was good.

I’ve long realised that I am addicted to beauty. I find ugliness personally offensive so I will drive on a route that avoids really ugly buildings and try to find one that takes me past a beautiful one. I think that’s why yesterday when we were at Ebenezer Church, and on past visits, I felt so relaxed. There’s a stone church, the river, a garden, the neat cemetery and lots of space provided by the fields around it. The volunteers even bring a tablecloth to put over the outdoor tables if you order a Devonshire tea, the milk jug has a crocheted and beaded cover, it’s so lovely. When I first bought my Wedgwood dinner set in the 70s my boss at the university said to me that I was a snob to want such a thing, he who wrapped his sandwiches in newsprint, but it’s not about impressing other people it’s about making everything you do as beautiful as it can be in the circumstances.

Talking about things being ugly, I am surprised that there aren’t more letters to the Herald about the unwanted text message about the Voice from Jacinta Price. I sent one in and I know Michelle did too, perhaps tomorrow we’ll see something. I was sent JP’s mobile number and email address so I was able to reply asking who exactly is paying for these millions of texts, hopefully not the taxpayer on her electoral allowance. I was polite but stressed that I don’t want spam from her or from anyone else. Regarding letters I decided I was cowardly in not telling Sharif to his face that I support the 60 day prescriptions and therefore will not be writing a letter on the topic on his behalf. I should have said so straight away but I always think of what to say afterwards. He thanked me for coming back and telling him and the relationship has improved if anything.

John asked me yesterday if Jane and Boris are married, completely forgetting that he was the celebrant. I am keen to take him to the Bowral Tulip Festival but he has two medical appointments next week and with this bloody one night a week rule I can’t see that it’s going to happen.

September 15, 2023

Home absolutely exhausted after driving in with John to Erko for Millie’s after school poetry performance. I was looking forward to going to bed as soon as we got home and then discovered that it’s only 7.15! This night driving is no good for me any more, I just can’t see well enough. He was totally nonplussed about what we were doing today and asked me repeatedly where we were going and why we were there, but that’s the way of it now. He has been obsessing for months about getting the papers delivered on the weekends and Mondays, but we already have them delivered and he looks at them. Today I got an email from Gracewood saying that he’s asked them to get the papers delivered there too and they wanted me to pay up. Luckily they asked before they ordered them so I explained that he often asks me to order them while he’s reading one! Or looking at it anyway as I don’t think he reads the stories.

One good thing is that I’ve found two consecutive days that we can go to Bowral, leaving on the 25th, and I’ve booked a cheapish motel, only one night so it’s not worth spending up. We’ll go on the Sunday and see the tulips on the Monday when it’s a little bit quieter, you have to have a ticket and they are only bookable online. Pity the poor computer illiterate pensioner. To bed, I just can’t keep awake any longer.

September 16, 2023

Just went to answer some emails on the computer and suddenly the type became so small I could barely read it and only the last little bit of the email shows, so you can’t reply as that window is at the top and therefore not visible. I’ve Googled how to fix it and nothing they said worked so I can now only send and receive emails on the phone.

Been baking with Carol today and was on chopping duty which was stickily productive, doing amazingly plump apricots, kiwifruit, pineapple and ginger. John was on washing up and enjoyed himself. Yesterday he got a call about going to Glenbrook for lunch tomorrow and, thinking that he was at Gracewood as it was a Friday, it was said that a call had just been made to me to arrange this. But my phone was sitting right in front of us on the table and there had been no call. He doesn’t want to go, but feels better to ‘get it out of the way’ in his words by going tomorrow rather than worrying about it till it comes up at a future date, which means to keep him happy I have to miss the Yes March. But he is right that planning ahead will stress us both so better to go tomorrow. I don’t know what the answer is, but if it is like last time I will just pull the plug and drive him home (have I mentioned how much I hate long drives? yes I have). In the next few days I will be picking John up three times, twice for medical appointments, and he can’t stay over here after any of them as he’s used his one overnight for the week, bloody ridiculous and a waste of both time and petrol, but what can I do? Nothing.

Typing here is just annoying me because I keep thinking about trying to fix my Hotmail so I’ll get off the computer altogether.

Later: So what’s the ABC’s view of the most important thing that’s happened in the world today? A footballer died at the age of 87, my goodness what a shock! It went on for about 10 minutes, highlights of his career, what Albo said about him, Twitter discussion, video of him playing and an old report of him in hospital after an accident. When I pop off no-one will have anything to say on Twitter, which is just the way I’d like it. It makes you wish another tattooed dude had dodged a bullet today to make news (note that I restrained myself from saying copped a bullet).

It occurred to me very strange that, although I’m assured we have a booking at Bowral, the lady didn’t want a deposit. I offered my name and phone number first and she laughed and said that it’s okay she can see my number so I don’t need to worry. You can’t even get a booking for lunch any more without a credit card guarantee so I think I had better confirm by email at least, perhaps she was the cleaner who happened to be walking past the phone when it rang.

September 17, 2023

I was about to leave home this morning when Annabel texted me to say that we were now having a picnic instead of going to a cafe so I rapidly packed sandwiches, nuts, fruit and some chocolate, as well as a Thermos of tea. Just home from Glenbrook now after a difficult drive up and an easy drive back. First I stupidly missed the M7 onramp, thinking I could go west at my usual entry and then finding I had to ditch the M7 altogether and head to the M4. That was fine till I got to the onramp there which was blocked by heavy machinery widening the road. Turned around and ended up in Blacktown before pulling over and getting the map on my phone to tell me where the hell to go, which it ably did. We cooled down in a cafe with aircon to shelter from the 34 degree spring heatwave and had an excellent cold milkshake each before heading to the station to meet John’s family. The shops in Glenbrook have become very trendy with a patisserie, lots of cafes, gift shops, and some luscious delis and foodie places. I escaped having spent nix apart from the milkshakes, but that was due more to the heat putting me off browsing rather than anything else. Chatted to a couple of women in Yes T-shirts who said they had been yelled at from passing cars in Silverdale where they live and we discussed the fact that it’s become ridiculously political. We all picnicked in Glenbrook Park, getting the last available table, and the day was relaxed and friendly and decidedly ‘normal’. The kids were very happy with the books and jewellery that I took up for them and related to me so differently to last time. All in all it was a huge success and I am not quite sure why that was, but a different vibe altogether, and I am pleased beyond measure.

Last night I was thinking that I’ve got Glenbrook, Chatswood, Darlinghurst and Bowral to drive to this week, the first three for John and the last one for us both but my feeling was noooo, I can’t do it! However after today went so well it feels as if it’s on the downhill run now and I’m quite up for it all. Amazing how the night makes everything so hard and the morning makes it all doable. I decided to send an email to our Bowral motel asking about check-in and out times, just so I have some record of the booking. A quick reply came back so now at least I have something to prove that I actually booked. Very unusual, but I’m happy not to have to give out credit card details if I don’t have to.

Really wanted to see the movie Past Lives which hasn’t been on for that long, however the last session at the dreaded Towers was 10 am today. Grrr….now it’s a long drive or bus trip to anywhere that it’s showing and I have something on every day this week, so I bet I’ve missed the boat.

September 18, 2023

All happening today, by 8 am I had a load of washing done and hung out, a mass of washing up done as well as the watering. I think my energy came about from the release of the weight of John’s family off my shoulders. I was up getting the shopping soon after that and feeling fine about driving John tomorrow and Wednesday. Now I’ve made a couple of cards and sent off an email thanking Di again for the art paper and bits and bobs she gave me earlier this year, I’ve still got lots left to use.

I got not only a text, but a letter from Alex Hawke telling me that the sky will fall in if I vote Yes. Well I wrote a reply across it telling him that he has no right to tell me how to vote on a moral issue and pointing out the flaws in his arguments, I am posting it back Reply Paid. He’s a sod who never learns to bar me from his sendouts, so it serves him right.

Sent a message to Ram in Kerala earlier today as I was reading about the Nipah virus outbreak in India, a virus which has an estimated death rate of 40 to 75% depending on the particular outbreak. I naturally assumed it would be somewhere far from him, India being such a huge place, but he says the centre of the outbreak is only 30 kilometres from his home! Seeing it’s spread by bats 30 k is nothing. In his area 2 people have died and 4 are in hospital. Apparently they are controlling it with contact tracing as there is no vaccine or other treatment. I suppose without the magic of telecommunications I wouldn’t even know he was in danger from it. But it has led to an ongoing real time communication on WhatsApp for the last hour, sending photos to each other waving (pathetic I know) and his front garden and street and then mine. They are not that different except his is a dirt road, the house has lovely windows, leadlight maybe? It pains me to think that I will never get one of his bear hugs again, unless I shout him a trip to Australia, a warm idea that crosses my mind occasionally.

September 19, 2023

I took a bunch of Easter eggs to Gracewood this morning to give out to my favourite nurses, telling them that they are two weeks past use by date, but perfectly fine. I bought them from the Chocolate Warehouse to use broken up on Boris’s cake and that worked a treat. Had a whinge to a nurse about not being able to bring John home between medical visits and didn’t see that the decision-maker on such things was sitting in her nearby office, she called out ‘you can go on the train from Bella Vista, it goes to Chatswood’ which is hardly the point. Today was dental technician day at Chatswood, I hoped it was the last time I needed to take him but David said to bring him back on Thursday to make sure the new teeth are okay. I made the appointment, but I have a meeting with some of the women from the Carer’s Retreat I went to last November and I really want to go to that. As long as the teeth are okay by tomorrow afternoon I think I will cancel and book at a more convenient time. Then we came home and I made for lunch corn fritters with added chopped asparagus and broccolini and I think it’s a definite improvement. Served them with canned Portuguese sardines on top which made them like a delicious fish cake. I was inspired by the Sardine Soldiers Sue and I had at Manon Brasserie recently, yum I must email them for the recipe.

My friend Tim rang yesterday and said something that I hadn’t heard put quite this way. He has, for his court case, a report about his father from a Professor of Geriatrics and it points out that people with dementia ‘listen to the opinion of the last person they spoke to, because they have forgotten that they have held another opinion on the matter previously’. Of course, that’s why it was so easy for his siblings to tell their father that ‘Tim doesn’t want to look after you any more’, even though that was never true, he was simply asking for a week off to go away with his wife. But the old man was scooped off to the solicitor (in the Porsche, I love that bit) before Tim could put his case to a man already paranoid as a result of his disease.

I wonder if the ABC realises that for ad phobic people like me, every time they show a trailer it is less likely that I will watch that show? I always turn the mute on for ads, but if I see one more for The Newsreader I will scream, well I do scream now, but nobody’s listening. I’m sure if the cops ever bug my place they will wonder who I am yelling at when the TV is on: Dutton, Price, Joyce (Barnaby version), in fact anyone on the other side of politics will get a serve of their arguments are ludicrous enough. But it keeps me more polite in person which is probably a good thing.

NSW Police have killed a woman who had earlier threatened them with an axe, despite the fact that for the previous hour and a half she was lying on her bed watching a children’s TV show and livestreaming herself. The family had informed police that she was upset as she was to be evicted that day. She was Tasered and also shot with bean bag-style rounds, which pierced her chest and damaged her heart. Who could forget the 1968 8 day siege in Macquarie Fields when Wally Mellish forced Police Commissioner Norman Allan to arrange for his wedding to his girlfriend Beryl and to be best man. Allan provided the ring and the police canteen supplied the wedding breakfast. I always loved that story, even though poor old Wally went to the psych centre at the end and the marriage was annulled. In my weighing up, a life is absolutely worth police wages for 8 days, but these days Wally wouldn’t have great survival odds. Why have we so diminished our respect for the mentally ill, bloody annoying as they can be at times? It sickens me.

September 21, 2023

Nothing is as simple as it first appears. Yesterday the lady who works on the front desk at Gracewood called me out for doing the sign-in and sign-out for John on the computer. ‘He is quite capable of doing it and if you do it for him he will lose that skill’. Fair comment, even though it takes him an age because he needs to read every question in full before ticking the yes or no box, whereas I know all the answers off by heart. Even so he gets lost with the process a couple of times with my supervision or types answers in the wrong fields, slowing it down even more as he doesn’t recognise that he’s made a mistake. But I did wonder why, after months of watching me do it for him, she chose yesterday to mention it…..but then I remembered that she had seen me slip an outdated chocolate Easter egg to someone when I didn’t realise that she was behind the counter. Okay, now I know where we are at, I have run out of eggs but another treat on another day should solve that little problem.

Today was infusion day and I hoped that I could fit in Past Lives at the Valhalla Cinema but no, the first session was too late for me to go, rats. So Woollahra it was, though the heat meant it was less than pleasant on the street. It occurred to me that apart from Charcoal Charlies a person of limited means could starve there for want of cash. But the little supermarket, though expensive, gets brownie points for its understated advertising, a sign no more than a foot square reading Maloneys Grocery. I got the monthly supplies of my favourite Dutch fruit loaf, some good Irrawarra granola and some Pilpel houmous none of which can be purchased in the boonies of the West. (I wish there were a consistent spelling of the word houmous, I cycle through the many options randomly, but I guess when you are translating from Arabic or Hebrew it’s tricky). One positive today though was that when I paused briefly in the street planning my next move, a young woman came up and asked if I were alright, something that’s never happened out here. John assured me when I rang that he was almost finished but when I called to say I’d arrived outside he said ‘oh there’s another bottle yet so I’ll be another 40 minute’ and the heat was punishing.

This morning John’s friend/fellow captive Janene was waiting for me as usual and said that John had told her that I had a Yes sign outside. She wanted to let me know that her daughter’s friend who works at ‘an Aboriginal settlement up north’ had rung her to say that ‘the two men behind the Voice are bad and will rip them off if it gets up’. Who are these two men? I asked, but she didn’t know, only that they are bad so she and her family will vote No (sound of head banging on doorjamb).

September 21, 2023

It pays to delve a bit below the surface on news stories if you can, but mostly we simply don’t have the time. There was a story about racial tension in London where an Asian (in British lingo read Pakistani or Bangladeshi) shopkeeper or employee of a small cosmetics shop was photographed with his arm around the neck of a black woman in the shop. The article was totally in the woman’s favour, but I decided to see what else I could find out about the story and turned up the video from which the still was lifted. The woman was caught taking goods and was approached by the man to return them when she started hitting him with her hands and the shopping basket until it broke. He was fighting her off when he very briefly put his arm around her neck before the fight continued, while he called for someone to get the police. Now the shop is closed and boarded up, with demonstrations outside by the black community. I can’t see any future for that business I’m sad to say.

It occurs to me that the religious dogma experts (I’m looking at you Sydney Anglicans) seem to cherry pick the bible according to their own personal belief structure. While Kanishka Raffel, Glenn Davies et al are so het up about what the Old Testament says about homosexuality they carefully ignore the permission given in the Bible to own slaves, to indulge in incest (in the story of Lot he goes on to have sex with both of his daughters after his wife is turned into a pillar of salt), murder by stoning or in war, and there are multiple cases of bigamy condoned including King Solomon’s 700 wives. That’s funny when you consider how evangelicals insist that the Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman, but one man and 700 women passes muster. Funny that is if you are not one of the many gay folk whose lives are constantly strafed by these people who are so blinkered in their reading of their rules. If you are of a mind you can find justification in the Bible for almost anything. In fact we did just that in an essay for the subject English for Scientists all those years ago. We had to argue for and against a number of propositions using only the Bible as references. I remember getting 100% for it, but it was money for jam because the bible was so littered with incongruities. How I’d love to debate this with them but of course that’s never going to happen, you can’t expose these people to difficult facts, or any sort of argument actually.

Today there was a meeting of the folks who went on the carer’s retreat last year along with one of the organisers who went with us. The meeting shrank when one person pulled out this morning, then another contacted the group saying perhaps there weren’t enough people going and maybe we should cancel, subsequently cancelling herself when the rest decided to go ahead. So it was just me, Russell and the group leader Michelle who met at Rydges Norwest, a place I had never entered before. It has a large carpark, tick; a large comfortable outdoor area, tick; friendly staff, tick; but the only food is at the bar, not at any sort of coffee shop so the only drinks except alcohol were tea or coffee, with nothing to go with it. I found this very odd, surely the kitchen could make some slices, or biscuits or something? Perusing the evening menu I decided that the chef (cook?) isn’t very inventive because even at high prices the best they can come up with is affogato and cheesecake, pur-lease, any home cook could do better than that. So I am not the least bit tempted to eat there for some future occasion. Today was a cheap day out as my compatriots just had a tea and a coffee and I had a gulp from my water bottle, but the goat cheese on toast was delicious when I got home. I am doing an Ottolenghi recipe for dinner Baked Stuffed Zucchini filled with rice, pine nuts and currants, but I hope they freeze okay as I’ve done six big ones.

September 22, 2023

Well the Stuffed Zucchini was okay, but nothing out of the box so I won’t do it again. I cooked them in a baking dish but didn’t put paper under them, and although they didn’t stick the juices stuck on the bottom. I soaked the dish overnight, boiled it up this morning, used a coarse scourer but still it didn’t want to give up its baked on juices, so I tossed the bloody thing into the recycling. I had already got rid of all of my non-stick frying pans and this was an old baking dish of the same type so I think the universe was telling me that I’d eaten enough polytetrafluoroethylene for one lifetime, so bon voyage good and faithful servant.

John had a dizzy spell this morning and rang to tell me, so I texted Cecilia to ask if it were low blood pressure, which he is prone to, but it wasn’t. This afternoon he called to say he couldn’t understand the movie so he’s gone back to his room but ‘people there were asking if I am alright, was I sick?’ the dizzy spell was remembered by his compatriots but not by him. When he went to the hospital I set him up with some of his coloured-in cards, envelopes and stamps so he could write some letters while he was on the drip. He was perfectly happy with the idea but when I said on the way home that I could post any he’d done he answered ‘I’m not writing to anyone. People know where I am and if they want to hear from me they can pick up the phone’. Okay!

I am spitting chips about the pressure being put on the Tasmanian Government to build a stadium right behind the stunning Georgian waterfront buildings in Hobart. It’s a monstrosity, will cost over $700 million and as well as paying for it the government will be responsible for maintenance on the bloody thing in perpetuity. Every time I go to Hobart I grind my teeth seeing the 12 storey Hotel Grand Chancellor which blocks part of the view of Mount Wellington from the Harbour. It is widely accepted that building it was a mistake and this atrocity is taller! I shall write to the city council, but plenty of others have already done the same to no avail. While on the subject of Tassie I’ve emailed the National Parks people there asking why on the programme Alone Australia the river is full of dead trees? Has it been dammed? Is it some natural phenomenon? I have never seen a river so full of dead trees and I think about it during the night, foolishly. I hope an answer is forthcoming.

William Tyrrell’s inquest resumed briefly today but was adjourned till March 4 next year after the police said they will know by January if the foster mother will be charged with disposing of his body. I somehow doubt it unless they have information that we don’t know about and is so far being withheld. I just can’t see how people who were unknowingly being taped for a year could have avoided even the most tangential reference to having hidden a death and disposed of a body. I know they are controlled people but I just find that idea a bit too hard to swallow. Time will tell.

September 23, 2023

Only going to Bowral for one night tomorrow but as always it seems like a big prep. Talk to the neighbour about picking up the papers, water everything thoroughly, pack clothes for the forecast weather and then add more in case they’re wrong, book entry online to the Tulip Festival, book our favourite Italian restaurant for dinner, oops they don’t open Sunday, search Tripadvisor for a replacement and book that, ring John and tell him what to pack. This on top of being awake till 4 am and getting up at 7. Sleep is so difficult to predict, some nights I’m off two minutes after going to bed and the next night I’m still awake at 2, or like last night 4. No rhyme or reason to it, except that the lack of sleep is predictable if I watch Q and A or some other political show, then I spend the night composing letters, and sometimes get up and write them.

I watched The Whiteley Art Scandal on iview and was absolutely rivetted to it. Art dealer Peter Gant, no stranger to scandal, and conservator Aman Siddique, stood accused of art fraud after part finished ‘Whiteleys’ were photographed in Siddique’s studio. It seemed an open and shut case, but although the jury unanimously found the pair guilty, the judge disagreed and involved himself in the appeal on the side of the accused, something I’ve never heard of before. The arts journalist Gabriella Coslovich wrote a book about the affair after sitting through every day of the trial. Unfortunately she bears a scary resemblance to the horrid Rebecca Weisser, she of the far, far Right who sadly lives in Sue’s Kirribilli building and is widely disliked there. I winced at times as even her manner of speaking had similarities to Rebecca. The show has prompted me to go again to the Whiteley Museum, perhaps I’ll take John. Wendy Whiteley, who to me is both the epitome of style and the antithesis of a nice person, featured strongly in the court case and I’m sure that the jury would have been influenced by her knowledge of his work. The whole Whiteley story is a modern day tragedy and it never seems to stop. The man who paid $2.5 million for one of the fakes didn’t get a cent back, ouch.

So Tony Rabbit is going on the board of Fox News, a marriage made in heaven, or the other place perhaps. Hopefully Peta Credlin will go with him as his able assistant, the less she is in Australia the better, but I guess that’s too much to wish for. One should breathe a sigh of relief that Old Murdoch is stepping back, except that Murdoch the Younger in the guise of Lachlan is worse. I read that he has built or bought a house in remote Canada equipped with a safe room, storage for a year’s supplies, a helipad etc. So he can promote hostility between countries and if it sets off WWIII he can retire to his bunker to watch it unfold. Perfect.

September 24, 2023

It was 4 degrees in Bowral when I got up at 6.30, against 14 degrees here, so I threw another jumper in. The thick jumpers haven’t had much of a workout this winter, between the weather being mild and not going away to colder climes. All packed and ready to go at 8 am but John will be at table, so no good going yet. He has forgotten why we are going but hopefully will appreciate it once we get there. Sue contacted me last night, 3 of her 4 girls and some of their kids are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and one of the children developed what sounds like altitude sickness. His mum had to bring him back down with a guide, a tricky business as the path was dangerous and he kept shutting his eyes and wanting to sleep. They got down safely but it shows the dangers, one of the things about that illness is the inability to work out who might succumb to it and who won’t. I’m glad I don’t have that pushing the envelope gene, though I would certainly appreciate the view from the top. Last night I dreamt that all of the party came here for a meal on their way home but everything that we pulled out of the fridge was beyond use-by date, a chicken, sausages, whatever, things I would never have anyway. Such rubbish the mind scrambles and tips out.

The motel I had booked in Bowral was bobby basic but very good in that it was warm, had good beds, a huge balcony overlooking the Gib and also a fully equipped kitchen. Not a luxury escape but I would stay there again as a good budget option, Emily who seems to run the place was extremely helpful. It’s a very quiet spot about 3 kms from the township, which was a good thing as the place was absolutely overrun with Tulipers. Lunched at our fave place down there, Your Vintage Occasion, with their mismatched old crockery and silver teapots. We shared a toastie and then shared scones with jam and rose cream, but it was an elegant sufficiency. Later we went walking from the motel and I scored some pine cones and a bunch of beautiful leaves which I will enjoy using for cards. Dinner was at Bistro Sociale which I would return to in a heartbeat. Unfortunately a table of eight came along just next to us and a woman coughed and sneezed for 20 minutes straight. I ended up asking to be moved to a different table but the place was full, however they kindly set us up for dessert at a large coffee table and two armchairs in front of the fireplace. The staff came by a couple of times and said they they couldn’t believe that she was still coughing nonstop, saying how inconsiderate it was and that we were right to move. I would like to try the Berida Manor Hotel of which this bistro is part, the decor was delicious and the staff really good so it’s one to keep in mind.

September 25, 2023

We were able to do breakfast in the very well equipped kitchen, a real bonus, then we went off to the Tulip Festival in Corbett Gardens. The garden isn’t big but they couldn’t have fitted another tulip in there. A few were at the end of their lives but those in the shade, and perhaps some planted a little later but in the sun, were spectacular. John was confused the whole time we were away, asking about where we actually were and why we were there, but once we got amongst the flowers he was fine. I got Millie a lovely sleeveless parka affair with a fake fur collar for $7 and from Dirty Janes a packet of ‘fairy garden gems’, ‘so that the fairies can find your garden and the glitter in the gems will sparkle in the moonlight so your fairies will sit on the petals of your flowers and have a magical tea party’. The only downside is that the person can’t spell, calling them fairy’s, but I bought them anyway and hopefully Millie will be chuffed to be able to see the mistake. Later we walked to Bowral Art Gallery and lo and behold they had a watercolour exhibition, featuring a couple of pictures by a man whose work we loved at the Botanic Gardens exhibition a couple of weeks ago. Lunch was of course at Your Vintage Occasion, this time a shared salad that we could hardly eat, thoughtfully brought on two plates knowing that we usually share. Enough sweets after yesterday, just cold drinks each before setting off for home. I thought it would be a good time, but there were as many trucks as cars on the road.

I see the Herald has finally woken up to Pezzulllo, or The Pez as he’s not so affectionately named in Canberra, a bit late to the party but better late than never. How he has got away with his political interference until now stuns me, but of course Abbott, Morrison and Dutton are all on his hard Right side of the fence. It’s over 20 years since Jerome told me about serving with him in the army and how ultraconservative he was then, both politically and socially. He’s a menace about long hair on men, tattoos on anyone, earrings, proper dress codes, just a typical corseted 1950s conservative, with politics to match. Horrible creature who will hopefully slide down the ladder of importance after these revelations. I’m amazed Albo kept him on, seeing everyone and his pooch knows what he’s like.

September 26, 2023

Back to the Pez, he comes across to me like a modern day version of J. Edgar Hoover, constantly beating his head against the wall of loose morals, communists and socialists, people who just won’t toe his line. JEH did all of that, including encouraging McCarthy in his witch hunt against Americans in the entertainment, military and government fields. Of course Hoover was a closet gay while encouraging and facilitating exposure of others in the same situation. Well he was not actually far into that closet, but appearing to be ‘a bachelor’ as far as the public were concerned. He was with his partner for decades, eating together every day, spending holidays together, playing golf together, but living a short walk apart. His partner Tolson resigned from his position at the FBI on the day of Hoover’s funeral. So I’m not sure what drives the Pez but I’d have a bet that it’s either religion or some personal driver from his upbringing or past. Someone who knows him well commented to me this morning: ‘that karma bus gonna get ya’. Roll on driver.

Michelle rang to invite me to an Australian Ballet Philanthropy morning tea this morning in the QVB, but as Sue is arriving some time today I decided it was too difficult as it meant tying Sue to arriving later in the day when she probably has the day planned out to a T, if I know Sue. Doubtless I would have loved it but you can’t be everywhere, or read everything. I get sent so much political stuff that I just can’t keep on top of it all. I questioned Michelle about what is to stop a person from promising $10 grand to the Ballet in their will, scoffing scones periodically until they die and then leaving everything to the RSPCA? No answer was known to Michelle so it might be worth a try. Multiplying that idea with lots of cultural organisations such as the Opera House, Opera Australia, the Art Gallery and more could keep one in scones and glasses of bubbly for a long time. I doubt that they ask for a photocopy of the will and if they did, it could be arranged with some artfully applied whiteout. Food for thought.

In Bowral I bought a $7 item from an op shop but they didn’t have change for my $50, so I asked John for the $20 I always give him so he has some money, though he rarely needs to use it. She gave him the $13 change which he promptly dropped into the collection box on the counter, so my bargain wasn’t such a hot deal as I thought, seeing I give him his pocket money. I was surprised that he’d donate to St. V. de P. so I asked him if he’d got over his disdain of the Catholic church in all its forms. On no, he said, I put the money in there because I didn’t know what to do with it. He had no idea who ran the shop, which is funny if you don’t think about it too much.

How can I tactfully explain to the under 40s that ‘important’ doesn’t have a d in the middle?

September 27, 2023

Today Sue and I walked 5.7 kms around the harbour edge according to my phone. Then to the theatre to see The Importance of Being Earnest, a fantastic rendition of the play that leans towards, but doesn’t quite reach, slapstick. So it becomes a play of tremendous wit, combined with sight gags that for me added to the production, not to mention the over-the-top costumes and wonderful sets. I certainly had a good laugh, as did everyone I think. Leaving the theatre we bumped into old friends Bob and Larry who thought likewise about the production. Came home to a dinner of leftover Hungarian Mushroom Soup from the freezer and now I’m too tired to think, except to say that I felt sad that Dan Andrews is no longer the premier south of the border, I always had a soft spot for Dan.

September 28, 2023

I think that my sadness about Dan-less Victoria is largely to do with the fact that he governed on principle, not on whether or not his decisions would be popular. Agree or disagree with his decisions, he crashed through with what he believed was right and took the political consequences rather than governing by focus group. Compare that to Mike Baird’s shocking backdown on the greyhound racing issue. I heard a commentator on the ABC say that he had been out to a restaurant for dinner and there was a palpable sense of grief for his loss, overhearing another diner saying that ‘Dan was the greatest politician, state or federal, of my lifetime. A big call. On the other hand we have the Pez, a story to which I’ve been rivetted this week. Any hope of continuing in the public service is out the window, as is the idea of a sinecure after this appointment ends. He is in limbo, like Morrison, sucking on the public teat for no good purpose until someone is willing to hire him. But the most fascinating aspect of this is who leaked the communications. Nine is saying ‘someone who is entitled to access the messages’, but that is weird because who else apart from sender and receiver is entitled to the contents of an end-to-end encrypted app? I can’t say his perfidy came as a surprise at all, considering what I’ve been told in the past from diverse sources, but how he was sprung is a fascination. Hopefully all will be revealed.

On the way to Sue’s we pulled up and bought seafood at Witchard’s in a back street of Woy Woy, Sue getting prawns for book group while I bought mullet, often absent from my usual suppliers, some scallops with roe on and some orange roughy. A fisherman on the north coast at Macksville, when I queried the absence of mullet, told me that the fishermen keep it because ‘it’s the best fish’. He kindly sold me some from his personal freezer. Most of the scallops on sale these days are the wretched Queensland variety which have an inedible roe, which is why I never order them in a restaurant any more because the waiters seem clueless about the difference. Once at a Boxing Day function at John’s niece’s house I watched in horror as she snipped off the roe from a pile of scallops and binned the best bit, I so wanted to raid that bin. Witchard’s, a third generation business, stock fresh local seafood including fish, prawns, crabs, squid, lobster and freshly shucked oysters from their own local oyster farm. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, they spend Monday and Tuesday working on their oyster leases apparently. I froze the fish in salt water to bring home in an Esky.

Late in the day Sue rang a friend whom I’ve met previously and he and I had a chat as well. But soon after perplexing texts arrived which made it clear that he had misinterpreted our interaction, I believe due to incipient dementia. Whether I’m correct about that or not will play out over time, but there was some bewilderment in Killcare Heights as we tried to most tactfully remedy the situation, which I won’t go into detail about here. I think we succeeded but it remains to be seen.

September 30, 2023

Sweeping outside, putting up umbrellas, cooking, organising seating, crockery, cutlery, glasses, phew this entertaining business is full on. A funny occurrence was when the cannelloni was being made and after filling only two or three the piping bag burst, spilling out the spinach and ricotta filling dramatically. From then on, seeing we needed 24, I held each one while Sue pushed the filling in with various instruments, as a spoon was too big. However all’s well that ends well in the cannelloni department. There was a mountain of food and then a mountain of sweets, including a huge carrot cake from Rosanna and Sue’s own preserved peaches and cream as well as a pie from her home grown rhubarb. We all came home with silver beet and/or rhubarb from the farm. I was lucky to get a lift from Kevin and Michelle, which made life so easy as I had a suitcase and an Esky to carry as well as spinach, a fairly tricky load to manage on the train.

I decided to book for the Soweto Gospel Choir performance on Tuesday night and sent out an email yesterday to others who may have missed the fact that it’s on in Parramatta, the week before the Opera House concerts. Martha replied that she, Lucien and Claude already had tickets. It was odd that there are no concession tickets but looking at the Opera House tickets the same applies so it must be the choir’s decision as it’s the first concert I’ve seen at either venue with no pensioner concession.

September 30, 2023

Two lovely birthday cards arrived and I decided not to open them until John was home today. A little later he asked what we had bought for Millie’s birthday party here tomorrow, hers was in March. He’s very confused today, even to the point that he hadn’t packed his bag when I got there this morning despite it being in the diary as usual that he was home for the weekend. He asks for a little job to do and then can’t remember what the purpose of the job is or how to do it. Garden watering and washing up are his safe zones.

One card was from Anne in the UK, with much wanted news about Kenneth. I haven’t heard from his daughter since February and Anne says that if she bumps into her at the care home she suggests perhaps sending me an email update and ‘Tanya reacts as though to a wildly original suggestion, and says she certainly will’. The home has been in Covid lockdown for about 3 weeks but Anne reports that when she last saw him he was in ‘an alarming state, very nervous and paranoid’. He thinks hundreds of people are coming to the guesthouse he used to run decades ago and there is no food in the fridge. He believes that they are constantly knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell, which is actually the phone in the nurse’s office across the corridor. So he’s gone downhill much faster than John has and perhaps doesn’t remember me at all. I don’t know, but it makes our often strange lives here look pretty normal by comparison.

Anthony from Yes 23 rang again to firm up the roster for pre-poll for the referendum. He was on a stall in Winston Hills this morning where he was abused by two different men. He said he’s sick of it now and ‘let them have it’ so clearly they are not the first. Having correctly predicted Trump’s presidential win (despite an American friend saying I couldn’t possibly have done so because no-one predicted it!). I hope I am wrong this time, but I think we will win on numbers and lose on states. Having the ACT and NT out of the state count is a real blow, as along with Victoria they are a moral to have a majority of Yes voters. I feel as if I am flogging a dead horse at this stage but I still have to make the effort just in case I’m wrong (I was wrong about something once or twice before, so I have form).

October 1, 2023

Wow October, Christmas decos in the shops this week I’m reckoning. Family all here for a birthday celebration which went beautifully. Davina ordered a fabulous cake from a French baker/patissier who works in his apartment and home delivers. It is almond sponge with cream and strawberries and pink marzipan on top instead of icing, it was (is) fantastic. Carly brought a bottle of Robert Moncuit Champagne which was a lovely drop. Conversation rolled over Dav and Louis’s new car, a Toyota Corolla Hybrid which should arrive by Christmas (remember when you just bought a car and drove it away?) then at length about the Pez of course and who could be responsible for the leak. We all agreed that Briggs seems to be the most likely candidate, though it was hard to find a reason seeing he incriminates himself in the process, but we shall see. Both of the girls disagreed with my assessment that Annabel Crabb is too smarmy, the reason I find it hard to watch her show Kitchen Cabinet. They think she is very clever, lulling the guests into a false sense of security and giving them the rope to hang themselves. Perhaps I will watch an episode with that thought in mind and see what I think.

I am always collecting recipes from the weekend papers, as well as looking at restaurant reviews. But a couple this week were really gross looking to my taste, a Chinese place in Haymarket where I couldn’t find a single thing discussed that I would order and another where the Japanese chef is famous for his soup, which has just two ingredients, pork bones and water boiled endlessly. Hopefully no-one surprises me with a trip to either.

October 2, 2023

Seventy six trombones led the big parade! Hard to believe I have lived that many years, but there you are. Quite a difference here to being born in one of the coldest and snowiest autumns on record in Yorkshire, with snow half way up the buildings, covering the windows of the houses in a photo my mother showed me. Animal herds froze or starved to death and transport was in disarray for months. In the Netherlands they experienced the worst winter since 1790 and much of Europe was similarly affected. Last night I got a wonderful present when Tanya rang and handed the phone to Kenneth in his nursing home. He didn’t have a lot to say but just speaking to him was enough. He turns 90 in December. I first thought that Tanya had initiated the idea as I was sure the K. wouldn’t have remembered the date, but at the end of the call she said: ‘Anne was here visiting on Friday and asked me to be sure to wish you a Happy Birthday when I rang you this weekend’. Aah Anne, what would I do without you?

Well I had a wonderful birthday centred on a long lunch with Carol at Wild Pear. We got the last three stuffed zucchini flowers (bless), then shared barramundi with fennel, risotto and a delicious miso sauce, followed by the usual, strawberry and rose Turkish delight pavlova, all washed down with sparkling chardonnay. Is there a better lunch spot around? No there is not. Before the lunch I had over a dozen birthday wishes by phone, text, email and WhatsApp, many from people that I haven’t heard from for years. How they remembered my birthday I have no idea. The only downer on the day was that when I got home my Yes sign had been torn down, despite the four bolts into hardwood. Discussing at book group the same thing having happened to Carol’s sign last week, a couple of eternal optimists expressed the view that it was just supporters wanting to display their own sign, something I thought was tosh. Mine would have had to be torn to pieces to remove it, so well was it attached. I think I am wasting my time working at pre-poll but I don’t want to pull out on that account, someone has to wave the flag.

October 3, 2023

I was very interested in going to a behind the scenes tour of the State Theatre this morning, but decided that this on top of a very busy week, then a concert tonight and pre-poll for the remainder of the week was just too much. So I busied myself contacting Yes23 to get a new sign (on past experience it should arrive a week after the poll). I am toying with asking my neighbour to put it out of human reach on the same post as the previous one but that involves his getting out a tall ladder and I don’t want to stretch the friendship, but let’s cross that bridge when the sign arrives. I am buoyed by the adage ‘Silence rides shotgun wherever hate goes’ so I must have some sort of sign up, even if I have to make one myself.

Next job was to renew the pensioner’s free National Parks and Wildlife Service year-long membership. Mine was super simple, but I couldn’t get onto John by phone to get his pension card number, after his telling me this morning that the phone wouldn’t charge. So I texted the reliable Cecilia who was going to get the nurse Francis to investigate and now after numerous attempts I’ve been able to get onto John and get the number, another box ticked.

I’ve been thinking about the tragedy that is Libya and it seems that some populations need to have a strong leader to keep the ship afloat. Think back to Tito who managed to hold Yugoslavia together from 1945 till his death in 1980.  It was a federal system of republics that managed some local self-government but under the centralizing influence of the communist party. Tito managed to gain some respect for his position of aligning himself with neither of the major powers of the Cold War. This allowed the socialist country to maintain internal cohesion while suppressing nationalistic movements within its borders. Of course we know that once his power ended Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo in particular were at each other’s throats, with estimates of over 300,000 people killed. Prior to its collapse, Yugoslavia was a regional industrial power and an economic success. So to Libya. Ruling from 1969 when the king fled the country, Gaddafi abolished the monarchy and the old constitution and established the Libyan Arab Republic, with the motto “freedom, socialism and unity”. Various sweetheart deals offered by the west were rejected until the clever Tony Blair, acting on behalf of his buddies in the USA, offered a ‘peace deal’ involving Gaddafi giving up plans for nuclear weapons in exchange for future cooperation. Libya had been attacked militarily by the US under Reagan. A sweetener thrown in by Blair was the promise of British university places for Gaddafi’s sons. I remember reading this and calling out loud ‘don’t do it’ as it seemed such a crystal clear con. Sadly Gaddafi trusted the promises and now he has been murdered, along with three of his sons, the country is a basket case and no real government exists. The Mediterranean now holds the bodies of many refugees from this blighted land, where once free medical treatment, free education, low income housing, disability and old-age pensions were the norm. Don’t try to tell me that it’s a coincidence that these benefits also applied in Yugoslavia and Iraq. Sometimes a strongman is the only glue holding a country together.

October 4, 2023

A knock at the door yesterday afternoon brought a beautiful big bunch of roses, Geraldton wax, dahlias, snapdragons and sunflowers, from Sue who had very naughtily had them delivered. I must admit that I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her name on the card and not that of a recent admirer! The other thing that raised a smile was Yes 23 ringing to tell me that they would come last night and install another sign to replace the stolen one which they did while I was out, so my fears about how long that would take were unfounded.

Well last night’s concert at Riverside came with no shortage of enthusiasm, I am still in awe of one of the Soweto Gospel Choir, who must have have been a size 30 if a size 24 is super big, yet was one of the most active and dynamic of the women on stage. It just shows that big doesn’t necessarily mean unfit. The first half was in African languages and the second half was to be African American Civil Rights protest songs in English, though I must admit I couldn’t understand most of them (accents? unknown songs?). This was proven to be at least in part an accent issue when an unknown song turned out at the end to have been We Shall Overcome. It was very jazzy and it’s easy to see the origins of jazz, and rap dancing, when listening to the African music. There were plenty of African people in the audience and they were a noisy and enthusiastic audience, which all added to the atmosphere. I arranged to meet Martha, Claude and Lucien there but couldn’t find them either pre-show or at interval, so I assumed they hadn’t made it for some reason. However as we were coming out I bumped into them and Martha had forgotten that I was coming so they had stayed in their seats at interval. One fun thing was that I wore my Yes badges and was asked by a couple of different people where I had acquired them, so I was able to simply take one off and give it to them.

Today was spent at pre-polling at Norwest and thankfully the No people were pleasant, in fact one woman came over and kissed me as she was leaving, though she didn’t kiss the other worker. Perhaps because I’d introduced myself to them initially. I only had one cranky man who was more than compensated for by the Canadian chap who stayed for a chat of about 20 minutes on the way out. He told me that some of his rellies who look Anglo are actually indigenous Canadians, he was a lovely man. Local MP Mark Hodges came and spoke to the No campaigners, pointedly turning his back towards us. Interestingly Carol received a printed newsletter from him recently and I didn’t so I checked the boundaries and yes, I am still in his electorate after the boundary change. Perhaps I’ve been blacklisted by the former member David Elliott with whom I have had some spats? Should I let them know and waste more paper? I shall think on that one.

October 5, 2023

Back to the pre-poll this morning and I am changing my forecast of the result. I had said we would win comfortably on votes and lose on states, now I’m not even sure we are going to win on votes. The older people were often refusing the Yes flyer, it was almost uniformly taken by the young and by the various ethnic groups like the Chinese and Indians, but the oldies were a real worry. Damned conservative old fogeys. One man, in his 40s and driving a Lexus, walked past and screamed at us that we were ‘fucking racists’. I can only assume that he thought we were all No people and hadn’t worked out that there were two of each side standing there. Then he drove past and gave us all a serve again, I just smiled and waved as he gave me the finger and swore at me, what else can you do? As the signs are near each other it is very confusing initially for people to know which side we are on, as well as it being hugely confusing about where to go to actually vote. The No people were perfectly pleasant, although I didn’t get a kiss today, however they all knew each other and I’m assuming they are members of the local Liberal branch, one proudly telling me that he was ‘to the right of Genghis Khan’. The Yes workers are a more motley crew of Labor, Greens and unaligned people, who were handing out water and muesli bars to others. I think we are wasting our time there as people have already decided, but I will keep doing it anyway.

John wasn’t happy today and I agree with his complaint. It was bus trip day and they were told that they were going for a drive but couldn’t get out at the other end. It was to the park at the north end of the Harbour Bridge and unfortunately for him when they opened the door it completely blocked his window, so he tried to go to the bottom of the bus steps just to look out to see the view of the Opera House. However he was told to stay in his seat and as he said ‘the whole trip was a complete waste of time and petrol’ as far as he was concerned. He commented that the social organiser Donna, a favourite of his, was being officious and overzealous which disappointed him. The thought of being inhibited to that degree is what freaks me out about the thought of going into a care situation. I’m sure I’d soon be an escapee and end up in the locked ward.

I happened to turn the tele on to get an early news on the night I went to the theatre and saw a bit of Long Lost Families on the ABC. I find the host Davina McCall to be the most perfectly dressed person on the teev for my money, I lust after every outfit even though they are so simple and understated, she is taste personified on that show. In the episode I saw part of, a woman had given up a daughter for adoption for the usual reasons of lack of family support (what will the neighbours say!). But clearly the one who was adopted out was in a very different social class to her mother and sister, she lived in London, was beautifully dressed, in a good job, with a lovely home (including two divine Bengal cats, which don’t come cheaply). The mum was in a humble Birmingham terrace and her sister was totally different in accent, clothes etc. I wonder how they make that work, or will their shared genetics overcome the class differences? To make it more complex the mum had later converted to Islam to marry her husband, what a cake mix of a family.

October 6, 2023

So Trump gave Anthony Pratt detailed information about America’s nuclear submarines. Of course Pratt kept it to himself, realising that it was inappropriate data to share, right? Wrong, according to the report, he “shared the information with at least 45 people, including his own employees, journalists, foreign and Australian officials and three former Australian prime ministers”. Oh my, who needs spies when you’ve got a goose like Pratt on the loose blabbing to anyone who’ll listen? The FBI and others have been to see him twice, for a chat. His claim to support Trump was explained away as ‘I always go with the king’. It would be funny if it were not so serious (actually it’s funny anyway).

Sue’s friend whom I’ve met in recent months became disoriented and unable to turn on the air-conditioner last Sunday in the heat. He rang his son who came over and got the aircon going but then decided to call an ambulance. A couple of days later his neurologist has said he can no longer drive (after buying a schmick new car in March, ouch). So our perceptions of him recently seem to have been right on the money. It will be a big transition for someone used to his freedom.

I have now had two offers at pre-poll to join the Labor Party, both of which I declined. I explained that I’m not a joiner, as I prefer to be able to discuss issues freely and criticise at will. Oh but you can do that at branch meetings I was told. Yes you can, but once a decision is arrived at you need to shut up and I’m not so good at shutting up. At previous elections the Greens have suggested the same, and got the same answer.

I have started to make a dish for First Saturday tomorrow but can’t find the brown pottery lidded casserole dish I’ve had forever. Clearly it has gone to a pot luck meal at some time and never come back, or perhaps to Sue’s when I was sending food up there regularly. It’s just a good size and the others seem too big or too small for this dish, rats.

October 7, 2023

Yesterday afternoon Heather came over to visit and we shared biscuits and cheese and a piece of birthday cake. I mentioned that I wished I hadn’t sold my flower presses in the shop years back as now I am doing a lot of pressing. This morning Michelle W. arrived with a gift for my birthday, a large flower press! I recounted the conversation of yesterday and she said ‘well whenever you pick up a book in this place there are flowers or leaves pressed under it’, something I couldn’t refute. It is such a lovely one and I can’t wait to get to use it. When we were in Bowral I collected a lot of divine little winged seeds from the ground and have been using them in card making. I wrote to Wingecarribee Council asking what the trees were but haven’t had an answer, however Heather identified them immediately as Chinese Elm samaras, the technical name for these winged seeds. It helps to have a friend who is a florist.

Today we went to First Saturday at Jane’s house. I made a spicy black bean bake and heated it up there with parmesan on top. The talk was on Zen Buddhism and while mildly interesting, I failed to be a convert. I really bristle at the idea of not thinking, of lowering the highs and lows of life. Surely joy and sorrow are part of what makes us human, we think because we are intelligent humans, we grieve because someone we love has gone, the depth of the sorrow we feel is commensurate with the love we felt for a person. If we are going to even all that out we may as well not have come out of the ocean, or not developed an analytical brain, should we strive to be a frog or a lichen and accept everything without question? We see the primates who exhibit joy and sadness and grief and it makes us understand how close we are to them. Yet this philosophy wants to send us backwards, as do all religions in their different ways, and this is just one of the less harmful ones. But you will never see a Zen Buddhist getting the Nobel Prize for discovering something which will save millions of people from suffering, they are all at home trying to slough off their attachment to the world.


October 8, 2023

Just heard that Deborah Knight on 2GB was saying on Friday that the “Yes people” at the Norwest Council Chambers are harassing people to vote No. What a crock, we couldn’t have been more accommodating to the opposite view. I’m seething and could not believe it when I was told. Obviously one of our No compatriots rang up to make mischief. Are there any decent folk amongst the No-sters? I am starting to feel quite an affinity for the Mitchell Yes 23 group as I’m on a WhatsApp with them and see all the lengths they go to in order to protect their Yes signs, some are in windows or on roofs or even in one case on top of a tall TV aerial! But I’m still not tempted to join them in the Labor Party. Stage 1 foundations for the Voice and Referendum were actually laid out by Libs in their last term of office but they never completed Stage 2.  What Albo’s Labor team has done since is to actually implement Stage 2 of the Voice and Referendum process by activating the procedures required to call and hold the referendum. That argument actually left many of the Lib voting No Team people speechless at pre-poll last week. They had no idea.  Apparently Malcolm Turnbull is part hosting the Parramatta rally today, an event I decided would be too much for John to cope with unfortunately. What a cheek! If Turnbull had embraced the Voice proposal initially we wouldn’t be where we are now. I would have boo-ed him.

Thinking back to the Zen talk one comment has stuck with me. At the end Mari said ‘it’s interesting that you all have philosophical points to make about the talk, but in Zen we don’t discuss philosophical issues at all’. Slam dunk really.

October 9, 2023

I intended to go straight to pre-poll this morning until Gracewood rang and said John was upset because he left his phone here yesterday, so I did a detour there first. The AEC were setting up and saw my shirt and badges so I hurriedly told them that I was ‘visiting, not campaigning to the olds’, a joke when I thought about it later as I would be the same age as many of them, a terrifying thought. Then off to Norwest where I was accompanied by the lovely Bala from Kellyville (I’m always sharing the job with someone from Kellyville it seems, usually a first generation immigrant). He had a good sense of humour and we agreed that he would go for the migrants and I would go for the Anglos, of course giving me the harder job. I talked to a few No voters who fell into two camps, either voting No because Albo hasn’t explained enough about how the Voice will work, and they don’t trust him OR they were originally happy to vote for it except so many Aboriginal people have come out against it, clever tactics to get Mundine and Price on board early it seems. I would say today was the worst day I’ve done in terms of numbers of No voters. We’re screwed I’m sure, but we’ll have to see it through to the end. It may be hemlock and not champagne on Saturday night. To lighten things up I posted on Facebook ‘He started believing things I knew weren’t true. At first I thought it was Alzheimer’s. Then I realised he was watching Sky News’.

Sue, Bob and I are going to an art exhibition at Gosford Gallery on Wednesday and I planned to go up early on the train, but she has suggested going up tomorrow, which takes the pressure off a bit as I won’t have such an early start to get there at 9.30am. Then I’ll train and bus it back in the afternoon. Bob can’t drive now and I explained that the bus from The Entrance to Gosford passes near the gallery, but he’s sticking to getting a taxi. He must have deep pockets if he’s going to keep doing that into the future.

I have been buying things from the Pialligo Estate Smokehouse near Canberra for years but for a few months their goods seemed to be always out of stock at Panetta’s and Harris Farm. Now I know why, it shut its doors earlier in the year and eventually went into liquidation owing more than $10 million. Such a shame as their produce was amazing.

October 10, 2023

Things changed here when Sue texted early to say that she’s unhappy with the responses from her Kirribilli kitchen people and decided to come here instead, postponing the art gallery trip, as Nobbys have an office in Castle Hill so she could see them face to face. However by noon she had got some resolution with them over the phone and decided to stay at home, but by then I had started on a project here and made other plans for tomorrow so I didn’t change those and travel to Killcare as originally planned. I can do an extra shift for Yes as a result, even though I’m sure we’re wasting our shoe leather. Tomorrow I plan to also take a trip to Davidson Auctions in Annandale to show them a Dahl Collings painting of Sue’s. The Collings family built her house and are known for painting, sculpture and film-making. This is a picture that Sue doesn’t much like and it was going out for the pick-up men until I offered to try to sell it. Admittedly I haven’t been overrun with interest, most people having forgotten the artist, but two auction houses offered to sell it, Davidson’s being the most financially desirable. I just hope I can get a park as it’s on Parramatta Road and I’m taking a couple of other bits with me in case he’s interested.

I’m glad I didn’t have a ticket for the Opera House last night. Although I could never sanction the murder of civilians, I also totally disapprove of lighting the sails of our national symbol to support Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestinian lands, so I would have been torn between the protestors and the OH. I wrote a couple of letters to that effect, but I’m still steamed up about it. If we light the sails for this, why didn’t we for the much bigger loss of life in the Morocco or Afghanistan earthquakes? Or Libya after the flood? or sympathising with Canada during their wildfires? We would never see the sails white if we carried this to its logical conclusion. Keep the lighted sails for major Australian events (and I don’t mean horse races!). It would be ridiculous if it weren’t so bloody cynical.

On the bright side Martin, one of our Mitchell Yes team, got a letter in the Herald today replying to the frankly stupid George Brandis opinion piece on the referendum. We also had working on our team this week the father of one of our opponents (actually his son’s name is well-known Australia wide). I wouldn’t want to cause the dad any grief, so the son will have to remain nameless, however we all appreciated that he was showing the courage of his convictions.

October 11, 2023

Can’t think of sleeping after the 7.30 story tonight on the financial backers of the No case. All the usual suspects, Clive Palmer, Kennard of the hire company, Blackmore of the endless pills and some new dude to me Simon Fenwick, all linked to the Institute for Public Affairs of course. I have known of Kennard and Blackmore and their association with Right-wing causes for years so I’ve long refused to use businesses linked to either of them, but Fenwick has been under the radar. A funny aside is the fact that Blackmore is an anti-vaxxer and smittled his wealthy neighbours with Covid at a drinks party held at his waterside home. They were not happy. But the serious question is what do we do when a handful of multi-millionaires can cleverly infiltrate radio, television and print media to relentlessly push lies to the gullible public. Should I be angry at them or the dillboxes they seem to so easily sway? All of them, every miserable one. If I were not such a cat lover I would curse them with the classic Gaelic curse “May the cat eat you, and may the devil eat the cat” but that doesn’t sound nearly as nasty as what I really want to say.

Managed to get a park with no problems at Davidson’s Auctions, they have a rear lane parking spot as well as out the front. Only managed to offload Sue’s picture, as expected he wasn’t impressed with the couple of add-ons I took along. One can only try. But it was nice to look at their current auction, a room full of collectables and art all from the one owner. Clearly it was assembled in the 60s and 70s, with heaps of Australian pottery, Brownie Downing and the like. It would have been valuable back in the day but it is totally out of fashion now, so although there were good bids on some pieces like Harvey School pottery from the 30s I’ll bet a lot of it goes for a fraction of what she paid (I’m assuming it was a she but I have no reason for that except gut feeling). It was all shipped down from Queensland and apparently there is a lot more to come. Tastes change, in antiques and art as well as everything else.

While typing this I got a call from John’s ex neighbour. Last night she texted at 11pm ‘can I call you?’ but I ignored it as I’ve told her before that I won’t accept phone calls after 10pm (she has rung after midnight a couple of times). Just now she rang asking when she can come to lunch here on a weekend day when John is at home. She said he had told her when she rang him to organise it with me, but he also said to leave it till next week as I was busy every day on the referendum. Then I got a 10 minute tirade asking why I would support aboriginal people who get $2000 a week in unemployment and other benefits, get first place in the queue at the doctor’s etc and it went on and on. She said that John and I are on the socialist left (fair comment) and she couldn’t understand us. I was waiting for her to start on Israel which of course she did and I didn’t reply, so she asked if I were still there. Yes I said, but I don’t have the energy to continue this conversation. Ring me back when you do, she said as we both hung up. Yes, when hell freezes over, I thought to myself. I’ve tried for John’s sake to keep that channel open but she is just more than I can deal with and so, so aggressive. Kaput, finito, the end.

October 12, 2023

Last night was the final Zoom meeting for the Mitchell Yes team and I participated even though I hate bloody Zoom. It was planned to go for 45 minutes but ended up at over 2 hours. I’ve got to dip me lid to the organisers of the almost military campaign with Group Captains, Booth Captains, Scrutineers and Troops all given their orders. I would have liked to put my hand up as a scrutineer but with John home that was impossible. However I am really glad that I didn’t volunteer to pack kits for every polling station with everything from how-to-votes, T-shirts, badges, corflutes, snacks, water etc. They started at the end of the Zoom and finished after 3 this morning! One of the team is the son of Whitlam’s first cousin and another is Professor John Juriansz, Head of the Whitlam Institute. I noticed that MP Meredith Burgmann is rostered to take over from John and myself after our shift on Saturday.

Today I had to take John back to the dental technician as his new teeth are rubbing. But afterwards we went to Lane Cove as he likes the salads made by Charcoal Charlies there, though today they had made Nasi Goreng which looked nice so we shared one of those instead. Sitting in Lane Cove Plaza a couple of Hungarian men asked me about the Voice because I was wearing my badges so I gave them a little spiel. But more interesting were a Filipino couple Danny and Cecilia who asked me to sit down at their table and explain the referendum to them as they didn’t understand it what it was for. It seems that the information just isn’t getting to some people with English as a second language in a form that makes sense to them. We chatted for about 15 minutes and when we got up to go they gave us the thumbs up and called out Vote Yes! It was very humbling and made me regret that good people like them have fallen through the cracks in the advertising campaign, though it’s the old Aussie men who are the main problem I think.

John told me that he was going to the funeral of Ray who sat at his meal table but died a couple of days ago. I helped him choose clothes but then luckily I thought to ask a staff member if they were travelling by the Gracewood bus. No she said, the funeral is north of Newcastle and no-one is going except his wife. He constantly asks me to buy him some red pencils, even though we have a huge bucket of every colour here, so today I just took him to Eckersley’s in Chatswood and he bought two red ones. Now he’s pleased as punch, so maybe just saying okay is the easier answer.

I am thinking of writing a letter or email to John’s ex-neighbour explaining exactly why she won’t be coming here again. It won’t change anything, but at least I will have set out formally why I can no longer stand being badgered by her and it would enable me to refute the claims she made about Aboriginal welfare payments. We’ll see.

October 13, 2023

There is an outbreak of Covid at Gracewood, but thankfully contained at this stage to Level 2. However all visitors are confined to residents’ rooms and must wear both a mask and a plastic faceshield. One of our Yes 23 team came down with Covid earlier in the week and now the team leader Dave has it too, right before the voting day where he was Booth Captain. He has worked from 7am to 7 pm for 2 weeks so he’d have talked to thousands of people by now, including me many times, but we were always outdoors. Some unlucky people were rostered in the underground carpark and were gasping from the fumes at times as cars were constantly coming and going. I think they deliberately kept me outside because of my age which I w.

One thing that I keep thinking about regarding our mega Zoom meeting is that at the end they asked each person to sum up how they were feeling about the result. One after the other they used words like optimistic and positive, even though I had spoken to these same people individually and they were anything but! Why do people feel the need to pretend in the interests of cohesiveness, to ensure the members appear to agree at all costs? I see it everywhere, this desire for people to agree and not rock the boat, but this was an example of groupthink at its worst. I was hoping he wouldn’t call on me, but of course he did, and I had to say that I was depressed by the polling and hoping it was wrong. I could tell by the uncomfortable faces that I had broken the spell. Groupthink is how cults perpetuate and I’m damned if I will go along with it.

I am always taking home food scraps for my birds and possums and this week I asked a waitress if I could have the table scraps that she was clearing away. When she brought the container I discovered not just the few bits I’d asked for, but a whole cutlet and lots of salad, toast, all sorts of stuff. (I’m sure people think the poor old pensioner fries it all up for the next day, but I’m trying to give up caring what other people think). So today I made a little card for her and posted it, thanking her for all the food, purportedly from the possum and signed with a pawprint. Admittedly I needed to Google what a possum pawprint looks like, but it wasn’t too bad a replica in the end. I had to try spelling like a possum too which took some thinking as mine never speak, at least not while I’m around.

Just having a long text exchange going back and forth with my computer guy Omar, a Palestinian. Over two hours so far and no sign of ending any time soon. Ever since he set up my new computer some years ago I haven’t needed his help (fingers crossed I won’t any time soon). But from time to time we communicate and so today we’ve been discussing Palestine mostly, but then it led to the referendum. Regarding dealing with the pain that life inevitably brings, he talked about the fact that apparently even after a terrible occurrence, a person’s happiness goes back to its prior average after about 12 months, so he copes with things going wrong using the belief that time will heal him. A good proposition to think on. Naturally, as with almost all migrants, he’s a Yes voter and he also has very decent humanitarian values.

October 14, 2023 Voice Referendum Day

Managed to get us to our allotted polling station by 9am, something of a feat considering the palaver of getting John out. Monika set us up and we introduced ourselves to our No fellow worker. In a smart move John plied him with barley sugar, thereby buying him off, though that would not have been his intention. A couple of old ladies bailed him up asking why, with his South African accent, he thought he had the right to campaign against the wishes of 80% of the original inhabitants, I gazed at the sky and left them to it. In the three and a half hours till we were relieved by Meredith Burgmann MLC we were in the sun but it was worth it as we got first dibs at the arriving voters. As usual migrants were the positive ones at our end with grumpy old men at the negative end (male, pale and stale comes to mind). I realised how many people have mobility issues with lots of folks on walkers, crutches or simply coping with the aftermath of an apparent stroke. We were told that the No person at Northmead School was so abusive and aggressive that our folk complained to the AEC, to no avail, so more vollies were despatched to help those who had put up with him all morning. They kindly sent out a photo of him and our booth leader said the same man, a Northmead Lib, threatened her mother in a previous election. For some reason, seeing all the folk streaming in to do their duty, I thought of the 80 million people who didn’t vote in the last US election, a staggering number. Compulsory voting is in my opinion the greatest gift to democracy. I think John enjoyed himself overall and I was glad that there was no nasty behaviour. I don’t think we will go to the celebration/wake at the club tonight, I don’t feel the need to be seen in tears if we lose. I’d rather be here sniffling into a Drambuie and milk, or hopefully, downing a few in celebration.

October 15, 2023

Well I didn’t even feel like a Drambuie and milk last night, it would have felt like a celebration when it was anything but. It was looking like a fail for weeks if not months, but it was a slap in the face to have it done and dusted before 7.30 pm. (I wonder if it’s possible to neatly slice Queensland off and let it sail into the Pacific? No, too unfair to the land mass into which they bump.) The Mitchell for Yes WhatsApp was going hot all night, in fact 179 posts while we were watching the telecast. Then it kept tinkling late into the evening, in fact the early morning, and restarted before 5 am this morning. I could have turned off the sound, but somehow it kept me company and made me smile when I heard it in the dark, as if there were kindred spirits out there after all. I’m wondering if the pollies who came to help yesterday were drafted rather than being volunteers? Somehow Meredith Burgmann looked as if she’d rather be somewhere else, in fact anywhere else, her only comment being about standing in the sun and that if the vote were about 50/50, an estimate based on our reception from the voters ‘it would be an excellent result for this conservative electorate’. But she was there, so points for that. Our scrutineers reported ballot papers with Fuck No!!! written on them and some few with swastikas, ah Australians, such lovable people. John watched the disaster unfold last night and watched Insiders with me this morning before asking ‘did we win?’ He was most chuffed that he got to keep his Yes 23 T-shirt and his badge ‘what? permanently?’ he smiled. Rachel Perkins has asked for a week of quiet and grieving and I am responding by having absolute quiet from Price, Mundine and Dutton, muting the teev as soon as they open their mouths for the next week, or perhaps the next month? Do I want to listen to their self-justification? Fuck No!!! to quote some of our voters.

October 16, 2023

Well I finally snapped with John’s ex-neighbour and wrote her the following self-explanatory letter:

“I have been very annoyed since your call a few days ago. You began by berating me for my stance on The Voice but there was no conversation at all, just a very long rant from you about supposed Aboriginal privilege and how you, your family and friends were voting No (which is totally your right). But it is not your right to be rude to those who are of a different view and I abided by that principle when dealing with the No person working next to us for hours at the voting station yesterday. Not one negative word was spoken towards him, in fact we shared our supply of lollies with him.
The day after your call I actually rang Centrelink and got a quote on the unemployment benefit, it is $802.50. Then I told her that I was aboriginal and asked about the rate. Exactly the same she said, $802.50. The only exception to this figure is a person of any colour or race who is very close to retirement age, is eligible for the pension, has been unemployed for 9 months and is single. It is a tiny difference in the amount. So it appears that you have made up a figure of $2000 for Aboriginal people just to bolster your case.
Then without any connection whatsoever you start on Israel and Hamas. Another rant.
You have no idea whatsoever what our views are on this question, and you were not at all interested in asking, because you were on your soapbox and only your views were of interest to you.
Amazingly you then say words to the effect of “when can I come over for lunch?”
Well you can come over for lunch when you learn how to deal with people without superiority, aggression and downright rudeness. I’m not sure where you learned about what constitutes polite or normal social behaviour, but you certainly don’t seem to abide by the same rules as the rest of us.
In the last week I have spoken to 3 friends about the Israel/Hamas issue, two are Jewish women (one working towards The Voice) and one is a Palestinian man. In each case, we had an interesting and useful discussion and exchanged our views. This is impossible to do with you. So by all means visit John, but I would be a damned fool to put up with your rudeness in my home”. I suspect she will see that I’m cross.

Watching the special referendum edition of The Drum last night was both an instructive and emotional experience, with a 100% Aboriginal panel who had widely diverging views, in fact I’m thinking of watching it again, blessings to iView. The Mitchell for Yes WhatsApp group tinkles away all day and night but now I’m just skimming the messages every few hours, though there are currently 17 since I last read them 2 hours ago.

This morning I bussed to Parramatta and walked to the NSW Aboriginal Land Council offices there. I planned to take a bunch of flowers but going into Westfield, that palace of good taste, failed to get me the bunch of flowers I had planned. The concierge looked blank when I asked for directions to a florist, in fact he seemed confused about the mere concept of a florist, so I took only the card I made. The 6th floor offices were closed up and locked but as I was turning away from the glass doors the only lady inside saw me and let me in. Apparently they are literally closed for mourning, I had read their press release understanding it to mean no comment for a week, but it means literally closing. Their online presence is showing just black. However she was very welcoming, gave me a hug and I came out with a lovely cloth bag from them. I know I could have emailed, or posted the card, but I wanted to actually DO something and this was the best thing I could think of.

October 17, 2023

Last night’s Australian Story on Sam Neill was interesting, not least because he has the same type of lymphoma as John and is treated by a doctor at St. Vincent’s in the same haematology team that he goes to. I thought as always Sam comes across as a really decent person who’d be a pleasure to know. 4 Corners followed and although I had come across the forensic patients set-up in the prison system I had never seen photos of the actual circumstances in which they are held. It was appalling stuff but I acknowledge that forensic patients are a real problem ethically. However an arrangement must be found to accommodate them in a better way than this. Surely having some sort of mental hospital for the criminally insane or those unable to be safely released is not impossible? The concept of a ‘funny farm’ is a delightful one compared to caging people in this way. I used to visit a forensic inmate at Parramatta Gaol years ago and he was so clearly unable to understand what was going on that I doubt he could ever have been put to trial. Perhaps he’s still locked up after all these years, who knows?

The tinkling of the Yes 23 group WhatsApp has markedly reduced so I think many people are taking seriously the call for a mourning period of a week. I hope some of these good folks keep in touch in the future as they are a ready made contact list for future campaigns, not necessarily restricted to Aboriginal issues. Then Michelle asked me if she could join the group so I put a message on there asking how to go about this. In no time someone replied ‘OMG is that the Michelle who used to work at Riverside and the Hills theatre?’ and soon after someone else asked ‘Is that the Michelle who was in the Scouts?’ so it looks like she’ll have plenty of pals there once she’s accepted.

An email from John’s sister-in-law in America tells that her daughter, who converted to Judaism before marrying, has a nephew in the Israeli Army. This brings that whole awful conflict even closer into real life, as if it weren’t real enough.

October 18, 2023

Today was John’s infusion day and it’s bloody annoying because we have a dental appointment for him tomorrow, but if he stays overnight he can’t come home on the weekend. I went to Woollahra to pick up my fruit loaf and they were out of it, Shock Horror! But she assures me it’s on order, however the granola and gluten free crackers that I buy (for visitors, not for me) were available. I wandered down to the Victor Churchill Butchery, not to buy meat but to check out the window. It changes regularly and today it was a spring garden scene of a zillion flowers with large ants carrying pies, tarts and cakes on their backs. I don’t know where they get their props but it’s always fun to see their displays. I did see minute steaks there and thought that they seemed a reasonable price compared to everything else, it was only after I put my glasses on that I saw they were $119.99 a kilo, not $19.99 as first thought. Some of the wagyu beef was $400 a kilo!!! and the roasts were massive, which would result in the protein for dinner actually costing thousands, the mind boggles. Still people were coming out with parcels, very well dressed people I have to say. The traffic speed bumps there are not actually bumps, but seem intended to stop a tank, perhaps they are expecting an invasion some time soon, but it is impossible to go across them at any speed without jarring both the car and oneself. Stopped in at bills cafe for a snack while I waited for John and a lady near me ordered a huge sandwich with accompanying salad ($26), took one small bight from the middle of a half and left everything else, ordering a cupcake to finish. No one asked her what was wrong with it so I have no idea why. Admittedly the bread was cut like doorsteps but still….it would have fed my possum for a few days.

John made appointments for the next few treatments and all are at a time in the morning that I can’t get him there. They don’t like residents leaving before breakfast, understandably, and there is no way I could have made it in time. So I rang when I got home and they happily changed the times, also correcting his statement that their is no infusion available in January and telling me that the February appointment is with the haematologist, as well as one for an infusion. I need to check everything these days. His doctor, Nada, still isn’t back at work almost two years after getting long Covid and so I asked when she is due to return. The reply was that she will be doing research and consulting with other doctors but will not be returning to clinical work. What a sad situation for someone at the height of her career.

October 19, 2023

So why am I talking about fruit loaf and the flowers in a shop window when the Middle East is once more in crisis? Because I have no answers and I expect I will die seeing things in Israel and Palestine not much different to what we are seeing now. But I mention one thing that no one has talked about to my knowledge. Although I could never imagine crossing that fortified border to kill Israelis in their homes and at a festival, I also could never imagine taking part in a music festival just one kilometre from the barbed wire topped border with Gaza, so close that the music could be heard there. With freedom of movement a luxury that Gazans don’t have, what possessed the festival organisers to site it right next to the border of the disputed territories? I guess the answer would be ‘Because we can’. Red rags and bulls come to mind, though I’m sure the incursion was planned long ago, but I wonder if the festival was particularly targeted? The current effort to kill every last Hamas fighter may or may not succeed, but rest assured that for every one killed two teenagers and children who are living through the attacks on Gaza will grow up to take their place.

So back to food, an area where I at least have some control. Sara Lee is on the point of collapse and I am not a bit surprised. I was one of the thousands who added Sara Lee Croissants to my shopping list regularly, until one day they were gone from Woolworths. Querying the disappearance with staff, they proudly told me that ‘We don’t stock them anymore, we make our own’. So I bought those, which looked identical but didn’t compare on taste. This occurred over many product lines, Sara Lee came up with the ideas and the supermarkets copied. Should we be surprised that they are going broke? A fun trip to the factory at Lisarow on a couple of occasions proved that the croissants were made with 100% butter, huge vats of it, and visitors packed their bags to take home seconds which were underweight, or where the fruit-filled Danish had more fruit at one end than the other. Having a Sara Lee jam and cream sponge in the freezer was a perfect solution when unexpected visitors arrived, and I have to say that their sponge was better than mine. They had a Seconds outlet in Northmead where as well as the off-perfect treats we could try export products bound for Japan or Korea, these with less sugar to suit the tastes of those populations. Capitalism is harsh, being on top of your game one year can result in selling off the equipment the next, I just hope it doesn’t end up in Woolworths.

Sad to see that a New Zealand doctor, columnist, author, TV and radio personality and most importantly an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention has died……by suicide. He was constantly talking about family being a bulwark against mental health issues, but his family is as stunned as everybody else about his sudden demise. We never really know the person sitting next to us.

October 20, 2023

Well for the very first time the Herald Letters Editor has cut one of my letters to alter its intention totally. The letter expressed an opinion about why the food company Sara Lee has gone CTD (a medical term I love for a patient near death, it is an abbreviation for ‘circling the drain’Smilie: ;). I said similar things to what was written in the blog yesterday but toning it down and removing any references to Woolworths. However the way it reads now is as a mourning for the sweet treats themselves, with no reference to the causes of the decline of the company at all. I think they used it as a funny little piece to break up the misery of other letters. This was what Murdoch used to do in the 60s with any letter in his newspapers that disagreed with his policies or criticised programmes on his television stations. Not happy Pat.

Louise Herron the Opera House CEO scrubs up well on the telly and comes across as such a lovely person, but as I know from recent dealings with her, looks can be deceiving. ‘Once the 50th anniversary celebrations are over’ she wishes to entertain me again regarding the promise that the OH made regarding John’s funeral arrangements. I can’t wait, cold tea and a colder reception is what I’m expecting.

A friend who has recently moved house has put up a list of 50 items that she would like to have, ranging from measuring spoons to a cappuccino machine. Commenting that Amazon is The Devil but listing items she wants/needs from their website, it finishes with ‘if you feel so moved as to want to send me a gift, well, who am I to deny you that pleasure!’. I know wedding lists are a thing (a thing I resist, but a thing nonetheless) but I’ve never heard of a moving list. Clearly I live in a different world.

I’ve bitten the bullet again and put a few things on eBay. Starting with a couple of landscape paintings by the late Hawkesbury artist Lily Paul that have been rejected by a number of auctioneers and adding a few bits of cheap jewellery, nothing over $30. With paintings the only thing that matters is the artist. Any piece of crap done by a ‘name’ will be auctioned but a masterpiece by Joe Bloggs or his sister Mavis will be rejected out of hand. I’ve seen absolutely wonderful art being rejected for this reason, the world is obsessed with brands.

October 21, 2023

On the way to pick John up this morning I noticed how quiet it was, there was a decent fog and I mused about how it was acting like a snowfall and muting sound, until I was almost there and realised I hadn’t put my hearing aids in. So we scooted back and solved that problem before going on to the Artisans in the Gardens exhibition at Lions Gate in the Botanical Gardens. Absolutely loved the rusted iron leaves of various sizes, some up to 6 and 7 feet tall, but super realistic in every other way. Some of the jewellery was exquisite including a silver necklace which turned out to be $4500, which quickly took away the temptation. Managed to get out of there without spending a cent but it was a close call. Then to the Calyx in the gardens to see their floral exhibition. We headed to Dav’s for afternoon tea and of course Millie was waiting eagerly for us to get there to play a game, this time one that involved spinning a wheel and then doing various mental or physical challenges. On the drive home I commented to John about how much she loves board games but he’d forgotten that we’d been playing most of the afternoon.

For some reason the ABC is running an article on Jayant Patel or Dr. Death as he was known at Bundaberg Hospital. I well remember racing home from work every afternoon to sit down and read the day’s evidence from the inquiry into the allegations of bad medical practice, fraud and dishonesty exposed by a nurse after every person she had approached in the Health Service and the hospital had refused to listen. In fact she was threatened with dismissal. That was until she approached investigative journalist Hedley Thomas who uncovered Patel’s past with a simple Google search, a litany of deaths and removal from his previous surgical posts in the US. It was a classic example of groupthink, where unchallenged decisions are accepted because they would show up one of the group. This was complicated by the fact that the hospital had struggled to get a surgeon and simply wouldn’t hear ill of the one they had managed to find. I well remember being told by my friend who was doing medicine that the big city hospitals get first dibs on the best graduates and then the others go down the line, so Bullamakanka gets the bod who just scraped in, but this was worse, much worse. I was going overseas and when I got back I discovered to my horror that the somewhat testy, but meticulous inquiry head had been dumped and replaced by someone who could better play the nice game. As a result the charges against Patel were watered down and he only got 7 years gaol, serving just 2. Of the 80 deaths originally investigated, from memory he was only convicted of malpractice in 13 (this is memory, I haven’t looked it up again). But I would like to reread the two books written at the time, Dancing with Dr. Death and Hedley Thomas’s Sick to Death, so it’s been a reminder to myself to try getting these on inter-library loan if I can.

October 22, 2023

Still thinking about Patel, remembering his distaste for biopsies. Although not part of the murder charges against him, there were numerous cases where he operated, mastectomies, bowel surgery, even Whipples, where the patient was subsequently found not to have had cancer at all! Of course he wanted to keep his surgery rate up and a biopsy would have given him no reason to operate. Another quirk was his flat refusal to wash his hands, not to sanitise them, but to wash them at all before or after handling a patient. I wonder where he is now?

We had a lovely day today with Boris and Jane coming over just after lunch until time for me to take John back to Gracewood. They now have 2 cases of Covid, 4 cases of influenza A and 2 of parainfluenza, but all on the floor above John. May it stay up there.

I am genuinely puzzled about how I very rarely see clothes I like in shop windows, yet Facebook constantly sends me ads for divine clothes that I would happily buy but they are all overseas and I don’t want to give them my credit card details. How is it that they know my taste habitually? Why don’t they offer just some things that I wouldn’t wear in a fit? How could that algorithm possibly work? I must ask Louis. He now works for Channel Nine and I didn’t realise it, but he tells me that he’s on the TV floor but the Herald is produced one floor down. So does he share the lift with all the journos or do they all send in their copy remotely? So many questions that I forget to ask.

October 23, 2023

I bounded out of bed this morning only to discover it was 6 am, but before 8.30 I had watered, done some weeding and planted the Chrysocephalum apiculatum or yellow button plant that I bought for Davina from the Botanic Gardens (no spot there to plant it). My four gifts ended up as only one, as well as the plant I took two books for Millie which I’d already bought in the past and a Halloween mask for her to make which went over well. Then up to the dreaded Towers, still on the hunt for loose diary pages for 2024. Normally I would have bought them by now as I have appointments for next year already, but Officeworks don’t have them, newsagents don’t have them (Nextra at Castle Hill asked me this morning why I don’t just buy one of their $5.95 diaries, good question). Collins says to try Dymocks but we no longer have one in CH, in fact there are NO bookshops in the Hills anymore, so a trip to town is in the offing.

On Saturday night I made bean nachos for dinner with the usual avocado, cheese and sour cream on top. I smiled to myself when John asked ‘does this leftover meat go in the fridge or the freezer?’ Last time I did lentil rissoles he said that the meatballs were very good and different, so I felt no need to rock the boat on that assumption. We have moved to a new phase in the drugs department. He used to manage them himself, then we went to the timed packages that Gracewood provides and I just needed to remind him, then I needed to actually hand him the drugs and a glass of water. Yesterday I discovered that this isn’t enough now, Saturday night’s three tablets were sitting in the kitchen on Sunday morning. ‘You’ve got to watch me actually take them, like they do at Gracewood’ he said, putting the responsibility firmly back where it belongs.

Wrote a letter to the Herald this morning “I have been waiting for the various reporters and journalists to ask Israeli military spokespeople one simple question: How will you distinguish Hamas fighters from civilians? Without an answer, can we assume that all Palestinian men will be ‘legitimate targets’?” I deliberately made it very short so they can’t cut it, as they did the last one they published. Channel Nine has surprised me with some good work lately, the Herald in league with 60 Minutes, on investigative journalism. Today’s story on Pratt just confirms a long-held opinion of him, though I was shocked to learn that Paul Keating is on a $25,000 a month ‘retainer’, as is Tony Abbott for a lesser sum. What a lurk being an ex PM is, with all the perks they get in terms of security, generous free travel, a private plated vehicle, free office costs, free telecommunications, invitations to who knows what. $25,000 a month, more than I earned for a whole year from my shop.

Well I got there in the end. The boring chase after diary pages is over after I noticed that Collins Debden’s head office is in Bella Vista! So off I went to where my phone GPS said it was, but it was a vacant office, so I rang them and they’d moved a 10 minute walk away. Finding the office was tricky but the reception when I got there was so lovely: Come in, sit down, have a bottle of water, what can I do for you? I just want to buy one of your products quoth I. Not a problem, except the warehouse is in Minto (might as well be Alice Springs as far as the likelihood of my going there) but Simran said ‘it’s no problem, we’ll just post them to you for $9.95 postage and give you a VIP discount of $10 to cover the cost of postage’. Then I got a tour of the view of the mountains from the fourth floor windows and was farewelled by the five staff as if I were a regular visitor. I’m so glad I persisted. Got home just before a ring from Hills Shire Council to check on my health and wellbeing status to go on a bus day trip next month: contact person, health questions, mobility, permission to call an ambulance if needed! I feel very looked after today which is no bad thing.

October 24, 2023

Another lovely retail experience today. I went to Eckersley’s to get some more watercolour paper and got chatting with the manager there about using graphite. I was looking at a book on watercolour techniques but it’s a bit exxy so I put it back. ‘When’s your birthday?’ he said and then told me that members (which I am) get a $10 discount birthday gift so I should get the email soon and then I’ll go back and buy the book. Woo-hoo. On the strength of that I came home and painted a not-too-bad waratah card using watercolour with Artline pen highlighting, which I might give to Bob next week for his birthday. It turns out that the manager is an art teacher with a degree in art practice, so I’m thinking about doing a day class with him and then going from there. I like him a lot so I feel more positive than I was about the previous classes at Sydney Art School, after which I decided not to attempt any classes again.

There has been a Covid and influenza A outbreak at Gracewood for a while, but all on level 2, however an email this afternoon says that there are now two Covid cases on his level as well. Talking to Bob this arv he told me that I need to get another vax asap, so I’ve booked in for Thursday. Ever since I got the email I’ve been sneezing but I think it’s totally the power of suggestion.

I’ve been thinking about the recommendation of an investigation saying that we should abandon special schools and group homes for disabled people. Two of the commissioners recommended this and two were against, but there was a snide comment from those in favour that appeared to suggest they knew best because one is disabled and the other is a parent of a disabled person. I’m sure most people would agree that every effort should be made to include disabled people into mainstream education if at all possible, but I would suggest that in many cases it is simply impossible, because the disability is profound (think of deaf and blind children in a normal school, the idea is preposterous). There is also the issue of class sizes and what is best for the students as a whole. No, it’s an understandable gut reaction by those in favour, not thought through and kind of like the idea of handing over Palestine to make a home for the Jews, sounded alright in theory…..

October 25, 2023

Last evening the ABC coincidentally had another piece on the issue of abandoning special schools, which I wrote about yesterday. I was wrong about the numbers, there were six commissioners and three each way on the issue. I think the division will enable to the government to retain the status quo, using the disunity as their reasoning, and thereby keeping everyone happy.

Chris Minns doubled down on his support for Israel tonight. He says he would again make the decision about lighting up the Opera House in the Israeli colours, it’s hard to fathom for me. Clearly it’s a genuinely held opinion as there are a lot more Arabic voters than Jewish ones, so he’s not pandering to them for electoral reasons. At last Penny Wong is seeing some sense on the issue, though Albo trails behind. The UN’s statement was pretty unequivocal and I loved the old Israeli woman hostage leaning back to her captor, shaking his hand and saying ‘shalom’. I’d love to hear his frank opinion on Biden’s mental fitness but he won’t be saying anything to Jodie across the pillows while in the US where I’m sure the walls have ears, if not eyes.

Yesterday I did an online satisfaction survey sent by Gracewood and mentioned the three people whose work I particularly love there. This morning when I picked John up I mentioned to Francis that I’d given him big raps and quick as a whip he replied ‘thankyou, but I’d rather have cash’ which just underlines why he’s so good. Caring and smart are a great combination. I’ve asked John a number of times not to ring me at mealtimes and put the phone on speaker so the whole dining room can hear, but I’m wasting my breath. This morning he rang at breakfast and asked if he could invite his tablemate Jenine to come with us for our day out today, which I don’t mind in principle, but I don’t want to be held over a barrel on occasions when that may not suit for some reason. I said yes but it turned out today didn’t suit her and she took a raincheck, however John has told me that we must pay for her lunch when she comes, as usual thinking that all others are worse off financially than we are. Again, no point in arguing. Sitting to have an icecream at Mrs Jones the Baker at Freshwater today, I could hear the woman at the next table declaring to her companion ‘but you should come to stay, we’ve got a $9 million three-storey house overlooking the ocean, why not?’ Maybe because you are in it, I’m thinking to myself. Who brings up the value of their house in an invitation? But the Northern Beaches people are something else.

October 26, 2023

Well another crazy kills dozens of people, this time in Maine. He is ex-military and a reservist, surprise surprise. Meanwhile Albo and Jodie are eating at the White House amongst more flowers than you can count, and eucalyptus leaves of course. It’s been proven that a free biro is enough to cause doctors to lean towards a particular drug company so you can’t tell me that whenever Albo smells a flower he won’t feel a teeny bit inclined to whatever Biden thinks Australia should be doing. What a crazy land it is, a Trumpist who supported the overthrow of the election is now Speaker, perhaps they’ll give Trump a medal if he survives all his court cases, but at the least Congress will throw support his way. They deserve what they get.

Again this year I have been asked to do a phone interview with Morgan Polling (now done) and then a mega online survey of which I’ve completed just one module. It covers everything from politics to sport to TV to illness to opinions on anything you can name. I’m always impressed to see how few illnesses I tick on the pages and pages of options, showing I’m pretty damned healthy. I don’t do it for the measly $10 they give you at the end, but because government looks closely at their research and I want to push my various barrows.

In the Good Weekend I always follow, and often try, recipes by Adam Liaw. This week he talks about olive oil and says that he’s been told that people in Australia in the 60s used to buy it in pharmacies as a medicine, but he didn’t know whether to believe it. So I emailed him last night to confirm that the story is absolutely true and told him that my father bought tiny bottles of the stuff to put on his hair. When my cousin Ruth married a Greek, his parents came to visit. Never used to visitors, my mother cooked a leg of lamb and veggies, but when they sat at table they asked for some olive oil. Confused, my father went to the bathroom and brought it out. He was appalled when they poured it all over their meals and the story lived in our household forever more: ‘Greek people eat their food covered in hair oil’. I think it confirmed their idea that having visitors is a somewhat dangerous concept.

October 27, 2023

Lovely book group meeting at Rosanna’s today, it is a very relaxing house with beautiful artefacts and we were spoiled with wonderful food as always at this venue. I don’t feel inclined to wind myself up about anything, so I will leave this post as a record of a gentle day.

October 28, 2023

I always offer John three choices of what to do each day that he is home, one is usually to stay at home and then two other competing options. This is because he simply can’t remember what the options might be, he can’t imagine any possibilities unless they are laid out in that way. Similarly if I ask him what he’d like for breakfast he can’t answer, but if I say a boiled egg, avocado on toast or toast with jam, he can choose instantly. Last year when he was going out once a month on a bus trip with the day care centre it was often a drive to have lunch somewhere, usually fish and chips or spag bol, but on one occasion he came home very excited by the lunch as he’d had lemon sole at a place with a view. I got the name, Carmen’s on the Park overlooking Canada Bay, so today one of the options was lunch there, which he chose. It was a rollicking Italian place which was almost full. Two parties were celebrating, Luca’s Christening was a group of about 20 and about 40 older ladies were having a school reunion, both largely Italian which is not surprising for the area. We shared some zucchini flowers (nowhere near as good as Wild Pear as they used mozzarella or bocconcini which is pretty tasteless cheese) and a plate of ‘Swedish’ prawns with rice which was enjoyable, although what exactly was Swedish about them escaped me. As usual John couldn’t choose and left the ordering to me. Disaster struck at the start when he knocked over a glass, then a few minutes later knocked over and broke a full bottle of water, soaking tablecloth, menus and serviettes. Both times it was from leaning on the edge of a round pedestal table, exactly what happened to the table that used to grace the front verandah and now lies in pieces waiting for me to have a go at repairing it. They were very nice about it both times and I’m very thankful for that. After a major clean up and removal of a pile of broken glass, the meal proceeded without incident. I decided to have a piccolo of Italian prosecco to calm my nerves and it did the job. It is clear to me that it won’t be too long before these outings stretch John’s abilities too far so we need to do as many good things as possible before that happens. We went for a walk along the shoreline of mudflats after lunch till I was sure that the piccolo didn’t cause me to be over the limit, sparkling wine always being a bigger problem than still. However I may be in trouble with the bobbies today for a different reason. On the way to Gracewood Memorial Drive is under a huge reconstruction and the speed limit is 40 because of the workers. Today no workers were around and I was part of a line of traffic doing about 50 or a bit more, when suddenly they all slowed and I caught sight of the highway patrol. Cheeky to come on a weekend when people rightly assume that no work is happening but he may have got me nonetheless, I await the letter in the mail, or hopefully not.

I teared up over two items on the news, one a man in Gaza writing loving messages to his dead wife and baby on their body bags and the second was the death of Bob Carr’s wife Helena who collapsed and died in his arms in Vienna. The Israelis are beginning blocking all internet and phone communications in Gaza so international media will not see the results of their attacks, appalling and cynical at once. Australia’s gutless abstention at the UN vote for a ceasefire made me sick.

I may have chosen yesterday not to wind myself up on these pages, but I certainly did so in private. Not about just one issue but two. One of these is an exciting development which kept me awake last night and will become clear before too long, I hope. As Benjamin Franklin said: Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead, but I need to prove him wrong.

October 29, 2023

So ‘All living former PMs are signing a letter supporting Israel’ according to the Daily Telegraph. Apart from the difficulty of getting dead ones to sign, it is a shocking headline and I hope it’s not true. Knowing the Smellygraph it’s probably wildly overegged. The blocking of phone lines and internet is such a cynical ploy to stop people filming their murder.

As usual today I gave John his three choices today and he chose staying home, something that was fortuitous when we had a phone call this morning to say that visitors from Millthorpe were in town and on their way over, so a lovely unexpected visit ensued. John told me today that he has invited Jenine to stay next weekend ‘to save you driving her back after First Saturday’. Um, no, we have two functions to go to on Sunday so I’ll have to sort that one out before then.

For lunch I did a copy of the dish Rosanna served at book group, a zucchini souffle in her case and an asparagus one in mine. It turned out perfectly and was much enjoyed, so a recipe from one friend and the eggs from another made the perfect combination. I’m now looking for a recipe for a raw beetroot salad to use the beets that landed on my doorstep yesterday.

October 30, 2023

The Israelis in Gaza are doing the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, they know it, the US knows it, the Australian government knows it, but no one will lift a hand or even a voice against mighty Israel. The American arms manufacturers must be dining out tonight.

I took a bagful of avocadoes back to Coles today. They were bought in September, use by date 26/9, but despite being left out in the fruit bowl they never ripened. Those I’d cut, using a big knife, were rock hard and inedible. I emailed Coles, not for a refund but to warn them they were picked too green or something, I’m not sure what, and they needed to report it to the grower. They replied urging me to take them back so they could investigate so I did, got a refund, but I’m sure they went straight into the bin. It’s not something I’ve ever come across before.

I’m not sure about this phase if putting loads of flowers at the scene of tragedies, the florists must be loving it, but for what? No one is going to take them home, they just rot there. Even worse is the habit of putting teddy bears where a child has been killed. The child is dead, dead children do not play with teddy bears. If you must do something, buy one and give it to the Sallies so someone else’s kid at least gets to play with it. Humans are very strange animals.

Off to julienne an apple to go in my raw beetroot salad tonight. I was expecting Sue after her appliances were delivered to Kirribilli by Winnings this arv, but they didn’t get there till 5 so she’s decided to head straight home. She was surprised that they came in an Appliances Online truck as she thought they were the opposition, but that company is owned by the son of the Winning family so clearly they would be cooperating. Winnings report that the top end of their business is booming, one of the top of the range fridges Winnings sells is a Sub Zero model that retails for $40,000. Yes that’s correct, not $4000 which would be bad enough, but $40,000. I have no words.

October 31, 2023

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley” as Robbie Burns told us well over 200 years ago and so it is with Martha who has come down with Covid the day before the sewing group’s birthday bash for Michelle. However it’s going ahead with the remaining crew, minus Martha and Becky. I painted her a card and posted it off this morning, showing a cup of tea which as everyone knows is the cure for whatever ails you. On the walk back from the post box I found a $2 coin, the universe confirming the rightness of my decision to send it straight away despite the walk in the heat. Martha is looking for a volunteer to host First Saturday this week seeing she is out of the picture, but I am going on the train to Sue’s tomorrow arv after Michelle’s do and then we are taking Bob out to lunch for his 80th on Thursday so when I actually come back remains to be seen, however I won’t have time for the cooking and other preparation involved. It’s a bugger as Iris and Logan plan to come and it would be good to be having it here from their point of view, but you can’t do everything as much as you may wish to.

When Bob and Judy were here on Sunday he mentioned a drug called Evushield which he’s been prescribed because he has an autoimmune disease, it’s to avoid catching Covid. I will need to look into it to see if it is taken after exposure or before as a general prophylaxis, interesting because it’s new and I’ve never heard of it before. Another thing to ask Bob about, not that I feel the need of it, but I just like to know the ins and outs of a duck’s bum in everything, but particularly in medicine.

I used to love Johanna Lumley in Absolutely Fabulous years ago but after seeing her in the shorts on the ABC for various travel shows I wonder if you can call yourself an actress when you are just being yourself, even if someone else is writing the lines? The over the top character was funny but I don’t watch the travel series because the focus is more on her than the places which is what I am interested in seeing. I’m sure she’s fun in short bursts but 45 minutes at a time may be too long.

I see that the three tradies who were arrested for giving Nazi salutes outside the Jewish Museum are up in court today and of course it’s all a big misunderstanding. One of them has engaged Bryan Wrench also represented actor John Jarrett when he was found not guilty of sexual assault in 2019 and in the same year he was the lawyer for activist Danny Lim, who had his case of offensive behaviour dismissed. Sam Burgess is another recipient of Bryan’s skills and came off pretty well. So one of them at least has deep pockets and good taste in lawyers, it will be interesting to see if there are any differences in the determinations of sentence between the three, or if they are convicted at all. Personally I am giving the Jewish Museum a wide berth for a while, it is sometimes where I go while John’s at Nelune, but I won’t be going for a good while I think.

November 1, 2023

Can’t believe it’s November and I can’t believe that 7.30 coolly announced the death of Palestinian ABC correspondent Roshdi Saraj. He was bombed to death by Jewish forces in an air strike, along with many others in Gaza. Can you imagine the hue and cry if it were John Lyons or any other reporter there? By the way Sarah, he didn’t ‘pass’ either, he was murdered in fact, but for some reason the ABC is very reluctant to call this out, going along with Minns, Albanese et al. I had put in an entry to a competition run by The Monthly with various tickets as prizes, one being two tickets to a showing at the Jewish Film Festival. It would be just my luck to win it!

Each month I get an email from Gracewood giving me a rundown of upcoming activities. Tuesday is always Devotions (as well as Sunday when John is at home), but next week Devotions is off, replaced by a Melbourne Cup party! At least it gave me a good laugh to start the day, knowing that having to hold your breath in case a horse falls and is killed is seen as more important than praying to somebody/something for which there is no evidence. I’m not sure which activity is more dangerous to society but I’m sure a sociologist could write an excellent article on it, I hope they do.

This is celebration week. Today I’m off to Michelle’s 80th celebration in a minute, then tomorrow to Bob’s 80th at Shelly Beach Golf Club, just the three of us. I have been trying to stress to Sue that I won’t want more than tea and toast for dinner tonight and she’s suggesting leftover Japanese soup which she made last night, sounds perfect. Eggslunt! she replied.

November 2, 2023

Up at sunrise, which came straight into my bedroom, and chatted with Sue over whole grain toast and French cheese. There were heaps of choices but that’s what I felt like. Later we moseyed down to the art gallery in East Gosford to see the Gosford Art Prize entries, one of which was by Gabby Malpas whom I know and a delicious portrait of his cat by Sue’s tenant down the road, it was real enough to pat. I really enjoy that gallery in its garden and bushland setting, the works I’ve seen there have always been excellent. I was surprised by the number of entries and the quality of many of them, though some I would have been too embarrassed to display had I painted them, including one tribute to people with breast cancer, painted with a breast instead of a brush…..the less said the better. I voted for my favourite, a stunning picture of a cottage at Hardys Bay which was designed by the artist’s architect father 50 years ago. I am cross with myself that I was so engrossed in looking and reading that I completely forgot to take any photos of my faves. Unfortunately artists can be wankers when it comes to written descriptions and I defy anyone to understand what many of the explanations were supposed to mean.

Then it was off to Toowoon Bay to pick up Bob from his home and tootle to the nearby Shelly Beach Golf Club where I convinced Sue that the seafood platter for two would easily feed three. This was confirmed by the waitress who said yes there would be heaps, but at the last minute Sue added garlic bread and a plate of corn fritters, just in case. The platter emerged with half a lobster mornay, half a dozen oysters, the same of mussels, fresh king prawns, fried prawns, calamari, fried fish, smoked salmon, bread, chips and salad. Needless to say Bob took home prawns and salad for dinner and I brought home a full container of bits for Possy. Great meal overlooking the Pacific, good company and a glass of bubbly. Plus Bob was thrilled that we’d taken him out and given him gifts as well, chocolates from me and some tomato relish and bottled peaches from Sue, both home made, he was rapt. He really is a lovely man, his politics notwithstanding.

Waiting for the bus at Epping after getting off the train from Woy Woy I was idly looking at the large pictures of food in the window of a Korean restaurant. There wasn’t a single thing there that I would ever want to order, not the intestines in tasty sauce, nor the boiled pork, nor the cold pork and noodle soup (which had realistic oil patches floating on the top). Obviously Korean is not my thing. Home by 6.40, just in time to watch the news, perfect.

November 3, 2023

It was tragic enough to hear about the boy crushed by a lift at St. Lucy’s school, but to see a photo of him was just heart-breaking, he was gorgeous and an only child. The parents will never be the same. We use things like lifts without even thinking most of the time but, like any form of transport, they can be fatal.

The sympathy I have for the Israelis caught up in the Hamas terrorist attacks is slipping fast when I see the terrible toll that innocent Palestinians are paying. Why the devil did they elect such a murderous man as Netanyahu? It can only mean that the Israeli government believes that Palestinian = Hamas and therefore killing civilians is justified. Today’s news that those who fled to the south, as directed, were also bombed just proves the point. The world has gone mad.

To add to the ghastly stories the woman accused of poisoning her husband’s relatives with a Beef Wellington has been charged not only with 3 counts of murder but with 5 counts of attempted murder. Perhaps she harboured deep feelings of resentment towards him and all his rellos and, having succeeded in making him very sick three times over the years, thought she could do the same to them, but without killing them. I suspect that murder wasn’t the intention but sadly it was the result. Forensic psychiatry is the goods, second only to forensic science. But I wonder why with all the talent and patience that the police show in cases like this, they can’t seem to train their lower ranks to stop harassing people, assaulting them, falsely accusing them and often getting caught so doing. It seems there are two police forces at work.

November 4, 2023

The tale of the Coreopsis: last year at Sue’s I noticed that the streets were lined with a wild yellow flower and kept thinking about them when I got home, so I asked Sue to dig a couple put for ID and planting. However she said there weren’t any yellow flowers about so I’d missed my chance. On Wednesday I saw them all again and didn’t want to miss my chance. I asked Bob what they were and he texted to say his neighbour said they are dandelions! Mmm, no. So Sue asked her botanist friend who identified them as Coreopsis. A search last night turned up the identical type being sold as seeds in Tasmania. An email to them was quickly answered to say that it’s too late to plant them for this year, however Sue turned up at the door a few hours ago with five plants dug up from the roadside. So it being good weather for planting, they now adorn the edge of the front garden and hopefully will self seed there as they do in Killcare.

This morning I took John to the Hawkesbury Creative Collective at the showground at Clarendon, yes he picked it out of the three options but I think he knew that was my fave. Some of the art was superb, looking at you Jennifer Beal, an artist who works in both paint and pastels. Her pictures were very reasonably priced to my thinking and by far the best of the exhibitors. Others were quite competent and some should perhaps wait a bit before exhibiting, but thankfully none were painted with body parts. Apart from the painting my favourite display was a lady who does weaving, making baskets out of reeds, all sorts of plant materials in fact, as well as torn up old saris and even phone chargers! She calls herself Waste Not Fibre Designs and lives up to the name. I was very tempted but resisted. However I did not resist when I saw a pair of earrings made out of orange slices and daisies. How on earth did you get them so real? I asked her, but she informed me that both components are real, but preserved in resin. There was only one pair, most of her pieces being dishes, coasters, soap holder and the like. I’m thrilled with my $19 purchase. There were also jewellery makers, polished gemstones, lampshades and amazingly a boy who makes toys with his 3D printer! He and his two smaller siblings were manning a stall and I asked if he intended to go into this business when he is older. Oh no, he replied, I want to be an engineer and I’m sure he will succeed. He has three 3D printers at home and I’m sure if he’d had time he would have explained the process, which I don’t understand at all.

I am appalled to read that Israel is getting their intelligence on Gaza via the US via Pine Gap. “The Pine Gap facility is monitoring the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas with all its resources, and gathering intelligence assessed to be useful to Israel” says correspondent David Rosenberg who worked there for 18 years. Of course they are now that I think about it, but I don’t want to think about it, it is just too stomach-churning.

November 5, 2023

The Israeli newspaper Local Call has leaked an official government document recommending the forcible transfer of all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people to Egypt’s Sinai Desert, first into tent cities and then they will ‘not allow the population to return’. Netanyahu’s office acknowledged the proposal exists, but in a statement to the Times of Israel described it as a ‘concept paper’. Who could even countenances such a concept? One of the critical points in the Intelligence Ministry’s document stressed the need for harnessing international support for the expulsion plan, something analysts argue Israel’s allies are already doing. ‘Despite claims now being made that the majority of the public in Gaza desires peace and is being held captive by Hamas, data and evidence collected over the past two decades consistently demonstrates the opposite. Hamas enjoys widespread support among Gaza’s civilian population’. Dror Eydar, Israel’s former ambassador to Italy, called for the complete destruction of Gaza during a live interview with an Italian TV channel. ‘For us, there is a purpose: to destroy Gaza, to destroy the absolute evil,’ he said. The intention is obvious to anyone who reads English language Israeli newspapers, which sure as hell means the Americans. I feel as if I am watching the end of Palestine.

Driving John to Gracewood I saw a rainbow lorikeet flying low and then saw why, its dead mate on the road. Travelling a kilometre on I saw a beautiful black cat wearing an identification collar newly dead on the road. I thought of picking it up so it wouldn’t get squashed but the traffic was heavy and it was difficult to stop on Showground Road. Now I wish I had though as it will be reduced to mince, I hope the owner doesn’t see it. Which is worse seeing it or never knowing what happened? I guess the latter.

Trying to think of positives, I made sweet corn and spinach soup for lunch and it was delicious, then Anzac biscuits for afternoon tea and they were likewise. John is all excited by plans for a Melbourne Cup event at Gracewood. They said to dress up so he has taken his grey suit, red shirt and a fancy tie, plus for another group where they talk about their previous lives he has taken some of his architecture plans that we found in storage. He seems to be getting more involved in the activities which is great. Whenever he comes home I check his emails and texts as he never does. His friend reports going on a tour to the Maritime Museum and falling inside the ship, breaking his hip. The ambos couldn’t get him out so Police Rescue came and strapped him to a board and lifted him out upright! He went to RNS and then Greenwich hospitals and is now okay apart from needing a walking stick. I replied that I go there occasionally and was very sorry to have missed his vertical resurrection from the ship, it must have been quite something.

November 6, 2023

I rang John at 10 am, later than usual as I was concentrating on gardening in the front yard, and woke him up from ‘an afternoon nap’. But luckily there was still time for him to go to the 10.30 walking group, which he likes to do each Monday. They only go around the grounds or a little way up the street but it’s better than nothing. Yesterday I decided to display my collection of antique and old glass marbles and having been stored a long time they were very dirty. John washed up after lunch and I was making biscuits so I asked him if he would rinse them once the water cooled down (he has it so hot he complains about the heat through thick gloves). A bit later he said ‘these are plastic, not glass, some of them are melting’. To my horror I discovered that some were in fact falling apart, not because they are plastic but because he had poured boiling water into the bowl. Later I put them in a glass salad bowl for display but a couple more fell to bits as they cooled, however Aquadhere came to the rescue of those that didn’t shatter completely.

Trying to get my mind off something that happened yesterday and the best way to do that is to write it down. Michelle C. was let down by the musician who was going to play at the Brontë Christmas party in the city, so I suggested John’s great nephew who plays in an orchestra. Michelle rang and said it was all going well but that his mother asked at the end of the conversation who had recommended him and Michelle said ‘my friend Maureen’ to which she replied ‘I don’t know anyone called Maureen’ so Michelle then referred to Maureen and John and she said, ‘I’m sorry I don’t know any Maureen and John’. Is this what they mean by being cancelled?

I’m sure all will be sorted in the Middle East now that Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have arrived. They are being feted at a kibbutz where Hamas murdered and kidnapped Israelis, this presumably to reinforce to the world Israel’s need to retaliate. What a pair of clowns. Throw them into Gaza and see how long it will be before they are crawling back across the border, begging and pleading to leave the Middle East altogether.

November 7, 2023

This morning on the bus to town a lovely man asked ‘may I sit next to you?’ the first time anyone has asked that question. Then he wanted to chat all the way which I was certainly up for. It turned out that he is an actuary with APRA, the prudential regulator of the Australian financial services industry. He lives in Beecroft, loves being a public servant at less money than he earned before and volunteers driving ill and elderly people to medical appointments with a service run by the Presbyterian Church. He often takes his children out of school to go to an opera matinee, the cricket or to go away camping, believing that these are also an education. As a result they had a visit from the welfare folks, who left satisfied that they are doing a good job of parenting. I’m not sure what I said beyond having been in antiques, but I really enjoyed listening to him and when he got off at Wynyard he wished me a ‘happy rest of your life’ which was sweet.

Well it’s pretty easy to cross Old Northern Rd on Melbourne Cup afternoon, so even though I said Nup to the Cup I got some benefits from it. I’ve been following the case of William Tyrrell’s foster parents through various proceedings and it has come to the foster father’s trial for lying to the Crime Commission investigators, not realising that the police had been tapping their phones and bugging their house for a year. JS was asked if his wife had been violent to their foster child and he had answered ‘Never’ despite her confessing to him that she kicked her very hard just 22 days previously, something the police had already taped, so they knew the answer before they asked the question. I don’t think anyone doubts that he lied but their barrister got down to semantics to prove that perhaps JS misunderstood the question or had simply forgotten. It was tricky finding the right court because at Parramatta recently they showed up as JS and SD but at Downing they weren’t showing up on the court lists at all, so I had to go to the office to find out where to go. Luckily I got the very last seat in the small court, every other one being taken by a journo with a laptop apart from the lone detective with whom I have a nodding acquaintance after all these years. Today we exchanged a few words and remarked on our joint love of the Coroner’s Court building in Lidcombe. I knew that the magistrate was going to acquit by his body language, I’m very rarely wrong in judging that, but I am sure that all parties know exactly what he was up to, defending his wife from assault allegations so that they didn’t lose another child. Clearly there was enough doubt seeded by his barrister to win the day. They are so cool and controlled in court, in fact the tapes reveal a pair of control freaks and I pity all of those children who ended up in their care.

John has been excited for a week about the ‘dress-up’ Melbourne Cup party today. The place is decorated with horse stuff everywhere and when he went back on Sunday he took his suit, a red shirt and a lairy tie, after much debate on what to wear. This morning I reminded him not to put his suit on till lunchtime, then after lunch reminded him to take some photos. But at 5pm when I rang I asked how the party had been, was it fun? did they have a sweep? and the answer was what party? He couldn’t remember anything about it. It is so strange that you can obsess about something for a week, experience it and then completely forget about it in a couple of hours. He is getting so much worse and who in his big family gives a hoot? Maybe one or two. His niece responded to Michelle’s query about her son doing a musical interlude with ‘he’s going away that weekend’ which she clearly wasn’t aware of the day before, prior to finding out that Michelle is a friend of hours.

November 8, 2023

So Optus has had a crash today and I am hoping this will upload okay. I feel sorry for all the small businesses as a lot of people never carry cash, a very short-sighted approach I think. It led to a funny situation where I couldn’t get into Gracewood to pick John up because the doors were still locked and my phone wouldn’t work to ring the nurses to let me in, but luckily a staff member taking down all the Melbourne Cup paraphernalia saw me at the door. I asked John to take lots of pics of the festivities (to help him remember them) but his phone shows about 20 pics of him in his suit but none of the actual party, so I think he kept asking the staff to get photos of him, which is better than nothing. One classic is in front of his bathroom door with the loo as a backdrop. Tomorrow John is reading the poem In Flanders Fields for the Gracewood Remembrance Day commemoration. They are so thoughtful in organising all these things and he’s as proud as punch but it’s so sad that he won’t remember it on Friday.

Up at Sue’s last week I speed read a book called Mulch, with lots of useful tips such as the fact that you can use food scraps (such as the eggshells, potato peels and onion skins that possy won’t eat) as a way to suppress weeds. I had hardly any food going into to the bin before, now I’ll have zip. I’m so pleased that soup weather isn’t quite over yet, so I made a silver beet soup for our lunch today with an onion and some potatoes in it and put the scraps on the garden, around the Alyssum to be precise. She even recommends using broken concrete to cover nuisance weeds. I am desperately trying to kill the native Wandering Jew (Wandering Israeli is perhaps a better name these days?) which comes in under the fence from Arvind’s. It’s a useful ground cover on his side but I don’t want the pesky thing on mine. The author also suggested using weeds pulled from the garden as mulch instead of binning them. We shall see how it goes. Facebook sends posts from this day years ago and users can choose whether to repost it or not. Today’s was a picture showing that I had decided to put cuttings into the bird bath till roots grow instead of using a vase inside. All very sensible, except that I totally forgot that I was doing it that way and reverted to a vase of water almost immediately, but now it’s like a new idea.

So 200 ABC journalists have attended a meeting to complain about the coverage of the Israel Gaza conflict. About bloody time, it’s been embarrassingly one-sided so far. Apparently there is a blanket ban on reporters using the word “Palestine”, something I have noticed but didn’t realise was officially mandated. I was very excited when Sarah Ferguson took over 7.30 but her reporting on this and some other issues has been biased in the extreme, particularly the difference between her attitude and questions to Palestinian spokespeople versus Israeli ones. Her view of people and situations is written all over her face and she is quite aggressive when she wants to be, for the first time I’ve been turning her off.

November 9, 2023

Well I wondered who had put a dark green tennis ball into the fruit bowl until I recognised it as once having been an orange. It was totally covered and the mould filled the air when I lifted it up but the remaining three were fine. Yuk, but good news for the new mulch bin.

I am reduced to commenting on orange mould because I can’t find any good news to relate. John was given the role of reading a poem today for Remembrance Day but I couldn’t get him to give his phone to anyone to take some photos however Cecilia was going to do so and she’ll send them to me. First he said that he wasn’t doing the poem at all as the ceremony had been cancelled but further investigation proved that this was only in his imagination. I resisted the temptation to go out there as Jane was coming over, however it ended up being a flying visit after lunch. But I need to let go and realise that they will sort him out, though it’s very hard not to try to make everything go smoothly when he’s so confused.

Nuffin else.

November 10, 2023

Our routine had to change when John’s phone wouldn’t work at all after playing up for a while, so I picked him up for the ‘weekend’ on a Friday and we arrived at Apple at 9.30. They are wonderfully helpful, but try as they might the phone was stuffed so we got a new one, just the most basic model but still reducing his meagre savings even further. It was interesting that it cost somewhat less than my similar basic model did about 18 months ago or so. But unfortunately he can’t remember his Apple ID so it took ages to transfer his data across, we left there at 11.45 by which time I well and truly had Towers overload. But the rest of the silver beet soup and then an Anzac biscuit soon brought me back to terra firma, then I made a couple of cards by hammering jacaranda flowers into wet watercolour paper. Not at all the rich purple I was hoping for, a lot of brown tones coming out as well, but they are usable and I have pressed some jacaranda leaves to add to them later.

Despite his still thinking it was cancelled, John did read the poem at the Remembrance Day ceremony yesterday as proven by the photos sent by staff. It was a small gathering of mainly ex-servicemen by the looks, but unfortunately John couldn’t wear his father’s medals as he wished to, since his priest nephew took them 15 years ago ‘to look after them’ purportedly because John was going into social housing which the priest deemed ‘a security risk’. He immediately donated the lot to the War Memorial in his own name and later went on ABC Radio claiming to be John’s father’s closest relative, even though he’d never met him. As John was want to say to say ruefully: ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ quoting Henry the Second before the death of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. I would add to that: ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves’ Matthew 7.15.

I’m trying to think up something to give/do for Cecilia who goes so far above and beyond what the job requires. There is a limit of $20 value for gifts but I guess there’s no rule about the frequency. Thinking, but perhaps some art supplies for her children could be useful as I know they share my love of art (and cats).

I see Optus is offering a meagre compensation for the 12 hours their services were down, but it’s hard as one person couldn’t get a hospital’s call about her dying mother until it was too late, while I just had trouble getting into the doors at Gracewood. The two hardly compute and it’s unrealistic to think that any compensation can be individually crafted. I don’t know how I would work it out so I can’t be critical.

November 11, 2023

This blog started off as Lymph Notes, intended to inform John’s friends abut his perilous medical situation at that time. Now things have changed for the better in regard to those earlier illnesses, due to the superb treatment at St. Vincent’s and Royal North Shore Hospitals, but new challenges have arisen. Many of the friends who regularly read this epistle back then are now gone. So I am very conscious of being around to look after John and although it sounds odd, I am more careful crossing the roads (my hearing means I often miss noticing that vehicles are coming) and even to avoiding ladders and wearing sensible shoes to avoid falls. For if I’m not here who sits in Apple for over two hours egging the staff on to find a way to save his phone data? This is not self-important, but a statement of fact; the Gracewood staff do wonders but it’s all confined to their centre, no service exists to deal with the many things like visits to specialists or for essential treatment or getting dental problems dealt with or needing a new phone. I suspect that if no one is there to do these things they simply don’t get done. When I asked about the possibility of getting his treatment done at St. V’s if I couldn’t drive him I was told it could be arranged with a nurse for $200 an hour, all up it usually takes about six hours, once a month. His meagre resources would be gone within a few months and then what?? This is not a complaint, simply a stating of the facts and the reasons why I won’t be sky-diving any time soon.

I’m loving the fact that my Agapanthus are in bud, even more so since Joan Didion told me that they are known as Lily of the Nile. Yesterday I did some botanical dyeing on watercolour paper with Jacaranda, but I will try it with Agapanthus as it’s not always obvious which species will give the best colour and I’m dying (haha) to get a good purple, it’s a matter of trial and error. My Baby Mizuna which I grew from seed were less than successful with only two plants coming up, however I now see that neither looks like Mizuna at all and I suspect I have been mollycoddling two weeds. The Bergenia seeds planted in early September produced two only plants also, each now just a few millimetres high after careful propagation in Vermiculite under clingwrap. Sometimes I wonder why I persist with seeds, it’s either 50 plants or zero. But the Coreopsis Sue dug up on the roadside are happy as pigs in clover, flowering already, maybe stealing plants is the go.

During the week I bought a large whole mullet at my favourite Norwest fish shop and got them to fillet it but to keep the head and bones. Today I made fish soup for lunch out of the carcass with rice and half a fillet added and using the fish stock and coconut milk as liquid. It was delicious and as it was a big fish I ended up getting three different meals from the fillets as well as lunch for both of us today, all for $13.50.

I did think of something to toss into any class action that emerges from the Optus failure: I belong to a group which sells off tickets to shows cheaply in order to keep theatres full and often they send me shows I’m not interested in or theatres in Randwick or places too hard to get to. But on the day that Optus went down they advertised free tickets to the premiere of a movie that I want to see, but by the time the internet came back on all the tickets had gone. Sad enough for a big payout? Not really, but it’s the best I can do.

November 12, 2023

It’s 4 am on the 13th, but I crashed at 9.30 last night after a huge day so that’s okay. Heather had invited me to do the Arcadia Artists Trail with her today, something that’s been on for over 30 years but has passed me by somehow. We began at 8.30 at Fiddletown, way past Arcadia, in an area I’d never been to before. There are 6 locations ranging from Dural to Fiddletown and each property was host to 6 or 7 artisans. They ranged from sculptors to ceramicists, painters to blacksmiths, jewellery makers to glass-blowers and not a bad one amongst them. The very first stop included the amazing artist Ian Leon and if I were younger I’d have hoovered up a few of his landscapes, particularly the seascapes around the Central Coast. Here I bought from Sophie Cooper a jewellery kit for Millie for Christmas, disks of plywood with designs printed on them with a set of paints and brushes, cord and beads to make bangles or necklaces, but resisted the fun earrings that they laser cut from ply and then paint. It was fascinating to go to a sculptor’s workshop and see grasstrees made full size from metal for $3000 and life size metal brush turkeys for $800. All of the properties were in the bush, some with gorgeous gardens with ponds and sculpture and each was the home of one of the exhibitors. Bushfire I kept thinking, but hats off to them for living their dream, clearly art and craft can pay big mortgages. Planning to do just a few venues, we ended up doing the whole six and I came home with just enough time for a quick shower before heading to the Thankyou Barbecue for the Yes 23 campaign at Balcombe Height Estate. They didn’t want us to bring anything and around 50 of the 200 vollies turned up to be served barbecued bangers, bread and a host of salads along with a bucket load of soft drinks. During the speeches our leader Ryan Tracey, a Hills Labor councillor, gave me a mention: ‘thanks to Maureen, the quiet achiever’ which was quite something as it’s the first time since I was a shy and always terrified child that someone has referred to me as quiet! Perhaps I need to come out and be more vocal in that group, but because I was one with everything we did I never felt the need. They are pushing me to join the local Labor Party branch (‘meeting this Tuesday night Maureen’Smilie: ;) but be careful what you wish for Ryan. It was such a great day that I didn’t find time to worry about John, quite a rarity.

November 13, 2023

My gardeners came today and I’ve been slack in getting them lately so the grass was long, plus I wanted a small tree cut down as it is sending out suckers everywhere and they needed to cut that up and pack it into the green bin. I insisted that they charge me extra but they simply refused, saying that I’m a pensioner and that’s that. Note to self: their Christmas bonus should be a bit bigger this year.

I get into so much trouble smiling at strangers, especially if they are men. Today going into the Sallies to drop off oodles of Christmas decorations (how did I acquire so many? a whiteboard and a football??) I smiled at a man as I was walking in and he walking out. A bit of a blunder as it turned out, because it took the next 40 minutes to get away. First he wanted to know the price of Tontine pillows in the shops and I offered to Google it for him as he was worried about paying too much. I found them as low as $15 in Big W. ‘Well, how can they ask $15 for new ones here?’ he wanted to know. Then he told me that he cruises op shops for records and books and sells them at auction, making a lot of money apparently. I listened without comment but it turned out he knows all the auctioneers by name and reputation so he knows whereof he speaks, then he began to apprise me of the various good deals he’d done, what he paid in the op shop versus what he recouped at auction (a Margaret Preston woodcut bought for $50 and worth $30,000), the fact that he is very well off, lives in Lindfield, is Jewish, was audited by the Taxation Department ‘after some jealous person had apparently dobbed me in’, has no overheads to speak of, sells without a business premise or staff, doesn’t use computers and doesn’t even have a mobile phone. I would still be there except that Tim rang at the right time for once so I got away, though he sat in his car outside for some time waiting for me to get off the phone…..I wonder why it is that men always seem to think I would be impressed by wealth? But I’m thinking of V. now so given the time over I would still smile and still listen to his life story: came from England with nothing 50 years ago, now a wealthy man through dealing etc etc. He has the gift of the gab and that’s half the battle and having a good eye is the other half.

Penny Wong is in all sorts of bother for calling for a ceasefire in Gaza (about bloody time!) but luckily for Labor the Jewish community lives in seats that they could never win anyway. I didn’t bring up Gaza with V. today at the Sallies, perhaps I should have, but he was a talker not a listener. Nothing as queer as folk and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

November 14, 2023

Sometimes I’m glad I’m a fusspot. Today, despite Gracewood’s doctor eventually writing a referral to a dermatologist for John to have a large and ugly skin cancer on his hand removed, I took him to Bob who said it needed to be done immediately and asked the RN to set up the little operating theatre for that to happen. Within minutes we were in there and Bob operated, leaving John with about 8 stitches but very glad he doesn’t have to wait weeks for a resolution. I would bet money that the dermo wouldn’t have dropped everything to operate, it would have been done at some future appointment. I may be a bit unpopular with Dr. Castro at Gracewood because I overruled her decision but that’s okay. Very happy and also glad that I’m taking him to St. Vs tomorrow so I can keep an eye on him. Better to be away from Gracewood as much as possible at the moment anyway, as they have six people down with gastro.

Trying to decide which book to wrap up for the book group lucky dip is tricky. I keep choosing one, but then think ‘oh no, so-and-so would hate this book’ and choose again, then the same thing happens. Trying to please all takers is not easy. I’m selling A Dictionary of Dairying from 1955 on eBay, nah not that but perhaps Boyce’s Motor Vehicle Specifications 1975 which is also on there? No one else in Australia wants either of them at any price I should add, but I just can’t throw books in the bin.

My back yard looks so much better since Kirk and Dean cut a self-sown tree out yesterday. I should have done it a long time ago but it’s like the books, if the universe has chosen my yard for the tree who am I to object? Funny that I don’t feel that way about weeds in general, but anyway. However I was excited to see a lilac bush growing at Gracewood and snaffled a few bits for pressing, the car smelled divine coming home, now I want to plant one. I’ve learned a lesson from pressing some jacaranda, coloured newspaper supplements don’t cut the mustard, they are just not absorbent enough and the flowers deteriorate.

November 15, 2023

Off to Nelune today for John’s treatment so I met up with Fran and had a good chinwag. It is not lost on me that John has been successfully treated there for many years but Bill didn’t manage even one year despite all the therapeutics that they threw at him. She is deep in sorting out Bill’s estate matters, which are complex. We went for a wander to Berkelouw Books where she bought 3 or 4 for gifts and I escaped unscathed. When I went back to Nelune the staff there had downloaded colouring-in pages for him from the internet and supplied highlighters, very sweet.

I see that K-Mart has had to scrap a Christmas themed cloth ham bag because it read Merry Ham-Mas. How bloody ridiculous, how could they have possibly known about the attacks that were to take place when they planned manufacture of the bags and what possible association would the average person draw between a bag to store ham and a Palestinian group? But the Jewish Board of Deputies objected so that’s it. We mustn’t risk offending them no matter how petty their complaint. I am getting pretty sick of the kowtowing to this group by business and government, not to mention the boot-licking some of the Press is engaging in. Chris Minns is particularly guilty of bias here, jumping every time the JBD rattles his cage.

John’s hand hasn’t caused him any problems, no pain, nothing, so Bob has done an excellent job there. But now the poor bugger is restricted to his room as the gastro outbreak in his wing has spread, it was at 6 yesterday but today the number is described as ‘increased’ which to my mind means there is a lot as they don’t want to reveal the number. Hopefully he will be okay and he can still come home for the weekend.

November 16, 2023

John of course forgot that he was in lockdown and went to the breakfast room, only to be shepherded back to his room to wait for his meal to be delivered. I can show patience to him, but imagine dealing with dozens of people who don’t know what’s going on and can’t follow instructions? It doesn’t bear thinking about, I know I would snap.

Today I am stupidly happy. Someone took the 856 page book A Dictionary of Dairying from the street library. I can’t believe it, but have cancelled its listing on eBay for $1 (you can’t list things for less than 99 cents and I refuse to use that stupid price). I so hope that they don’t bring it back. It’s listed as selling for 40 pounds in England so I hope the taker can make a quid on it.

We all know that a big part of any conflict is winning the propaganda war, but the case of Israeli soldiers carrying into the Gaza hospital boxes marked ‘baby food’ is a monumental fail. Who labels such products with big block letter signs (easily readable by TV cameras) not in Hebrew or Arabic but in English? Pull the other one. They take us for fools, which by and large it seems we are, looking at you Chris Minns. What was in those boxes? Who knows? but premmie babies need special formulas, non generically named ‘baby food’. Considering some Israeli military have said that the end game is no Palestinians left at all, would you feed babies on what is being supplied, assuming there is anything at all in the boxes? ABC reporter John Lyons is back from Israel and reports that the hospital raid found no tunnels, no weapons cache and that it was a big failure which undermines the US and Israeli reasons given for the attack. The Weapons of Mass Destruction moment?

I have been drawn as John’s person in the family Secret Santa so I went up to Eckersley’s and bought the watercolour painting book I’ve been wanting as well as a packet of glitter gel pens for making cards. The stock there always fascinates me but unfortunately you need talent and that is the one thing they are not selling. The manager CJ tried to interest me in a painting class but the subject didn’t appeal and some of the others class examples looked pretty ordinary so I think I’ll wait and see what’s on offer next year.

November 17, 2023

Grrr, the glitter gel pens I bought are so different to the results I showed CJ that I was trying to achieve that I’m afraid they will have to go back. The lines they make are as narrow as a fine biro, whereas I wanted wide ones I could draw with. But that’s a problem for another day.

Spent last night at Erko with Millie Mooch while D and L went to a concert. Apparently it was a bit weird because although the band was excellent, the lead was quite abusive to the audience who ended up booing him by the end. Drugs? booze? just his shtick? They don’t know but they won’t be going again if another concert comes up. I slept like a log till 3.51 am and then was awake till the family rose at 7, so I am quite empty of comment tonight.

November 18, 2023

Now it’s 3 am and I’m wide awake. I would never have coped with the sleep disruption of medicine, another reason to choose forensic science next life. Talking about career choices, I have been reading a bit about the SAS since finishing the book on Ben Roberts-Smith and some very scary facts emerge. A psychologist who was employed in WA screening special forces candidates comments: “The rhetoric has always been that you are really looking for similar features to a psychopath. But they don’t really want psychopaths. Just men who exhibit a few of their traits. What we are looking for is someone who has high sensation-seeking attributes. They want to and are happy to take risks. But they may also have lower scores on something called warmth”. Could a better description of BRS be written? 

The thought of another Trump presidency is too scary to dwell on for any length of time, but Biden is becoming more and more of a problem. If he doesn’t show the warning signs of dementia I’ll eat my hat. His latest public description of Chinese president Xi as a dictator, this while attempting some sort of rapprochement, shows that any diplomatic skills he had acquired in the past have fallen away. I do have some comfort that the team around him seem to be functional, unlike those around Trump, but it’s a terrible choice. His blunder reminds me of my sister-in-law who, suffering dementia, was waiting at the hairdresser and when her turn came remarked to the lady leaving “I would change hairdressers if I were you, your hair looks terrible”.

John has thankfully managed to avoid the gastro outbreak, no-one goes in without full PPE with face shield so I waited in the foyer, ringing to remind John to collect his meds from Cecilia on his way down. But after ages he appeared with no meds, then Cecilia was on the phone saying that when she tried to give them to him he went straight past her to the lift, saying that Maureen is waiting in the foyer. Anyway she came down and it was all sorted. I asked the lady on the desk if they had isolated the bug and she answered that yes it was rhinovirus, which of course is a respiratory disease so I said nothing and asked Cecilia. It is norovirus which is very contagious.

John wanted to be here today so I didn’t argue. He also said he wants to come to book group next week. This afternoon I planted coriander seeds while trading texts with my Palestinian friend and he sent me a video of a comedian at the Opera House last night whose show finished with Palestinian flags and music, saying ‘they wouldn’t have our flag on the outside, so they can have it on the inside’. The crowd went wild. I’ll bet Louise was not pleased, which makes me even more pleased.

November 19, 2023

John asked at lunch today ‘what is the word for the act of asking for a dish that is sold out or off the menu?’ Mmm, I asked Mr. Google but he didn’t know either, perhaps there is a word that we’re not aware of. I asked John why he wanted to know and he said he was just thinking about it. He wanted another at home day but also wanted me to take him to Eckersley’s to buy a pad of drawing paper for his colouring so for moi I picked up a pad of black card while we were there as I am out of black altogether, both in paper and cardboard. I could spend a fortune in there but I’m being good. I got a couple of cards finished and posted today, one for my bro’s birthday in early December and the other for Antonia in Melbourne whom I haven’t head from for a while. I’ve taken to picking up small bird’s feathers to add to paintings of small birds, just a couple really lifts them, plus the big feathers I find are wonderful for dragging across wet watercolour paint for texture. A class was going on at the shop when we were there, but I wasn’t fussed about the end result painting when I saw it previously so I gave the class a miss.

I am getting pretty cheesed off with the extent of plea bargaining occurring. This was an American phenomenon which we’ve picked up on and, as they do, it seems to be overused. A Sydney mother, charged with stealing tens of thousands from unsuspecting people whose credit cards she scammed was found with a toolbox containing 96 SIM cards as well as other people’s credit card details and identity information. She was initially charged with about 300 offences, but pleaded guilty to only 70 charges including dozens of counts of fraud, several counts of attempted fraud, possessing stolen goods and drug possession.  Apparently those charges are expected to be further whittled down by the time she is sentenced as part of plea negotiations. Then when it’s heard the jury will think that what they are hearing is the totality of her offences and give her a slap on the wrist. I wish more judges would hang out and let the jury hear the whole truth, then their deliberations are closer to the reality of the situation.

I really love Caesar Salad. Just sometimes I’m of a mind to make one, which I did for dinner tonight and it was by far the worst Caesar ever. I fried the prosciutto first before realising that it should have been the croutons, so I tossed them in and soon had almost burnt prosciutto with half cooked cubes of bread. Then I cracked the boiled egg, which had gone much too far. Next I mixed the mayo with a couple of anchovies and tossed it all together with the Cos lettuce, only realising later that I’d forgotten the parmesan. While it was edible it tasted like what it was, hard boiled egg with burnt prosciutto and bread.

November 20, 2023

Today I met up with friends Di and Jenny for lunch at their favourite place, The Runaway Spoon at Lindfield. The mains are always good and they never order wine or sweets, so I don’t either, making it a lower calorie meal than if I were at Wild Pear for example. Still, it will be next to no dinner for me tonight. Had my usual, a Double Baked Spinach and Ricotta Souffle with roast tomato sauce and a massive contrast to last night’s ghastly Caesar Salad. Mmm-mm, it looked like India on a plate, all red, yellow and orange. John has a thing that pairing egg and tomato makes him sick so he would run a mile but I loved it. I parked in Lindfield Harris Farm Markets and the place is absolutely huge, I actually got lost in it. I was looking for the wonderful smoked English cheddar that Bronwyn served us a few weeks ago but couldn’t find it, though I spent up on berries and cherries anyway.

I saw in the weekend paper that the owners of the Bondi Junction Motor Garage sold their house for $28.5 million and are moving up. How many grease and oil changes in $28.5 million I asked myself? About 142,500 it seems by my calculations, so one has to ask the question: what else are they selling? Or put another way, if they have that much money why are they tinkering with cars?

Ever since I changed from Saturday and Sunday papers to Saturday and Monday I’ve had problems. First I was told that I needed to wait for the current contract to end, back in May, because it was too difficult to adjust it otherwise. Then I kept getting the weekend papers but not Monday, then Mondays came again and now they are back to just the weekends. The SMH people are going spare trying to get it right but the delivery people just can’t manage such a complicated mission, so I haven’t had a Monday paper for three weeks now.

November 21, 2023

Sue rang last night to see if I wanted to go down to Kirribilli today to have a geezer at the new kitchen going in. I was tired and said I’d confirm today but of course after a sleep…. However the GPS is showing an hour and 19 minutes to get there even using the M2 so I’m not leaving till the traffic clears a bit. Sue sent me instructions to get there via the Pacific Highway to avoid the tolls but I can’t read and drive, so I will just pay the toll I think. Yesterday coming home from Lindfield the M2 was 23 minutes and Epping Road was 47, a no brainer. Perhaps foolishly, I told John what I was doing and he replied that he, rather than me, was more suited to giving an opinion on the kitchen. True, but I think it may have been a hope that I would take him with me as he’s still in lockdown so there are no activities happening. Of course now I feel guilty about not taking him and silly for having mentioned it.

Apparently Channel 10 is going from bad to worse which made me cast my mind back to when it began. I was proofreading for Murdoch at the time and TV Week was one of my responsibilities. There was no call for a third commercial station, in fact the pundits were commenting that three couldn’t survive, but Rupert insisted as he wanted his very own propaganda station and the kudos that came with opening one. It had to have a bigger number than the others, therefore 10. So from then on the publication’s Movie of the Week and Best New Programme and feature article were always and ever about something on Channel 10, funny that. Of course Murdoch sold out long ago, but it is still in many ways the redundant channel.

John’s memory is pretty bad, except when he’s really engaged in the idea of something. I decided to make it a short visit to Sue’s as I was feeling bad about not taking him, a pity as I had been looking forward to spending time there. However Sue assured me that he would have forgotten all about it. I rang him as soon as I got home at 1 pm and the first thing he said was: ‘Oh I suppose you’re still at Sue’s’ and seemed happy when I said that I was home after a flying visit. The kitchen men were assembling the cupboards but then the floor men have to come before the benchtops go on and the appliances are put in place. The mossy green colour is understated and looks perfect. I was amazed at how many cupboards there are, no wonder I don’t have space for everything in my little kitchen, I would be lucky to have a quarter of the number. From the windows I watched the Federal Police wandering the grounds of Kirribilli House below and suggested that Sue could rent out a room to a sniper a la JFK’s Lee Harvey Oswald in the Dallas Book Depository. They wouldn’t need to be a good shot, it’s so close. Joke AFP, joke.

November 22, 2023

Today was my first oldies bus tour with Hills Council. They were very late picking me up but I discovered that I was the last person, plus one lady wasn’t to be found, they knocked, peered through windows and rang, but no one came out. So she either forgot and went out or as I write she is sprawled on her bathroom floor cold and wan, I guess I will find out if it’s the latter. Then our lovely driver Vang went to the Balcombe Heights Estate where John used to go to day care and I feared I had boarded the wrong bus, but he was picking up the poppers and snacks of nuts, cheese and crackers or sweet biscuits to eat on the way, none of which I touched as I didn’t want to spoil my lunch. How pleasant it is to be driven. You can look at the clouds, the houses, the trees, even the sides of the M2 get interesting if you are free to look at them. We arrived at Church Point and the two volunteers offered us a walk around but I was the only one apart from them who left the bus. Shortly afterwards we pulled up at Pasadena Restaurant which overlooks the water. I asked some of the ladies if they had been on other trips and they announced in chorus ‘We go on EVERY trip’ so it wasn’t a surprise when the lady seeing us to our table said to one of them ‘weren’t you here a couple of weeks ago?’ The food was very nice, not cordon bleu, but probably better than club or pub food. I’m glad I didn’t order fish and chips as it was a huge pile of THREE large pieces of battered fish with a basket of chips. The missing lady had ordered that so the volunteers got her meal as a takeaway, for them? for her (if she is extant)? I’m not sure but it didn’t look good with the fat slowly coagulating inside the plastic. They seem a nice enough bunch, some younger than I am and some older. I picked one volunteer’s accent as middle Yorkshire and blow me if she didn’t grow up in Halifax and go to school at the place that gave my brother’s street its name, School Lane. She could almost pinpoint his house.

While I was out Sue was texting to ask about tiles and flooring for her kitchen so she called in just after I got home (last on the bus means first off, bless). She was in a rush to get back to Kirri but showed me actual tiles and photos of various wooden floors, but she may come back tomorrow and we’ll go to the flooring place for a final decision. I was a bit nervous about going out with a bus load of olds, but altogether it was a successful day and a real stress reliever. John understood that he couldn’t come because the trips are partly government funded so it would be double dipping in their eyes, so I didn’t have the guilts today.

November 23, 2023

My oh my I’ll be glad when I finally choose a book for the book group lucky dip tomorrow. A few have been chosen and put back, too sad, too ironic, too specialised in interests. But then I thought of Nora Ephron, whose books I love and perhaps a few others would too, so maybe that’s it but I can’t wrap it up till I’ve thought some more. Then there’s the poetry reading. I have shelves of poetry books but many are by the war poets and Wilfred Owen and his ilk are too sad, as is Robert Frost, John Betjeman is great and I have two copies of his collected works so I considered this as the gift but the print is very small. So I think I have settled on reading Clive James, the irony may be a problem for some but he is sooo good. I think the theme is thanksgiving in its broadest sense but it seems that none of my faves deal with that sort of topic at all, so we are left with Clive.

I keep thinking about a funny/sad part of our lunch yesterday on the bus trip. The lady next to me acceded to a request by Evie opposite to share her chips, but Evie’s companion was outraged: She’s got chips left on her plate! she said with umbrage. Evie declared that she wasn’t at all bothered as she couldn’t eat them all, but her pal looked daggers at the chip thief. A bit later her hand came out to take another couple of chips (in defiance?) and that was the last straw for Evie’s compatriot so she began telling the volunteers ‘She’s taking Evie’s chips when she’s got three on her plate already’, this fully audible but behind her hand. The culprit reached for another, but Evie’s friend saw her coming and moved the little wire basket further away. I watched with awe and hoped my obvious attention may stop the nonsense. I can’t help wondering if the chip thief had heard it all before, she is Chinese with perfect English and good hearing but I suspect quite used to being excluded. I just can’t see that level of overt criticism being levelled at an Anglo. I await further developments with interest (note to self: sit next to the Chinese lady in future and speak up if it happens again).

Poor John told me this morning how much he was looking forward to the bus trip at 10 am. Oh great, I said, so you’re out of lockdown, but he didn’t understand. If you’re getting your meals in the dining room that means the bus trip will go ahead, I said. No, he replied, I am getting all of my meals in my room. Somehow he hadn’t connected that with the bus trip happening, or not happening in this case.

November 24, 2023

A bit of a rush to pick John up for book group as the breakfast can be later than usual due to the interminable lockdown. They need 72 hours infection free before cancelling it and just when they think they’ve got it, another patient falls victim. But we got here in the end and I made the salad with home grown lettuce, asparagus, peas, cucumber and mint with an avocado cream dressing of avocado, lemon juice, water, olive oil and smoked garlic. Yum I could have eaten the whole pot with a spoon. We sorted some books for next year and exchanged books as gifts (just to show that I needn’t have worried so much about my book choice, there was one left over, mine, which I will now deliver to Brigitte, I hope she hasn’t read On Chesil Beach). We gave our poetry readings and listened to John do The Man From Snowy River perfectly. We had roasted pumpkin, pumpkin curry and pumpkin pie which was fine for Thanksgiving Day.

The car that crashed doing very high speed at the Niagara Falls Canada/US border was a Bentley. Police have rules out terrorism and the two victims are a local married couple who own businesses selling timber and hardware. It seems such a strange case, but seeing they were headed to a Kiss concert perhaps they were pre-stoked. Why else would you be driving the Bentley at 160 kph? Of course mechanical failure or some sort of medical emergency is possible too, but that’s an inquest I’ll never get to.

November 25, 2023

Went to the Farmer’s Market for smoked garlic and avocadoes and came home with four bags full of fruit and veg. My favourite seller has fewer types of produce but the stuff is wonderful quality and always heaps cheaper than the others, which makes me think that they sell what they grow, not adding to it from other growers to get a fuller range. So 4 avocadoes for $5 and a giant Jap pumpkin for $5 led the bargains. My smoked garlic man was there so I got a big head, he only has smoked garlic, smoked nuts and smoked spices. I asked about what timbers he uses for the smoking and he told me, but they’ve gone out of my head already. I have bought 3 hydrangea plants over the years, each has died, but I saw such a beauty there that I decided to have another go but to keep it in a pot, not in the ground in case there’s something in the soil that they don’t like. The seller was a man who has had a stall in Windsor Mall for decades, but he didn’t recognise me so I didn’t start a conversation in the rain. He says his son grows the plants. Two ladies got bogged in a small patch of wet ground and John went over to advise/help but the driver revved up and splattered him head to tow with mud. We had a good laugh about it and no harm done, but I’m glad that we weren’t going somewhere fancy afterwards.

I asked John whether yesterday he got to catch up with Martha’s sister Becky, over from Maine. He couldn’t understand the question, asking how he could possibly have done that, so I said I was talking about the book group party. He has ZERO memory of the day, despite my mentioning what we ate, who was there and his poetry performance. Likewise when I repotted the hydrangea he didn’t know that I had bought it this morning or that we’d been at the markets.

November 26, 2023

I am curious about the fact that incoming refugees from Palestine seemed often to be wearing crosses around their necks. I wouldn’t have thought that the Christian population there is huge so I asked Mr. Google who said it is about 6%. My suspicious mind wonders if it’s Syria all over again where we offered heaps of places to refugees but they almost all happened to be Christians? There is someone who would know the answer to this question but I don’t want to step on an ant’s nest, so I will just observe and say nothing for now.

So a couple of people are dead and hundreds sick in the US with Salmonella from eating rockmelons. Rockmelons? I couldn’t see why they would be a problem but apparently they are susceptible to Salmonella contamination, with irrigation water being the likely problem. The rough external rind is a potential hiding place for Salmonella bacteria apparently, whereas I saw that as a protection. The offending fruit were grown in Mexico but were shipped all over the US and Canada. Then there’s Listeria, which can survive for up to 84 days in soil. Heavy rains on a crop can splash listeria from soils onto the surface, especially those fruits which grow low to the ground, such as rockmelons. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria can multiply in the fridge so that’s no help in avoiding poisoning if they have been contaminated. NSW Health recommends tossing uneaten rockmelon after 2 hours if it’s been at room temperature (though that doesn’t help if you’ve got Listeria on the part in the fridge) and says it should be avoided altogether by people over 65! What you learn by following up on news article. I kind of like the idea of the Russian roulette of eating rockmelon this summer.

November 27, 2023

Been cutting back my Hypoestes or polka dot plants. For some reason they get super leggy and three times as high as usual, all you can see of them is the long shoots and not the beautiful leafy plants below, so today was the day to start cutting them back. I’ve sent a ‘before and after’ photo of what I’ve done (about a quarter of what’s needed) to the Botanical Gardens to seek advice on what I can do to avoid this happening, so we’ll see what they say. I can’t seem to garden for more than an hour or so which is annoying, but a bit each day works just as well.

John has been in lockdown for about 2 weeks now, unable to leave his room at all unless coming home for the weekends. This morning I rang at 8.30 am and heard a bit of noise so I said: ‘Oh that’s great, it sounds like you’re out of lockdown’ but he didn’t know what I meant. He has totally forgotten that he’s been locked in his room all that time, it’s hard to imagine how it has made no impression on his memory. There were 4 people at his dining room table originally, John, a married couple (one of whom died a few weeks ago) and a retired fireman. I asked John if the two remaining people were happy to be out of lockdown and of course he hadn’t asked Jenine as he couldn’t remember any of it, but when I again mentioned the fireman he said calmly: ‘no, he’s not here any more, he’s been moved to the loony bin section’. Gracewood works on a different level of emotion I think; people disappear, new people come, it’s just accepted.

I’m taking John back to Bob tomorrow to get his stitches out. The whole thing went well (I’m so used to complications with him). The pathology was squamous cell carcinoma but seeing it’s been successfully operated on we can forget about it. I made an appointment for myself at the same time as I fell in the loungeroom a couple of day ago due to my right leg being ‘dead’ from the pins and needles that occur whenever I sit for very long in a chair. It’s been happening for a year or so, I’ve put off asking him as I don’t want a diagnosis of Sjogren’s peripheral neuropathy, but I was very lucky that I fell onto the lounge and realising that it could have involved falling out of a bus or train after sitting for an hour I can’t ignore it any longer. Hopefully he’ll pull another diagnosis out of his kit bag.

Reading more about Gaza one turns up with so many puzzling stories. Such as how the buildings of the Israeli kibbutz Be’eri could have been largely destroyed by Hamas Palestinian fighters who crossed from Gaza on 7 October. How could the mass destruction to Israeli homes there happen with their light hand-held weapons? Yasmin Porat, an Israeli civilian who lived there, claims that on 7 October Israeli forces went on a panicked response to the incursion by Hamas, firing wildly with very powerful weapons, destroying buildings and killing both Hamas fighters and the Israeli civilians who were with there. If the photos shown are accurate, then the building are clearly destroyed by heavy weaponry which the Gazans simply didn’t have. We will never get to the truth as no independent body will get within coo-ee of the sites.

So Mike Pezzullo, The Pez, has finally bitten the dust and I’m imagining that a celebration something like a cross between Christmas Eve and Melbourne Cup Day is happening across the Public Service as I type. Is that a Champagne cork popping that I hear in the distance? It’s amazing that a person could be so roundly despised and yet continue in the job, just proving that once a someone like him gets into a powerful position they are damned hard to shift.

November 28, 2023

Had big ideas of where to take John today after an early appointment with Bob to get the stitches out of his hand, but Bob decided that the raw looking depression in his cheek was potentially ‘a cancerous ulcer’ so he asked us to hang around till the theatre and he were both free. He operated on his face but, unlike the hand surgery, the local anaesthetic didn’t work for reasons best known to the gods. After three injections Bob did it anyway, with John in pain and particularly so during the stitching. We don’t know why it didn’t take but I don’t think I could have put up with the pain. His stressful morning and our late arrival home at 1 pm meant that any sort of activity was out of the window, so we just enjoyed a lunch of vege fritters and carrot salad and he rested up here. I felt bad when he asked me ‘why did you tell me to wear nice clothes to get my face cut open?’ Good question, but of course I had no idea how things were to unfold. Bob told me that my leg problem sounds as if it is a nerve issue, possibly a Sjogren’s connection, but thankfully opted for a wait and see approach.

It’s amazing how easily things come to light if you follow a bad smell to see where it is coming from. I found that Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev told MSNBC in a recorded television interview:  “We originally said, in the atrocious Hamas attack upon our people on October 7th, we had the number at 1,400 casualties and now we’ve revised that down to 1,200 because we understood that we’d overestimated, we made a mistake. There were actually bodies that were so badly burnt we thought they were ours, in the end apparently they were Hamas terrorists.” Clearly they didn’t set fire to themselves, so keep hunting. In another interview the Israeli air force admitted that it sent up more than two dozen attack helicopters on 7 October, which “fired huge amounts of heavy cannon shells and Hellfire missiles, even though in many cases the pilots could not tell Palestinians apart from Israeli civilians”. As I said before we will never be sure what actually went down that day.

An email from one of John’s ex-priest mates tells of two of them apart from John now seriously affected by dementia. As well there are various forms of cancer including mesothelioma, prostate, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and more, ain’t old age something to look forward to?

November 29, 2023

Today was the second of the bus trips I booked on. There were two bus loads, 9 people to each bus. The first trip was better because I formed a good relationship with one of the volunteers, but I’m certainly not complaining about this one. It was to Yarra Bay, close to La Perouse, overlooking a lovely little white sandy beach, with the heads of Botany Bay in one direction and the docks of Port Botany in the other, so we were able to watch the container ships arriving. Last time we sat in the main restaurant at Pasadena but here we were in a separate room, still with a lovely view, but had plastic cups and no tablecloths, clearly the second class of the restaurant guests. However the food was very nice so no complaints there. Coming home I was last drop off, despite being last pickup this morning, however I got to see where all the other people live, some in a very ritzy part of West Pennant Hills with enormous houses, but three in various parts of the Anglican Retirement Village and one in Aminya. The trips will resume late in January apparently.

Our friend Logan is again in hospital after his 39th serious fall since January. I’m not sure how long this can go on before he has to go into a home, although he was taken to hospital from ARV while in respite there so I guess that’s no answer either. I think he will be confined to a wheelchair at the very least. Supranuclear palsy, a bastard of a disease, which causes so many issues but falling is a very common one.

I happened to see a video of the questioning of a man in England charged with two 1980s murders and 101 cases of sex with dead women in the mortuary of a hospital where he worked as an electrician. He was confessing to police in the video and it was amazing how gentle and understanding they were with him, gently asking about what he did and the motivations behind it. I just can’t imagine a police interview in Australia proceeding the way this one did. It’s the difference between an unarmed police service and an armed police force. A quiet diligent man, living in the house he was born in, and interested in birdwatching, cycling and photography. I have to say I felt sorry for him, guilty though he is and despite his horrific crimes. I wanted to give him a hug and to say that I at some level l understood.

November 30, 2023

Eek, I don’t want it to be December tomorrow but there’s not a lot that I can do about it. Today I am shuffling between tidying up the house (well needed), making some Christmas cards (not even writing them, just making some for various staff members at Gracewood), liaising with various carpet-layers to repair minor damage in Carly’s unit and talking with real estate agents on her behalf regarding rental of her unit when she goes away. In the background I am listening to Brittany Higgins testimony, but unfortunately I wasn’t here to hear Bruce Lehrmann’s. I am having some trouble with believing her in certain respects, such as when she had written in an account that was to be published about watching blood run from a cut on her knee, a cut that she now admits was never there. It is hard to judge people by a transcript, you need to be there actually watching the evidence being given, seeing I didn’t get that opportunity with Bruce I can’t comment but I do have doubts about hers. Refusing a request from the AFP to not allow any interviews to be broadcast until she had made a statement to police is a very odd thing to do.

Yet again, a plea deal seems to have led to another crime. A man allegedly broke into a 90-year-old woman’s room at an aged care facility in Bateau Bay and sexually assaulted her and she has now died in hospital. He had just been released from prison for a similar attack in the same town a decade ago. He was charged with nine offences, which were reduced to three as part of a plea bargain. This happens over and over again, when serious allegations are downgraded in order to get a guilty plea. Leave the bloody charges up there and let the jury decide!

December 1, 2023

Juggling a few balls today, I visited Brigitte to give her the book from the book group swap, later John had an eye test which he came through okay. But it surprised me to hear them say he had cataracts in both eyes, seeing he has had surgery for exactly that. I refused glasses in agreement with him, as he had said that he didn’t want anything more to worry about. I wouldn’t have had the testing done at all, but it’s part of the Gracewood policy so we went along with it. Then after lunch I talked to another real estate person about Carly’s unit, with one more to go. Then I’ll draw up some sort of a primitive spreadsheet on paper comparing the three, I’ve never learned how to do such things on the computer.

After two harrowing books exposing the bastardry which the SAS got up to in Afghanistan, I needed a breather. I usually go to someone like Jane Harper or Liane Moriarty, but I’ve started a Maeve Binchy novel Quentins which is a great form of stress release. She has a wonderful understanding of human nature and although I wouldn’t call it a deep book, it is certainly an engrossing one. I’m sure Maeve is a really decent person, at least that is how it appears in every book, always allowing her characters to have another side no matter how poor their actions and decisions are.

I had to smile when John said to me that ‘Michelle is doing really well since Kev died’. I was pleased to inform him that Kev is very much alive. The late afternoon was spent baking for tomorrow while listening to the Lehrmann defamation trial live stream. I so wish I’d heard his evidence which apparently turned up as many questions as it answered, but to me the shocking thing in her evidence was how she juggled the police and various media companies to get the maximum damage to the Liberal Party and the government at that time. Much time was spent making sure that the interviews came out during a sitting week in parliament and just before Question Time to squeeze maximum embarrassment from Senators Reynolds, Cash and others. Not a usual first priority for a rape victim it may be argued.

December 2, 2023

The Saga of the Table: a few weeks back John knocked over and broke a table from the front verandah so Sue said that her handyman could easily glue the two halves back together, so she took it to Killcare. Then I got a text to say that the top had a 30 degree bow in it and couldn’t be fixed. I was puzzled as it wasn’t like that when it left so I said not to worry about it, I only paid $20 for it decades ago and it can be a plant stand in the garden. Next thing I find the table on the front verandah Estapoled, and with a new hardwood top. Puzzlingly, the old top (with no 30 degree bow) was repaired and with it. Sue and I were both flummoxed till she got a text from the handyman’s wife saying that he had spent three days fixing it and to make sure that I knew that. (Maureen makes gesture of rubbing her fingers together). She also reminded Sue that they need payment by the 10th as they are going to stay in Melbourne at their other house as they do every summer while they let their Killcare house out for zillions. So I have a table and a bill of unknown quantity but with a high degree of expectation on their part (I’m sure it’s on her part actually). Thinking, thinking.

We went to First Saturday for a very interesting talk by a man who wrote a book about someone who walked around the perimeter of Australia in 1921. I found it fascinating and I’m tossing up asking to borrow one of only 20 copies printed, though it’s also on the net. To me it would be so much more real in book form so I will think about how to approach him and will totally understand if he says no. It was a lovely smallish gathering where I knew every person but one. I did a stand of cupcakes, chocolate with caramel frosting and chocolate bits, ugh, but others seemed to like them. I made sure some went home to Boris who wasn’t there. We came home happy and I just did a tuna and egg salad for dinner and then spent the whole evening helping John in writing his Christmas cards. It’s an epic, with decisions needed on recipients, choice of cards, what to write etc etc. After numerous mistakes and wrongly written envelopes we ended up at 11 pm with 8 complete, addressed, stamped cards which are ready to post in the morning. Gee whiz it was an epic.

December 3, 2023

The Saga of Sue’s Driveway: As she is spending a lot of time at Kirribilli through the week, the wife of Sue’s handyman asked if she would like him to blow the leaves off the driveway for her. Yesterday she came home to an invoice for $200 for so doing. Appalled, and with the Table Saga in recent memory, Sue hot-footed to their house clutching $200 cash to be met at the door by the confused handyman who clearly wasn’t expecting 200 smackers. He went and got said wife who, after seeing Sue’s face, said ‘you don’t have to pay it if you don’t want to’. Sue paid up but made it very clear that from now on any work done by him must involve a quote. She asked how I was planning to handle the table issue and after that story I decided that a Christmas card with a bundle of lottery tickets would be a good plan. No mention of their instructions is necessary and they will get the message without an argument. Sue wholeheartedly approves.

Whoa it’s a funny world we live in at the moment. I discovered today that John had cancelled the appointment with Bob this week to have his stitches out, this from a man who can barely use the phone. Luckily I was able to rebook it so nothing lost. He wanted an at home day today so we did a bit of gardening together but unfortunately it’s a very short session for me if I’m bending over as I soon feel sick, though I can trim branches standing up with no problems. However most of what needs doing in a garden is on the ground.

So then we went to Eckersley’s for gifts for John’s granddaughters and bought paints, brushes, cardboard sheets, multi-coloured paper, jumbo pencils, ordinary coloured pencils, sketch pads, a little easel with a small canvas on it and some other stuff that I’ve forgotten. We packed it up in a big parcel and I will post it tomorrow. After I addressed it I got a call from Lynne who said that Annabel and Dan and the kids are going to an uncle in Tasmania for Christmas and probably not coming back till March or April. Lynne is very worried about their schooling as apparently there wasn’t much happening schoolwork-wise during the Covid lockdown so she feels they will get further behind. I would have chosen the gifts differently if I had known, but Lynne said to post them to her so they can take what they want to Tasmania and have the rest when they come back.

December 4, 2023

This morning I got up early and planted the Coreopsis plants that Sue robbed for me from the roadside at Killcare. I figure that if they can grow wild on the roadside they are a good thing to encourage to self-seed in the garden. I was hoping to be less dizzy in the cool of 6.30 am and so it appears, but I didn’t do anything else apart from the planting in case it started up again. It was good seeing the nurses coming down from the bus stop to Aminya, presumably for a 7 am start. I even saw the paper man and he insisted on photographing the paper in situ (in front of Arvind’s place not mine!) so he’s clearly been in trouble over the missing Monday papers.

Posted the presents we bought yesterday after standing 15 minutes or more in a queue before the PO even opened and that again once inside. It is so understaffed which is why it scores 1.5 out of 5 on Google, but I said nothing as it’s not their fault and I’m sure plenty of people have a whinge. Treated myself to sushi for lunch and then got down to business making Christmas cards. The plan is to make all of them this year but clearly I can’t aim for masterpieces. I’m now up to more than 20 which should be almost enough as I don’t send to people I normally see, at least I hope it’s enough as I’m dying to sit down and paint something half decent and not a quick slash of the brush to look like a Christmas tree. It’s amazing how a bit of glitter can lift a pretty pedestrian bit of painting though.

Finding out that John’s family are going to their uncle in Tasmania stirred memories of the last time we saw him and his telling us that his wife, who had started visiting India fairly often, had converted to Islam. She wore a hijab, even at home, because her husband was an infidel. He offered to convert in order to keep the marriage together but she said that it wouldn’t work as it wasn’t a genuine conversion. I’m curious about the washup of all that so perhaps my idle curiosity will be assuaged.

Sue is at Kirribilli today while the stone benchtops are being installed and judging by the photos she’s sending the whole project is looking fabulous. I think the tiles are the next step. I would love to do a kitchen or bathroom design again but I’ll never do that here so it’s next life I guess, unless I come back as a monkey, which would be kind of cute.

December 5, 2023

What a funny old day. Near miss in the car, confirmed in my mind that my optometrist mate is too confused to be anywhere in the range of normal, had a polite spat with Anu and won, and met an absolutely lovely man.

Firstly did the early watering trick and said hello to Aminya staff on their way by, then painted a couple more cards while waiting to see my mate about my broken TV watching glasses, without them everything is double. Anu rang to say that I’d had John home 32 nights since July 1, something I knew wasn’t right. This troubled me a lot but I focussed on seeing to the glasses and he, as per usual, came up with a quick solution. He found a pair of ‘excess glasses in the junk box’ which happened to exactly fit my lenses so he just swapped them over. However I loved the junk glasses and am happy to pay for them, so now I don’t need to buy new frames and he can just make new lenses from the latest prescription.

Home to do some work for Carly drawing up a spreadsheet on paper of the various figures supplied by agents re the letting of her unit and other matters to do with work needing to be done at her unit, all the time upset about how I was going to convince Anu that I was right. I was listening to Brittany Higgins evidence while I worked on the computer. I’ve decided that I just love the judge, Justice Michael Lee. He is scrupulously fair to both sides and as a bonus he has the sweetest smile going. The gods were favourable and Anu rang in the afternoon to say that she’d been given wrong advice from Centrelink, they had given her the remaining days available, not those taken, so my 22 days was spot on. Relief. Her suggestion was that if I could take John out in the morning and bring him back at bedtime so he wouldn’t know whether he’d stayed overnight or not. Unfortunately she’s probably right, but I don’t see the point of doing that when we have plenty of days left.

After the call from Anu I decided that I needed to get out of the house but pulling out onto the main road to turn right, with a green light, I suddenly heard a siren begin to my right and braked just in time for an ambulance to fly past in front of me. Counting my lucky stars I went to buy a gift pack of lottery tickets to post to Sue’s handyman, another job to tick off the list. At the newsagent in Castle Mall (the lottery machine having been out of action for days at Baulko) I met such a lovely man and had to edge my way to the door after about half an hour of conversation. I think he is the owner but I’m not sure. We talked immigration, he’s a Fijian Indian like Arvind, gambling addiction, Christmas, our families and more. His name is Shalvin and at the end we shook hands and both said that we will keep in touch. Then I called in to my mate again, for him to check my Medibank Private entitlements for the rest of the year so we can use up any funds that are remaining. I found him, as I often do, asleep on the couch in his office/shop, but he had no recall that I was there this morning and went looking for my new glasses, assuming that I had come because I had something to pick up. Anticipating this, I had taken them with me and he was relieved when I produced them. Confusion reigned till I explained exactly what we had decided. He used my card to claim the $45 remaining in my entitlements and said to come back after Christmas when he will change the lenses and charge Medibank the balance. I have no paperwork and expect him to be totally confused about it all next year, so I’ve written a detailed diary note which I know he would never dispute. Bless him, I don’t know how he manages to run the business. So a day of many small matters completed, but that’s my life at the moment.

December 6, 2023

My brother’s birthday. Started with getting John’s stitches out and finding out that Bob was right, it was a cancerous ulcer and operated on not before time. I sent the path report back with him to Gracewood so hopefully the doc there will pause to reconsider when she sees another one. Then a home day, with John finishing up the dreaded Christmas card job and me writing and posting all my overseas ones.

I just don’t know what to say about Netanyahu so I haven’t been saying anything. But when political murderers’ names are mentioned in the future his will be right up there. I applaud Louise Adler’s comments, but was shocked to hear her say that she had been summoned to see the Israeli ambassador as a result of publishing her opinions. The damned cheek of the man. And don’t get me started on Senator Cash, the ex-minister for utes and weekends, who is like a rabid dog in the way she reacts with people. How someone hasn’t decked her I don’t know.

December 7, 2023

I had hoped that perhaps my niece in England may have helped my brother to ring me on his birthday, but not so far, perhaps allowing for the time difference a call will come tonight. He doesn’t answer calls on his mobile and the home is reluctant to let him use their cordless phone. But his Christmas card is on the way from here, that’s about as much as I can do at the moment.

I see the Herald’s Kate McClymont has written an expose on Alan Jones and his inclinations and unwanted actions towards young men, something his power has enabled him to get away with till now. I must say that I would have been more impressed with the story if it had come out decades ago, everyone who knew someone who had worked with Jones was aware of this (one assumes that number has to be in the thousands) but no one dared confront him. Certainly it was alluded to by one of his radio studio staff in conversations in the shop back 20 or more years ago. How does he get away with it? I had asked. Power and money was the reply.

Another blast from the past occurred yesterday with the re-emergence of one Jesse Wotton, who to my great surprise popped up in the Bruce Lehrmann trial. I wasn’t watching or listening yesterday unfortunately so I was pulled up short when I saw Jesse on the news and in the press. As a 16 year old he used to call in to the shop to argue politics, telling me that he was planning to become a politician, of course on the hard right side. He was the most extreme right-wing person I had ever had a face-to-face discussion with. He had left school before the age of 16 (because all the teachers were too stupid) and ran a small computer-fixing business in his mother’s garage at Richmond. He said he loved having political debates and came to see me ‘because I don’t know many lefties’. He was a witness in the trial as one of the people partying with Higgins and Lehrmann on the night she claims to have been raped. Mr. Google informs me that he is now Deputy State Director of the Liberal Party of Western Australia as well as being, back at the time of the alleged rape at least, a staffer in the office of Cash and previously Reynolds. That fits because the reason he stopped coming to see me was that his mother had taken up with a submariner (from memory) and they were moving to WA. I knew her as well and she could hardly have been judged politically savvy, so I’m not sure where the interest in politics arose. He once said to me that he didn’t mind me as a person but despised everything I stood for. He was 16 and I was over 60.

Geez Louise, it was a very different meeting today than the one a few months ago. You deferred to your assistant to take me on a tour to show me options for the service and surprisingly we just hit it off. We settled easily on the service being held in the upstairs northern foyer overlooking the harbour with chairs and a lectern provided and the curtains drawn back to show the John Olsen mural. Afterwards we would proceed downstairs to the Midden Restaurant for refreshments (at own cost). He also offered to suspend any tours that would usually be taking place during that time. He will email me to this extent. I commented that Louise must be having a good day after seeing her nemesis Alan plastered across the front page of the Herald. This led to telling me of his own experience of AJ’s negative reaction to women and related an unpleasant personal experience with him as well, which of course occurred when he was younger. He also related that the lift going up to AJ’s floor in the Toaster is a veritable boy hoist according to a friend of his who lives on the same floor. I held out my hand at the end for a genuine handshake of thanks but he leaned in for a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I trust him to follow through. I celebrated the successful conclusion of the matter with a Gruyere Souffle at Manon and would even have been tempted to lash out and follow it with the Crepes Suzette from the daily specials, except it was off. How a daily special can be off is a debate I had with myself but no conclusion was reached.

Back home I got back to business in terms of assessing real estate agents for Carly’s unit as well as doing a bit of bargaining for the chosen dishwasher, after the man at Bing Lee told me that the Omega brand mentioned as one option by the plumbing person was ‘crap’ with an expected life of 1-2 years. This accorded with my review search where it got 1 star consistently (you can’t give a review less than 1). Why does Bing Lee sell something that is clearly a dud? Well people who are selling their houses buy them he told me, as the problems will not be theirs. Nice.

Thinking back on the day I’m very pleased that I persisted with the OH, but seeing John specified Carly as the person to take over as guardian if something happens to me, we both need to keep well for three years from March (or longer of course if she stays on). In fact he is in a lot of bother if I can’t ferry him to his medical appointments, apart from anything else. It is an ongoing worry for me, but I will try not to dwell on it too much.

December 8, 2023

Trivia warning 1: Unfortunately Woolworths at Baulkham Hills won’t stock my favourite granola Blue Frog from New Zealand (it’s kept for the wealthier areas it seems, just like the Harris Farm shops are now). So it was either have toast or drive to Dural for granola so I chose the latter, but bought five packets. Trivia 2: It has always annoyed the crap out of me that Kennard’s Storage paints their buildings orange and their signs a different shade of orange, how easy is it to match the paint? But someone has heard my swearing as I pass and hey presto! both signs and buildings are now the same colour. Which one changed I can’t be sure but I won’t be patronising them in any event as Kennard is on my Do Not Support list along with Marcus Blackmore and others.

Woohoo! I have been trying to book a ticket for Swan Lake but the whole season is booked out, I’ve tried numerous times. I mentioned this in passing to Anthony yesterday and he just emailed me to say he has one perfect ticket in the front of the dress circle for next Wednesday’s matinee, a house ticket for VIPs. Do I want it? Do I ever! Apparently they will email me with instructions on how to pay. Sometimes it’s good to have friends in high places, no actually it’s always good to have friends in high places.

Today I saw a disgusting video of an interview of an extreme Zionist member of Israel’s government. He was asked about a two state solution and he said ‘it’s three lies, first there are not two states, second Palestine is not a state and third it’s no solution’. Asked another question about the occupation he said that ‘you can’t be said to be occupying land which is your own’. What about Gaza, the reporter asked, is that Israel’s own land too and the answer was that yes, it is.

December 9, 2023

Davina and Co picked up their new car today, a hybrid Toyota Corolla, the first car they have ever owned. Pity it’s too hot to go anywhere. John arrived at the Gracewood doors wearing a woollen beanie and carrying a jumper, the joys of living in air-conditioning during a heat wave. My early morning watering, while well intended, hasn’t stopped some plants from flopping in the heat, even my tiny Clivias were burnt white and the mint and coriander were lying down by midday. But it was worth the time this morning spent as about 7am a lovely young Sikh man, delivering groceries next door, came over for a chat as I watered. He was so friendly and I’m starting to wonder if that is a Sikh trait. He insisted on taking a selfie of us and I agreed despite no makeup and no undies! At least the dress wasn’t sheer. Love these serendipitous meetings.

I try to avoid plastic, but I’m so sick of throwing out cucumbers, even the baby ones, that I’ve reverted to buying those that are tightly enclosed in cryovac. At least I will get a couple of weeks out of them now. Luckily my lettuce is standing up to the heat better than other things so my decision to give the farmer’s market a miss today because of the heat won’t matter in the salad department. They sent an early Facebook post of the shoppers there and it was packed at 7.30 when it doesn’t even open till 8. I’m puzzling about when to pick the heritage green tomatoes I have been growing though, how do you know when they are ripe when they don’t turn red? I’ve asked the seed company in Victoria but haven’t had an answer yet.

My favourite Herald of the year today, the one where about 50 authors are asked to name their favourite book of the year. Usually I go yep, read it, read it, read it, but this year in the first eight authors I had only read one book, Yellowface. So I’ve been feverishly copying recommendations into my To Read book, three pages of them so far but I’m having a rest before finishing them because I was getting writer’s cramp. Clearly I have my work cut out to catch up on current releases. Obviously I’ve been reading mostly older stuff this year, probably been waylaid by books coming into the street library.

December10, 2023

Ordered five random books of the many written down yesterday and the library had every one. More surprisingly I am first on the list for all of them, so I’ll get five pretty new releases early next week which should nearly see me through to Christmas.

I was pretty pleased when Mick Fullofimself stepped down as NSW Police Commissioner but I celebrated too soon. Karen Webb (Webb of lies?) took over and so far has a few fails on the scoreboard. First was announcing that an elderly woman died in a nursing home from a fall but forgetting to mention that it was preceded by being Tasered by a cop. Now she’s been accused of having a quiet word to the Coroner suggesting that Deputy Coroner Harriet Grahame be removed from almost all cases after it became public that her 45 kg demented mother was the person double handcuffed by police at St Basil’s aged care home. Her crime? She had snatched a staff member’s ID tag and wouldn’t give it back. Grahame said the letter was questioning whether it was appropriate for her to “continue to preside over matters involving the Commissioner and NSWPF Officers”. The deputy coroner correctly noted that would effectively disqualify her from almost all matters in her jurisdiction.

Reading Larkin last night I came again to his wonderful Aubade, talking about the thought of our own death: ‘Making all thought impossible but how and where and when I shall myself die’. Talking about denial he says:

‘Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die’. Never a truer line was written.

I gave John his choice of three things to do today and he picked Windsor Markets, but sadly the fruit and veg people weren’t there so nothing achieved in that department. (When we arrived he asked ‘was this a surprise, coming here?’Smilie: ;). However I found a lovely pink agate crystal to add to Millie’s Christmas presents, that was the extent of the purchases, apart from buying John a meat pie for his lunch while I settled on a milkshake. Then off to Purple Noon Gallery to see Sergio Sill’s exhibition with two paintings in particular catching my eye, both different views of the same waterfall in the Kimberley. The cascading water was very real in both. Apparently two paintings have sold and there were a pair of interested lookers there when we left. Yesterday they had their last person about 12 noon, unsurprisingly. Yesterday was the first time in 48 years that chocolate has melted in my pantry, despite the air-con being on for over 12 hours. I am afraid to unwrap the chocolates I did up yesterday for a couple of John’s nurses, but I think others getting moisturiser or tea are the luckier ones. John asked why I hadn’t done a gift for the lady who washes his floor every day so I told him to get her name and I will add her to the growing pile.

December 11, 2023

I was so pleased to see the back of the weekly slog to RNSH to the dentist for John followed by weeks of appointments with the dental technician at Chatswood, but I smiled too soon. Yesterday at breakfast his other front tooth fell out so we are back on the hamster wheel. His teeth were severely damaged by radiation to his face so I had mentioned the possibility to the dentist that the other front tooth may fall out in sympathy with its mate, but she didn’t think it likely. Seeing the brand new denture cost him $1895 from a rapidly depleting bank balance I’m not sure if we can get a tooth added or if that was just money down the drain. But if he were in Gaza the tooth would be the least of his worries so that’s how we need to think of it. To me it beggars belief to think that you can destroy a political movement by killing some of its members. In fact a survey a couple of weeks ago showed that 75% of Gazans now support Hamas, increased from their last election result where they achieved 44.45% of the votes. Does that mean the Israelis need to kill 75% of the remaining population? Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong are as weak as piss and that’s something I thought I would never say. You can’t separate this from the whole AUKUS deal, we will be on one knee to the Americans from now into the foreseeable future.

How lovely it is to have a routine dental appointment for myself at 2.30 and be back home before 3. How I wish John’s were that easy. I’m a bit perplexed about a gift for Michelle W. as she doesn’t like anything new and I just don’t get to antique shops anymore, so I called in to the Vinnies on the off chance that they may have something good. The big antique market in Mittagong closed down last week and I planned to ask her if she wanted to take a run down there, hoping she would admire something and I could buy it, but she’d been with her daughter and it was pretty much empty a week before closing.

I’m reading Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save which poses many philosophical questions about how we live and how we give. I’m not sure if it came off my shelves, is a new acquisition or if it’s on loan from someone, a possibility I don’t want to think about because I’m making lots of marks in the margins, though I’ve restricted myself to pencil. It did make me think about the $322 I just spent for a ticket to Swan Lake but I decided that I really, really wanted it and I could do an offset, like you can for plane miles, by paying an extra $322 for something important, and there’s nothing more important than the people of Gaza at the moment.

Reading the death notices on Saturday night, a ritual, I idly wondered if I would ever come across someone born on the same day as me and three notices later I did. I don’t recall seeing that date before, so it was slightly weird that I thought about it in advance.

December 12, 2023

I was gob-smacked this morning when the papers, particularly the Herald, had nothing about the recording released last night of a conversation between Brittany Higgins’ solicitor and her fiance, discussing how she should respond to cross-examination. But good old Justice Lee thought it was very important, unlike the papers, and subpoenaed the recording. Now of course it’s front page news, better late than never. My only comment is that Leon Zwier, who is highly regarded as a solicitor, must simultaneously be a dope to have this conversation in a public bar.

Today was infusion day for John and I was lucky enough to find a movie at Verona at 10 am, and what a movie it was. Maestro is the story of the career and personal life of Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia. I found it hard to believe at times that Bradley Cooper was acting and that this wasn’t a documentary. The direction is astonishingly good, phasing from black and white to colour, from his musical career to his marriage, from his ebullient personality to his depressive side. I cried at the end, not because of sadness in the script really, but an overall sadness that the movie was ending and I was bidding farewell to the character of this genius, in both real and theatrical versions. I’d say my best movie of the year, but that means little when I’ve seen so few so I’ll just say 10/10. John’s treatment used to take 3 hours but lately it gets longer and longer, today he was there from 9.30 till 2.

John Lyons reports on Gaza are always worth listening to, but yesterday he reported from Hebron in the West Bank and showed a street of Palestinian shops with Jewish settlers living in apartments above them. There was a permanent metal mesh strung right over the whole of the street, which puzzled me a bit until he explained that it is to catch the bricks, stones, bottles, dirty nappies and whatever else that rains down on the shopkeepers from the settlers above. All of this is viewed from the guard towers constantly manned by Israeli soldiers.

December 13, 2023

Swan Lake Day! Greeted the day with much excitement which was an impetus to get into town in plenty of time, allowing me to go to the British Lolly Shop in the Rocks to get some Made in England Cadbury chocolate for Louis as part of his Christmas gifts as he is my person for the Secret Santa. I am John’s person so I bought myself some art supplies from Eckersley’s, which was easy enough, but it’s odd to be buying your own present. Apparently the taste difference between British and Australian Cadburys is quite marked as the Australian stuff has preservative as well as different oils, because early experience of exporting it here showed that it is prone to weevils and also melts (though the chocolate in my pantry melted last Saturday and it was made here). As a result there wasn’t a lot to choose from as they reduce their stock over summer. Grabbed a quiche at Renaissance, but it’s never been as good without the salad which they stopped offering years ago. I don’t know why as it was only lettuce and French dressing which doesn’t seem that hard but it turned the quiche into a meal.

The ballet was divine, the synchronicity of the dancers, especially the swans and cygnets, almost unbelievable. The last act in particular was choreographed differently to the other versions I’ve seen, but I think it was even more beautiful. Costumes were among the best I’ve seen. Prince Siegfried, the male lead, was performed by Russian Daniil Simkin, who it tiny but stunningly athletic and a beautiful dancer to watch. Of course the lead roles vary from one performance to the other so in a sense it’s a slightly different ballet when that happens. My centre seat was perfect, no one passing me from either direction. I’m not sure I could cope with a night performance though, my 1.30pm matinee saw me arrive home at 6.30, it’s a long ballet.

I had mused that perhaps one way of justifying the huge cost of the seat was to match it with a donation and blow me down if I didn’t get to page 174 of Peter Singer’s book The Life You Can Save only to find that he’d beaten me to it: he says ‘matching your own non-essential spending so luxuries cost twice the sticker price, curbing extravagant tendencies and making extravagance defensible’. No need to worry about curbing luxuries in my case but the latter is applicable. Thanks Pete.

December 14, 2023

Off to Dan Murphy’s at opening time like a sad alcoholic, but in this case to buy one of every brand of no alcohol beer as the rest of Louis’s Christmas pressie. He won’t drink at all if he’s driving so I’m guessing this is related to the fact that they have just bought their first car. Anyway there are lots of these beers now, so I stopped at 16 of them, any more he can explore himself. I hope he keeps a little tasting book. As always the staff there love a challenge. Then trying to finish the Christmas cards, oh my, what a rod for my own back when I decided to make every one. Some I am quite pleased with and some are…..well, just barely a card, but there are no two the same. Next year I might go to email cards, though I don’t really have the skill set for that. Talking about cards, one of my Facebook ‘friends’, an ex-customer of the shop who asked to keep in touch, posted a complaint about the Christmas card sent out by the local mayor. It shows a child’s drawing of the Taj Mahal with kangaroos and other native animals around it. She objects that it is ‘the burial place of a Muslim princess’ and presumably that fact shouldn’t pollute Christmas I’m assuming. But the writing at the bottom says it’s the 1st prize in the local school’s competition on the theme My Dream Christmas Holiday and perfectly appropriate to use as a card in my view, something I felt the need to point out, as has someone else since. I just hope the poor kid doesn’t see the post, spoiling his excitement at having won and having his card go out to all the ratepayers.

I was one card short and couldn’t understand it, till I discovered that I’d written two to Heather and David. Rats, I’ll give them both Smilie: :). Evidence at the Lehrmann trial is interesting in that Lisa Wilkinson admitted that she thought it strange that Brittany Higgins claimed her phone was scrubbed to black except for one photo of a bruise which she claims happened during the assault. Her explanation was that governments can scrub phones remotely (presumably choosing to leave certain bits of use to the complainant).

December 15, 2023

Off to Carol’s to pick up some of her jams, made by one of the volunteers to raise money for Exodus and the Wayside Chapel. Unusual combinations involving cumquat, lillypilly, mulberry and others make them both delicious and different. Back via the library to stock up on pre-Christmas reading, then communicated with Gracewood (who have a bloody Covid case today, right before Christmas, grrr) and later with Kathryn Booth from Picaluna Funerals. The latter call was to confirm or otherwise that Picaluna is being bought out by the big American funeral mob Invocare (more inclined to the invoice half of that word and less towards the care). She explained that they hadn’t been bought out, but Invocare has bought a 30% stake with clauses to prevent any interference in the way that they run their business, however giving the bigger company first offer to buy them out after 10 years if they so wish. The benefit for Picaluna is that now they can use the Australia-wide mortuary services that Invocare have, meaning that if I decide to be buried in Tasmania instead of Gerringong they can still handle the funeral, which is some sort of weird relief I guess, in case I so decide just to be difficult.

But the funny news item of the morning was the parcel on my front verandah when I got home: a bottle of Italian sparkling red wine with about $25 worth of unfranked stamps on the package. Inside was an envelope with another $125 worth of unfranked stamps! Of course it was from Antonia in Melbourne, my eBay client and now friend whose previous bevy of stamps sent at Christmas 2022 were weirdly only finished this morning before posting the last of my cards on the way to Carol’s. I immediately rang her and she informed me that she’d only posted the parcel on Wednesday afternoon, pleading with the PO person not to frank the stamps ‘as my friend collects them’, not mentioning that collect probably wasn’t quite the accurate word here. She said she used to work in a mailing department somewhere and when the company closed down they gave her all the part used packs of stamps. In the course of the conversation she told me about a health food herbal tablet which ‘sticks its sugar to the spikes on the Covid virus so it can’t infect you’ but then told me that she ‘doesn’t believe in Covid anyway’ so she didn’t get a vaccination, but still takes the pills. I decided to stick with discussion of stamps and wine and we ended up on good terms.

John rang last night very excited and it turned out to be because his daughter had rung to wish him a happy Christmas. I agreed with him that it was a lovely gesture and didn’t rock the boat by suggesting that a visit may have been even better. Later Sue popped in, ringing me from the front door when I didn’t hear her knocking, bringing me some much-appreciated veges from the farm. She told me about her friend whose partner of 25 years died last week. He had sold his house back then and helped pay off hers, where he subsequently lived. Immediately after his death she started getting vile, abusive texts from his daughters saying that they are intending to make a claim on her house. Of course she is devastated. Death always seems to bring the cockroaches out of the woodwork, especially when there is property involved.

December 16, 2023

Just back from Christmas drinks a few doors down. I took a Louisiana dip I’d made and it was Hoovered by the host’s son-in-law who loves spicy things, as I do. One couple there have sold up all their stuff and are leaving within days to go skiing in Switzerland, then on to Chiang Mai for months or years, having rented out their place to a friend. He is no chicken so it’s a big move, even though she is a little younger. I took a bottle of prosecco and had two glasses so now I’m as silly as a coot.

It puzzled me muchly when I saw the film of Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson in Be’eri kibbutz in Israel; why were there massive holes in walls, almost to the point of demolition? The Hamas people were armed with sub-machine guns incapable of doing that damage. It’s irked me ever since. It didn’t take much digging to discover a 30 minute video of the sole survivor of that massacre talking to an Israeli journalist. She relates how the attack and hostage-taking took place and bemoans the fact that it took many hours for the police and then the army to arrive. But when they did, it was in a tank which fired rockets into the buildings, killing all the Hamas people and all but one of the Israelis in the house where they were holed up. A helicopter gunship firing missiles was used as well. Now she is asking for a government inquiry to investigate why they fired indiscriminately into the houses where they knew hostages were kept and why subsequent people, gullible Morrison and Johnson among them, were toured through the place and told that the deaths and damage were caused by Hamas. Try all day to knock walls out of buildings with a machine gun but I doubt you’ll succeed, why did they not question how that is even possible?

December 17, 2023

So in the last couple of days the Israeli Army has killed: 3 Israeli hostages who carried a white flag and stripped to the waist so show they had no weapons, a Gazan Christian mother and daughter walking into a church and an Israeli civilian who was shot by an off-duty reserve soldier after he pulled over to help in a hostage situation. All have been widely publicised with the IDF fessing up for what happened, which makes me wonder why they haven’t admitted to killing all those hostages as well as their captors in Be’eri? Perhaps because there were many witnesses to the most recent cases, so the word was going to get out anyway? Who knows?

Yesterday at the neighbour’s drinks party she told us that she’s selling up. She lives there alone since her husband’s death from dementia, though I think she’s much younger than me. I felt somewhat sad that we hadn’t taken enough advantage of living so close, but then she told us where she is moving to, Gracewood apartments, right next door to John! So now I will still get to see her, just not on foot. One of the other guests asked John what we are doing for Christmas and he became animated: ‘Oh it’s going to be so exciting because Carly is coming back from Sri Lanka to spend Christmas with us!’ he said. I just let it pass. This morning eating breakfast in his pyjamas he asked: ‘did I stay here overnight?’. His inability to find where cups and saucers or saucepans live is increasing, as is his persistent questioning about one particular thing, this week it’s been whether he sent a Christmas card to his friend Jude, has she replied, did she ring, what did she say. No matter how often I explain I can guarantee that he’ll ask again soon. I’m not sure why certain things get stuck in his mental in-tray but they do.

I got a letter from Anne yesterday (she who lives alone in a 17th century house in a village, with no mobile phone or computer, she who doesn’t drive or travel) and she says that when she visits my bro he is sometimes quite paranoid, then at other times he’s just happy to see her but soon starts asking wildly inappropriate questions like ‘where did you go for your summer holidays?’ and ‘have you taken in any of the West End shows in London?’. She says ‘we go through this catechism several times until I have to depart for the only feasible bus home’. She wonders if he realises who she is at all, as he asks his series of polite questions. Oh Anne I know only too well how it must feel, it would be heart-breaking. Two people of amazing intellect, reduced to one and a punctilious observer. Perhaps I am lucky not to be able to see it unfolding in person. I recently sent the bro two cards, one sent to his nursing home and one sent via Anne’s address. She delivered hers but saw no sign of another and he can’t remember getting one (not that he would). Am I as paranoid as he if I wonder whether someone is intercepting mail? Nothing surprises me when there is a will on the horizon.

On a more mundane note, yesterday I decided to stew some only average peaches. Reminding myself not to let them boil dry I went to the loungeroom and did exactly that. They were burnt on the bottom but smelled so good, so I had a taste and they were delicious. Now I’m having Peche Brulees and cream for dessert each night.

December 18, 2023

Finally took a poly box of china, mainly plates of various sizes and ages from the late 1800s to the 50s, along with a little bit of silver and jewellery to Vinnies at Dural. I’ve already had a few of the pieces on eBay with zero interest and it just isn’t worth the grief to keep trying, even though there was quite a few hundred dollars worth retail in the box. I chose Vinnies at Dural for this lot because they seem to have a better idea about old stuff than the other shops do. But the important fact is that it’s not my problem any more. Had a few calls from John, worried that he doesn’t know how to give the gifts to the nurses and other staff, even though we had discussed it yesterday and this morning. I suggested taking them down to reception and asking her to give them out as the staff knock off today. He seemed happy with that, but let me know that I’d forgotten abut the bus driver, so I will have to do something about that. These things bother him so we need to get it right.

I didn’t know that the Barry Humphries memorial was happening but saw some bits on the teev. I was amazed at the physical differences between his two sons, who are hugely different in height, hair type and build. I assumed then that they had different mothers so I looked it up and nope, Rupert and Oscar have the same parents. I loved Barry in the times I saw him live, but of course his political and social views are anathema to me, perhaps best highlighted by the glowing comments from his son’s namesake Rupert. It occurred to me that two heroes of the right have died recently as a direct result of hip surgery, I wonder if Dutton could be persuaded that he has a bad hip….no don’t go there, that’s mean.

December 19, 2023

Lots of things to do today and none of them in the pleasure department. The gardeners are here, looking buggered when they arrived, haircut later at a very inconvenient time but the best I could do, John needs me to help him giving out the staff gifts because ‘I don’t know how to do it’ and Iris needs a hand trying to find a place for Logan urgently. As expected, Westmead Hospital is not happy to send him home and he was to be discharged today after three weeks there, however ARV has a policy of total lockdown if a case of Covid occurs, so they won’t admit him. He is pleading for ‘just one night in my own bed and then I’ll go’ but she knows that if she takes him home she’ll have a devil of a job to get him into a car to go anywhere, but especially to a nursing home. She rang upset last night wanting details of who to speak to at Gracewood and I sent her the details of the Client Liaison Administrator, one and the same person as I have to deal with over John’s nights home. I wanted to wish her good luck, but also didn’t want to prejudice the interaction. However more than luck was needed and she has rung back, even more upset, saying that the CLA had been ‘dismissive, unhelpful and unwilling to engage’. Mmm, so it’s not just me that she isn’t keen on. Iris explained that Logan needs a monkey bar to get in and out of bed, but was told that they don’t have that facility at Gracewood, something I don’t believe for a minute. I’ve been able to contact a couple of other places in Cherrybrook and she will look into these today, but meanwhile the social worker at Westmead is cross because he can’t leave today as was their wish. Iris has a very busy full-time job to handle so it’s difficult to be able to speak to people during business hours, hopefully I can do a bit of that. What a rotten thing, right on Christmas.

My computer didn’t want to start this morning, didn’t recognise my face and then wouldn’t turn off until I held the power button down for a long time as per Dr. Google’s instructions. Please see Christmas out Mr. Pooter if you can read this. On the bright side, I discovered that many of the stamps that Antonia sent me are in new part-used books and some are 2 cent and 3 cent stamps, so how long she’s had these put away is a mystery. I had a lovely time choosing a variety of new ones to go on a letter for postage yesterday.

Finally some politicians are growing a backbone and criticising Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, hopefully more will follow. I think the Israelis must have Chris Minns granny locked in a dark room and threatening to top her if Minns doesn’t play ball. What other excuse for his actions? Before the October 7 attacks began this wave of destruction in Palestine, there were still racial tensions in Australia and these have only worsened now. Two women in Melbourne have been charged over an appalling attack on a service station customer who died after she was doused in scalding hot coffee and then sat on by two large 51 year old women. They were likely to face manslaughter charges, but this is now complicated by the fact that the Coroner didn’t receive the body till eight days after her death, resulting in an open finding on its cause. Video shows the two women restraining the victim on the floor as she called out ‘I can’t breathe’ after one of them threw a just-poured mug of coffee over her. In the video paramedics are later seen giving the unconscious woman CPR but by then the women had simply walked away without a backward glance. So what sparked this? The court heard the argument started after the women allegedly had taken umbrage at the victim’s racist comment moments earlier, in which she called the pair ‘those Jews’. Both of the attackers are Jewish women with no prior convictions and the victim suffered from schizophrenia. Their lawyer insisted the magistrate should not take the death into account when sentencing her clients, which is probably what will happen considering the open coroner’s report. But the astonishing thing to me in all of this is the fact that the server stayed behind his counter serving and customers came and went with their purchases, not one of them intervening, picking up soft drinks newspapers and whatever with no response the victim’s pleas of Help me! Help me! We are not talking about people in fear because of a dangerous weapon, the only weapon these two used was their combined weight. Yet they didn’t even watch the proceedings to see how it ended, just grabbed a juice and the paper and barely glanced at three women fighting on the servo floor, unbelievable.

December 20, 2023

Gave Martha the heavy striped curtains and cushions that used to hang in my bedroom for a refugee who wants to do sewing from home and is looking for fabric. Then went to the farmer’s market to stock up on bread and fresh fruit and veg. Which was a bit silly in one way as I am not doing the savoury cooking for Christmas, but at least I have the raspberries and strawberries for the pav. Made potato, pumpkin and broccoli for dinner with a bit of hommus and it was delicious, so I just need to cook a bit more veg and use them all up.

Iris let me know that ARV has agreed to take Logan on respite, their Covid lockdown must have ended. That gives her three weeks to find him a permanent place. Sue may be in the same situation as her mum wants to come out of hospital tomorrow but the doctors are saying that she is not up to independent living, preferring her to go into a hostel situation at least. As Bob has said in the past ‘there’s some benefit to a sudden death’ although I do remember it being framed as ‘a nice clean head-on’ on one occasion.

Just started reading Anam by Andre Dao and it’s quite something. I don’t often quote a slice from a book but this is too good not to, from page 12-13, describing his grandparents’ apartment in Paris, “in a building surrounded by busy, truck-laden highways that become so icy in winter that they are too dangerous for my grandmother to cross on her own to get to Boissy-Saint-Leger station, the end of the suburban RER A line, a typical Parisian outer banlieue dominated by a monolithic, modernist shopping centre in which half the shops are permanently shuttered behind metal rollers and in whose central lobby, beneath the too-bright strip lighting, a muzzled German shepherd and boilersuited security guard cast sleepy eyes over the stream of African, Arab and Asian faces shopping for chocolate-coated chocolate-flavoured cereal, microwaveable croissants, and instant noodles; the scene, in other words, of four hundred years of French colonialism come home to roost”. Wow, just wow. It reminded me of a conversation a few years ago with Dushan and Agata about their trip to the outer suburbs of Paris which they described as simultaneously depressing and terrifying, and nothing like the tourist brochures.

December 21, 2023

Planning a Christmas Eve dinner for we two before the onslaught of food the next day. I did buy a box of mince tarts from a stall yesterday and while the filling is delicious the pastry, although okay is a bit on the yeah-nah side. I searched the box and found the culprit in small letters ‘gluten free’. I had avoided the two large stalls selling only gluten free goods for that very reason but got caught buying from a ‘normal’ stall. Robert used to say that ‘give it 10 years and we’ll have forgotten about gluten free, but be really careful to avoid spinach or eggs or whatever’. I saw a lovely Nigella recipe for fried brussel sprouts with garlic, leeks and preserved lemon so I will give that a burl.

Went to Carol’s for the final day of baking and was pleased to be part of the very final batch, 360 muffin sized cakes. I bought one for Ralph but when I got to his shop, planning to spend the last 45 minutes of the day with him, there was a sign up saying he was off sick. I rang his mobile for the first time ever and he says he’s not sure if it’s Covid, RSV, flu or what, but he’s feeling pretty crook and tests should come back tomorrow. His doctor told him recently that he suffers from TMB, he was concerned till the doc explained the disease: Too Many Birthdays. One of the fellow bakers is just back from a cruise which was due to go to Port Douglas, but because of a severe cyclone up north, headed for Eden, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart, leaving many of the passengers touring wet and cold Hobart in clothes for the tropics. Much disappointment I would imagine. It reminded me of my one and only cruise, plagued by daily seasickness triggering vestibular migraine, resulting in an unexpected huge medical bill after return (not claimable on Medicare) and spending most of the time in Suva in hospital. I remember saying to my husband ‘we hate clubs don’t we? so how come we are spending two weeks in a floating RSL?’ I still look longingly at pictures of ships passing tropical islands though, which is weird.

I had to laugh when I read that serial whacko Roseanne Barr gave another unhinged rant about ‘communist Nazis replacing Christian democracies with a Muslim caliphate’. Phew, she’s clearly across political stuff, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled for communist Nazis now that I’ve discovered they exist.

December 22, 2023

I bought some Bergenia seeds from Diggers Club and divided them into three lots for planting. The first seeds were zero germination, as were the second, but the third in a pot under Gladwrap produced just two plants, which are now just a few millimetres high. However they were planted on September 3! So I have nurtured either: two very slow-growing Bergenias OR a pair of the slowest-growing weeds in recorded history. So I emailed the Diggers horticultural expert to ask, but it turns out that she’s not back from holidays till January 14. In a garden success story my flowering gum is absolutely loaded with flowers and it has a halo of bees around it, divine. I just want to put a chair out there and watch them and perhaps I might when I’m done with my jobs.

I’ve read that in French colonial Vietnam there were French-only carriages on the trains with signs that read Pas de chiens, Pas de chinois, always in that order. They did not even bother to tell the difference between a Vietnamese and a Chinese. Poor Vietnam, like Afghanistan, had people growing up under colonial rule and war, with one invader moving on and the next one taking their place.

Because of her involvement with the Roberts-Smith trial I have fairly negative feelings about Sue Chrysanthou, but I do admire her sense of humour now and also the fact that she is so wrinkly and wild-haired and doesn’t seem to give a fig. She and her husband Kieran Smark SC have entered Rupert Murdoch’s inner circle apparently as they were invited to and attended his Christmas party at the Bellevue Hill mansion last year. However I am thoroughly taken with Justice Lee, who is so professional while being such a sweetie. Lehrmann’s team Whybrow SC and Richardson SC are my team of choice when I get into strife, getting Justice Lee to hear the case is somewhat trickier. Oooh, I just heard Justice Lee say to SC: ‘I respect you as a very good barrister but I’m afraid I can’t accept that argument’. We live in hope.

December 23, 2023

It seems really weird not to be going to the shops for food two days before Christmas. But I got all my fruit and veg at the farmer’s market on Wednesday so the only thing I needed was some prawns to make prawn sandwiches for lunch tomorrow, Christmas Eve dinner is all sorted. I did treat myself to a new cherry pipper as my old one broke, now I can add cherries to the strawberries and raspberries on the pav without worrying about Millie choking on a seed.

I look at my miserable geranium in the front garden and wonder where I went wrong. But I saw a row of the same one in a garden and although they were much bigger than mine, the leaves were still mean-looking and not the big fragrant ones we usually expect, so wrong cultivar is the problem. Heather came over for morning tea and left after one, so we exchanged gifts and had a good natter. We don’t open them till Christmas Day but she told me that Carly’s is a travel first aid kit which is a very thoughtful gift.

Today I actually missed having the Lehrmann defamation trial going in the background while I worked. Everyone has been very careful to pronounce his name properly, not Lair-man but Lerr-man with rolling rrr’s. So what will Lovely Lee find I ask myself? Firstly I don’t think either of them can be totally trusted and he has certainly grasped that fact. Strangely they deserve each other. Unfortunately I missed Lehrrrrman’s testimony live so I can’t judge the veracity of it by looking him in the eye so to speak. But I heard or watched enough of Brittany to know that she is a strategic thinker, a perfect PR person, in this case for herself. The most damning thing to me is the fact that she seems to have deleted all relevant emails and texts (except one photo of a bruise which amazingly remained) before handing her phone to the AFP, suggesting that the government has the power to ‘scrub phones remotely’, mmm, but later admitted scrubbing it herself. Secondly her evidence that she went into the office and lay on the couch, waiting a ‘long time’ for Lehrmann to come out from his office and eventually falling asleep there. Excuse me but what sort of rapist takes an inebriated woman to a private destination and then disappears into his office doing whatever until she falls asleep? He knew the place was patrolled by security, surely he would want to act while there was no one around? So no, the truth defence doesn’t hold water but the defamation is another thing altogether. I suspect he will find that Lehrmann was defamed but will say that that the damages are low because the vast majority of people would not have known his name, however future employers certainly would. It will be fascinating to read the judgment and I look forward to it.

December 24, 2023

Gracewood put on a party for those residents who are going home for Christmas, there’s a photo on John’s phone of a table for ten, showing meals of roast beef and Yorkshire pud and I think turkey on some of the plates, with Christmas crackers, decorations and glasses of wine. How thoughtful, but I note that there didn’t seem to be too many people there so a lot must be staying there for the big do tomorrow. Everyone was in a happy mood today when I picked John up, so there’s a fair bit of Christmas cheer happening there. On the way to John’s at 5 to 9 I passed a long queue of cars in the McDonalds drive-through (it must be a thing to have McDonalds for breakfast on Christmas Eve??). Then I spied a couple of fellows walking away from Castle Towers with lots of carrier bags of gifts I’m assuming, they certainly weren’t groceries, so the Towers must have opened early. That’s what I call leaving it to the last minute. Carly is on the plane as I write so I’m glad that the storms have held off so far. I too well remember the Ansett plane which came down in Botany Bay in the 60s after being struck caught in a storm off Sydney airport as it was heading off to Canberra with the loss of all on board.

Well Carly has landed safely and is ensconced at Dav’s. We’ve had prawn and lettuce sambos for lunch and a pav is in the oven for tomorrow, its cooking time over and its drying out time in the oven underway. I’ve macerated most of the strawberries in rosewater, leaving some whole, pitted some cherries and left the raspberries as they were. Topped with Persian rose fairy floss it should be a nice pink combination. We have a mountain of presents to take in as there are some to us that we will open down there as well as those we are giving.

Just checked the oil in both cars, mine was fine if dark, but John’s was quite low. So I took my car to the servo and asked the chap which oil to buy. ‘Look on the manual’ he said. ‘No manual’ I replied, ‘Every car has a manual’ he said as if I’m a complete dope. ‘Not when it’s second-hand and over 20 years old’ I retorted. ‘I wouldn’t have a clue’ he said, ‘ring your mechanic’. Yeah right, on a Sunday, a Christmas Eve Sunday at that. So I had to choose and to my great surprise I chose correctly apparently. Mr. Google says ‘You won’t likely see 10W-40 as an oil recommendation on a modern-day passenger car. The 10W-40 engine oil has a thicker viscosity than, say, 10W-30 oil when the car engine is hot. But it helps lubricate older moving parts in high mileage engines while being less likely to leak’. Phew, that was a fluke. I hate doing stuff that I’m not cut out for, leave me to what I instinctively understand.

December 25, 2023

Well what a lovely Christmas celebration it turned out to be. Had a dream drive down to Davi’s (it occurs to me that I pass on a lot of things now simply because of the traffic, it’s not worth an hour and a half to get to Brighton or La Perouse or Palm Beach any more). Millie was over the moon about Christmas and we were soon unpacking gifts, the highlight being John’s gift from Michelle W., a Lladro figurine of a little girl with her dog, looking into a hand mirror. He was close to tears, rang her straight away and over the day unpacked and repacked it numerous times. She has a knack with gifts, it was something I hadn’t thought of as he has half of his figurine collection here and half at Gracewood, but clearly it won his heart. The food was delicious, prawns and a beautiful wreath built up from mashed avocado topped with pickled fennel, cucumber, radishes and smoked salmon, finished with a creme fraiche based sauce. A smoked ham with a glaze and garlic bread went down well too, as did the Louis Roederer Champagne. I did the pav with three red fruits and rose fairy floss, which caused Millie to ask why I’d decorated it with string. I took one of Carol’s cakes but we didn’t get that far. John commented that it was the best Christmas he could remember, but of course there are limitations to that compliment. Traffic coming home was equally light and a toasted cheese sambo was all we needed for tea.

December 26, 2023

John has had two nights home and I dare anyone to question it. We had a dies non, though I did glue up the peeling interior of my car’s doors prior to trying to sell it and also buried all the prawn heads and detritus from yesterday in the garden, something I get a perverse pleasure in doing. Unfortunately John can’t read so I am reluctant to spend time reading while he’s here, but we spent time over breakfast and lunch (leftover smoked salmon and salad) and sat chatting on the front verandah, so the day passed peacefully. No calls from anyone in his family, which was to be expected, though he rang Stephen yesterday. When we got back to Gracewood Cecilia was just knocking off and gave me a big hug, she is such a gem.

December 27, 2023

Met up with Dav and Carly in the QVB while Louis took Millie to the Ramses Exhibition (it was always Rameses when I was young, but whatever). Then we walked through the very busy city to Brasserie 1930 in the Capella Hotel in Loftus Street. It was pricey, there’s no doubt about it, but the service was impeccable and the food and wines top class. I had 6 Royal Miyagi Oysters from Tasmania, served plain, followed by a Whole Boned Rainbow Trout with Citrus Butter, Yarra Valley Trout Roe and Chives which was recommended by our waiter Oscar and was absolutely delicious. Two glasses of very good bubbly were polished off as well. The girls loved their meals too and we decided it was a great special occasion venue. Trammed back to the QVB where we split up, Davina heading home and Carly coming with me to Baulko. I had thought of taking her to the illuminations at the rose garden but she had an early shower and we decided to stay in.

December 28, 2023

Went to Carol’s for Carly to sign the power of attorney and enduring guardian legal documents before she goes to India. We don’t know if she’ll be back in Sydney before then. I was thankful that Carol explained all the ins and out of the paperwork to Carly so she understood what she was signing.

My cousin in Spain messaged to say that she had heard about the storms and was hoping we are all okay, which we are apart from a wet stain on the ceiling of the back room which appeared yesterday. Now I will need to get the roofing chap to see how the water has got in, a tricky one as it’s about where the tiled roof meets the sloping metal one so who knows if the mark is directly beneath the entry point? First roof leak I’ve had except for when the big branch came down on the roof years ago, but when we got home from town yesterday it was obvious that we’d had a very heavy downpour as both balconies were soaked.

Finished reading (skimming?) Laurens van der Post’s Journey into Russia, lent to me with a meaningful look by Derrian. What is behind the look I can only speculate but I am very glad that I can now put the book to one side. It seemed to me that he travelled far and wide in the USSR, not just Russia Laurens, in 1964 with a pre-existing opinion which he attempted to shore up. Criticising the Soviets for putting 80,000 dead into a mass grave seemed petty, especially when he was complaining that there were no singular messages on the wreaths which would typically occur in the US for example. I venture to say that the US has never known death at that scale and hopefully never will. I climbed to the top of a huge hill in Minsk, only 9 years after this book was published. The hill, on flat land, was composed of single rocks brought by people who had lost a relative in WWII, it didn’t occur to me that it was less of a memorial for being communal, compared to the endless graveyards of France for example. I think much of the book was centred on bashing the collectivism of the time and is typical of Cold War accounts. Glad to be shot of it. 

December 29, 2023

I felt guilty about not taking John today but I needed a quiet one, however he has a Happy Hour this afternoon so I felt better after I found that out. A day on my own so lots of thinking. First up I did some painting and realised, not for the first time, that you can buy out Eckersley’s with gear, but the thing you really need is talent and that’s not for sale anywhere. Persisting with my idea of painting using feathers, I have done three pieces, two of them adding the feather to the finished painting and one just a design of three colours applied with a feather. I like it and will persevere. I bought the roughest watercolour paper this time and I think perhaps it is too rough, with quite a bubbly surface texture, however it has its uses for bold expressive work.

I decided to ring GIO about the watermark on the ceiling after the storm a couple of days ago. I had been thinking of getting the roofing man to come but then I’m still left with the stain so I decided it had better be an insurance job and pay the excess. However after some time on the phone the call cut out so I went to the website and sent them an email with a photo, but so far no reply. I’m sure they are deluged (good choice of word, but unintended) at the moment.

Thinking about how our prejudices affect our thinking. For example, I was delighted to hear that two states have scrubbed Trump from consideration at the next election for being part of an insurrection, but if I’m honest it seems dangerous to make that decision when his guilt hasn’t been decided by a court, which I think is exactly what the Supreme Court will say. We all want to find a way to fit the facts into our ideology, which brings me back to the wretched van der Post book. Is he biased because of Cold War politics? because he’s an Africaner? or just that his anti-communist fervour overpowered his travelogue intentions? He had previously written a very successful novel, Flamingo Feather in 1955, which was an anti-communist work in the guise of a novel about a Soviet plot to take over South Africa. His friendship with Maggie Thatcher was well known and he’s Prince William’s godfather, despite having impregnated a 14 year old who had been entrusted to his care by her parents while travelling by ship from South Africa to London. He abandoned her at the end of the journey but paid a yearly stipend, to keep it out of the news presumably, but she came forward after his death to confirm that he was in fact her father and revealing his having spent time with her occasionally over the years. How did I get onto him again? Wretched man.

Anyway, what I am trying to long-windedly say is that we need to examine evidence with an open mind, in which case you are likely to be sometimes left on one issue and right on another, your conclusions would likely be all over the place and not always fitting into a particular ideology. Trying to nut this out while painting with a cockatoo feather.

December 30, 2023

Just in after a 2 and a 1/2 hour journey home from the city, a long but not unpleasant trip on the Circular Quay to Parramatta ferry, then a bus home. It was pleasant on the boat, but I was lucky to get a window seat as it was also very crowded. There were literally hundreds of people waiting to go back and I’m sure there were many more waiting than what the ferry holds. But that was the end of the day, first we met up at The Rocks and had a wander, before deciding on a ferry ride. A few options were tossed around until Dav suggested going to Luna Park, but for just a few rides. We discovered that the minimum spend is $65 per child and $75 per adult! Millie of course was in tears as it looked as if we weren’t going in, but Dav relented and paid $65 just for her. However the thing she was looking forward to most was Coney Island, an inside series of mirrors, tunnels, cakewalks etc suitable for small people. But although Davina explained that Millie is a nervous child and that she needed to go in with her, not to use any activity but to watch Millie, she was told that wasn’t allowed unless she bought a ticket. She suggested that we get a refund, but those on the tills flatly refused. A polite request to see the manager resulted in a 20 minute wait before the decision came back NO REFUNDS. more tears naturally ensued as we wended our way back to the ferry with Davina $65 poorer. Luna Park has sadly become a rip-off and tourist trap and it won’t see us again. We had lunch at City Extra, somewhere I hadn’t been for decades and all agreed that the food was surprisingly good. Millie’s kid size fish and chips was big enough for any of us and I really enjoyed my Caesar Salad. I have been astonished by the number of people in the city lately, a very large proportion of them families out for the day, thank goodness we are not going to be part of the crowd there tomorrow, though I would love to see the fireworks from somewhere comfortable.

John rang this morning to tell me that he is in Covid lockdown. Suspicious, I asked where he was and the answer was ‘at breakfast’. I explained that being in the dining room meant that he is not in lockdown and asked who had told him that he was. Apparently it was a woman sitting there with him at breakfast, so he was able to put her straight. Each day he asks the same three questions, read out from a piece of paper: 1. my new 2024 diary is missing, do you know where it is and could it be under the car seat? Answer: No, I can’t find it. 2. Did my grandchildren contact me about their Christmas presents? Answer: Yes, 10 days ago. 3. How did I get this bottle of moisturising cream? Answer: It was part of your gift from Santa/Carly. I intend to find and destroy that piece of paper tomorrow.

December 31, 2023

Somehow I never like New Years Eve, it makes me sad. The only ones I’ve enjoyed were the two when we saw the fireworks, especially the one where we had dinner right next to the Bridge and it was so deafening and exciting and laden with smoke that I didn’t have time to be sad. Of course there was also the wonderful one in Kerala in someone’s apartment overlooking the home fireworks displays in the backyards around us. So tonight I am making a nice dinner and have bought a wee bottle of Cabernet Shiraz to give us half a glass each to have with it. I guess we will watch the 9 o’clock fireworks (saddest thing in the world must be watching fireworks on TV, but still) and then go to bed, promising as we do every year that NEXT year we are definitely going to stay in a hotel and be in the midst of the action.

Today I took John to Balaka Falls, a lovely spot that I’d never discovered before despite living here over 45 years. It is on the border of Carlingford and North Rocks and was full of birds, and it’s big enough to get lost in, which we did. When we crossed the creek on stepping stones, feeling as if we may well end up in the shallow water, a group of people watching clapped us. The man said ‘I am not doing it, I’m nearly 70’. He was impressed to hear that John is 82. Home in time for lunch on the back deck, feeling as if we deserved it after our walk.

I see Providoor, which I used in the lockdown a few times and was very happy with, has arisen like a phoenix with some famous owners: Calombaris, Preston, Feildel, Polyviou, Manfield and more. However I won’t be trying them out until they make some arrangement about redeeming the vouchers that were left outstanding in the $4.4 million dollar collapse. If they didn’t want to do that they should have started a new venture with a new name, seeing none of them were part of the old company. Sorry guys, but shit sticks.

January 1, 2024

Thinking back over New Year’s Eves past and there are some doozies. Best remembered was the one where ex-husband Glenn’s mother tossed us out of her home in Brisbane in the afternoon, with her poor apologetic husband Aden being told to drive us to the airport. Being tossed out was not unusual, we almost waited for it, so I can’t remember which sin it was that time, though once I know it was when I put butter under my peanut butter on breakfast toast (‘Glenn, there’s butter in peanut butter, tell her we’re pensioners and then get her out of here’Smilie: ;), another was when I was asked if I would let my four-year-old daughters ‘marry an Aborigine’ and as a result of my answer we were immediately told to pack. However the girls weren’t born on this occasion and the last flights were booked out, so we had to stay in a crappy motel near the airport. Which was okay until we went for a walk to find something to eat and returned to discover we were locked out, they had given us the wrong room key and gone off to a New Year’s Eve party. We sat on the stoop till the early hours of the morning and still paid the bill the next morning, which in hindsight we shouldn’t have. Another ripper was being in a cabin with John at Kiama many years ago and about 7 o’clock on NYE we walked down to town to have a nice dinner, only to discover that all the restaurants had agreed to close for the owners to get together to celebrate! I still find that one hard to believe but it happened. So last night was pretty good by comparison, though I’m glad it’s done and dusted for another year.

We watched the ABC from 8.30 till the fireworks at 9, which were absolutely beautiful I must say, the colours were right up my street. But the half hour prior was very odd television indeed, even for this rusted-on ABC person. First an interesting vignette on the Foti fireworks family (what ever happened to Howard’s whose fireworks factory I used to pass on the way to work near Windsor? I vaguely remember some family dispute?). But this was followed by an extended ad for an upcoming program about sheep-dogs and then by an Aboriginal rapper of whose performance I understood not one word. I’m sure there will be heaps of moaners about the content but I let it pass and just enjoyed the fireworks as much as one can on TV, it’s all about the vibration, the booms and the smoke after all.

Tried a new way of doing brussels sprout last night, pan fried with leeks and garlic and preserved lemon added at the end, worth repeating. I ended up doing a peach and nectarine crumble for dessert and it was delicious. However the reason I chose it was my ongoing inability to buy a decent peach or nectarine this season. I find the skin wrinkles but the fruit is still rock hard, sometimes both mouldy and rock hard! Heather told me to put them in a lidded container, she uses her electric frypan turned off of course. Tried that but still they were subpar. Even trying to peel the peaches for the crumble didn’t work; usually a jug of boiling water does the trick and the skins fall off, but not these blighters, two jugs didn’t work and neither did 2 minutes in the microwave so I cooked the buggers with the skin on, which ended up being fine so I won’t bother peeling them in future. Are they picked too green? I don’t know, but it’s like winning the lottery if I get a good batch.

January 2, 2024

Mosied over to Collaroy Plateau after Martha contacted me to say that she is house/dog sitting over there for 10 days. It’s a big 5 bedroom house with a separate granny flat in the back yard. I’d love to have a chance to decorate it, sweeping all the gym equipment out as a first priority, but it’s obviously architect designed and looks over the ocean one way and the lake the other. I’m guessing about $3 million but I’m no expert. Opposite is a brutalist three-storey jobby called Eagles Nest which I’ve now looked up, 30 photos online, a park at one side and reserve below, plus views up and down the coast, sold for nearly $9 million in 2021. After a house tour we drove with Claude to Mona Vale beach, Claude passing on the lake beach as he wanted waves, and surfed them for a good hour. Martha and I went in to a point but the backwash was very strong and we were reluctant to get pulled out. After that we went to the Nourished Cafe at Narrabeen Lagoon and grabbed a bit of late lunch, Claude Hoovering up whatever we didn’t eat. I decided to come home via Mona Vale Rd and on the way up the hill came upon heaps of police, a fire engine and a big tow truck. A lot of people turned around but I decided to wait till we could go on as I’m such a gig that I had to know what was going on. It appears as if a large digging machine front end loader thingy had fallen off a truck, it was lying half on the road and half on the bush at the side, but it didn’t appear to have hit anything luckily. I think they were going to try to crane it up onto the heavy tow truck. After a day of sand and sun I was glad to get home, somewhat sunburned but all good apart from that.

January 3, 2024

Nothing like the sleep you have after a day at the beach! I see that all the right-wing commentators are bleating about the ABC’s New Year’s Eve coverage and they do have a couple of things to bleat about unfortunately. (Note New Year’s resolution kicking in, trying to look objectively at those with a different view, we’ll see how long it lasts). The 9 pm fireworks are traditionally for the kids, so why put on a rap performance which apparently had some pretty saucy lyrics (although I couldn’t catch a word, so I suspect the kids just found it boring, as I did). Of course Bolt for example objects to any Aboriginal content on principle, but the ABC gave him the toehold for his complaint. Let’s not forget that it was Gina Rhinehart who gave him his first job on TV when she was a big shareholder in Channel 10, offering to pay his salary if 10 gave him his own show. So in many ways, if not literally, he is still on her payroll and you can’t have those pesky Aboriginal people interfering with her ability to pull resources out of the ground to sell overseas. Generally speaking the ABC has been disappointingly tame this past year, so I’m wondering if they decided to go their own way on NYE and hang the consequences?

Many of the reports in Israeli and international media networks, including CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, and many others that accuse Palestinians of committing systematic wide-scale rape and violence against Israeli women rely on testimonies by Israeli ZAKA volunteers. ZAKA is a non-governmental religious organization specializing in collecting dead bodies and body parts from sites of “unnatural” deaths and transporting them to morgues according to strict Jewish religious laws. Its leader was previously head of Keshet, an ultra-Orthodox Jewish terrorist group that targeted forensic pathologists and used explosives against shops selling “secular newspapers.” The organisation is philosophically against autopsies and has come up against medically trained forensic scientists in Israel, both in court and in attacks on its practitioners. The Israel Medicine Association issued guidelines regarding “mass casualty incidents” and how to prioritise the order of medical attention according to the usual triage principles of injury severity but ZAKA’s “operation unit commander” stated that “he puts aside medical consideration and decisions are made on who deserves treatment based on whether or not they are Jewish. If it’s clear he is an Arab, we don’t save him.” Martha reported yesterday that her Jewish friend sadly commented that “this war could be the end of the strong Israeli peace movement”.

So the other thing about the day after being at the beach is noticing your sunburn. I had given the sun cream to John and not replaced it and even after Martha offered to share hers I thought I would be fine, putting my blouse on over the swimmers instead. But no. I have an odd shaped burn, partly around swimsuit straps and partly around the neck of my blouse, so that’s a warning for next time. It seems that I so rarely go to the beach these days that I’m out of practice.

I had a good and funny encounter with GIO yesterday. After receiving no reply to my email of last Friday about the leak in my roof, I rang them at 7 am, getting on to a lovely man called Dan who seemed to have little to do except chat, which is always fine by me. First to business when he insisted that my job is urgent, despite my telling him it wasn’t. “But if it rains heavily your ceiling might get so wet it collapses” he warned me. Mmm, possible yes, likely no. So he put it in as urgent which requires a call from the repairer within 2 hours and an onsite visit within two days. Then he chatted: we covered the rain in Queensland, the Melbourne Covid lockdowns, Rupert Murdoch (“for every character assassination his papers do Rupert gets another year of life” which was a great line). Then he asked if I were a reader and the conversation shifted to what we’ve both read lately. He recommended The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, but he had to spell out one word as his rules definitely do not let him say it, though seeing the calls are recorded I am not sure it would pass muster to be having a chat for an hour and 10 minutes in any event! But Dan was the Man and within an hour of hanging up I had a call from a company near Newcastle to say I would be getting a call from the ‘make good’ person who called shortly after. He will come today to temporarily ‘make good’ the roof with a tarp or some silicone before coming back to repair it properly and presumably repaint the ceiling. I must say that whenever I have needed to claim with GIO the service has been exceptional so I just pay what they ask and never shop around, with insurance the claims service outweighs any thoughts about premiums.

January 4, 2024

I see I have been writing 2023 and in one post December! I am a slow ship to turn, in more ways than one. I have been getting Christmas cards every day since Christmas, mostly from overseas: Britain, Ireland, USA and NZ. They were all posted in plenty of time, averaging about the 12th of December so the delivery has really been slow this year for some reason.

Well the ‘make good’ man came yesterday dead on time and got onto the roof, then asked for a green bin. I had lent mine to Arvind so I stole Justin’s for the job. It was empty but was soon filled to the brim with leaves from off the roof. He told me that there were no broken tiles, simply a mass of leaves which would have prevented the water from getting away, which caused the leak at the join of the tiled and metal rooves. Mmm, this could be a problem as GIO may well decide it is a maintenance problem, not a storm problem and therefore deny the claim, leaving me to pay for the man yesterday I presume. An assessor is due to come next Thursday so I should find out more then. I pay a man to clear leaves from the gutters and roof about once a year so maybe this isn’t enough? We shall see what he says and it is what it is.

Brought John home today as the Gracewood bus driver is on holidays and so his usual day trip was cancelled. I picked up the monthly newsletter for December and usually there are 2 to 4 deaths in the month, but last month there were 9, all upstairs residents. Seeing Level 2 has had Covid and RSV cases for weeks, this seems to be more than a coincidence. The poor buggers up there spent all of Christmas and New Year in lockdown, in fact they’ve been in lockdown for weeks so no activities or celebrations at all for them and every meal served in their rooms. Ghastly.

January 5, 2024

Carol and I planned to go to the movies today but Covid reared its ugly head in her family so we’ve put it off till next week. Then Carly texted asking me to book the Canberra hotel for us to stay in before she goes to India and to sort out the purchase of her new dishwasher and arrange its installation, so I had plenty of time to do all three. Haven’t heard back from the installer yet, but I wangled $100 off the dishwasher price at Bing Lee and then $41.29 per night off a 2 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment at the Deco Hotel for 5 nights. The cost was/is high as unfortunately it’s a sitting week in parliament from Monday the 4th so even though we are booking in on the previous Thursday, it is still considered to be sitting week?? I am always indecisive, so while I was umming and ahhing he rounded the figure down by the above amount, so it pays not to be in too much of a hurry to decide. We are hoping that the gubment, as my Aboriginal friend Mark calls it, will pay at least some of the bill, but if they don’t it’s not the end of the world.

Spent the morning making some cards using eucalyptus leaves, bark and painted leaves made out of paper. Haven’t perfected it yet but those I’ve done are certainly usable. I just love scouring pavements for bits to bring home and press, this morning I got some darling red-toned eucalyptus leaves off my own driveway. Talking about scavenging, yesterday there was a huge pile of rubbish out for council clean-up just down the road. We went down looking for terracotta pots but there were none, however there were two large paintings, one of a giraffe and the other another animal, done in pastel colours and suitable perhaps for a child’s room. They were perfect so I decided to grab them to take to the Sallies on the way back from delivering John, however the council truck beat me to it and everything was crushed in the back before I could grab them. I was incensed that the lazy fuckers couldn’t drive a kilometre to the Vinnies to give them a new home and I almost went in to tell them so, but decided they may be disabled or non-drivers or whatever, so I kept cool and came home.

While I’m having a bitch, why did the ABC have a lead story about ONE Australian Israeli dual citizen being killed in Gaza and follow up later in the bulletin with the fact that over 120 Gazans, mostly women and children, were killed in one day? And another thing: why is it almost always the case that an offending driver travelling at great speed survives while his passengers and the people in the other car/s don’t? This happens every few days, the driver in the 5 car Wallerawang crash was one of the few not injured or killed, the same with the Buxton crash where all passengers were killed but not the driver. There has to be some reason, perhaps in the physics of a collision, but I’d love to know what it is. Mmm, so I just asked Mr. Google and it’s definitely a thing, for example UCLA researchers found that drunk patients have a 65% greater chance of survival in an accident because of something called the ‘ragdoll effect’. Findings don’t show that a drunk driver’s injuries are likely to be less serious than those suffered by sober victims, but the sober ones are more likely to die. ‘You don’t die from the injury you die from the subsequent physiological response. Alcohol acts as a buffer that inhibits certain stress-related chemicals released when a person suffers a major injury’. Okay I get that, but even when a person is sober but driving madly they survive. Explain that Monsieur Google.

John’s memory goes from bad to unbelievably bad. Last night he rang to tell me that his memory is so bad that he doesn’t remember doing any of the activities advertised at Gracewood yesterday, which was because he was here and not there! But he’d forgotten that he was at home for the day. I know he likes Grand Designs so earlier in the evening I reminded him that it was on last night and said to write it down, then just before it started I rang again and he had forgotten, however he turned it on. As soon as it finished he rang me and I asked how he liked the two house renovations shown, but he’d already forgotten them, in 60 seconds. One was a tramways electrical station from the 1940s converted into a house and was pretty impressive. The other was a 3-storey place on the Gold Coast where the owner unfortunately had a penchant for pink. In the kitchen, in the bathrooms, on the wallpaper, on the bed linen…. But I don’t have to live there, so good on her for making her home just the way she likes it instead of everything white or beige so as not to offend any later buyers.

January 6, 2024

I was planning on taking John on the Parramatta ferry today, but boarding at Rydalmere to avoid the crowds at Parra. However Davina and Louis were going to be at home gardening so we took some cake (I finally baked a ‘Christmas cake’ yesterday, except it was an early Easter Simnel cake) and went for morning tea. Millie was keen to see the books I took her, some from the street library and a gift of First 1000 Words in French, a delightful book with illustrations of various family members, room contents, street scenes, fruit and vegetables, words related to cars and motoring etc. She had a swim on the pool at their unit complex and we inspected the garden work that they are doing. Afterwards we were going home for lunch till I spied a park just near Bitton, so we had a light meal there: Croque Madame for sir and a delicious Cheese Tart with Tomato Salad for moi. I have never eaten so many tomatoes in one go, there must have been at least 2 punnets of halved tomatoes of different types, simply dressed with a balsamic dressing and some shaved red onion. So simple and so delicious, I was glad we stopped.

John had forgotten his sunglasses and asked me every 10 minutes about where they were, as well as searching the glove box regularly. I thought he’d forgotten, but then the same thing happened on the way home, so I was very glad that they were reunited when we got back. I know it’s frustrating for him, but he doesn’t know that he’s asking the same question endlessly, so perhaps it isn’t as bad as it is for the listener, I don’t know.

Blinken was on the teev saying that ‘there’s no evidence that Israel was responsible for the drone attack in Lebanon’ which I guess is technically true if you choose not to investigate it. They lie without Blinken an eye. Netanyahu has said that he will destroy every Hamas operative and the US has had a $5 million bounty on Saleh al-Arouri’s head for a long time, payable to anyone who can find his whereabouts, so I guess it’s possible that it was in fact the US who got him finally, though I doubt it. Five others were collateral damage, something the ABC didn’t feel necessary to report. I am pretty disgusted with the ABC’s reporting lately, they are self-censoring on all sorts of things and it shows.

January 7, 2024

My procrastination cost me today, as it often does. I was trying to plan a busy week and fit in going to see Encantado, a performance at the Sydney Festival which sounds delightful. But by the time I decided that tonight would be the most suitable session, it was booked out, something I should have foreseen. It seems an extraordinarily short season and I’m disappointed that I won’t get to see it. I need to get cracking on anything else I want to see.

John has been asking about when I am going to do the car changeover, but I keep explaining that there is some months to go on the rego and insurance for both so there’s no rush. But today he wanted to help empty my car of stuff so we can get it happening, perhaps it’s just easier to do it and end the conversation. I threw out heaps of maps that ‘I might need one day’ and moved other useful stuff like the first aid kit into John’s car. I’m sure that as soon as it’s gone I will need something large to be carted, that’s my big concern about parting with it. I know that I mention his memory and cognition problems here frequently but there’s no one else to complain to, so I get it out of my system on these pages.

I see that yet another person has died from the Wallerawang accident, again one where the driver of the vehicle who caused the smash survived. I will try to get to that inquest, though it will be a long way off. I wish you could put your name down to be notified when a certain one comes up, I’ve got a list.

Last night I finished the wonderful book The Patient Doctor, about a man who developed bowel cancer at 28, diagnosed after ignoring the symptoms for almost a year until the pain, bleeding and night sweats became too much. He was operated on after chemo and had a stoma put in for the next 9 months, but it was finally able to be removed. After 3 years and a difficult recovery, which he details, he decided that he wanted to study medicine and be the sort of doctor that the best of his had been. Considering his background, poor single mother who had a string of dodgy boyfriends, no one in his family having finished high school, it is amazing that he aced the tough entry exams. His tales of being fed cola in a bottle as a baby and given beer to drink as a three year old until he was falling about are quite sobering. But clearly he got brains from somewhere and is currently studying psychiatry. He rightly points out that most medical students are the children of doctors and lawyers and have never had to deal with people who are alcoholic, homeless or with mental conditions. This leads to an inability to understand many of their patients or deal with them at a human level. This reminded me of visiting someone in Windsor Hospital and overhearing two interns talking in toff-like voices disparaging a patient whom they assumed was gay. Are you guys from Notre Dame Medical School? I asked and they smiled saying that yes they were. How did you guess that? one asked, but I just smiled and kept going, unwilling to take the conversation to its obvious end. I think the book should be compulsory reading for medical students and at progressive faculties like Newcastle University, it may well become so.

January 8, 2024

The morning for the annual burglar alarm inspection. He came about 11 am and I immediately told him that he’ll need his ladder, a comment which he ignored. Then he asked for the code for the keypad and proceeded to check the sensors in each room. Later he was typing on his computer and asked me again for the code, to which I replied that I hoped he wasn’t entering it anywhere. He went on about having a licence and his fingerprints being on file, but I could hardly see the relevance. At the end he didn’t give me the usual receipt which I have to sign to agree that the work was done. I tried twice to get onto ADT but the phone wasn’t answered for about 20 minutes each time, which is unusual in itself. I decided to change the alarm code but needed to find the manual and work out how to do it, which I did successfully, but I still fell somewhat disconcerted in a way I never have on previous occasions.

Later I bussed into the city to meet up with Carol for our movie date to see Coup de Chance, using a couple of On the House tickets. It was Woody Allen at his best, a little bit bizarre with some good laughs at times. I was worried about sitting in the second row as it usually makes me sick, but I closed my eyes in the ads for cars and I think that helped. Thinking back I ponder the saying: The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing. Reason seeks reasons to love someone, because he/she is good-looking or clever or kind, but there are always many others who are all of those, so why this one? It seems that they are rationalisations where we find reasons after the fact. Love itself is a mystery. Afterwards we ate at Manon, both having the Zucchini Flowers with a Petite Salade. No doubts about loving both. Delish.

January 9, 2024

Today was C day, when I drove my car over to my mechanic Alex armed with rego papers for him to sell it as agreed. I did so, but intuitive Alex wasn’t happy to go ahead as he rightly said I was unsure and suggested that I had nothing to lose by keeping it for a few more months because the rego is only useful to another pensioner, anyone else would need to register it immediately after purchase. He explained that I can’t claim back the rest of the Green Slip insurance that I’ve paid, it’s non-refundable, so I’ve got time to think about it some more. I explained the pros and cons of keeping each one (mine’s a very useful wagon, but is older by three years; John’s is more recent, much easier to manoeuvre and park and more comfortable to drive). So after all that and his refusal to take a commission on the sale I ended up back here with two cars! Procrastination should have been my second name. I want Alex for a son.

Reading about the ghastly anti-gay and anti-trans laws in African countries, especially Uganda which has the death penalty. More than half Africa’s 54 nations prohibit consensual same-sex activity, many with very long prison sentences and death penalties under sharia law. But it is not that which surprised me, it’s the fact that in the non-Muslim countries it is being driven by American evangelical missionaries, presumably similar to the anti-abortion campaigners in the US.  A Ugandan bill, known as the “kill the gays” bill for initially proposing hanging homosexuals, was introduced after a March 2009 conference in Kampala that hosted representatives from the U.S., including prominent anti-gay evangelicals. Having lost the argument in many US states they are looking for other countries where they can dump their toxic ideologies. In Uganda more than 80% of people said they would object to a gay person moving in next door, yet they are fine with another race or another religion. Many have been murdered for being gay, or being suspected of being so. One explanation for Africa’s citizens being receptive to modern anti-LGBTQ attitudes is the lingering influence of colonial-era laws. Former British colonies are much more likely to have laws that criminalise homosexuality, but while these laws were overthrown in Britain, it didn’t happen in Africa. Seeing many African church leaders end up in Australia, particularly priests, I can foresee it the becoming a problem here over time.

January 10, 2024

John’s Nelune day so it was an 8.15 am pickup and he was in the foyer waiting for me, first time that’s happened. Francis was with him and told me that the three nursing homes he works in all have Covid. What a work environment! Upstairs had Covid all December and into January, then one day after the all clear the locked ward got it. It was rife in ARV too but I’m not sure now. Both Logan and, as of today, Sue’s mother Mary, are residents of Warrina aged care.

I planned to go to see One Life at the Verona today, as it fitted perfectly with John’s time at St. Vs, but it was such a lovely overcast day that I decided it should be spent outdoors. I drove to the Botanic Gardens and walked there, eventually reaching the Quay in what was by then blazing sun. I was very good and bought a salad for lunch, overhearing some American tourists from the liner moored there struggling with the menu: ‘What’s a rasher of bacon? Sounds like something that’s gonna give me a rash’. No hat, so I’m sure I caught the sun for the second week in a row. By the time I got back to the Gardens and wandered some more I was so hot that when I arrived at the plant nursery the man said ‘you’d better sit down, you look really red in the face’. Which I did for a few minutes before asking if he had a Bergenia and blow me down he did! I am sick of trying to grow one from the seeds I bought and am now the owner of a nice healthy-looking plant. On the way home after dropping John I went to Bunnings and got a pot for my little beauty, an Italian Greige one, sort of like terracotta but grey and not brick red. I had a stroke of luck getting John from Nelune as I parked out the front in a Loading Zone (ready to load him in, so I thought I’d tell anyone querying me) when the parking cop knocked on the window. I explained that I have to pick him up at the door as he may wander off and the guy looked very dubious. I offered to ring the hospital to confirm my story and he just said ‘well, how long is he going to be?’ when all of a sudden John appeared through the door and I escaped getting a ticket. Close.

Booked to take Millie to Wind in the Willows next Wednesday at the Gardens, put on by the Australian Shakespeare Company. It is an outdoor event, sitting on the ground next to the main pond. Should be great fun.

January 11, 2023

I was expecting the assessor at 8 am but he rang to say that he had a sick son to transfer to his parents’ house so would be here later. As good as his word, he turned up just after 9 and agreed with the ‘make good’ guy that there’s no damage obvious to the roof, so it comes down to whether or not it’s worth claiming for the ceiling to be painted. My excess is $400 so we shall see what happens when GIO does the figures. Also talked to GIO about selling my car and they explained that even if I keep it till after the insurance is due next month, the policy payment is fully refundable from the date that I sell it, so no loss would be incurred there. Still thinking.

Planted my lovely Bergenia into its Italian pot and it looks great on the front verandah. It is native to central Asia, from Afghanistan to China and the Himalayan region and I like to have something a bit different to look out at when I sit garden-watching on my front porch. Its big showy leaves with their serrated edges are great even when it’s not flowering, but I’m looking forward to the pink flowers next spring.

A novel I’m reading reminded me of the appalling Nuremberg Race Laws, which forbade sex between people of ‘different races’. Of course the whole concept of race is viewed very differently now, with many biologists refuting the idea that races exist at all in humans. In the story I’m reading the child of a German woman and a black jazz musician from Paris is examined physically and psychologically to see if she passes the race laws, which of course she doesn’t. As a result she is smuggled to Cuba on a ship with Jewish escapees from Germany. I hadn’t realised that Cuba was very welcoming of refugees from Germany at that time. Apparently the story, a piece of fiction called The Night Travellers, sticks closely to the facts of Nazism and its many effects. The Germans were nothing if not thorough, setting up commissions to investigate each person reported to be mixed race or Mischlinge. They were later rounded up along with the Gypsies, Jews, the mentally ill or even the physically deformed, such as people with something as simple as missing fingers. All of this is well known but sometimes we need to be reminded which is why I go to the Jewish Museum once or twice a year, though I am staying away right now so as not to get into any arguments!

I see that Police have killed a schizophrenic man in Nowra. True, he had a pistol it appears, but British police manage these situations unarmed. While ever our police have guns people will be shot, part of the answer is to remove every possible gun from the community. It is the pile-on that’s so sickening, the estimate of shots fired into this poor blighter is between 6 and 15, from numerous police. It’s akin to wild animals when they see their prey go down and all hurtle in for the kill. I don’t blame the people who called the cops, I would probably have done the same, but calling police to a mentally ill person is raising the chances that it’s going to end in injury or death.

So after a month of lockdown on Gracewood level 2 there was an email to say that the Covid cluster was over. Just one day later, there’s an email to say that there are two cases in Barrington, the locked ward on John’s floor. but within 24 hours there were 14 cases! They said Hampton, John’s section, is ‘at risk’ because they are on the same floor, meaning that the nurses use that lift and corridor.

January 12, 2024

Last night I went to see Bananaland at Riverside Theatre and what fun it was. About a political punk band called Kitty Litter who are playing in clubs to tiny audiences, they have just one regular fan, until they realise that one of their songs has accidentally been assumed to be for children. They change the lyrics and reluctantly perform children’s shows to make a quid and the new band takes off. Great music and wonderful performances all round. New Years Resolution? More theatre and more film. I have discovered that I can apply for a Companion Card through Services NSW which would allow me to take John to appropriate shows (last night’s wouldn’t have worked for him, too complex a story) but I’m sure I could find things that he would like, so I’ve downloaded the application form which needs Bob to certify that he needs life-long support. I hope there is no small print about the fact that he’s in care, we shall see.

I am thinking that I’m very lucky health-wise now, this after sharing a lift at the shops with a big chap who had to sit on his walker for the two floor journey. When we got out we had a chat, he had to sit again before walking to the car, and he told me ‘I’m almost 75 you know’ and I had to admit to being 76. Gosh, I felt a bit guilty about striding purposefully off to my car, so I walked slowly as he sat and watched.

Trying to paint a beach scene, unsuccessfully, why don’t I stick to just doing collage using leaves, flowers and bark I ask myself. I intended to try painting with a natural sponge and I was lucky enough to find a big one on the garage a few days ago, but do you think I can find it now? How many places are there to look for a dirty old sponge that needed a good wash before use? Simultaneously baking a couple of eggplant to serve it for lunch tomorrow, a cold dish from Ottolenghi, Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce and Pomegranate (for the latter I’ve had to break my rule and buy American, three shops told me that they are out of season, but Panetta’s had some imported ones). I’ve been loving my home grown green tomatoes and each day for lunch I’m having a slice of wholemeal bread with the tomatoes sliced on top, somehow they have a different and better flavour than the red ones.

At the Botanic Gardens on Wednesday and again at home yesterday, I was really feeling the heat. Yesterday I started to think that I must be coming down with something, but the papers now tell me that we currently have Singapore-like humidity, the highest ever recorded in Sydney. I can handle a bit of heat, but humidity slays me.

January 13, 2024

Today we were meeting Dav, Louis and Millie at Waves at Baulkham Hills. Waves is a pretty optimistic name seeing how far we are from the ocean, but as a pool complex it is great. The water in the outdoor pools was warm, Fiji warm, and delightful to swim in. John refused to bring his togs, insisting that he just wanted to watch but after seeing me swim he wanted to go in too and I convinced him that his shorts looked like swimmers, so he went in three times and loved it. He and Millie had a 25 metre race and I got some good pics. Between the playground, the water play area, the kids pool and the big pool she had a ball. So now I have added an extra activity that John and I can do together, woohoo! Came back here for lunch and the salads went down well as did the eggplant.

I never cease being appalled at the actions of the US. Perhaps they have the right to apprehend pirates in the Red Sea, to attack drones and boats stopping shipping getting through but attacking Yemen? No, just no. Is there a country in the whole world which is safe from their intervention? Is there a single dispute that they decide is none of their business? Never. Albanese needs to tell them where to stick their military interventions, but he hasn’t the personality to do it.

January 14, 2024

Saturday’s SMH contained a cynical article by David Livingstone ‘former diplomat’ justifying our support for the attacks on Yemen. He tacitly observes that keeping open the shipping lanes is not the whole story: “There is the more subtle question of whether the actions against the Houthis are purely to protect the lives of seamen and keep trading routes open, or whether the coalition is acting as a shield for Israel – both against missiles and drones directed at Israel itself, and Israel-related shipping. In the West, it is unlikely that this distinction will be closely examined, or if it is, greatly cared about”. The Houthis are described as “at best, an impoverished, improvised military force” but the throng who protested against the attacks on Yemen numbered 16,000 to a million, depending on which news organisation you wish to follow, hardly an indication of their lack of support in Sana’a. I have shot off a letter to the SMH along these lines.

John at breakfast: ‘Can we keep going to the pool every week? I really enjoyed it’. So he remembered it from yesterday. Oh my, I said, we certainly can. We had a job to do today sorting out his record collection for sale and he was a bit reluctant, despite having sold his turntable and speakers, but then I stumbled on the last few on my own records and suggested that I first sell them. This buys him some time but the process is begun and if I show him some return he may be keener to part with the dust collectors in the storeroom. I was amazed at how similar our tastes were in the old days, Dylan and the Beatles at the fore. In my case Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie and the rest of the American folk scene were right up there too.

Davina gave me two big bags of cast off clothes and shoes which I’ve ironed and in one case mended this morning. I have a plethora of coathangers so I’ve hung the dresses on them, so much more appealing to the staff than getting them in a bag. As nearly all of the people are volunteers it’s easy for them to decide that something’s too much trouble to bother ironing.

January 15, 2024

My letter didn’t make it into today’s paper, but more annoyingly the paper didn’t make it here at all. When I added Monday to my papers it seems to have confused the delivery team mightily, because I still get the Sunday one (long cancelled) but the Monday delivery has been an ongoing problem. I was outside one day when it came and I asked the chap if he could throw it onto the property instead of the grass verge, but he answered by taking a photo of the paper, lying on the verge. I wanted to gloat about Alan Jones staying in London and it’s so much more real on paper. I see that the backers of his ultra-conservative broadcasting company include the ubiquitous James Packer, climate change sceptic Maurice Newman, the revolting Nick Cater (upstairs neighbour of my friend, ugh), barrister Margaret Cunneen whose choice of pals has always included the dubious, and Marcus Blackmore, he of pill fame and a right pill himself it seems, according to his neighbours. What an assemblage, I am trying to think up a collective noun for them all, but a bunch of turds was the only thing that came to mind.

Apparently King Frederik was quite a lad in his youth; wine, women and song, the latter in the form of rock music, had the family worried apparently and one wonders if his recent bad press was a last hurrah to the old life or just a beat-up. But good luck to them if they can have a happy life while caring enough to make sure that Danes are looked after as well as possible, which is the job of the government of course, but they can always get a little nudge in the right direction from the royals I’m guessing.

I have lots of clothes in the back of the wagon for delivery to the Sallies but it is raining so hard that perhaps I’ll put it off till tomorrow, not that I mind getting wet, but they are so neatly ironed that it’s a shame to scrunch them up on the way in. Two brand new pairs of men’s shoes, a pair each of sneakers and boots, are included for reasons I have no idea about. But although they fitted John fine he doesn’t want anything more than he has and I was happy when he refused them, as it’s rare for someone to be able to buy brand new shoes second-hand.

It would have been a good day to go to court I realise now but I just didn’t think about it early enough. I have a long list of coroner’s cases that I want to go to, so I will check the upcoming cases for anyone on there. The case today is about Bruce Robinson, a dementia sufferer aged 72, who was last seen leaving a home at Allambie Heights around 8.30pm on 27th October. He travelled by taxi to an unknown address in the Manly area at 9.45pm and that’s where the trail ends, an interesting case but not one on my list. I so admire the coroners, who all seem to be so committed to solving these puzzles where medicine and the law and detective work intersect.

Now some idiot has graffitied a Woolworths store in Brisbane and put a flare under the door to set off the fire alarm. Happy now Mr. Dutton? He tosses these provocative statements out into crazy land and then lets others act on them while he sits at home in peace. Very Trumpian.

January 16, 2024

Yesterday was a Nazi history day for me, first to the movie One Life which was certainly worth seeing, then in the evening watching Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer on the ABC (fascinating, I can’t wait for the final episode) followed by reading more of Wifedom by Anna Funder at the part where the Germans and British officially go to war. As a result I was awake till 5 am, getting a total of 2 hours sleep and now feel drained, but that’s the price you pay for hearing about this stuff. Revenge brought back memories of the father of my best friend in the 60s, 70s and 80s Karl-Heinz whose parents were members of the Hitler Youth, and committed Nazis during the war. Fadi, as his family and I all called him, was a British prisoner-of-war on the Isle of Man when my adoptive father was a serviceman patrolling the cliffs on the lookout for German vessels coming to break out the prisoners. He talked about walking at night on the cliff edge until you met a soldier coming the other way and then turning around to head back in the other direction till you met another, this occupied them all night regardless of the weather. Fadi was determined that Karl and I should marry, but there was one small problem, Karl was gay. On one of the many social occasions I shared with the family Fadi told me ‘it’s your job to get pregnant and we will handle the rest, Karl will marry you’. But of course though he regularly slept at my house, in my double bed in fact (something that kept Fadi’s hopes alive), there was never any possibility that we would form a couple. We remained very close until Karl died in the 80s, after I had slept in his hospital room for days, helping the nurses with his care. Fadi had shown me photos of him and his wife in their Hitler Youth uniforms, photos too of his unit on skis during the invasion of the Scandinavian countries and of them sitting in the rubble of Berlin. Trying again, he urged me not to let the fact that he had been a committed Nazi interfere with ‘your future with Karl’. He marvelled at the fact that Australia welcomed them all, the local RSL even suggesting that he join as a social member! As author Mark Aarons and historian Konrad Kwiet showed conclusively, it was the Americans and British who found homes for ex German soldiers all over the world as a buffer against communist ideas taking hold. Revenge questions whether Jewish Australians in the 1950s and after were killing off Nazi war criminals that the government had allowed into the country.

It comes as no surprise that a WhatsApp group called Lawyers for Israel repeatedly wrote to the ABC demanding Antoinette Lattouf be sacked and threatened legal action if she were not, despite their admission that there was no legal case possible in the circumstances. Lattouf’s lawyer is Josh Bornstein, who is Jewish, and based on prior cases he’s fought he’s a good man to have on your side, though he’s copping quite some criticism for representing her in an unfair dismissal case. The ABC is starting to look like a craven lot, jumping sideways at the mere threat of criticism. The board clearly needs a shake-up.

Yet another case today where two passengers were killed when a P plater’s car hit a tree on Windsor Rd at McGraths Hill, but the driver survived. There must be an explanation for this phenomenon, I wish I knew what it was. Physics? Driver instinctive behaviour? What?

January 17, 2024

It was a huge day but we made it! Took Millie to Wind in the Willows by the Australian Shakespeare Company, held outdoors at the Botanical Gardens. Train to Circular Quay to the tune of ‘are we there yet?’, then a walk to the Gardens. Hot and muggy but survivable (I had brought clothes suitable for the overcast day before), the show was two hours long and really great. I loved Weasel and Millie favoured Ratty but all of the characters were fun. At one point all the kids were invited to go and search for a missing cast member while the troupe entertained the adults starting with a joke about how trusting we all were to let our kids go off with an underpaid actor, something I was thinking as he spoke. But they all returned 15 minutes later having had a good run. Next a walk to City Extra, Millie’s new favourite restaurant, where I had a Caesar Salad and she Fish and Chips. To the waiter from Millie: Could you please bring the food very quickly as I haven’t eaten for hours? This was after consuming the entire snack box of baby carrots, strawberries, popcorn and a jelly snake which we brought from home. But he told her that he would relay her request to the chef. Next we boarded a ferry to Watson’s Bay, a lovely restful journey accompanied by ‘are we there yet?’ where Millie had a paddle for about 40 minutes, loving throwing bits of seaweed and stones from the beach into the water and getting very wet in the process. Luckily a spare set of clothes had been packed so that solved the problem. Noticed Sue’s building on the way past on the ferry coming back, but couldn’t remember which floor she is on. Trained to St. Peters where there is no toilet! But managed to get back to Dav’s just in time, too exhausted to hold a conversation. After half hour’s recovery I drove home, taking an hour and a half in bumper to bumper traffic through the city in heavy rain. Impressed by the weather forecasting as the rain arrived spot on 3pm as forecast.

Ants. Love ’em or hate ’em? I find it very peculiar that I so carefully avoid stepping on any ants which have made a big nest at the base of my street library, yet when my kitchen was overrun with them a couple of years ago I went ape at the sight of them indoors and killed them immediately. They are the same little guys after all, but it seems that I treat them as two different species depending on their location.

Yesterday I got chatting to a man who was looking after about five residents of a nursing home to whom he was serving tea/coffee/cake in the park at Watson’s Bay. The only woman had talked to Millie and we had a conversation too. She seemed totally with it and was probably a bit younger than me, while others were in wheelchairs or not quite with it. It turns out that their carer, a man about 60, lives within coo-ee of John’s establishment yet he drives to Rose Bay for work, what a drag that would be. It reminded me yet again that some people of my age are already in care, what a freaky thought.

January 18, 2024

John woke up with pain in his left (replaced) knee bad enough that he can’t walk. He had breakfast in his room but I told him to ask for crutches or a wheelchair for lunchtime. I was bringing him home today but getting up three steps at the front is a non-goer. They plan to get the house doctor to see him but after her lacklustre performance on the skin cancers I decided to text Bob, who rang sounding worried and saying that we can only ‘wait and see’. It could be some sort of minor injury but it could also be the start of another knee infection and the last two resulted in sepsis and removing the knee. I tried to contact Cecelia but unusually I haven’t heard back. If sepsis is a real possibility I would take him to RNSH as Gracewood falls in the catchment of Blacktown Hospital and I don’t want him going there. I learned from Mike’s death in Windsor Hospital and another friend’s bungled stroke treatment (or lack of it) at the same place, that with something serious you never waste time at the regionals.

The Covid spread in Gracewood’s locked dementia section has gone from 2 to 14 to 20 in three days. I was curious to find out how many residents there are there so I rang John at lunchtime and asked if he could find out. He asked the question and I heard: Who wants to know?? in an officious reply to him. Maureen, he said but they were not forthcoming. I simply looked up the website which told me this apparently protected information, there are 32. So 20 out of 32 is a damned good slice of them sick.

When the twin circular residential towers were built in Castle Hill there was a kerfuffle with the Fire Brigade who refused to give the place the all clear. But some strings must have been pulled because open it did. Now years later, the office of the Building Commissioner has the place on its website, something that I check regularly, as needing 13 different rectifications, all to do with fire safety. They cover sprinklers, fire hydrants, escape stairs (less than 1 metre wide!!!), fire doors not self-closing and not latching when closed, the list goes on. Suspicious me has always wondered if council’s meagre building management team suppressed the Fire Brigade’s initial complaints to bask in the glory of the building’s opening.

January 19, 2024

Well John has done a Lazarus. He rang me this morning to ask why there is a wheelchair in his room! He has no pain in his knee so he didn’t make the connection. One has to see the funny side. I had texted the staff to say that in the event of his needing to go to hospital I would drive him, but no such thing is necessary now thankfully. I visited my pal Ralph this morning to drop off the mini Christmas cake which I took just before said festival only to find his door shut with a notice that he was ill. I rang him at home back then and they were testing him for Covid, but he told me today that it was pneumonia and he was taken by ambulance to Nepean and kept there for three days. He had no recollection that we’d spoken back then or that I knew he was sick. But on the positive side he looks, and says he feels, better than he has for years, suspecting that he had a low grade lung issue now cleared up with the antibiotics. He had no recollection either of the glasses for watching television which he did for me in early December, commenting that they were a nice pair.

Palestinians who spoke about Palestinian territory stretching “from the river to the sea”, were roundly criticised. Yet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has now informed the United States that there will be no independent Palestinian state after the current war on Gaza is over, and that Israel will control Palestine “from the Jordan to the sea.” At least he is now saying publicly what his intentions have been for the last 30 years. The hypocrisy is mind-blowing and I’m sure that the Americans will not withhold a single bullet or bomb from them as a result, but will use some sort of sophistry to explain their way around the facts.

I read the Deaths column in the Herald every Saturday but last week was the first time that I have seen a Real Estate Agent reporting a death and asking if anyone knows this person as they have no contacts for the deceased. They gave his full name and birth date and that was it. Looks like a pauper’s funeral if no-one comes forward, how sad. Some people may not want to expose themselves to the cost of a funeral so that may have a bearing on contact, if he was isolated from his family.

So the Burnet Institute says Australia’s aggressive approach to suppressing COVID-19 in the first two years of the pandemic saved thousands of lives, leading to a death rate 33 times lower than the United Kingdom and 46 times lower than the United States. But Australia lost its global advantage during 2022 and 2023 when excess deaths reached 31,000, an 18-fold increase compared to the first two years after governments reverted to a ‘living with COVID’ approach. The submission to the government’s Covid strategy inquiry states that ‘Australia had an estimated 1744 excess deaths due to COVID-19 in 2020-21, which could have risen to between 57,552 and 80,224 deaths if it had experienced equivalent levels of excess deaths as the UK or US respectively in that period’. But still the libertarians amongst us would have been happier with that than with any sort of restrictions that restrict their blessed freedoms. Freedom to die, it’s a funny concept.





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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 months.one 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: https://chrysstevenson.com/2023/03/14/the-dominionists-christofascism-in-australia/

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…..by 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. https://www.smh.com.au/goodfood/recipes/adam-liaw-s-everything-fritters-20230711-p5dnb7.html. 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’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Life Notes 10

July 11, 2022

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

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

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

July 12, 2022

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

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

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

July 13, 2022

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

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

July 14, 2022

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

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

July 15, 2022

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

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

July 16, 2022

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

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

July 17, 2022

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

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

July 18, 2022

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

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

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

July 19, 2022

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

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

July 20 and 21, 2022

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

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

July 22, 2022

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

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

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

July 23, 2022

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

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

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

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

July 24, 2022

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

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

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

July 25, 2022

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

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

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

July 26, 2022

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

July 27, 2022

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

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

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

July 28, 2022

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