Life Notes 5

July 30, 2019

I know I am supposed to eat small meals and not eat for many hours before bedtime, but I thought sharing one entree and one main with some rice and half a piece of roti at 6pm should be okay. But no, I guess because it was Indian food (and I did have one glass of red wine). I suffered last week after we went to Abhi’s, but I expected that. However I didn’t expect I would be sick for 24 hours after last night’s meal, although that’s exactly what’s happened. Can’t be food poisoning as John is fine so I might just have to do what I’m told for a bit. I’ve made pumpkin soup for dinner tonight and have eaten very little else today. As a result of all that I’ve been nowhere and done nuffin, apart from reading wrapped in a blanket. Luckily I decided to donate books for the charity dinner tonight and not actually go to it, good forward thinking two weeks out.

July 31, 2019

We decided to go on the new Metro today but went west instead of east to avoid a long period in the tunnel, as it goes above ground from Bella Vista onwards. The design of the stations is very attractive and the train has all the bells and whistles, but all the seats are along the sides so I needed to stand to avoid the motion causing problems. We enjoyed the run but I wouldn’t go all the way to Chatswood on it, a bit too claustro for me. Got back to Castle Hill just in time to see The White Crow, about Rudolph Nureyev. Ralph Fiennes directed it and also acts, he is such a master who looks and acts differently in every role, unlike some who carry themselves from movie to movie. I wish I had held on to all the Nureyev books I had as a teenager, I was besotted with him and Margot Fonteyn despite never doing ballet. Oleg Ivenko is just stunning as a dancer and pretty easy on the eye as well.

August 1, 2019

How the hell can it be August? Three years ago today I closed the shop and we were flat out packing everything to go to auction. Now that the local Sallies has closed down, I have finally decided that ebay may be the only way to get rid of some of the stuff in the storeroom, something Tim has been urging me to do for those 3 years. I tried giving a few bits from the first box to friends but got rid of exactly zero. I don’t really want to get into the bigtime ebay selling I have sometimes done, but I think I will just put a few things on each week and see how it goes. Since I had even forgotten my password, it took me a while to get it happening, but now I’ve downloaded the app onto my phone I should be able to list more easily, selling them of course is quite another matter. Pleased to see a big gap in the street library today, with a few including a large Jonathan Franzen gone (it was only in there because I have it on the shelf already). The latest donation of 7 or 8 bags of books seems to be very much in the populist line, large forgettable books churned out like sausages, but as long as people are reading, it doesn’t much bother me that the quality is somewhat questionable, I don’t want to be a book dictator.

August 2, 2019

Still August, so it wasn’t a mistake. Very excited about Greg and Luke’s wedding tomorrow, their joy is infectious. Their Facebook posts have included Greg’s suit, secretly hanging inside a dust cover, the horse paddock mown and ready for guests and yesterday even photos of them going through the checkout at Woolies buying food for the wedding. This morning I baked 3 kinds of biscuits to make up a platter for tomorrow. John has come here with his wedding clothes, but now he’s up getting a haircut and then going to see The Lion King. I declined as I was so amazed by the stage show that I don’t want the movie to take the gloss off the memory. No bites on my eBays but anything that doesn’t sell is headed to a charity shop. However I know how itchy St. Vinnies are to toss things so I will have to drive to a Sallie Anne’s to ensure that they don’t get junked. Waste makes me literally feel ill and I’ve always had a special dislike for people who casually ditch usable goods, a dislike I could never fully hide in the shop when people said ‘if you don’t buy this, I’ll throw it in the bin’. I always wanted to say ‘Vinnies are across the road you lazy cow’ but I had to be nice, though my views are always written on my face.

August 3, 2019

Had a good run of an hour and 3/4 to get to Hidden Valley for Greg and Luke’s wedding. Gorgeous warm day as ordered, though the sun goes over the cliffs at 3pm after which they lit the huge bonfire. The boys were wandering around in jeans and t-shirts for the first hour, in what was a very informal day, and then they raced in to tog up for the ceremony. Tents held all the savoury food at one location and sweets at another and it was remarkable how much trouble people had gone to, including topping cupcakes with photos of the boys. I was reminded that Luke comes from Halifax UK and he knows the actual street where my brother lives. He was a corporate type till he met Greg exactly 10 years ago, but he has adjusted to Greg’s rural lifestyle surprisingly well, earning his living now as a massage therapist and by selling his paintings of wildlife, particularly birds, which are seriously good. We left in time to get to First Saturday, which was given by Nirjala on the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) which she will be joining soon. I am awed by her commitment and bravery, but I think it would be very difficult to see all of the things that are happening over there and still remain only an observer, which of course they are meant to do, reporting but not in any way becoming a player.

August 4, 2019

John stayed over so we watched Insiders together before he moved a painting that we both agreed needed to go a little higher and slightly left, we always seem to agree on this sort of stuff but without him I might just put up with small errors. He went home while I went to the nursery to buy a couple of gardening bits and bobs, including spray for black spot on my one lonely rose. I have never had luck with roses but I am persevering with this one because it was a gift, actually the gift was a pair, but one bit the dust very early on, I suspect they were both greenhouse bred and the shock of the open air nearly killed them. I wish now I had pinched some of the horse poo lying around at the farm yesterday, it would have been great for the garden but tricky to conjure away in one’s wedding clothes.

August 5, 2019

Mondays tend to be the days I ask myself who I need to visit this week and all were in Windsor or on the way there, so I went to see Brian and Fay, a customer and friend of at least 25 years who has now joined him in the same nursing home. Her husband died just after I closed the shop so I wasn’t up with her new circumstances. Caught up with Tim whose family problems have not eased. Last week he gave me a painting he had done, in fact he gave me a choice of four different ones, but his current issues have made it impossible for him even to countenance lifting a brush. Saw Bob as well and got scripts for drugs to take on the plane so it was a friend visiting day from go to whoa. Spring feels as if it’s well and truly sprung so I’m fertilising and watering a bit each day and crossing my fingers that Chris is still coming to help me with the heavy stuff on Saturday.

August 6, 2019

No word from Chris, so I’m still not sure about Saturday. John is off to Gerringong to discuss his concept for the extension to Peppercorn Cottage which the owners like in theory. It remains to be seen whether the heritage architect is happy, but that is further down the track. Called in to Heather’s briefly and was impressed by the care she gives her little dog, a whippet or small greyhound? It has severe arthritis and can only just walk, regularly falling over and unable to get back up. I was scared to walk too close in case that alone was enough to make it fall. Reminded me of the residents at the nursing home yesterday. Somehow our species, and dogs too, have a long old age, slowly sinking into decrepitude and occupying the resources of the middle aged to look after them whereas birds or fish just die when they lose the ability to fly or swim. Perhaps one day there will be so many on the planet that once you can’t cross the road on your own you’re out, but nah climate change will have defused the population bomb before then.

August 7, 2019

Oh Happy Day! Had a good mag to Deborah in the morning before going to Dural Library for a change, two books borrowed and three put on reserve, so a successful jaunt. I was in Dural to meet up with Heather as we had decided to go to The Wild Pear cafe for lunch, reminded of its existence when the very young daughter of the owner won Masterchef a week or two ago. We got a lovely verandah table and though the property is unprepossessing at first blush, it proved pleasant as the sun poured in with a slight breeze and we looked out over the nursery grounds. The meal was sensational, barramundi and prawns for me followed by Turkish Delight Pavlova, a traditional pav with strawberries but with rosewater, turkish delight pieces and a topping of rose Persian fairy floss, it is totally worth sacrificing a few weeks on the verandah of the nursing home for this dessert. Did I mention the glass of moscato? Something I don’t usually drink but it was so good that I intend to ring them to get the name, a perfect summery drop for this meal.

Then I went to the loo. Admittedly one doesn’t normally think of any sort of excitement happening in the loo. But as I was leaving, the other lady there asked if I were Maureen. Puzzled, because I couldn’t remember her face, I replied in the affirmative and to my great surprise she told me that she follows my blog. But I don’t have a photo on it I replied, but she had looked me up on Facebook, seen the somewhat dated photo there and still recognised me. Hugs ensued and since I got home I have received a friend request from Tania and discovered that we live less than 5 kilometres apart so I’m sure we will catch up again soon. As I said Oh Happy Day!

August 8, 2019

Idly musing, something I do a lot of, on what career I should have taken up, with the benefit of hindsight of course. Nursing and police work were of interest, though the latter pales when one thinks of the things government asks/allows police to do. I remember well my friend Colin going to the corrective services academy at Eastwood and graduating, keen to put his theory into action, only to last a week at Long Bay after being told on day one how to upturn the dinner tray of people in solitary confinement and then to give them a penalty for making a mess in their cells. He was of the view that most of the officers he came across there were on the wrong side of the bars so I can’t see myself fitting into that milieu. Law interests me, but only criminal law, and I don’t have the right temperament at all for the job.

Medicine has always been my major interest, though I did once apply to be an ambo, encouraged by a friend in the service. That was scuppered when they told me I had to do a defensive driving course, eek, I was a very nervous and defensive driver already so that gave me the collywobbles and I pulled out before they made a decision. Thinking back I don’t believe I had, or have, the physical capabilities to abseil down cliffs, crawl into narrow spaces and do much of the work that ambos are required to do so luckily the driving issue pushed me in the right direction. Although I was attracted to general medicine by the science along with the personal interaction, I also love pathology which formed a big part of the electives I chose in the Biological Sciences Diploma I studied while working for Sydney University. So pathology and particularly forensic science still dominate my retrospective wishlist. I studied with a woman who worked in forensic science at the morgue and coroner’s court and told her it was my dream job, so she suggested I apply and offered to put it a good word. Then I excitedly told my mother, who was horrified by the thought of my digging around in the bowels of dead folk and told me so in no uncertain words. I was, despite being in my mid twenties, still unaware that one’s parents can’t dictate every aspect of their child’s life, so I told my acquaintance that I would withdraw from the plan. The story of my life it seems. I well remember my friend Diana telling me in my 30s that she had never known anyone so polite and deferential to their parents and it was a shock: wasn’t that what was expected, presumed in fact? No, apparently not, but it came as a huge surprise to me and by it was too late, the pattern of submissiveness was too well ingrained by then. So back to the dream job, perhaps that congruence of medicine and detective work involved in forensic science is right up there. Next life, for sure.

August 9, 2019

Had Martha and Phil over for morning tea and a chat, she bearing some lobelia seedlings  for my garden and I was able to hand over a bag full of empty pots for her use. She suggested we both take her book out to Brian in a few weeks, though whether he will even remember doing the interview is another story. Had a long talk to my neighbour Arvind who is not only politically aware and interested, but exceedingly knowledgeable about any country you care to name, always a pleasure to talk to him. John came over in the afternoon and while he watched the football at night I finished The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundati Roy. It was a big, baggy novel where I sometimes lost the plot about the characters, but in all of that there was a wonderful sense of messy, contradictory, but always exciting India. Her focus on Kashmir went a (little) way to my understanding that sad and seemingly intractable conflict.

August 10, 2019

John was off early to Gerringong to see his new clients about their extension and renovation. Their son is the builder and John’s first choice of plan was least favoured by the son as not being the best value per square metre. John disagrees and will still draw up the three options in the hope they will come around. However he coped with the drive well and was back here at 5 pm ready for the fish chowder to be finished. It was a good choice for a meal that can happen at any time as you cook up the stock and spices with the coconut milk then add potato and corn and just drop in the fish pieces 3 minutes prior to sit down, yum it was too. I was musing about the fact that each winter when it snows in the Blue Mountains I get so excited and promise myself that next time it is forecast I will just go up and stay, hang the expense and hang whatever else I needed do. It was forecast (and came in spades) this weekend yet I stayed here and did what was planned. Sometimes I am just a dope.

August 11, 2019

Off to Erskineville to see Millie and co, meeting up with Louis after he ran in the City to Surf race. Millie refused to use toilet paper after a wee and when asked why said ‘I don’t like it’ but then when offered wetwipes she said again ‘I don’t like it’. Reasoning was a waste of time but you have to smile when she announces loudly: ‘I don’t like it EVERYTHING!’ Though what she doesn’t like varies constantly and can’t be assumed from day to day. Certainly not shy of opinion, I can’t imagine my disagreeing with anything as a child, although I was sneaky enough to secretly pour the dreaded whooping cough medicine into my mother’s 21st birthday wooden candlesticks every day and thereby ruin them. But opposing taking the medicine, or anything else, would never have occurred to me. My father used to sit at the table and read the Daily Mirror from cover to cover waiting for me to eat the small meal I was served yet I struggled a tiny spoonful at a time till it was gone. Davina and I struggled to remove a half dead bougainvillea from their little courtyard garden this afternoon and succeeded in getting it all out, feeling it quite an achievement.

August 12, 2019

Spent just half a day in court due to it being closed to hear argument for a name suppression order, then closed again to hear the media appeal for publication, so we spent more time out of court than in. One interested family group (not accused of anything, more sinned against than sinning one suspects) in their joggers and bad hair dye jobs were care-worn, wearing signs of entrenched disadvantage, western suburbs written all over them. In the long break I chatted to Peter, one of the solicitors representing a ‘person of interest’, and it occurred to me once again that both defending and sentencing people are the prerogative of the privileged. Most of the judges I see are fair to the nth degree but occasionally I cringe at one who is so out of touch with the real world that I fear for the accused if that judge (it’s usually a he) is making the decision without a jury. In this case though there is no such issue, she is one of the good ones. We need to remember Goethe’s words: There is no crime of which I do not deem myself capable, more colloquially put in the idea of walking a mile in another’s moccasins.

August 13, 2019

Spent another half day in court, this afternoon being given over to evidence from the man for whom the police successfully applied to have the court closed while he gives evidence. The Channel 9/SMH/Age lawyer continued to fight the order today but was overruled. During the breaks I attacked my current read A Spy Among Friends about Kim Philby. It focuses on how easy it was to get into the British spy service with virtually no checking, you just needed to be part of the upper classes, preferably with parents who were in the colonial service (especially in India), the military, one of the top universities or the church. Once you’d jumped that hurdle your past didn’t really interfere, Philby was a known communist supporter at Cambridge yet his pedigree was such that this was seen as a youthful indiscretion. He once said that the best asset for a spy was to be easily liked, but I imagine being able to compartmentalise one’s life would be right up there. It is not something I have ever been able to do yet my brother does it easily, slipping assuredly from one situation to another, never letting his real feelings or opinons be known. I still smile at his exchange of views with Sue, explaining to her patiently that smoking was actually beneficial to health.

August 14, 2019

John went to see his haematologist Nada at St Vincent’s today and she said he was in the best health that he’s been in the three years she’s been seeing him. ‘You were rubbish the first time I saw you’ she rightly but quaintly put it. She says he is ‘one of my success stories’. We then took in a movie at Roseville, Palm Beach, the story of a bunch of flawed middle aged characters having a reunion at the home of one well-heeled couple who live at the fabled beach. Speaking to a man on the way out I discovered that he hadn’t seen a movie in 10 years but came because he lives in Mona Vale and wanted to see it because it was filmed near(ish) to his home. I treated myself to some sushi on the way home for an easy dinner tonight.

August 15, 2019

Keen to go back to the court case I’ve been following but knowing that the court was having some closed sessions I rang first, only to be told to ‘ring back after 9am’, despite the fact that time was long past. So I drove over to find the dreaded ‘closed court’ sign up (is there anything more frustrating than that sign when you are mere feet away from getting in?). The office assured me the phone was working but then checked and apologised profusely as someone had forgotten to turn off the answering machine. So I went home and baked a Walnut and Marmalade Tart with some of the marmalade Heather had made and given me earlier in the week, inviting her over for first slice and sending some home for David. Almost finished the Philby book, amazed at how many household names were his colleagues in the spy service. Peter Ustinov’s father Klop, Ian Fleming of James Bond fame, Graham Greene, Peter Wright were all contemporaries of Philby’s. Spy books have always fascinated me, I guess because their skills are so far out of my toolbox that I have a somewhat grudging fascination with their abilities. And that was even before I actually met one in the flesh, he who was quite bemused by the spy section on my bookshelves.

August 16, 2019

Sad to see Virginia Trioli finish up on News Breakfast this morning after 11 years. She is such a decent person and can skewer the politicians better than almost anyone. I shed a tear. Sat up late last night finishing the Philby book and the last chapter, written by John le Carre, who of course was also a contemporary spy whom I’d left out of my list of yesterday, said it all. He had asked a senior MI6 officer why Philby wasn’t arrested and charged after confessing to spying. but allowed, even perhaps encouraged, to flee to the USSR. Others who had also confessed  were gaoled for long periods up to 42 years when their actions, unlike Philby’s, hadn’t caused mass deaths. He replied ‘yes, but they weren’t top league’. As ever, class won out for Philby. Began the novel The Mars Room, dealing with the absolute opposite end of the spectrum, the world of drugs, prostitution, crime and women’s gaol in San Francisco. No martinis and gallons of champagne in this one, just beer and cheap takeaways.

I had hoped to try out a new gardener tomorrow, a refugee friend of a friend who has gone into business, but he hasn’t answered the phone nor replied to my messages during the week, so once again it’s a letdown. I will get the right one eventually, always on the lookout for people who enjoy what they do as well as the money they earn from it, but it takes time to find them.

August 17, 2019

Jane came over in the morning with some Cordylines that her gardener had culled. I made some brown sugar meringues with a few walnuts and some cinnamon to liven them up and they were a success. Not a recipe, just an idea, which proved to be a keeper. We discussed amongst other things the need to make our funeral wishes known, bearing in mind the current illnesses being suffered by her sisters I guess. The discussion prompted me to email Carly with a brief rundown of my wishes: where my will is, burial in Gerringong Cemetery, get David Barsby in to auction all the antiques, give my Aunt Ada’s Salvation Army Commission to the Sallies Headquarters in Sydney, that sort of stuff. I once had a Salvationist officer here for some reason (my father’s funeral perhaps?) and he was astounded that I had hanging on the wall a Captain’s Commission from Mrs Booth in 1909 (despite the fact that she died in 1890, they were still using her name on the Commissions). He asked if I would bequeath it to the Sallies archives as he’d never seen one before. Aunt Ada, my adoptive grandmother’s sister, was a SA Captain in England and as a young woman was sent to Belfast at a time of strikes and rioting, when sectarian animosity was real and visible. She once told me that the police used to ask her to walk with them on patrols, especially at night, so they would not be shot. The Salvation Army was highly regarded by both sides and she did so happily. In 1914 she was summarily sent from there to Lithgow NSW, travelling all the way in a blacked out ship during the war. Getting into a cab at the docks in Sydney, she asked for an address in Lithgow and was told it was a long train journey, so she was taken to Central train station instead and went off alone into the unknown. Quite a woman, I can’t even put up with a narcissistic leader in order to do ‘good works’, I need some of her courage and endurance.

August 18, 2019

I dreamed last night that when I got up this morning a middle aged couple were working in my garden and said they had been there since 6.30 am and were nearly finished. It was 6.30 when I woke and I realised then that it had been a dream and no-one but me could plant the Cordylines and do the rest of the gardening, so I had better just get up and do it. I worked from then till Insiders came on at 9 (tea and toast as I watched) and at 10 I went back and did some more till noon. I feel somewhat virtuous and even though I had to give up on some of the digging which proved too difficult, I did achieve much. I finished the book The Mars Room last night and was so impressed with the author resisting the temptation to make the prisoners in the book into innocents wrongly incarcerated. She told their stories with empathy but with clear eyes. They were crooked cops, addicts, thieves, violent offenders and vicious murderers yet in the milieu from which they came their acts were just normal behaviour, fanned by intergenerational poverty and drug addiction. It could be a depressing book in some senses (not one I would ever recommend for my book group) but I enjoyed every word and admired the author for not making at least a couple of her characters into the cliched hungry thief who steals a loaf of bread to survive. We need more realistic, astute and savvy work like this to help in finding solutions for the entrenched problems of crime and new judicial approaches to appropriate penalty.

August 19, 2019

Did a Windsor run to visit Brian and now Fay at the nursing home. Brian was still abed at 1 pm when I left, depressed and not wanting to go on. Last week he was chirpy and it seems to go up and down like this, the issue being more about motivation than about health. Looking around the day room I understand totally, it is depressing there in the extreme, despite the fact that he is in a better than average facility. Fay on the other hand was really glad of the visit and confessed to an old anger directed towards me. She had come into the shop when I had gone away for Christmas (a rarity) bearing a gift for me, but I had already left. She saw that I had left gifts for the staff but nothing for her and felt rejected as we had exchanged gifts in the past. Sometimes such things can come between friends without anything being said so I was glad that after years she’d decided to mention it and we were able to laugh about it and put it to bed. The shop was a bit of a lifeline for her and it was common to see her many times every week over more than 20 years so she ended up a friend rather than a client. I also called in to see an old contact who periodically borrows some bucks when his car needs rego or a medical bill comes in. He always pays me back a bit at a time on pension day, promising to pay it as a lump sum if his Lotto gets up. Suggesting that he bank his weekly Lotto investment as rainy day money has never met with enthusiasm for some reason. Back to gardening this afternoon, trying to get things shipshape before Darwin, while simultaneously trying to ignore Darwin and the flight.

August 20, 2019

Did the Manly haircut run and discovered as I was leaving that I had misread the clock and it was an hour earlier than I thought, however I decided to go anyway and park by the beach to read for that hour. When we were in India our compatriot Rob was reproached by his partner for sitting reading at sites where there were historical things to see. His reply stuck with me: ‘one of my joys is reading in all sorts of different surroundings, so I will continue to do that’. Full stop. After Manly I headed as usual to Freshwater where I read for half an hour till the wind got to me and then had a magnificent lunch of Cured Salmon with Sweet Potato Fritter, Pickled Beetroot and Ricotta. Did I say magnificent? It is such a wonderful place with food of the same quality as its big brother Pilu next door, but at a much lower price. Made my routine work in the afternoon a pleasure just thinking about it.

August 21, 2019

So, I have drunk that piss weak light milk for years and now the Health Department says that newer research shows you are better off with full fat, thanks for nothing guys. At least I didn’t fall for the ‘margarine is better for you than butter’ trick, seeing through that one on the grounds that anything artificially coloured and flavoured can’t be as good for you. Not to mention the fact that the ophthalmologist told me that only butter and olive oil are safe for anyone with a family history of macular degeneration. He showed me slides of vegetable oil build up in the macula of sufferers, ugh, that was enough.

So Pell is guilty once again. Of course the Bolts and their ilk are crying foul, but my question would be ‘did you actually see the accuser give evidence?’. If not, then none of us are in a position to judge definitively except the jury and the appeal judges. That is why I like to see the evidence given in court in person, the short precis given by the press is often not in keeping with hearing the whole evidence as given, you need to look the witnesses and the accused in the eye. I am surprised he hasn’t come to grief in gaol and hope that situation continues, even protective custody isn’t very protective.

August 22, 2019

So now I have to face the fact that we are going away, clothes must be packed, tickets must be found, gardens must be watered, panic must be restrained. I wish to be there, I just don’t wish to fly there. I will not get sick this time, I tell myself repeatedly. John has heaps of conference stuff printed up to read and I just have two books, the book group selection and a Tim Winton, that should do me with all the other things available to eat up my time. Speaking of eating I’ve discovered that Darwin has lots of seafood restaurants, though one I saw listed prawns (imported), crab (imported), etc. Nah, I think I might pass on that place, they are sure to have the dreaded basa too, dredged from the bowels of the filthy Mekong, I’d rather eat a stranger’s sock. Tonight though we are having some lovely freshwater trout fillets, served up with a melange of odd veggie bits to clear out John’s fridge.

August 23, 2019

All went to plan with the pickup guy a few minutes early but we were waiting outside. A leisurely cuppa at the airport filling in time till departure half an hour late. Takeoff to the west meant the pilot didn’t have to do that awful banking which doesn’t agree with me. Later a delicious feta quiche with potato and beans was a great breakfast. The flight was calm and smooth, Australia as flat and red as always while I pondered what future trips I might take, considering the drugs were working a treat. Reading my book in the sky was quite fun I decided.

Coming into Darwin for what John says was a ‘perfectly normal landing’ I developed the dreaded photophobia followed quickly by vomiting and vertigo. As a result I had to be wheelchaired off the plane, parked in the terminal in full view of planeloads of passengers, constantly vomiting. Eventually John and a security person got me into a cab to our hotel, but of course no wheelchairs here, so staff held me up in the lift to our apartment with its glorious king size bed, on which I was promptly sick. Poor John’s first meal here was a $25 room service club sandwich because he was afraid to leave me alone. Back to the drawing board on the drug front and another plane trip home to look forward to, sigh. But loving our water view and seeing the bats swooping amongst the palm trees below our seventh floor room, this written the next morning obviously.

August 24, 2019

What a difference a day makes. Slept 12 hours and went at 6 am for a walk in the lush waterfront park across the road. Couldn’t convince John to come but I saw the sun rise and the birds waking up. A sign explained that due to the fact that we are so far north, the sun rises from that direction, which it did. I am still trying to get my head around that. Had a wonderful brunch after the walk, home made granola with pannacotta, apple, blueberries and strawberries at Ray’s bakery near the hotel. Now we have done some shopping we have breakfast makings in our apartment. Later we went to Crocosaurus to see, amongst so many others, the giant croc that appeared in the Crocodile Dundee film as well as 750 kg 5 metre long Leo who used to kill and eat cattle before he was captured. Lots more animals  including a reptile exhibition and some fish which spit at flying insects to catch them. As I peered over the tank one got me fair in the face, though luckily I had on my sunglasses. Got to hold a baby croc and learned a bit about the speed and power of these prehistoric looking creatures which can’t fail to fascinate. We are going to look into a day’s car hire to get a taste of the outback, with eyes peeled for crocs.

August 25, 2019

Observations: Darwin’s economy isn’t too flash, there are an awful lot of empty shops. Territorians are very noisy people, just walking past a pub or social venue is deafening, especially the men. Singing out to people in the street is at maximum decibels. Looking through a real estate magazine I discovered that although most homes don’t have insect screens (neither does our apartment and we haven’t seen flies or mozzies so far) they mostly have security grilles. Leaving a restaurant tonight the owner told us how to get home via the best lit streets, wishing us ‘stay safe’ as we left. All of this indicates quite a burglary problem to me. There are Aboriginal beggars everywhere. In Sydney when people ask me for change I often reply ‘no, but I will buy you something to eat if you are hungry’. Few take me up on it, but here the response is quite the opposite, we have had three people today want some groceries so we’ve been to Coles buying bread, milk, sugar, chicken, whatever was asked for but the requests were modest. There are so many on the streets here that there’s a limit to what you can do. It’s a tragedy. We spent the day at the Darwin Military Museum, taken by a WWII Studebaker truck as it’s out of town. John discovered a book there which mentions his father who was Commander of the Northern Territory Force from after the Japanese attack till 1946, of course he bought a copy.

August 26, 2019

It is late at night and I can’t begin to record all of the mega day we have had. But it included 1. Hiring a car and going bush 2. Seeing three large long black things in the clear shallows of a deserted beach we were walking on and bolting because the signs everywhere say the crocs will run up the beach to get you. 3. On another remote beach a couple of hundred kilometres from Darwin seeing a sign which mentioned Jack Murray, John’s father, heading the Black Watch Aboriginal regiment after the Japanese attack in WWII. So random that we came across that, I can’t believe it. 4. Coming upon a bushfire being attended by water bombers and eventually getting past it and pulling into a mango farm in the sticks for a mango smoothie, but soon the firies rang the farm to evacuate immediately as the fire had jumped. We and the owners took off in our separate cars but John clipped a log and scratched the bumper. 6. Now the car company says we voided our insurance by hitting a stationary object and have to pay for it. It was excitement overload all day. Phew.

August 27, 2019

Today was the first day of John’s conference so I’ve been doing a few things on my own. First job was to meet the manager of the car hire company at our hotel at 9 am to discuss the minor damage. He surprised me by saying that because I had rung him and reported the damage instead of sending the car back and hoping they didn’t notice, he would ‘look after’ us. I don’t know if that means charging us the $100 excess or wiping the slate altogether, but in either case we are happy compared to the original decision that we’d have to pay it all. Went to the police station and Aboriginal Justice office enquiring about shelter for the homeless and it seems the Sallies and an Aboriginal aid group have accommodation, whether it is adequate or the people just don’t want to use it remains to be seen, will try to have that conversation with some people tomorrow. John rang tonight to say he was going to the conference dinner so I walked into town and had a lovely meal including a watermelon feta almond and mint salad which was divine and I brought half home for tomorrow. Then had mango and ice cream at home using the mangoes we got at the farm yesterday. We haven’t seen the news since Thursday and it’s a relief not to know what garbage Trump is disgorging.

August 28, 2019

John enjoyed the first day of his conference, meeting pals as well as visitors from the UK and US. He said the food at the conference dinner was the usual crap lukewarm chicken, but sadly the dinner tonight at the famed Peewees Restaurant is booked out so he got a ticket to the wrong dinner it seems. I made a momentous decision this morning: I want to stay on and complete my list of must dos. John said I should definitely stay but he has an appointment in Gerringong on Sunday that can’t be put off as the clients are going away soon. So with a bit of juggling I was able to keep our seventh floor unit and change my flight till Tuesday. Yippee! Now I can do a full day in the museum instead of a few hours and also I want to go to the headquarters of Larrakia Nation to talk about possibly organising some bucks for their service. I was lucky enough to see their work with the homeless Aboriginal people around town and was very impressed by their low key approach. They have a van which picks people up off the streets and delivers them home, to a hostel or a dry out place if alcohol is an issue. Also they repatriate people to their home areas, even interstate, just the sort of outfit that’s needed.

I caught the bus to Cullen Bay (all seniors travel free) and arrived just in time for a cruise on the harbour so I quickly downed some tablets and jumped on, as always it’s a very different view of the place. Paspaley Pearls is a huge outfit here, 17 boats I think and we saw part of the fleet on the cruise. The weather has become more humid and summery than when we arrived and a local commented that ‘it’s turning’. Heaps of American servicemen on the streets today, perhaps newly arrived.

August 29, 2019

A huge day, I could write a small book on it. I got a bus out to the burbs and was on the doorstep of Larrakia Nation at 9 am and they turned out to be just the down to earth team of people I was hoping for. As well as the van picking up people from the streets seven days a week, ‘long grass people’ in their parlance, they provide tenancy services such as interest free loans for bonds, help with removals, sourcing furniture and white goods, even have a trailer to help folks clean up their properties and take junk to the tip. Add to this assistance with Centrelink, aged care and disability services and more. I left with the annual report and a pile of reading so hopefully I can turn this into money for them somehow but in the meantime I’ll do a monthly pittance.

From there I went to the Museum and Art Gallery, which is out of town on the edge of the harbour. I spent the rest of the day there, learning so much about the geology, wildlife and history of the Northern Territory. I was scribbling in my notebook all afternoon, so many amazing pieces of information. One which beat all others I think was the fact that the aboriginal people have named a remote spot ‘sun walk fire devil rock’ and scientists have discovered that it is the site of a meteorite collision and was obviously named after that event, which occurred 4700 years ago! This name has been handed down over all that time, a fact that blows me away. We went to Mindil Beach at night to watch the sunset and ate at the market stalls there, tempura veggies and crispy chilli anchovies for moi. I had to bring half the anchovies home, too hot to eat all at once. My night was then taken up trying to confirm John’s flight. I tried online and it wouldn’t work so I rang Qantas and the wait was announced as 2 and a half hours, but what choice did I have? At 11.30 they answered and it turned out that when they split me off the ticket they gave him a new number but thank goodness his flight was correct, phew.

August 30, 2019

Haven’t been watching the teev since we got here but happened to see the news on my phone that the Biloela Four were being deported from Melbourne to Sri Lanka overnight when a court order restrained Border Force from continuing and they landed in Darwin. The government is always trying to get people to live in the country right? So I decided a trip to the airport was in order to try to point that out. Trying to find where they were I went to the terminal and two airport hotels, asking two Federal Police on the way who had ‘never heard of them’, lying buggers. Anyway by this time a further order had stayed the deportation till next Wednesday and I discovered they had been moved. Later intelligence is that they are at Larrakeyah Naval Base, close by and in my line of view from the balcony. Tomorrow I am away all day but I may pay them a visit on Sunday. Got an airport bus back and bought a hat for tomorrow from the Red Cross, walking home via the foreshore beach in my hat and two very under the weather Aboriginal people said ‘are you 55 sister?’ and when I said almost 72 they said ‘oh nana sit down with us , you need to be sitting down’, so I did and they told me all about the worms that can get into your feet in wet season and ‘eat you up from the inside’. They warned me to always wear thongs in the wet season and not to sleep on the ground without a blanket. Kenneth told me a similar story about Africa when he was there, you couldn’t swim in the rivers because of the worms that entered through your feet.

August 31, 2019

I am too tired to type but don’t want to forget anything. Picked up at the hotel in a small bus and lucky enough to be the first so I got the best seat, next to the driver with a great view from the windscreen. Down the Stuart Highway then left onto the Arnhem Highway through tropical savannah forest with some kapok trees and Kakadu plum to Humpty Doo and eventually across the Adelaide River, stopping at Corroboree for a drink break. On to the Billabong near Mary River and part of it in the wet season. Here there are four ‘seasons’, wet over the summer, dry over the winter, breakout  during October when it is very hot and 100% humidity and runoff in April when the monsoon wet drains away. Apparently breakout is the worst with a rise in crime and suicides. There have been two letters in the NT News this week complaining about the COLD weather we are having here, dropping to 18 degrees some nights to the horror of the writers.

I was somewhat taken aback by the boat, a flat bottomed low job from which one could drag a hand on the water, but strongly advised not to. There were life jackets but our guide suggested it was madness to struggle to put a life jacket on in a croc infested waterway. Better to swim to shore, run away from the water and climb a tree he helpfully suggested. Yikes. Anyway before long I was so captivated by the wildlife that I ceased panicking. We saw wild buffalo, agile wallabies (too far north for kangaroos) before getting into the wetlands and once in the boat the bird life was stunning. It included jabirus, brolgas, brown and whistling kites, sea eagles, spoonbills, lapwings, egrets of three types, ibis, azure kingfishers, barn owls, a Nankeen night heron and one of my favourites, the comb crested japanas which have huge feet to walk on the lotus leaves. Lots more besides but I’ve forgotten the names.

Then there were the crocs, omg the crocs. I discovered that the advantage of our boat over the weekend cruiser looking jobbies was that we could sight an animal and immediately go right up to it so when we saw a bird, or a croc, our guide had us alongside in seconds. If I’d stretched my arm out further I could have patted one on the nose, but I’m kind of attached to my left hand so I desisted. We ate out packed lunch on board sitting right alongside a four metre one and I kept my eye on him just in case he leapt across to those having cut meat with their salad, though I think the eater would have been more of interest. Occasionally he looked over and that eye just freezes you. They are perfectly evolved, outliving the dinosaurs they so resemble. It was an amazing trip and the three hours of animal hunting on the billabong will remain in my memory.

September 1, 2019

Three years ago today we were packing up the shop with the auctioneer today. Started the day with a walk to the Waterfront complex where a P and O ship was sitting at anchor. Intended to go to the WWII Japanese attack exhibition there but discovered it was virtual reality, so I withdrew my $22 faster than the best thief, my head and virtual reality are certainly not friends. Then to what passes for a beach in Darwin, a pool at the waterfront with an artificial wave machine, which was great fun and a bargain at $5 including a life guard (who minded my gear), flotation rings and boards. Lunched right royally in the aircon at Snapper Rocks, right at the beach, reef fish croquettes with cole slaw and chili which was more than delicious and a bargain at $17 with the aircon and iced water thrown in. Spent the afternoon in the adjacent waterway, no waves, but plenty of sand, slippery dips and other fun stuff in the water and no chance of sharks, box jellyfish, or more importantly, crocs. However I discovered that the barrier is inadequate to keep out sea lice, which got me around both ankles. Walked home tired but happy, regretting I didn’t ask Mr Qantas to extend for a week instead of just four days. Darwin isn’t dessert paradise but has fabulous savoury food, so I’ve worked out a plan: go to Ray’s for a lemon meringue tart and a pot of tea in the morning and then eat savoury for the rest of the day. Yesterday after my restaurant lunch I just ate watermelon for dinner. Trying to stick to one meal a day supplemented by fruit, of which there is plenty. Had a call from one of the rangers at Larrakia Nation wondering if I were still in town and saying he might give me a ring to go for a coffee before I go. Big surprise in the evening when I got a Facebook friend request from Ram, the manager of the small guest house on the beach in Kerala where we spent a couple of week about 10 years ago. He had joined Facebook and found me accidentally, I am not sure who was more excited, but I’ve had quite a few messages overnight including a video call which I slept through at 2.38 this morning. We have corresponded by letter and talked on the phone a few times, language difficulties exist as he speaks mainly Malayalam, but the short messages of Facebook better suit our circumstances. He offered last night to try to teach me Malayalam but languages were never my forte, we will stick to basic English I think. Perhaps I will see him again after all, I badly need a brush up on his instructions on how to wrap my sari, unworn since he wound me into it 10 years ago.

September 3, 2019

Funny start to the day when I decided to get a massage, choosing one about 1 and a half kilometres away. When I had walked there in the heat I discovered it was a unit block not a shopfront. Mmm, a bit sus perhaps, so I rang them and they said they wouldn’t be ready for me for 15 minutes which gave me thinking time and I decided it was definitely iffy, no signage, no nothing. So I texted them saying I was expecting a street front business and was having second thoughts, no reply which pretty much confirmed my suspicions. The window cleaner who had overheard my first call commented ‘if it’s unit 609, lot of men go there’. Okay thank you my friend.

Spent the morning in the local court, witnessing justice NT style. The magistrate freed a man from gaol for stealing a banana from a small shop and abusing police when they were arresting him. A banana, value $1, but the point of the story is that it happened on May 24, over three months ago. A prize of one banana for anyone guessing his ethnicity…..

I have avoided knocking about the streets alone at night after dark but on the last night I threw caution to the winds and I’m so glad I did. Walked to the waterfront for dinner and on the way I noticed that a lady who had been doing a painting since late Sunday had nearly finished it. On my way home she said ‘it will be finished in half an hour grandma ‘ so I sat and watched. I bought the painting and carried it home by the corners of the dry section. Then she pulled out some old pillows and a blanket from behind a bush and bedded down. What a place of contrasts this is.

September 3, 2019

I arrived here with a suitcase and a cabin bag and John with a soft zippered carryall. For reasons best known to him (probably thinking I would find the luggage difficult to manoeuvre) he insisted that we swap luggage and that he take my paper souvenirs, 3 children’s books bought on our car trip and all the Larrakia Nation paperwork. All good except that he arrived in Sydney without the bag containing all this. I’ve rung the police, the cab company and soon will check with airport lost property but he has no idea where he left it. He only knows it wasn’t in the overhead locker when the plan arrived, no time to go out to the suburbs and get the Larrakia stuff, great start to that association.

Hurrah!!! The check-in didn’t know about the bag, neither did security but the airport admin office had it, but hadn’t contacted me despite my name and address being on paperwork inside. Anyway, it matters not, the bag she be safe. Had a good flight, doubled up on the meds, but it was smooth so perhaps I would have been okay anyway. John was up at the door when I came off the plane, expecting a wheelchair I guess. He asked if I were happy to be home and I had to be honest and say another week in Darwin would have been great but I was certainly glad to see him at the exit door.

September 4, 2019

John stayed over and then drove me to Artarmon to get the train in to the rally for the Biloela Four. The government is always ralphing on about getting people to live in remote and regional areas so here we are with a family who love it there and the community loves them, voila. Not to even mention the ghastly treatment of Tamils in Sri Lanka. John wants to go to Melbourne for the 90th birthday of his cousin Kevin Murray so today while filling in time at Central I booked us on the train in late September and then into our old faithful Treasury on Collins. Toying with getting a one way car hire on the way back but trying to speak to someone at a car rental company for a quote is nigh on impossible, I left my number with two of them hours ago. The weekend after we come back it is Teresa and Stephen’s wedding in Newcastle so that’s another trip away already booked, I will have to stop bitching about never going anywhere.

September 5, 2019

Unpacked, washed, sorted. Had a win on the burglar alarm front. I rang to order the new one I was assured I required before I got the NBN but spoke to a different person this time and she offered me a deal. Sign up for monitoring for three years and they will pay for the conversion of the system, saving me $900. Yes please, where do I sign? So then I was able to get onto Optus and let them know that there is action on the connection front. That $900 bucks pays for my trip to Melbourne pretty much, although the car is still an unknown amount, as a one way hire adds a lot. Emailed Larrakia Nation with some questions arising from reading their annual report, as transparent as a muddy billabong I find financial reports. So a good lots of jobs done today despite fielding two calls and eight texts from a friend who is struggling at the moment. The calls I answered but the texts I let go, bad person that I am, but I needed a break.

September 6, 2019

Did my Annangrove/Windsor run, visiting Tim, then Brian and Fay. Tim believes he has acquired an original Grecian bronze and wanted my opinion, despite my repeated attempts to explain that authenticating such an item is an academic specialist’s job, not that of a humble suburban antique dealer. However I went to look at it yet again and it certainly has many design and structural attributes of great age, but original Grecian? I just don’t know, but he is looking at many, many millions if he is right (and he has done a heap of research). Since then I’ve had 10 texts with photos of features I may have missed but after the tenth I replied ‘you are obsessed, leave me alone’ which should work till the morning at least. Brian was still looking unwell but pleased with the visit and Fay was happy to see me, who wouldn’t be happy to see anyone in a nursing home, so I don’t take that too personally. I am cross that my physical weakness meant I may have ruined the cuttings I planted this morning. I have nursed them since spring and got a 5/5 strike rate, but when I tipped the large pots out to plant them they were too heavy for me and I ended up with a pile of soil and roots alongside a rootless cutting, just needed another pair of hands but sadly they weren’t available. Now I’m kicking myself that I didn’t wait for help.

September 7, 2019

Woo-hoo, it appears I’ve got myself a gardener! I was advised by a friend of a possible candidate and waited in for him to call today, to see what needed doing. So I bit the bullet and he’s coming Tuesday morning at 8 to make a start. Champagne is in order. (It does annoy me that one can’t just have a glass of champagne and the consumption of a whole bottle is way beyond me, even to celebrate a new gardener). Note to self: bake biscuits before Tuesday.

This travelling business does discombobulate me. I’ve been waking each night not knowing if I am in Darwin or here and going in the wrong direction to find the loo. Certainly felt a little sad when I realise that Darwin is past tense. However I was able to find a book on crocodiles in the library which focuses on their evolution, so that will help. Currently reading Dirt Music by Tim Winton which, although set just north of Perth, has a character who goes to the top end and lives off the land, or off the ocean more to the point. Just reading about the Pandanus trees, the birds and of course the crocs made me feel right at home. One thing that really disappoints me is finding the perfect organisation to volunteer with, full of people I relate to, and yet it is 4000 kilometres away. Wouldn’t that rot your socks.

September 8, 2019

Went to First Saturday last night and saw happy snaps, more truthfully happy video, of a trip by two members to northern Canada. There were polar bears aplenty and it was great to see them up close, but was I jealous of the trip? Not really, the sight of Inuit staff with guns ready to shoot the bears if they attacked would be enough to put me off enjoying the experience. Even if it never happens, it is the potentiality of one being killed just to enable a group of tourists to eyeball them that doesn’t go down well. Spent the day at Erko and we took Millie for a walk to the park, followed by lunch at Foodcraft, which is such a lovely little restaurant. Had pumpkin ravioli with goat cheese and it was delicious, though my difficulty swallowing dinner last night has persisted into today, the ravioli chosen as the easiest thing to slip down, but it proved an inspired choice. Millie got quite jealous when I helped a little boy at the park ‘that’s MY grandma’ she said indignantly and repeatedly.

September 9, 2019

Luckily my friendship with Tim is long lasting enough to take my frustrated text to him last week to give me a break from the constant texts, emails and photos in his attempts to convince me that he’s discovered an incredibly rare artwork. I had 24 hours without contact after that. It will make a good story if it turns out he is right, I’ll hit him for a large donation for Larrakia Nation. (Gosh, two texts while I’ve been typing this paragraph, aaagh). Getting ready for the new gardener tomorrow and I discover that my next door neighbour has borrowed and filled my green bin which the gardener will need tomorrow, it had to be this week he took it didn’t it. (Another photo just arrived). A rare trip to KMart this morning and I discovered that it is run now on a skeleton staff, self serving checkouts, no one to ask except security at the door, I’d rather pay more and deal with real people thank you. This is what happens when people are too lazy to join the union and fight for their jobs. (That’s it, I give up, another photo so I’m putting the phone under my pillow to give myself a rest).

September 10, 2019

So the gardener and I hit it off big time. He spent 2 and a half hours clearing privet and vines from the back corner and cutting dead fronds out of the palm with a natty little mini chainsaw on a long stick. I would love to get my hands on that little beast to take out some small dead branches in the gum tree, accessible from the deck. I shall keep that idea warm for the future. He only lives a few streets away and will come again next week to continue. Third time lucky I think.

It is bizarre the way I am dreaming of Darwin every single night, going over every aspect: the landscape, the people I met, the wildlife, not necessarily as it happened but always positively. Made biscuits for the gardener then later a batch of a dozen scones, though when I went to wash up I found the sugar still in the measuring cup. So I had one with goat cheese for lunch and one with strawberry jam later, nothing if not versatile the old scone, they were particularly good despite their lack of sugar.

September 11, 2019

Last night on 7.30 Report there was a fellow with the same lymphoma as John, Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, but he hadn’t responded to three different treatment cycles of chemo. It is in his bones, which break easily and he looked pretty done in. He was diagnosed just in April. So here’s the rub: he wants the government to pay for an experimental treatment which is his only chance, two treatments at $250,000 each, with no guarantees of success. What to do? Which will better value society: One human or a bridge in the country? a house for a family who lost theirs in a bush fire? or another cancer researcher’s wages? I don’t know and I’m glad that decision doesn’t fall to me. But it brought back memories of Nada telling John he had weeks to live without chemo, he was obviously one of the lucky ones. She refers to him as ‘one of my success stories’, indicating there are quite a few with that disease who don’t survive.

I was given a ticket for a musical show at Chatswood today and was amazed by the crowd contrast inside and outside the theatre. In the streets it was Hong Kong without the tear gas. Every restaurant and food bar is Asian as are 90% of the people, the streets actually smell like Asia with its spices overwhelming even the car exhausts. But in the theatre it was a different demographic altogether: virtually 100% elderly whities, (ahem, myself excluded from the elderly part) with only a few middle-aged, who were accompanying older folk. I wondered if they were bussed in from nursing homes, such was their advanced years. I guess I love diversity, so both situations are less than ideal.

September 12, 2019

The burglar alarm man came today and was both on time and efficient. I mentioned that I was unimpressed that the first person I spoke to said I had to pay for a whole new system yet the second said I could have it changed over free if I signed a three year contract. He made the point that the first person was probably younger and didn’t take into account the financial situation of a pensioner, interesting conclusion. Pretty disgusted by the political news today: Sidoti in Sydney accused of using his inside knowledge to buy up land near intended metro stations and Liu in Canberra looking suspiciously like an influence pedlar for the Chinese government. In both cases, if true, it is amazing that they thought they could get away with it. Life is so much easier if you play with a straight bat, but we humans can’t help complicating things once money or politics become part of the equation.

September 13, 2019

Back into the Music Festival Deaths Inquiry this week and have heard interesting medical testimony about the adequacy or otherwise of the care given in the medical tents. In 4 out of the 6 deaths it seems the care was as good as could be provided but in the case where two young people became ill at much the same time in Sydney the doctors on duty at the festival were inexperienced and unable to provide some treatments like intubation which could have saved lives. The professor gave evidence that the ambulance paramedics would have had better skills in that sort of emergency. I heard the testimony of each of the doctors some weeks back and felt particularly sorry for one of them who was a GP with no drug experience and clearly out of his depth. I read in a book on emergency medicine recently that a heart attack victim has a better chance of survival in an ambulance than in a hospital emergency department because they  are staffed by the most junior doctors, a rather sobering thought.

It is funny at this time of the year how people dress for the weather, not yet decided if it is winter or spring. There were all manner of outfits today from bare legs, short skirts and skimpy tops to velvet trousers and heavy jumpers (me). I guess in a few weeks we’ll all be complaining about heat and humidity, we’ll at least I will be.

September 14, 2019

Well I survived Black Friday and full moon both occurring last night. No lunatics raging up the quiet streets of Baulkham Hills. Still dreaming of Darwin every night though the images are becoming less real. Still haven’t had a reply from Larrakia which is bloody annoying; the people I met are sympathetic but the people I need to speak to haven’t met me and so I’m just a pesky person asking questions when they’ve got better things to do.

Spent most of the day at Carol’s working on Christmas cakes for the Wayside Chapel and Exodus. It was a lovely sunny but pleasantly moderate day to be doing it, enjoying the company of Carol, Heather who came along for the first time and two Finnish helpers. A lovely lunch on the deck, along with Jack, was a highlight. I went to the nursery on the way home planning to pick up some Pandanus for the back corner but Kelly talked me out of it because in Darwin they thrive with lots of summer rain which we don’t get. So no Darwin corner for moi, I guess it was a silly idea, but seemed a good one at the time.

September 15, 2019

It is so lovely to have a neighbour who just lobs at the door for a chat for no reason. This happened today so Arvind and I sat on the front verandah and in the conversation he mentioned his brother in Melbourne who went broke years ago in a service station and was forced to sell his house to pay his debts. The Sallies dropped off a couple of food parcels to them and he’s never forgotten, now in a successful business he donates $10,000 a year to them. He has investment properties and refuses to claim the negative gearing benefits because he doesn’t believe in them. (Here I’d take a different view, claim any legal money you can from the government and redirect it to where it should rightly be going, but that’s nit-picking). I like the man already and told Arvind ‘when your brother visits, send him in here for a cuppa, I think I like him even more than I like you’. He grinned and assured me he would.

Began reading Cardinal by Louise Milligan (an Irish Catholic) tonight and it makes for extremely depressing reading. Many events she describes have not been published before to my knowledge and the book is gripping. Even leaving clerical abuse out of the equation Pell is the type of person I want to positively run from. That arrogant overbearing authoritarian manner gives me the shudders. I’ve only come across a few people like that in my life but it gives me goosebumps just thinking about them. But there have been many others with leanings in that direction that I can think of as well, somehow they freeze your feet from running away, even as an adult. I can’t even imagine what a child would feel in their presence, a terror indescribable. I don’t think Pell has any idea whatsoever about the feelings of others and probably sees himself as a victim and martyr.

September 16, 2019

The dentist today inspected the massive hole in my tooth and said it wasn’t a filling that had fallen out, but that the tooth had split in half, just leaving the front like one of those awful buildings where only the facade is original. So he remade the inside of the tooth with some sort of white stuff which set in a trice but warned that if it cracked again I was looking at a crown. At my age that seems a terrible waste so I will be careful and gnaw my bison ribs on the other side. Which brings me to my current thinking on meat eating. I have sort of settled on not buying it for home, I live on fish and vegetables, but accepting it if I am eating at someone else’s house or going out for a special meal. I can’t stomach the idea of chicken, too many nightmarish pictures absorbed, but it tastes of cardboard anyway. No one cooks plain chicken any more, it’s either curry or honey or chili or crumbed or anything at all to give it some hint of taste, so what’s the point? I did a plain roasted organic chicken for Carly last year and it was delicious, so perhaps that’s enough.

As I was driving home from the dentist Michelle rang to say that there was a pile of stuff in her street waiting for council cleanup which included three large plastic boxes of books, so I diverted and came across an interesting assortment of loot. A large trunk with a broken leather handle was very difficult to gutbust into the car but I got it in eventually. Then there was a dropside table which wouldn’t fit in along with the trunk so I went to the door to ask if they could keep it for me till the morning. A fellow emerged from under the shrubbery, keeping his head down to avoid any obligation to help presumably, and was willing to let me deposit the table in the garage till Wednesday. I suspect he has inherited the house, judging by the gear on the kerb and because he made such a specific time that he would meet me there. The books were a mixed bunch, many too large for my street library, WWII books particularly, and the selection indicated an older person’s taste too (I didn’t read Sherlock Holmes for nothing). I couldn’t lift the boxes and my friend wasn’t of a mind to help me so I unloaded many of the books loose into the car and was off. But guilt overcame me and I went back to get the rest of the books to take to the Sallies, only to find to my horror there was just a pristine patch of grass with nary a sign of the goods ever having been there at all. Grief, now I keep thinking of the old bibles, the WWII books in quantity, the travel guides, even the ghastly Dan Brown novels, someone somewhere really wanted all of those but now they are landfill because I was tired and also didn’t want to annoy the selfish coot who couldn’t be bothered to drive up to a charity shop. Stop obsessing Maureen. (Still obsessing).

September 17, 2019

I had two things planned to do today: wash all the winter jumpers that have been worn and help the new gardener, both scuppered by the lovely rain. Gardener texted at 8 am to say it was too wet which meant I had got out of my jamies an hour earlier than necessary, but that’s life. Then mid-morning I made passionfruit biscuits and texted a female friend something along the lines of ‘hi darl, djawanna come over for a cuppa, passionfruit biscuits in the oven’. The reply was fast: ‘No sorry, have to see a real estate agent about work, but save me some biscuits’. Odd I thought, as my friend is retired……but then I realised that I had sent it to the new gardener. A hurried explanation was sent to disabuse him of the notion that I was on the make. Très embarrassant! This got me to thinking about working at Sydney University on wheat genetics at the Plant Breeding Institute where almost every academic had come from a farm. They positively scoffed at building workers and others who downed tools during rain or high temperatures. We were expected to work outdoors rain or shine in any temperature, and we did so. I once fainted outside in 40 degrees plus temperatures and someone suggested I be taken to the local doctor. ‘What’s the point of that?’ my boss said, ‘he’ll only tell her to go into the cool.’ They were extremely socially conservative as well as socially inept in many ways. If they were entertaining overseas scientists I was dragooned into serving them morning tea or lunch as although they were brilliant in their fields, they seemed incapable of social smalltalk.

September 18, 2019

Today I had to pick up the table put aside for me on Monday and decided I couldn’t resist talking to the donor about waste! So I explained that I had come back to rescue what I could from his council cleanup to take to a charity shop but had sadly arrived too late. Charity shop? he said somewhat confused, you mean like Lifeline or something? Yes I said, I am still smarting about the waste of all those books. Oh he said do they take old glasses and stuff? Yes they certainly do I replied, after which he lugged out a huge box full of stuff which he put into my car saying that it was all going out in the next cleanup. Of course I decided to sort and wash the stuff and pack into manageable containers and I now have some bits for the charity shop but also a number of boxes of cups and saucers, vases, ornaments and glasses packed and ready to take to auction. Larrakia Nation will do well from that little haul, so thankyou Michelle for the original tip off. My new friend didn’t take offence at my remarks and took my phone number in case he comes up with more ‘junk’, he’s got the bug perhaps.

September 19, 2019

Managed to get on to the chief financial officer at Larrakia and he answered some of the questions I had, but he will need to speak to someone else, perhaps the CEO, to get answers for a couple of things. However on one issue his answer and the annual report are at odds, so I need clarification on that. Managed to get all the jumpers washed so need a dry day to finish them then it can pour for as long as it likes. Had a call around lunchtime from the lady I met in a cafe a while back who reads the blog, she had some free time as her work computer was down and wanted to catch up. Amazingly it turns out that we share an old friend, in my case back to my teens, a fact we stumbled on taking about a totally unrelated topic.

Got a receipt by email today for the full price of our accommodation in Melbourne so I rang them immediately to see what was going on. It turns out that being grand final weekend for the AFL there is no cancellation ability such as usually applies and the tariff is charged in full 7 days before arrival. I knew it was finals weekend and we were paying a lot more than usual, but had no idea about paying in advance. Who puts on a party on that weekend, I ask myself. Anyway while I was happy to pass on the party altogether, John was keen to go in case he bumps into distant rellies there, which is fair enough so we are going despite the cost.

September 20, 2019

Late last evening Kirk the gardener called to see if he could come today after being rained out earlier in the week. Of course I was delighted and at 10 to 8 we were hucking out the overgrown almost herbless herb garden. By 10 it looked a treat with a pile of fishbone fern and weeds you couldn’t jump over. Now it is up to me to replant it after we get back from Melbourne. We gel, thankyou gods. Then I loaded up the wagon with stuff for auction and dropped it at Bargain Hunt, sitting down with the owner Mark for a chat and reminiscence over old times. It was great handing stuff over with no real concern about what it brings, seeing most of it cost me nothing. Then off to Erko for Millie’s Special Person’s Day, necessary because mother’s day and father’s day can get a bit tricky around that area. There was an Aboriginal man there to do a smoking ceremony and I got to thinking about the fact that Aboriginal people didn’t once get a guernsey in my education, apart from cameo roles as people on the headlands looking out at Captain Cook et al. The fact that the preschool is German owned probably helps their attitudes as I think often foreign born people, particularly the Germans and Dutch, have a more respectful view of our past than those of us brought up here and never taught a scrap about the real history of Australia. Later we all, including Carly who came up to be a special person, went to Foodcraft for dinner. It is such a lovely local bistro of the type we rarely see, not in a shopping precinct, just on a street corner, where everyone coming in, including Millie, greets the owner by name and he often returns the favour.

September 21, 2019

Thinking during the night about the Aboriginal man from yesterday who told us he was separated from his mother at birth in 1971 and never found his family again. In 1971 I was still a member of the Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs, having joined about 1965/6, trying to get some action on what we now call the Stolen Generation. The idea behind it was that if black children were separated out and brought up white they would assimilate and the blacks would eventually die out. Charles Perkins, that wonderful angry young man, was at our head and I can remember a particular meeting at Parramatta Town Hall (in a crumby little room out the back) at which we had an invited public servant come from Canberra to address us oh so politely about the justification of what the government was doing. I was too young then to give an important person any stick but at the end of his talk an old lady there asked a question: ‘Are you the person who drags screaming children onto the trains to bring them to Sydney, leaving their mothers collapsed hysterical on the platform?’ ‘Uh, no’ he answered, ‘that’s not my job, I’ve never seen that’. ‘Well in that case’ she said, ‘send us the person who does, because I have seen it and I want to look that person in the eye’. He skulked to the door and left red-faced. I’ve never forgotten it, it was an inspiration in how to speak truth to power. But unfortunately those thousands of Aboriginal children suffered, and this man was clearly still suffering, despite a handful of people in a back room. Today I have felt so powerless in a world that can’t even begin to see how wrong we were, and are, on so many issues. I think we are at a low ebb as a planet and I certainly am today as one single impotent part of it.

September 22, 2019

Reading an interesting novel, Dinner with the Dissidents, set both in Moscow in the 70s and Canberra in the present. It got me to thinking about the morality of the whistle-blower versus those who stay loyal to the regime of the moment. Perhaps reading about a whistle-blower is just what I need to put a positive spin on my thinking at the moment, but let’s see how it ends. Shopped and cooked today for visitors coming for lunch on Tuesday and as I was dropping unbeaten eggs into the good old Kenwood Chef a yolk came flying out of the bowl and hit me mid chest, bursting and then slowly dripping down my top. That was my excitement of the day, but now I see why a recipe always says to lightly beat the eggs before adding them, took 60 odd years of cooking to get the flying yolk though.

September 23, 2019

Tuesday will be quieter than expected as I got a text just after I finished making food for the lunch tomorrow that my guests are unable to come, leaving me with more food than I can possibly eat before we go away. I have texted Heather asking if she can come and collect the products of a fridge huck out on Wednesday afternoon. It’s nobody’s fault but it fits the pattern of the last few days.

So, they have made a movie of The Goldfinch, one of my top 10 books. It hasn’t had good reviews but I will still give it a look. It is such an epic story that it would be very hard to cram into movie length without needing to leave out considerable parts of it, so perhaps that’s where the criticism lies? I am currently reading a book which has a character whose reactions are so like mine that it is creepy. It begs the question of whether we are unique individuals or really fall into archetypes as Jung proposed. I can identify so totally with this woman’s thinking that I can forecast what she will do next in the book, just by anticipating what I would do in the same circumstance and I am often saying nooo, don’t go there, but of course she does because that’s how she is wired.

September 24, 2019

Had a call from Brendan and it lasted an hour and 35 minutes, realising how long you’ve been on a phone call is sometimes a shock, followed by annoyance, but not in this case. H. called in and I started hauling all the salads out of the fridge for lunch but she is on a water diet so that blew that one out of the water so to speak. We are trying to work out how to come back from Melbourne: train? one way car hire? hot air balloon? The cost of a one way car hire has stopped us doing that in the past, but a ring around proved interesting, the price varying by more than a factor of two depending on the company, Thrifty being the most expensive funnily enough, thrifty by name but not by nature. The discussion continues.

September 25, 2019

Poor H. came to grief on her water cleanse, vomiting all night and looking awful today when she came around to pick up the food, which at least she can eat now. Spoke to Deborah, Sue, Brian, texted with Stephen and Tim and generally cleared the decks. Today has been a political junkie’s dream, you just don’t know where to look, Trump impeached, Johnson overruled by the Supreme Court, no wonder I’ve had a better day. I seem to have come up out of the murky depths to which I have been consigned since last week, actually quite enjoying packing and tidying up. Dug out from the freezer a curry and some rice and lentils to take to John’s for dinner. I love it when you just open a drawer and there is your meal entire. Also pleased that Bargain Hunt seem to have made sensible decisions regarding the lot division of the goods I took over last week. Bad lotting can reduce the prices considerably.

September 26, 2019

Arrived at Central Station at 6.30 am and our train left right on time. We had a bit of light entertainment when the couple sitting directly in front of us were told that they were in the wrong seats. They absolutely refused to move to their allocated seats in another carriage, insisting they should be in first class and not in economy despite what their tickets said. I was half expecting some racial slurs to start but happily only one passenger got involved and race wasn’t raised. The rail employee eventually threatened to call the police to meet the train at the next stop but that didn’t faze them a jot. Eventually three employees including a heavily tattooed member (and that was the woman) persuaded them, still complaining bitterly, to move back to economy. Apart from that bit of fun the other issue was in the row behind with a mother and three young children taking up residence. I am sure Isaac, Andy and Ann were lovely little people but 12 and a half hours in their close company was about 11 and a half hours too long. Glad I packed us a picnic lunch for the train so we didn’t need to eat the canteen food. Walked from the station to the hotel to give ourselves some much needed exercise after arriving at 7.30.

September 27, 2019

Decided to visit the Old Melbourne Gaol and it won my heart just by spelling gaol properly, why that changed I will never know. On past trips we trammed everywhere so I assumed we would be doing the same thing again but no, the boy wonder announced he is fit enough to walk the couple of kilometres each way so that’s what we did. The cells, exercise yards and padded cell were seriously disturbing, especially knowing that they were in use till 1994. In the watchhouse it was up to 12 to a cell, no bunks they were just given a foam mattress each to sleep on the floor and the open toilet in the corner was flushed externally by the guards who apparently did that rarely as a punishment, there was no wash basin. Across the road is the old police headquarters, the site of the 1986 Russell St bombing. Afterwards we went to the Hopetoun Tearooms for lunch of asparagus, pea and mint soup, which was delicious but lukewarm. We sent it back to be warmed up, the chef was mortified and as we were leaving, despite our saying that the soup was terrific, he insisted on giving us some of his pistachio and cranberry shortbreads to take away. We will be returning as we do every visit to Melbourne.

Sometimes mobile phones are a pest, just had two calls in succession while typing this: one from someone wanting me to organise some legal advice for him pronto and the other from a person wanting to borrow money urgently to register his car, the latter missing the boat considering I currently can’t remember my internet banking password. Both calls emanating from Windsor of course. But back to Melbourne: it was a public holiday here today with a big parade for the football, which we were happy to miss. Nevertheless the city was packed with people and most businesses were open. Ate a delicious share meal at Rice Paper Sister just 10 minutes walk from the hotel.

September 28, 2019

Thinking about how the heck old Windsor contacts get my mobile number and of course it’s Brian, who wouldn’t think to say he didn’t have it. I only ever gave out the landline. I tried to ring back the person who needed rego money to say I wasn’t able to do it (somewhat cross at the interruption) only to get a recorded message saying that his phone had been disconnected. So now I’m feeling guilty about the fact that he doesn’t know what’s going on about the money (and more than a little cross that I can’t ring and get it off my mind).

Took a train 45 minutes north to Wallan expecting to go to John’s cousin’s 90th birthday party in the burbs, but it turned out to be on a 175 acre property. Kevin is a retired Marist brother and the party was at his niece’s place. We almost didn’t make it as she had said to call from the train for a lift (John actually started ringing 24 hours before that as well as from the train) but the phone was always turned off and we didn’t have an address. Finally I suggested ringing the cousin, the only other person he had a number for, and luckily he answered so we got there in the end, otherwise it would have been a train back to Melbourne. Got back in to Melbourne about 7 pm.

September 29, 2019

Walked to the Art Gallery around 10 am and the streets were so crowded I couldn’t believe it, this town is super full. Enjoyed the Terracotta Warriors Exhibition, I hadn’t realised that the warriors were life size and more. The artefacts including a jade handled dagger, a large necklace and a jade belt buckle particularly impressed me, especially the fact that they were made around 700-1000 BC. Then we went to the Imari exhibition and marvelled at the wonderful fine painting of the pieces. Apart from that, John was taken by a painting of a heretic being murdered on the altar of a church, no doubt seeing himself in the picture. Talking of heretics, yesterday one of his rellies told him that he remembered an argument in his house as a child when someone mentioned John and his brother Paul and the husband bellowed ‘you will never mention their names in this house again’, this due to the fact that they had both left the priesthood. Until yesterday John had no idea that he had been persona non grata in that family since 1971, a sobering thought even after so many years.

September 30, 2019

Met up with Dally and Remi and went to lunch at Red Spice Road nearby. They are great to spend time with, we always have fun when we get together. The food there is just my style, spicy and rich and sweet and salty and luscious. Remi asked to take the remainder home, which is outlawed in Victoria, but the waitress weakened and gave her a length of foil and she surreptitiously tipped it in. Apparently it’s to do with insurance against poisoning but we promised not to sue. John told the story of the odd birthday party on Saturday and it all seemed to slot into place in the retelling. We were invited by the guest of honour, not by the hostess, which perhaps explains why we could never get a call returned, right from weeks ago when we were first told about the party. Ah well, it makes for a funny story over lunch at least. Tonight we are eating in, I bought us a salad to share from a nearby coffee shop and that will well and truly do in the food department. We have free Netflix here but as at home I intend to watch things but never do as it means sacrificing book reading time and John is the same apart from the football.

October 1, 2019

One of the many things I love about this hotel, Treasury on Collins, is the fact that the staff never seems to change. The front desk is manned by the same team, similarly the person in charge of the breakfast team and the barman who does the free wine service every evening, the so-called Wine Down. It is lovely to be greeted by name each time you see someone in the lift or go out past the desk. Sure it’s good PR and training, but the difference here is that they are all genuinely social and lovely people to boot (and the fact that they routinely give us a room upgrade is fun too). We went on a trip to Williamstown which was the original port of Melbourne before they cut a wider channel into the Yarra to allow ships to come closer to the city. I took us to the wrong wharf to get the ferry so we decided to get the train there instead and come back on the ferry to see the city from a different angle. The train went through many suburbs that looked pretty depressing but when we finally got to Williamstown there were some lovely old houses and shopfronts from the mid 1800s so we wandered the streets and decided it wouldn’t be a bad place to live, looking across the bay to the city proper. We lunched at an old pub ($12 mains at lunchtime!) and took a late afternoon ferry ‘home’. Fun it was, but sadly I fell asleep soon after we embarked and John woke me up at the wharf in Southbank, so much for seeing the city from a different angle. Then it was a rush back to the hotel for a quick shower before heading to the theatre to see Come From Away, one of the best shows I’ve seen in years, which ended with a whole house standing ovation which was well deserved. John has cancelled our plans for a French dinner tomorrow night for my birthday as I am so restricted in what I can eat at night these days, so we are going to Hopetoun Tearooms for lunch instead, which suits me down to the ground.

October 2, 2019

Well lunch at Hopetoun lived up to expectations, Pea, Mint and Feta Fritters with Green Goddess Sauce and Microherb Salad was made with fresh peas and the Mixed Berry Frangipane which followed was magnificent. Weird food experiences of the day: 1. At breakfast the man at the next table got two plates, one piled high with fried eggs, bacon and tomatoes, the other piled high with sausages, mushrooms, baked beans and scrambled eggs….and ate both, followed by pastries and fresh fruit. 2. The couple sitting next to us at Hopetoun ordered Mirror Dory with Tomato and Broccoli and a piece of Chocolate Raspberry Cake and shared them. That was fine, except they both ate them concurrently, a mouthful of one then a mouthful of the other, seriously stomach churning. 3. Two women at Hopetoun ordered six large and varied servings of cake, the table was covered, and were devouring them as we left. I wish I had the courage to order three pieces of cake at once, but on the other hand my hips are glad I don’t, though all the big eaters I’ve described were thin, life is so unfair. We have been watching a live website of a preregrine falcon living on a window ledge of a building nearby, so after Wine Down at about 6 pm we wandered there to see where it lives, but it was sitting on its one remaining egg so we didn’t see it swooping down. Every day it does so to attack an unsuspecting pigeon and returns to its nest with a wing or some other body part to chew up and then feed to the babies. Wild goings on in the city.

October 3, 2019

Couldn’t sleep last night for a really stupid reason. As we were peering into the sky watching for the falcon the previous evening a man approached us asking for money for a coffee, but we had come out penniless. I then thought to tell him we were only across the road from our hotel and to offer him a coffee there, but in the 30 seconds it took to think this through he had disappeared into the crowd. So last night my head just wouldn’t let it rest, why don’t I think more quickly? did he think we were lying about having no money on us? By now it was old news but somehow my mind didn’t think so. We left the hotel at 7 am, picking up pre-ordered sandwiches for the train on the way. Just got to the station in time to check in the luggage and then we were on our way. I find watching the countryside, and the small hamlets we pass through, very relaxing but of course when the journey is extended due to a previous freight train dripping canola oil on the tracks and thereby reducing our speed, it becomes tiring. A 7 am start ended up as a 9.45 pm finish by the time I got the Hillsbus home. I did love looking at the canola fields everywhere in Victoria, the combination of green leaves and yellow flowers makes for acre upon acre of lime green, unexpectedly shocking in the brown or green landscape we are used to. No sign of drought in any of the areas that the train passed through, it was lush and the dams were full.

October 4, 2019

The garden has survived my absence happily, even the parsley seeds have germinated to restart the new elevated herb garden. The bane of my life now I am back (and before I went come to that) is trying to get some information out of Larrakia Aboriginal Corporation. When I went there in August the staff I met with were really helpful and encouraging when I mentioned raising funds for them, but getting any sort of response from here is like sending emails to Mars. I don’t want to cancel but I will if the buggers don’t respond soon, as I’ve just told them in yet another email. I’m sure I would have heard if the Japanese have bombed all communications infrastructure as in 1942. When I reopened my birthday gift from John, two pairs of funky earrings from the Quick Brown Fox shop in Flinders Lane Melbourne, there were four pairs inside. Two more had been sneakily added by him before the parcel was deposited in my suitcase. He is such a sneaky present giver and I love all four.

October 5, 2019

Lovely to wake up with no pressure to be somewhere and my favourite weather to boot so I gardened in light rain, planting more herb and edible flower seeds in pots and moving three plants that I’d decided don’t like their previous positions. Then I had a mind to totally empty my antique apprentice chest of drawers, which acts as my jewellery cabinet, polishing it with lemon oil, cleaning out the drawers and rearranging the jewellery in a more organised fashion, one drawer for silver only earrings, one for silver plus coloured stones, one for funky costume pieces etc etc. I toted up the earring collection which currently stands at 49 pairs, so I’ve decided that better be the limit because I am sure there would be a pair lurking in a handbag somewhere and 50 is enough for anyone. I won’t mention the current scarf numbers, but it puts the earrings well into the shade. Then I wiped over the perfume bottles which stand on top and felt my day was fully worthwhile. In the evening I went to Carol and Jack’s place for a charity dinner and decided to wear my grey polo neck jumper, realising only after getting dressed that it’s the only piece of clothing with which I can’t wear earrings, the very high collar routinely hooks them off, so my earring collection stayed home and rested in its new sense of order.

October 6, 2019

Watching Insiders in my jamies was almost (but not quite) interrupted by phone calls from the same two people who coincidentally rang me in tandem in Melbourne last week, they each have no idea that they manage to seek inopportune times to ask where their particular issues are up to. Managed to be patient with one and a bit short with the other but it’s like water off a duck’s back, so I have no doubt that the calls will continue. Did my shopping out at Dural and came home with lots of lovely veggies begging to be cooked and eaten, perhaps too many considering that we go away to Newcastle on Friday, but a veggie curry seems in order in the circumstances.

Dying to get back into my current book tonight, reading The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein and it is an absolute joy. The subject of the biography, Melbourne trauma cleaner Sandra Pankhurst, is a trans woman, who was a battered child, a husband and father, then a prostitute, funeral director, hardware shop owner and so much more. But it is her huge heart that gets me teary. Imagine lying on a rubbish covered, bug infested bed alongside a hoarder, trying to gently convince her that yes, the dozens of rotting bags of never unpacked groceries lining the rooms really do need to go into the skip. No talking down, no lectures, no superiority, just a friend explaining that these things can no longer be of any value, but understanding the value that they have to this particular person. She has that rare and most impressive quality of being able to talk to, in her words, Mrs Rich Bitch and Mr Penny Pauper, each in their own language. I humbly dips me lid.

October 7, 2019

I finished The Trauma Cleaner and feel like starting it all over again, which I may well do. I want John to read it but getting someone with a cleanliness fetish to dive into rat infested houses is a big ask, despite the wonderful uplifting messages it includes. He would get to the story of the woman who spread her cats’ poo on the floors of her house and just covered it with newspaper, layer on layer like a giant lasagne, and that would be it for him. I need to rearrange my Best Books Ever list so this one can be included. Perhaps if I count the Neapolitan novels of Elena Ferrante as one instead of four novels (they are continuous after all) I could squeeze this one into the list. It is not a list of the best ever works of literature but a list of the books that impressed me most at the time I read them. Did I mention that it was fantastic?

Cooked an Indian cauliflower recipe last night but the amount of tamarind was a bit much for someone who can’t handle bitter. Also did a carrot salad with Dijon mustard and honey in it so that toned down the cauli a bit. I plan to do the lentil ‘meatball’ recipe from the latest Animals Australia brochure tomorrow and have those with dahl and the leftovers of both the cauli and the carrot salad when John comes, though I expect he will ask ‘where is the protein?’ but with a bit of luck the lentil balls might fool him.

October 8, 2019

Once again it proves that being nice and polite doesn’t always get you far, but one complaining email sent to two people at Larrakia on Friday resulted in a phone call yesterday (which I can’t believe I missed at 6.30 pm while having an early shower, due to being over enthusiastic with some glue). But an apologetic and lengthy message was left by the caller, giving two people’s mobile numbers, with a request that I send them some questions in an email which was then answered promptly today. Hurrah! Perhaps the remark that getting on to the CEO (or anyone else who was allowed to answer questions) was as difficult as getting a direct line to the Pope did the job.

For some stupid reason, if I set my alarm I then either can’t sleep or else I wake up really early and don’t sleep again. I had the alarm set this morning as the gardener was coming early but I woke at 4.30 am and didn’t sleep after that. Then he didn’t turn up! At 9 am I rang him and he had mistakenly put me down for next Tuesday, which didn’t matter a fig, but now I will no doubt be awake at 4 am that day too. Spent the afternoon listening, while doing other things, to the Aged Care Royal Commission where Carly’s department secretary is giving evidence and Carly assisting her. It is a gruelling business and one I wouldn’t want to go through.

October 9, 2019

Went up to Castle Hill to see a picture framer whom I found on the net, looking to get my Darwin painting framed. I drove round and round looking for a building called Home Hub but in the end had to ring them. Oh, she said breezily, it isn’t called Home Hub any more, it’s the Supercentre. Perhaps change it on the website? I suggested. Anyway she understood the way I want it framed, floating on a matte, rather than with a cutout matte as is usual. However the price was more than expected so I am thinking. On the way home I pass Heather’s house and as her car was in the drive I popped in and she recommended another framer nearby who does all her work so I will get a quote there. I had an excellent artistic framer for the shop for years but he once did a job for a client and buggered the bleaching of a large old lithograph which had foxing. Accidents happen, but then he claimed to have never had the piece and only after a lengthy legal stoush with Fair Trading who wanted him to pay the clients compensation did he finally produce the damaged litho and return it to them, still wanting his fee for framing it. Nah, don’t think I will rekindle that relationship, similarly with the jeweller who ‘lost’ a very good antique diamond ring I put in for repair, but sent me a modern inferior one in exchange. I never did get the ring back and suspect he resold it for a tidy amount.

October 10, 2019

Last night I served Lentil and Almond Rissoles with Indian spiced cauliflower, rice and salad. John commented on how nice the rissoles were, with no idea at all that they weren’t meat, that recipe is a keeper. I think it is the umami of the soy sauce that tricks the palate. Today was a busy one, first putting his nibs’ car in for service and rego, then the gas fire technician came to replace the fan which has made a racket ever since they did a service in July, a freebie so that was nice. Then off to Heather’s framing man who quoted almost exactly half of the lady yesterday so I left the painting with him, to pick up next Friday. Then to Barsby’s Auctions to put in some quality china and glass for their next sale. John had an appointment nearby at RNS with the infectious diseases specialist who was very pleased with him and reduced his antibiotics from 8 a day to 4, but said she was too scared with his history to take him off them altogether. Picked up the car on the way home and packed for the wedding in Newcastle on Saturday, as we leave in the morning. Hoping to catch up with our friend Jackie at Caves Beach on the way but she didn’t sound the best on the phone and will tell us tomorrow morning if she feels up to a visit. She has been ill for many years now, but sounded worse today.

October 11, 2019

Jackie rang to say she was keen for a visit so we tootled up to Caves Beach and had morning tea with them. She is thin and frail but bursting with her own special Jackieness and love of life. We have both always found her to be wise counsel in any situation. Carl showed us a video on proton radiation treatment, unavailable in Australia but widely used in the US. Its benefits include being much better targeted and not damaging surrounding tissues so higher doses can be given. Carl contacted the Mayo Clinic to see if Jackie was eligible and they said to come over just for an assessment appointment, at a cost of $25,000 US with no guarantees that she is a suitable candidate, they’ve decided against it. He researches possible treatments constantly and was the one who asked her oncologist about a trial treatment which hadn’t been offered to her but proved to have the best results so far. Toes crossed for her.

Booked into Noah’s on the Beach at Newcastle and went for a long walk along the beach in a cold and unpleasant wind. Later we went around the corner to a Thai place and just had a soup each, with me fishing out the slices of chicken in mine and dumping them into John’s.

October 12, 2019

Rain descended on Newcastle but didn’t do anything to dampen Teresa and Stephen’s wedding at Corpus Christi Church. Her brother Andrew officiated and a nice touch was singing by the Tongan church choir. The reception was at the Apollo Hotel with a sit down meal of very good food, all gluten free to suit the bride and some other relatives. We caught up with many of John’s family members and met many of Stephen’s family for the first time. He told me how they met, her saw her in a doctor’s surgery and asked the doctor for her contact details. The doctor said to write her a letter, leave it open so he could read it and if acceptable he would pass it on. Now they are going to send wedding pics to the doc.

October 13, 2019

Went out to Islington to the antique shops looking for a battery acid jar to replace the one I broke a few months back. I always used it for large flowers especially agapanthus. I bought the previous one here in Newcastle and thought because they came out of old power stations I might be lucky again. However no one has seen one for years so I left disappointed. Met up with Deborah and Stephen and had lunch at East End Hub, where the food is always both healthy and delicious. Afterwards we went down to Belmont on the shores of Lake Macquarie, then towards evening to Stockton where we walked along the break wall which is the mouth of the harbour, watching a huge freighter passing with tugs aplenty on its way to load. Interesting to see the rusted wreck of a ship from 1905 half way along the walk. By the time we got back from our walk it was totally dark with a full moon. After a long and happy day we got back to the hotel fairly late.

October 14, 2019

I suggested a visit to the wedding couple after we had looked around at a few of the historical Newcastle buildings that I’d vainly attempted to see on the last two visits there. So John rang Teresa immediately and left a message to say we’d be there in an hour! I was signalling ‘two’ while he was speaking but he couldn’t understand what I was saying and got quite snappish, all of which was recorded on the phone message along with my reply ‘are you letting all of this go on the tape?’. I will laugh about it eventually. We tried to find the cathedral I’d seen on the top of a hill but John couldn’t remember where it was so I settled for the Baptist Tabernacle which sadly was locked up, just as I had an urge to convert, so they missed their big chance. The building is in ornate classical style but the back is pretty plain brick so perhaps facade is important to the Baptists? But apparently they believe literally in all 66 books of the bible, which is pretty scary when you consider the permission to beat one’s wife and kill one’s servants. But as I have neither wife nor servant conversion wouldn’t be of much use to me after all. We then went over to Teresa and Stephen’s to observe newly married life up close and they still seem very happy, so it appears they’ve made the right choice. On the way home I picked up the newly framed painting from Darwin and was pleased with the result. The framer said that their prices are so good because everything is done in their workshop on site, with a choice of 500 frames available in any size.

October 15, 2019

Kirk the gardener was arriving at 8 am but I was good and ready for him, weeding in the front garden. He cut down a privet that had grown up in the back corner and was putting pressure on the fence, two Sulo bins full of cuttings. (WOW, right this minute I had a call from the head of the tenancy program at Larrakia Nation, returning my call from early September. She will speak to the CEO tomorrow about the information I asked for in my message back then. If I get every call returned I will be a busy woman this week). John went to his clerical mates’ monthly lunch today but it was at the Baulkham Hills home of one of them instead of the club where he complains about the food every time. Phil has lymphoma and can’t go into public places, how I remember that scenario with John and how I did lunch for the boys here during his illness. It seems years ago now but it was not quite three years since we were in that position. I came home from the weekend absolutely whacked and if I sit down I fall asleep straight away so I’m trying to keep active, but doing easy stuff like unpacking and putting the washing on. Amazing to think that we push the clothes into a machine and come back and get them sometime later, so different from in the past (and the present in many places in the world).

October 16, 2019

So the message yesterday from Darwin was that the CEO was going to ring me today…….I carried the phone around all day like the trusting dill that I am, even had it on the side of the bath during my ablutions, along with a pad and pen for taking notes. I still haven’t had replies from 17 people about the morning tea, so the numbers right now are anyone’s guess. If they all come we’ll have to keep cutting the Vegemite sandwiches into eighths and perhaps sixteenths as more folk arrive and perhaps cut the Iced VoVos into quarters. Speaking of Iced VoVos, they look now as if they’ve been run over by a steamroller. Not that I buy them, but always reach for one if they appear at someone’s house. Methinks the Arnott family would quake to see the fate of their beloved Voey. Still feeling below par and hoping that it’s the busy weekend and not the fact that I tossed the autoimmune medication a while back. I plan to put off my next specialist visit till after Christmas, wimping out on telling him that I threw them out instead of doubling the dose as instructed, but revelling in my small defiance. He calls me ‘a minimalist’, little knowing the state of my underwear drawers, my shoe cupboard and my garage, but as far as drugs go, yes a minimalist I certainly am.

October 17, 2019

Almost beyond words tonight after watching the 7.30 Report on the murder of racehorses at knackeries in Queensland and NSW. One of the sites, Burns Pet Foods at Riverstone, I drove past every working day for 27 years, knowing full well they were killing horses there, and I guess I should have known racehorses would be among them. Someone who worked for the local council told me that he was tasked with picking up euthanased dogs’ bodies from vets and delivering them to Burns, astonishing when you think that they would be full of toxic drugs which were then going into pet food. He mentioned that they had picked up a German Shepherd as road kill the night before to add to the load. I once drove in and asked about the paddock full of horses near the road, only to be told that their owners had left them there for agistment, not believing a word but unable to prove that they were lying. They were all gone within the week. Sometimes I think that the planet will be better off once it divests itself of humans.

October 18, 2019

Thinking about how simple life was (and how dull and less interesting in so many ways) before we had access to all the information the internet provides. I must wear my glasses in the supermarket to read all the labels because now I know what all the additive numbers mean (beware E700-799 which are the antibiotics). Then there may be countries of origin one wants to avoid or products from a particular country like basa fish from Vietnam. I avoid anything made by Unilever after asking the people at the guest house I was staying at in India what tea they were using (it was foul) and discovering that despite living not far from tea plantations the poor were using a Unilever product in a jar, ingredient list was: 100% TEA DUST. Yes dust off the floor of the tea plantations, well probably off the conveyor belt, but it tasted as if it were off the floor, so no Unilever. Of course we have the businesses to steer around as well like Harvey Norman, just because Gerry Harvey is a whinging pest, and Kennards Hire who are always pushing the interests of rich white men. Radio 2GB is out, as are all TV channels with ads, but that’s just my personal preference, the ads drive me to drink. I cringe when I think of how many Melbourne Cup sweeps I’ve organised, but I’ve sworn off horse racing quite a time ago and was never into the dogs, not since the pet cats started disappearing from Berala when I lived there in the early 70s and then were discovered at a nearby greyhound track, declawed and ready to be used as lures. That track was just near the headquarters of the RSPCA but of course nothing happened in those days, no Facebook to post it on. So life is tricky negotiating all these obstacles, but so much better than when it was all happening, but we just didn’t know.

October 19, 2019

John was here overnight and he helped me with two jobs this morning that I’m very thankful for. One was to hang my much prized and newly framed Aboriginal artwork, Damper Seeds by Patrina Kitson, and the other was to help put some photos of Darwin into a frame I had scored on a council cleanup many months ago and had sitting around waiting for a use. I later went to Officeworks to print out two photos of Patrina actually doing the painting and was embarrassed after I’d used the machine, queued up and was asked to pay……20 cents. I can’t remember the last time I paid 20 cents for something but I certainly felt I’d had my money’s worth.

October 20, 2019

The loathsome Gerry Harvey, that whingeing billionaire, was in the news again today in a different context. He was the owner of one of the racehorses seen being killed at an abattoir for pet mince. Abominable people seem to manage to be abominable in so many different ways during their lives. In my list of things to avoid I forgot to mention franchise businesses. They often manage to be the meat in the sandwich between odious franchisors and the public, so they tend to be squeezed at both ends, hardly a recipe for good service. Michel’s Patisserie, Jim’s Mowing (in fact Jim’s anything), Krispy Creme Donuts, Wendy’s, Donut King, Coffee Club, all good examples of places I avoid like the plague. Of course it goes without saying that Gloria Jeans has pride of place, Nabi Saleh outclasses most comers in the contemptible stakes. Phew I feel so much better after that rant, I think I shall have a cup of tea.

October 21, 2019

After so much negativity I will only say nice things today. Woolly lambs, edelweiss, raindrops on a tin roof, waves lapping up the beach, I can do it if I try. Went to see Brian and Fay today. He has been quite negative the last few days but got up with the walker and went down to lunch so that is an improvement. He is so thin and frail that I sadly ignored his comment about wanting to go to the zoo. I’m afraid his family would freak out considering his current condition but I hope they will take him, and soon. He told me to go to his garden and pick some gerberas which I did, a little bunch for him and a little bunch for me and enough left to keep his garden looking good. I noticed Burns Pet Foods have taken down all their signs facing onto Windsor Rd, probably in expectation of demonstrations, but I am being nice today so that’s all I am saying.

October 22, 2019

Food shopping today for cooking days later in the week sent a thought across my mind that maybe I should just have sent a decent donation to Larrakia instead of involving other people at all, but it’s a social event as well and probably overdue. Looking forward (with some trepidation) to Senate Estimates tomorrow night when my daughter will be a witness for the first time in her latest role in the public service. It’s an incredibly public way to do your job, in front of television cameras in a room full of reporters. I am glad I’ll be at home on the couch watching the live feed rather than in her position.

October 23, 2019

Writing this in the 15 minute break while watching Senate Estimates. I kind of love Jackie Lambie’s mispronunciations and stumbles in amongst her undoubted passion. It is worth all of that to have someone real in parliament, despite the fact that I often disagree with her. Even when she’s wrong she’s interesting. Senator Roberts on the other hand is just plain unpleasant and a fool to boot. Diplomacy and weasel words are so tightly linked as to be inseparable. My friend Owen in the late 60s and early 70s who was a master at Kings School told me that they were there to teach the boys to speak in such a way that they never offended anyone and never told them anything meaningful either. I’m sure that’s a training ground for politicians and diplomats. Government language often drives me mad, but at the other extreme you have Trump with ‘Don’t be a fool!’. It’s a fine balance and one I’m glad I don’t have to negotiate.

October 24, 2019

Up at the fruit shop at 7.30 am, most unlike me, and home with the goods before Aldi even opened. Baking all day today. Tania came over with a basket full of ingredients to donate to the cause and made delicious looking Italian almond biscuits, which we were self-controlled enough not to sample at lunch. There was a major disaster when the sponges blew up like souffles and then crashed, the end result suitable to retyre a vehicle or use as a discus. I’ve never ever had it happen before and don’t know how to prevent it happening again, so sponges have slipped from the repertoire for a while. I thought a lot had been achieved but I realised there is as much to do again tomorrow, without my sous-chef who has gone back to her secondary career of accounting.

A disturbing message from my indigenous friend in Vanuatu this afternoon, part of which reads: “Chinese are invading our country, we women are fighting to get into parliament in 2020. Chinese are everywhere, starting to do business reserved for indigenous people eg: small livestock, farming, kava bar, taxi, they’re getting through Vanuatu with green passport, our government is very corrupted.” It absolutely sickens me that they would use these beautiful, unsophisticated, generous people for money and at the same time ruin their magnificent landscape and economy. I feel much worse about it than anything they could do to us. Hopefully we can help in some way, but how I am not quite sure yet. Will ring her after the weekend.

October 25, 2019

Up at 6 and baking till about 1 pm to avoid the heat of the afternoon. I’ve had a few guests pull out today for the morning tea which always happens, but I hope we keep a critical mass. Sue rang and said they were back and looking at options about book group so I suggested they stay here and come to the function in the morning. I had idly thought of doing this fundraiser every 3-4 months and asking a different crew of people each time, but no, I think I’d rather just give a donation myself and keep up the kerb trawling. I don’t want to look at cake for a while either. Book group at Brigitte’s was gentle and most enjoyable with mixed views of the book from very positive to ‘I didn’t finish it”. We didn’t sit up for the usual nightcap, with Sue going to bed as soon as we walked in. Good to have them back safely. I was too dog tired to lie awake stressing about tomorrow which was a bonus.

October 26, 2020

Up again at 6 and I left the guests to their own devices apart from boiling Robert a couple of eggs. They went to visit Sue’s mother while I iced, filled and plated the cakes. It took more time than I’d expected and I just managed to beat the first guests, getting out of the shower less than 10 minutes prior to their arrival. My plan to ice the fruit cake with an Aboriginal flag made out of fondant came to nought because of time pressure and was probably a tacky idea anyway. I had received a text during the night to say that Tania was in hospital with kidney stones, a withdrawal at the barrier in horseracing parlance. So unexpected as she was fine when we communicated yesterday afternoon. Life can turn on a dime as the Americans say, and isn’t it the truth, but later she messaged to say she had been discharged which was reassuring. It was particularly great to see Jackie again so soon, having been to Caves Beach to see her only a couple of weeks ago. She holds a special place in my heart and it pains me to see her so ill. The guests all seemed to mix and there was plenty of food, too much in fact, so we did a cake run dropping off at Tania’s, Heather’s and the Fire Station. Unfortunately the firies were otherwise engaged and the station empty so I took two boxes of scones and cupcakes to my next door neighbours who are always happy beneficiaries. Those on the other side who are Indian don’t have a sweet tooth which I told Arvind is the only thing wrong with them as neighbours.

October 27, 2019

I was in bed at 9pm last night, unable to go a moment longer. Astonishingly the day raised $715 !! People were generous in the extreme and I sensed they were enjoying themselves (except perhaps the gentleman I asked John to introduce around when he arrived, John had to ask him his first name and he is probably more John’s friend than mine, oops, awkward moment). Bob offered to be scrutineer of the money counting in the absence of Jack who had left earlier and I thought he just wanted to write the total down so I gave him a scrappy offcut of paper. I should have known that he’d itemise every note and coin, sign and date it like a prescription. It’s funny but I’ve been craving salty food instead of the usual sweet. I don’t want to look at the leftover cake yet. It is almost painful for me to see waste, so I took another boxed lot of cakes down to Davina’s today and John also took a box for himself and one for his next door neighbour, my ex gardener. Perhaps I was thinking about whether we’d have enough if the 11 folks who hadn’t replied turned up, but of course we would have been fine.

When in Erko today I took Millie to the park then out for a babychino followed by a play in the fountain at the apartment complex. I took her home dripping wet and put her into the bath, after which we played a few of her favourite games. In the park she was talking to a man, it’s always a man, and asking him to play with her, calling him dad. When he was leaving she said ‘thankyou, it was nice to meet you’ and shook his hand formally. He was bemused.

October 28, 2019

I asked John to ring Larrakia to find out when the board meets and it’s Wednesday of next week, giving me time to send a formal letter requesting retrospective permission to hold a fundraiser. Playing by the rules is fine as long as someone explains the logic, something that hasn’t happened in this case. I would never have survived in the military.

Decided I wanted to go to the Tchaikovsky concert at the Opera House next month. He was the favourite classical composer of my youth and I’ll enjoy it I know. However I don’t seem to have a musical memory at all and despite loving opera and classical music I couldn’t hum a tune from any classical piece from memory, nor name a famous piece that I hear on the radio. While waiting on the phone they had a piece from opera playing, I couldn’t tell you what, but I knew it was from an opera I’ve seen more than once, which one is a total mystery. That was why I always failed music at school I think. John’s been complaining lately that we don’t get to enough concerts so he’s pleased that I’ve booked.

October 29, 2019

Last night Stephen rang about 7 pm to say that Deborah’s lung operation had been completed successfully but at 9 pm he called back to say that she had had a bleed and the surgeon and team were racing back from home to operate again. About 11 he called to say that they had taken out a 500 ml clot from her lung, rendered her unconscious and intubated her with a respirator. Very worrying news, but it seems that today she is off the breathing tube, having had three units of blood. She fainted when they got her up this afternoon so she may have more blood tomorrow. It will take a lot of rest to get over this very big hump but Stephen will be an excellent nurse.

Went this afternoon to see the acclaimed doco The Eulogy and it was an awesome piece of work, not least because it opens with Paul Keating giving his famous eulogy for pianist Geoffrey Tozer. It was a poignant film both from the point of view of Tozer’s life and in seeing Richard Gill back on screen a year or so after his death. Tozer’s downfall is investigated in detail but to me it all seemed to hark back to a self-indulgent mother who wanted to live out her dreams through her son, never considering the effects on his overall development as a person. He was fatherless, with a dominating mother whose ambitions for him created a one trick pony, despite the fact that that one trick was so breathtakingly good that the music world looked on in awe.

October 30, 2019

I posted off a very official sounding and extremely polite letter to Larrakia asking for retrospective permission to have the event I’ve already had and saying that I will send a cheque as soon as more promised funds arrive and the permission is granted. Very diplomatically put of course, but underneath it all saying ‘I’ll swap you the money for the permission’ so it’s in their court now.

I remain Facebook friends with a woman from a country town who was a regular browser in the shop, her suggestion not mine. She is extremely politically conservative but I keep her as a friend partly in order to see what the bad guys are up to. But I’ve discovered over time she is also virulently anti migrant, despite being one herself, and oh so racist. Today she posted a story about a government plan to rename some cities with Aboriginal names (I don’t believe a word of it). She of course commented negatively, but in browsing through hundreds of following responses I was taken aback at the spite and vitriol ‘they never built any cities so they don’t deserve to have any named after them’ was one of the nicer comments. Her comment was pretty vicious, but what really gets me is that she is a parole officer for her local gaol, imagine going to her for a parole assessment as a black Australian, it makes me shudder. I think we live in a bubble, surrounded by intelligent and gentle people, underestimating the nasty, racist, misogynist rabble at the gates, sadly they are winning.

October 31, 2019

Deborah is improving slowly but has had four blood transfusions now, about half her total blood volume as I calculate it. I however am a lucky duck today. I was full of angst about the NBN man coming after all the horror stories I’d heard and my own experience with the connection to the shop. The man was called Van and he was a sweetie ‘would you like it here or do you prefer it somewhere else?’. He shook my hand before leaving and said he was pleased to meet me. Van’s the Man. Now just the Optus man on Monday and I’m done. Then I went out to check the car oil and couldn’t find the piece of timber I always use to prop up the bonnet because the supports had died before I bought the car. Absolutely a conundrum as the wood never leaves the car, but when I opened up the bonnet it rose automatically and stayed up. My lovely mechanic Alex (he of the constantly coal black hands) had apparently installed new gas filled bonnet struts when I put the car in for rego, but the amazing thing is that he didn’t charge for the rego check saying it was a freebie, but didn’t tell me that he’d done the struts for nothing too, previously quoted value $90 plus fitting of double that. He’d thrown the bit of wood out I’m assuming, probably figuring that if he didn’t do the job for nothing I would never get around to it, probably the truth as anything to do with cars that doesn’t involve safety seems a waste of money to me. Alex is the Man.

November 1, 2019

Irrelevant issue 1. My lush mint plant on the front verandah has been looking a little piquey lately and inspection hasn’t turned up any insects, but this morning it had gone from piquey to skeletal. Putting on my glasses I discovered a large family of mint green caterpillars living under every remaining leaf. I removed them and took them out to the grass verge, explaining that they were welcome to eat there but the mint is sacrosanct. Irrelevant issue 2. My NBN man Van told me that my system would work as normal till the Optus man comes on Monday. Naughty Van. Last night the internet wouldn’t work at all and neither would the landline but I had a card with a new Wi-fi code and password to use after Monday, so I tried that and bingo by jingo it all works fine, though marginally slower than before I had the NBN connected. Dang you Malcolm, why couldn’t you have left it alone.

Important issue 1. After watching the disgraceful police abuse, intimidation and threatening behaviour by two Parramatta police constables against two Afghan women (caught on their own body cameras, stupid doesn’t even go close to describing them) I was white hot. But figuring that being disingenuous might work more effectively than abuse I rang Parramatta Police Headquarters to ask if the pair had been stood down yet, as I didn’t want to drive through the area if they were still operating. Unsurprisingly the Force representative had no idea at all what I was talking about, so I suggested he Google it when he got home or just watch ABC News on his phone. Then I rang the Minister for Police, sadly my local member, and insisted that they be dismissed or relegated to ‘other duties’ (cleaning the toilets comes to mind). Another call to his ministerial office with the same suggestion was greeted with a dour ‘I’ll pass that on’.

November 2, 2019

So, I am not imagining that the internet speed is slower on NBN. Tests over the past couple of weeks on cable have produced speeds varying from 28.8 Mbps to 52.9, averaging around 47.4. Since I got NBN on yesterday the speed has been tested four times, from 13.2 to 24.7, about half what was promised. I intend to complain strongly to the Optus man on Monday which will get me absolutely nowhere.

Went to First Saturday at Michelle’s bearing a mushroom stroganoff from a new recipe, which I was sadly unable to taste as my parotid gland went on strike in the morning. This means I can’t eat or drink anything but water without experiencing excruciating pain, triggered by chewing or even simply mouth contact with food or drink other than water. Presumably this came about because I’ve stopped taking the Plaquenil, as it used to occur periodically but I’d sort of forgotten about it since I’ve been on the meds. Especially disappointing as Michelle had made her famous quiche. The talk concerned me in that it focused totally on assistance for veterans and remembrance without any reference to avoiding the pointless and spurious wars since WWII which created unnecessary grief for our young men and women. I’ve written to the presenters to express this view.

November 3, 2019

Hurrah, after 24 hours without food I luxuriated in tea and toast for breakfast. Food tastes so good after a break. Once when the spasms continued unrelentingly for 5 days I had visions of it never going away and having to be tube fed. Had an enjoyable day cooking Christmas cakes for Wayside Chapel and Exodus Foundation with Carol, Amy and Kath, the latter a woman born the same year as me in Harrogate so we told stories of places we both knew. She was from Starbeck, the village in which my adoptive cousins lived and which I visited in 1973. Reminded me to ring the bro tonight, as if I needed reminding.

November 4, 2019

More NBN goings on. The Optus man came today to make sure everything is okay with the changeover. Me: I’m not happy about the speed. Him: It’s dropped by 50% right? Me: How did you know? Him: Because everywhere I go they say the same thing if they were on cable before. He is getting speeds at his home of 100-110 on cable and fears the NBN coming to where he lives as he’s young and does a lot of streaming, he’s with Telstra which amused me no end. So, I rang Optus to complain and it’s obvious they’ve heard it all before. Not our fault, it’s because the government changed the system etc etc. However Ahmed on the phone offered to become my ‘case manager’, is sending a new modem (which we both know will make no difference) but I am hoping when it doesn’t he may agree to bump me up to the speed I am paying for at no extra charge. He is Indian, living in Punchbowl so we chatted India, food, culture and more and I am in with a chance as he is a lovely helpful person. What a complete fuckup this NBN has been with Malcolm the Technology Guru, who clearly was as useless as a marshmallow hubcap in decision making on this issue. I think I shall write and tell him so.

Fascinating teev tonight with Australian Story featuring Mark Morrison, the astounding principal of a Kempsey school, who does everything from going to court with his students, rounding them up from home, feeding them, setting up a creche for their children and being a last chance for them to get an education. Respect. Following this was 4 Corners which looked at the police investigation into Bill Spedding, the repairman suspected in the disappearance of 3 year old William Tyrrell. I was surprised and pleased to see his lawyer Peter O’Brien with whom I chatted during breaks at the Coroners Court a couple of months ago (not about the case, just passing the time) but I took his card as I’d picked him as a good bloke to know if you got into deep doodoo. When I win Lotto I am going to have a million or 10 put aside to hand out as needed to fund cases like the ones O’Brien does. He is a specialist in miscarriages of justice, particularly involving the police. Perhaps I will put him on retainer. Yeah, dream on girl, you need to buy tickets to win, but the thought of millions to give away is my ultimate fantasy.

November 5, 2019

Yay! A big win, my spy tells me the Anzac sign has been removed from Kiama Lighthouse so I can cease and desist writing letters, emails and phoning the mayor. The RSL asked the council for permission to put the sign there for 2018 only, then applied to make it permanent against the wishes of Crown Lands, National Trust and many others. They have their own perfectly good memorial in the centre of town but got to use a historic building as a billboard for well over 18 months. Hurrah that the council were forced to see sense.

Up gardening with Kirk from 7.30 am to nearly 10, then we went to Bondi to walk the Sculpture by the Sea. Not as exciting as some other years, but we enjoyed it nonetheless, despite ferocious winds. Had a lovely morning tea at Bronte Bogey Hole, the first cafe on the strip and still the best, then drove to Bondi and got a park right near the start of the walk. I’d figured that Melbourne Cup Day would be an excellent time to do it and that traffic would be light if we came home about 3.30 when everyone was watching tele, right on both counts. It’s Nup to the Cup for me in future, actually I beat the rush and pulled out of it a couple of years ago, an early adopter so to speak.

November 6, 2019

Went to the nursery to buy an Acanthus after seeing one at Carol’s in full flower, then wandered around with it in my hand looking for a spot to plant it. It’s a wide spreader and so are many other things I’ve planted recently but finally I found the perfect spot. A few of the books that came into the street library during the week had a number inside the cover. Intrigued, I put the number into their website as instructed, to discover its history and was amazed to find that it went into that system in Geelong, then went to Rooty Hill and then into my library which was pictured on the site! So I registered on the website and I suppose now I will be deluged with emails about where these five books end up. But also in the box yesterday was the book Australian Gypsies by Mandy Sayer, interesting to me as many settled in western Sydney, particularly around Liverpool, where they were discriminated against, even to the point of keeping their children out of some public schools. We went a couple of years ago to a talk in the city on that book but I kept my wallet firmly shut on that occasion as I am downsizing right? However it has been on my ‘to read’ list and I am super glad the universe landed it to me in its own good time. With it was the novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist which was also on my list.

November 7, 2019

Became inexplicably ill this morning so the usual hour of gardening was out. Decided I would likely just be lying down if I stayed at home so I jumped in the car and went to court at Lidcombe, air-conditioned, quiet, with lots to focus my mind on. By lunchtime I was feeling well enough to do a bit of gardening so I came home and did just that. Court as therapy? It occurs to me that I am lucky so many things appeal to me to occupy my time because, in the reverse of Bill Clinton, John’s become a hard dog to get off the porch. We’ve had three lovely trips away but each was occasioned by work (Tenants Advisory Group conference) or by two different celebrations in his family. When I suggested that the morning tea we had on Tuesday at the Bogey Hole was so good that we ought to consider having lunch there, my shout, his response was oh, I’d need to look in my diary, I’m pretty busy at the moment. I’m not telling anyone yet……..but it looks as if my pal Ahmed at Optus, after numerous phone calls and texts from him to me over three days, may have fixed my internet speed……..shh, I don’t want to jinx it. Bless you Ahmed.

November 8, 2019

I bought tickets a few weeks ago for A Russian Gala, Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov playing Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 followed by the full Symphony No. 2 by Rachmaninoff. His playing was sublime, four curtain calls, and it took me back to my youth when Tchaikovsky was number one on my hit parade. Did I fall in love with him or Dylan first? I can’t remember, but they were in tandem for a long time. It was partly him and partly Tolstoy who convinced me to go to the USSR in 1973, just wanting to be where those masters had been, and I was lucky enough to visit Tchaikovsky’s house in Klin, north of Moscow, to sit at his piano and to look at the remaining hand-rolled cigarettes on his desk (whether or not they were genuinely left there when he died is another question which I didn’t press). Unfortunately I didn’t get as far as Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy’s house, which was somewhat further afield and in the opposite direction. The two of them met and admired each other immensely, Tchaikovsky saying of Tolstoy that he was “the greatest of all writers and artists ever to have existed anywhere”. Tolstoy was such a supreme student of human nature who could, I assume from his writing, put himself into anyone else’s shoes. Last night’s concert was a wonderful experience and made me realise that I should seek out his music every time it is scheduled. Tchaik 1 and Rach 2, what a double. It also confirmed that when I go ahead and plan an event John not only comes, but enjoys it immensely, so I just need to do so more often.

November 9, 2019

Stayed at John’s last night and went to Erskineville to see the fam today. First thing this morning I got a message from my cousin Angela saying that her brother Jimmy is in town from his home in Byron Bay and all the family are meeting tomorrow for a picnic in Royal National Park so we agreed with pleasure to attend. Worked out the food we would take to share as two of their brothers and their families are Muslim converts and it needed to be halal. Met Dav, Louis and Millie at Sydney Park and Millie thoroughly enjoyed the face painting, Elsa of course, and the various child centred activities. About lunchtime we headed back to Lane Cove to shop for the avocado and bean salad and the beetroot, sweet potato and ricotta salad for tomorrow, plenty of fruit and cake in my freezer to take too. Just sitting down to lunch when Angela rang wanting to know where we were, I was aghast to find that she’d sent the message on Friday night and the picnic’s ‘tomorrow’ meant ‘today’. They had been waiting for us to arrive to serve the lunch. What a bummer, I was so looking forward to seeing them and having a swim to boot. I am doing this on John’s computer which is so slow as to be barely believable since he got the NBN. It took an hour and 10 minutes to upload a short video of this morning’s event to Facebook. At home it would be one minute if that. He needs an Ahmed but as he’s with TPG Ahmed’s no help.

November 10, 2019

Still rankling about the mixup of days for the picnic but I need to let it go, not something I’m good at. Went to Carol’s on cake duty along with Kath and Virginia. We got through quite a bit of work and had a lovely lunch to boot. Did a detour to look at a desk I was tipped off about, put out for the council cleanup, but it was much too big for me to wrestle. A glance at my phone told me that the Liberals have elected Jim Molan as a Senate replacement. He was disloyal to them once before and is an extremist in my view, so clearly this is the type of person they like. I shall turn off any electronic device which shows his face or voice for the sake of my mental health, I despise him with every grain of my being.

November 11, 2019

A mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes attention. Yesterday when I went to water the front garden I discovered that the connection between the hose and the tap was missing. This morning I searched through my hose bits and bobs but couldn’t find a replacement so a trip to Bunnings was on the cards, however when I went out to lay some mulch the fittings had been replaced. So did the heinous thief suffer guilt overnight? Who borrows one’s hose fittings and puts them back the next day? Life’s little mysteries abound. Martha came over to deliver our copies of her book When I Was Ten, for which both John and I were interviewed. Fifteen years in the making, it is a volume which charts the changing lives of Australians across the 20th century. I did have serious reservations about how much of my early life I had exposed but I’ve come to terms with that over the last few months.

November 12, 2019

Decided to stay close to home today considering the catastrophic bushfire warnings we are under, but early on I hosed the garden in a probably futile attempt to appease the fire gods. Then went up to Service NSW because the National Parks website said I could renew my concession parks pass there. Unfortunately I discovered you can only pick up the form there and must send off a coloured photocopy of both sides of your pension card to apply, a bit tricky when you don’t have a printer, so another favour to ask of John. I must say that coordinating all state government service at one office, where they are helpful in the extreme, was a very good idea. In fact the only good idea I can think of that the Liberals have had in the last decade (except banning dog racing, which they then reneged on). But seeing all National Parks are closed in NSW because of fire danger, I guess there is no rush on that account. Making a fish and prawn curry for dinner tonight, sauce already done so I just need to heat it up and drop in the small pieces of mullet and the tiger prawns at serving time. The recipe comes from a book of Indian recipes, one of a few my friend Ramachandran has sent me over the years. It’s called Indian Non-Vegetarian Delights, I love the way that in India vegetarian is the norm, and the first on any menu, then non-vegetarian comes at the end.

November 13, 2019

Had a sudden insight that I don’t need a printer for the National Parks pass, I just need to photograph the form and the pension card and email them, feeling very technological. Decided that I have so many summer clothes that I need to get them out and iron a few so I don’t keep wearing the same old, same old. So I ironed about 15 tops ranging from 10 to 30 years old and and hung them in the wardrobe. Most are house or going to the supermarket tops, though I did wear one of them out tonight, but even so they need to be cycled. Feeling virtuous. It is now a week since the Larrakia board met and no reply to my letter, what to do? Apart from banging my head against a rock, I just don’t know. Trotted into town on the bus and went to Cafe Chino in the Hilton for a sweet treat before meeting Carol for a movie, but sadly my query about whether a particular tart contained chocolate was wrongly answered in the negative so that was a waste of money and anticipation. The movie, a doco about a small medical service in New Mexico which treats the poor and drug and alcohol addicted folks, was both depressing and inspiring. Depressing that a country like the USA can always find money for prisons, wars and walls yet no money to help its citizens. Inspiring that the same country produces medicos and nurses who have come from hardscrabble backgrounds themselves, yet rise to help others overcome the same social problems which afflicted them. Inspiring too to see the folks trying their best to get well, not always successfully. Discussing the movie afterwards we noted a man in what appeared to be a red Trump hat, he was black. I have no words.

November 14, 2019

Decided to do my weekly ringaround and had spoken to Brian and Jackie, when as if by magic the call was interrupted by an incoming from…drum roll…Larrakia Nation. Not the CEO or anyone on the board, but from the head of HR who has been my best contact all along. She explained that the CEO has no secretarial support, is massively overworked, that the organisation ‘lurches from one crisis to the next’ and that he is currently in Alice Springs trying to help folks affected (who isn’t affected?) by the police shooting in Yuendumu. So, where does that leave us? Lee asked me to email her a copy of my written letter to the board and is going to attend to it if she can. I guess the answer is that if you are one person with massive responsibilities you need to delegate and I haven’t seen much willingness to do that so far. I said to Lee that I wish I could just come up for a month and work fulltime to which she answered ‘oh god we would so welcome that’. The saga continues.

John and I went in on the bus to the Sydney Peace Prize lecture. Michelle is a fixture at this event but sadly missed it this year due to being in hospital, a lame excuse. We enjoyed a speech by Aboriginal woman Antoinette Braybrook of Our Voice, Our Visibility, to whom Tracey Spicer later donated her part of the prize money. While Tarana Burke spoke well too, I didn’t think that she outlined her organisation in the way that perhaps Hanan Ashrawi or Patrick Dodson did, partly because it was almost an accidental movement, they lit the spark but millions of women spread the fire. The prize organisers recognised this by giving it to the movement rather than one individual. Perhaps less speakers, eight plus a musical interlude which I could have happily missed, would allow the featured speaker to spend more time on the matter at hand. Do we really need speeches by the Lord Mayor and local member, however distinguished? I would argue not. But I am not running the show, however I think I shall nominate Bill Crewes for the prize next year.

November 15, 2019

Visited Michelle in hospital and she looked right spritely for someone a couple of days post surgery. Then on to UNSW through heavy traffic to our concert venue. Had a meal at the student food court and it wasn’t bad at all. Ordering a cup of tea I asked the lady what they had and expected the usual two choices but she waved her arm across two whole shelves of Twinings varieties, plus Asian and Egyptian teas. When I commented on her selection she gave me a sample of her favourite Egyptian tea to take home, ‘it’s strong so sit down to have it’ she said. What a sweetie. The concert was wonderful, beginning with Sibelius’ Finlandia, followed by Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and after interval a new work to me The Great Animal Orchestra – Symphony for Orchestra and Wild Soundscapes, written in 2014 and performed only for the second time in Australia. It is set to a background of wild animal noises, taped in America, Borneo, Zimbabwe and the Amazon. There are five movements with compelling sounds and intricate layering of music. I am a hard one to please with modern music but I was enthralled and hope to go again to hear this excellent orchestra.

Checked my Facebook when I got home and had three messages from friends who have fires approaching tonight. Greg and Luke whose wedding we went to at Webbs Creek a couple of months ago have a fire 20 km away and have had 5 RFS guys there today helping them to prepare the house. They have 4 horses, 2 dogs and 6 chooks to worry about as well as themselves. Simon is on the northern edge of the same fire at Wollemi, though they are 280 km apart by road. His fire is 18 km away and Mark near Gundaroo also has a fire 18 km away. All are out of control and a sleepless night is expected by each of them. To give an idea of the scale of current fire events, if the currently burning area was in the UK, it would cover the entire land surface and then some. Terrifying, the animal loss must be in the millions.

November 16, 2019

After forecasting a sleepless night for friends with fires nearby, I managed to be a bit sleepless myself just lying thinking about it. Mid morning I got a message from Davina saying they were going to Macquarie Centre with Millie to see a place which had bears dressed as Elsa from Frozen so I met them there despite loathing that particular centre. It is completely mystifying in its design and apart from always getting lost, I am very conscious of looking for exits all the time as I find the place really claustrophobic so never go there by choice. It was good to get together though and Millie was happy to have the bear, but they get you coming and going, because the boots, dress and even the hair come as extras to the base price making it a pricey Elsa in the end. It morphed into her Christmas present as a result. Clever marketing.

November 17, 2019

It was the day of Link Housing’s annual picnic and as John is on the Tenant Advisory Group we had to be there from 11 till 3, which was fine but tiring towards the end, especially during the talent quest….however there were a few people who could actually sing or dance so it wasn’t all bad. Lunch was included at various mobile units selling Malaysian food, paella, pizza and the Oz Harvest truck which I chose, having some nice tacos there. The preponderance of chicken dishes at every stall reminded me that chicken has gone from food for the rich to food for the poor in my lifetime. I was surprised at how many disabled people there were, but John tells me that Link has quite a few disabled tenants, they provide the real estate and other organisations provide the live-in carers. It was an event with lots of games for children, an Aboriginal dance troupe, the talent quest, Santa, a sort of liquorice allsorts selection of what people might like, not to mention the lunch, desserts and drinks. I did speak to one worker who said that the entire staff has been given over to working on this for a month, that did give me pause for thought about how internally focussed government and semi-government organisations can become, plus the cost of today must have been phenomenal.

November 18, 2019

I find myself absolutely fuming about the corruption arrest of Paul Whyte and an associate in Western Australia. He was responsible for ‘internal governance, standards and integrity’ in the Department of Community, he who sets the rules knows best how to get around them. But it gets worse, he was responsible for public housing, it gets even worse, in charge of Aboriginal Housing. He apparently spent the money on a high end house, lifestyle and racehorses while many Aboriginal people in that state live in poverty. If guilty I would volunteer to help tar and feather him. I know, I know, I am against capital punishment in all its forms, but today I am making his case the one exception. One paper is showing a video online of a man kicking the gates of his mansion and calling ‘come out you bastard’. Was it a disgruntled neighbour or member of the public who’d read the news? No, it was another high ranking public servant from the same department who reported apparent corruption to Whyte in 2017. Whyte supposedly investigated it and told the man he was mistaken. Bastard indeed if he’s found guilty. But I was able to let my ire go down to simmer for a wonderful lunch with a friend for her birthday. We went to Wild Pear and I swear it has to be one of the best lunch venues in Sydney, a big call but the food is top city restaurant quality. No wonder the daughter of this family won Masterchef this year. Bravo!

November 19, 2019

I have cooled off a little and tar and feathering is out the window in WA, replaced by public stocks and egg throwing. By the end of the week perhaps I will accept gaol as an option. John, out of the blue, asked me a question during the week that is perhaps relevant here. He said ‘if there is a place in the brain for religious belief and you don’t have one, what would you put in its place?’ Without even thinking I said Justice. I think that’s one reason why I love going to court, seeing people getting some little justice for acts committed against them or their families. But it applies too in hatred of injustice, seeing corruption in any form, but especially in government, just makes my blood boil. ICAC hearings are probably the most satisfying court proceedings and the Police Integrity Commission would be too, but I am reluctant to go (if in fact it is even public) in case I bust my foo-foo valve listening to the evidence.

I am battling an ant plague and have been for a month. Every time I pick something up there’s an ant or two or six under it. Today I discovered they are all over the cans in my pantry, everything is sealed in there but they are on the hunt nevertheless. I had some meringues in a clip-lock cake tin on the bench and they somehow managed to get inside the sealed tin, currently the box is in the fridge and they are cooling their heels. I don’t want to poison their nest, I actually like ants, but they are driving me to distraction in the kitchen.

November 20, 2019

Hallelujah! An email arrived from the CEO of Larrakia Nation, headlined Grateful. Not looking for gratitude, just answers to some questions, but I will take gratitude as well if it’s going free. Then another from the woman who’s been of most assistance there, apologising for the fact that ‘your experience with us has been so poor’. So the cheques are wending their way to Darwin as we speak, a weight off my shoulders. Coming up to wet season (if ever it arrives) they need all the help they can get.

I may, I repeat may, have had a win with the ants. I asked professor Google about ways to get rid of them and he said they hate peppermint oil. Well I happened to have some so I added a few drops to a spray bottle of water and every time I see an ant I give it a shower. So far, so good, they don’t like it and this morning I only had three instead of 50, so I am spraying the inside of the pantry as it’s harmless and smells nice anyway.

My street library has slowed off of late, since I bought the Bunnings shelves for all the stored books, bloody typical. However today I’ve had a lady called Rosie at the door with donations and another called Rita looking for a particular book, so it has its benefits socially. I do get some good books to read myself in the donations, recently reading a few interesting novels and a book on Australian Gypsies that I had wanted for a while, so while my library has slowed, all books are appreciated and will find their way to homes in the end.

November 21, 2019

John went this week to his monthly meeting of ex priest friends. They lunch together, chew the fat, criticise the church and sympathise with each other about the trials of their time in the seminary. But this week John was disappointed to find that the view was widely abroad that the church was somehow badly done by in relation to the child sexual abuse scandal. He kept his powder dry for now but he felt he will need to address that view at some point. It’s the old story of putting on a uniform, in cases as wide as the military, the police and even among priests (ex priests in this case) the loyalty always wins, regardless of how serious the transgression it will be forgiven by those who wear or have worn the uniform. This is why prosecutions are rare, no one wants to testify against their compatriots. Governments cynically use this loyalty to keep the lid on scandals by their police and military and priests have benefited too. John tells the story of being pulled up for speeding and when he handed the cop his licence the only response was ‘on your way, you should know better’. A priest ‘in uniform’ wasn’t an appropriate target.

November 22, 2019

Yesterday I accompanied Martha to Windsor so she could deliver a copy of her book to Brian. He was surprised and delighted by it and thrilled that he got to keep his copy. Martha expressed interest in giving a talk to the residents and Brian pointed out the appropriate staff member to speak to. She took Martha’s number and was very positive about the idea. We repaired to the sushi train but for the first time I was disappointed by the food there,typical if you suggest a place.

Working on the ant issue and a combination of leaving the pantry open and spraying the blighters with water and peppermint oil as soon as I see them is having some effect. I’m hoping to gradually reduce them but I’m darned if I know what they’re after, even found one in a letter I was about to take to post.

November 23, 2019

Left early for Erko to wrangle Millie for the weekend, meeting Carly there as she arrived from Canberra to be joint wrangler. Dav and Louis headed off for a weekend at Manly beach, with swims and a fish restaurant in the planning. I took along a bottle of bubble liquid, a large floor puzzle of the planets and a Wiggles activity book, all of which together occupied many hours of the weekend, as well as snap cards and other games, so a success on three fronts there. She is into looking at and identifying flowers at the moment so a walk to a small reserve with flowers was a must. Very declamatory at the moment so there was a lot of ‘sit there grandma with your hands down by your sides’ and ‘okay guys, let’s take turns, I’m first’ both of which I suspect come from pre-school. I was exhausted by the time she went to bed and don’t know how on earth I would manage her alone these days.

November 24, 2019

We made cupcakes this morning with Millie an active part of the making, including icing them with a blueberry on top. Later we went to the park where, as usual, she cosied up to a man there, linking arms with him as he sat on a seat trying to look at his phone. His son played chasings and other games with her, but on leaving commented ‘goodbye Millie, I like you even if you’ve got nits’, presumably referring to her curly hair. The father insisted on an apology, but it shows how early this stuff starts. I felt much better after a sleep, but it was interrupted in the early hours by a call from Togo, I needed Carly to remind me exactly where Togo is, and as far as I know I have no friends there. I suspect he has a million or two in the bank for me but it will have to remain where it is I’m afraid as I was too sleepy to respond. Although our charge was happy to see mum and dad return, she didn’t query their absence as she has in the past, just decided they were ‘at work’.

November 25, 2019

Made quite some progress on clearing my storeroom today. Threw out boxes of day sheets, lay-by books and receipt books from the shop, only keeping the last two years of trading. Then packed up all my plate stands and racks of various sizes and half of the jewellery display material, boxes, stands etc and all these will go to auction. I discovered I have got three Christmas trees and boxes and boxes of decorations, when only one tree and one box of decos gets used each year. I am far from a minimalist and have no desire to become one but I need things organised to a point that I know what’s there and how I can access it easily and quickly. My plastic and foil bulk cooking platters and dishes remain in case I go back to cooking for a horde.

My internet speed has been ploughing along around the 46 mark but last night and tonight it’s dropped to 26 for reasons I can’t fathom. However John must have the slowest NBN in Sydney, dropping yesterday to 0.2 download and 0.0 upload, he’s still waiting for a pic I sent yesterday.

November 26, 2019

With the car filled to the brim with an assortment of goodies from my storeroom, plus a few things from council pickups, I trotted off to Bargain Hunt to put them to auction. Larrakia will get another cheque before Christmas I’m thinking. However I now have a car full of lifejackets, signs, a lamp, a 6 foot Christmas tree with decorations, Christmas ornaments, collectable matchbooks, postcards, jewellery point of sale goods, plate stands and lots more. I was only hoping for about $20 a lot, but the owner told me they had lots of good stuff coming in at the moment, so only the wall mounted bronze animal head passed muster. ‘big Christmas tree with decos and ornaments $20 bucks’ I wanted to shout from the car as I came home. Not sure what the next move is, but the only good news is that they gave me a $200 reserve on the bronze.

I had rung my optician friend a few days ago complaining that although I keep cleaning my glasses to get rid of a blur, there doesn’t seem to be much improvement afterwards. Could I need a new script I asked? He mentioned cataracts as a possibility as well as the obvious, a new script. So this morning I went to his eye test person who confirmed that my eyes had deteriorated somewhat and she bumped up the script 2 points. However then she asked if I go to an ophthalmologist, which I do as the drug I have been on for years for Sjogren’s/lupus can damage your eyes, part of the reason I stopped it about 6 months ago. She suggested I see him soon, but it was hard to get out of her exactly why. Seeing she was Asian it brought to mind Robert and Sue’s difficulties in getting the truth out of his oncologist, something they’ve put down to cultural differences. So I trotted out to Ralph who said he’d put new lenses in my old glasses as he always does and then I left with my referral from her, which I promptly opened to find that she thinks I have glaucoma, which of course has an initial symptom of blurry vision. A bit annoyed as I am not a Nervous Nellie regarding medical matters. Anyway I rang the ophthalmologist’s office and was offered an appointment next year, but when I told her I had opened the referral and glaucoma was suspected she put me in this Thursday. All the more reason that the optometrist should have been upfront, though she did say I have cataracts now but apparently wasn’t game to mention the G word.

November 27, 2019

Ant update: I wasn’t here all weekend and there was no chance of the little blighters getting anything to eat, so I thought I was shot of them. Then yesterday one only knife was left on the breadboard and the whole damn nest appeared. This morning I decided that I had put up with this for 5 weeks and enough was enough, so I reluctantly went down to the laundry and got the Ant Rid, putting it on a piece of foil where they congregate on the kitchen bench. So far, they have walked around it, searching everywhere else for a crumb.

Reading George Pell’s 2002 hagiography, ahem I mean biography, by Tess Livingstone and it is as if Louise Milligan’s recent excellent book about him is referring to another person altogether, though at one point Tess does say that many people report his serious bullying and strict adherence to the rulebook when he was a prefect at school. I am inclined to email her and ask her whether she’s read the Milligan book and what her view of him is now. I did get one laugh out of it though. Pell’s father, not a Catholic and with high regard for his son’s intellectual ability and ambitions for his son professionally, greeted the announcement that he was going into the priesthood with the words ‘you might just as well have been a bloody dill’. I am toying with wrapping it up as part of the book swap for our Christmas book group celebration on Friday, there has to be one booby prize in the pile doesn’t there?

November 28, 2019

Just back from the ophthalmologist, always a trial, but today I arrived at 1.30 and left at 4, groan. About 15 minutes was spent having tests done and the rest of the time waiting. I left my book in the car and was afraid to go and get it in case I missed my turn so I read every magazine there that didn’t involve sport, a pile a foot high. He is very good at what he does, but 27 people in a waiting room indicates to me that attention to the bank balance is crucial. Anyway, good news, I have neither glaucoma nor cataracts but age related deterioration of the lens. He said I would be lucky to pass a driving test without glasses and was surprised that I didn’t have difficulty driving. So I sailed through that one unscathed. Praise be.

Thinking today about my encounter years back with Clive James, in Castle Hill of all places. Back in the day there was a very good restaurant in the Plaza there and I frequented it for dinner if I saw a movie. At the time Clive was living in Dural with a woman whose name I’ve forgotten and one night I was surprised to see them at the next table. I ignored them but as they left he said confidently ‘hello, you know who I am’. ‘Yes’ I replied and we had a short chat, about the food from memory. A couple of weeks later he was at the next table again and greeted me like a long lost friend, asking what I had ordered and chatting for some time. His lady friend looked bored and didn’t engage, I suspect she’d seen it all before. He was charming, clever, entertaining and had an ego the size of a house. When he left he stood and said goodbye loudly to the owner from across the room, judging by the bemused looks on the patrons they didn’t have a clue who he was. Postscript: while looking up his obit online I accidentally discovered by way of a photo that the woman he was with on those two occasions was Leanne Edelsten, his longtime girlfriend of the time and the reason his wife tossed him out, after discovering emails and photos on his computer.

November 29, 2019

Deborah is still in hospital after a month, having been transferred to rehab for a week, deteriorating and being raced back to hospital for a third go at surgery. Apparently the rehab doctor was clueless and told her she was fine to go home, despite her complaints of being too sick. He left to go on holiday at 3pm and the replacement doctor realised straight away that she was in bother, rang the surgeon who didn’t have visiting rights at the rehab centre, and presto back to hospital and into theatre immediately. They drained over two litres of fluid from her lung, followed by two more the next day. She’s there still, but this time will leave to go to a different rehab hospital, apparently the previous one is geared up for joint replacement and just weren’t with it for a lung problem. Big teaching hospitals have their problems too, but curious registrars are always hanging around to pick up things that may have been missed by someone else, that’s a big enough reason for me to prefer them over the privates every time.

Book group Christmas party with just two members absent was a warm and relaxed affair. Carol did the customary Thanksgiving turkey and we exchanged books as is our tradition. I got Bernardine Evaristo’s for Girl, Woman, Other about which I know nothing, but I look forward to reading it. I decided to give two books from my bookshelves rather than from the street library collection, The Romanovs 1613-1918 and the novel The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser. Both were enjoyable but I can’t see myself rereading either with so much wonderful stuff coming onto the market every week. Just reading  every Trump book released keeps me out of trouble. I am attracted to reading about bizarre personalities, forensic psychology fascinates me. Which leads me to the Claremont killings trial in WA where the prosecution is trying to link particular domestic stresses in the accused’s marriage to the actual dates that the girls were murdered. His wife had an affair, later becoming in pregnant to her gentleman friend and subsequently leaving her husband. She testified that at each of these junctures the husband was calm and no argument ensued. The judge made the comment to the effect that if the accused didn’t react it was hard to believe he was upset enough to cause him to go out and commit a murder. I would have thought that failure to react in those circumstances would be quite an abnormal reaction, especially as he had in 1990 been convicted of going into a hospital and gagging a social worker, dragging her to another room before she managed to escape. All this immediately after he discovered his then girlfriend had been cheating on him…. but he didn’t react. It’s surprisingly similar to the common ‘kick the cat’ scenario, displacing  frustrations by abusing a lower-ranking person than the one who has caused you grief. The judge maybe needs to get out more.

November 30, 2019

Library run this morning and all’s well with the world. I began an unusual new book tonight, Quiet Until the Thaw, about American Indians living on a reservation in the 1960s and 70s. The similarities with Aboriginal experience are many, loss of language and culture, use of their people for war but with no respect or rights attached, removal from family and abuse in the institutions into which they were placed.A depressingly familiar scenario. Talking of depressing people, I had a communication late tonight from Chrys in Brisbane to say that the depressing figure of Angus Taylor may have had a secretive motive for his attacks on Clover Moore, using forged documents. Apparently his wife, barrister Louise Clegg, was planning a tilt at Clover’s job as Lord Mayor, giving him the motive everyone’s been looking for. If true, he’s toast and she has to be under suspicion as an accomplice. Contacted all the journos I could think of to ask if it’s true.

December 1, 2019

Oh no, 24 days to Christmas and I haven’t given it any thought at all. It will be a smaller gathering than usual and I think the first time that Dav won’t be home for Christmas, although one year John and I were away and the girls spent it together. On cake duty at Carol’s today in a big group of seven, it’s looking as if she’ll be finished earlier than usual this year. I probably needed a stiff Drambuie tonight after a big black spider came up the inside of the armchair I was sitting in. I didn’t know I could move so fast. I’m good with most critters but oh my goodness I’m a big coward with spiders and had to ask Mr Mortein for urgent assistance. Bless you Mr Mortein.

December 2, 2019

Interesting morning as Jane had asked me if she could bring over the wife of an American friend who is spending 5 weeks in Australia. So they came for morning tea, the primary aim being for  us to discuss antiques, which are her passion. She is well versed in the subject and made knowledgeable comments on my bits and pieces. She is booked to go on a tour to England for a week of antique hunting, the tour guide said there is absolutely no sightseeing involved. I had sent Jane an email detailing the best auctions houses and a rundown of their upcoming sales in the period she is here, but I’m not sure that she’d received that. We seemed to hit it off well in the time we spent together and ended up furiously agreeing about the madness of Trump and the dangers he poses on so many levels. Perhaps we will meet up again before they go back or at least become distance friends. Later John arrived after a Tenant Network meeting in Parramatta which seemed to be a waste of a morning as is often the case. They are fixated on procedure and constitutions and whatever and never do a thing that helps anybody. He asked if I wanted to join some other homelessness action group but I said a resounding NO as I think it will be another jawfest.

We went to Newtown for a late session of the movie Farming for which I had cheap tickets. It was the story of how Nigerian families in Britain farmed out their children to working class white families for profit, in this particular true case it was so the parents could study there. It was harrowing, and I doubt John would have gone had he known the content was so violent. It was the time of the skinheads and in Essex they were dominant in the generally right wing and racist culture of the 60s. His adoptive parents, who were illiterate Gypsies, took in ten Nigerian children from different families for payment and the children were routinely abused on the street by white locals. However that paled compared to the suffering the skinhead gangs inflicted on them and eventually, I guess to save himself from beatings and to find some sort of family, he became a member of Tilbury Skins himself. Eventually a devoted teacher at a prison facility encouraged him to get his O levels, then to study at university where he ended up with a Masters in Law. He played his own father in the movie and went to a lot of trouble to exactly represent the home in which he grew up, replete with china ducks on the wall. I don’t think I will forget it for a long time. Home after midnight but we didn’t turn into pumpkins.

December 3, 2019

A trip to Windsor today to  dump all my auction rejects on a contact there who has regular garage sales, mostly junk but very cheap. I gave him some of the stuff and said we can go halves in some other things. He filled me in on a couple of very recent deaths out there. The first was of a bikie local whose most memorable line in the shop was ‘I want a pair of earrings for the missus that don’t come off when I’m humpin’ ‘er’. I obliged and found a pair of silver ones with clip hooks. His son is currently in gaol for murder awaiting trial, after the first jury was strangely unable to reach a verdict. His excellent legal aid barrister was able to instil doubt in them, but certainly not in me. It was a drug dealers’ argument after which he has admitted putting the body into an old car and towing it to the wreckers at Penrith to be crushed. I wondered why he admitted that bit, until a lawyer explained to me that for murder with a missing body the penalty is higher, so he is taking a hit for disposing of a corpse and still hoping to get off the murder charge. A sad day if he succeeds. The second was Horrie, only in his 50s, a local boy who somehow or other managed to get a lovely Finnish girl to fall for him years ago, they married and now have an 18 year old son. He had an op 6 months ago and had complained ever since of chest pain which the doc ultimately decided was emphysema, sadly he was wrong and poor Horrie died at home suddenly, suffering in fact from sepsis from the operation. I think about both of these flawed characters with some sadness, yet in life I disliked both quite intensely. The former was probably the worst racist I’ve ever dealt with and the latter I had long ago nicknamed Horrible. Yet it just shows that for all of that we still regret a life ending, one that could have been so much more, yet they were both hidebound by their own upbringing and now it possibly flows on to the next generation, certainly it has gone even further downhill in the case of the bikie’s son. Perhaps they did their best with what they were given.

December 4, 2019

Sometimes you get a win. On Saturday an auction house rang me to say that the highest bid on the bronze I had put in their sale was $100 and they were hoping I would accept that. ‘I’d rather use it as a doorstop’ I said and planned to pick it up today. Yesterday I had a message not to come in because they had sold it for $200 post sale. I replied that the charity the money was going to would be pleased and a message shot back ‘if it’s going to a charity we won’t charge the commission’ so I will get the full $200. Of course she asked for the charity details and presumably will make the cheque out to them. Bonza.

We went in to the city on the bus and had an early dinner at The Grounds in the City. I don’t know why we don’t eat there more often, yes I do actually, it is because we are usually going to the Opera House and it is just a bit too far away when you are hurrying to a performance. I had a salad which was all nuts and grains and shoots and herbs and roasted baby carrots with not a lettuce leaf or a slice of tomato or cucumber in sight, it was fabulous. Went on to the Recital Hall at Angel Place to see Vivaldi’s opera Farnace and what a performance it was, both musically and dramatically with a dark, but arresting design. The joy of not one, but two, counter tenors was a rare treat, though to my ear it was the smaller part of Gilade which was the highlight of the night. Max Riebl you can sing under my window any night that suits you. What a talent he is. It is interesting that I am usually the opera person in the family, yet because it was John’s favourite composer, he dismissed all his usual complaints about the length, the unlikely storyline etc and just immersed himself in the music. I hope he feels the same way about those I have booked on subscription for 2020.

December 5, 2019

Went up to see Bob Elliott with John at 8.30 and then continued on to Ralph the optician where I had my glasses upgraded to the new lenses, the third set in these frames now. He charged me the Medibank rebate only until I asked what the proper price was and found there was a difference of $30. He is a great optician but not much of a businessman, always finding ways to do things cheaper for me. This time I stuck the 30 bucks in his pocket and his answer was ‘thanks, it’s a lean time right now’, so even when things are tight he is still trying to save me money. Love dealing with the same reliable good people, it takes decades to find them all, but then you don’t have to think about looking around for any service from then on. Heard a god-awful crash tonight and thought it was another branch down on the roof, but it was a large painting in the dining room which had come down due to the eye hook failing. Luckily it didn’t smash the glass but sadly it took off the top of one of my ladder back chairs c1700, which fills me with guilt as they’ve survived over 300 years and now one comes to grief on my watch.

December 6, 2019

I was so happy when my pal Ahmed, my ‘case manager’ at Optus, got my internet speed up to a steady 46, but suddenly and for no apparent reason it has dropped to about 25 so I phoned him up and it appears it is 48 when it leaves Optus but only 25 when it gets here. So after a bit of trying this and that he decided to get an engineer out here on Monday to have a look see. If you need help at Optus insist on Ahmed is my advice, just tell him Maureen sent you.

Went to Erko to Millie’s pre-school Christmas party which had loads of food and activities, including biscuit making which involved the staff baking the results. I must admit ours were more flour than dough but whatever. Had dinner with Dav, Louis, Sue and Millie and still got home in time to read a few chapters of my latest Trump book. The librarian asked if I ever read pro- Trump books and I pointed out that I hadn’t heard of one, a point she acceded.

December 7, 2019

Talked to Deborah who is back in rehab from hospital, a different one this time after finding the previous one lacking. Then I was just about to leave for Carol’s to do some cake baking when Arvind next door rang to see if he could come in to see me. I judged rightly that he had some concern and it was that someone had thrown two eggs at his house, one hitting the upstairs balcony and one the downstairs one. We were both at a loss to guess who might be responsible, but I think he needed to sit and talk about it. A mighty effort at Carol’s over the last many weeks means the cake baking is finished, about 5000 small ones made for distribution to homeless people on Christmas day and other larger ones to be sold to donate cash to the two charities involved. What an amazing commitment successfully completed. Carol cracked two bottles of champagne for those of us there today to celebrate.

December 8, 2019

Millie is a bit obsessed with poo at the moment, understandably for a 3 year old. Last week she gave me a painting of 4 poos: cat, dog, Millie and one of her pre-school friends, in various shades of brown. This last was the biggest, as the little girl had apparently pooed her pants one day, much to Millie’s delight, not too young for schadenfreude. On Friday the Mooch was very excited that she had got up from a nap, pooed in the potty and wiped herself without assistance, a fact with which she regaled her teacher as soon as we got to the Christmas party. On the walk home she spotted a dog poo and pointed it out to me: ‘Look grandma, that’s a dog poo!’ Yes it is Millie, but don’t worry it’s on the grass so we won’t step in it……long pause…..’It’s not as big as the one I did grandma’.

Still reading Siege by Michael Wolff and the Trump stories abound. I’m up to the part where the ghastly Kavanagh is appointed to the Supreme Court with Trump trying to get an assurance that he would find in his favour if he is impeached, tried over his business dealings or charged with any other offences but Kavanagh is on record supporting the idea that a President can’t be charged while in office so he seemed a safe bet, ‘you want judges who owe you’. The man is beneath contempt. On a lesser scale but shocking nonetheless, the father of the former NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has finally handed himself in to police today over the hit and run killing of a man back in November. But the thing that shocked me most was that he was chased by the police on the night and charged with drink driving but wouldn’t admit to being the driver responsible. Investigations have continued but it’s taken him till now to hand himself in. He’s a former cop, an inspector would you believe? Actually, yes I would.

December 9, 2019

I have often told people that the koel is a very honest bird. The only time it calls ko-el is when it is about to rain in the next 24 hours, the rest of the time you don’t hear a thing. But the koel has blotted its copybook, calling every day in the last month or so with not a drop of rain arriving. So has the constant smoke confused the poor bird who thinks it is cloud? I don’t know, but I can’t trust its forecasts any more and that’s sad. Now I am glad I didn’t vote for it in the best bird stakes recently.

Bright and early came the Optus man, sent by the lovely Ahmed, and it seems the distance from the gadgetry to the computer is a small part of the problem and Malcolm Turnbull the bigger part (computer has been in the same spot all this time). But the solution to getting back my 46/47 speed seems to be plugging it into the modem, (wi-fi speed of 25, cable speed of 47 when he was here testing it). Sort of defeats the idea of wi-fi doesn’t it? But whatever, at least I can go back to good speeds if I simply move my carcass to the desk, which is probably where I should work anyway.

December 10, 2019

The New Zealand volcano disaster dominates the thinking of everyone today, that and the smoke which is the worst ever. I wore a mask just to go out into the front yard. But regarding the NZ tragedy I hope we can accept that it is just the might of nature showing its hand and not that someone is to blame. Volcanoes are amazing things, we all want to see them and walk on them if we can, the website of the tourist company clearly states that there can be an eruption at any time, not just in times of perceived increased risk. Part of the reason we love volcanoes is the danger factor, so blame shouldn’t be our primary concern. When Robert and Sue went to Vanuatu they took a helicopter to a volcanic island and hiked up with a guide. Robert jokingly asked the guide how many people had fallen in after observing that there was nothing to stop a slide into the crater. The guide casually replied that a young Japanese couple had fallen in a few months back and their bodies were never retrieved. Didn’t even make the news. It is a tragedy, but the earth is a harsh mistress. As well as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, flooding, drought and bushfire there are cyclones, thunderstorms, the list goes on. This is why religion was invented, to give us some surety in an unsure world and to give us the hope of seeing our lost relatives and friends again, but I cling to the reality of just accepting these things, tragic as they are, as bloody bad luck. Our sensitive prime minister chose today to ralph on about 11 changes to the religious freedom bill. I sometimes wonder if he’s on the spectrum, so out of touch with the zeitgeist he is.

December 11, 2019

A trip to Windsor through appalling smoke to visit Brian and see Martha give a talk to the residents. They were very dynamic and keen to discuss the slides she showed. The manager said to me ‘you can bring her back whenever you want, they never respond as positively as this to talks’. I think the fact that she asked them to relate stories from their lives to the slides she was showing was the key. John came up and we headed into town by bus to see Cosi at the Drama Theatre. It stands up well after all these years, as an autobiographical look at Louis Nowra’s production of a musical in a Melbourne psychiatric hospital in the early 70s. It doesn’t glamourise the patients, but it certainly finds their humanity and was hugely funny. Beforehand we ate at Salt, Meats, Cheese at the Quay. We were home again at 12.30am and it seems that’s the third time lately that we’ve arrived after midnight, but luckily before the witching hour. I am starting to think about Christmas but that’s as far as I’ve got, thinking.

December 12, 2019

My bro’s 85th birthday and the British election both. He is very anti-Brexit but hates both Johnson and Corbyn. I sent him the book The Dry which, despite being a murder mystery, gives an accurate picture of the country in drought. Decided to head to Rozelle with some donations for the Gunawirra charity which supports Aboriginal mothers and their young children. I had quite a bit of stuff such as tinned formula, clothes, toys etc to drop off but unfortunately missed crossing paths with Graham with whom I’ve been dealing. Then into town to the Rocks Christmas Markets which were advertised as being on daily, instead of just at weekends, up till Christmas. However it eventuated that there were just three stalls! Oh the big markets are on the weekends the tourist office said, well why do you bloody advertise them as on every day I was wondering. So I hopped straight back onto the bus home, bah humbug.

December 13, 2019

Well the bro’s birthday is over and with it any chance of the British avoiding Brexit. But they clearly understood the result of their decision and that’s what they want, a Donald Trump but with a better vocabulary. The UK will not only lose duty-free access to the EU’s single market of over 500 million people, it will have to renegotiate every single trade deal with the rest of the world. Good luck then. It all comes back to immigration of course and you only need to spend a few days in England’s north to know how hated migrants are.

Went to lunch with Tania at Sarino’s where the food was very good but the atmosphere, we both agreed, was far south of the prices. Very noisy, no clothed tables, no outlook or architectural artistry to keep the diner entranced. But looking around at the diners, I suspect we were the only ones who noticed. Am I pompous and old-fashioned to think that denim shorts are perhaps not the best choice for a restaurant lunch? Yes, okay I am pompous and old-fashioned. The waiter was a tall Brazilian with good looks and a mouth full of teeth and he took his job of schmoozing two lunching ladies seriously. After a bubbly and a glass of limoncello to finish, on the house, plus birthday cards for each of us signed by all the staff, I was buoyant enough to put the Brexit vote aside and to smile benignly as I watch Britain begin her unceremonious slide into the sea.

December 14, 2019

Drove down to Erko to give them their Christmas goodies and Millie was thrilled with her gifts ‘grandma, a Frozen dress!’ she said excitedly, actually a nightie, but that didn’t dent her enthusiasm. She packed it to go on the plane to England on Monday. Got home in time to attend the late afternoon auction of no. 20 Cross St, a house on a small corner block, the backyard having been chopped off years ago. I was amazed at the quality of the restoration, obviously gutted and rejigged to include a walk in wardrobe, 2 ensuites and a full bathroom, plus a divine kitchen with marble benches and a super cooking range. The young buyer, a single man, paid $1.43 million with his steel-eyed mother doing the bidding for him. I picked her as the winning bidder immediately, she was not going home empty handed judging by the set of her jaw. One wonders how a man in his 20s gets $1.43 million, but I’m guessing rich parents is the answer. Cooked fettuccine with broccoli sauce for dinner and splashed a tiny spot of boiling water on my hand while testing the pasta, it hurt a lot and made me wonder how a human could even survive the pain of being caught in a volcanic eruption as happened in New Zealand. It is unimaginable that shock didn’t kill them.

December 15, 2019

Yesterday I saw a Noisy Miner going to each agapanthus flower in the front garden and sticking its beak in. I hadn’t seen that happen before and was pleased, but decided it was a dangerous occupation so close to the ground. This morning I found the little fellow dead next to one of the plants, looks like a cat was watching as well. Life’s cruel out in the wild, you will be missed little friend.

Just got a text with a photo of me nursing a friend’s toddler son about 30 years ago. I was blown away by the resemblance to Millie, the same teeth but more particularly the masses of dark curly hair. I had simply forgotten that I used to look like that, never having seen this picture before it was quite a shock, but certainly a pleasant one. I have the Christmas cake in the oven, the fruit macerated in port from a 1994 bottle that’s lived in the back of the liquor cupboard after I got it at a house clearance about 20 years ago. Seeing I don’t drink the stuff neat it may as well be used up in the cake, smells damn good in the oven anyway, starting to smell like Christmas.

December 16, 2019

Had lunch with a friend today at Geranium Cottage, a restaurant at Middle Dural where we sat outdoors under an umbrella and enjoyed food, wine and a gentle breeze. I am becoming quite ‘the lady who lunches’ lately, though we discussed the group Christmas functions that she goes to and I never have. I am not really a joiner so there aren’t the invitations flowing at this time of year, something that I’m perfectly fine with as I really prefer small more intimate encounters.

I saw with horror the racial abuse hurled at an Aboriginal artist couple in their home in Mildura and I’m so glad he filmed the whole thing. Very pleased that McDonalds were so quick off the mark to sack the man as franchisee of two of its restaurants. His recent online posts exhibit more racial taunts attacking Chinese, plus posts supporting the coalition, particularly Dutton and Abbott. His lovely wife is past president of Gold Coast Young Liberals, why am I not surprised by this fact? Got a call from one of the agents who sold the property near me on Saturday. Of course they follow up the attendees but I must say this agency, which came out of nowhere a couple of years ago, seems to be better at it than most, not putting the hard word on you to buy or sell, just a low key ‘what did you think of the auction? what price did you think it would go for?’. Apparently the vendors are moving to New Zealand and all the high end furniture and fittings were included in the sale, lucky young buyer indeed.

December 17, 2019

Davina and crew left for England last night at 9.45 and just after I remarked to John that they would be on the ground in Doha I got a text to say they were in the airport there having a coffee and waiting for the onward flight to Birmingham. The thought of being in the air from last night to 1.35 pm today is almost unbearable for me now. She reports Millie vomiting numerous times even though it wasn’t turbulent, so it appears she has inherited the motion sickness gene along with the dark curly hair one, the former she could have done without.

Just finished reading The Costello Memoirs about Peter Costello’s long stint as treasurer. Yes, the GST, WMF, GDP and the rest of the financial hooha glazed me over a bit but I read it to get a sense of the man. On the good side he is certainly loyal, patient, steady and a self-confessed ‘tax law addict’, well I guess someone has to be. On the negative, if one judges a person by the company he keeps he is a bit of a worry. Thick with the parliamentary ‘God squad’ he cites Michael Kroger, Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott, Peter Reith et al as allies and friends so with those dubious characters as intimates you have to be wary of his perspective. I was willing to give good works their due, but I’m afraid I saw a classic conservative who can’t see past the monetary aspects of society and with little human empathy, unlike his famous brother. His vigorous support of all of the American wars is in itself a damning summation of his inability to see outside the conservative package. Having said that he has a wry sense of humour and showed incredible patience and forbearance not to out John Howard for reneging on the deal they made for Costello’s succession. Eventually it was a witness who made the agreement public, though JH still welched on it anyway, losing the election and even his own seat in the process.

December 18, 2019

Just back from a visit to Bob and I had a winge about the fact that I was unable to eat for about 20 hours after consuming a bowl of pasta, garlic bread and a dessert for lunch on Monday. Same thing last week when I went out to lunch, so the restrictions on what I can eat at night have morphed into what I can eat at noon as well, which is a pain in the butt for someone like me who lives to eat. One option is to go back to the gastroenterologist who will have me in hospital for an endoscopy before you can say garlic prawns. Bob said that when I had it done last time the doc said that he went down looking for one problem and came out looking at four, so no doubt he’d be keen for a reprise. So I can expect to be in pain on Christmas afternoon and just need to cop it sweet. It was a medical day all round with John going to St Vincents at 9 am for the monthly transfusion of blood products to keep his immune system strong, then seeing the orthopaedic surgeon for a check on his knee at 1.30, followed by the public dentist at 3.30. No wonder the country’s in a mess, it well never get back into the black while John is draining Medicare like he has the last three years.

My seeds arrived from the Diggers Club and I planted the Four O’Clocks out near the street in a raised bed. I have no idea what they look like but they open in the late afternoon, so that’s fun. Then put the Salad Burnet into pots as my mixed lettuce leaves are getting close to their end. The Zinnias were put into seed trays to be transplanted later, I remember calling them ant flowers when we had them in the front garden as a child, they were always crawling up and down the stems. Purple Basil will go in later once my current green basil finishes, good work but now I need to keep the water up to them, not simple now we are restricted to watering cans only.

December 19, 2019

The story of the leaf blower so far: A brand new boxed McCulloch leaf blower appeared under my deck some weeks back and I immediately phoned my friend Tim who admitted to being the trespasser and culprit. It is my Christmas present he said, from someone with whom I’ve never exchanged presents at Christmas or any other time. It is a 2 stroke machine about which I know nothing, but my occasional gardener informed me that it isn’t the sort of thing I could use easily and I should ask for it to be exchanged for a battery one. Undefeated I went to Bunnings and bought 2 stroke oil and a petrol can with a spout, but the Bunnings man told me the same thing as Kirk, it’s not for someone who doesn’t understand using 2 stroke. So after some thinking I finally decided to return the bits and bobs to the hardware shop and email Tim to thank him profusely, but explain that I wanted him to take it back. NO came his response, but he kindly offered to give me a coaching session which he did today. He came armed with earmuffs, a petrol can and some of the oil. I managed with some difficulty and blew the leaves out of my open laundry and under the deck then took the mess off the pebble paths at the front. Maureen 1: Leaf Blower 0, but whether I can start it on another occasion is a vexed issue. (Press the button 6 times, not 5 or 7, then move the choke to N then back to the start, then press the trigger and pull the starter cord hard, or was it the cord and then the trigger……Smilie: ;).

December 20, 2019

During a wakeful night I had the sudden realisation that Christmas was on Tuesday and I’d miscalculated my preparations as I was a day short. Then I really couldn’t sleep trying to work out a timetable to fit in food shopping, cooking, a trip to Windsor and more. Half way through this morning I glanced at my diary and discovered that it’s actually on Wednesday and my preparations are all in order. Talk about wasted angst.

On my way to Windsor to distribute a few small presents I called in at the Headquarters of the Rural Fire Service in the Hills at Kenthurst. I was surprisingly met by the commander wearing more epaulettes and cloth badges than I’ve seen outside of television. I asked how to best help and he was so positive, telling me exactly what food carries well in the trucks and what the fire fighters like to eat on duty. Muesli bars, poppers of juice, sandwiches are preferred to taking say a cake or a box of biscuits, unless those things are individually wrapped to pop into their tucker boxes. I broached the subject of their receiving pay from the government for days worked but he said unequivocally ‘no, they would all refuse it, they take pride in being volunteers’, so a letter writing campaign on their behalf would be redundant. A few loaves of sambos seems a poor thank you for what they do, but he assured me that they would be well received. Blinded by the bling, I didn’t even get his name.

December 21, 2019

Well I never! The zinnia seeds I planted on the 18th are well and truly up on the 21st. I don’t think I’ve ever had any seeds grow that fast before but as it was new potting mix they can’t be weeds in those neat little rows. Now I have to decide where to put them which is more of an issue. Contacted our friends in Blackheath and they have decamped to a hotel with cats in tow until the bushfire emergency has passed. I can’t ever recall both the Great Western Highway and Bell’s Line of Road being closed at the same time, making it impossible for them to head to Sydney rellies even if they were of a mind to. I’m not sure how else you would get to Sydney as the Putty Road via Singleton is closed too. Unprecedented, and it must make the mountains folk uneasy knowing that they are trapped both ways. Ben Quilty came out with a scathing attack on the government over its lack of action on climate change which, as one would expect from Ben, hits the nail right on the head.

December 22, 2019

Whinge whinge, I may have to go back to the gastro next year after all, ate dinner last night before 5 pm and was still suffering at 2.30 am, what a pain in the arse (no, in the stomach actually). I might even have to take the medication he prescribed, ha ha. As Professor Reeves once commented I am a minimalist when it comes to drugs, so I can hardly go back and claim that I’m sick if I haven’t continued to take the tablets he prescribed. Anyway next year is soon enough.

Yes the little green shoots in the seed tray are actually the zinnias, which are extraordinarily keen to come into the world, haven’t heard about the fires obviously. I watched the presser that ScoMo gave at the RFS Headquarters this morning and checking out the fixed faces of the staff, they weren’t actually too keen to see him. He waved as he left and was met with blank dials, no one jumping up for a chance to shake the Prime Ministerial paw. Even if you accept the ‘can’t let the kiddies down’ response, which has some merit, that doesn’t explain his department’s evasion and downright lies regarding his whereabouts. The Hillsong NYC theory still bounces around the net, with the Hawaii trip a cover or add on to that, but one thing is for sure, the truth will come out eventually. It doesn’t make any sense at all to hide a simple beach holiday so a whiff of rat is definitely in the air. My friend Tim, he of the elaborate conspiracy theories, would be able to link it in effortlessly with Kabbalah, child abuse rings and crooked judges but I think the fact the ScoMo is naturally as cunning as the proverbial shit-house rat is probably closer to the truth.

December 23, 2019

Did my fresh food shopping today so I can have an uninterrupted cooking day tomorrow. Thankyou, to whoever organises such things, for the cool weather which made my shopping trip a pleasure instead of a trial. I have just four takers for Christmas but enough food to feed quite a few more of course. I took a gulp when the fishmonger gave me the price of the side of salmon I bought, but will have forgotten that when it comes out of the oven all dripping in honey, lime juice, garlic and coriander, I can taste it already. The Christmas cake however looks dry, yet it’s the recipe I’ve made for years. My oven is like the bowels of Hades and if you give something another 15 minutes it can be catastrophic. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

Got a good laugh at a Canadian tourist who bears quite a resemblance to ScoMo wearing a T shirt announcing ‘I Am Not Scott Morrison’ because he kept being abused on the street in the Gold Coast, which by extension means that the real one is copping some abuse too. (I shouldn’t like that idea but I do because I am a bad person.) He is unable to change his behaviour because he just doesn’t see where he’s going wrong and why people fuss, in that respect he is like Tony Abbott.

December 24, 2019

So glad that the weather has changed for the better, for the firefighters in particular. Spent the day cooking and preparing for the festivities. Carly arrived about 6 pm and we enjoyed the baked salmon, just the right laid back food for Christmas Eve. I think I shall have a day or two with no news, no politics, no getting angry, just relaxing and enjoying life. Strange to have no one else here but we three enjoyed ourselves immensely.

December 25, 2019

After the traditional Christmas breakfast of croissants and jam (as distinct from the usual breakfast of toast and jam) Carly and I prepped for the main meal while Danish was travelling up from Canberra. Lunch of roast beef porterhouse with Yorkshire pudding, bread sauce, roast veges, snow peas and sugar snap peas ticked all the boxes. We followed up with spiced creme brulees but unfortunately the heat gun misbehaved and doing the brulee topping was a bigger job than usual. Present opening filled much of the afternoon and I was lucky to receive some unusual ones like the hand knitted house socks from Himachal Pradesh, plus a hand painted duck from Kashmir, both from Danish. His mum sent me a beautiful scarf from northern India too. Too much food but I am assured calories don’t accumulate on Christmas Day so that’s a relief. As my grandmother always said after every present opening…’we’ve all done very well’. Davina rang with a Facetime call so we saw Millie at Christmas but had no other communications which was unusual.

December 26, 2019

Luckily I bought enough croissants that we could indoctrinate Danish into the Partridge Boxing Day breakfast even though he missed the Christmas one. He is lovely to have around, very accommodating, easy to be with and happy to discuss any topic in a relaxed and intelligent way. In the afternoon Heather came over, shortly followed by Robert and Sue, so we had a house full for a while. Robert seemed well and was sparking on all cylinders. We did a strange fridge raid for dinner, having Yorkshire puddings and gravy as an entree and baked salmon and veggies for main followed by Christmas pudding and brandy custard. Danish told us about a 6 month post-graduate course for doctors in Varanasi to treat people who believe they are possessed by demons, something he might like to do once he has finished his PhD. What a weird intersection of science and belief. I rang the restaurant that I am taking John to on New Years’ Eve and asked if we could have a window table. They replied that we already have a corner window seat ‘the best table in the house’ which shows there is benefit in booking in the first week of January for NYE 12 months hence.

December 27, 2019

Danish went back to Canberra this morning to continue his studies and John went off to RNSH to visit his friend who broke a femur and wrist just before Christmas playing street cricket. I had had 5 texts during the night about the fact that the burglar alarm battery was down and it wasn’t communicating with them. The texts woke me each time but I just thought it was some idiot up very late and ignored them. But sure enough it was security so they sent a techie this morning and it was promptly fixed, the speed due to the fact that most businesses are shut and so I was near the top of the queue. He was a lovely young man and we talked antiques for some time. I have his phone number and promised I would look through my reference book collection with a view to passing a couple of books on to him. Next we drove to the nursery, taking my very dead Acanthus plant to see what I did wrong. Turns out I was ill advised about the position it needed by the person I asked when I bought it, so it basically fried to death. By rights I should have asked for a replacement but I let it go. Then we went to Wild Pear and shared a meal and a dessert, being served by Larissa Takchi, the owner’s daughter and winner of Masterchef 2019, who is the restaurant manager. The dessert of Lemon Parfait was extraordinary in that it came with a lemon and black olive compote, a black olive madeleine and was ringed with olive oil. Not hugely sweet but absolutely delicious and very Masterchefy. She is just amazing, not that I watched the series this year, but I did watch her once at the beginning and then the final. To cook like that at 22 just blows my mind.

December 28, 2019

We tossed around the idea of going to Balmoral or Manly and decided that the traffic and the parking issues weren’t really worth it, so we went to Baulko Pool and had two good swims. The shade has improved since my girls went there as kids and we enjoyed it immensely. Also went to a strangely situated pharmacy in Norwest Business Park that is the only place in the area to sell Passport brand glasses. I had rung the company in Adelaide to find their stockists as I am hoping Ralph will be able to put my new script for long distance glasses into these funky $20 frames after passing on all the boring ones that optometrists sell. Perhaps he’ll say no, but the chemist will take them back in that event. The only nearby business is a medical practice and both are accessed by a lift so I really don’t see how she would stay in business if the surgery moves out, but perhaps the doctor is her husband? No passing trade at all seems risky to me.

December 29, 2019

We three went into the city to the Art Gallery for Carly to see the Japan Supernatural exhibition and for us to go to the Quilty one man show there. The Kenthurst boy has certainly made good, always on the compassionate side of any argument and a wonderful portraitist. Do I like the more recent surrealist ones….no I can’t say I do, but his earlier works sustain me. Then we doodled around the exhibition of Kaldor Public Art Projects, no doubt funded by John Kaldor, and I constantly asked myself WHY? Why is wrapping the coast important? why is a dog made of flowers earth shattering? why is some dude baking multiple loaves of psychedelic-coloured bread consequential? I got as far as the photos of society matrons munching the vile looking bread at the art gallery (bread they would rather die than touch anywhere else) and decided Kaldor can keep the plurry lot of his artworks, wouldn’t take any of them as a gift. Wandered down to Boy Charlton Pool and had some lunch at their cafe overlooking Garden Island Naval Base. Carly and I fared well but John’s barramundi, plainly garnished with some tired rocket and two orange segments was a rip off. Then we had a swim in the pool while John minded the gear and it was noticeably colder than the water at Baulko yesterday, but good all the same. As usual the RAN ships Canberra and Adelaide were in dock opposite, a permanent situation since early this year when the navy discovered that these brand new bits of gear have major faults, so they sit in the aptly named ‘graving dock’ as $3 billion dollars worth of scrap metal. (Hint to navy brass: check if any of the designers have Russian names).

December 30, 2019

My conspiracy theorist friend often regales me with tales of child abuse by the judiciary and prominent politicians (Hillary Clinton features), of the killing of babies in order to drink their blood, of successful Jewish efforts to control the world via financial markets, of surveillance within our homes and lots more besides. These theories have led to a restaurant in the US being invaded at gunpoint by people looking to free child slaves which some idiot had tweeted were being held there by Clinton, Obama et al. Increased anti-Semitism in the US may also be related. My eyes glaze over at this sort of stuff, even when Trump is retweeting their rubbish, but now it turns out that the Australian promoter of this group, QAnon, is an old friend of our PM and his wife and has been appointed to Scott Morrison’s staff, working out of Kirribilli House. His wife, a lifelong friend of the PM’s wife, has also been given a job. They put a lot of store in symbols and one of these is to refer to child abuse as ‘ritual child abuse’ a phrase which QAnon is claiming they influenced Morrison to use in a speech and which he did in fact say, to the puzzlement of many. Red shoes are apparently a sign, so now Julie Bishop is suspect according to them…. This is getting a bit too close for comfort, I prefer my ratbags well and truly over the water, not sitting on the verandah looking over the harbour.

December 31, 2019

Talking about ratbags looking over the harbour, my friend Judith alerted me to a post on Twitter that she wrote about Smoko using Kirribilli House on New Years Eve as the venue for a private party for his rellies and friends to watch the fireworks. Her post went ballistic and every response was hugely negative, excoriating him for everything from holding a private party at our expense to queries about the invitees, some asking if Tim Stewart, the QAnon conspiracy theorist was attending. Clearly that association has been widely publicised, and of course Brian Houston of Hillsong was another name widely bandied about. There were hundreds of responses, every single one critical of Scotty from Marketing. If only the election were next weekend….

I booked the best table for New Years Eve at The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay back in the first week of January 2019 without telling John so he was super pleased that our NYE was sorted. It was in the front corner with our backs to the restaurant proper and plate glass on both sides, looking out over the back harbour and city, apart from the noise we could have been the only people there. Oddly in all three course I preferred his meal to mine, but that’s the luck of the draw and my choices were perfectly fine, it’s just that his were better. We were between courses when the 9 o’clock fireworks went off and saw the aerial ones but of course not those on the Bridge. We decided to book for next year as we were leaving, same table thank you garcon.

January 1, 2020

My god, 2020’s a weird thing to type, sounds like an eye test. The bushfire disaster is just unbelievable, even with everything I’ve read about the sorts of fires climate change could produce, this was still hard to believe. I know all those little towns well, we holidayed in Mallacoota for a week just before John got sick and travelled back staying at Bermagui and spending time in Mogo and Lake Conjola. Mallacoota is memorable particularly for the wilderness cruise we went on from Gypsy Point, west of the town, where Captain John was so knowledgeable pointing out lots of birds such as sea eagles, kites and azure kingfishers as we travelled along the river. I suspect all that beautiful bush is now gone.

We decided today to go on the Rivercat from Parramatta to the city and take in a movie at Opera Quays. Loved the lazy trip in, but discovered that the last boat goes to Parra at 4.07 so we had to train back unfortunately as we’d parked at the wharf. Shocked to find out that the cinema has lost its lease and now the only Dendy will be at Newtown from February, our favourite cinema destination bites the dust. We planned a quick lunch at Renaissance which was closed so ate some sushi standing up at the quay. Good day out though the city was packed.

January 2, 2020

I am finding myself quick to anger about the bushfires and those suffering as a result, but I guess anger is more healthy than depression. I do believe that there is a place for anger, after a certain point of being nice and patient and accommodating, a short sharp burst of anger can help everyone. In my household as a child it was an absolute no-no to show anger about anything. But to paraphrase Malcolm X, “There’s a time and a place for anger, where nothing else will do.” I salute those who made their views known to the Prime Minister today at Cobargo, I can’t imagine Jacinda Ardern running off with her tail between her legs if faced by a few angry fire victims, but that’s what he did, of course making the people more angry than they were in the first place. Apparently at a fire station one of the volunteers refused to shake his hand, this will not go unnoticed in the Liberal Party upper echelons. But any changes will be superficial and only enough to pacify a few gullible voters. If only the election were next weekend, the government would sink like a stone.

January 3, 2020

THE ANTS ARE BACK!!! Just when I thought that the peppermint oil spray had deterred them, I discovered a track across the kitchen opening to the pantry where they had forced entry into an unopened $15 bag of almond meal and were feasting inside the bag. I upended it into a salad bowl, trapping the little monsters at the bottom if the bowl and later in the day I found a sieve appropriately sized to filter them out. Anyone objecting to this practice should perhaps avoid my almond meal cooking for weeks/months. Their buildup escaped me this time by going higher than my eyes could reasonably detect and coming down into the pantry from the top, but I’m a wakeup to that tactic now and my spray bottle is refilled and in use again this morning. Not giving a hoot about their lives anymore puts me in mind of our PM who, when told by a weary firefighter that he had had nothing to eat that day, replied ‘well, I’ll let you get back to it then’ and walked off. If the man is suffering from some variation of psychopathy perhaps I could spare him some sympathy, but his psychiatrist should have warned him that public service probably wasn’t a good idea. But David Elliott is back from holidays so an improvement in the fire situation should follow, not. If I can contribute to getting that bloke out of parliament and into street sweeping my life has not been in vain.

January 4, 2020

At home today, 46 degrees C currently on my shaded back verandah, 48.7 degrees in Penrith, the hottest ever recorded in Greater Sydney, that’s 119.66 Fahrenheit. It’s a day of huge news interspersed with the domestic, the ants are in retreat, Australia is burning, idiots (whom we are paying to govern us) talk about fires starting from self-combusting cow manure. I just noticed that my deciduous trees are dying back severely, the PM says everything possible is being done for the fire refugees yet he won’t call in the Defence Force apart from two ships to get people without enough food, water or medications off a beach. Well there seem to be a disconnect here between reality and what is coming out of his mouth. Welcome to 2020.

It seems somehow important that my garden is watered, yet what does it matter in the scheme of things in Australia on this awful day? It’s a bit like knitting through the Blitz, keeping something small and controllable happening normally. It pains me to hear that Southern Ocean Lodge, the place at which I’d intended to spend a month when I won Lotto, is just a blackened ruin. Six staff stayed back to fight the fire, but ended up in a bunker built for just this eventuality, thankfully safe. Strangely the thought of Champagne bottles exploding as they heated comes to mind, a macabre version of the celebratory popping corks. I think of Walt Whitman’s words in Leaves of Grass for some reason: ‘Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.’ I think we need to be large at the moment, moving from the huge and impossible to control, to the minutiae of life to keep ourselves sane. Having said that I think I need to make a cup of tea before I face looking at the News.

January 5, 2020

The importance of donating appropriately came to mind today. Bilpin Rural Fire Service had a Facebook post asking people to come to their hall to take away donations of toys, clothes, food. Not fire victims mind, just anyone, they want their hall back and it’s full of stuff donated by well-meaning people, but there were only a handful of homes lost in Bilpin and a heap of donations left so it was really a wasted exercise. Bearing this in mind I rang RFS local headquarters in Kenthurst first to see if they could use some sandwiches, fruit and biscuits packed into individual lunches today, as I had a free day and was available to help. No they said, nearly all of our trucks are at Mittagong so there’s no one around to eat them, yet on other days they were more than happy to have them.

I could see various black marks on the kitchen cornice this morning so I got the steps and a wet Chux and climbed up to wipe them off. But they were not just marks, they were groups of 20-30 ants, not moving, just in a tight mass. It’s as if they had drawn the wagons in a circle, were having a meeting triaging new tactics or perhaps they were having a prayer meeting, I don’t know. I am starting to get paranoid, they are smarter than I am and get around every stratagem I dream up. The pantry doors are left open, the steps are permanently in place so ten times a day I can climb up to where I see, or imagine I see, a solitary scout looking for a new way in. All the while an open sugar basin for guests sits on the shelf and nary an ant goes near it, so perhaps not quite so smart. I had these tiny buggers once before and they had a taste for flour, not sugar and I am wondering if these are the same when they bit their way into almond meal yet left the sugar packets alone. I will win, not immediately, but definitely.

January 6, 2020

John came up and fixed the frame of the picture that fell off the wall a couple of weeks ago, half demolishing a chair and then we went to a movie in the afternoon, Knives Out, which was a ridiculous premise made into a funny film. It stars Daniel Craig who needed to spend more time with the voice coach, but because he’s a big star no one wanted to tell him. His Southern drawl veers too close to Cheshire England on many occasions, but all in all it was an antidote to the grim news surrounding us at the moment. I was unable to sleep and ended up in the spare bedroom, still only getting a couple of hours. I think this whole fire disaster has really got to me and it feels hopeless at times, so I intend to go to the Sack ScoMo rally on Friday night, it won’t rid us of the smirking bastard but will be a good morale booster, for me anyway.

January 7, 2020

Sue texted early to see if we were home for visitors so I invited them to lunch, arriving less than two hours hence. A quick trip to the corner shops provided leg ham and pate, the garden provided salad greens and the rest was a fridge raid, luckily I made another batch of tahini sauce yesterday. Along with six eggs halved and stuffed with anchovy and a few cheeses from the fridge it made a meal which catered for Robert’s keto diet, high fat, no carbs. We laughed and played up as usual, not much talk of the fires, which was a good thing as I’d been obsessing about it all. We took a nap in the afternoon, a rare event, but a welcome one today. John also plastered up a few match head size holes at cornice level through which ants may be entering. Yesterday they ate their way into a new packet of honey coated cashews with heavy packaging. I washed them off then dried the nuts in the oven and put them into a tin. They rarely find food, it is the constant scouts that drive me mad, I picked up my glasses to read and one walked across the lens, mocking me. Sigh.

January 8, 2020

No ants this morning, for an hour anyway. Then they came streaming in from the direction which John thought he sealed off yesterday, the top of a door jamb. I am now spraying with vinegar and water, too much needed to keep depleting the peppermint oil, which is too good for them anyway, vinegar works just as well.

The expectation with the government’s plan to pay the firefighting volunteers was that they could claim once they’d spent 10 days on the fire line and any days thereafter. Wrong. The first 10 days makes the volunteer eligible, but those first 10 days cannot be claimed, only day 11 onwards can be claimed. Also the expectation was that the volunteer could claim $300 per day. Wrong again. The volunteer can only claim their normal working day wage, after tax. The expectation was that the volunteer could claim for the day they spent on the fire line. Wrong three times. If the volunteer’s normal working day was 9.00am to 5.00pm and they spent from 6.00pm to 10.00am fighting fires and then turned up for work, they can only claim the one hour out of their normal working day – 9.00am to 10.00am. If the volunteer is retired and does not have a ‘working day’ then they too are not eligible to claim compensation. God, I hate this government and all members of it with every fibre of my being.

January 9, 2020

Michelle rang with another ant tip, tea tree oil on cotton balls left in their path which I will try. I think I am ahead as I was out all day and expected heaps when I got home but none so far, perhaps they just like me and want to hang out. I went to Erko to meet Davina after her holiday. I thought we were going for a swim at Marrickville but it was Mahon Pool at Maroubra that she had in mind, so we tootled off there instead. The water was cool under the overcast sky and we were initially the only ones swimming but soon a couple of other hardy souls joined us. I remembered to take my goggles so I got to observe all the sea life clinging to the walls, reminding me of one of the many benefits of a sea pool over a tiled one. Today a message came from Anglican Parish Gosford that I have reached Top Fan status, acquired by the number of times I’ve accessed the website or shared a Facebook post. They asked if I minded them adding Top Fan to my shares which when you think about my religion, or lack of it, is pretty funny. The fact that I once posted ‘Father Rod for PM’ didn’t hurt I guess. I was sold on him once I read his autobiography and get his sermons sent to my page each week, although I must admit that I gloss over the religion and focus on the politics, but I suspect his sizeable atheist following does the same.

January 10, 2020

The protest against ScumMo was huge, stopping the trams as it spread out across George and Park Streets. The square isn’t really big enough so there ended up being three different protests, one in the square itself, one on the Town Hall steps and one on the Park St corner, but all for the same purpose. I’m sure it suits the powers that be that the plaza there can only hold a modest crowd. It didn’t appear as if they had permission to close the roads, it was just a case of people swarming over them. Very few police and no counter protesters so that was good on both counts.

I have been teased in the past for reading the Daily Mail and I don’t defend their trashier moments. However when I want to know fast about what’s going on or when I just want a leisurely browse I find it worth the $0 it costs me to look. Anyone reading early this week would have seen an article saying that Harry and Meghan would be moving part time to Canada in a deal worked out with the government there during their six week holiday. The DM is often (rightly) criticised for robbing stories from other papers, but here was a case where the other papers ignored their story, to their cost. Now we have a shock horror reaction from most media to something that’s been in the press for days. In the days prior to that the DM also pointed out that the Queen had photographs of William and his family on her side table during her Christmas speech, but none of Harry with his. They speculated about a rift and were proved right. I’m not sure why they are often first with a story but I suspect they are willing to rush to print and will wear the opprobrium of being wrong on occasion.

January 11, 2020

Went in to town on the bus to the once a year meet up of a group of women I’m friendly with, almost all north shore ladies, for lunch in the kiosk at the Botanic Gardens. It was interesting that their criticism of ScumMo was unanimous even though they are not at all a political group. The Gardens were looking a bit tatty, many of the tropical plants browning off and two very tall palms lying where they had fallen, dead as dodos. Then I wandered to Circular Quay to meet John for the movie Sorry I Missed You, another Ken Loach classic, this time on the subject of the working poor in northern England, specifically contract home nurses and delivery drivers. It was gut-wrenching and so well acted that you would be forgiven for assuming it to be a documentary. Our future, if we keep electing conservative governments. Dinner was at Jimmy’s Recipe at the Quay, which cost all of $20.80 for us both, including card surcharge. A new bus service from the city right to John’s door whisked us home.

January 12, 2020

We exchanged gifts with John’s neighbour Ann this morning. She doesn’t do Christmas but does celebrate Ded Moroz, Father Frost in Russia. I was spoiled rotten with a plaque reading ‘I’m not old, I’m vintage’, a delicious Donna Hay Seasons Cookbook and some earrings, actually 12 pairs, twelve, one dozen, the number of months in a year, a duodecim of earrings. These range from tomato slices, goldfish in plastic bags, pineapples, daisies to various shapes and colours in plastic, metal and stone. Each was bought separately online on ebay or from retailers. I bought her a bottle of perfume that she didn’t like so now I have that too. A somewhat asymmetrical Ded Moroz.

We went to Narrabeen, potentially for a swim, but it started to rain as we got there, quite a downpour in fact so we retreated to Driftwood Cafe to share some banana bread and a cuppa until it stopped, except it didn’t, so then we drove to Curl Curl and read in the car looking out over the ocean and luxuriating in the rain on the windscreen. Both beaches were closed for swimming but they looked fine to us, a rip perhaps? I read that Rise Up Australia Party leader Danny Nalliah, who once claimed the Black Saturday bushfires were God’s payback for Victoria having decriminalised abortion, has closed down the party because “Rise Up was formed almost a decade ago because of a vacuum in Christian-conservative politics, which has now been filled. There is no need for us to continue because Scott Morrison was elected,” the pastor said. So nice to know that’s all sorted and God’s happy.

January 13, 2020

John woke me between 12 and 1am to ask if I’d slept well, which I had up till then, but didn’t afterwards. He thought it was 6 am as it’s a pretty full moon. We loaded into the car the painting that fell from the wall recently and the sad chair that it broke on the way down, so I am set to take both to my old restorer tomorrow. I did some food shopping and decided to cook a meal from my new Donna Hay cookbook for dinner. It includes a tzatziki which has honey and cumin in it as well as the usual yogurt, cucumber and garlic. I like I’ve decided. Picked up my new distance glasses today and I’m very happy with the funky $20 frames, not to mention the fact that I can now see sooo much better at a distance. I get on so well with my optometrist who is a very generous and helpful soul, as well as a homophobe, a Trump supporter, a climate denier  and of course in this quadrella… evangelical Christian. Aaagh.

January 14, 2020

Went for a run to North Richmond to see John Koster and leave my painting and chair for repair. Followed this with a visit to Brian, taking a selection of fruit, which he always loves. Had a glimmer of hope in the ant situation after ringing the Department of Primary Industries for advice. They put me through to an entomologist in Orange who was helpful, conceding the possibility I raised that they could be Argentine ants. Their nests are so huge that they need to need to utilise every available food source to feed the vast numbers of ants that eventually build up. Argentine ants become a major pest by invading houses and swarming over everything, including entering fridges, unopened packets and have even been known to follow the spiral down inside screw-top jars to get at the contents. When I told her that they have managed to eat through plastic to get into sealed packets and that they’ve invaded clip lock sealed cake boxes she suggested that she send me a pack to catch some of the tiny blighters to return to her for identification. When I was a kid we were always searching for them as there was a cash reward, but I never succeeded in finding one. I told her I’d killed thousands but she said it’s pointless because they will just organise the queen to lay that many more eggs. They also use pheromones to tell the other ants which areas they’ve already checked and which areas are most dangerous eg my kitchen bench. Now they only travel at cornice height, so at least that’s somewhat of a relief because I can cook without interference. They walk around Ant Rid, teatree oil likewise, Mortein barrier spray didn’t work under the house so I am just left with my trusty vinegar and water spray bottle if they come down below the cornice.

January 15, 2020

A trip to the nursery yielded just a Thai chili plant for $4.70 after loyalty discount. I looked at the succulents, trying to get more of the ones I have in already but there were none there, nor at the nursery at Windsor yesterday. I had bought some on special there before Christmas, typically I didn’t buy up when they were cheap. But I am looking forward to getting chilis as I need them because fruit shops sell them en masse in packets and I only want them intermittently. Trying another recipe tonight from the Donna Hay book that Ann gave me, Salmon with Lemon Cream Sauce on a bed of greens. I now have my pantry slide-out baskets spread around the house, cake icing things in my bedroom, cake cooking ones on the chaise in the loungeroom, others on my desk or in the spare bedroom. So far the ants haven’t twigged and it’s a nuisance getting the flour from the lounge, the nutmeg from the desk etc but it seems to have fooled their limited language capabilities as they are still going to the empty pantry. He he, primates rule, so far today.

I came across yet another article from Quadrant written by John’s football friend who is so opposed to everything we believe in that I can no longer safely be in his presence. He rails against the gullible people who believe this climate change nonsense, in the past writing scathing articles on unions and racial diversity on the ABC. Everything is a Communist plot as far as I read his meaning, but he’s way smarter than me and wouldn’t be crass enough to put it that way. One article explains how the current climate hysteria is born out of the anti-nuclear movement of the 60s, carried on through the generations by leftist Teachers Federation apparatchiks. Last night as I sat reading it on the net I was as angry as a hornet in a bottle, but he refuses to debate his views with anyone, or at least not with John. He is the intellectual darling of Catallaxy, the IPA, climate deniers and libertarian causes, justifying with excellent writing skills the attitudes of his friends Gina Rinehart and Christopher Monckton. Deep breathe Maureen, deep breathe.

January 16, 2020

Decided to go in to town to the Police and Justice Museum which is always worth a look for the old photos from Sydney’s early days, apart from any current exhibitions they may have. Then I got a welcome call from Sue beginning ‘have you got time to talk?’ so we spent a while chewing the fat. I was still in my nightie at 10 with good intentions lagging, when I looked up the hours and discovered the museum only opens weekends now, so that was that. Did some weeding, to find that the light rain we’ve had only dampened the top centimetre of soil. It was as dry as a pommie’s bathmat underneath, then the postman brought my water bill and I discovered that my usage was way up on last year, so much for my saving water. The postman also brought the ant kit from DPI so I am closer to getting them identified, if not to getting rid of them. They haven’t discovered my pantry contents hiding in plain sight, so that is a win of sorts.

Continuing to enjoy the Harp in the South trilogy, read as a 20 odd year old and totally new to me as I read it now. I am taken with the way the characters address each other and half of me thinks that we have patently improved in our civility, while the other half wonders if it were better to be able to state one’s opinions forcefully and then come back the next day with no hard feelings. I can’t even imagine the response if I addressed someone in my book group with the equivalent of ‘shut your ugly face you skinny slag’, but I don’t think I will do so, even as an experiment.

January 17, 2020

Lucky me! I have had a grey butcher bird on the deck twice this week. Wondering what attracted it, I looked up my bird books and it appears they will eat grains if meat is not available and I had put out some leftover savoury rice. My two magpies have brought their big adult size baby and it sits, as its parents used to when young, on my outdoor chairs to avoid the rain. The parents sit out in the tree despite the rain, watching over it just as their parents used to do for them. It squawks to be fed rather than bend its head to eat what is right there, I feel like telling the parents that they are being used but I think perhaps they know. Making an old fashioned baked rice pudding for tonight as I had some perfectly good cream that was out of date but I didn’t want to push my luck, so just added some milk and cooked it up with the rice, sugar, vanilla and nutmeg, yum. Will serve it warm with fresh white peaches and raspberries, but John will still want his icecream later I know.

January 18, 2020

As predicted John said he liked the rice pudding last night, but would have preferred his usual icecream. Ah well, I did predict it. We checked online for trackwork on the rail to Katoomba and there appeared to be none, so off we went on the bus to Parramatta only to be told that we needed to catch a bus to Penrith due to trackwork. Felt a bit cheated but as it turned out we were only a few minutes later than expected as the bus left before the train had been due to leave. We were meeting up with Annabel, Dan, Aurora and Tallulah to celebrate the children’s birthdays, both this week. John had the brilliant idea of inviting Dan’s mother Lyn and her sister Pat, both of whom we get on with very well, and the whole event went off without problems. We had lunch in the lounge of the Carrington Hotel, replete with many people in vintage clothing for the 1950s festival this weekend. Lots of vintage cars in the closed off street and markets selling vintage clothing and jewellery, which I was self-disciplined enough to avoid. A tent with 50s live music completed what seemed like a very good event. By the time we negotiated a train and two buses to get home it was after 7pm, tired but a good day had.

January 19, 2020

Drove to Erskineville to see Dav and Co and to give Millie the gift I’d bought of a box of yucky, creepy stuff like a plastic poo, a cockroach, some blow flies and maggots and a slippery tongue, all the correct sizes and very lifelike. It went well till I suggested she trick mummy and daddy by quietly putting the cockroach in the fruit bowl but the concept didn’t appeal and she pulled a blanket over her head and looked upset. She was fine with doing it openly though and spent the next couple of hours finding funny places to deposit them, such as a blowfly on biscuits Dav served up with a cup of tea. So she got the joke, just didn’t want to do it surreptitiously, which was interesting. Afterwards we went to see the film Jo Jo Rabbit which was clever and superbly acted by its young lead, but I am afraid I just can’t get used to the idea of joking about Fascism, and Nazism in particular. Although I can see what he was trying to do and most of the audience found it funny, I was often cringing, as I always did with M*A*S*H and Hogan’s Heroes in decades past for the same reasons. Not sorry I saw it though, but not my fave by any means. We went to it because Carly texted to warn me not to go to 1917 which she saw last night as she’d had to leave due to motion sickness, so I would certainly be affected by it too. Pity, as John was looking forward to it, but he can go alone through the week.

January 20, 2020

Rang the Sydney Festival for tickets to Betty Blokk Buster Reimagined after a very positive review from Michelle who went last night. I was a regular for years at all of Reg Livermore’s shows in the 70s, seeing some of them twice, and once when I visited his open garden in the Blue Mountains he came wafting out of the house to the gazebo in a heavy mist with a tea tray and invited me to share a cuppa. One of life’s highlights was seeing him appear out of the those tiny droplets of water suspended in the air, just like an entrance from one of his shows. He may have been a few inches above the ground, but perhaps I imagined that. Drove out to pick up my damaged chair from the restorer and confirmed that he is a genius, it’s impossible to pick where it was broken even though I took a bag full of pieces for him to put together like a jigsaw. Then I called in to see one of my contacts theoretically just to pick up a payment on a loan we’d negotiated last year. Seeing he now has no car, that turned into a trip to the post office, the real estate (to pay the rent), pet food store (meat for magpies), the bulk bird seed place at McGraths Hill (seed for the hundreds of other birds he feeds every day), the bakery (stale bread, ditto), then to Aldi for his fortnight’s groceries. Pension gone, he’ll now live with just small change till next pay. It is the life many lead and few understand.

January 21, 2020

Had an exciting morning making a cake from the Donna Hay book I was given recently. It is unusual because it is cooked in the oven in a heavy frypan after cooking the orange slices in said pan with sugar and vanilla and then pouring the almond cake mixture on top. I used blood oranges and it looks superb, waiting for sir to arrive before I spoil it by cutting, but he needs to get his skates on as it looks too good to resist. The excitement came when, half way through making the cake, a nasty big spider ran across the kitchen bench and when I screamed it reared up on its hind legs and presented its large fangs, reminiscent of funnel web behaviour. I couldn’t hit it because of all the cooking equipment between us but finally it ran into the flour sifter (ugh) so I cleverly placed a plate on top and sprayed it through the mesh base. Primate 1: Spider 0, but where are his loved ones I ask myself? Why has the world of insects and arachnids got it in for me at the moment? Ants I can deal with, just, but spiders creep me into a shrieking mess. On the ant front I am still seeing outliers but the constant trails seem to have been stopped by separating all food sources into different rooms, although I did open my morning jam jar to find it full of the little bleeders. The lid was firmly tight, so that goes to show these little ants can and do travel around the thread of the jar to get in, as I had been warned, so all jam goes in the fridge now. Note to self: Screaming indoors does not bring help of any kind and may in fact precipitate a cardiac event.

January 22, 2020

For some reason I like typing 2020 as I can do it so quickly, pathetic typist that I am, 2020, 2020, 2020. There, that’s it for now. Well with John’s help and advice I succeeded in getting a lot of stuff out of the garage today. Firstly we decided that my beautiful hand woven Persian carpet which has remained rolled up there ever since the loungeroom was extended should come back up to live in the dining room as I just can’t bring myself to sell it. Vacced front and back it looks a treat. Huge spacemaker in the garage too. Then I unpacked numerous boxes and repacked them for auction, gift giving and to keep. Tossed lots of packing paper into the recycling and felt suitably virtuous. Later we went to the framer and I chose a frame for the broken painting that came down off the wall, a nice silver painted wooden one which is much more suitable to a modernist painting than the poor choice in which it was originally framed. Later we went to Riverside Theatre to see Bran Nue Dae and enjoyed it very much but I thought the crowd was a bit disappointing. I booked it as part of our Opera Australia subscription and splurged on the best seats in Row C, but most other takers were much further back with only 4 people in Row A, 3 in B and 4 including us in C. It was well received but the turnout reminded me once again that I live in a cultural wilderness. Ernie Dingo did a good job, though I was a bit shocked at how old he is looking and hoped it was makeup, but the star of the night was male lead Marcus Corowa who was able to go from a gawky schoolboy to a man before our eyes. The lyrics are often memorable: “They taught me the white ways, and bugger the rest, Cause everything white is right and the best. So learn all the white things they teach you in school, And you’ll all become acceptable coons.” Late in the piece blown up condoms showered the audience so I grabbed a couple and as we wandered back to the car through Prince Alfred Park a drag queen (pneumatic lips and skimpy outfit) was headed to the St. Vinnies food van there. ‘Are those condoms?’, she asked. ‘Yes they are’, I replied and she responded ‘aren’t you sweet’ and began to surreptitiously take some photos of us. ‘Do you want to come for a coffee at the food van?’ came next, but we were both bashful about scrounging drinks meant for the homeless. Later we regretted that decision as we could have just paid for them with a donation and continued parleying with our new friend, with whom I’d disagreed about the bats in the park, specifically in relation to whether they were cute or repulsive. I also wanted to suss out the van because I was thinking about joining that team, but the 9.30pm start put me off. Perhaps a smiling face or two would have changed my mind.

January 23, 2020

Somehow or other this day pales into insignificance because I updated this blog on my phone rather than the computer and have now discovered that the three days on which I did this have disappeared, but I am sure it consisted of sending off letters or emails of protest, cooking then reading at night. They’re all safe bets.

January 24, 2020

Got a call from the vice-captain of an RFS brigade to tell me I’d won their raffle. I’d joked with him at purchase that Purple 76 of the many I bought was the winning ticket and by George I was right. Perhaps predestination is a thing after all. I shall ponder the question while aboard the High Tea Cruise on Sydney Harbour which was the prize. Plenty of anti-nausea drugs will be consumed to make sure the food stays where it belongs. Discussed with Carol her similar experience of just ‘knowing’ that she would win a raffle (with a much bigger cruise as the prize) and being totally unsurprised when it actually happened. Instinct can be odd and unexplainable sometimes.

Went to the amazing play The Visitors at Carriageworks tonight. John booked it as a surprise and I had no idea what we were going to. It was about the day in 1788 that the Aboriginal clans gathered to watch huge ships appearing in the harbour. Where are they from? Who and what do they carry? Should they be welcomed or treated with suspicion or attacked? Seven senior law men (cleverly dressed in business suits to indicate their power and position) meet to decide how to respond. Their decision must be unanimous. They are pulled between fear of the consequences of a wrong decision and their culture of welcoming visitors to their land. The play ends with the decision to welcome the visitors because everyone knows that visitors are just that, visitors, and they do not stay. I was wet-eyed by the end, but the two young Aboriginal women sitting in front of us were wiping away tears all through the second half of the play, perhaps seeing their alternative destinies playing out, 10/10 from me.

January 25, 2020

Another day where the post went up in smoke after being done on the phone. But I know I had stayed at John’s overnight, did some food shopping on my way home, watered my garden after 4pm and read into the evening. I am currently reading Ronan Farrow’s amazing book Catch and Kill about his near year-long investigative reporting on the victims of Harvey Weinstein. He was working for MSNBC and CBS News who encouraged him all the way until phone calls from Weinstein to executives caused them to can the TV program that was ready to roll. Farrow documents the day to day experiences in detail until the point that he realised the work would never come to air and jumped ship to The New Yorker who, after much fact checking and legal work, embraced the project. And the rest is history. Farrow received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, which he fully deserved in my opinion for the way he ignored legal threats and physical surveillance for a year, to the point that he needed to move to a safe house, in order to publish.

January 26, 2020

A huge day beginning with the Invasion Day March. After many speakers in a very hot Hyde Park we trudged off towards Victoria Park somewhat the worse for wear (in my case at least). Later we discovered that the trams weren’t working due presumably due to the crowds at the Quay but eventually got there by train and lunched at Renaissance. Later in the afternoon we headed back to Hyde Park to see Betty Blokk Buster Revisited, which was very good in itself but not a patch on ‘our Reg’ whose delivery snapped from aggressive, sad, sympathetic and bitingly cruel. This version was a great reminder of Reg, but never a replacement.

January 27, 2020

Up early to email the honours division of the Governor-General’s Department to complain about the awarding of an OAM to the horrendous Bettina Arndt. I suggested that they rescind the honour under Section 4 which says this is possible if the recipient brings the awards into disrepute. Also requested the details of those who put her name up and I suspect somehow that they will be from the usual suspects of the Right. But this is not just a political matter, she is also an apologist for paedophiles, is a promoter of the Men’s Rights Movement who believe that children of physically and sexually abusive fathers should remain in their custody and refuses to accept that misogyny has any bearing on violence against women, ‘except in countries like Saudi Arabia’. The woman has been peddling this stuff for nigh on 50 years to my knowledge and the award gives her views credence.

My neighbour came in to tell me that his house has again been the target of egg-throwing. What to do? he asked. My suggestion was 1) Notify the police and get a name of the investigating officer and 2) Visit the three townhouses from which the eggs were apparently thrown (they were at the back of his property, not from the street) and give each resident a slip of paper with the name and phone number of the officer, as well as his own name and number, with a request to contact either if they observe anything suspicious. This will put them on notice that he is a wakeup to them as well as making them aware that their neighbours are also watching them. He liked the plan but said he needed someone to go with him, so I volunteered and we plan to put the scheme into action next weekend.

January 28, 2020

A fun day all round with a train trip to Leura to pick up my raffle prize. John couldn’t come as he was picking up Ann and Karina from the cruise terminal after their latest of their frequent trips to sea, then was on standby to take a friend’s wife to chemo if needed, both part of his ‘pastoral care’ I told him. The friend is in hospital with a broken femur and wrist after falling while playing street cricket, he is John’s age. I say nothing about the pitfalls of playing sport, nothing. Met the RFS vice-captain at Sparrows cafe and it turned out he is a local architect and all round nice guy. So we talked architecture, building, bushfires, roll bars on their trucks, and face masks and their undersupply, while the government keeps a store of a million of them for ‘an emergency’. The waitress at the cafe, seeing him handing me the big envelope, got excited and took about 20 photos, so I said I would mention their great service on social media and give her praise on Tripadvisor. Then I wandered Leura shops, finding some beautiful salad bowls made of bamboo and decorated with Aboriginal designs by the Utopia Community with a photo on the base of each of the person who did the work. Rang Carly to see if she wanted one, but she has a Kashmiri theme happening (funny that) and said no, so I was forced to buy myself one. Then purchased a pair of huon pine ‘salad hands’ from the lovely wood-working shop after querying whether they would stain with say, balsamic vinegar. Assured that it wouldn’t happen, I invested in them and will be mightily pissed off if they do. Next was a dress for Millie’s birthday and then lunch at Leura Deli which was fabulous, as always. It looked like a delicious quiche but was actually caramelised onions topped with goat cheese and not eggy at all, happy to have one for lunch every day. Declined a sweet, I am getting so good. Late at night when the Canberra bushfires worsened I mentioned in a call from Carly that friends Peter and Dawn lived in that area and her immediate response was ‘tell them to come here if they need a bed’ so I sent off a text to Peter. They are packed and ready to leave. It took me back to their wedding, a wonderful occasion where a believing Catholic ex-priest married a Communist atheist. Speeches were given by a Bishop and by Dawn’s Communist father, what a treat it was.

January 29, 2020

Now I am finished the amazing Catch and Kill, I have started another non-fiction book, Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman. Although the explanations of Facebook, Twitter and the Australian law (or lack of it) regarding trolling are of some curiosity, it is the personal contact with the trolls themselves that has me really interested. I love people who can deal with the ‘bad guys’ as humans and interact with them, this provides the key to motivation. It seems there are many different reasons but it’s not unsurprising to find that they are almost all white males (Bettina Arndt, note well). They mostly tend to be right wing, though there are exceptions, with an almost fanatical desire to uphold free speech at any cost. Ginger’s ability to maintain internet friendships with these guys, genuinely curious about them and their lives, makes her quite different to someone who just researches them like lab animals. I noted today that I suddenly have 2,186 spam comments on this blog, a massive increase. So I checked them, expecting them to be mostly ads, and discovered that there are great slabs of what looks like lifts from academic medical journals with no comments attached. The WordPress system has rightly identified them as spam and removed them before I was even aware, but still I wonder why would someone send such stuff, what was their purpose? Unlike Ginger I don’t intend to reply, though I might have if there had been 3 instead of 2,186, so it remains one of life’s little mysteries.

January 30, 2020

In the light of Ginger Gorman’s book and seeing I am constantly reading about, and writing letters about, Bridget and Bettina (spit, spit) I started to wonder if perhaps I have troll tendencies. But I guess the difference is that I am not putting my opinions of them on their Facebook pages or on Twitter, which I don’t use, but writing to the powers that be trying to get their worst excesses curbed (let’s face it, to get them sacked). Perhaps that just makes me more two-faced in that I am not taking the argument up to them directly, but in each case they have shown no inclination to listen to critics, however they are approached. My New Year’s resolutions were 1. Swim more and 2. Call out bullshit every time you see it. The second has kept me quite busy of late.

The Australian response to the novel corona virus outbreak has been less than stellar with an academic a few days ago saying that the Chinese had ‘overreacted’ by sealing off Wuhan and being very critical of them. Then our Health bureaucrats said that there was no evidence of transmission before patients were symptomatic, despite publicised Chinese advice to the contrary. Now they’ve changed their tune on that one too. I know it’s fast moving and changeable but one reading of the excellent 1995 book The Coming Plague answers a lot of questions about previous epidemics, animal causation and spread. I’ve reread it each time there’s been an outbreak of Ebola, Lassa, SARS or whatever and it is invaluable. Though writing in the early 1990s, Garrett discusses the effects of global warming on pathogen populations and spread and following up the more than 100 pages of footnotes could easily keep me reading from now until I pop off.

January 31, 2020

Arvind and I did our neighbourly visit to the townhouses below our properties to see if we could ascertain who was responsible for the twice repeated egg-throwing incidents emanating from one of them. At each of the four doors he did the same spiel, ‘hello I’m your neighbour over your back fence and someone has been vandalising my property by throwing eggs. Would you please keep an eye out for anything suspicious and ring me or Detective Bloggs whose phone number I am providing’. Three of the places were super friendly, asking questions about what happened and when, commiserating etc. At the fourth, number X, both the husband and wife came to the door, she asking when and what time this happened and her head positively whizzed around to her husband as if to say ‘was that you?’. One resident had suggested we be careful at number X because the man there had left a nasty note on his door telling him not to wheel his rubbish bin in after 7pm. Sherlock and I agreed that we had probably found our man and doubt if there will be any more problems in the future. When asked by the suspect who I was Arvind quickly responded ‘she’s a distant aunt’ which was funny considering he is a dark Indian and I a white Brit, but he was protecting me from a neighbour whose property is also close to mine. Quick thinking 99.

All of this paled against the fact that a crack has appeared in a wall close to the previous crack from which all the ants descend. Also the door jamb is away from the wall and it appears something is eating at the gyprock. I called the pest controller and he said he was busy for a few weeks but could come then. In the meantime he suggested I send photos of the damage and immediately after I sent them he replied that he would come late afternoon tomorrow as it looked like white ants. Groan, my heart went through the floor and stayed there. John helped me clear much of the storeroom contents to under the deck  and we relocated the rest to the centre to let him inspect, which was all we could do, between spraying ants. Book group was good but termites were never quite out of mind.

February 1, 2020

A hot and restless night imagining the house crumbling around me then we started early on the garage, which took till well after lunchtime to partially clear the walls, by which time the temperature in there was 46 degrees or 115 in the old money. Jeff came in the afternoon and after a limited inspection told me he thinks it’s a giant ant nest and because I removed all possible food from them they’ve begun to eat the gyprock paper and the silicone which seals the door frame (kind of makes me sorry they are starving, but my mental health demands a cure). I had left the ants I’d killed this morning with my vinegar spray on the benchtop and I think he was pretty shocked. Apparently when I had termites in the garage he used a chemical (banned later that year because some pest people were spraying it instead of drilling into the ground and pouring it in as he did) which has a half life of 25 years. He was able to say that he did it in 1995 and it’s probably still working fine so he is reasonably hopeful that there aren’t termites but will do a complete inspection and ant treatment later this month. I could easily have kissed him but controlled my joy and kissed John instead. I feel as if I might get my life back after all. With all this happening and 46 degree heat to boot, I had cancelled a visit by the Erko fam but we’ll reschedule next weekend.

February 2, 2020

Ant report: Swarms came down on the bench within half an hour of my cleaning up the dead ones I’d left to show Jeff. I sprayed hundreds more and left them there to clean up this morning as I’d already done it so any times yesterday. But this morning the bench was sans dead ants, which were apparently raised from the dead Lazarus style or eaten for breakfast by the hundreds of live ones that arrived overnight, eew. February 19 come quickly before an admission to Callan Park is required. Oh, that’s right, we rarely admit people to psychiatric hospitals any more, leaving them to struggle alone in the community.

My instincts failed when I made a bet that Bridget would be sacked by last Tuesday at 5pm, but luckily I won’t have to pay out on a loss because I only bet myself this time. I continue to shake my head at the lacklustre Australian response to the corona virus outbreak. While the scientists are doing amazing work, as usual, the policy makers and their publicists stumble along. Potential pandemics, as this clearly was, need action that is both strong and meteorically fast because anything else will let the disease run in any number of directions. This has been shown over and over but we still put in good policies, but way too late. No one will complain about rigorous safety precautions in this sort of event (oh well there was that academic who said China had ‘overreacted’, but leaving her aside…Smilie: ;). When at the library today a fine young Chinese schoolboy apologised to me in the lift ‘I’m sorry, I should have put my mask on’ and promptly did so. I understood then just a little about how we have made Chinese Australians feel that they are the bogey men in this outbreak, I told him that I didn’t have a mask on either and that I was as big a risk to him as he was to me, he smiled and carried it from then on.

February 3, 2020

John and I went in the afternoon to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood with Tom Hanks, who performed admirably as Mr Rogers, the American children’s show host from the 1960s on. It walked a fine line between ‘schlock and soppy’ and ‘erudite’ or sometimes profound, falling only just within the latter two. A dream scene where Hanks’ character was seen as a miniature person in the childrens’ show fell definitely into the soppy camp and needed to be left on the cutting room floor, but all in all Hanks’ acting lifted it over the line. I am interested now to read the Esquire article on which the story is based and to learn a bit more about the real Mr Rogers, so I guess the film did work for me. Had some more communication with my ex sister-in-law, with whom I am becoming closer over time. We reaquainted a few years back courtesy of Facebook (her approach, not mine) and this also led to my becoming friends again with her two sisters. She and her husband came to visit last year from Brisbane and plan to do so again later this year. I wish now that I had reached out to them years earlier but for all its faults Facebook made it easy and has allowed me some amazing connections with people whom I wouldn’t be talking to on a regualar basis otherwise, such as John’s sister-in-law in the US whom I’ve never met but  communicate with at some level every few days at least.

February 4, 2020

After breaking my rule not to watch Q and A because of its effect on my sleep, I watched last night out of interest in its theme of the bushfires and to see how young Hamish equipped himself in the role of host. Am I in love with young Hamish? Possibly, yes. But it was the diabolical Jim Molan, with his lounging posture, his superfluously overlong legs dominating the set, that sent lasting shivers of disgust up my spine and ruined my sleep. I guess iview, not at bedtime, is the only solution, though I did read till midnight to try to wash him off. The general thrust of my sleeplessness was a feeling that we are already ‘rooned’ as Hanrahan would say. But it seems we’ve dodged a Barnaby today, but by how much remains to be seen. The figure is important because it will influence his decision on whether to keep trying. These ego-driven politicians are like my ants, they only know ‘barge straight ahead without stopping, no matter what’. Those sorts of people put me off in everyday life as well, the Gladys Lius and their more mundane counterparts in this world will never end up in my phone directory. A couple in my sphere of aquaintanceship give me the gee willikers after a short time in their company, they are like human steamrollers.

February 5, 2020

It was lovely to get a call from Robert for no apparent reason other than to chew the fat, which we did, covering a myriad of topics for over an hour. This morning Michelle rang from hospital after an eye operation “I thought I’d ring someone since I can’t read” she said, which reminded me that she had done the same in the afternoon after her morning hip replacement. Perhaps it’s a sign of friendship when a person rings you for no reason at all, there should be more of it. I headed to Windsor today to see Brian and got there just after his daughter had taken him out for lunch, but at least I was able to pick up $100 from my old shop associate, almost clearing his lastest loan. It’s always a good feeling to get back to tors before the next calamity hits him. I was thinking on the way home that I need a short list (or perhaps a long list) of people I refuse to watch before bedtime for my self protection. Jim Molan, Judith Sloan, ScumMo, Angus Taylor, that Witch from the West Michaelia Cash, all the Queensland Nationals, Alan Jones, Andrew Bolt and their ilk, it goes on and on. Barnaby is such a fool that I can laugh at him so that lowers the pressure, unless of course he succeeds in his Lazarus attempt, in which case he will need to be added. Gosh, life is a series of mini labyrinths which one needs to negotiate for sanity. Or perhaps it’s just me?

February 6, 2020

Unusually I was up at 6am, but for some reason I wasn’t hungry so I gave my usual jam on toast breakfast a miss. Later in the morning I suddenly realised that I needed to go and get the 36 blood tests which I have every six months before seeing the immunologist. The phlebology technician asked if I had fasted, no I said, I haven’t, before remembering that it was 9.30 but I still hadn’t eaten as yet so I changed the answer and wondered yet again about instinct. Although I’ve had these done twice a year for 7 years, the staff query every time that some of the tests have to be done in his lab in Newcastle. I’ve never jagged the same staff member twice so it needs to be explained and the same furrowed brows appear and phone calls are made but eventually it gets done.

My kitchen tap has gradually become loose and a close inspection reveals that neither my tools (nor John’s) will fix it, as they need to go into a deep channel to tighten the screw. So I rang 3 plumbers and asked about the cost of this very simple job. They all quoted about $80 to come out and then $50 per half hour and I was hesitant. But the last chap, when I said I would think it over, asked what I’d been expecting. I told him honestly that I was hoping to find a plumber in the street doing a job for someone else and I was going to offer him $50 to come over and tighten the screw. He immediately said ‘you’re not far away so I will come and fix it for the $50’ and was there in 20 minutes. It was even more complicated to access than I’d thought and it took him half an hour, but he insisted on sticking to the quote and I sent him home with $50 plus some baking from the fridge. I now have myself a plumber for life as he’s just a young fellow and will see me out, though I am happy to pay his normal rate for bigger jobs of course.

February 7, 2020

Lunched with a friend at a tiny Japanese place at Cherrybrook. It was my first ever visit to the town centre there but I didn’t explore as I was reluctant to hold up my friend whose car I was in, but I shall return. My dessert was unusual, a green tea lava pudding which I’ve never had before. I am a bit besotted with the book I am reading, Born Bad: Original Sin and the Making of the Western World by James Boyce. He traces the journey from Adam and Eve through St Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley and more, all the way to Adam Smith, Billy Graham and on to Richard Dawkins in his story of this idea and its influence over 1500 years. I have learned so much from this book but one fascinating piece of information is that “In God We Trust” only became America’s motto in 1956, subsequent to the Billy Graham crusades from 1947 and every year from then on. The founding fathers were particular in not mentioning God in any of the original documents because of their agnosticism and their strong desire for separation of church and state. Then along comes Billy, who wheedled his way into every White House until his son Franklin took over the family business and continues to this day. The chapters on early Protestantism were absorbing and I couldn’t help seeing the face of Eric Abetz, (small eyes, tight mouth, grim) whenever those hardline witch-burning Scottish Protestants were mentioned. So perhaps this Tasmanian author was thinking of that connection as he typed. Wesley bragged that none of his 10 children dared cry after the age of one as he deliberately ‘crushed their spirit’. One daughter eloped and had a child but the father failed to marry her and she went home in disgrace, only to be refused entry. She married a local plumber and was the victim of domestic violence from then on, losing subsequent children to miscarriage. I will reread this book again soon, it is one of the most enlightening (no pun intended) philosophical books I have read in quite a while.

February 8, 2020

In a bit of a funk today that just wouldn’t lift, despite it being my favourite weather. Sadly I didn’t get to enjoy it as a result. Sometimes it is just so hard to pull yourself out of a hole that you’ve dug for no tangible reason. Prepared food for the Erko crew for dinner and was pleased to hear Millie’s newest phrase “so, what’s the situation?” which she recycled when Heather arrived at the door to visit late in the afternoon. I found a box of china animals in the storeroom, Wade Whimsies from the 1950s or 60s which she enjoyed playing with. Sleep was elusive while my mind tried to solve the corona virus situation single-handed.

February 9, 2020

Dav, Millie and Louis left early and I attacked the grate in front of the garage which had filled with soil and as a result the garage was flooding. Managed to drag the grates off and then used a hoe to pull out all the dirt and throw it into the barrow. After that I lost some enthusiasm for the garage work I was planning to do, as I was soaking wet. Went to a movie with John in the arv, Bombshell, which was interesting from a historical point of view but not a masterpiece. The movie stopped three times due to power outages which didn’t help. When we got out there had been a call from Justin next door, a fact that worried me, rightly as it turned out. The Eucalyptus nicholii had crashed onto the street library and the grass verge, severing the power lines at my house and Justin’s, as well as our NBN and internet. It had been there 45 years so it was very sad as it protected my front windows from the northern sun in summer. The SES informed me that they wouldn’t come if I had been in China recently, so clearly they don’t trust the government’s quarantine policies. Live power lines in the front garden wasn’t enough to get Endeavour Energy here in a hurry so I hope I don’t go out to find a black figure attached to the wires. I made the worst pumpkin soup ever, can’t cook when stressed apparently.

February 10, 2020

Restricted now as I have no power, no water, no phone and no internet. SES is cutting down the tree, but into huge unmovable sections that 3 men couldn’t lift, and the council informs me they won’t help with removing the wood piled on the grass verge, let alone what’s on my property. They’ve turned off the water as the tree crashed onto the metre area, but it will be back on when they finish, unlike the power as I am in a queue for that. NBN and Optus can’t do the phone and net till the power’s on so there we are. I am at the library waiting while my phone charges as I’ve spent so much time, hours, ringing all the services. The SES opined that the drought had killed most of the tree roots and it was a moral to fall in the first wind.

February 11, 2020

John in his usual calm and methodical way decided that the only way to clear up the wood was to tear off all the leaves by hand and then saw up the branches, so by the end of the day we had just three piles of branches looking like stork nests and two green bins chockers with leaves. If I had been in charge I’d still be standing there wondering what to do. Of course the huge logs are a different matter, but I’ve decided to rename them ‘garden feature pieces’ and they can sit where they fell. In between I took up Michelle’s offer to put all my freezer contents into her spare, and luckily empty, fridge. So I did that and fortuitously most of the important stuff was still frozen, while the lesser things like bread, berries, cakes etc could be used by them as they were already thawing. We thought we were going to spend another night with candles but right at the end of the day Endeavour Energy arrived and spent a couple of hours redoing the power lines. The boss man looked up at Arvind’s tree and said ‘I wouldn’t want to sleep under that’ so I explained that I had moved into the back bedroom for just that reason. I put the point to them that in the old days when government controlled electricity, crews could be moved around to places where there were issues but now that they are all different companies we just wait. They agreed. I think I hate privatisation more than any of the other myriad problems government and the markets have conspired to cause. Come the revolution, I’ll be putting them all back in government hands so be warned Gladys!

February 12, 2020

Someone has put a hex on my house apparently and when I went to get the vacuum cleaner out of the front bedroom the lock had mysteriously collapsed so I can’t get into the room. I’ve doused it in WD40 but so far no luck, the key just won’t move it, so I swept instead. I will be mightily pissed off if I have to get a locksmith. Waited in for the NBN man who was booked to come between 8 and 12 this morning, but didn’t. Just before 12 NBN rang to ask if the power was on, they’d been notified of this fact by both phone and email yesterday and that’s when the appointment was organised. No I will not scream or swear, I know there are more important issues, but patience is wearing thin on the ground here. Now I’m stuck at home again tomorrow when I had plans for this week, of which not one has materialised. Finding it impossible to get Dark Emu, our next book group volume, in any of the four library services I have access to. Great that it’s popular. Then John just rang to say he has bought it, even though he’s already read it, because he feels he will want to reread it at some time, so problem solved.

February 13, 2020

I am wondering what sort of person, driving a garbage truck, reverses at speed into a passing jogger, gets out to see what he has hit, rolls the body out of the way and continues his garbage run? I think I make a lot of allowances for people’s upbringing, life experiences, IQ etc in any circumstance I come across, but still I am constantly amazed when people do these things, despairing actually. Started rereading The Coming Plague, the 768 page epic which I bought about 1995 or so and which is still the bible for understanding plagues, new diseases, pandemics, the interaction between humans and animals resulting in disease and the functions of the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control amongst many related topics. One chapter describes the issues which cause epidemics to be much more serious in cities than in villages, relating incidences going back to the Roman Empire and before and listing many disease outbreaks in China over the centuries which resulted in massive population drops, casualties in the millions. The story of the sudden emergence of the Ebola virus in Zaire in the mid-1970s has a Joseph Conrad-esque feel and is as scary as a novel. The first people to see the outbreak were Belgian nuns who were running a remote hospital with very limited or no medical training and no doctor within cooee. When told by radio communication to put up a ‘quarantine cordon’ they just strung bandages around the trees with signs not to come in, brave women but most died as a result. No sign of the NBN man, no opportunity to go out in case he comes, but tomorrow is an appointment up the coast with the Prof so Saturday is looking like the first opportunity, groan.

February 14, 2020

It is a week of disasters. Apart from the tree, now a huge stain has appeared on one ceiling so a roof leak has occurred. I wasn’t going to claim on insurance for anything but it looks as if I will have to now. Then Millie’s portrait fell off the wall, bringing down a smaller picture of her that was beneath it, but I can fix that myself. Then John rang to say his car had broken down in Lane Cove on his way to seeing me and had to be towed to our lovely mechanic at Castle Hill. The NRMA man was interesting and dropped J at my house on the way, which he didn’t have to do. They had deep and meaningful discussions about religion on the way, he is a Baha’i and it seemed to John that the values they discussed: internationalism, lack of discrimination on the basis of sex, colour, race etc, support of minorities, world cooperation and peace, were pretty much aligned with our views, except that we are without the god aspect. Anyway they swapped emails and phone numbers to keep up the conversation so whether we end up meeting him again remains to be seen. This morning we went to the mechanic’s to collect the disabled parking sticker from his car and Alex the mechanic said that he didn’t think it was a big deal so he could fix it on the spot. He charged $51 which was for the part and nothing for the half hour’s labour. This is the umpteenth time he’s done something like this and won’t be argued with. So Valentine’s Day was spent on a trip to Erina to see the Prof. I pointed out to John that I have seen him up there 15 times over 7 years and we have never taken the opportunity to stay a couple of nights at the beach while we were there. Except the first time, when Robert and Sue came with us, and we went back to their place overnight but I had to be at Windsor at 10am the next morning so it was hardly a relaxed break. We couldn’t stay anywhere this time because the NBN guy is due at 8 am Saturday. Anyway, the Prof said that my blood tests were slightly better than 6 months ago despite my stopping the medication, so he didn’t go crook about my doing so, which surprised me. He gave me a kiss as I left, the first time that’s happened!! Went on to Killcare and had some lunch before visiting Robert and Sue. He looks somewhat more frail and tired but apart from that was his usual funny self. Sue holds up magnificently. We departed before dinner as we didn’t want to add any pressure to her existence.

February 15, 2020

THE NBN MAN CAME AT 8AM AS PLANNED AND SAID: ‘I CANT FIX IT BECAUSE THE LINE IS DOWN AND IT NEEDS TWO MEN AND A CHERRYPICKER TRUCK’. Which is what I’ve been telling them all f*****g week by phone and email. He is the second NBN man to come and say the same thing. I despair of the stupidity. Despairing as well about human? nature after discussing with Arvind the truck driver who rolled the corpse out of the way and continued his garbage run. He countered with a story almost as bad in that it was premeditated. He is an electrical engineer and he got a new assistant, a young man with a recent degree from UNSW. He always has a number of phones so Arvind asked him why. He explained that he has a girlfriend but goes on dating sites, telling the unsuspecting girls that his car is in dock so he gets them to pick him up and suggests a walk in a park. His girlfriend follows in his car and robs the vehicle of cash or phones through a window which he has cleverly left open. Arvind told him how disgusted he was and when he told the assistant that he didn’t want to discuss anything with him again, apart from work, the guy appeared shocked. Beautiful Arvind was in my house to try to set up internet for me using his wifi, but try as he might the double brick of his place defeated it. How can these two people be part of the same human race? It was noted though that the country from which the thief originates is one which has been in chaos for decades and I guess as a result it is dog eat dog from birth. How lucky we are, we decided, to have grown up in different circumstances to the thief.

February 16, 2020

I decided to shop for ingredients for the ‘flexitarian’ week of recipes I saw in Good Living online, well a few of them at least. So I made for dinner a Salade Nicoise with fresh tuna and some of the eggs Sue gave me and plan to do some falafel stuffed mushrooms, a green bean dish cooked in coconut cream and some fish skewers later in the week. Managed to sort out a few more things for charity, including five lampshades which were taking up a  lot of room in the storeroom, plus  a folding camping chair and a box of china. Each dispersal gives me inordinate pleasure. The leaves on my beautiful healthy blueberry ash trees have become covered with a white powdery film which I assumed was some sort of powdery mildew, however when I asked Mr Google two different websites said it is common with this tree and to simply ignore it. Hard when the leaves are yellowing and the trees are looking mighty unhealthy, but I do remember how hard it was to treat when we got this fungus on wheat at the University farm so I guess some harsh sun will do the job when the weather goes back to usual.

February 17, 2020

NBN sent me an email saying that since my case was ‘now closed’ would I like to fill in a survey about my contact with them. Actually, no. No, I won’t do the survey and no, my case is far from closed. I can’t be bothered replying. Spent 1 hour and 45 minutes on the phone to GIO putting in the insurance claim for the watermarked ceiling, but once I got on the response was excellent. She asked what else was damaged and I mentioned that the garden tap now won’t stop dripping since it was hit and she replied that we need to get a plumber on to that quick smart, something I wasn’t even going to claim for. Then she pressed me for more, well I said 5 of the pavers were broken, no problem she replied, we’ll put that down. So all in all it was a time-consuming but successful call. Picked up my painting from the framer’s and asked the nearby locksmith how much it would cost to get the door to my spare bedroom opened, but beat a hasty retreat at $165! I bet a house burglar could get it done in a trice.

Still bothering anyone who will listen with facts from the book The Coming Plague. Today’s beauty is that when Belgian, American and African doctors wrote a paper about the AIDS outbreak in Zaire in the early 1980s, 13 medical journals worldwide refused to print their research because…..the US epidemic was among gay men, so therefore it couldn’t be the same disease if it were occurring in heterosexuals, despite laboratory tests confirming that it was. The other widely known story is the neck and neck race between France and the US to find the causative agent of AIDS. The French scientists had the virus cultured but Robert Gallo in the US insisted that no, it was actually his leukaemia virus which was responsible. He asked the French for a sample of theirs and when the French published Gallo suddenly announced (wow, amazing) that the virus he had was identical, even though theirs was certainly not a leukaemia virus. The French suspected strongly that he had simply stolen the sample they had happily provided to him. As a result the two shared the Nobel prize, which should by all accounts have gone to the French team.

February 18, 2020

To overcome a generalised feeling that I have wasted my life (prompted by watching programs on my usual Monday night tv binge and seeing lots of professions that I probably could have done, but didn’t) I decided I had better go out and sod any NBN men who hadn’t notified me that they were coming. Went to Dural to put in my script for the 50,000 unit tablets of Vitamin D which the Prof prescribes. They need to be compounded and cost less there than at the Castle Hill equivalent, then off to Glenorie where I bumped into an old client with whom I remain friends on Facebook so we sat and chatted for a while. Back via Warrah, a Rudolph Steiner home and organic farm for people with intellectual disabilities, where I was able to get a few things I’d had trouble buying elsewhere. On the way home I got a call from the Optus guy to say that NBN will take up till the 28th to reinstall the downed cables, then arrived to find two of them up their ladders doing just that! Now I just need the connections man and we’re done. Praise be.

It appears that the novel coronavirus may be even more novel than it first appeared. If people were in quarantine for almost the entire 14 day incubation period on the Diamond Princess and yet more are being found to be positive every day, then perhaps either the incubation period is much longer than was estimated or else it is able to be spread via air-conditioning, neither option is advantageous to control of the virus. Perhaps those that have been released from quarantine are still contagious at some level, a sobering thought. It’s looking more and more like a pandemic, despite eventual good moves from the governments of China and Australia. Being an island has benefits, but we are still welcoming people from countries where the health protections are sub-optimal. Time will tell.

February 19, 2020

Jeff the pest control man arrived at 6.45 am but I was actually dressed and waiting. No termites, yoohoo! But a very wet patch inside the roof just near the front door which will need attention. He was supposed to charge me $250 to get rid of the ants, which I had accepted, but decided to use a little tube of attractant/poison in just two spots and see how we go. If that fails he will come back and do more, but for the ant job today he charged nix. What is it with tradesmen, they either rip me off (rarely) or else give me unexpected bonuses (mostly). Met up with John at Renaissance and we lunched there, then went to the architectural photographic exhibition at the Museum of Sydney. Finished there in time to see the 4.40 session of Richard Jewell, the new Clint Eastwood movie. A lot to think about in this film which has echoes of the Lindy Chamberlain story and is wonderfully acted, particularly by the Jewell character and his lawyer. I need to read up some more on the story, there is a Vanity Fair article and a book which I hope to source. Bussed home to arrive just as the sun was setting with a red glow.

February 20, 2020

Asked Sue if some food would help matters and she said yes, it would, so I offered a couple of suggestions and was happy that she chose Neil Perry’s Massaman Curry, which I enjoy doing. It is the ridgy didge Muslim version with no onion or garlic to inflame the passions, but tastes amazing anyway with all the spices, peanuts and coconut. Also cooked a pot of Coconut and Spinach Dahl which is so good I could plunge my face into it. I kept a little back and had it for dinner with extra spinach and some tomatoes, mm-mm. The beauty of this recipe is that you can water it down and call it soup just as well. Sue’s brother is going up on Monday so he will take whatever I’ve made by then. It appears that Woolies may be cutting back on the organic Macro lines, so I was able to pick up lots of their frozen spinach and peas at a good price. My friend JanBert used to ask me what I was going to do with the pittance I’d saved by buying specials but it is ingrained in me to buy cheaply as long as quality isn’t compromised. I am still deep in The Coming Plague and it just gets better and better.

February 21, 2020

One of those days when I’d answered half a dozen emails and messages by 8 am, but hey who’s arguing about having friends? Went to the cake decorating shop and agonised over how I will do Millie’s cake but they were able to print the image I had emailed them to go on top of the cake, so now it is just a matter of working out how to do the rest. I will have a practice on a few ideas on Monday. Then out to the compounding pharmacy at Dural to get the 50,000 unit Vitamin D tablets made up, as ordered by the Prof. Dicky immune systems use a lot of Vitamin D apparently. Turned around to come home and fire engines were racing, police everywhere, one of whom indicated I had to turn around so as not to run over the fire hose running across the road. It turns out that the squash courts and fitness centre was up in flames (dangerous places fitness centres, so I never go there). What to do? It’s an awfully long detour if I can’t go that way so I decided to wait it out at Wild Pear just up the road. Had a rose milkshake and then they said that the date and orange scones were just cooked so I weakened……but I am blaming the police. It was delicious but had to serve as both morning tea and lunch. Cooked some Harissa Eggplant and a batch of Chocolate Brownies to send up to Sue.

February 22, 2020

Thinking about the coronavirus (who isn’t?) and wondering whether it’s possible that it can live in the body asymptomatically like TB or Herpes. It seems odd to me that it’s a new virus yet many people are having hardly any symptoms while for others it’s fatal, and not only the elderly as we’ve been told. Usually a new virus cuts a swathe through almost everyone as there is no resistance in the community, but if it can secrete itself away and wait for the person’s immune system to labour, due to another illness or lack of food or stress or whatever…..then we could be in knee deep do-do because these people would be in the community as time bombs. If its spread continues, which I am sure it will, I think I will get the flu vaccine early as it should give limited protection to something of the same family, theoretically at least.

On another issue, I am waiting for a man to come to clean the gutters. Sounds simple enough, but the chap who was given the job rang yesterday and said he’d done his back in and would be sending his offsider instead. Later I remembered he had told me that he had ‘a couple of young fellows’ who work with him but that ‘I do all the roof work’. So now I’m imagining the offsider splattered on the concrete at worst and doing a really bad job at best, but Arvind has a much better view of my roof than I have so I’ve asked him to keep an eye out for what’s going on. However he’s in and out today and they may not coincide. Somehow I’ve got a feeling that maybe the boss isn’t sick at all and this is a way to fit in a few extra jobs, but I may be totally wrong there, so we shall see. I’ve booked a plumber for Monday to repair the bent and dripping tap at the front, damaged by the tree, as I haven’t yet had the GIO assessor come, but they did say I could get urgent work done and they would pay the invoice so I booked the lovely fellow who did my kitchen tap a couple of weeks ago. I am a tradesman’s dream at the moment, one trade after another, but hopefully GIO will come to the party for the plumbing and ceiling repainting. POSTSCRIPT: The gutter boss man came because he ‘woke up feeling fine’ so my worries and night terrors were in vain. He discovered two broken tiles and replaced them for me as part of the job, though I tipped him for that, so pleased was I that none of my worst nightmares had befallen me. Now I’ve added a gutter, roof and pressure cleaner man to my endless list of tradies to contact when things go wrong, which they are doing at an alarming rate right now.

February 23, 2020

Today we went to the Opera House for a special subscribers event Behind the Scenes at the Opera where we got to try on costumes, watch makeup being applied, watch wigs being made and ask questions about stage managing, conducting, singing, direction etc. It takes 40 hours to make one wig by hand and they make them for each new opera. The hand embroidery on the costumes was stunning and I got to wear a few examples. It reminded me why the sub is so darned expensive and I will stop bitching about it (for a while anyway). It was a lovely afternoon which we capped off with a ferry ride to Watsons Bay and fish and chips in the park there.

I haven’t spoken here about the murder of Hannah Clarke and her three children a few days ago, simply because the appalling nature of their deaths is outside my ability with words. But we must realise that it is as a result of pushback against the idea that a man no longer owns his wife and his children, after thousand of years of that being so. Fred West in England who raped and murdered 12 young women including his own children apparently told them ‘I made you, so I can do anything I like with you’ and that is fundamentally the view behind these crimes, the rights of men over those of women and children. Bettina Arndt’s children are both sons and you have to wonder at their attitudes with the sorts of ‘male rights’ lessons they are learning from their mother, but hopefully they will see things differently. I can only beg that her award is reversed, a possibility which seems more and more likely given the public outcry.

February 24, 2020

Last night John’s 90 year old cousin Kevin rang and invited us to morning tea at his ‘priests and brothers retirement village’ at Randwick, which I am sure has a fancy name but I don’t know what that is. We had attended his 90th in Wallan in Victoria last year but the order has moved him to Sydney for easy access to medical treatment. It was lucky that although we each had an early morning appointment, both of those went to plan and enabled us to get there right on the appointed time of 10.30. Two other Sydney cousins Gai and Brian came as well and it was the first time in 12 years that I’d met them, such is the polarised nature of his family. Kev is planning to come to watch football on Friday nights with John once the season starts. My appointment was with the plumber and it was lucky I went ahead with it as he dug down and found a rupture in the pipe a foot underground where it was leaking water, as well as the bent pipe and drip which I thought he was fixing. So now I have a taller, more practical, non-leaking, non-dripping garden tap and hopefully my good friends GIO will reimburse me for that. Now my computer battery seems to have gone as it only charges up to 4% and goes no higher, what was I saying about all my money going out to tradesmen at the moment? Funnily I got a long letter from a NSW politician whom I don’t remember writing to, but seeing the reply was about something I am very interested in, I can only assume that I did in fact write.

February 25, 2020

Cake making day! I did a mud cake for Millie’s birthday because it needs a dense cake to hold fondant and they don’t like fruit cake, much as it pains me to report that. I’m told young people don’t go for it and it seems that’s the case, as weddings and other celebrations all seem to have the dreaded chocolate mud, but at least this one’s caramel. The cake decorating shop where I buy my supplies and get advice told me the trick to making a flat topped cake for icing: start it at 120 degrees C and then gradually increase it to 130, 140 etc so it doesn’t dome in the middle…..and it worked, that cake’s tall but as flat as a pancake. Now for the icing later in the week. Dav asked all the class, so as not to discriminate, and 22 kids are coming along with their parents, plus us and Louis’s family from Queensland, in a unit, should be fun. I offered to do a Valium cake but haven’t heard back.

We have got out of epidemics really cheaply in recent years, HIV excepted, but I am not so sure that applies this time. It seems a mordant factor that the church in South Korea, which is the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak there, is a doomsday cult. A senior health official in Daegu, the city that lies at the centre of South Korea’s outbreak, confessed to being a follower of the controversial doomsday church cult only after testing positive for the virus, so 50 other high ranking health officials have needed to be quarantined. They believe that Jesus will return soon and take only 144,000 people to heaven, so a lot of us will be left behind to manage climate change, environmental degradation, disease, wars etc I guess. The way this thing’s going he might get them in one hit, but there are 250,000 in the cult, so some must be secret unbelievers. We could do a lot worse in terms of epidemics. In the 1970s an apparently harmless squirrel monkey virus infected other primates in a Boston Primate Research Centre and turned out to be an extraordinary cancer-causing Herpes which killed the monkeys there within weeks from a strange contagious lymphoma. The virus was 100% fatal to any other primate which caught it, other than the original host animal species. The virus was airborne and terrified researchers as a squirrel monkey simply had to breathe near any other type of monkey to cause death from cancer in five weeks. Now if that one had got out of the lab……..

February 26, 2020

Woke up fine, breakfasted, watched the 7am news, then started to feel very seedy indeed. I lay down and slept from 9 till 11, then proceeded with my day. While shopping at Castle Mall I half filled a trolley with fruit and veg and then had to alert the staff that I was sick and needed to abandon it. Hopefully they put the goods back on the shelves because I wasn’t well enough to go back. The rest of the day was pretty much written off and I had to email Mary and cancel our lunch date in the city tomorrow. They are only here from NZ till Saturday and I don’t have any time to reschedule, so that’s it for seeing her this visit. John came up to work on the street library repair (if the GIO come to the party I will pay him for this, but so far no GIO assessor has contacted me but I appreciate that they are busy after the storm). John got another nasty communication from guess who, deriding him for going off to university to do architecture at age 53 (what, 25 years ago and still aggrieved?), leaving the family with insufficient ready money. So much for the nice family event last month, clearly it was only the presence of others that kept it civil. I don’t know why I bother, but of course I do know why he does, he’s living in hope of a change in attitude but also knowing it will never happen, poor lad.

February 27, 2020

Headed up to Castle Mall and bought the same fruit and veg that I abandoned yesterday, plus a bit. Hope I didn’t infect the last lot with a 24 hour virus as I am fine today. I complained to the owner, whom I deal with a lot, that the mint wasn’t very fresh and he gave it to me for half price, but it pains me to buy it at any price since I managed to kill off my plants at home by spraying with my vinegar and water ant-killer solution in order to kill the big green grubs which were eating it. It killed the grubs alright and the plants as well within an hour or two. John is working on the repair of the street library and finding it somewhat difficult whilst I am making the decorations for Millie’s cake, fondant snowflakes in press out moulds. First the springs kept popping out of the two larger size moulds, then to my horror I discovered that I’d given my whole collection of small paintbrushes to John when I was cleaning out the garage two weeks ago and needed one to apply silver sparkle to said snowflakes. I was forced to use a pastry brush and so it didn’t give me near the result I was hoping for. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and I am fart-arseing about with glitter on snowflakes, but I guess it keeps disaster and death somewhat out of mind. I would have more faith in the WHO if they still had active teams of scientists on the ground and testing labs and whatever, but now I think it’s more of a giant health bureaucracy than anything else. When asked yesterday why he hadn’t declared a pandemic when it clearly is one by their own definition, the head replied ‘because we don’t want unnecessary panic’. Aah, okay I shan’t panic till I’m told to by Geneva. Sorted.

February 28, 2020

Last night Sue’s brother rang to let me know that he is going to Killcare on Monday and is able to take food if I have any ready. My first thought was ‘aaagh’ because I am on cake icing duty today, then Millie’s party tomorrow and Luke’s art exhibition Sunday, so cooking time is limited. But I said yes, figuratively crossed myself for inspiration and decided to cancel the exhibition opening and go later on, as it’s on till the end of March. But then I realised I was a dope as my Crockpot can work night shift if necessary. So I raced up to Aldi (it was late night shopping, something I never avail myself of but exceptions need to be made). Midnight found me chopping and dicing to make a Crockpot piled high with lamb shanks, sweet potato, lentils, dates, nuts and spices. Robes will love it I think. Dinner tonight was a pasta bake so the rest could be frozen to make a second dish, so I soon recognised that the time frame was doable after all.

The cake went ahead more easily than anticipated, my only self criticism being that the snowflakes I made yesterday were a mite bigger and clunkier than I’d imagined in situ, but four-year-olds won’t pick it. I have such a collection of cake icing paraphernalia that I used to use often for birthday cakes for children and others who came to the meal service at Windsor, but now that’s ended I rarely use it. Carly arrived just as I finished the cake and later we went to book group which was a small but sympatico gathering.

February 29, 2020

Headed in to Erko with gifts and cake in hand and met up with Louis’s mum, sister and nephew who flew down from Sunrise Beach in Queensland for Millie’s party. At 2 pm the barrage of little people arrived, 22 in all, accompanied by parent/s and the odd sibling. Then arrived the Elsa-dressed entertainer (is that the real Elsa? one little boy queried). She sang with them, blew bubbles, made ‘snow’ out of some chemical or other, played games and finally did some cracker face-painting, all this spanning two hours, after which I was exhausted from doing very little. John asked me if Millie will remember the day as she grows up and my answer was ‘sadly, it is doubtful’. But there will be photos, hundreds I suspect. We decided to go back to plan A and go to Luke’s exhibition tomorrow, cooking at night to be ready for Monday.

Peter Hartcher has done it again and I am sick and tired of his mind-reading. His column today pretty much mirrored discussions I had yesterday with Carly, and earlier with John, regarding the WHO and their tardy action in calling a pandemic. Perhaps he has my house bugged, but it has to stop. It is reported that a dog has caught coronavirus and while this may eventually prove untrue, it could also mean that dogs are the mysterious vector between bats and humans that they have been looking for in China. That doesn’t bear thinking about for pet owners if or when it starts here in earnest.

March 1, 2020

Saw Carly off back to Canberra before taking a leisurely drive to Blackheath, with a stop at Patisserie Schwarz in Wentworth Falls for the obligatory cherry crumble slice for me and fruit tart for John, washed down with a pot of Irish Breakfast. At Blackheath I found a world globe in an antique shop which was closing down and had 50% off everything. John had been looking for one for a while, just to grab when a particular country is mentioned in a book or on the teev, enabling a quick location check. Off to the Heritage Centre at Govett’s Leap for Luke Kelly’s art exhibition, after having sent our apologies on Friday night. I had told John not to let me buy anything, but hadn’t counted on his falling in love with a dear little painting of two baby fairy wrens, which he bought as the first sale of the exhibition. Then at Gleebooks he saw the Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia, completing the trifecta of pieces he took home today. Later he asked what would happen if we both got the coronavirus together and his will then had no executor, no doubt considering the new purchases in the light of current events. I told him we’d have a few days notice to attend to that possibility which seemed to satisfy him. I think a few people might be heading to their solicitors in coming weeks, as well as stocking up on canned chick peas that is. One friend has already told me her husband is (unnaturally or naturally?) very, very afraid of catching the virus. I would far from relish that possibility, but be more concerned for the young whose world seems to be crumbling in so many different ways. The fatality rate for the under 9s is about 1% while it is 15% for the elderly so perhaps it will eventually improve the bottom line by ridding the country of all those pesky pensioners?

March 2, 2020

Up early to ferry the food for Sue and Robert to her mum for pickup by brother Martyn. I had last night got a late night message from Tania wanting to know if I would come on a taste testing adventure to Blacktown, sampling a local pasticceria’s cannola with a view to ordering them for a big party she is planning (and I mean big). So we sat down to five of same, one of each flavour, tasting a small sample of each and taking away the remainder. Although they were certainly crisp and varied, we decided that perhaps the fillings were made on the cheap and a better source could be found. Blacktown hasn’t seen me for about 40 years and likely won’t see me again for a goodly while without a specific reason, but it is certainly a multi-cultural hub where I will go if I need a Pakistani salwar kameez or my eyebrows threaded. At first I thought this was to bulk them up but now I know it is to slim them down, a service nature is providing for me unpaid. We retreated to my place for a bit of a fridge raid lunch, just a hurriedly made repeat of the Green Counterbalance Salad of lettuce, watercress, mint, fennel, green apple and onion, which I did for book group last week and can’t get enough of at the moment. I had expected the computer man with a new battery in tow between 4 and 5 but at 6 he rang to say the battery hadn’t arrived in his post box, which didn’t matter particularly but would have been handy to know at 4.

March 3, 2020

A shock message from Carl to say that our friend Jackie from Caves Beach died yesterday. Last weekend she had planned a trip to Sydney to meet up with city friends for a ‘coffee day’ as she always called it, a drop-in over many hours at a venue in Lidcombe where people could turn up for a little while or for longer. Unfortunately it coincided with Millie’s birthday so I wasn’t planning to go, but then on Wednesday came an email from her saying she had fallen over in the middle of the night and Carl had called an ambulance, but it just required a check over and 6 hours later she was home. The email to all her friends said in capitals DON’T RING, YOU HAVE ALL THE NECESSARY INFORMATION NOW, so I abided by that and hoped to see her in a month when she planned to reschedule the event to celebrate her 70th. Now we meet on Friday to celebrate her funeral instead. I have no idea yet if the fall contributed to her death or if it was just the cancer she had fought for so long, even travelling to Latvia to join a program of immunotherapy which did wonders for her for a few years, but sadly wore off gradually after that. Still, she had been given only months to live before going to Latvia, so she bought herself another few years by taking Rigvir, astounding her oncologist. Vale dear wise perceptive Jackie, she was always there to be a trusted confidante to her friends, but there no longer.

March 4, 2020

Last night I went with Carol and Jack to see the film A War of Compassion about the life of Rev. Bill Crews of the Exodus Foundation. He is a man of incredible energy, compassion and love. Also he is a driven man and I think the film showed that his work with the homeless is not a choice, but a compulsion, an addiction almost? Does this make him some sort of ‘saint’ or martyr perhaps, as he has never really made a life outside his work? I am interested in the forces that drive this very complex man. It appears the work is not an option for him and will remain so for as long as he breathes.

I am both bemused and amused to read that there was a skirmish in the toilet paper aisle in Woolworths at Parramatta involving a woman pulling a knife. Police were called, six of them, and the store barricaded each end of the aisle and were handing toilet paper to customers over the barrier. How thin is our veneer of sophistication and savoir faire. Brought up with newspaper squares in an outdoor toilet I can’t see myself getting into a fight over toilet paper somehow, jam perhaps, dairy products maybe, but loo rolls? Nah, that’s just common. Sue went shopping and had rice on her list. In the large supermarket at Erina she found one lonely 5 kilo pack of (brown) rice and, unable to shop at leisure while coping with a sick husband, bought it. This is with a handful of cases of coronavirus, imagine how it will be if/when the pandemic hits with a vengeance. Apparently the supermarket runs are worse in some suburbs than in others, Cherrybrook, Pennant Hills, Chatswood were named as particularly bad. Anyone waiting to buy cherries in a fruit shop behind a Chinese lady checking each cherry one by one will understand. On the basis of what we’ve seen we will need to lock our home against grocery thieves who will only take our jewellery incidentally if it is in their way.

March 5, 2020

So ScumMo has finally heard me yelling at the TV and telling him to quarantine arrivals from South Korea and Italy. The right time to do that has come and gone I’m afraid, we already have people who’ve come here from those two countries and have tested positive. They started off so well, but then lost courage to continue. It is easier for a wealthy island nation to quickly bring in travel rules to stem this outbreak at the border, putting returning citizens in quarantine and refusing entry to tourists, but they squandered that chance. Now I can’t even buy a kilo of flour to bake a cake.

On a more important note, who will send me emails and texts now that begin ‘hi sister’? Who will counsel and advise John not to give in when he is monstered by an errant relative? What a philosophical giant you were Jackie Patricia, with skills learned in spite of little education but with a lot of scholarship in the school of hard knocks. I am suffering that same lack of understanding that always comes when someone you love dies, where has she gone? I guess that’s why we have funerals, they are proof that the person is there, in that box at the front, and they are never ever going to walk through your door again. I am doing my best to continue as normal but so far it feels like I’m walking through honey.

March 6, 2020

Jackie’s funeral today and it was one of those that did absolutely nothing to ease the heartache, but many in the packed church, standing room only, were part of the congregation so I am sure they felt differently. The minister, or priest as she called herself, was a bit of a control freak (6 minutes each for a family member and Jackie’s two closest friends, but no time restriction for the priest to bang on and on and on). The whole shebang was a very long two hours where we heard stories about little leaves, big leaves and autumn leaves, which drop softly onto the earth. In case we missed the point she cleverly explained that the little leaves were young people, the big leaves were big strong people and the autumn leaves were grey-haired people like herself who drop softly onto the ground, ‘that means they diiiee’ she said ‘and that’s all very natural and as god planned it’. Helpfully she had brought along a shoe box covered in red cello and was able to produce the appropriate leaves as she yammered on. Oh please god I prayed, save me from this woman who would presumably have been a fair age when she became a priest and must surely have been a pre-school teacher before that. Plus she had a snappy streak (where’s the banner! I thought we had a banner! undertakers come to the front!). So I spent most of the funeral deciding whether to sit in the car or see it through in case it improved, sadly I chose the latter. Not a speck of you came through Jacks.

John got another noxious message which, while being abusive and accusatory, simultaneously asked for money for school camp fees and swimming lessons, plus a design and drawings for a studio to be built on the new block of land. How he will respond without Jackie saying ‘no John, you just cannot reward bad behaviour’ I have no idea.

March 7, 2020

Survived a 5am alarm to get the 7.05 train from Central. Almost empty in First Class, but I’m not sure if the early hour or the Coronavirus scare was responsible, certainly the least passengers I’ve ever seen on that route. Passing Canberra Gaol I noticed the large grounds, with trees and fields but not a soul visible. Seeing it is surrounded by high fences and razor wire I don’t see why the poor bastards can’t be outside enjoying some sun and nature, but the way we treat prisoners is appalling in most respects. No wonder so many come out worse than when they went in. John packed me some of his sultana cake which was a lovely morning tea on the train and I was met at Canberra Station by Danish and Carly in his car. Later we went to the Spy exhibition at the National Archives and I saw a covertly taken photo of Laurie Aarons taken in the street amongst the historical photos. A woman looking over my shoulder asked as a joke ‘can you see anyone you know?’ and I was able to reply that yes, I did. Loved seeing the spy paraphernalia such as the tie with microphone and the book with embedded camera, both used by ASIO agents in the 1950s-60s, but so primitive by today’s standards. Carly told me she needed a pack of toilet paper so we tried the supermarkets but no chance, then walking home we called in at the Caltex servo on the offchance and got 30 rolls for $14 on special, the only size available and the biggest pack she had ever bought. Dinner at Pilot, highly recommended by Carly’s winemaker friends, but while the food was inventive and delicious, the portions were tiny, tiny. Our wine serve was so small I thought they were offering me a taste, and that at $20 a glass. Ordering two mains and two sides to share, the waitress informed us ‘that won’t be enough for three people’ and she was right. We repaired afterwards to Frugii for the best icecream in the world, frankincense in my case, omg it was stunning. Messina is the best icecream available in Sydney but Frugii is another world above, just eight flavours at any time, changing daily, each with a single natural ingredient for flavouring such as cherry, pear, white chocolate, caramel. Died and gone to heaven.


March 8, 2020

Got Jackie’s story in my inbox this morning, written late December to be read at her funeral. It was discovered on her computer on the morning of the funeral but for unexplained reasons they decided not to read it out. The reasons given were that it was long and had some typos, neither of which is a valid excuse from where I stand. It is just inexplicable. She talks about going for the Public Service exam just before she turned 15 at the family’s insistence and coming ’22nd out 0f many thousands’. She was offered a job in an office and her mother wrote to the school the next day to say she would be finishing immediately and starting work the following Monday, much to the horror of her teachers. We had never discussed this but her experience mirrors mine, except I had just turned 14 and hadn’t sat for any exam. There was so much more in her document that I am sure many people wouldn’t have known about, such as being told after her 50th birthday party that she was adopted and her sister wasn’t, which explained the preferential treatment her sister always had and which seemed inexplicable. She left out the fact that she collapsed and was admitted to a psychiatric centre for six weeks, but did include the story of going to her birth father’s funeral and remotely identifying her brothers for the first time as the pallbearers. I hope they were at the funeral, but have no way of knowing, not wanting to ask Carl on the day. Not having her hurts more keenly than I’d expected.

We spent the day at Canberra Zoo and it has been extended and has more animals than when we last went. Asked for my three favourite animals on the day I had to nominate four: white lions, tigers, black and white Colobus primates and meerkats, though the runner-up list was huge. I’d hoped to handle some snakes but the reptile handling opportunity was at 1pm and we were at the opposite end of the zoo so we gave it a miss. Dined royally at Blackfire, delicious Angus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon is one I will try to track down and the food certainly made it a ‘must return’. The bill was half of what we paid last night and the wineglasses filled amply.

March 9, 2020

Up early for the Canberra balloon festival and so was everyone else in this city it seems. Beautiful to see mass hot air balloons crossing the lake and then to see the huge Tyrannosaurus rex and Skywhale on the ground and to marvel at their size. I’ve never been up in one but I’m sure it would be quite an experience. We all went to The Cupping Room in the city for an amazing breakfast afterwards with Potato, Leek and Jalapeno Fritters winning out, just ahead of the Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and Caramelised Peach on Sourdough. We shared one of each between the three of us and it was more food in total than we had at Pilot for dinner the other night for a fraction of the price. Do they do bad food in Canberra? They must somewhere I guess. Carly and I went to IKEA where we sourced a pair of cane armchairs for her deck as a very late housewarming present. On the way home we had to walk through Braddon and Frugii has some of the frankincense icecream left… we were obliged to partake.

March 10, 2020

Got in late last night after a good trip from Canberra on the train. Danish had driven me to the station and as usual called me Aunt Maureen, though occasionally it is Maureen Auntie. He is such a sweet person and apart from his not liking cats I can’t find fault in him. Today John had a routine morning appointment with Bob who was so late that John fell asleep in the waiting room. I had counselled John not to mention the dreaded virus at all because I’m sure Bob is sick of hearing questions about it. So true it turned out, but as he was leaving Bob volunteered that ‘this virus will be the death of me, I am run off my feet’, though it was the worried well rather than the sick who were taking his time. I spent most of the day on hucking the storeroom (in haste now, before the virus gets me I’m telling myself) and was able to half fill the bin with old receipt books, dirty paper items, unwanted metal tent poles and the like. I found my 1995 diary, written every day till Karl’s death in the early morning after Mardi Gras, just the same as Jackie, and then abandoned for the rest of that year. I immediately went out and bought a black kitten then, my beautiful Isis, because the risk of infection from animals had been too great to have one in the house all the time he was sick, but no kittens will be bought this time.

March 11, 2020

Went to Castle Towers to see Dark Water and we were both blown away by it. The storyline, the acting and the filming were as good as they could have been and it was interesting at the end to discover that some of the ‘actors’ were real people affected by Du Pont’s pollution in West Virginia. Of course we now know that this wasn’t limited to that area and that almost every creature on the planet, including 99% of Americans, have PFAS or PFOA chemicals in their bloodstreams. These chemicals pass on to the next generation, and the next and the next, no-one is currently able to tell how many generations will be affected. For a complete change of pace we went in the evening to the City Recital Hall to watch Xavier de Maistre playing his harp with the Brandenburg Orchestra. Loved that they played the first movement of Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor, Paul Dyer now at the organ instead of the harpsichord, but to my mind the piece was played more than a touch too slowly. However the Vivaldi pieces were wonderful and high spirited. It occurs to me that the CRH people are the most musically educated audiences around, never a soul clapping in the wrong place. The full house went wild over Xavier and incidentally I noticed, as is always the case there, many of the women wear a few thousand dollars on their backs. The young woman next to John wore the most beautiful silk dress in a pale green floral, but I resisted asking who designed it, now I wish I had. Got home absolutely buggered but worth it for such a day.

March 12, 2020

I think I deal with some things better by getting angry rather than scared or nervous, some examples for starters: 1. How about the fact that the US had a Department of Homeland Security Pandemic Preparedness team in place. They were the people who understood best how epidemics and public health works. Then Trump said that ‘as a businessman I didn’t like it when people were just sitting around’, so he defunded them. Ahem, firemen ‘just sit around’. 2. At the CDC the head can’t speak unless Mike Pence sees everything he wants to say first. The CDC has been financially gutted under Trump. 3. I just paid $40 for the last bottle of hand sanitiser at my local chemist, the same bottle I’d bought for John before Christmas for $18, but the chemist just shrugged when I pointed it out. 4. The same pharmacy is selling ‘eco-friendly herbal hand sanitiser’ for $12.99, with no apparent anti-viral or even anti-bacterial ingredient that I could see. Once again the chemist pointed to the label and said ‘look, it says it works on viruses’, when I asked which particular ingredient was anti-viral. It was selling out. Capitalism, you’ve gotta love it. I guess it’s more healthy to be angry, at least you are inclined to do something rather than falling into a slump. Making a curry for Sue and Robert, he likes them and it’s very different to the last one, so stuff the virus this afternoon.

March 13, 2020

Wow, Friday the 13th is living up to its reputation. Where to start? I just sat through ScumMo’s press conference and my eyes were rolling back in my head at its idiocy. (I wish I’d known it was in Parra, I’d have seriously considered demonstrating just as a single person, sometimes that catches more attention than a crowd). But anyway, missed opportunity, though I might have ended up in the watch house if I’d been close enough to him. I have learned to tell though when he is lying or evading or exaggerating or understating…his mouth is open…boom tish. But what a scatty, disorganised, muddled, shambolic address it was. We are getting a lot of local transmission so we close down events over 500, but not tomorrow lest the PM looks like a goose for going to the football. Could he please catch it there? No, be careful what you wish for as we’d then get a bigger goose, his deputy.

Interestingly, John who has faced death numerous times over the last three years with great equanimity has decided he definitely doesn’t want to go out with coronavirus. He rang yesterday to suggest we start limiting our social interactions to the necessary (there goes La Traviata on the Harbour, blubber) and has even cancelled his very first football night of the season with the execrable Rafe. We were/are going out to lunch for St Patrick’s Day with his ex-priestly mates next week, the first time the partners have been included. It was moved from the Irish pub at Ryde to a yacht club somewhere to enable us to be somewhat spaced but I suspect even that may now be cancelled. Then we had a play later in the week at the Belvoir. I had suggested having a couple over for afternoon tea next week but now I don’t know whether to invite them or not. Perhaps my anger is prophylactic as I haven’t yet succumbed to much fear of the virus but it could be just around the corner, as John’s wasn’t here two days ago. But the quote of all time was at the end of the conversation “If I died there would be no-one to finish the street libraries” and no, it was not a joke.

March 14, 2020

Martyn, Sue’s brother, rang to say he will be able to pick up food on Tuesday, and ended with ‘and that cake last week was really lovely’, so I took the hint and made some date and walnut slices and a raspberry coconut slice, some of that one will stay here though as I am particularly partial to it. I still have lots of baking supplies to get through, but I understand flour is now restricted so I might need to do a hunt for some soon. I rang the bakery where I buy my bread to put a couple of loaves aside today but it was all sold out. Had a good long chat with Deborah this morning and then I was sent a piece by Dr Dan Suan, an immunologist of renown at Westmead Hospital, asking people to have minimal contact with each other and to ‘cancel unnecessary things’ in order to slow the virus. Just before I sent this message around to contacts I got an email that our St Patrick’s Day lunch at a yacht club on Tuesday has been cancelled, a good move I think considering one attendee is on dialysis and two have lymphoma! I think we need to make judgments sensibly one day at a time, weighing up the dangers to ourselves, and more importantly to susceptible others, about every event. Life was so simple in December, but hang on, we were in the middle of bushfires then, so no, not so simple at all. Father Rod Bower just sent around a simple picture being circulated by doctors in Greece. It is a row of blackened matches, then one unburnt one pulled almost out of the row with the caption “The one who stayed away saved all the rest”.

March 15, 2020

When we were in Vanuatu for a couple of weeks many years ago we had a lovely unit on the edge of the harbour. From there I used to swim past the nearby kustom village where I would hear wonderful hymn singing first thing in the morning. Then one day at the end of a wharf nearby was a man in a little boat heading out to fish. I introduced myself and said that I would buy a fish or two if he came back with some. A few hours later he appeared at the door of our unit with a huge fish, but when I tried to pay he wouldn’t accept money initially because ‘I can’t charge you money because now you are my friend’. Eventually I convinced him that in our culture it would be very bad form if we didn’t pay him the full value he would have got from the local restaurateur to whom his fish are usually destined. From there the relationship developed to his bringing his wife and sons for afternoon tea, causing incredulous reactions from both the French owners and the local staff. Later they drove us around the island of Efate, stopping to meet various relatives in villages on the way, and admiring the pig at each home. I have remained in touch by letter and later Facebook with Alice, who speaks fluent English, French and Bislama. John is a bit more restricted language-wise so we don’t communicate at distance. Now this month Alice is standing for parliament in their elections for the electorate of Tongoa Islands. There are no women in Vanuatu’s parliament and I am so hoping Alice may be the first. I offered to contribute to her campaign, but only after she looked into the legality and propriety of foreign donations. This deeply religious woman has the motto ‘better to fail with honour than to succeed with lies’ so how could you not support her elevation to government? Anyway it was a problem to send her money, but eventually we worked it out. Her daughter-in-law is in Sydney at the moment, staying for some reason at a conservative Orthodox Jewish shule at Dover Heights, but not wanting to do the slog over there as things stand, I arranged to pay the money into the account of a Russian-sounding lady there, who then paid it to someone else who got it to John in Vanuatu by 3pm that day and he sent it off to the islands where Alice was campaigning. I think it must all have been on trust, I’ll pay you X when I get back and on and on from there, but Alice had it by dusk. Please do well Alice, your country certainly needs leadership right now.

March 16, 2020

Wow, it’s been a day of fast moving situations. First a call from the organisers of a luncheon I had been invited to attend at Parliament House on Friday, it has been cancelled after discussions with the Health Department, even though there were only about 100 people going. Then later a call from Carol to discuss cancellation of the Open House at Gerringong next weekend, something both John and I (to a lesser extent) were involved in. It came on the back of an email from Sonia to say that she is ill and had a coronavirus test today. All of this in the space of an hour so my head was spinning. I wonder if in a hundred years a text book will talk about the incredible response to the pandemic in certain Asian countries and the pathetically late and inadequate one in Europe, the US and Australia? Somehow on the basis of our piecemeal response so far it is looking more likely. The Asians, both Communist and capitalist, have a certain disciplined response to government edicts while we tend to take a more individualistic reaction. By the way, where are all the anti-vaxxers at the moment? Praying that they get a vaccine developed asap I suspect. So lunch is off tomorrow, play off Thursday night, lunch off Friday and open house off at the weekend. Thanks coronavirus, you just wrote that week off pretty effectively!

March 17, 2020

Love to say we went to the planned St Patricks Day lunch but of course it was cancelled, so I didn’t even remember that it was St Pats until I saw someone on the news in a silly hat. Instead, at 6.45 am I lined up with about 150 others at Woolworths for the early preferential shopping for pensioners and the disabled.  After showing my pension card I went in to find a very busy situation, with a security guard handing out single packs of toilet paper which wasn’t even on my list. But as far as rice, pasta, flour, hand sanitiser and much more, the shelves were already bare so clearly no stock had come in overnight. The whole thing wasn’t worth setting my alarm for. Martyn came dead on his appointed hour of noon to collect the food for Sue and Robert. Although I am here alone, I’ve often been cooking for three so things like rice and flour have been used more quickly than usual. I will need to cook with what I have in future, rather than planning a recipe and then trying to buy the ingredients. Martyn’s take on the coronavirus situation surprised me and I am still thinking it through. As a medical specialist I expected to hear what we’ve been hearing from all the others: get in fast with restrictions and closures to stop the spread. But no, his take is that the collapse of the economy which we will see if widespread shutdowns occur is much worse in the long run and that we should effect total home quarantine on the over 65s and then let the virus rip. This means no restrictions on travel, large groups, shops, cinemas etc in fact we should encourage them and build up the herd immunity (he didn’t mention herd immunity himself, but that is basically what he’s talking about). Then in 6 months or whatever, after which some vulnerable younger people have died, we let the oldies out and by then we will have enough hospital availability to treat them if and when they fall ill. I am glad I am not the one who has to make decisions like that. But he feels that if we continue as we are going ie following Italy, we will see poverty, homelessness and crime rise to epic proportions ‘they will be breaking into your house for food’ he surmised.

March 18, 2020

Decided to do a meat loaf for Sue and Robert and, not prepared to battle the big shops, I walked to the corner IGA and butcher. I know him because he’s been there a long time but I wouldn’t call myself a customer as I rarely buy meat anyway and not from him as his prices are way high, but quality no better than elsewhere. ‘Half a kilo of mince please’ I naively asked. He smiled and said that all the mince was gone by 9 am as there were 40 people waiting outside when he opened. ‘And I doubt I’ll have the meat to make any more for a couple of days’ he breezily said as I left, I suspect cheesed off that I never buy there. Touche.

John had his monthly IgG infusion today, his only break from self-isolation, so I sent him with a list of questions. Q. Is the blood used for this tested for coronavirus? A. I don’t know, no-one’s asked that question before.Q.  Can you find out? A. Goes away, returns with we don’t know but this batch would have been made last year before it was an issue. Q. As it comes from America, that makes future batches somewhat suspect? A. Don’t know, sorry. I have told him to contact the blood bank and get it in writing before next month’s infusion. John: but they wouldn’t give it to us if it wasn’t safe. Me: Yeah, there were the 12,000 that got AIDS that way in the US alone, and then there’s the hepatitis cases, but nothing to worry too much about I guess.

March 19, 2020

I don’t want this to become a shopping blog, but boy a kilo of mince is hard to find (up from the half kilo I was aiming for yesterday you’ll notice). I was at  Castle Mall at opening time and managed to score a kilo, just. But both butchers were serving huge orders, hundred of dollars, mine was a bit of a joke I think. But with NO PRICES on anything, and no-one was asking. I later emailed centre management to complain, as the fruiterer advised me to do when I told him. If he can find time to put prices up in the rush so can they. Perhaps people are all buying chest freezers, I can’t see any other way they could be storing these meat mountains. The chemist was my only other stop, almost everything restricted to one per customer and many shelves bare. Don’t anyone tell me in a hurry how great Australians are compared to everyone else in the world, because I didn’t buy it before and I certainly don’t buy it now. We are better than some and worse than many. Shelves in South Korea are full apparently, the government told them not to panic buy and they didn’t. In some supermarkets today the police were dealing out the toilet paper, I kid you not.

Two tales from the front: 1. A friend of someone I know is the bestie of a well known immunologist who yesterday commented privately that if we don’t ALL isolate for the next two weeks, we are Italy. 2. The specialist medico daughter of a friend says her hospital has today put in plans not to treat anyone 70 and over come the rush. Pain relief only. Jeez, it’s a bastard that you can’t even spend up on good wine and restaurants when you are looking down the barrel. Quay one night, Bennelong the next, every show at the Opera House, go out with a bang at least. Bob said to me years ago that ‘anything you want to do you should do now, you never know when life could change in an instant’. Wise words unheeded.

March 20, 2020

This morning it was confirmed that the reports I’d been reading online were correct: hydroxychloroquine is the new big thing in coronavirus prevention and treatment. Trump has just announced government support for the drug to be used so I guess it will become as hard to find as hand sanitiser. I am lucky to be ahead of the game, as this is the drug that I decided recently to quit using, so I have a bottle in my medicine chest and a script for more. It is used to treat the autoimmune diseases Sjogren’s Syndrome and lupus, but I suspect that now the president has wrongly claimed that the FDA has already approved it for coronavirus the pharmacies will be swamped with desperate buyers.

It is so hard being unable to visit Davina and particularly Millie now, I am trying not to think into the future to speculate how long this situation may last. She came home from daycare talking about germs and coronavirus which is both good and sad. I phoned Kenneth in Halifax last night and we spoke for an hour and a half. As usual he takes the libertarian view that he is entitled to go out if he feels like it but was shocked at our food restrictions, the only thing in short supply in Halifax is toilet paper. I told him that may change very soon as it did here but he thinks Yorkshire people are too sensible for that, I hope he’s right. Instead of the usual ‘when are you coming over?’ discussion he volunteered that ‘I don’t think you would be able to get into Britain now, probably the whole year is like that’. Not wrong I thought. Emailed Tom in Northern Ireland to quell ideas that we might be able to take him up on the offer to stay with them in Northern Ireland. Look at all the money we’ve saved, to spend on luxuries such as……well maybe it can just sit in the bank in fact.

March 21, 2020

John is taking advantage of isolation by trying to learn The Man From Snowy River by heart. All good, except I think I am the test vehicle for his learning and that may end up affecting my mental wellbeing if I need to listen to it each day on the phone….today I got the whole thing, read of course, but I fear the days ahead. A later call began ‘just listen to how much I’ve memorised now’.

Today I filled the day by writing a story for the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ Seniors Stories competition, the prize being publication in a book of 100 short stories in October. The pessimistic me thinks that I probably wouldn’t be able to go to the launch at Parliament House anyway….. and I’d have preferred it if the comp were an open one, but the timing was right so I plunged in. I recounted an actual event, recorded at the time because of the effect it had on me and it still caused the odd tear while typing. Also shed a tear watching The Scribe on ABC, a wonderful doco about Graham Freudenberg, Whitlam’s speechwriter who went on to write for Hawke and Carr. Particularly affecting was his last message to Gough just prior to the great man’s death: ‘My Leader as ever’. It reminded me of Gough’s custom of referring to supporters as comrade. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of that greeting in 1969 while working on the federal election campaign handing out how-to-votes in his electorate of Werriwa. I have never forgotten the sentence and the heat of that day ‘Can I interest you in a chicken sandwich comrade?’. Those were the days when politics really meant something.

March 22, 2020

They will still be writing books about the times we are living through in 100 years. I suspect as well as the colossal figures of deaths, they will be talking about the laid-back attitudes of the West to the coming plague, leaders who believed nothing could touch them because they were rich and money controls everything, right? Whereas the Asian countries with their greater focus on elders and obedience to rules might just find they jumped onto a higher rung on the world’s ladder, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. As ever it will be the poorest and weakest who suffer most: the homeless, the prisoners, the refugees, the old and the ill. I idly wonder if one day in the far distant future someone will get excited doing their family tree ‘Oh wow, my great-great-grandma died in the Plague of 2020. How cool is that!’ The reply from his friend may very well be ‘Well everyone has rellies who’d died in the Great Plague, it’s no big deal’.

I signed up for Woolworths home delivery today, something I didn’t think I would do before I was very old and infirm. Although I don’t inspect every single cherry like some do, I still like to handle and sniff my apples, if they don’t smell like apples they’ve been in cold storage. I guess I will have to accept purple Chux as well, though my preference is green or blue. I smiled at myself when I refused to take the purple ones off the shelf on Tuesday during the pensioner shopping time, normally we lose important things one at a time but this week we seem to have lost a motza. Naively I thought we could drive to a beach somewhere for a swim, the salt water is disinfecting after all, but now that’s been canned. Or perhaps get a cabin down the south coast as we were supposed to be doing from tomorrow, taking our own food so we don’t have to mix, but no, travel is banned too.

March 23, 2020

Ended yesterday in a funk after a big fail in the Woolworths online ordering system. I got a text to say I was approved and went online to order but when I got to choosing the delivery time I discovered every time for every day was taken so I cancelled the order and walked down to the IGA to pick up butter for baking today. It looked like a Beirut shop looted after an earthquake with almost every shelf empty, no dairy, no canned fruit or vegetables, no frozen food, no meat, no nuffin, except for some ghastly looking biscuits, dog food and some rusty lettuces at $6.50 a pop. Actually when I think about it, very like Moscow’s GUM department store’s food section when I was there in 1973. At the time it was basically tins of fish or….tins of fish. Then decided to treat myself to some Indian food for dinner so I rang, ordered and paid only to discover when I tried to give the address that ‘oh it is pickup only, we have no drivers’ so I just got her to do a refund. Then Planet America wasn’t on at it’s usual time…..I had an early night. The Eastern philosophies talk about the Guna, or mood that rises and falls, well mine went way down last night.

But this morning was another day! I was on the pensioners’ queue at 6.45 am and lo and behold there was food. Chicken and meat aisles were virtually empty but I didn’t want those anyway and 75% of the things I did want were there. Hallelujah. Came home to cook Choc Chip Muffins for Sue’s pick up tomorrow, the meals having already been cooked and frozen. I got a call today from my ex-husbands wife to see how I was doing. This on top of a friend request on Facebook yesterday from someone who unfriended me years ago….seeing if I am still above ground perhaps? Anyway I am not averse to friendship so I accepted and we shall see how it goes. Strange times.

March 24, 2020

Busy busy morning for a change. Firstly I rang GIO to pay my home and contents insurance and struck a chatty person immediately, no waiting. Forty minutes later we had been through coronavirus, school closures, working from home, Trump, Morrison, panic buying and more. She explained that she always works from home and I told her I had imagined her in a smelly, dreary little booth somewhere in a nasty office building, but no she is ensconced at home as are 75% of her colleagues regularly in that office. Also she told me she had dealt with a woman this morning who was canceling her car insurance policy as she had just got the sack, she is going to leave her car in the garage from now on. Anyway at the end of the discussion she put my payment through, $1265 instead of the invoiced $1489. That wasn’t my devious plan as we chatted, but I was very happy that she did. Sue told me at the petrol station this morning the attendant asked if she had a Coles docket. She didn’t but the girl said ‘it’s okay I’ll put it through as illegible’. Perhaps we are feeling a bit more obliging to each other. Then arrived Martyn for food pickup and while he was there the assessor from GIO arrived to look at my ceiling water damage etc. He told me it was easier to ask the questions on the phone as he needed to wear a respirator to come into the house! He then got on the roof, went through every room drawing a plan of the place (he said many people object to his doing this, but I was fine with it) and then photographed the damage. He was here for about an hour and a half and I don’t expect any issues in pursuing the claim.

Trump last week talked about the current research showing that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine may be both preventative and useful as a treatment for coronavirus. ‘I’ve got a hunch it will work’ the cretin surmised publically to the horror of his medical advisers. Well now an elderly pair of Trump watchers saw the containers of chloroquine phosphate they had on the fishtank for cleaning the water and, deciding this must be the stuff, downed some of it. Both dead now, so in fact they didn’t get coronavirus and I guess Trump has been proved right in a grisly kind of way. I now foresee difficulties in getting my prescribed supplies of hydroxychloroquine as a result of a worldwide shortage on the horizon. When will they staple his lips together and let the medicos handle this? Professor Fauci always looks ready to explode when he stands behind the imbecile during press conferences and I am hoping to be watching live when he does so, figuratively of course.

March 25, 2020

I decided this morning that I need to get back into my gardening before the weeds cover the house. Also I want to be able to sit on the verandah peacefully and enjoy a tidy front yard without the silent accusation of the plants. But first I rang the council chambers as soon as they opened to ask when the library is closing. They didn’t know but soon rang me back to let me know that today is the last day, so I was at Castle Hill library, all masked up, when they opened. They have a much better selection there, I usually go to the closer one and have them sent over but today that wasn’t an option. I filled my shopping bags with 20 books and hoped she would approve, but the librarian offered to let me have even more if I wanted, so I ended up with 26 after she did an overide on the system. Mostly they are old favourites: Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwen, Elena Ferrante, Barbara Kingsolver et al but of course only those I hadn’t yet read. I picked up an early Thomas Keneally, the one he wrote after leaving the seminary in Manly. The critics commented at the time that it was too unbelievable because a seminary couldn’t possibly be as bad as he portrayed, but of course it was all factual stuff but with names changed. Then I got a few random picks, just in case I pick up a five star book that I had not heard about before, it has happened a few times in the past. One random was an Australian novel about people fleeing from England to Australia due to a pandemic over there, should be fun. Cooked up a pile of baked potatoes, pumpkin and eggplant to have in the fridge as meals or sides or even soup.

March 26, 2020

I was thinking this morning that I should make a point of speaking every day to someone I rarely see, just a random person from my directory. A couple of days ago I got a call from my ex-husband’s wife in rural Queensland, then a person who unfriended me on Facebook years ago suddenly sent a friend request and just now I got a call from an old acquaintance whom I last spoke to 18 months ago, so perhaps lots of people are thinking along the same lines. I’ve just finished reading Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee a Queensland lawyer who, as a judge’s associate, sat through many, many rape and sexual assault trials where she believed justice was not being done. She decided to stand up and have charges brought against the teenager who sexually abused her as a primary school child. I found interesting her descriptions of circuit court and her comment that in Gympie she saw not a single rape or sexual assault defendant found guilty, of course many in the the jury knew the men accused. Similarly in Warwick it was extremely hard to get a conviction. Her descriptions of the cases heard were disconcerting, all the more so for her as a survivor, but her respect for the judge for whom she worked helped her to tackle her own case. Inspiring reading.

March 27, 2020

Saw a photo this morning of a gowned and masked doctor working on coronavirus patients in London and around the eyes he looked awfully like my friend Mustapha who is a cardiologist who took an early retirement or at least a stand down from medicine about 5 years ago when his partner was given a promotion to Singapore. Sure enough there is a photo on his Facebook page showing him in his gear, but I had been unable to read all of the comments as he speaks many languages and none of the respondents had posted in English. He has volunteered to go back to work in an NHS coronavirus hospital in London, a fact which made my stomach sink, but all power to his healing hands in this situation. Only yesterday we were in contact discussing onions of all things and he sent me a recipe for his favourite tagine, with not a mention of his work. Then I got a text from a friend who let someone rent a cottage on their property while they did their 14 days isolation after coming back to Australia. Now the property owner and the tenant have tested positive, despite very little contact between them. Sheesh, this thing is sooo infectious.

Tried to contact Optus to get caller ID put back onto my phone so I can avoid callers from Chad and Burundi and wherever. The country of origin shows on my mobile but not on my landline since the NBN was connected. But the phones to Optus are impossible and the email page just says urgent communications only, which I don’t understand really as people could be working from home. Book group tonight, but by email. Perhaps I will make something to take as per normal and then eat it all myself. Or make an exception and have a glass of wine all by myself.

March 28, 2020

A lovely interlude this morning when I went for a walk for the first time in ages and came upon an old Chinese man sitting on the bus seat in my street singing out across the road to no one. I stopped to listen and indicated with my phone that I would like to take a photo of him but he seemed to have no English at all and instead wrote down his phone number on a scrap of paper for me. On the way back he had moved seats and wasn’t singing so I sang la-la-la and he got the message and gave me another song in his not at all bad voice. Glad I went out. I am pissed off with the confinement of the last 16 days but not panicking about the disease, though for the last two nights I’ve had nightmares which both involved coronavirus in some form so perhaps I am kidding myself about the concern. It’s just not there consciously.

Planning to make nachos for dinner with a can of black beans that has cluttered up my pantry for the last couple of years. I don’t cook Chinese so I don’t really know why I bought them, but finally I stumbled on a non-Chinese recipe to use them up. Missing an avocado to put on top, but isolationists can’t be choosers. I do have the cheese and sour cream though. Sue’s Kate is arriving shortly to return a heap of plastic boxes, cold bricks etc from the food deliveries. It’s a pain to have a visitor finally and not be able to invite them in. Martyn has gone back to Orange so I need another person to deliver, I guess I will try to tee something up with his brother Stephen, even if it means meeting him halfway between here and the Hornsby area where he lives. PS Kate arrived with two organic pumpkins picked this morning from Robert’s garden and a big tub of Sue’s pumpkin soup, so that’s tomorrow night’s dinner sorted. She will also be food courier next week, so a very successful visit.

March 29, 2020

The nachos recipe was a keeper, great with the black beans, better than the usual kidney beans I think. I was planning to make soup for Sue this arv but she contacted me to say they still have plenty of meals in the freezer and to give myself a rest, not accounting for the fact that I actually enjoy doing it, but she’s the boss. Surprised that one of our book group today offered her home for our June meeting, something I really can’t see will be going ahead, but I hope she’s right and I am wrong there. I was good this morning and continued an overdue weeding of the front garden, which gave me much pleasure as I saw flowers up close that I have been walking by this last week. One of Millie’s confreres asked her mother if they still had to stay at home because of the corona pirates, the mother went with this and said yes.

I am still on the coronavirus rollercoaster as are we all, but I must admit that I enjoy getting the spontaneous youtube message from the Prof to all his patients which arrives each Sunday afternoon, in which he discusses the week’s events in his usual calm and encouraging style. This one was much longer than the last and covers things like the hydroxychloroquine shortage, a drug many if not most of his patients would be on. Apparently the government has restricted the writing of prescriptions to appropriate specialists, which will take the pressure off GPs being pressured by the mob. John’s upstairs neighbour was taken away by ambulance during the week with chest pains and there was naturally speculation that she might have the big V, but unfortunately it is worse than that, it is the big C, in her liver with spread to her shoulder. With two kids that I have met, plus apparently two more that I haven’t, and with no father around their future is grim indeed. Everyone has a story at the moment but that is one of the more tragic ones.

March 30, 2020

Forty-one years at about noon today since my twins were born. I’d like to do it all again, but do it better this time (not the birth though, no, certainly not the birth). It is a weird birthday in that we had a family dinner planned and booked for Saturday night and Carly should have been here for the weekend, but they are each working from home in different state capitals. We will certainly talk every year about ‘that 2020 birthday’. Following the last few days of happy contact surprises I got a message from Sheila in Blackheath sending a photo of me when I had the best of grey hair, naturally evenly grey but no white, pity I couldn’t have kept that look I decided.

Monday is my appointed ‘getting whatever you can’t order in’ day, my only venture out in the car for the week, so I look forward to it now as if it were a huge social occasion: a ceilidh, a mardi gras and a soiree all rolled into one. Today I got three loaves of bread from the bakery I frequent, (1 to eat, 2 to freeze) seeing my freezer capacity makes it slightly more feasible now. I’ve had to give my Lane Cove baker away due to distance, this one is much closer and was always a close second. Their sweet stuff is miles ahead of his too, forcing me to purchase a small lemon meringue tart to eat during 4 Corners tonight. Lane Cove has Sydney’s third highest concentration of CV infections incidentally, so I am glad John is getting his shopping brought in and not going to shop there anymore. It is 3 years today since he went into remission for lymphoma after months of heavy chemo. Bravo, celebrations all round!! Arvind arrived from next door with four hot curry puffs straight out of the oven, bless. Good day.

March 31, 2020

I had booked an appointment with Bob a couple of weeks ago, hoping he might have flu vax by then. I was told it wouldn’t be here till mid April but insisted on making the appointment anyway as I knew there would be a rush once it came in. I could check each week and keep moving the appointment forward if necessary. But today when I rang to move the appointment it appeared as if their phone was down for many hours, but when I finally got through I discovered that the vaccine arrived today, so I wasn’t so silly after all. John wanted an appointment too so I halved my double one and now we will each get jabbed on Thursday. Stephen rang later and asked if we’d had our pneumovax….um, flu vax I asked? No pneumovax, which I discover protects against 23 types of pneumonia and according to Health NSW should be given to everyone over 65. Bob has never mentioned it, but I will ask him on Thursday. We had planned a picnic today, somewhere closeish, with no people or homes in sight. But the new rules and regs made that impossible so we had it on the back verandah instead. Pumpkin soup spiked up with chili and garam masala with Arvind’s curry puffs on the side. Sir is visiting today and declaimed it to be a perfect lunch. I took a bow.

April 1, 2020

Not making any April Fools calls today, I think we are all the April Fools for trusting our governments to protect us from what was always just over the horizon. As I wrote here in January: ‘I continue to shake my head at the lacklustre Australian response to the corona virus outbreak. While the scientists are doing amazing work, as usual, the policy makers and their publicists stumble along. Potential pandemics, as this clearly is, need action that is both strong and meteorically fast’. Luckily for their residents Singapore understood this and acted accordingly, including having a fully stocked 300 bed pandemic hospital sitting empty, waiting for just this occurrence. Had we had a similar hospital set up (and we can afford it) we would now have it occupied by those initially infected, with no community transference occurring.  But experts like Prof Raina McIntyre, who workshopped this eventuality with international colleagues in a week long conference just last November, were ignored. As usual the government gets off scot free and the populace pays bigtime for their mistakes, pays in lives and pays in money, more money than ever we could have imagined. A stitch in time Scotty, didn’t your mother ever tell you that proverb?

One of John’s ex priest mates helpfully sent around to their group Pope Francis’s Urbi et Orbi Vatican speech, retelling the story of Jesus sleeping in the helm of a little boat when it hit rough weather. The disciples woke him in a panic and he replied famously ‘why are you afraid, oh ye of little faith’. Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves and it was completely calm. Perhaps they won’t be expecting his reply: ‘I’m not going to read any nonsense about Jesus and corona virus.  If Jesus is in charge, why did he let it happen in the first place? Stay safe boys.  The only people who are going to save us from this plague are ourselves and our wonderfully skilled and dedicated health professionals.’ He has certainly left that culture waaay behind.


It appears that it isn’t always obvious that I have started a new post, Life Notes 6, as this one was getting too slow to load. Just go to the main page on the right and click on Life Notes 6.








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