Life Notes 5

April 19, 2018

Funny old day of contrasts. Had a call from Deborah which cut out and from then on my phone wasn’t connected to the provider so I couldn’t take or make calls and got that terrible sinking feeling I always get when technology goes wrong and I can’t fix it. Then we went to the excellently acted movie The Party which showed up the foibles of the bourgeois at play. A walk to Bill’s for lunch, usually a good choice, but as we have started sharing meals it does present a problem of choice at times. I went with John’s choice of Tagliatelle with Shin Beef, ugh, the meat tasted meaty in the extreme and to take the taste away I shared his ginger cake which I didn’t like either. Next was a trip to Nada just nearby and she exclaimed that John looks better every time she sees him. He asked how long he will need to be on the monthly immunoglobulin transfusion and she said ‘as long as your knee is infected’. But that’s forever he said, yes that’s right was the reply. As it takes heaps of units of blood to make one unit of IgG, it must be costing Medicare a packet, but not John thankfully. Next we went to meet John’s boyhood friend who is visiting Sydney from Wagga with his wife. They are staying in a river view convent at Woolwich as his sister is a nun, I frequent religious institutions of late. I asked John if he ever had friends who weren’t Catholics when he was young but he said no, never, it was a ghetto. Last call at 8.30pm was the Optus shop in Castle Towers where they fixed my phone, huzzah!! Hot milk, but no dinner after that ugly lunch, blog, shower, bed.

April 20, 2018

So I looked up the price of John’s IgG infusion and it takes over 1000 units of blood to make one unit of IgG. I tried to guess the price. $1000 per unit, $2000 per unit? Nope, it says current price is $10,305 per unit and John has 1.5 units a month. I don’t think I had better tell him that. Bob has tweaked the meds prescribed by the specialists this week and he is feeling much better for it. His ability to walk had improved markedly after 24 hours.

We headed out to Penrith today for a funeral and as we arrived John saw someone who has caused him grief in the past and said ‘I feel like turning

around and going home’. My comment was that it was totally his call and to my surprise he did a U-turn and headed east. Quickest decision he’s ever made. So I worked on a bit more garage clearing this afternoon, finding some boxes of books for the street library and filling the Sulo bin with cardboard boxes that were ‘going to come in handy one day’. I have now put six various items on eBay three times over and got not one sale, so I doubt I am going to be needing packing boxes in the near future.

April 21, 2018

My own little financial planning story is very small cheese but typical of the pattern we are seeing at the Royal Commission. When I went to the CBA to bank last year, the teller gushed that the financial planner had had a cancellation and I could see him right now. Curious, I took the ‘opportunity’ and he was certainly a lovely young man who seemed so keen to maximise my little stash. He explained in detail how I should put almost all of my money into an annuity and receive a pension from those funds. Now I am a financial dunce, but it didn’t make sense to tie up money in this way at a low interest rate. So I shot off an email to my friend Jack who is a professor of accounting and finance. No, he couldn’t see any sense in that idea either, so when the lovely young man rang me back for a decision I began my reply with the words “Well I have asked my friend, who is a professor of finance, and…” I didn’t really get much further as my new-found second best friend wanted to get off the phone! No attempt to convince me of my error, no comment on Jack’s advice, just ‘thankyou for your time’ and off. He knew absolutely that he was selling me a pup. Financial advisors and real estate developers should occupy a specially hot corner in hell in my humble opinion. Owe you a drink Jack.

April 22, 2018

The big day arrived at last and John M. with the able assistance of John D. and myself got the street library up and happening! By end of day we had four books taken and one added, which was an excellent start. Titles ranged from Harry Potter to Eastern Mysticism to Fifty Shades of Grey to Bladder Control, something for everyone. Went to visit Dav and family in the afternoon and then on to see The Book of Mormon at the Lyric Theatre. What a fun and energetic show, though some of the lyrics may be cause for complaint to the Prime Minister’s Review of Religious Freedoms. I enjoyed

watching a Muslim couple who were sitting in front of us, she put her hand over her mouth in wide-eyed shock near the beginning but was laughing along soon after, while her husband laughed right through.

Sadly I got an email to say that my friend David’s son had died in New Zealand, succumbing to the infection of a few weeks which had formed on his replaced heart valve. It was put in some years ago to save his life when he got an infection on the natural valve, the same disease that claimed our mutual friend Mike in Windsor almost exactly 5 years ago. They must be gutted.

April 23, 2018

I don’t believe in esp or clairvoyance but sometimes………. During the night I worked out what flowers I would like to order for Mary and David in New Zealand after the death of David’s son. I could see green and white so I thought green chrysanthemums with white lilies or roses and some white freesias for scent. This morning I rang their local florist in Milford and asked ‘what are the freshest flowers you have today?’ not wanting colour to trump freshness. The answer floored me ‘well we have some lovely green chrysanthemums, some lilies and some white freesias’. That would be perfect was my stunned reply.

Today I intended to give in to my court addiction and pop into town to see if by chance the Medich jury was back. I was there the day they went out, April 15, and thought they were due soon. But what with my astonishment about the flowers and a couple of incoming phone calls, one from Sue and we always mag on, I decided to continue my clean up under the deck as the bins go out tonight, I can always go tomorrow I thought. Well the jury came back at 10 am and correctly found him guilty. I sat through much of his first trial and some of his retrial when the jury couldn’t agree the first time, but missed the denouement. Wouldn’t that rot your socks?

April 24, 2018

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Post Adoption Resource Centre if I would give a talk on adoption at Brookvale in May and I said no, but that I would consider doing one at a later time. Subsequently I was asked if I had thought more about it and at that time I agreed. I need to remember that the audience may include adoptees, but could also be relinquishing parents

or adoptive parents, a minefield of competing interests. Now they have rung to see if I would be happy being the spokesperson for the event in the media, probably The Manly Daily newspaper and a radio station, so I have agreed to that as well. Better get my thoughts together as I have no idea if or when the media may ring.

Tim came by today and installed uplights under the trees in my backyard. It started with his idea of lighting the gum, but he arrived with extra lights for the golden oak, my windmill in the herb garden and the camellia!

Thinking more on the Medich verdict and McGurk’s widow on the steps of the court, thanking the police and the lawyers for the outcome. All fair enough, but I can’t forget that she and her children lived, and continue to live, on the proceeds of McGurk’s life of crime: she and her late husband were the directors of 28 failed or deregistered companies, he was accused or charged with firebombings, fraud, conspiracy, corruption of public officials, assault, he was a standover man, a fixer and debt collector, his associates included names such as Graham Richardson and John Ibrahim…..please don’t tell me she didn’t know her husband was a life-long crook. Medich should get life and an Order of Australia perhaps, but at least they are both off the streets.

April 25, 2018

Went to the Wildlife Photography Exhibition at the Maritime Museum and it was a bottler as usual. I learn so much from reading the descriptions, sometimes of animals I didn’t know existed. Plenty of poignant images such as the armed guard who is companion to the last white rhino, in danger as all rhinos are from poachers for Chinese medicine. But many more heartening images than disturbing ones. Had lunch at Born at Barangaroo, a tapas place named after a suburb of Barcelona famous for tapas. Manchego croquettes, followed by Trout with Baby Zucchini and Roast Pumpkin with Ricotta and Pomegranate, oh my, five stars for everything. Can’t wait to go again, Spanish people at the next table were highly complementary. We saw maybe 120 sailors in uniform during the day, one Air Force person and not a single one from the Army, surprising for Anzac Day I thought. Two-up games were well attended and everyone seemed happy, no problems despite plenty of drinks being served.

April 26, 2018

Someone beat me to it on the roster for doing the dessert at Hawkesbury’s Helping Hands this coming weekend. I need to do cold food as I live too far away to do the hot parts of the meal sadly, but most of our clients don’t like salad so I usually end up doing dessert. We are instructed to cater for 70 but as I pointed out last Saturday, some of the men leave before dessert so the number should be reduced. Today I see it has been put down to 50 so a small win there. The last few weeks I have come home with a lot of leftovers and it is silly to be paying out to feed neighbours and friends, better to have more money to spend on the homeless. My freezer is always chockers so I can’t keep it myself. Trying to finish the book for our group tomorrow night and what with shopping, library and working on my PARC talk, the day flew by.

April 27, 2018

Robert and Sue arrived in time for us to head off to Elizabeth Bay for book group. It was a good meeting in the modern and stylish ambience of Fran’s apartment. The men went off to dinner and I was shocked to hear that John’s main course cost $55 and it was Scotch fillet steak, not even fillet. As he said it was just for one, but I can’t imagine what a 3 courser for the two of us would cost. Obviously there are plenty of punters over there who don’t even look at the bill. Sue and Robes came home to stay overnight on their way to Canberra so we chatted over a nightcap till 12.30am, whisky for them and Drambuie for me, Bambu for John, poor thing.

April 28, 2018

For a bit of fun I printed up breakfast menus and served them at the table with a pad and pencil at the ready. Sue opted for just cereal and toast while Robert had the ‘big breakfast’. Their planned time to leave came and went and at 11am they finally headed off to Canberra. Then I watched Patrick’s funeral streamed live from New Zealand. He was buried in his Samoan lava-lava with woven mats over the coffin, reflecting his father’s part Samoan heritage, a history that Patrick relished. Such a sad day to lose one’s son in the prime of life and recently married. Did HHH dinner service as usual and had heaps of food thanks to the Hawkesbury Races donating salads late in the day, as well as all our hot things. Met a lovely Maori lady I hadn’t seen

before who is in a tent on the river with her two sons and a daughter, she pitched in to help pack up, typical Maori.

April 29, 2018

Last night Boss Lady confided that the HHH account is $200 in the red. We recently won the Telstra community award of $1000, but that soon goes what with our storage unit rental and maintaining and running the van. Though we do well of late with leftover food donations from businesses and the race club, money is harder to attract. Late last year John had offered to apply for grants for us but it wasn’t taken up due to pressures of planning Christmas service and other things, so last night BL brought it up again as an option. After looking over the work we do online today, John has decided to become a volunteer, something I would never have suggested as HHH is my baby, but I am delighted nonetheless. He is applying for his Working With Children Certificate, which is essential, and will be doing bureaucratic work as well as working hands on.

Today I decided to try an old English recipe for Saffron and Currant Cake, which I have had for many years but never made. It is odd, with no eggs, using yeast as the raising agent and with little sugar. I didn’t expect to like it much, and I was right about that, but wanted to have done it finally after decades of looking at the recipe and deciding noooo…I don’t think so. John and guests will enjoy it, but somehow the smell reminds me of the yeast medium we used to use at the uni to breed Drosophila flies for genetic research, ugh, the memory.

April 30, 2018

Went into town on the bus and out to the Fox Studios precinct (do they ever make movies there? I don’t think so, old Murdoch just wanted control of the site to make money out of it). Anyway I went to the Real Bodies Exhibition and while I enjoyed it, I don’t think I learned a heap, however it reinforced some concepts. I was reminded how small some of our incredible organs are, how we fit a three course meal into a stomach that size is amazing in itself. There were Chinese demonstrators outside and I gave them a hearing on the way out, they turned out to be Falun Gong as I expected. They can always draw a crowd to demonstrate against China, I will give them that, but so far they haven’t proved their case that the bodies

were executed prisoners, not having any evidence to speak of. It was certainly not the crass ‘art exhibition’ Ellen Fanning critically purported it to be on The Drum. Ellen is nowhere in the race with the beautiful Julia as a reporter, not even in the heats I’m afraid. Loves me Julia.

When I got home there was a lovely surprise on my doorstep. Sue and Robert had called in on their way back from Canberra and had bought me the huge hardcover book of the Cartier Exhibition! I drooled over it at Easter but didn’t buy, so I am as pleased as Punch, but they are very naughty as I told Sue just now.

May 1, 2018

May, oh lordy! Had a home day, cooking cauliflower and Roquefort soup for lunches, but the cheese I had in the freezer turned out to be Brie, the ash looking like mould through the container, so it turned out cauliflower and Brie soup, which is lovely anyway. Also reading about the trendy vegan pretend meats, chicken, cheeses and the like which sound just ghastly, what’s wrong with lentil burgers, why do they have to make the ingredients read like an industrial manual? Read through the Falun Gong literature from the demonstrators yesterday, wondering why the Chinese would be so against a mere meditation group? More under the surface there I think, but it would need a politically savvy Chinese to tease it out for me. John is so much better since Bob tweaked his meds 10 days ago, some of his problems were clearly drug induced but he can’t manage without them, so it’s a fine balance.

May 2, 2018

Today was supposed to be a Hearing Hub appointment at Macquarie Uni followed by a visit to a convent in Woolwich where one of the nuns is planning to donate books for my library as the convent has been sold to the school next door and all the sisters are required to move out over the next few months, leaving their library without a home. But life intervened as Millie had a cough this morning and both her parents had important meetings at work today, so we had a Millie and Grandma day. I left home by bus at 7.15 arriving at Erko at 9.30, luckily the return trip ‘only’ took just under two hours, though travelling by car in peak hour would have taken a

bit less time, I am happy for the bus and train drivers to shoulder all the stress.

May 3, 2018

Some mornings, very rarely, I stay in my PJs and dressing gown while I potter doing phone calls or paperwork. I have wondered if one day I will be caught and today was that day, with a knock at the door early and it was the editor of The Hills Shire Times, wanting to do an interview about the street library. Apparently someone had phoned the paper about it and she decided to come early in case I had to leave for work. I excused myself to pull on jeans and a jumper, not even any knickers, and sat down to a one hour interview plus about 20 photographs. Favourite authors? Do you reread books? What jobs have you had in your life? Are you in the library? How many books do you buy a year? Favourite genres? Later when she rang to say she is coming back Saturday with a photographer, I asked if they could stretch to professional makeup and hairdo, but nah. It turns out I used to work with her dad a hundred years ago, I remember him as a compositor when I was a proof-reader. Funny how life goes.

May 4, 2018

Headed off to Woolwich to meet with Sister Anthony who has a large library of books to get rid of and has offered some to me. I was pretty surprised by the number and also types of books, from Anthony Robbins?? to Dickens and everything in between. All the religious ones had been spoken for by an institution, which saved my declining them, phew. But I got 6 or 7 large boxes full, a very small number I will keep to read, maybe 10 or so, the rest will go into the library which I am needing to top up every day! There were about 30 Readers Digest large print books which I didn’t want, so I rang Aminya, the nursing home down the road from me and they were thrilled at the offer of them, so one box is sorted. Then we went off to the Woolwich Pier Hotel and had lunch on the verandah overlooking the junction of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers. Had the wonderful daily special of Cone Bay Barramundi with Crab and Snapper Fritters and Mushy Peas and a glass of bubbly to celebrate the book haul. Dinner was just cauli soup for John and nowt for me.

May 5, 2018

I have retired as an antique dealer but begun a new career as a librarian! After our big book haul yesterday, I started the day lugging the boxes into the garage. Then at 9 am a freelance AAP photographer arrived to do the shoot for the article in the local paper. He hauled in a host of cameras, flashes, tripods and that umbrella thingy and proceeded over the next hour to take HUNDREDS of photos. Close-ups of my bookcases, me at the bookcases, further away shots, profiles, full face, other side, smiling, not smiling, lordy what a business. Then we went out to the library box and repeated the performance, god knows what the neighbours thought. He had come from Narara on the Central Coast for this. Anyway I raced in to shower and change for a book launch in the afternoon and as I was leaving saw a woman on the front verandah ‘Could I talk to you about the library?’ she said. I thought she wanted to donate books but no, she was a magazine reporter wanting an interview!!! I told her I was too busy and just leaving, we would have to do it another time, but she begged to do my photo on the way out and to talk later, extraordinary. Went to the launch of Chis Geraghty’s book ‘Jesus, the Forgotten Feminist’ and very much enjoyed both Chris’s talk and Susan Ryan’s opening. Tonight I turn on the computer and there is an email of questions from the reporter…….. Autographs will be free to friends.

May 6, 2018

Attacked the garage again, but it is a dispiriting job. Boxes of stuff the auctioneer didn’t want, odds and sods of stationery, more books, haha. I can only do it for an hour at a time, but I did get some stuff into the Sulo bin. Boss Lady let me know I didn’t need to do dessert for tonight as she had some carrot cakes they got cheaply. Only about 30 clients for dinner, about half of them kids. One fellow who got $2 from me last week asked for $1 this time, not sure what he will get for the dollar but he went home happy, he’d had a win.

May 7, 2018

Now I am seeing some spaces in my garage I am attacking it with more gusto. I forewent the common Monday trip to observe the workings of justice in order to simplify my life by finding homes for things I don’t need. Managed to relocate some stuff to the Sulo bin, but also started a bag of bits for the craft group I have a number of times been asked to join,

thinking that a supplier of materials is a member of sorts. Then I attacked my wardrobe, managing to reorganise my handbags and to prise out three to go to an op shop. The work continues.

I am finding the Hawaiian volcanic eruption both terrifying and mesmerising and I am so glad it isn’t on continuous streaming, because I doubt I could tear myself away from the television. The raw power, the strange beauty of the thing, the knowledge that somewhere beneath our feet, at whatever depth, this roiling mass exists is somehow liberating, like looking into a night sky and seeing forever. I was told on a hike with a geologist, which was part of my gemmology courses about three years ago, that diamonds and peridots are the only gems which come from the centre of the earth, liberated by volcanic eruption and then left at the surface to be discovered. I think of that whenever I wear my diamond rings or the peridot which I bought as a result of that information.

May 8, 2018

A surprise awaited me when I checked my email this morning, finding a missive from a man from South Africa telling me that according to his recently done DNA test, we are 2nd to 4th cousins. I had been thinking recently that it must be two years since I checked the site and had even forgotten the password, but I immediately put in a lost password request and it was sent quick sticks. Yes, there he was in my contacts list since March this year when he was tested. Have you found our common ancestor he asked? Well no, I hadn’t even known about you I replied. He had sent me a list of ancestors names and we perhaps have a common one in the 1700s, both of us having a Marriot in our lines, mine on my birth mother’s side. It appears we are in fact related and he is not just a scamming Nigerian with a million dollars waiting for me in a back account, my usual contact with Africa.

Tonight I gave a talk at a Benevolent Society public meeting on adoption at Brookvale. I really felt for a 52 year old woman who was told just six weeks ago that she was adopted, she looked very fragile and said she felt totally alone in the world. Another man who appeared in his mid 70s said he was abandoned in a basket in the grounds of the Society so his links went way back. So many stories, no two alike, but with similar effects.

May 9, 2018

Went up for a flu vaccination and while there got a text from Heather saying the street library story is on the front page of the Hills Shire Times. I didn’t get a paper delivered today of all days and it appears none of the Cross St area did either, so the people closest to the library won’t see the article at all. Anyway is was a good story, though it contained the fake news that I read 200 books a year. I wasn’t asked that question and have no idea where that answer came from. At least it was flattering fake news. On the front page also was an article about local councillor Raymond Harty who has pleaded guilty to fraud of over $200,000 from a company he worked for. Pretty disappointing as I know him very casually, have worked on elections with him handing out how-to-votes and was actually with him on the night Rudd became Prime Minister, I handing out cards for the Greens, he for Labor. I liked him a lot and wonder what on earth he was thinking, his whole public career is destroyed and he will likely have to return his various awards, with gaol a real possibility, a terrible legacy to live with.

May 10, 2018

I planned a big cooking day today but only got as far as doing the Sweet Potato, Garlic and Chickpea soup when I took a break to look at the website Promethease which a techy friend had told me about last night. She said that if you had had a DNA test done with any company you could download the raw data and then upload it to Promethease, which will run the results though their program for medical genetics. Whoa, right up my alley, but imagine how I felt when I saw that today it was offering the service for free! Cooking was over and from 1pm to 5.30 pm I sat at the computer doing downloads, uploads and sideways loads and the results were unfuckingbelievable.

It started off telling me I was female, then graduated to eye colour, skin colour, ethnicity and the like, but it got better. I now know, amongst thousands of options, that I have the genes for longevity (my mother lived to 97), am a bitter taster (also known as a super taster) which I had confirmed by testing last year, I am a worrier, have enhanced vulnerability to stress, a tendency to put on weight, 2.7 times the normal risk of autoimmune diseases, particularly lupus, scleroderma and Sjogren’s Syndrome!!, do not have lactose intolerance, not at risk or autism or

asthma, but at risk of depression, have an increased susceptibility to the tuberculosis bacterium, am more able than most to detect floral fragrances, have the genes for being a night rather than a morning person, would have a very high response to amphetamines (I always avoided drugs as I felt I would respond strongly to them), whereas antidepressants would be 7 times less effective than normal. I am only reporting a fraction of the findings which if printed out in full run to 50,000 pages. You can type in a drug and it tells you if it is more or less likely to work or look up any disease and see if you are inclined towards it, haven’t even tried using those functions. I am absolutely amazed by the results and will never see the argument about nature versus nurture in the same way again.

May 11, 2018

Autumn has arrived, or have we missed autumn altogether and gone straight to winter? I had put today aside to be available to John if he needed assistance with the grant applications for HHH and I did get a few calls. None of the grants allow you to spend the money on ongoing expenses, only capital items, but we could invest in new fridges, freezers, urns etc which are needed.

Good old George Popowski of the Carlingford branch of the Liberal Party has suggested bringing in lashing as a punishment and abolishing judges, using instead a panel of 20 citizens. He suggests 20, 000 lashes for murder, “delivered at 10 lashes per hour – every hour from 9am to 5pm, with one hour for lunch” because it would seem anybody who has spent the morning lashing deserves a long lunch break. He lives walking distance from me, a scary thought. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I hope he popsoffsky from around here asap.

May 12, 2018

Cooking, cooking, including a scrumptious Ottolenghi dish to take to Davina’s tomorrow, Baked Baby Eggplants with Eggplant and Tahini Sauce (more like a dip) and a big Pear Brown Betty which went to HHH tonight. Among conversations at tonight’s service were a mum who had the kids go through all the local bins today to find items to cash in for recycling so she could put petrol in their car and a woman who loves her open fire because it enables the family to keep warm, and cook, whenever their power is

turned off. Overheard two clients discussing mental hospitals and one warned ‘don’t go into Callan Park, I’ve been there and some of the patients are like Hannibal Lecter’. I so love my peaceable life with heat, lights, food, petrol and no Hannibal Lecters.

May 13, 2018

Zipped down to lunch at Dav’s, traffic not too bad. Took the leftover dessert from last night for Louis as well as sausages, hommus, vine leaves and eggplant. Dav did rissoles and a lovely goat cheese salad and Lebanese bread. She gave me an enlarged black and white photo of Millie, taken by Carly, that she had framed and John will hang it next to my desk. Carly got me an adopt-a-critter, a bettong, which is an endangered species, at Mulligan’s Flat Nature Reserve where they are bred to be released into the wild near Canberra. John just announced that a fox would get it, but I enjoyed the adoption for a while till he told me that, he followed with the option of a cat getting it. Adopt em in the morning, dead by mid-afternoon. Life’s crool.

May 14, 2018

Hurrah for me! I took an extension ladder, an old enamel stove door, a Portuguese fishing float, some wood planes and a clock to Bargain Hunt to sell, great to see Mark and Veronica again. Before that we both went to Bunnings as I had told John I hate wasting washing machine water and wanted to rig up a long hose from the tubs into the backyard. Fine, but once we got inside Bunnings John and the staff member cut me out of the conversation totally and decided on very rigid ag pipe which needed two connectors to work. ‘But, but…..’ I said. ‘No, this is what you want’ they both replied. I know I am non-technical, but I had found some hose marked ’10 metre grey water hose, attaches to a washing machine’ but would they listen? No way, I was invisible. ‘But, I’ve found this for $9.95…..’ ‘No, no, this way is better’ they chimed. Finally I got cross and said I was having my choice which was a fraction of the price of their complicated set up. We got home, fitted it on in seconds ‘That’s perfect’ said John.

An interregnum was caused by a temporary shutdown of the server.

May 15, 2018

Off to Woolwich once again to pick up more books from the convent, after baking a tray of chocolate and raspberry cookies to take for their afternoon tea. I decided to take all but the religious and travel books, the latter being too large for my box and the former going to another religious institution, though I refused to take an Anthony Robbins motivational book on principle, ugh. So another 10 or so boxes to store in the garage. After that we made our way to the Woolwich Pier Hotel and sat on the balcony to enjoy lunch, in my case Swordfish with Corn and Leek Puree and Caponata, oh my it was good. Parked down by the water and read from our haul, a History of the Irish in Australia for John and for me Crimes that Shocked Australia, written in the 90s. I was surprised that a man who shot his wife, 7 children, his wife’s sister and her 2-year-old was only gaoled from 1971 to 1979, I guess he got a lesser term cos he was just cross. Echoes of the WA tragedy of last week, though without the suicide of the perpetrator. It makes me angry that we find excuses when it is a family member (he was depressed, his son was sick) but would never use these things to mitigate the responsibility of a stranger who did the same crime, he would just be an evil murderer. You can’t have it both ways.

May 16, 2018

Perhaps it was a comedown after a great day yesterday, but I have been below par today so I decided to investigate the cause/s. It was a good morning where I unloaded all the books to the garage and organised a man to come and repair the garage roller door which hasn’t been working for months, then rolled out and tested my new grey water hose by doing a load of washing and watching as the water fanned out over the lawn (read grass). Then my next door neighbour of 15 years told me they have bought 5 acres and will be selling very soon, causing me to consider who might be moving in next door and how much I have to do to get my place into shape, ie speeding up the revamp of the garden, at the current pace I won’t live to see it done, and hucking out the storeroom and garage which is proceding slowly. Then I tried to do the blog and the server was down, tried to send a document to my new distant cousin in South Africa who contacted me via Family Tree DNA and that failed because I am inept in the files department. The garage man rang and can’t come today as he is unwell and I have waited in. Really when I put it down it is pretty maudlin stuff, make tomorrow matter Maureen.

May 17, 2018

A new start today, I rang John and suggested we go to the Archibald. We got a latish start so had lunch at La Renaissance at The Rocks on the way. This was lovely but uneventful until a huge rat the size of my forearm came hurtling along the wall of the courtyard, up the steps and off as if the rat-catcher were on its tail. I burst out laughing, but it had been so fast only one other person even saw it. The exhibition was one of the best of recent years which made our decision on the people’s choice vote very difficult. We mark them as we go and don’t share programs till after we’ve voted. I had about 10 short-listed out of 57 and he had 5 or so. Some of the paintings were absolutely superb, but I settled on the Robert Hannaford self portrait, it is always very hard for me to pass a Hannaford. In the Wynne prize I couldn’t pass Joshua Yeldham’s painting of the Hawkesbury in blue on white linen. The Sulman isn’t my thing at all, I don’t think I would hang one of them in my abode.

May 18, 2018

Today was my appointment at the Hearing Hub at Macquarie University. I am always uplifted by the architecture and décor of the building, the diametrical opposite of the ghastly Royal Prince Alfred Medical Centre which is sooo depressing that you feel ill as soon as you walk along its narrow ugly corridors. Inside the Hub’s hearing investigation rooms the grey and olive-green décor gives way to brilliant orchidy pinky-purple chairs, the only slash of colour and reserved for the patients, the audiologists have basic black, so you feel special straight away. Then there are the loos, as clean, tasteful and well-lit as going into a friend’s flash new bathroom. Anyway, my hearing has dipped again which was no surprise but after extensive testing the hearing aids were adjusted and now the parrots in my gum tree this afternoon were deafening (a good thing) and I am very sensitive to metallic noises such as a key in a lock, a screen door closing, but also I discovered my computer’s fan actually makes a noise, who knew? A plastic bag’s scrunch is much louder than my memory of it and the toilet flushes like Niagara Falls. My good day improved further when the garage door man came and after months of inaction the door roared into life at his first touch??? I haven’t dreamt this problem up, others have tried to make it work, but an intermittent fault was decided and he left without charging me

anything at all. Two Andrews today and two great improvements to my fortunes, so thanks are due to both.

May 19, 2015

Started making the Strawberry and Watermelon Cake for Monday by doing the dacquoise, which looks a bit funny but is probably ok, then baked 52 small Chocolate and Raspberry Cakes for service tonight and prepared most of our dinner so we can eat within half an hour of getting home. We took up three big logs for a client from my tree that was cut down months ago. Stopped to buy the icecream to serve with the cakes, putting it into an esky which Coles kindly filled with ice as I am sick of serving melted icecream every week, not that they seem to mind, but I certainly do. Had about 30 takers tonight, serving pea and ham soup, curry and rice and my dessert which went over well, with Boss Lady declaring it the best sweet ever. John drove the van up to collect the Second Bite donations from Coles as well and we had a ton of veges, fruit, cakes and bread from there to give out. Great service considering we had just four volunteers serving and only two cooking.

May 20, 2018

Funny how you can unintentionally decide to report the good bits and leave out the bad, but I think I needed a sleep to process three things that happened last night. First was when I handed a cup of hot soup to an old Aboriginal man who, while looking at me with total contempt, deliberately dropped it on the ground saying ‘oh I accidentally dropped it’, daring me to suggest otherwise. I smiled and kept serving others, though I was taken aback and he wandered off barefoot without eating. His face said ‘you took my country and gave me a cup of soup in return’. The truth hurts. Secondly, a woman who lives in a tent on the river had so obviously lost weight that I mentioned it and found the docs are puzzled and may put her into hospital for a week ‘for a rest’. Last but far from least, as we walked to the car after service a man in his 40s came over and told us he ‘just wants to sling a rope over a tree’ because his life is so miserable. I used to sometimes pay him to help me move furniture around in the shop and he is a lovely guy. I offered to take him to emergency at the hospital but he refused, saying that suicide is a crime and they may call the police. Though I assured him this was not the case he still refused, so all I had to offer was Lifeline and its ilk. Should I

have brought him here for a few days, despite the HHH rules which discourage such action? I don’t know, even now, but I should have at least given him my phone number to keep in touch for a while I think.

May 21, 2018

What a joy to have Mary and David here for the day. The Ocean Trout with Curry Butter from Neil Perry went down a treat, that recipe is definitely a keeper. Only two weeks since they buried David’s son yet they are coping amazingly with their loss, perhaps with the help of their faith, I don’t know. Talk of a return visit for us to NZ was aired and Mary even suggested a trip to Samoa at some point, David having some Samoan ancestry and owning land there. I can’t see John managing Samoa but NZ is a possibility.

An email exchange about the book prior to our club meetings is a rarity, but it appears the camp is divided on this one, A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, which was very surprising to me. I wrote in the opening lines of my Goodreads review that ‘Not since reading the Neapolitan Trilogy of Elena Ferrante, which I read early in 2107, have I been so in love with a book. If I could write just one story as good as any in this collection I would be a happy camper.’ It didn’t occur to me that this would be anything other than the common opinion, so it will be an interesting meeting.

May 22, 2018

Collated a host of garage bits to go to the Sallies (I was corrected recently ‘they are the Salvos’, but in my day we were Sallies, the Army or even the Sally-Anns). I remember the Officer to whom I went to organise my grandmother’s funeral asking if she still had her bonnet. No, I replied jauntily, it would have gone to the pawnbroker’s decades ago, but I digress. Florsheim shoes I bought second-hand for John that didn’t quite fit, my outgrown jeans, some caneware and dolls and 4 original oil paintings by a prolific but sadly uninteresting artist were tendered for approval. I have lots more of these, begged by her daughter to buy them en masse after the artist’s death, sadly not an economic success. So much dogged work for so little meaningful result, but I can’t burn them for she was a nice old stick and her art was her life. I discovered wheeling a supermarket trolley of all this gear up a steep hill to the shop was a nightmare, the trolley kept

swinging around and taking me with it, but I got there gasping and puffing in the end.

Fielded some emails today on ‘the great book cleavage’, at least everyone is looking forward to the meeting. More book-related correspondence in replying to the nun who sent a thankyou card after I gutted her convent library at her solicitation and a reply to someone who sent a warm and friendly letter regarding the street library after she saw the article in the paper. We may meet at some point I suspect as we seem initially compatible.

May 23, 2018

How did I ever find time to work (for nothing) I was better off volunteering and getting a pension years ago. Did lunch service at HHH with major help from the inmates from the John Moroney Centre as is usual on Wednesdays. A volunteer I rarely cross paths with lamented that he prefers to do that day as the 2-I-C is on deck and he finds her much easier to work with, ahem. For the first time I was offered ingredients for my dessert making, a 10kg box of frozen apple pieces, some foil catering packs of blueberry sauce and salted caramel sauce. Well I never, dessert sorted for a couple of Saturdays now at no cost. Met a newly homeless young married couple sleeping in their car, sent to us by the Salvation Army. When given brochures on other services available he said ‘just the one thanks, I can’t read’. The wife chimed in that she is teaching him and he can read a few words now. But it was a relaxed service and we had some fun. Poor John on the other hand was struggling with grant applications and the Bendigo Bank one is a beauty, using management-speak like ‘Applications will be assessed on the extent to which they: • Build resilience and capability • Build capacity within the organisation • Create a sustainable positive impact for the target clients • Take an innovative approach to service delivery and client engagement • Generate value.’ It means fuckall, but somebody patted themselves on the back when they wrote it. Might not be as happy when they read his feisty return email though.

May 24, 2018

John’s orthopaedic surgeon asked a week ago if he would be willing to be examined by graduating orthos on Saturday for a payment of $100 plus

lunch. He was up for that, in fact would have happily done it for nothing. Today we had an appointment in a continuing investigation of a large lump that came up overnight on his infected knee while we were in Melbourne months ago. His haematologist said it wasn’t her department, the infectious diseases doc said see the ortho, the GP said maybe a ganglion, the ortho said to have a CT on top of the already fruitless ultrasound and xray. So today we were to get the result…..ta da. Nope, the CT people don’t know either. So the purpose of Saturday’s consultation is mainly to get the opinion of the 26 top orthos from around the country who are flying in to examine the students! John doesn’t ask questions, so I asked what the options were, Andrew is a straight shooter, unlike Nada. Best case, hugely coincidental but harmless ganglion. Possible it is another manifestation of the infection in the knee, which is a worry when he already on 4 antibiotics a day for life. Worst case, a very rare manifestation of lymphoma in the infected knee. He is totally stumped, but interested in the opinions of the other 26 experts. Next step may be a biopsy done in an operating theatre but the infectious diseases doc said not to let anyone touch it with either a needle or knife in case infection spreads. Lordy me.

May 25, 2018

Where to start? Torn between going to HHH tomorrow or going with John to the hospital. Then Heather offered to do my shift if I could do the dessert for her to pick up in the morning. Between watching the computer for Carly at Senate Estimates on the parliamentary website, cooking apple and blueberry crumble for HHH, baking some choc/raspberry cakes for book group and fielding messages to and fro from Linda, I only just managed to be ready when Michelle came to pick me up. I had avoided discussing the Mijito story as I knew I would end up blubbing, but Sonia did that one first up. Then I was reminded of other affecting stories as people spoke and I completely lost it when my turn came. I haven’t had a book affect me as much as this one for a long time, the Neapolitan trilogy did to a large extent, but this one was up there with the best book ever. Later talking to Robert, who absolutely loved the book, I discovered he had become very emotional reading it as well.

May 26, 2018

Sue and Robert stayed overnight and Heather arrived early to pick up the food as planned. I wondered if HHH would come as a big shock to her, it was so generous to offer. We were at RNSH by 11am and were ushered to a buffet of fruit, scones, pastries etc but there was no tea available so I decided to wait a few minutes. Then the tea arrived and I turned to find the scones and pastries had been binned as stale, jeepers people don’t even notice food waste these days, so that was morning tea gone. I decided on balance not to raid a hospital garbage bin. We waited for some hours and then a doctor thanked us for coming but we still sat there as Andrew had told us not to leave till he had been out to see us. Then we were told that ‘the students aren’t doing too well, so we don’t want to give them a complex case because they would be struggling to pass’ ??? So what do we do now, we asked. Well the doctors won’t be coming out for 3 or 4 hours so you might as well go home, they replied. Tails between our legs we left. But it seemed to us that firstly they appeared to be lowering the bar to get them through and secondly they actually told us so, which we find astonishing considering this is their very final exam to become specialists. What a complete fuckup was our summing up of the day.

May 27, 2018

Felt goodly loading another batch of bits and bobs into the car for Bargain Hunt Auctions, to be delivered Tuesday hopefully. I looked up the Supreme Court lists and happily discovered that three different trials or proceedings I have been following are on in the city Law Courts simultaneously tomorrow. I will be in my element running from the Crime Commission v. Tilley, (on remand for a murder in Windsor), Crime Commission v. Sharobeem, (an unrepentant fraudster who ripped off the government through a charity and whose ICAC hearings I sat through many a day) and the Colleen McCullough will fiasco. Too spoiled for choice, I will need to go to at least some of each. Spent the afternoon making Davidson’s Plum jam, a native fruit unrelated to the plums we are used to and both sour and bitter, as bitter as gall I discovered when I tasted a slice. But the jam looks and tastes great, though I’m thinking that the Aborigines who ate them without sugar must have been courageous or starving or both perhaps.

May 28, 2018

Spent till lunch at the Colleen McCullough case, where her husband Ric Robinson is accused of coercing her to sign a will in his favour just days before she died. She had turfed him out, following allegations of abuse on his part, but being short of cash had employed him as night carer to avoid going to hospital. I went with no preconceived ideas on the case but came away thinking that her friend and executor was honest and forthright and Ric was……..well, neither. I feel so sorry that such a previously independent woman with a good mind had to spend her last days fending off the likes of Ric. Bumped into Charles Waterstreet for the umpteenth time, I must follow him into court one day and see him in action. Then met Carol for lunch at our favourite spot in The Rocks replete with crimson rosellas flying past our faces. We jawed over a few topics, while polishing off sandwiches and delicious sweets as a bonus.

May 29, 2018

Took a small load of antique odds and sods to the auctions and was mortified at the result I achieved for the last lot. A cast iron and enamel fuel stove door which was bought for $60 a few years ago brought $10, which after commission and minimum fee charge equals zip, but I decided I just want to get rid of the stuff and doing it one piece at a time is too much effort. Caught up on my book reviews and got three more out of the way, including an interesting comparison between two books that have as narrators a galah and a foetus, the latter being by far the better novel. Went to Windsor for a volunteer’s meeting tonight and ate a disgusting meal at the RSL venue beforehand. Just six of us but we made some progress in planning fundraising and volunteer coordination. The 2-I-C ran the meeting, had lots of ideas and Boss Lady complained bitterly about lack of help and threatened to back out altogether due to ‘compassion fatigue’.

May 30, 2018

Took Heather to KOI for morning tea as a thankyou for taking my shift at HHH on Saturday night. Had the delicious watermelon, chia seed, strawberry and rose jar, aah bliss. I have been collecting their lovely clear carry bags to store my scarf collection in their various colourways and as Heather bought takeaways I was able to score more. Only one to go now and my little project is complete. John’s doc’s registrar rang to ask if he would be willing to be the subject at the Bone Breakfast at RNSH at 7am !!

next Tuesday morning. No bacon and eggs in the deal apparently, not even a muesli bar, but we will be there with bells on, despite my hatred of early morning events. I opened my shop at 10am for a reason. I am instinctively a night person, getting up before 6.30 is aberrant, I know ‘the early bird gets the worm’ but I am not keen on worms either, so this late bird prefers a leisurely tea and toast.

May 31, 2018

How lucky was I today, arriving at the Supreme Court King St just as the judge in the Medich trial sat down to hear counsel arguing sentencing options, with the Crown going for life and and our friend Winston Terracini asking for ‘no more than Gattelari got’ which was 25 years, though much reduced for testifying against Medich. Either way it seems to be a death sentence for a 70 year old multi-millionaire, what a sad way to end your life, in gaol with your wife living it up in Europe on your coin. Then I raced across the road to the Law Courts 8E, where the judge was just sitting down to hear the last witness in the Colleen McCullough estate matter. It turns out that her husband, the less than lovely Ric, has as his solicitor a man to whom Colleen lent half a million dollars!! in the 90s, and it was not repaid. Also noted that the only three witnesses in ‘the Ric camp’ greeted him fulsomely outside the courtroom at the end of the case, not of course in the view of the judge at that time. One was the doctor whom Ric called and who said Colleen was conscious, subdued but able to sign a will, though her nurse and friend testified she was completely unresponsive when he came. Quintals and a descendant of Fletcher Christian shaking hands and patting each other on the back was a somewhat surreal sight.

June 1, 2018

No, it can’t be June, March maybe but not June. John hadn’t heard back about the Bone Breakfast (I try to suppress an image of them all chowing down on the amputations of the day before) so he rang the doc’s office and was told Tuesday has been postponed as Andrew is not available, so now it is June 19, would be nice to be informed of changes without chasing people up, but whatever. Still chewing over yesterday and the judge thinking aloud about what level of intimidation or pressure is necessary to void a will. Is it a threat of violence, or psychological duress or is it enough just to threaten to withdraw a paid service that is essential, such as looking

after Colleen during the nights when she ran out of money to pay a night nurse? Clearly he is leaning towards Ric as conspirator to get her money, but is trying to find a legal precedent to allow him to call it duress and make the Ric will null and void. It would be a tragedy if he gets away with it legally, but the Wisdom of Solomon must appear in the judgement to make sure it is watertight. Her last letters bemoaning the fact that she was a multi-millionaire when she married Ric and is now $300,000 in debt due to him were sad to listen to.

June 2, 2018

Made a big trifle for service tonight. Boss lady is taking a week off but the sky didn’t fall, it all went smoothly with about 25 patrons, the cold keeping some away I suspect. John is struggling to get the bookkeeper’s details for his grant applications, still after many weeks, and I am starting to wonder if there is a back story to this reluctance to part with the details. Started the last Georgia Blain book, The Museum of Words, and found she was taken with the Neapolitan trilogy of Elena Ferrante. Perhaps I should make a reading list from the book and see what she chose to read about in the last year of life. Books continue to disappear from the street library almost every day, so I am very pleased I have plenty of backup stock. Winter has arrived and I am still in beanie and jacket an hour after getting home.

June 3, 2018

John helped me by holding a big aluminium tray under the lilly-pilly tree hanging over the fence while I perched on a stepladder and plucked the berries. All this so I can attempt to make jam from the fruit instead of watching it fall into the driveway. After he left I discovered I had no white sugar, so I walked to the corner shop for that and ended up lugging home sugar, 2 litres of milk, half a pumpkin, potatoes and more, so heavy was my bag that I needed to sit on two fences on my way home. The jam was sort of a success, it tastes lovely, sort of rose-like, looks spectacular, but the berries didn’t break down and are still fairly hard despite long cooking. First try though. Then I cut up heaps of veggies to roast for dinner (all this for one person, but I love leftovers). Baked the many buttered rolls we had leftover from meal service last night and grizzed them into breadcrumbs for the freezer, four big containers worth. Delivered leftover trifle from last

night to my eager nextdoor neighbour and packed up some for John’s neighbour as well. Love my kitchen days.

A note fell out of my library book today “Feb 16 Saturday GLASS family get together. Bring own meat, a drink + lollies.” It set my mind off, how did it go? what meat did each bring? lollies? why lollies? I looked up my diary and it was the day we returned by train from Melbourne. It seems strange that as we were eating a late lunch in an old world café in Melbourne, the Glass family were winding down their get together and somehow we are now linked by this little note.

June 4, 2018

Talking to Heather this morning she mentioned she wanted to do a walk over the Harbour Bridge on a nice day. Well today’s a nice day I said and an hour later we were on the bus to town, unfortunately with an erratic driver so I was feeling sick by the time we got there. Enjoyed the walk in the sun, looked around Kirribilli and ate the biscuits, cheese and melon that Heather had packed. Trained to Parramatta listening to a very cheerful (or drunk) guard who told us we were pulling into Strathfield at platform nought, naming herself as Roxy (“not my real name, but it sounds sexy”Smilie: ;) and had the whole carriage laughing numerous times, though probably glad for her sake that there were no pollies on the train.

The great bookkeeper hunt continues: John was told her name is JKB, but two phone numbers he was given were disconnected. I contacted her on Facebook tonight and she said no not her, she suggested I try JA, but nup, not her either. Both were resigned volunteers. Contacted all three of the admin team, they don’t know who it is. Then the previous grants person, nope, she has resigned and never knew her name anyway, then someone else doing admin work, she said to ask Boss Lady, haha. But hurrah, BL has emailed John tonight, to say the b/keeper’s son is in hospital so he can’t contact her, but she will have her ring him when he is better. When I spoke to JKB this evening she said nothing about her son and was never the b/k anyway. All clear now? There ain’t one, that’s my summation and we are just playing ducksy weaver trying to find her.

June 5, 2018

Lovely cold and overcast day to be at home. Swapped all my winter and summer clothes between wardrobes and tidied up some paperwork. Then I rang GIO about the green slip as I had seen my bill said I had 3 licence demerit points, so she checked with Roads and Maritime, confirmed that was wrong and I got about $60 off my bill. Sneaky buggers don’t tell you that there is a financial cost to have points on your licence. John’s green slip went up hundreds of dollars when he had a speeding fine a couple of years ago, a lot more than the fine. Planned the dessert for meal service on Saturday night and also worked out a main for when the fam comes on Sunday, still deciding on a sweet for that. I seem to do a lot of pavs to get around Dav’s gluten free issue, so I want to do something different. Trying not to think about bookkeepers or the lack of same.

June 6, 2018

Went up to the mechanic for a pink slip for the car and he quibbled about the broken glass on the headlight, despite the fact it was broken three years ago and he has passed it before, ‘they are tightening up’ he said, $60 plus labour for a new one. Then went to Service NSW to claim my refund on last year’s green slip, $60 was the figure, so three $60 amounts have occurred in two days, two in my favour and one against, snap.

Last night I watched Miriam Margolyes’ new ABC show with much joy. Last time I saw her live was 6 years ago with Mike, who insisted we go because he claimed we were so alike. My hair was longer and curlier then and I could see a physical resemblance, but he also insisted we had very similar views and last night that was confirmed. Whenever she bristled it was seconds after I’d had had the same reaction, I laughed out loud when she said she never likes flags or their wavers, that’s one of my long held opinions and it just went on and on. Love her to bits. Not loving the run-around John is getting though, he asks a question and gets a reply answering another question altogether, gets promises to supply info and never hears back and gets different answers from different people on important matters. I am obviously a much more suspicious person than he, we knew that already, but his patience must be stretched beyond breaking soon.

June 7, 2018

Took a drive to Wentworth Falls to have lunch with Sheila. Vegged out at her place and had a wonderful lunch of 8 hour cooked soup, followed by crepes filled with poached pears and strawberries, then rock cakes and tea. As usual we talked all day, excoriating politicians and catching up on news of mutual friends and family. I love being in Sheila’s house with its warm ambience and amazing decor and collectables. It was a timely escape from discussions of grants, bookkeepers and the stress that has brought.

June 8, 2018

John has put today aside to start assembling the grant application, though it will probably take tomorrow as well to finish uploading all the information. Yesterday a lone woman rang Boss Lady, she had just become homeless and had trawled the usual government departments for help out Mount Druitt way and finally ended up at Windsor Station at night, just with the clothes she stood up in. BL gave her a tent, sleeping bag, food, warm clothes, water and set her up next to a couple who will watch over her. This is why we put up with all the bullshit and obfuscation, it is the clients we are serving, not the organisation, though it wouldn’t surprise me if we were to be sacked for not toeing the line and asking too many tricky questions. Shopped for Saturday night service and Sunday lunch here for the fam. After two bad nights I relented and went to another doctor to get a script that I had run out of, after discovering Bob is overseas till the end of the month. The doc was pleasant enough, it was a bulk billing practice attached to a chemist, but didn’t seem to have heard of Sjogren’s, although I got the script without any issue.

June 9, 2018

The internet went rogue and I couldn’t get it on either the pooter or the phone, so I dashed down to the library to send a quick email to the crew that I wasn’t online to discuss service tonight. Just after, Michelle C. called in and said ‘why didn’t you just turn off the wifi and connect your phone to 4G?’ Yeah, good question Michelle. She had brought over a blanket and two hand knitted scarves to take out for patrons. But anyway I got the food done (better the internet down than the oven) and we had a good service with about 35 takers and I got two marriage proposals due to the apple crumble, although one guy proposes every week, no matter what I take, so I guess he can’t be counted. John didn’t come tonight as he was finally!

finishing the grant application which he submitted at 9.25pm after six weeks work. He’s asked for nearly $12,000 so we have our toes crossed.

June 10, 2018

Enjoyed cooking for the family for lunch. Tried Sheila’s recipe of oven baked pears and strawberries cooked with honey and rolled into pancakes, mine were buckwheat though. Millie ate hers in her fist and loved it. Nice relaxing afternoon, but we are not great drinkers in this family as only half a bottle of red was consumed, John being a teetotaller and Louis never drinking at all if he drives. My pooter and phone problems were solved by turning the modem off and back on, duh, but I was too busy yesterday to think. Anthony Bourdain dead, who else writes books that make me snort laughing?

June 11, 2018

Woke up feeling off today and reluctantly decided to call a dies non. So apart from restocking the library due to heavier use over the weekend, I haven’t done much at all. But last night I had cooked some strawberries to make a sauce, made my cuppa, got out the malt tin to make an icecream sundae and, quelle horreur, there was no icecream left. So I was forced today to walk down to the corner IGA and to my great pleasure discover that Connoisseur was on special for $7 resulting in the purchase of not one, but two, cartons. Such small pleasures are what retired life melds into on a quiet day. A friend from interstate rang about a fuel stove he is thinking of buying and we discussed its restoration, so I was of some minor use to the world. I note on Daily Mail that the man who killed his young son in Carlingford this week had twice tried to be admitted to a mental hospital in the days beforehand, but was rejected due to a scarcity of beds. Is there any priority we get right in this country? I have experienced taking an extremely distressed person to hospital where they were turned away and it is a scary undertaking, where else do you go? who else do you see? It was terrifying. I feel for him when he fully realises what he has done.

June 12, 2018

I saw a profound quote from the mother of the murdered child in Carlingford, a nurse who had taken her mentally ill husband to a number of hospitals including the mental health unit at Hornsby Hospital the day

before, but he was turned away each time. She said “there were no beds for my husband at any hospital I took him to, but there was plenty of room for my son in their morgue”. Thinking about that chills my soul.

Shopped for cooking to take to Robert and Sue’s on Thursday. We spoke this morning and she said they were taking us out for dinner Thursday night and had food planned till we come home on Sunday, but I figure it is better to have too much even if they freeze it for later. Went out to The Boathouse for dinner for John’s 77th birthday, had Tarragon Butter King Prawns, then we shared the Snapper Pie and I finished with a Banana Souffle, all excellent as usual. The last time we were there was when we took Robert and Sue for Robert’s 70th last year, we talked a lot tonight about that celebration and about how much we love and value them both.

June 13, 2018

Ugh, I so hate those long nights when you just can’t sleep at all, 5am this morning saw me dropping off finally. I’ve read that people can have anything from very weak to very strong circadian rhythms, I fall into the latter category. For me a sleepless night is punishing, I could never work shifts, similarly jet lag is particularly bad, though I know people who have never experienced it. So at 5.30 pm I decided to have a lovely hot bath and get into my jamies, but soaking in bubbles at 5.45 I suddenly remembered I had an appointment at Killara at 7. Oh boy, I have never moved so fast, dressed and in the car in 15 minutes and walked into the meeting dead on 7, just as if I had been looking forward to it all day. One small problem was that I’d decided to just have a hot milk for lunch and catch up with food at dinner. By the time I got home it was 10.30, too late to eat, so I’d had an involuntary fast day.

June 14, 2018

Well, well, well. In a list of volunteer ‘positions vacant’ sent out yesterday were: grants coordinator (for which John applied, though he is already acting in that role), volunteer coordinator (for which I applied, as I believe the volunteers are often poorly prepared and inadequately trained) and bookkeeper, amongst other positions. Only a week ago we were assured by Boss Lady that there was a bookkeeper, albeit temporarily uncontactable. So it appears as I had suspected that the position has been vacant for some

time, a thought that crossed my mind last year when I didn’t get a receipt or acknowledgement of a cash donation. It seems the 2IC is putting a new broom through the administration, not before time. The correspondence from the street library continues. I have had a card and a lengthy letter from the nun who donated books, numerous notes left in the box, a card posted following the newspaper article, a letter similarly sent and now a letter from a year 10 student wanting me to be her supervisor and assessor for her Duke of Edinburgh Award! The latter has decided to start a library at her home to fulfil the community service part of the award. I have invited her to come round for tea to discuss it and made a lime tart yesterday in preparation for the visit, wonders never cease.

June 15, 2018

It has been exceedingly difficult writing the blog this week without talking about what was really going on behind the scenes, it truly seemed just like ‘blathering’, but it was not appropriate to speak then. On Tuesday morning Sue and I were talking food and preparations for our 4 day trip to Killcare, by afternoon we were discussing the unthinkable, Robert had been diagnosed with a probable glioma and needed to go for an immediate consultation with the brain surgeon who then scheduled surgery for Thursday morning, after more tests on Wednesday. John and I went out for his birthday celebration with heavy hearts, remembering our last visit to the same venue for Robert’s 70th last year. My inability to sleep that entire night reflected how gutted I was by the news. Our current reading for the book group is Georgia Blain’s The Museum of Words, a memoir of her journey with glioma, a disease which also afflicted her mentor simultaneously and coincidentally featured in her last piece of fiction. Some would say this was ‘stranger than fiction’ but to have it affect one of our nearest and dearest as we were all studying the memoir is really a step too far.

June 16, 2018

Had a phone call from Robert, the man of the moment, this morning and he was very very talkative, energetic, positive and upbeat, almost euphoric. This of course is classic steroid happiness, but I worry about his hitting the concrete when it wears off as it must do eventually. He was pleased to be going home this afternoon, back to St. Vincent’s to get the histology results

next Wednesday. We did meal service tonight for 35 or so, hot soup went down well, followed by chicken, potato bake, veges and ending with my chocolate raspberry cakes and icecream, though we also had a heap of unexpected cakes, fruit etc left over from a wake. My possum will love his dinner for the next few nights as some was not eaten. Caught up with a few of my favourite patrons (yes I know I am not supposed to have favourites, but that’s life). Rereading The Museum of Words tonight in the light of Robert’s diagnosis and there is a special keenness in the detail. May his trip back to reality be a gentle one.

June 17, 2018

Travelled by train to Erskineville from Epping this morning, a journey I think I’ve only done once before. Appalled by the continuous sight of new unit blocks, not one that I saw having any external architectural merit at all. I would say all appear to be builder designed, any architect putting this stuff up needs to be deregistered. At least in Erko there are some interesting blocks, perhaps the council restrictions are tighter, I don’t know, but the journey was very depressing. However Millie was a busy beaver, showing an interest in watering the garden with a can almost as big as she is. Dav and Louis had a rare few hours to themselves with a lunch out in Glebe plus some shopping. I scored a $5 pack of sushi at the QVB so no cooking for moi this evening.

June 18, 2018

Every morning at dawn the crimson rosellas arrive to feed on the flowers in my lemon-scented gumtree in the back yard, now stretching at least 70 feet wide as it arches over both side fences of a 60 foot block. It is completely silent when I wake up most mornings (apart from the tinnitus of course, I have forgotten what real silence was like) then I put in my hearing aids and it is a cacophany. Of course from the days I get up early I know they are this noisy from dawn, but it always seems like magic that the world comes to life at whatever time I add my hearing aids. They leave at dusk and almost immediately the bats arrive, just as noisy as their daytime compatriots. I love them and their apparent conversations with each other which increase if I go outside “there she is, come out on the deck to gawp at us”. I only wish they would alight sometimes so I could get a better look at their creepily gorgeous faces. This afternoon I got a call from my gardener who was working at a townhouse in Castle Hill. He had found an injured possum hiding behind some bricks with a large area of skin missing from its back. What to do? I suggested wrapping him in a towel and going to the vet but he wasn’t sure, so I gave him the wildlife rescue number and they agreed a vet was the quickest and best response. He came to see me later to tell me what he’d done, describing the old teeshirt and towel, the box, the journey and what the vet said. “I didn’t cry till I got outside” he told me, can’t help loving the man.

June 19, 2018

Up at a number with a 5 at the front, not my favourite thing, to get to RNSH for the 7am Bone Breakfast, a meeting of orthopaedic surgeons and registrars, before they start work for the day. They examined the lump on his knee which is increasing in size and we were sent out while they talked for half an hour. The consensus is that the lump is neither a ganglion nor lymphoma of the knee, two previous options. They believe it is inflammation due to the infection in the replacement and want to do a surgical biopsy, but the infectious diseases doc has said ‘don’t let them touch it, not even put a needle in it, in case the infection flares’. The ortho has always said he needs a new knee replacement, with a hiatus of six weeks in the middle with NO knee at all, probably in hospital, while they hit him with antibiotics to try to kill the infection before completing the replacement. If he refuses the alternative is scary too, leaving it as it is would be a real problem if the lymphoma recurs and he needs chemo as suppression of the immune system would almost certainly result in septicaemia. What should I do? he asks me. I’m fucked if I know, was my first response. Now we have three more appointments with associated doctors in the next three weeks to discuss the pros and cons of action versus inaction.

June 20, 2018

Feeling low after yesterday’s news, so I attacked the garage and extricated a railway luggage rack, a pair of candlesticks, a cutlery box, two house signs and a few pieces is sterling silver flatware. Not enough for a batch really but they do cut me a bit of slack for old time’s sake. Contacted Martha with a bag of donations for her sewing circle but she was at a meeting of same so it didn’t come off. John is working on an EOI for another charity grant, after

a bit of a debacle yesterday when he mistakenly thought an important meeting was at 2pm when it was from 10 till 2, they rang him near the end wondering if he was ok, this despite listing it correctly in his diary, oops. Reading Ruth Rendell now while Robert and Sue are with the surgeon getting his results, but I keep going over the same lines. Guess we will know in the next day or two.

June 21, 2018

The news I had been dreading came through last evening when Sue contacted me to say the doc had diagnosed Robert with glioblastoma multiforme and a 9-14 month prognosis. I was somewhat calmer than I had been last week when the tumour was first discovered, I think I had seen this verdict coming from day one and started grieving then. They need to be left alone for a while to process it all and to make the many decisions which will be required. I ache for Sue to be losing her companion and lover since high school, I can’t even imagine how she is feeling now.

Today was the day of Ron Medich’s sentencing for murder and I tuned out of all the grief for nearly two hours while Judge Bellew read his detailed decision, the last page telling us the sentence of 39 years gaol. There was no reaction in the court, from him nor from the gallery. Medich’s nickname was Cottee’s, after a sauce they made advertised as ‘rich and thick’ and I think the fact that he thought he wouldn’t be found out as the paymaster of the assassins was naive in the extreme. He had blandished his hatred of the victim all over town, yet thought he was too smart and too rich to be touched, wrongly on both counts. Trials and judgments always act as a meditation to me, along with lectures on medicine and other sciences, I am totally focussed and the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a time. But once it was over Robert was still mortally ill and I still didn’t know how to support him or to ease Sue’s pain.

June 22, 2018

Oops, left the aircon on last night and woke to a lovely warm house this morning, a change from the usual 13 degrees when I get up, sorry planet. I do try to limit heating when I’m here by myself, having an early shower to warm up when it starts to get cold, but last night I was reading late. Went over to Martha’s to drop in the bits I sorted out for her sewing group and

Michelle turned up as well, so it was The Three Amigas for morning tea. Sue rang this arv and was warm to the idea of going to Abhi’s restaurant for a banquet for their 28th anniversary in July, the four of us had gone to their 25th and had a great time so I have booked for that, subject to Robert’s treatment schedule which won’t be known till Tuesday. She also said Robert was puzzled by our cancelling the book discussion and she thought we should go ahead with it, so I sent an email round with her comments. So far it seems people don’t want to do it, but I am not passionately committed one way or the other, so I will go with the flow. We will presumably do it later anyway, so better to do it when the book is still fresh is my thinking now.

June 23, 2018

Why is technology frustration so damned rattling? Last night there was a slew of answers to the book group questions, none of which I could read. The emails were tantalisingly there, with title, sender, recipients, but no content, just a message ‘no content because message incorrectly formatted’. I think technology rage is my version of road rage, which I’ve never understood at all, but now will perhaps understand a little better as I will be able to say ‘ah yes, he is feeling as I do when the net’s down’. I wouldn’t describe my feelings as rage though, more a deep feeling of hopelessness, which I find very discomforting. Anyway I am now at the library and using their computers which are faster anyway. Carol put up cogent reasons for not doing The Book next week and we will revert to plan B, Sue is not coming in any event, but naturally she doesn’t want to study a book primarily on the same disease as Robert is suffering, at least at this stage. Another article has come out in the press on the street library, this time in the Hills to Hawkesbury Living and a number of copies were left on my front verandah yesterday, so I hope more book-lovers will be approaching number 30.

Pottered in the house till time for cooking and dinner service. We had about 35 patrons and I was amazed to discover that Gordan and his partner Bill who live in a tent on the river were made homeless after investing money in a cafe in Windsor six years ago. They went bust and lost their house in Leichhardt as a result. I must ask him which cafe he was in as I remember one which had cabinets with antiques for sale, which may account for the investment which cost their home. Although I went bust in

the end, I am very wary of borrowing so the only person who suffered was me. I would never have borrowed against my house but so many people do that it seems the norm. Both John and Gordan were casualties of that.

June 24, 2018

Went to town to meet Dav, Louis and Millie at the Powerhouse Museum where she loved the Wiggles exhibition but got testy after that, not interested for some reason in the excellent Reigning Men clothing exhibits, from 1715 on. It went to prove how poorly men have been served by fashion in the last 100 years, some of the outfits shown were delectable though I will admit some were truly dreadful. Louis had just ordered Millie’s lunch in the cafe when we got an Emergency message and were told to leave the building, though neither we nor the many hundreds gathered outside knew what went wrong, but the firies were there investigating. Fun day in any event.

June 25, 2018

Reading an article in The Saturday Paper called Taking the Long Way Home about the way women need to fear for their physical safety at all times and how this alters the lives we lead, it really struck a chord with me. It occurs to me that I could write a book, a very thick book, on the number of times I have been put into awkward, uncomfortable or downright dangerous positions by men. It got me thinking about accepting a lift home, a very short distance, from a fellow employee after a work function in Parramatta and how the driver just kept driving to the bush surrounding Parramatta Lake. I was forced to run through dense bush in the dark to get away from him, subsequently flagging a taxi when I finally reached the road. Going to the police would have been a waste of time in the 60s so I went to the union who ‘had a word’ but counselled me not to take it further as his wife was pregnant. Years later I bumped into him in a supermarket and he attempted to apologise, but I just walked away silent, though I realise now the supermarket was the perfect place to give him a mouthful. Or later the university academic who became fixated with me and actually pulled his car into the path of the bus I was travelling home in, forcing it to stop, and told the driver he needed to see me urgently. I stayed on the bus, but he followed it to my destination, parked his car on the bus stop and pleaded with me to ‘just have a coffee’. I fled into a nearby camera shop and he only

gave up when the owner locked the door! I had to work near him the next day, though I did warn my boss who kept a lookout for him and promised to ‘have a word’ if he continued. The times I was propositioned in the shop would make a very thick book indeed, but by then I was more adept at handling the situation, I’d had plenty of practice.

June 26, 2018

Made our regular trip to Manly today, in summer we swim there, in winter we wander, but all year I go there to my hairdresser. Noticed how many vacant shops there are, even in the Mall, and plenty in the side streets. Manly, the tourists’ must-do, is almost wall to wall food outlets, but the post office is hidden in a nasty lane beneath a multi-storey carpark, the cinema has closed, and the interesting stores have departed to be replaced by…………food shops. Trying to buy a pair of flat black walking shoes with a bit of style and came close in one of the rare businesses not lost to Manly, but not quite what I wanted. Considering I looked unsuccessfully all last winter for the same pair and didn’t find them, perhaps I am meant to persevere with the red ones I live in, bought in a second-hand shop in Fairfield 11 years ago.

June 27, 2018

Our weekend dinner service supervisor has now to work Saturdays, and Boss Lady is busy this week, so a post went up asking if anyone could load the van, pick up the food donations from Coles, supervise service and return the van. I put my hand up, though John would do the van driving, but then it occurred to me, where is all the food coming from? So I asked the question and the answer was ‘cooking the food is part of the service’, hot soup, main meal, three veg, dessert, icecream and custard for 60. Ah well, no, considering we have book group on Friday night and anyway all the food would be cold by the time we got there. So now 2IC will do the savoury cooking and I will do dessert etc as usual. Always read the fine print, but in this case there was no fine print.

Sue rang and Robert has yet another MRI tomorrow, he wasn’t totally pleased with the result of his oncology appointments yesterday as an important test had not been done at St. Vincents and now can’t be done at RPA till next Tuesday, so his treatment can’t happen at least till that result

arrives in 10 days and time is of the essence to start it. Bummer, how frustrating.

June 28, 2018

Three lots of shopping today, partly because the battery on my kitchen scales died and I went to IGA for another 3V small circular one, got it home and the volts were the same so it must be right? Wrong? There are 3 different identical looking 3V batteries, each with different ampage, trying to think back to physics lectures all those decades ago. Sue rang and we had a long chat about Robert’s situation. She said immunotherapy isn’t currently available for his condition, so I mentioned Jackie’s experience in going to Latvia for this treatment so he wants all the details and I’ve sent those off. I know I was very dubious when she went there, I wouldn’t have done it, but she has had an excellent response to the treatment and three or more extra years so far after the docs at the San said there was no more they could offer. Worth a look but I was loath to mention it as I know everyone and his dog will have a remedy, Sue’s audiologist recommended he change his diet, I would have clocked her.

June 29, 2018

Sheila came down for a visit and to come to book group and seemed to pal up with Brigitte, perhaps I can arrange to get them together another time. She told me later about John’s odd behaviour in the two years leading up his diagnosis with glioblastoma, something she’s never discussed before. One example was going to a restaurant in a group and when they all left John didn’t appear, when they went back to look for him he was sitting at an adjoining table joining in with their discussion. The disease itself is fascinating, operating as it does at the boundary of brain and mind. The boys really liked Andaz, Bill telling me enthusiastically that it was the best Indian restaurant he had ever been to, a big call. We girls enjoyed the evening I think, a small and casual group with no particular focus, just a discussion on what we had been reading recently.

June 30, 2018

Ha, June 30 and no stocktake to start tomorrow, no group certificates to do, what bliss. We three sat in our dressing gowns in front of the fire this morning, then later Heather arrived for morning tea, before we polished off

some leftovers for lunch. I baked chocolate mint cakes for service tonight, but at 2pm we raced next door to the auction of their house. John and I took a bet on the price and I won, betting $1.7 million against an actual price of $1.85 M. It was a long bidding battle between two couples, one of whom had introduced themselves a few weeks ago, but sadly they missed out. Raced off to service straight after and we fed about 40 people tonight.

July 1, 2018

A storm in a takeaway box at service last night. We have been told for a while not to give away any leftover food until the van is packed, the theory being that the clients need to help. But last week another volunteer youth group was there, loading up the van. A man had waited half an hour in the dark and cold for one small takeaway container with a sausage and some veggies in it, so I gave it to him. There is a hooha and under pain of banishment only supervisors can now give out takeaways, lordy me, get some priorities people. Last night under the new policy I had to fill a whole bin liner with leftover rice which was given to someone for their dogs???

I worked in the garage for an hour, putting aside a boring Royal Doulton cream teaset, a toy train, a cutlery set and some Wade animals to go to auction, these all non-sellers from the auction I had when the shop closed. Sue rang, then later I talked to Robert who said he loves the stupid texts I send, which make him laugh. When I casually asked ‘how are you?’ the reply was that he is ‘still asymptomatic’, a terrible waiting game underlies that reply.

July 2, 2018

An appointment with Tricia in the city led to a request for me to write an article on adoption for the Benevolent Society’s newsletter, on whatever I want, 250 to 1000 words. No hurry as it only comes out each quarter. Any writing is good practice so I said yes. I am planning to do a bit of writing again, but just haven’t sat down to it. Last night I phoned Kenneth and told him that I had read his poem Stoned to the book group. To my surprise he told me that it was the first time any of his work has been read to a group, usually it doesn’t go any further than the filing cabinet. He seemed more pleased than I would have expected and promised to send me further examples of his work to add to the collection. Had lunch with Carol as has

become the pattern when I’m in town, we both enjoy the catchup, the food and the fearless rosellas who share small bits of it with us.

Boss Lady made a pleasant comment in my direction on Facebook, indicating that I haven’t been sacked as yet, but my ears will be burning during the volunteers’ meeting tomorrow night, which we can’t attend, perhaps just as well. They unexpectedly had over 80 people turn up last night, a scary thought when the catering is for much fewer than that, however they managed with some spare food that was in the van.

July 3, 2018

Minded Millie today while Dav worked from home doing conference calls etc. Millie could hear her in the bedroom and got upset periodically, wanting mummy, but a few sultanas worked wonders each time. She waters the garden each afternoon with her little watering can, which she calls her teapot understandably, and we must have made 30 trips to the tap to refill. She takes after her dad in a need to group and classify, a programmer in waiting? Currently it is shapes, which she asks you to draw on her chalkboard, circle, square, triangle, semi-circle! rhomboid!!! Another day it is numbers or letters. Amazing watching her brain at work.

John picked me up and we had dinner in the Gateway at Circular Quay before seeing Lucia di Lammermoor at the Opera House. Michael Fabiano as Edgardo was the highlight for me, though Jessica Pratt was formidable as Lucia. It is an opera I have never seen before and it isn’t one of those with a memorable well-known aria, however it was one I am glad to have seen. We saw good friends of John’s from Canberra in a row ahead and waited to catch up with them after the show, but despite lingering in the foyer for some time they had gone, so we had an icecream instead. Next in August is Rossini’s The Turk in Italy, another new one for me, but a much lighter opera than Lucia.

July 4, 2018

Thank goodness no early rise today, so we made the best of it and had our tea, toast and jam for breakfast in front of the fire. Got a chance to catch up on some online stuff, including trying to book us on the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal harbour cruise for NAIDOC week. I had exchanged emails with Cate in their office previously, so was disappointed to find the cruise listed

as sold out on their website. I shot an email to her asking if she could put us on a waiting list and got one straight back saying we were in, hopefully on the deck, not in a tinny trailing behind. Should be fun.

Then tonight we took John’s next door neighbour and her daughter out for a birthday dinner at the Royal Hotel in Ryde and then to KOI for dessert. Enjoyed both but found the conversation taxing….. Israel is always right, leftists are always anti-Semitic, Australians are two-faced backstabbers….. I just wanted a nice peaceful evening, but ‘you can’t always get what you want’ as the song says.

July 5, 2018

In one of those quirky moments of serendipity I met a couple who commented that their friend plays flute in the Sydney Opera Orchestra and was telling them that in Lucia di Lammermoor she has to come forward to the front edge of the pit to watch the lead during the ‘mad scene’ so she can synchronise exactly with the singer. This was the very part that I loved the most, the cadenza where she mimics the flute’s trill, or the flute mimics her, I can’t remember, but finally they ‘sing’ together perfectly. What are the chances of seeing the performance one night and hearing indirectly from the flute player the next? Poor John was reluctant to rise this morning and it turns out he was turning over last evening in his mind, no doubt wondering why he invested his hard-earned into a lovely meal book-ended in the car with complaints, even to the point of dragging me into a row they had recently, wanting my opinion of who had been right. A box of chocs would have been cheaper and less stressful.

Now a male volunteer is in trouble for making ‘inappropriate comments’ that were reported back to BL, and he got a very public admonition to ‘please ring me to discuss’. An apology followed but I suspect, knowing him somewhat, that his misdemeanour was not in the Harvey Weinstein category. I hope no resignation follows as he is a real asset. Went out to see Brian who at 92 is suffering increasing heart failure, so our usual sushi lunch was had on his front verandah, the short walk to the shops seeming too difficult. He is 100% mentally fit though and can fill me in on all current issues via ABC radio and television. Sue rang and she and Robes are coming down next week to stay overnight and we will go for a banquet at Abhi’s for the restaurant’s 28th anniversary.

July 6, 2018

Warning, nit-picking ahead: Today I put in a written complaint to my local library, the equivalent of church for me. Castle Hill Library has thrown the Dewey system out of the window and opted for partial cataloging by genre. So a single author’s books may now be separated and shelved in the main section, in the crime section or in the romance section for example. Now my local in Baulkham Hills has taken to adding the silly little stickers to their books too. This has led to some ridiculous decisions, such as putting a Lionel Shriver book in the comedy genre just because it is amusing in parts. What next? All books with red covers shelved together? or all books mentioning an animal? or books under 300 pages? It’s such reductionist nonsense I can’t believe librarians have come up with it. It writes books off as one-dimensional and reduces the joy of the unexpected find. I asked them if Anna Karenina is a romance? a tragedy? or a historical novel? All three I would argue. Managed to borrow three books they hadn’t put their infernal stickers onto yet.

Waiting for news of Robert’s biopsy today, but don’t want to ring, as I am sure many in the family will be doing so. A few weeks ago we would have been appalled with a prognosis of three years, now we are hoping against hope for that very thing over the alternative. Everything is relative.

July 7, 2017

Big real estate person that I am (not) it is amazing that I have been to a house auction and today a viewing within a week. An almost new house around the corner that I have admired had an open house today so I wandered around. I could move in just as it is, it was superb, decor, furniture, pictures on the walls, everything. I assumed it had been styled, but no, just the owner’s taste I’m told. The husband is a ‘high end plumber’ and the bathrooms are gorgeous, with underfloor heating, free-standing bath etc. So much better than the one next door which went for $1.85M last week, so it will be interesting to see what it brings though weatherboard which I love puts folks off.

I was a bit worried how service would go tonight after the storm in the takeaway container last week. But Boss Lady was warm! and friendly! and I was congratulated on a couple of things I had done, including altering a typo on 1000 leaflets wrongly printed. Many takeaways were prepared and distributed after service and then we drove home to Sth Windsor two young boys who come on bike and scooter respectively. They were asked what food they had at home and the answer was ‘none’ so we filled a number of bags with veges, canned food etc, hence the need for their lift home. It was quite a way for two little kids to be going home alone anyway, must have been at least 4km, so I was glad to have the excuse to drive them. John wasn’t feeling well when we got there and dropped off to sleep in the car, waking when dessert was being served but we had enough hands to manage without him luckily.

July 8, 2108

I usually wait a bit before rereading a book but seeing I was given a copy of A Manual for Cleaning Women by Carol, just after reading a library copy, I am making an exception and so enjoying being able to make marks all over my favourite bits. Also enjoying simultaneously an Anne Tyler book, Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. She is a new author to me though well known in America, I first discovered her recently when Michelle lent me Morgan’s Passing, so now I plan to feast on a few more of her prodigious back catalogue. Went over to visit with Martha and Phil for the morning, supping tea on their sunny back verandah. I’ve been thinking today about the new person at service last night, a 30 year old woman who has been sleeping on the Sydney to Newcastle trains. She couldn’t get into a refuge and I overheard Boss Lady ringing her daughter to ask if she minded if the woman came to them for a couple of nights. I heard the immediate reply ‘she can have my room, she will need a good sleep’, typical of BL and typical of her daughter.

July 9, 2018

Spoke to Sue this morning and Robert’s news is bad, he only found out today, not last Friday as had been promised. She said he doesn’t want to talk about it, but when I spoke to him he did go into it and said that he is going in a clinical trial as well as having the radiation treatment, as the chemo doesn’t work on an unmethylated tumour. Of course this means he won’t know if he is on the drug or the placebo, but apparently he can’t get access to the drug any other way so them’s the breaks. As a result I didn’t

feel like doing much today and moseyed about at home doing exciting things like mending moth holes in woollens. What else can you do really?

July 10, 2018

In town early to go on the Tribal Warrior Aboriginal Cruise which I bought John for his birthday. While we had a lovely day in the winter sun on Goat Island, it wasn’t at all what we were expecting. There were dances by some Aboriginal kids, a weaving demonstration and a pretty scrappy lunch of a sausage (which I don’t usually eat, so I opted for a vege one, which was pretty bad), some salad and a bun. The people were all willing and very nice, but no-one told us anything about Aboriginal history around the Harbour or Goat Island or about anything else, which was what we were looking forward to. Anyway it wasn’t too expensive so no tragedy. By the time we got home on the bus we were wrecked, stamina isn’t a strong point with either of us any more. My car was at the mechanic’s for a couple of things, one being the dial for the heating/cooling. Toyota don’t make them any more so it has to be one from the wrecker’s which is fine, except it comes as a whole unit and with four hours labour to install will cost about $500. For a plastic dial, repeat, a dial.

July 11, 2018

John pointed out that for the price of yesterday’s excursion, $70, we could have got a ferry ticket to Goat Island, then gone back to Gateway for a lovely meal and still be just as clueless as to Aboriginal history around Sydney Harbour. Went to Erko today where Millie is holed up with a really rotten cold, one that’s lasted over a week and still has her crying a lot of the time. She really wasn’t interested in grandma, only wanted mummy or daddy, but grandma she had. I hope she doesn’t have my weakness for respiratory tract infections, I’m either well or have a rotten cold, there is no middle ground, no such thing as a mild one. Caught the train to John’s tonight as we have doc’s appointments tomorrow. It is his football night with friend Rafe, so I am happily ensconsed in the bedroom. Looking forward to reading more of my current novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing, an account of the life of a teenage black boy in America’s South. I assumed I was reading a period piece till I was shocked by a reference to Cyclone Katrina and realised it was contemporary, a depressing thought.

July, 12, 2018

Boy oh boy. A 10.30 appointment for John with the infectious diseases doctor at St. Vincent’s turned into a five hour epic. First we saw his doc Amrita, then after much deliberation she decided to call in the professor, an unprofessor-like lady with a very casual manner and a wise way of looking at the problem of his knee. She agreed with Amrita that the orthopaedic surgeon’s rush to operate is unwise and recommended a second opinion from their ortho and also an MRI, which may or may not be possible depending on the metals used in the prosthesis, something only Dr Ellis knows. We then waited an hour while Amrita talked to radiology and the ortho doctor’s registrar, during which time we organised pathology and bookings, but all up it was a five hour marathon. One problem is liaison between RNSH and St. Vincent’s has been poor, so letters have gone missing and today blood tests already done had to be repeated, though promises were made that all would be available in plenty of time. If John decided on no more treatment, the country would lurch back into the black and the government would be wondering what they’d done right. I found a purse with money in it and handed it to security, but they didn’t even take my name, which seemed odd. Meeting Robert and Sue for dinner tonight and they will stay overnight, I had forecast a possible cancellation due to his treatment but so far, so good.

July 13, 2018

Well Robert surprised me and managed to get to the dinner at Abhi’s at Concord. We had a banquet and enjoyed it immensely, Sue telling me he had really been looking forward to it. I guess the radiation effects will increase over time but so far he is thumbing his nose at it. We sat in front of the fire having tea/whisky till nearly 1am, then we were at table again at 8am having our porridge and toast. Sue dropped Robert and me to RNSH, where he was giving a talk on The Doctor as Patient, in which, among other things, he recounted his own experience of recent months without telling them who the doctor was. I was tempted to ask a question at the end along the lines of ‘how well do you know the doctor in question?’ but decided not to out him. Another person there who knew the facts asked pretty much that question and when he answered that it was his own experience there were some gasps in the room. He headed off to his treatment at RPA and

then he flies to Melbourne for the weekend, while Sue returns to Killcare. Hope to see them again next week.

July 14, 2018

Had a slothful dressing gowned start even though I had cooking to do for meal service tonight. Then decided to look up seats for Aida and was pleasantly surprised to get good ones in August, so cooking was a bit delayed. Just about to get the ingredients out for an apple and banana sponge pudding when I got a call from Cake Decorating Central asking if I could use two decorated cakes, demonstrator models from classes this morning, so that saved time and money. John’s talk at the housing conference last week indirectly led to a huge donation of ‘feminine hygiene products’ from Glebe Women’s Centre, cartons full in fact plus two overnight bags full, so he picked them up and we delivered them to storage today. Service was small but enthusiastic with the kids loving the cake with an icing fox sculpture on top, the second one we kept for tomorrow night. I have apparently been promoted as I was specially asked to work Wednesday lunch because The Project, a channel 10 TV show, is coming to film and Boss Lady wants ‘experienced capable volunteers’ on deck. Ahem.

July 15, 2018

I found a post on my Facebook page this morning from John’s next door neighbour, berating us for being ‘anti-Semitic, educated but brainless about Israel’ etc etc. This because we wouldn’t engage in the argument she wanted over Israel when we took her out for dinner for her birthday recently. Then her pal bought into it, saying we were ‘uneducated and brainwashed’. I hit back with both barrels saying in small part ‘You are basing your opinion of our views on one ‘conversation’ where you were doing all the talking from the back seat of my car coming home from a social event and we weren’t engaging with you as it was neither the time nor the place (we both have trouble hearing when we can’t see the person)’ and telling her never to post on my page again. I can’t believe she can be bothered doing this on holiday in Bali! She is annoying in the extreme but luckily I don’t have to live next door. Baked a Passionfruit Roulade from Serge Dansereau’s cookbook and realised I was the only one here to eat it, but luckily Heather came for a cuppa and eased that little problem.

July 16, 2018

Coincidentally, we have theatre tickets with John’s neighbour tomorrow night, ha. John rang me last night and said he had offered to drive her and her mother in MY car so I very quickly disabused him of that idea. We will still go, but will meet them there. Today I booked a restaurant nearby to have dinner before the show. Later his neighbour rang me and apologised unreservedly for the Facebook post, and particularly for the comments of her friend, saying she is very fearful of losing our friendship. I accepted the apology but warned her not to put anything on my page in future. It shows I think that people of a certain mindset keep pushing and pushing until they meet fierce resistance, then backtrack at a rate of knots when called out. Makes me wish, yet again, that I had exploded with John’s daughter instead of letting her keep threatening and abusing us. Lesson learned, it never works to give in to a bully.

July 17, 2018

Recently I got a flyer from NBN telling me the service would be connected soon, groan. I immediately rang them and insisted that I be at home when the connection happened after the debacle they oversaw at the shop. I was assured this was possible and later received a follow up call telling me the serviceman would ring me two days prior. Today I came home from shopping to find the installation almost complete. I bailed him up and asked why he hadn’t called, but he told me there is no protocol for doing that, he never has the phone number of the client. So why was I assured otherwise I asked? They just lie, was his open response. I had to laugh then as that’s been my experience of them in the past. We then got on well, he was Persian and we talked accents, languages and more, finishing up with cake, a handshake and a new friend. Bought ingredients for an apple and banana sponge pudding for service tomorrow, thinking I may add a light crumble topping to the sponge for a change (in truth it had occurred to me that Waleed Aly might take a spoonful). Surely I wouldn’t be trying to impress him? But it would be disappointing if he murmured ‘perhaps lacking a little crunch?’.

July 18, 2018

Last night went off exceedingly well. Great meal at The Commons, a new fave, and the play The Man in the Attic was also very good. A platter of olives and fresh house made foccaccia was a memorable start to the evening. Then of course there was the warm welcome from John’s neighbour, replete with hug and yet another apology, perhaps my anger actually achieved something. I very rarely get seriously angry, but when I do it is pretty scary for the recipient because they have likely never seen it before. Up early to make dessert, changing it to a stewed apple and cinnamon pudding with a crunchy cinnamon crumble topping. No Waleed at service, but a director, cameraman and sound recordist who used heaps of film and did in-depth interviews with a few of the patrons, later going out to their campsites along the river and filming them there also. It was lovely in the sun and there were lots of kids there, being school holidays. Takeaways were liberally dispensed and not a word did I say about hypocrisy, double standards or favouritism, on my best behaviour I was indeed.

July 19, 2018

One thing sticking in my mind about yesterday was being asked to watch over about two dozen bottles of soft drink which ‘aren’t to be taken yet’. I was nearby dispensing soup which I decided wasn’t hot enough so I turned on the barbeque beneath the pot. Between simultaneously being interviewed by the film crew, stirring the soup and watching to make sure no-one touched the heated barbeque, I missed the fact that, in my peripheral vision, some of the kids took drinks. It was with some annoyance that I was told I had failed to watch the drinks (why were they left there exposed anyway?) and when I apologised it was accepted only dismissively. I sometimes think that I am a good match for the work but a poor match for the team, whose application to the task is concrete but whose sense of humour is often lacking. You feel like saying ‘I will pay for the damned drinks’ but the implication was that I had turned a blind eye. Ho hum, this is why I am a loner, I work so much better without pressure. Anyway, today improved, the car heater dial system was fixed for about half of his $500 quote, though he wasn’t able to get a particular cable which I must pay for when he sources one, the perennial problem with old cars.

July 20, 2018

Decided to try the District Court at Parramatta for a change and, with some guidance from a helpful guard, discovered an interesting trial of two Muslim juveniles charged with planning a terrorist attack. I needed to forfeit my phone and go through a second lot of security to get in. The jury was out twiddling its collective thumbs while the Crown and the two barristers argued the toss about whether they should be made aware that the boys objected to standing for the national anthem at school assembly so wagged school or came late to avoid doing so. One boy left school in protest when a demand was made that he conform. I thought back to my own teenage refusal to stand at the movies when God Save the Queen was played, weathering the hissed opprobrium that was brought down on my head by other patrons, though only the older ones were offended. I can see the relevance from the Crown’s point of view as it goes to show their possible sympathies from the age of 12, but also understand that it may prejudice the jury and is somewhat in the past. The judge still had not decided when I left, I’m glad I don’t have that decision on my shoulders, but I think the Crown is right, put it all on the table and let the jury decide. I was the only one in the gallery apart from a Muslim couple whom I suspected were one boy’s parents. As the accused left court in custody one boy waved lovingly to the couple, what a diabolical situation it all is. Had an amazing lunch at Circa Espresso, a literal hole in the wall cafe in a disused car space replete with roller door, though the food was top restaurant quality, five stars in my food review.

July 21, 2018

So Colleen McCullough’s husband, the unlovely Ric, has succeeded in convincing the judge that she went against what she’d told all her friends, her nurse, her solicitor and Oklahoma University — and left her estate to him with an almost illegible scrawled mark on a will she was too sick to write or to understand. Bollocks. He was as transparent as a grimy window, the judge should get out more and experience what people like Ric are like in real life. Astounding.

I feel virtuous having today written a review of Lincoln in the Bardo, collated my financial details and sent them off to the accountant (not taxable at all is my guess), cooked for dinner service, gave an opinion on the value of a bronze for a friend at Annangrove and served at dinner. Yes I think I deserved the piece of peanut brittle after dinner.

July 22, 2018

Interesting discussion with John last night when he said about meal service ‘we are outsiders there’. In one way this was disappointing, but in another it confirmed my long-held belief that although the patrons have become like old friends after 18 months, the supervisors are distant, critical, stand-offish at best and downright unfriendly at worst. The boss, though mercurial, can be funny and relates to us when she is of a mind, but the other two are so perfunctory, task-oriented and unapproachable that even getting hello out of them is a business, and always initiated by us. We came home last night happy and satisfied with the work we’d done, but soon I felt down-hearted knowing I need to go through it all next Saturday night, with no chance of it being different after this long. I’ve never been in a situation before where I consistently can’t do right for doing wrong.

Old friend Christine was passing this arv and pulled up when she saw us in the front yard, had a cuppa and stayed chatting for a good while, me in my yard clothes and no makeup, she likewise and none of it mattered. Having a cuppa with the above-mentioned crew is something that has never happened, nor has a personal word ever come across from their side. Ho hum, not used to being unable to make friends, wish I could just stop caring.

July 23, 2018

Bussed in to the Downing Centre to see Charles Waterstreet cross-examining his client Evie Amati who, unlike Lizzie Borden, just gave her victims a couple of whacks with an axe. I was somewhat dubious of her claim to temporary insanity, but after hearing her evidence I am inclined to the view that it is entirely possible, indeed very likely. She had attended her GP, her endocrinologist and RPA reporting suicidal and homicidal ideation and was referred to psychiatrists charging $100-200 excess per visit, an impossible figure as she had exhausted her funds having a sex change operation in Thailand. She claimed to have attempted suicide at Stanmore Station and investigations showed CCTV footage of just that event. Gender dysmorhia is ill understood and its correction problematic, but an axe is rarely a female weapon of choice, but then again look at Lizzie all those years ago. Following some time in that trial I moved on to another, that of Leonard Warwick for the bombing of the Family Court and other buildings

in the 1980s, resulting in two deaths. Again I saw cross-examination by the defence. The judge at the first trial was snappy and impatient, the second judge was patient to a fault, personality does influence the management of a trial.

John made a written request to spend time with his granddaughters during the school holidays, but as expected it didn’t happen, in fact no reply was received.

July 24, 2018

My next door neighbours moved out today after 17 years. They had very small children when they moved in and now the last of the four has finished school. The move involved three large moving trucks with six men loading from 8am to 2pm, though it is a very big house. I await with interest meeting the new neighbours. Although the mother and children were delightful, the dad was cold and pretty tough, responding to my request to have an overhanging branch of their huge tree pruned with the statement ‘we can’t afford that!’ just prior to installing a heated inground pool and buying a VW people mover and a BMW. When just part of the branch fell on my roof it resulted in an insurance claim and an increase in my excess. He is an executive in a minor bank so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Didn’t watch Masterchef this year, apart from a couple of early episodes, too much time away from books. I took a punt on three of the original 24 though, Sashi, Khanh and Jess, all of whom impressed me greatly. Got a big surprise when I saw on the net that in finals week they are down to four, including my three faves. I wish they had Masterchef at the TAB, I’d be in the running for a nice trifecta.

July 25, 2018

At the library today one of the librarians said ‘I went to your street library last week and picked up a good book’, quite funny I thought when she works at a library with five branches. Perhaps she is like me and really wants to mark her favourite bits. I have avoided buying books for years now, but three very recent ones tempted me, Madeleine Albright’s book Fascism, Ronan Farrow’s on US diplomacy (or lack of it) and Luke Harding’s Collusion. I decided that if the library had one of the three, perhaps I could justify buying the other two, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that they

had all of them. At $1.60 per reservation, it sure beats buying. Obviously there is a Trumpophobe in the acquisitions department.

Decided to stay home this Saturday night and watch the results coming in from the five by-elections, accompanied by a glass or two of bubbly. I will still cook dessert for 50 or so as usual for evening meal service, but John will take it and serve. I am being worn down by the constant petty rules that you only find out about when you break one and the fact that they change depending on who is supervising. The main rule seems to be ‘the boss does as she sees fit and the volunteers do as they are told’. John finds it frustrating but not as emotionally draining as I do.

July 26, 2018

Went out to Windsor for the day with Brigitte for our long-planned excursion. Drove around the sights including the Francis Greenway courthouse, the observatory, St Matthews Church and cemetery and riverbank parks. Bumped into a few friends out there, as always, and then enjoyed lunch at Wonder Sushi. Headed out to Wilberforce to see the other side of life at the cabin park there where some of the local poor live in extremely basic, very small, uninsulated cabins made of fibro. It is a really ugly park with a huge pile of old mattresses and ripped armchairs near the office, some of the cabins would barely be wide enough to lie down on the shorter side, I doubt they are legal. Grim.

Joanne from the Hills Shire Times rang to say they are doing an article on ‘little acts of kindness’ and wants to feature the street library again, with an update on the response I’ve had. She also had looked me up on the News photo library and found some of me with Kevin Rudd at the apology to the stolen generations. Don’t use those pics I told her laughing.

July 27, 2018

Went to a talk at Royal North Shore Hospital on Mindfulness and Brain Cancer, given by a doctor who is also a meditation teacher. She is doing a PhD on whether training in meditation would help patients physically and will conscript 10 patients for the trial. Questions were allowed after the talk and I asked how she would control for the effect of the 1.5 hours face to face discussion per week being a major factor in the effect. It could be teaching them French, studying classical music or studying a book,

anything that takes the patient off the medical ferris wheel for that long each week could perhaps account for the improvement. To my surprise she agreed that could be so and they wouldn’t know, so I don’t think that research model stands up at all, not that I said so.

Then I planned to go to the Pathology Museum at the hospital, accessed by ringing a phone number on its closed door. Who are you? asked the man on the other end. When I explained I was an interested member of the public, and after further questioning, that I had a Diploma in Biological Sciences, I was told it is restricted to doctors and medical students. Oh really? I said, that’s not what your website says. He absolutely refuted my claim about the website, finally saying that the public hasn’t been admitted since the 90s. What really got me was when he said ‘it’s not just for retirees to wander about in’. After I got off the phone I checked the welcoming website which says: The museum facility is a powerful resource for medical students, health professionals and for community education. Later I rang back and suggested they remove that phrase from the website, but my friendly pal was at lunch. This is Professor Tony Hill of Pathology, how can I help? said a kindly voice. It turns out they absolutely encourage interest in pathology in the community so he asked if I could come back on Tuesday about 10am to be left to my own devices in the museum. You betcha, I replied.

July 28, 2018

Slept in and let the blood moon pass me by. Last night’s book group was a smaller than usual though pleasant affair looking at the book Lincoln in the Bardo. Mine were the only positive comments on the book, I likened it to a piece of modern art in the MCA rather than one of the classical works in the National Gallery. It takes us back because it is so different to what we are used to, but I believe he gave us much to enjoy.

John went to meal service alone tonight, though I cooked a large apple pie which went over well apparently. My absence was in part a need to be away for a while and partly a protest against the petty rules that are being enforced. Watched the by-election results which appear to be going 5-0 to opposition parties, but the margins should be huge against this appalling government, yet they are modest.

July 29, 2108

So, today is spring gardening shopping day I decide, drive out to the wholesale nursery I frequent at Vineyard, only to discover it is closed on Sundays. Oh dear, morning deeply cut into, fossil fuels burned for nought, so I retrieve the situation by going to KMart to replace the car back support cushion Deborah and Steve bought me years ago, which is gradually self-destructing. KMart has moved but I persevere and find the car department, one aisle with a handful of goods, nothing remotely resembling said cushion. It appears they are going over to primarily clothes, more clothes, yet more clothes and small electricals. Bought up on fruit and veges though, before I remembered I was going to John’s for a few days tomorrow. Ok world, I should have stayed in bed. Bought tiger prawns for my favourite dinner though, cooking them in the oven with olive oil, garlic, chili, shallots and tomato paste, mm-mmm. Day not wasted.

July 30, 2018

Feeling below par and decided some flowers would help so again drove out to the nursery and bought a Camellia for the back yard and some pansies to go in a garden at the front. The friendly girl who served me is a part time teacher and told me of a student whose first name is Manslaught, yep Manslaught. The poor little bugger asked her if his name meant ‘killer’ and she assured him it didn’t and was a lovely name, though he remained unconvinced. Perhaps the parents don’t know the meaning I proffered, but she assured me they are English. Mr Google lists it as an obsolete Middle English word, meaning murder, nice.

John’s memory continues to be uneven. Yesterday I sent him home with some food, including a base for a casserole or mince dish, basically cooked onion, carrot and tomato. We discussed how he might use it, then when we spoke at 1.30pm he asked again what it was, but this morning said ‘that meal you sent home with me wasn’t very nice’. I need to go to every doc’s appointment as we’ve had some confusion there as well.

July 31, 2018

Exciting to get into the Pathology Museum today after all the fuss last week. They gave me a pathology registrar to answer questions but I said that seemed an awful waste of her time, so they left me to my own devices.

It is a smaller museum than others I’ve been to, but fascinating nonetheless. After a few hours there was a knock at the door and it was the Professor, who’d come to see how I was getting on (or to make sure I wasn’t stealing formalin-jarrred specimens) and he stopped for 20 minutes or so discussing pathology training, the difficulty of harvesting any samples at all now due to new rules brought in by the government in 2002, the lack of autopsies done at RNSH (200 average a year down to just 5 last year) and much more. He said that heart surgeons used to be able to handle actual small hearts when planning surgery on newborns and very small children so they had a physical memory of the dimensions and could see the defect they were to repair, but that’s all been stopped now ‘due to the idea that a heart is more than a pump and somehow houses a soul’. Religion 1, Science 0. While it is vitally important that parents receive informed consent for a child’s autopsy, the benefits to other children are immense, but he says that now collecting samples is virtually a thing of the past. I discussed the memory of my friend Colin in the 60s taking leg bones out of children who died of leukaemia for research on the effects of French nuclear testing and telling me the results showed that there was a link from the radiation across northern NSW and southern Queensland, though they kept that secret. They tracked the source of the milk fed to each child. About 20 years ago I remember a State pollie getting up in parliament and denying that the autopsies or the research had ever been done, after the press got onto it, it was too sensitive a topic from a few angles so those parents never got to thank the French for the death of their child.

August 1, 2018

Feeling flattened once again after posting on the volunteers’ page about a phone call that John received from an inside contact in the public service letting him know that ‘a heap of money is being directed to house all the homeless in the Hawkesbury in Housing Commission properties’. He has had amazing results since his speech at an Affordable Housing Conference recently, many donations of food and goods, a visit by a top cop he met there to liaise with local police and now this, we were cock-a-hoop. Not looking for any kudos, just sharing a good news story, but the post was treated with skepticism, it seems all achievements must be due to the management. He is going to a FaCS conference on homelessness soon, we will keep mum about anything coming out of that I think. Robert rang asking if we could go to Killcare on Friday for the weekend, but I explained

we had accepted for First Saturday plus being rostered at service earlier in the evening. He called himself pushy but hoped we could cancel those, which we duly did. We were removed from the roster without comment, but am I paranoid to think much was said behind the scenes?

Went in to St. V’s for John’s appointment with Nada, suddenly very pregnant. She said that John’s tiredness (he was asleep in the waiting room when called), lethargy and general unwellness is due to his knee infection, now in its second year and showing up in his blood results. She is in favour of a biopsy at least but queried whether his heart would stand surgery. Came out feeling pretty defeated. Even more so when we got back to his place sans my wallet. I had bought us icecreams at Messina and paid there, who knows where the wallet went after that? At least the three bad things happened on the one day.

August 2, 2018

Cancelled 3 banking cards, my licence, Opal card and borrowing cards from 3 libraries. Enough, the rest can wait for another day. Getting things together for Killcare, including two good bottles of red. If I am buying a pricey bottle it is always a heavy red that you can stand a spoon up in and they prefer lighter pinot noir types, but I’m sure they will enjoy them all the same. We will watch The Project up there tomorrow night, I am sort of hoping my comments remained on the cutting room floor, that way I can’t be accused of outshining the boss in any way, not that I could match her energy and enthusiasm if my life depended on it. Found out today that one of our much-loved long-term clients went to hospital after weeks of ill-health – inoperable tumours in the lung, liver and stomach – no wonder he’d been asking me to skim the soup and only give him the liquid part. He has a prosthetic leg and also has an infected stump so will be confined to a wheelchair from now on, too weak to use crutches. So I lost my wallet, big deal. So I get frustrated with petty attitudes? Big deal there too, trying to look at the bigger picture. We are doing great work despite all that.

August 3, 2018

We carried enough tools, power tools, hand tools, every damned type of tool, to build a house, though John was installing the street library he had made for Sue and Robert. They filled my station wagon to the roof. He

spent the day measuring and planning the spot, then at night we watched The Project on Channel 10, filmed at meal service and featuring two special pals of ours. Considering the team was filming from 10am to 5.30pm and interviewed a number of clients, it was a pretty disappointing length, however any publicity is good publicity. Went to Ela Mesa Greek restaurant in Woy Woy for dinner and I enjoyed Moreton Bay Bugs and King Prawns, before going ‘home’ to sit by the fire and chew the fat. Robert is over half way through his radiotherapy and four weeks after he finishes that they are off to the Galapagos Islands, the last item on his bucket list.

August 4, 2018

Robert’s builder friend arrived early to help John get the sleepers into position and cement them in. Then J was able to spend the rest of the day assembling the library parts and installing them, with an excellent result. Two different couples popped in over the course of the day, each served tea and some of John’s homemade sultana cake. We ate in and enjoyed sitting around the fire again, in my case reading Ronan Farrow’s War on Peace, a depressingly familiar tale of American waste of billions on warfare while decimating their spending on diplomacy and humanitarian aid. Multi billions have been spent funding brutal, unmanageable opposition groups in Afghanistan, Somalia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Colombia etc etc. In Syria they were funding three different opposition groups to defeat Assad and the three were fighting each other, all on American coin. What a farce.

August 5, 2018

Robert asked yesterday if I wanted to go on a bushwalk today, but when I got up he had gone. He was soon back and said he’d just been ‘testing the rope’ needed to get down the cliff on the walk he’d chosen, rope ladder I’m thinking. Soon we set out and eventually came to a cliff with a rope hanging over it. ‘Here we are’ he smiled, and proceeded to give me a lesson in abseiling down a shortish but steep cliff with fridge sized boulders at the bottom. He went down easily, as you would if you’ve climbed Kilimanjaro and walked Kokoda, but I am not fond of heights, nor crashing onto large boulders. However with his ‘encouragement’ I bit the bullet and made it down, though at one stage, just as I was about to say ‘I can’t do this’, I lost control and was swinging uncontrolled on the damned rope, with Robert desperately yelling ‘don’t let go!’. Fairly obvious I would have thought when

a broken back, at least, was my lot if I did. But I managed to give the impression that rope swinging down a cliff is my favourite way to spend Sunday and we continued on our way to the bottom where Sue picked us up. Later we went to the beach cafe and ate fish wraps on the grass, what a wonderful relaxing weekend with much loved friends.

August 6, 2018

Late last night, John got an email from the philanthropic grant body he had applied to for 100,000 smackers on behalf of the charity we support. He was told effectively that his application had reached the long list and on August 30 there is a social function to announce the short list of 8 before the ‘winner’ is selected at the end of the year. He passed that info up the chain and just got a reply saying basically ‘thanks, I will attend that’. Sharing the joy with him on the night might have been nice, considering two could go, but no.

John had an meeting with the Tenant Network and I had one with Tricia half an hour earlier, so he dropped me off at Barrack Street and continued on to Central. Then I went wallet shopping. In Myers I was asked ‘what brand do you want?’ a funny question to me, it is the qualities of an item I look for, not the brand. After much agonising, including consideration of buying one in an op shop, I narrowed it down to 3. (Robert’s dilemma has convinced me I can treat myself with new stuff sometimes). The winner was……….a burnt orange soft leather number from a brand I’d never heard of, it easily beat the Oroton competitor which was double the price and the Guess one which I discovered was PVC when I dug inside for a label. My last hand made one lasted 25 years, so 25 from this one would be nice.

August 7, 2018

Early appointment with Dr Rooney, the orthopaedic surgeon to whom we went for a second opinion on John’s knee. He is verbose, voluble, funny and self-deprecating ‘patients get worried I am going to charge them by the word’ and I think I’m in love. But seriously he was so refreshing ‘why would you want a second knee replacement after going through one and having all these complications?’, ‘20% of people who have knee replacements wish they hadn’t’, ‘I like people to crawl into my office in agony, then I know they’ll be pleased after they’ve had it’. He agreed with having a biopsy but

we got the impression it was partly to prove to Dr Ellis (whom he admires and would use himself) that another op isn’t warranted. But he prefers John to go off antibiotics for 4 days first, a risky scenario which we need to clear with the infectious diseases people first. Apparently only 5% of people with artificial knee infections are controlled adequately with antibiotics, so he is in that rare successful group. Still on the merry-go-round but feeling positive with this guy on it with us.

August 8, 2018

Well the cards are dribbling in by post, got a credit card yesterday, an EFTPOS one today plus driver’s licence, heaps more to go. Did a run to Windsor and visited one of our meal service clients in hospital. He lost a leg at 21, due to contracting Golden Staph from swimming in the Hawkesbury River, then at 48 he got cancer in the larynx and from then on has been unable to speak. Now he’s just been told he has liver, lung and stomach cancer, but in the middle of all that he spent 10 years sleeping on the river bank waiting for a Housing Commission flat, he’s gone from one disaster to another but can still raise a smile. He wrote on his pad that the hospital food wasn’t near as good as what we serve on the riverbank. From there I went to donate a bag of groceries at our storage, which was being manned just by the prison inmates and a guard who help us on Wednesdays. While stacking the goods into the shelves I got talking to an inmate and picked his accent as somewhere in South America. It turned out to be Colombia, so we had a discussion about that country and I mentioned Ronan Farrow’s comments about how much America had thrown at defeating the leftist FARC rebels. FARC was much used in our subsequent conversation and when I walked into the other room all the inmates and the guard looked somewhat confused, so I needed to explain that we were discussing Colombian FARC rather than Australian fark! Funny that it was much more light-hearted there without any supervisors present.

August 9, 2018

Carly arrived last night dead on her ETA of 6pm. Did a version of Saganaki Prawns for dinner but with a bit of chili added, yummo. We chewed the fat for 6 hours in front of the fire and fell into bed at 12.30am. Today we decided we needed some nature and tossed up between the Kuringai Wildflower Garden and Koala Park. The latter won so we spent the

afternoon feeding milk to lambs, patting koalas and kangaroos, talking to cockies and having lumps of boiled rice snatched off our hands by emus. Perfect weather for such pursuits. John spoke to infectious diseases after repeated calls and has gone off antibiotics till his procedure on Monday, I am worried about his doing so and hope they made the right decision, we’ve always been told septicaemia lies down that path.

August 10, 2018

Baked the dessert for dinner service tomorrow night, John will take it and pick up the icecream and custard on the way, they are de rigeur. We take the Esky now and get Coles to pack some ice into it as I got sick of serving melted icecream, eew. John has discovered another grant possibility, one for the training and support of volunteers, which he will mention tomorrow night, not expecting any enthusiasm on that one though. Picked up my latest from the library, Collusion, about the Trump-Russia allegations. I hadn’t realised that so much had been documented by UK ex-spy Steele and subsequently published. It’s scary stuff. It seems that spies have a second career these days spying for business and private clients, once they just went to breed cattle in Tasmania. Had a lunch invitation from the lady who has been writing to me since she saw the article about the street library in the local press. We have similar taste in books apparently and also I used to work at Sydney Uni with her husband’s cousin who was a genetics professor, small world.

August 11, 2018

Down to Erko first thing to help mind Millie for the weekend while Dav and Louis have a mini holiday at Milton Park at Bowral, erstwhile home of the famous Anthony Hordern of department store fame. Aunty Carly, known to Millie as just Carty, was the co-wrangler. She is very mummy/daddy-focussed right now and grandmas of both persuasions are on the long finger, but luckily Carty filled the bill, being a twin of mum can’t have hurt there. All the important stuff like eating, sleeping and bath time went off perfectly fine so a sigh of relief was heard in the inner west.

August 12, 2018

After a play at a nearby park we three went to Bitton at Alexandria for brunch. Their breakfast crepes with berry compote were probably the best

I’ve eaten, classical French technique in that kitchen. Carly’s omelette was huge and looked delicious but I was glad I hadn’t ordered it due to the size, she took half home in a takeaway box, cardboard of course. Millie voted her child size serving of the crepes as super good. Dav and Louis reported great things of Milton Park, excellent accommodation and food in a wonderful house and garden, one to keep in mind.

August 13, 2018

Good to be home and the pansies I recently planted looked parched in two days, so lucky I came back when I did. I have never watered my grass verge in 41 years, it dies down in the dry and greens up again when we’ve had rain. But it has died, totally and completely died, which tells me something about climate change in that space of time. It drives me nuts hearing about ‘the drought’ when government won’t face up to the fact that great swathes of Australia just won’t support agriculture into the future. So do we keep throwing money at farms that can’t survive long term? Apparently that’s exactly what we do. I read a decade ago that forecasts predict Perth having a long-term increase in rain and the eastern states having the opposite, which is exactly what is happening. Perth gets rain and it travels east over Tasmania and continues on to New Zealand. Hobart has been awash this winter. It is terrifying and nobody in power is listening.

Finished reading Karl Ove Knausgaard’s book A Death in the Family, the first in his autobiographical series of six books (so far). It is minutely detailed a la Proust, with long descriptions of a fly landing on his brother’s arm or of his cleaning a house ‘I got the Jif and put it on a rag, then rubbed it up and down the bannister and watched the dirt come off’, sentences like this go on for pages, but every now and again you come across something that stops you in your tracks, like his discussions on death, his need for solitude, his somewhat controversial feelings about family for example. I am not at all sorry that I read it, but not sure I can justify the time to read the other five, unlike Elena Ferrante’s four part autobiographical series which I had to read, whatever else was happening in life. I did find Knausgaard’s lack of chapters particularly annoying though.

August 14, 2018

Had a visit from Brigitte who wanted an opinion on a Dickens wall plaque which was Ivorex, a combination of plaster of Paris and plasticisers with a waxed finish to imitate ivory, popular in England in the first half of the 1900s, particularly the 20s to 40s. I baked a sponge and filled it with strawberries and cream and after we each had a small piece Brigitte said ‘I hope you’ve got someone else to eat the rest of this cake’ and I thought ‘shit, she’s got a point, I haven’t’ so I’m hoping John the gardener comes today. Also served chocolate and mint brownies left over from dinner service, I don’t eat those but at least they keep.

I am unhappy that John agreed to go off the antibiotics before the biopsy, I was always resistant to the idea, but he accepted the assurances that it would be ok. Now he is in constant pain, clearly the infection has flared up and any idiot knows it is easier to keep an infection down than to suppress one that has flared up. My argument was that if going off the antibiotics was optional (as it was) then it was too risky and so it has proved. He can’t even drive now, plus our appointment with the orthopaedic surgeon is tomorrow and he will use John’s disability as proof of the need for surgery. Should have been more forceful, my strong instincts are rarely wrong.

August 15, 2108

Was pondering what to do today, to go to town to a trial or to ICAC, to the pathology museum, visit someone in hospital, attack hucking the storeroom, but the wind made me slow to decide. Then Heather texted asking if there was any cake at my house. Yes, come over, I replied. We sat and talked and drank tea for 2 and a half hours and that solved the issue. Later John the gardener came and ate cake as well, I should have known it would have takers. I asked him to plant one camellia a week ago and now the whole back corner is dug up ‘you can’t plant a tree without clearing the ground of roots’ and he has filled a green bin with same and two buckets with bits of pottery, metal pipe, rocks and other archaeological finds. The camellia is still in its pot……

Last night I watched Filthy Rich and Homeless on channel 10 after a tip that one of the ‘filthy rich’ had shacked up for a few nights in a van with one of our clients on the river. That episode screens tonight, but I was intrigued by how quickly these poised people cracked once their money and phones were removed and they were set down in the streets to fend for themselves alone. I would have been the same, but being filmed meant they had the support and protection of a camera person at least. Not knowing where your next meal is coming from is a sobering feeling I would imagine.

August 16, 2018

Well I won’t say ‘I told you so’, I promise. John’s knee became so bad last night that I headed off to his place at midnight and drove him to St. Vincent’s. I parked at the door, went ahead into emergency and he hobbled behind on a stick. By the time he got to the desk the doors had opened and it was ‘go to bed 10’. His knee and leg were double normal size so they did an xray, took blood, gave him morphine and set him on a drip. Later they took two big syringes of pus out of the knee and we are back to June 2017. I got home at 4am and at 7am his next door neighbour contacted me to say that a plumber had arrived to repair the leak in his bathroom wall that was sending water into the flat below. Luckily John had left Ann a key so that went ahead. I called in to his flat and the bathroom was a nightmare of tools and mess with tiles off the wall and pipes being welded, a job which took all day in the end. At the hospital I bumped into the registrar Hussein whom we saw at an appointment only last week and castigated him about taking John off the antibiotics. He said it was a gamble but John is the one who lost. Now we must focus on getting him back as he was, but I fear that will be an uphill task and that the second knee replacement is much more likely than it was last week.

August 17, 2018

Stayed at Davina’s last night as I was so exhausted. Millie charged into my room this morning looking for ‘Carty’ and was very disappointed to find that it was only grandma. I helped get her ready for day care before leaving to go to the hospital. John is minutely better, but was able to get up on a walking frame to have a shower. If he doesn’t improve they may do a surgical washout, it doesn’t look promising so far. Some talk also of sending him off to be looked after by the original orthopaedic surgeon, all in flux. There was a woman continually screaming and swearing at the staff in another room and when I passed there were four burly security guards with surgical gloves, plus a doctor and a nurse outside the room. It looked like something out of a prison movie. Drug withdrawal, mental illness, who knows? Stephen texted that he was on the train at Brooklyn coming to see

John but I kept the surprise and John was absolutely stoked when he walked in.

August 18, 2018

Late yesterday the infectious diseases registrar came to see John and apologised that she’d agreed to his going off the antibiotics, then came John Rooney who said that he thinks now that having a second knee replacement is the way to go. Both said they were very surprised by the speed and severity of the infection, so it looks like we are headed into three months of hospital and rehab.

Cooked sticky date pudding for 50 and served tonight. Met up with Mark who starred this week on channel 10’s Filthy Rich and Homeless programme and asked for his autograph on my arm. He said the person he was paired with, Cameron Daddo, has called him occasionally ever since the filming and when Mark’s van wasn’t working he paid for the repairs. Mark excitedly told me he would be ‘going over to Cameron’s place soon’. Where does he live? I asked. ‘Oh he doesn’t like me to say’ said Mark with a grin. He’s enjoying being the centre of attention and so he should, the programme did a lot for the cause of the homeless. He offered a kiss on my cheek and told me not to wash it off. I so wish the volunteers made me laugh like the clients do, even occasionally. Is it religion that makes them so humourless? Some are religious but others I wouldn’t have a clue. Perhaps the ones that like a laugh don’t stick around? I don’t know.

August 19, 2018

Went to John’s and cleared out his fridge to his neighbour as we don’t know when he will return home. Then as I was driving up Macquarie St on my way to the hospital, I jagged a lucky parking spot and dived into it knowing it was the last day of the Harvest art exhibition there. I didn’t dream I would still get to go but the universe was looking after me. It was superb, with still life portraits of fruit, eggs and vegetables that made me want to eat them off the canvas. I’m glad my favourites were all sold as I would have been sorely tempted, Charlotte Thodey is the goods! John was much better today but his knee looks the same, huge. I stayed all day and Robert rang for a talk, he is coming to visit him on Tuesday. When I got home I rang my neighbour and asked if he wanted half a cake and a motza

of sticky date pudding and he was over here as quickly as if there were a fire. Glad to see it being eaten.

August 20, 2018

Linda messaged me to say to be careful driving into town all the time as you can have an accident when your mind is full of of other things. First personal message I’d ever had from her. Ha. I have never had an accident that was my fault in nearly 50 years of driving. Until today that is. I was going round the block as usual looking for a park and Eureka! there was one right outside the hospital, too good to be true. It was rear to kerb, so I held up the traffic while backing in and avoiding a man on the road edge who was making a phone call. Lined up with the car next to me and reversed, except it was diagonally angled rear to kerb, not right angle. I didn’t hear or feel a bump but when I got out my bumper had hit the car next door near its rear. Oh lordy me, there goes my claim to fame, ‘never caused an accident in my life!’ John was comforting but I felt terrible nonetheless, however the insurance will sort it out and increase my premium no doubt. Went to Dav’s for the night, just in time to say goodnight to Millie, not that she’s got much time for grandmas of either persuasion at the moment.

August 21, 2018

Millie is quite addicted to shapes, usually we are talking about rectangles or circles but now it is rhombus or trapezoid or tetrahedron, positively addicted. This carries over into jigsaw puzzles which are the new craze, as she puts in a piece that fits she says ‘shape’. Amazing how the brain focuses on one thing until it’s sorted. Went in to St. V’s from Erskineville which gave me an insight into the convenience of city living. Not long after I got there Robert and Sue arrived, to much mirth all round. He celebrated his last radiation treatment today. Then, as if to join the celebration, the doc came to say that John’s CRP had gone down from 260 to 107, so they thought he could manage on oral antibiotics and could therefore go home. Hurrah!! The fact that a normal CRP is anything less than five didn’t dampen the celebrations. By the time the discharge papers were done it was 4.30pm but no complaint, except that at the foyer cafe I had the worst quiche imaginable for lunch, full of gristly bacon and tomato, passed off as a Quiche Lorraine. Ugh, no wonder it came with a sachet of tomato sauce.

We were planning to go to Baulko but he was told to see the doc again at 10am tomorrow, so we repaired to Lane Cove, despite the fact that I’d emptied his fridge expecting a longer hospital stay. I had planned to watch Foreign Correspondent tonight, with Sean Dorney reporting on Papua New Guinea, and to my great surprise John wasn’t going to bother. ‘But he’s your relative’, I said. ‘Oh is he?’ John replied, ‘I’d better watch it then’. Later he said ‘yes, I do have relatives called Dorney’. More problems going on than just his knee I’m thinking. Amazing programme anyway.

August 22, 2018

With some trepidation we went to see Dr Ellis, who was sympathetic to John’s reluctance to face major surgery, but opined that he is in danger of the knee blowing up again every time he gets sick, or worse, if he needs chemo again. So reluctantly he has agreed to ‘The Big Op’. We were warned about how taxing it would be a year ago, but now it’s worse since the recent acute infection. He will go into RNSH in 2-3 weeks and have the old knee removed, 2 weeks in hospital, then he will come home to my house for 12 WEEKS with no knee, just an orthopaedic cement block holding his leg out straight. He won’t be able to walk except with crutches, or bend his leg or get in and out of a car most probably, so it will be home detention a la Philip Wilson, except he hasn’t done anything to deserve it. He will be looked after by Hospital in the Home, on an antibiotic drip managed by daily visits from nurses. We had been told this would be for 6 weeks, but now it is 12 because his knee is so much worse. Then he goes back to get a new knee put in, 1 week in hospital, then to rehab, a total of 5 months. What fun! He should be all done by next February. We went to Lillah for lunch to discuss the logistics and lick our wounds, then home for a somewhat sombre night.

August 23, 2018

John insisted on going to an important all day meeting at Family and Community Services regarding community housing. He wasn’t really well enough but with the help of doses of Endone, he made it. I dropped him at the bus stop and he cabbed from the city stop to the meeting and back. I said I would pick him up from the bus in the afternoon but calls to his mobile went unanswered, so I parked at the agreed spot to wait. Eventually he rang home and luckily my friend Michelle was here, she called me to say

he had forgotten I was picking him up and anyway had overshot the bus stop, so I needed to go and get him from a few streets away. Too many confusions at the moment.

August 24, 2018

Bought groceries for family and friends lunch on Sunday, but went into a bit of a funk, not helped by watching Tony Abbott and friends tear down a Prime Minister. I forecast a week ago that Dutton would challenge, but Morrison would scoot up the middle and take the top job. I wish I’d put money on it now. I bet Morrison still offers the treacherous Dutton a ministry. Thought about cancelling book group but John urged me to go, even though he didn’t feel up to it himself. Michelle drove which helped an though I can’t say I had a fun night out, I was glad I went. Lots of support from friends helps.

August 25, 2018

Woke up still in a funk and realised I can’t go ahead with the lunch tomorrow, despite having bought all the food. Contacted Dav to defer till next weekend and she will contact Beth and Andre. The thought of the next five months is pressing down on me and I need some more time before I can socialise, my mind is elsewhere at the moment. John contacted his daughter’s partner when he was in hospital to let them know his situation, but not a call, text, email or even a $1 card has resulted, as expected. My contempt for all of them is intense right now, wasted energy I know, but that’s the way it is. I can never get out of my mind the text message he received when he was ill previously “I hope you die soon.” and often wonder if she didn’t ‘point the bone’ as the Aboriginal people believe, as he has never been well since that day.

August 26, 2018

Decided we needed to skip town for a mental health day, so we took off early for Berrima, Bowral and Mittagong. After a Devonshire tea at Stone’s in Berrima we did over the occasional Berrima Markets which we were lucky enough to catch, picking up River Gum Honey and (glee) Mandarin Jam. John bought me Macadamia Toffee and Mixed Nut Toffee, so sweets are pretty well covered. On to Dirty Jane’s at Bowral, a huge antiques and old wares business where we mooched around and bought zip. Drove around

the grounds of Milton Park, the old home of Anthony Hordern and now a lux hotel. John opined that a few days there ‘making a hole in the inheritance’ would be a good reward for what he must go through over the next few months. Walked around The Gib and marvelled at all the buildings which have been built out of its volcanic stone, including the QVB, National Library, ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park and major public works such as the Hawkesbury River Bridge at Brooklyn.

August 27, 2018

Stephen and Deborah jumped in to help John last year by buying and having delivered a Lay-Z-Boy electric reclining chair in lush leather when he came out of hospital. When he recovered somewhat it was moved to his house where it has pride of place. I intended to book a carrier and organise its return to Baulko in coming weeks to be here for his long recovery period post surgery. But today was delivered a second electric recliner, this time a Scandinavian leather number, again from Deborah and Stephen, “so he can have one at each house”. I don’t know of anyone who targets gifts in the way these folks do, from a chair to a giant jigsaw, always just at the right time. The man delivering the chair tried to convince John that he doesn’t need medical treatment, just prayer, and left us some books and tracts for our reading pleasure. Drove John home today and then we went up to Lane Cove to buy him a week’s groceries as he can’t manage his manual car. Note to self: try not to be impatient when he is walking at a snail’s pace, he told me not to keep rushing today.

August 28, 2018

Drove up to Killcare for a visit today, feasting on a wonderful lunch of stuffed mushrooms, cheesy artichokes, salad, prosciutto and olive bread. John had made the sign for their street library and wanted to install it before he goes to hospital. Now it has been photographed and will be up on the library directory website within days. Robert is well and positive and though Sue tried to convince us to stay overnight, but I think they need some time on their own as she had previously mentioned the stress of the constant family visits and the work that entails.

One exciting development today was a call to John from his housing manager offering him the downstairs flat which was totally burnt out in a

massive fire a few months ago. Work is just starting on its renovation from the current black hole, so it could be finished by the time he is ready to go back home. One advantage is that it has a garage, so his workshop would no longer need to be on the verandah. Disadvantages include lack of a view and lack of privacy as all windows are level with the path into the building. Thinking.

August 29, 2018

I have long been trying to find my old friends Joan and Colin. Joan was my landlady for more than 15 years in my shop, then her restaurant business failed, she went bankrupt and in the process sold the building I tenanted to her brother-in-law who was my landlord from then till the bitter end. Colin is a much older friend, going back to about 1966 and was my introduction into the social group of gay boys whom I hung out with from then on. I have tried Facebook and attempting to contact them through mutual friends but neither has worked. So today I rang the Electoral Commission and discovered that I could do searches in their Parramatta office. Heather had mentioned having lunch together one day so we combined the two things. I found Joan in about 20 seconds, knowing both her middle names helped there, she is in Dungog, so now I can send off a letter. She is a very funny woman, chain-smoking, loud, a raucous laugh, generous, bold and outrageous. When her ex-husband cheated on her with a waitress in their restaurant she did what many of us might want to do: she went home and cut up all his clothes with scissors, then threw him out in what he stood up in. He lived for a while in his van, then was taken in by a nephew. Colin on the other hand is a gentle soul, much loved and I am so sorry to have lost touch about 40 years ago. I did find one only person with his name, also in the Hunter Valley oddly, at Rutherford. We shall see if it is the same one. John can no longer drive his manual car, so did a bit of shopping with him in the afternoon, saw Amrita at St Vincent’s for what is hopefully the last visit to the infectious diseases team.

August 30, 2018

Started a batch of cumquat jam and caught up with boring chores. Picked John up in the afternoon and we headed into town to see The Turk in Italy by Rossini, trying to forget that we missed Aida when John was in hospital, this opera is the last for the year in our subscription, luckily as it’s turned

out as we won’t be going anywhere after next week. It was very funny, reimagined around Sorrento in the 1950s-60s with all the candy colours that implies. I had to chip a man for checking his emails half way through! Once more and I’d have confiscated the phone happily. As we slowly walked back to the car John decided he wanted icecream, but all our usual haunts were closed, so I asked some passing cops how to slake an icecream addiction nearby and they suggested Pancakes on the Rocks, so at midnight we were ordering macadamia pancakes and icecream, the place was quite full even when we left near 1am. The pancakes were stodgy and macadamias few, but it was an unusual treat and what he felt like doing, so I was happy. Got to bed after 1.30am.

August 31, 2018

Had an appointment with Bob Elliott at 11.45……at least that was what John told me, but when we arrived it turned out that it was at 11, so we had to wait for a gap in proceedings to see him. A check of John’s diary showed it clearly listed as 11am, so I need to be checking these things more carefully. Bob is singing at the Opera House this weekend but sadly I won’t manage to fit that in amongst all else. John was to go home after the appointment, but changed his mind and came back here instead. He really isn’t well, having three sleeps in his new chair in the course of the day, one took over an hour out of the football which he planned to watch. Dug out his guardianship documents and he also went over his will again and decided he was happy with it.

September 1, 2018

Today after breakfast John took to his chair at 9am and slept there on and off for the rest of the day till we went out in the evening. I cooked for meal service and went out there to find I was the only volunteer apart from members of the management team. You would expect a degree of rapport with the only remaining Saturday volunteer, right? Wrong. They didn’t say hello, just talked amongst themselves, one giving me a wave as I worked but not speaking at all, except of course if I put something in the wrong place or used the wrong buns with the soup. Normally I am consciously bright and breezy, always the first to greet them, but obviously if I don’t take that initiative, no one else will. As I was leaving I made a point of asking how the raffles went on the boat cruise we were unable to attend. I

had donated a book worth $60 and another volunteer donated a $50 Myers card. ‘Oh, I didn’t want to be bothered with doing raffles on the boat, so I put each donation in a separate bag and sold them as mystery prizes for $10 each. They loved them.’ Well yes if you are buying a $50 card for $10, I guess you would. This not only robs the donor but robs the charity too, but I didn’t have the energy to point that out.

We went to First Saturday, a talk by Jane on her desert travels. It was a reminder of my disastrous desert experience in Dubai, travelling up and down sandhills in a four wheel drive, vomiting all the way and not being able to get out. At night there was a dinner under the stars, but no food for moi, just lying on the sand wondering if I would survive the trip as I was so dehydrated. It ruined the rest of my stay there as I was then unable to get out of bed for the next couple of days. The sight of those 4WDs brought it all back, ugh. It is a strange experience going out at the moment, sort of an observer of friends out and having fun, but not a part of it at all, just hearing my voice talking and wondering if I am appearing normal to those around me, quite a surreal experience in fact.

September 2, 2018

Took John home last night as he wished, so my family and friends BBQ ended up with just the three of us plus Millie, Beth coming only for afternoon tea. Did the Ultimate Winter Couscous from Ottolenghi with roasted pumpkin, swede, parsnip, carrot and chick peas which I thought was a dull day winner. The big apple, pear and blueberry crumble went pretty much uneaten so I gave it as takeaways to Beth and Davina and brought some to John’s tonight. Millie likes me again for reasons that are unclear, but my baby-sitting next Friday will be much easier now I know she won’t be hiding from me. She was calling me Tickle Monster and when they left she put more words together than I’ve ever heard her say: ‘Bye bye Grandma, it was nice meeting you’. Had a weep listening to a Stan Rogers CD while I was cooking, so by the time the visitors arrived I was apparently cool, calm and collected, but I don’t think I will ever get through one of his albums without shedding at least one tear. John is in planning mode, today he typed up all of his many medications to show the hospital, a comprehensive two pages for their reading pleasure.

September 3, 2018

Went into town for an appointment with Tricia, the psychologist/counsellor from the Benevolent Society, whom I can see whenever I need to. I told her what was happening with John and described the weird sensation of being ‘absent from the body’. Ah, she said, I’ve just done a course on dissociation and that’s absolutely classic. The event seems ‘unreal’ or the person feels detached from what’s going on around them, as if watching the whole thing on television. She said this is probably how I coped as a child (true) to distance myself from trauma so now when things are going badly wrong I have just gone back to what worked in the distant past. So I am not mad, just coping, which is a big relief. I felt a lot better for going to see her for an extended session and she offered to do as many more sessions as I need via phone at home if things get difficult. She recommended getting as much sorted as possible now, so I rang Carol to check on the Power of Attorney she did a few years ago, but then he found it carefully filed under…..Power of Attorney Documents… that was a relief, it’s all done. Will ring My Aged Care later to see what can be accessed there and visit the hire service we used last time to organise any aids we need.

John is so keen to start the move into his new downstairs flat, which is still a burnt out ruin, that he is going to ask if he can have the garage before he goes to hospital so his workshop can be moved in. Despite the fact that this may not happen, he wanted me to take him to Macquarie Centre to buy brooms, a dustpan, a bin etc to help fit it out. I hate most shopping centres but this one particularly and we managed to park on Level O and ride up a one way escalator to Level 1. Do you think we could get back there at the end of shopping? There was no down escalator and the lifts don’t go below Level 1. We were assured by people we asked that ‘you just go in the lift’ but in the end we had to go with a trolley out onto the road and walk along a dangerous one way traffic entry (going the wrong way) till we found where we had come in, and eventually the car. At one point we were in the staff carpark and an employee said ‘this place is so badly designed, many people lose the way to their cars on Level O and even though I work here I can’t help tell you where to go’. Third time I’ve been to that hole of a place, third and last.

September 4, 2018

Up early to get to RNSH for pre-admission clinic at 8am and then planned to go to Manly for a haircut and lunch. Ha, other ideas prevailed and we left just before 5pm.

We had appointments with 2 nurses of different types, an orthopaedic registrar, 2 anaesthetists and the cardiologist. First anaesthetist said John’s cough could be heart related and wouldn’t sign off to do the op without the opinion of his cardiologist that it was safe. Luckily Gemma is in the next building and she agreed to see him asap today. She decided there was nothing more she could do for his heart that she hasn’t already done, so she wrote a report to take back, however by then the first doc was in theatre. We saw her compatriot who opined that the sort of unexplained cough he has could be indicative of congestive heart failure, but seeing the knee infection could kill him eventually (something we had never been told explicitly) it was better to accept the risk of the operation in the hope of a cure, for that problem at least. Then it was off to pathology for a raft of blood tests and to radiology for a chest x-ray. So we’ve been told over the day that the knee infection is/isn’t life-threatening, that he will be in hospital for 14 versus 21 days initially, that the cough sounds like/doesn’t sound like heart failure, that after surgery he will come home/go to rehab. Right now it doesn’t seem to matter, we are home at John’s, too tired to put the jug on just yet, but a cup of tea and some food will make it all seem like a dream.

September 5, 2018

Worried about the possibility of the anaesthetist being right (which means everyone else was wrong) about the cause of John’s cough. If he is in heart failure it wouldn’t make sense to go ahead with surgery, not just due to the risk of the op, but because it would mean taking up a big part of the rest of his life with surgery, hospital, rehab, pain and immobility. If it is CHF it is well advanced to be causing a cough that bad. Jane rang after going to lunch with John and was ‘shocked’ by his condition: pale, breathless,wasted, coughing and said she would be disinclined to go into major surgery that way. I have emailed the cardiologist with a list of questions, left a message for infectious diseases, and spoken to Dr Rooney who gave him the second opinion on the knee. He said ‘anaesthetists are pessimists who hate going to the coroner’s court’, he’s a very funny man. But then he asked about the cough and said ‘it certainly sounds like a CHF cough as you describe it’, agreeing that if that were the diagnosis it would be a negative as regards to operating, adding that ‘the knee infection could become antibiotic resistant at any time though’. So it is Hobson’s Choice. Too stressed to cook any dinner, lucky John is at Lane Cove.

September 6, 2018

Where to start? Had an hour plus conversation with Steve. He is coming down on Friday to meet John at Kinghorn where he will be having his last IgG transfusion before surgery. I will drop him there but then I’m booked for Millie wrangling till Saturday morning, so Stephen will escort John home and stay for dinner and overnight. They are so supportive, don’t know how I’d manage without them. John couldn’t get onto the cardiologist for her opinion so he rang the surgeon and he is going to ring her and discuss what should be done. If the diagnosis is congestive heart failure we can accept that, we just want it expressed overtly and explained. I had hoped to go out to Windsor to visit Brian who isn’t well either, but there’s just too much going on so when I rang and his daughter answered I decided to dip out of that one.

Reading ‘Fascism: A Warning’ by Madeleine Albright and she gives a potted history of WWs I and II which is worth reading in itself. One moving extract from a Czech Jewish woman’s memoir is cited, only at the end does she explain that it was written by her 53 year old maternal grandmother before being shipped off to Germany and executed. I hadn’t realised that ‘drain the swamp’ was Mussolini’s catch cry ‘drenare la palude’, followed by his sacking of 35,000 public servants. I thought that at least was all Trump’s own work, but no. The book was written to warn of the dangers of Trump, the Fascist in our midst in her opinion, though plenty of others are coming to that same conclusion, it’s a pretty compelling read.

September 7, 2018

A morning spent at John’s while he made copies of endless documents for me, his super, will, power of attorney, funeral details, enduring guardianship and more. I guess it doesn’t hurt to update all this stuff once in a while, I should do the same. He spoke to the surgeon again and we waited yet another day for him to be able to get in touch with the cardiologist, is she in Antarctica one wonders? But one good point was that he said to John that he completely trusts the particular anaesthetist who isn’t happy with his heart, so if the surgery needs to be deferred in order for her to be happy, then so be it. Amen to that. I drove John to Kinghorn for his transfusion and went on to Erko to mind Millie overnight. Stephen came via train and bus from Newcastle (on his birthday!) and escorted his nibs home, then stayed for dinner and overnight, something John was really looking forward to.

September 8, 2018

A Millie morning watching cartoons, then to John’s where the boys were only just out of their beds at 9.30. We travelled to Baulko with Steve in tow and I finished off my two orange and chocolate cakes with choc frosting for meal service tonight. Lunched with Steve and he kindly opened one of his foodie gifts from us, biscuits so dry and tasteless that you would be forgiven for thinking they were large pellets for livestock. When the label says no this and no that it is sometimes code for no taste. Took off to a small service of only 20 people, just one cake was eaten along with the obligatory custard and icecream so I left the second one there for Sunday night. A sad note, one of our clients with mental health problems gave birth to her child, fed it and was then taken off for a medical test, while she was gone the welfare took the baby with no discussion. We sort of knew this would happen, but she was not pre-warned and had been sure she would be allowed to keep the baby because she had rental accommodation and a stable relationship with her partner. The hospital turfed her out almost immediately but within days she had to be readmitted to a larger unit via ambulance. Duty of care people? Humanity maybe?

September 9, 2018

Today was our last free day before surgery as tomorrow the My Aged Care people are coming to do an assessment and also John may be fasting, or not. Still haven’t heard from Ellis so we have no idea what is going on. Frustration on John’s part caused cancellation of our plans to go to the movies in case he misses a call, instead we watched Insiders in our jamies. Always good to see Libs coming unstuck, it warms the soul. I did watch Morrison’s Albury speech in full online the other day and it was full of warm fuzziness, I kept expecting him to invite us to ‘come on down, come on down’ a la Billy Graham, but I guess that is the gospel style he is used to, walking up and down the stage with a mike. Prediction: We will be getting lots of legislation on religious freedom, and I don’t mean for Muslims. Be careful what you wish for Scomo, these things can have unintended consequences. Then I packed a suitcase for a night? a week? at John’s as he’s asked me to be here till he either goes to surgery or else it is deferred

or cancelled. Brought clothes for every occasion as well as a supply of books as he is talking about taking me out to dinner tonight, so I have clothes suitable for either Bennelong or the local pub, just in case.

September 10, 2018

Last night we debated where to go for dinner….throw caution to the wind, frock up, cross the bridge to Kings Cross and go to Apollo or stay in our jeans and go to the Royal Hotel then to Koi for dessert? While we were debating John said ‘I just realised I am too exhausted to go anywhere’ so we did a fridge raid instead. Still hoping for some clarity we phoned the surgeon’s rooms, he rang back saying he’d only just managed to get onto the cardiologist and she was okay for the surgery to go ahead. John accepted that decision but when he put Andrew on the phone to me I decided not to repeat the mistake I made about taking him off the antibiotics and that I should stick to my gut feeling. Told Andrew that I couldn’t see how she came to a firm decision without an echocardiogram and he quickly offered to write a referral if only I could get an appointment for one. I rang Gemma’s office and did a bit of pleading and bingo, we got in at 2pm. Unusually the sonographer wouldn’t discuss the result at all and the cardiologist on duty wouldn’t give us the results either, saying it must come from Gemma. We left disgruntled as by then it was 3.30 and near 5pm someone rang and said ‘John’s operation isn’t going ahead tomorrow’. I think it is I replied, but she said ‘no this is Gemma’s secretary and she has cancelled the operation after seeing the echo result’.

In the following couple of hours we had calls from the surgeon’s office, the admissions office twice and the registrar, all expecting to see him at 6am tomorrow ready for surgery first thing. Explained to each that it was off, to stunned silence. The registrar said ‘this might have happened for the best, Dr Ellis was worried about going ahead with John when he talked to me this morning, saying the surgery is major for a person with such a weak heart’ !!! This was before the echo!!! So now we see Gemma at 8 in the morning when all will be revealed, but to cancel without consulting the surgeon is a huge call and not one to be done lightly, so I fear for the results.

September 11, 2018

We were waiting in Gemma’s office well before she arrived at 8am. We both picked up a cool atmosphere from the three office staff and the sonographer who are usually so chatty, none of them even made eye contact as we waited. We have been labelled as troublemakers because we pushed for the echo and were found to be right. Gemma began by saying that the echo had shown severe aortic valve stenosis, possibly caused by infection on the valve, as usually it is a slow onset problem often caused by rheumatic fever, but his has come on just this year. John asked about congestive heart failure and she admitted he now has this as well, hence the cough which has been reported to 8 doctors so far this year. What if surgery had gone ahead, he asked? A high possibility of death if you’d had a general anaesthetic, she replied. (No apology, plus she barely looked at me, sitting face on to John and not glancing in my direction). He asked where we go from here and the reply was to do a more specialised in-hospital ultrasound to see if the valve is infected. Then a procedure to balloon the valve to temporarily stretch it so he can have an anaesthetic to take out the knee. After the whole knee procedure is complete and infection gone, she would install a new aortic valve by TAVR, then more surgery to put in a new knee. May I ask a question? I said. She half turned towards me and nodded, teeth clenched against the possibility I was going to be critical. What if he doesn’t do any of this? Then I would think he has 6-12 months to live she replied. As we went out the door she offered “thanks for keeping me on my toes”. All of the secretaries were strangely busy, eyes down, no cheery ‘goodbye John’ that he usually gets. What a Grade A ballsup.

September 12, 2018

Today I had two emails from friends reporting medical misadventures, unrelated to our experience because neither of them knew about it. Kathie’s sister was taken to hospital in agony and because she was old, screaming and crying, was put in a locked ward for dementia sufferers. When family intervened it was discovered she had a dislocated spine! My dear friend Jackie who lives at the beach near Newcastle has been battling cancer for many years. Nerves in her feet have been damaged by chemo so she finds walking difficult and any more chemo will put her in a wheelchair. Her devoted husband searched the internet for trials and discovered one eminently suitable for her situation so they approached her oncologist for a referral. Oh you don’t need to go to Sydney he said, they’ve been trialling

that here at John Hunter Hospital for a year. Never had he mentioned it in the last year when Jackie has been asking for any treatment other than chemo. You can only shake your head.

September 13, 2018

Luckily the current book I am reading is quite engrossing. Called The French Girl, it is a novel about 6 Oxford friends who take a holiday together in France during which time the girl from the property next door disappears. A decade later a French policeman arrives in London to question each of them because her body has been found in a well in the garden of the house where they stayed. Is there a murderer amongst them? I say luckily, because I was able to sit up to finish the book last night rather than stressing endlessly about the immediate future.Went to the library and picked up 3 more books to tide me over and put in a ‘request to purchase’ for Everything Trump Touches Dies by Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist turned Trump-hater. Carly sends me photos of the pages late at night for a laugh.

John got a call from the hospital to say his urgent transoesophageal echocardiogram is happening tomorrow, just one day in RNSH. I am so much better coping with things happening than I am waiting for things to happen, so I am glad it’s been quick. I suddenly remembered that after we saw the cardiologist last week and no echo was done I sent off a very sweet email (I was still in awe of Gemma’s ability at that stage) querying whether it would be a good idea to do one before he had such a long anaesthetic. I got no reply and another 5 days passed before I brought the subject up with the surgeon, leading to having one done. So there really was no excuse for her stuffup. It eats me up that we could have lost him for nought. When this is all over I will need to tell her so for my sanity’s sake.

September 14, 2018

Never let a sucker have an even break, so they say. John’s trans echo (sounds like a gender bender calling out from the Katoomba cliffs) was going ahead as planned until I received a phone call from the doc to say that despite two lots of sedation they couldn’t get the probe down his throat and would need to reschedule it under a general anaesthetic. ‘But he can’t have a general’ I replied, ‘mmm, I will need to talk to the professor’

she said. I was told he could go home in 90 minutes so I spent the time writing a thankyou letter to the careful anaesthetist who picked up his heart problems so accurately and delivered the letter to her department. When I went up to get John he was fast off in the bed so I let him sleep for a couple more hours, the nurse said he’d had a heap of sedation. Just before we left Fran arrived as she had texted me earlier asking where we were and was on the train not too far away, so we both walked him to the car to come home. He isn’t keen to come to my house and I’m not keen to leave him alone so I’ve told HHH that I can neither cook nor serve tomorrow night. I had suggested going away for a few days after this and he liked the idea, as it might be the last chance we get for some time, but now he isn’t keen because he’s in waiting mode for the repeat procedure, though we would have been waiting for the next in any event.

September 15, 2018

John queried whether I still wanted to go away for a few days, but I could see, and he ultimately admitted, that it was because he knew I wanted a break away. I told him I would rather go when he is really keen as well, so we planned a day out within his capabilities, not an easy feat any more. Walks are out, as are hilly places, galleries or exhibitions, but he is always up for a movie so we went to Cremorne to see Three Identical Strangers, a doco about triplets separated at birth and reunited at the age of 20. I found it deeply moving and a wonderfully made film, with twists that I don’t want to mention in case anyone else gets to see it, which I sincerely hope they will. From there we went to Balmoral which was absolutely packed, but luckily we got a close park eventually and had fish, chips and salad opposite the beach. As I had packed for a few days only and not expected a day at the seaside I was overdressed in jeans, long-sleeved top, shoes and socks, amongst all the young things in bikinis I quite stood out and was uncomfortable in the 30+ degree heat. John seems to get weaker by the day, he’s lost another 2kgs, a total of 18 kgs since he had the chemo. Last night he exhausted himself bending to get ice cream out of the freezer drawer below the fridge, I am reluctant to leave him alone.

September 16, 2018

We had a restful day begun with watching Insiders, a favourite Sunday morning indulgence. I caught up on some chores while John rested. He

wanted to see another movie but as usual it was 95% crap or Bollywood at Castle Hill, the only one John wanted to see was Christopher Robin and I wasn’t in the mood for schmaltz, my book a better option. Though I worry about his being alone, I figured that the cinema would be crowded enough for someone to call an ambulance if needed. Robert rang me when John was out, stressing strongly the need to have this heart infection treated quickly (we’re trying!!), he said that John’s condition is just as serious as Robert’s brain tumour was and it was operated on in two days. He said John’s condition may be successfully treated though, whereas Robert’s fate is sealed. I didn’t feel any more relaxed after that conversation, in fact my chest muscles were so tight I could barely eat dinner. It turns out that it takes a few weeks for a heart infection to show symptoms, lining up pretty much exactly with when he was taken off the antibiotics for 4 days.

September 17, 2018

Things are moving fast now! Gemma rang at 8am to tell John that she had had a conference with colleagues and a decision was taken to go straight to the first knee operation next week to reduce the bacterial load on his heart and doing the transoesophageal echo under the same general anaesthetic as the knee, with two teams in the operating theatre. That’s ok, except that she seems to be missing one step altogether, the ballooning of the valve which last week was ‘a critical step in getting you through a general anaesthetic’. Gemma is on the defensive now over missing his heart deterioration so suddenly, after years of explaining things fully, she bristles if asked many questions. She even commented that ‘Dr Green (the anaesthetist who discovered the heart issues) had no right to scare you by saying you couldn’t have an anaesthetic’. I am shocked that such a professional confident woman is finding it so difficult to accept that she made a mistake. It shows me that all the education and experience in the world doesn’t remove a person’s underlying frailties. I didn’t state the obvious, that if not for Dr Green John might not be here having this discussion.

Later he got a call from Gemma’s rooms telling John he will be going into hospital on Sunday for surgery on Tuesday. On Friday we go to see the doctor who will be replacing his heart valve, an operation called either a TAVR or a TAVI. The secretary, once so sweet, replied to John’s query about the meaning of the acronym with ‘look it up on the internet’. Never thought

we would become persona non grata in a cardiologist’s office, but life throws up a curve ball sometimes. We are hoping that the doc on Friday will have an answer to the question about what happened to the balloon step, he may not have heard the story of what difficult people we are.

September 18, 2018

Just got a beautiful message from Dr Sarah Green, that naughty anaesthetist, thanking me for the letter I wrote to her last Friday and wanting to be kept in the loop re John’s progress. I replied asking who we needed to bribe to get her on Tuesday and assuring her that the notes would all be used and unmarked. I am so buoyed by her reply, it assuages all negatives of the last two weeks. John was picked up by his pal Phil who lives nearby in Baulkham Hills and taken to the monthly ex-priest lunch meeting at Ryde RSL. John’s comment was the usual: great company, terrible food. Why they don’t change venue I’m not sure. The few hours away from me will have done him good as I’m in his face pretty much 24/7 at the moment. I went to the nursery, then ate sushi and called in at a new bakery in Dural that Heather’s been raving about. Met the chef, shook hands with the server, pals all round, just from buying two pies for our dinner tomorrow night. He insisted on giving me four different bread rolls to try for lunch tomorrow, new business with great enthusiasm and customer relations so I will be back. Still can’t beat talking to Sarah though Smilie: :)

September 19, 2018

Communicated with Sue and Robert just before they got on the plane on the way to Galapagos, you have to hand it to Robert for courage. Better my bed tonight than theirs, even in business class. We finally got together with Kathie and Ian for afternoon tea here today. Kathie had written to me all those months ago after seeing the article in the local paper about the street library. She decided we had similar tastes in books so we exchanged letters, then emails, then phone calls, but life got in the way of our actually meeting so I invited them both over to arvo tea. John and Ian hit it off so I’m sure we will see them again. He was a Wing Commander in the Air Force, then later a technical man on the Collins submarine project. But the amazing thing is how many people we know in common, including two antique dealers originally in Windsor whom I’ve known for 30 years and

who turn out to be their son-in-law’s parents. I also know their son-in-law casually from when he was an auctioneer. Then there is the professor at Sydney University with whom I worked decades ago who is Ian’s first cousin. Karl Kruszelnicki is married to Kathie’s niece, though I can’t claim to know Dr Karl, just to being impressed by him. They were here for four hours so I think they enjoyed the afternoon.

September 20, 2018

Set up my new soaking hose on what used to be the grass verge and is now a strip of dirt, then found it was an efficient way to water the front garden. Travelling back and forth to John’s means I need to get clever about jobs that need doing at home. Rang Brian this evening after having been up to Windsor on Tuesday and finding he was not at home. It turns out he is suffering from sudden and profound depression, he was at home when I was knocking at his door but he just didn’t get up to see who it was. This is so out of character for this most social of people but he said he is tired of life, wants to know where to get a needle to end it all and here am I at Lane Cove, not even able to visit as I need to take John to a doctor’s appointment at the hospital at 8am tomorrow. Perhaps when John goes to hospital I need to bring Brian to my place for a day or two, but until then I am pretty tied up really. His family pop in on him and his daughter is a registered nurse, but he would be reluctant to tell them how bad he is feeling I suspect, seeing depression as a shameful admission.

September 21, 2018

Robert always tells me I can’t apply logic to medicine as much is counter-intuitive, but I find it works in most situations and came into play again today when I asked the interventional cardiologist we were sent to see why the ballooning of the valve seems to have dropped off the agenda, despite our being told by Gemma that this was a prerequisite to his knee surgery. He calls himself ‘the valve man’ and as I had anticipated it was because he feels that if the valve is in fact infected, interfering with it in any way could break off parts of the bacterial culture which could cause embolism, stroke or heart attack if it is loose in the bloodstream. While we were there he rang the surgeon and asked if it would be ok to send a cardiac anaesthesia team to the theatre as well as Dr Ellis’s own anaesthetist. Of course Andrew said yes. We liked Dr Bhindi because he fires straight from the hip, saying the op is ‘complex, difficult and dangerous’ and that many in the cardiology department have been consulted including straight cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, cardiac anaesthetists as well as himself. He said ‘we are doing everything possible to get you though it’ including putting him at the top of the 6-12 month waiting list for a new valve.

John took me to Bennelong for lunch and what an amazing lunch it was, just as good as Quay in my opinion. Everything was perfect, food, Champagne, service and view. Thankyou shweetie, you are the best partner I could ever have dreamed of.

September 22, 2018

We went to visit Anne, the nun who donated so many books for my street library. Had morning tea with her and then set off to the movies to see The Insult, a Lebanese movie which we enjoyed a lot. Trying to keep busy and not think about the fact that this is the last day of freedom for us for many months. Tomorrow I will take John out for breakfast and then to visit Davina and Co before delivering him to hospital. I realised reading yesterday’s entry that the one person who is guaranteed never to read the blog is John, so my compliment to him will go unread. I rang Brian both yesterday, last night and today, to a recorded message. Finally I rang his son as I was worried, only to find that he had been admitted to hospital yesterday, profoundly depressed and with low blood pressure. My attempts to contact him in hospital have failed as he is always asleep, so not sure what they are going to do with him. Will try to get there on Monday. Needless to say I haven’t been to HHH for two weeks, I’ll bet they haven’t told the clients why we have suddenly disappeared. But I can’t be everywhere and John is by far the priority at the moment.

September 23, 2018

Started the day with a call to Brian in hospital, ICU in fact, and was somewhat concerned by a couple of things he said. First he commented that the staff have put him in a private room because he has a disease he might transmit to them and secondly, he said I would get on well with the other patients as they were inmates from the gaol, whom I am used to dealing with at HHH. Mmm, thinking there are a few wires crossed, but I can’t get out there at the moment to assess his mental state in person.

We went to Dav’s to visit mid morning and Millie greeted John in a way she never has before, leaping into his arms and demanding a cuddle, later playing ride-a-cock-horse on his good knee. We got a call to say his admission was at 3pm and we were there on the dot. He is in a transition ward awaiting a subsequent transfer to either a cardiac or orthopaedic ward tomorrow. This morning he was pointing out various things in the flat that he wants me to take and to give to others ‘if’. But at breakfast it nearly broke my heart when he asked ‘has my life made a difference at all?’ I know that if he had had even one of his four children around him over the last many years, he would never have needed to ask the question.

September 24, 2018

Went to the hospital in the morning and saw a parade of docs, three ortho registrars in total, then Gemma’s cardiology registrar, followed late in the day by the anaesthetist. He came for half an hour and said that normally they would avoid anaesthesia on someone whose heart is as bad as John’s, but he will die without a new valve and fixing the knee infection first is the only chance to replace it. He is number one on the priority list for a new valve and Brian is number 10 on Westmead’s list for the same operation. My adoptive mother died following surgery to replace the exact same valve damaged by childhood rheumatic fever and my friend Mike died in Windsor Hospital a few years ago from a sudden infection in this valve after dental work. I don’t think such problems are particularly common but damned aortic valves have followed me for over 30 years.

I just want him home, sitting on his chair reading, with the blanket over his knees, drinking a hot milk. People say ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’, but I have known every day for 11 years what I had, never took it for granted and am terrified of losing it. But I must hand him over to science tomorrow, he made the choice to fight for more life and in the next few days we will know if it was the right one. Before I left tonight I read John some email messages from Carol, Mary, Eileen and others and he was heartened by them. Then as I was leaving Martha and Phil were arriving, having visited Sonia in the same hospital. She has had a heart attack just a day after arriving home from Greece, but thankfully she is recovering. How lucky to have got home, the medical system in Greece is in a state of collapse.

September 25, 2018

I won Lotto today and over the next few months I need to win Lotto two more times to get through all of this. I arrived at the hospital at 5am expecting to have to sweet talk a security guard or two to get in as I’d been told the main doors didn’t open till 6, but I walked straight in. I had formulated a plan B during the night, enter via emergency and then use the fire stairs, but luckily my wily ways were unnecessary. Waited with him till 7 when he was taken to theatre and was able to stay there right up till he was wheeled in at 8. Unlike many hospitals there isn’t a theatre waiting room, so seeing any medicos after the op isn’t possible. By noon I was getting more confident of the result as we’d been warned that the fi

I completed a long entry but suddenly everything pear-shaped and when it restored a couple of hours later, this is all I got………….the rest went to the gods.

By noon I was getting more confident of the result as we’d been warned that the first 15 minutes of the anaesthetic were the most dangerous. He emerged finally into recovery at 1.30pm but visitors are not permitted there, so I ensconsed myself in the ICU waiting room, happily devoid of television, so the most peaceful part of the hospital. My companions were a man who was with his best friend at Narrabeen Lakes cycling this morning when his friend collapsed off the bike unconscious and he gave CPR while waiting for an ambulance. The friend had reported passing out while driving a gokart a few weeks previously, but regaining consciousness soon after. The other ‘waiter’ was a young woman who approached me after hearing a phone call to me from recovery. John had conned the nurse into ringing ‘his wife’ to relay the message ‘I’m alive and I love you’. She said she too was waiting for her husband to emerge from surgery for a brain tumour, a glioblastoma as it happens, needing a second surgery since diagnosis six months previously. I told her, somewhat disingenuously, about how well Robert currently is and about his trip to Galapagos. We are old but she was 35 or so, waiting alone, and her future is a bleak one. It made me consider all the many stories that pass through that lounge each day, each week, each year. Eventually a nurse asked how long I had been at the hospital, since 5am I said, and he instructed me to go down for a pot of tea and something to eat. Finally I felt free to do that and by the time I returned John was set up in ICU, behind a sea of tubes, but alive.

September 26, 2018

Slept in a bit after being woken from my early night by texts from John’s neighbour at 11.35 pm and not being able to go back to sleep. Then I fielded a few calls and answered some emails before going to the hospital. He looked so much better today, sitting up reading the Saturday Paper if you please. Later, with much help from the physio and 3 nurses, they managed to move him into a chair, though it was a 15 minute process as he can only use one leg and is still attached to about a dozen tubes and monitors. Late in the day the surgeon Andrew arrived with 2 registrars and began the visit by telling them that this case ‘is proof of the absolute importance of listening to the patient’. He retold the story of the cardiologist’s reluctance to do an echo but added another dimension: he said when he contacted her to say we wanted one done ‘she gave me the brush-off, telling me it wasn’t necessary’. ‘Luckily’, he said to me, ‘you had already rung up and booked the test so I told her that if it were not done, John was going to pull the plug on the surgery’. She reluctantly agreed to go along, repeating that it was unnecessary. Ah, professors! he bemoaned. This puts a whole new slant on the affair: not only did she refuse to do the test, she also tried to brush off the surgeon when he insisted and then complained to us about the anaesthetist exceeding her remit by advising us that surgery was dangerous. When all of this is sorted, I think we need to go cardiologist shopping. To my great surprise, John pulled out a travel brochure from the paper and asked ‘do you think Venice and Prague are still a possibility?’

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