Life Notes 12

August 3, 2023

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

August 4, 2023

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

August 5, 2023

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

August 6, 2023

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

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

August 7, 2023

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

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

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

August 8, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 9, 2023

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

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

August 10, 2023

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

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

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

August 11, 2023

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

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

August 12, 2023

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

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

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

August 13, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 14, 2023

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

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

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

August 15, 2023

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

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

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

August 16, 2023

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

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

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

August 17, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 18, 2023

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

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

August 19, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 20, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 21, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 22, 2023

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

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

August 23, 2023

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

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

August 24, 2023

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

August 25, 2023

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

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

August 26, 2023

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

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

August 27, 2023

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

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

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

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

August 28, 2023

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

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

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

August 29, 2023

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

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

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

August 29, 2023

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

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

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

August 30, 2023

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

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

August 31, 2023

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

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

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

September 1, 2023

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

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

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

September 2, 2023

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

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

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

September 3, 2023

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

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

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

September 4, 2023

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

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

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

September 5, 2023

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

September 6, 2023

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

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

September 7, 2023

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

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

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

September 8, 2023

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

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

September 9, 2023

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

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

September 10, 2023

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

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

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

September 11, 2023

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

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

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

September 12, 2023

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

After the last Marsalis concert with the SSO I was puzzled about a huge tuba-like instrument played near the end so I sent off an email to the SSO expecting a one-liner in reply, but got a great explanatory missive telling me about sousaphones, with links to articles about both the instrument and New Orleans Brass Bands. It was from the delightfully named Pim den Dekker and he has added to my understanding enormously. That got me thinking about the endless debate with the Opera House over John’s funeral and the fact that in July they promised to come up with a written agreement which hasn’t yet materialised. So another email went off and was quickly replied to (only part of which follows): “I will present to you in due course some other locations at the House we believe are much more appropriate for an occasion of this kind, providing better privacy, easier access for the guests, and a wonderful view of the harbour and bridge. I’m conscious though that the original location discussed is the cleavage which we will honour, but do have a think about it – at most times it’s a very unfriendly environment being weather dependent and nearly always very windy etc. We are in a very busy time at the moment preparing for the 50th anniversary events etc next month. Can I come back to after all that is over?” Of course I replied that I’d be delighted to come in to look at the other locations as he suggested and on we go. He always asks after John and I suspect they are enraptured when I report his good health.

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

September 13, 2023

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2023

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

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

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

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

September 15, 2023

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

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

September 16, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

September 17, 2023

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

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

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

September 18, 2023

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

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

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

September 19, 2023

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

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

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

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

September 21, 2023

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

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

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

September 21, 2023

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

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

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

September 22, 2023

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

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

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

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

September 23, 2023

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

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

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

September 24, 2023

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

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

September 25, 2023

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

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

September 26, 2023

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

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

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

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

September 27, 2023

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

September 28, 2023

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

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

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

September 30, 2023

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

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

September 30, 2023

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

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

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

October 1, 2023

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

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

October 2, 2023

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

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

October 3, 2023

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

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

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

October 4, 2023

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

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

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

October 5, 2023

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

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

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

October 6, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 7, 2023

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

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


October 8, 2023

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

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

October 9, 2023

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

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

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

October 10, 2023

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

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

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

October 11, 2023

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

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

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

October 12, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 14, 2023 Voice Referendum Day

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

October 15, 2023

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

October 16, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2023

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

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

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

October 18, 2023

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

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

October 19, 2023

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

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

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

October 20, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 21, 2023

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

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

October 22, 2023

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

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

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

October 23, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 24, 2023

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

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

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

October 25, 2023

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

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

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

October 26, 2023

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

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

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

October 27, 2023

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

October 28, 2023

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

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

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

October 29, 2023

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

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

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

October 30, 2023

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2023

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

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

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

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

November 1, 2023

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

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

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

November 2, 2023

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

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

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

November 3, 2023

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

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

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

November 4, 2023

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

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

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

November 5, 2023

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

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

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

November 6, 2023

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

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

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

November 7, 2023

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

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

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

November 8, 2023

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

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

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

November 9, 2023

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

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

Nuffin else.

November 10, 2023

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2023

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

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

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

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

November 12, 2023

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

November 13, 2023

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

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

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

November 14, 2023

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

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

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

November 15, 2023

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

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

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

November 16, 2023

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

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

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

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

November 17, 2023

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

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

November 18, 2023

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

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

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

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

November 19, 2023

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

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

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

November 20, 2023

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

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

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

November 21, 2023

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

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

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

November 22, 2023

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

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

November 23, 2023

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

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

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

November 24, 2023

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

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

November 25, 2023

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

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

November 26, 2023

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

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

November 27, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

November 28, 2023

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

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

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

November 29, 2023

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

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

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

November 30, 2023

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

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

December 1, 2023

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

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

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



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