Thursday, 29 January 2009

This sad week

It has been such a sad week, since my friend J died. His wife is dealing bravely with her grief, and there will be a memorial gathering this weekend. J did not want eulogies, or formalities, and his wishes are being respected. I will fly there and back for the day, and am considering choices of music, and I am listening to music which which to me expresses grief, mourning and love, and enables these feelings to be truly experienced and acknowledged. 

I hope that some time soon I can visit my friend again, and have some quiet time with her. When and if she feels like it.

Other friends and I have been trying to help spread the news around, and to keep information flowing. And we are all trying to deal with death.

We must do this, to remember that in the midst of life is death. And that despite death, life does go on. It is not the same, never the same, and we cannot always make sense of it all. We have to absorb the reality of death, to understand its finality, and to hold onto our memories, to remember those we loved, and to do what we can to console the living. 

Funerals and memorial services and gatherings help us to understand, to absorb the reality, to bring our grief to the surface, to help us to mourn, and to allow us to comfort each other. Even if the comfort is limited, any comfort is worthwhile and helpful. People - family and friends, want to reach out and help and comfort. Thus we maintain and strengthen the bonds of our love and friendships.

My friend has her memories of an extremely happy marriage, and these will help her. But nothing changes the reality that her darling is dead. While I ache for her, I envy her those happy memories of their life together, as my own experiences have been different in so many ways. She is a brave and strong person, so I know her life will go on  in positive ways.

But in the meantime we all grieve.

Friday, 23 January 2009

My friend is dead. I shall never see him more.

One of my dearest friends is dead. He died following surgery for a blocked intestine. His wife M had let us know that he was ill and in hospital, and that he would probably have surgery. I talked to M last night. We did not talk long, as she was waiting to hear from the hospital. Evidently they rang shortly afterwards, and said things were not good and she should return to the hospital. So she and their son returned and were there throughout the night. He died this morning and M rang me a couple of hours later. When she rang to say she had very bad news, for an instant I expected her to say that his cancer had returned, but instead she told me of his death - it seems from organ failure because of the blockage. 

I wrote about the last time I saw him, for his 70th birthday, which was a wonderfully happy occasion, with two other close friends and their daughter and her family. We had such a good time, and I took some good photos of him. M and J said they never took good photos, and indeed, although they were a fine looking couple, it was difficult to take good photos of them.

They had a tremendously happy marriage, and had good friends everywhere. They were both lawyers, with an amazing knowledge and love of music, art, and literature. Their tastes were truly catholic. We have been very close friends for 40 years, and they gave me immense comfort and support when I most needed it. We had shared griefs - they too had lost twin boys. M and I worked together  for some years, and through that many other friendships came about.

I can't begin to describe how much I loved them and how greatly I will mourn J. This death, following so closely upon Viv's death, is devastating. Nor can I fully describe the blessings of their friendships, how they gathered people around them, and how interesting and fascinating it was to share conversations with them. Words are failing me. He had a naughty and infectious laugh, a bountiful fount of knowledge of music and a superb ear. He could remember anything he ever heard, and any performance. He loved children and doted on babies - besotted was how he described it. He was such a good and true man. Let me ever, ever weep.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The party's over - but it still feels good

Dr P had a very good birthday on Sunday. What good management to have your 85th birthday fall on a Sunday. We had a self-serve lunch with plates balanced on knees. A nice simple menu - ham, cold chicken, potato salad, egg salad, smoked salmon and pesto savouries, followed by the ever-reliable and delicious orange almond cake, and pavlova with mixed berries. And juice, water and wine. The ham and cooked chickens were bought, another friend provided the egg salad, and I did the rest.

It took me the whole week to prepare, but I paced it and was very organised. Monday was cleaning day, Tuesday was time off and driver's licence day, Thursday was food shopping day, Friday was wine buying day, Saturday was for baking the cake, and pavlovas, and Sunday morning was for arranging the house. What was Wednesday? I can't remember! Oh yes, K from Canberra was here overnight.

Dr P got worried during the week that I needed some help, and with the help of our close friend KMe, we engaged a young student, who arrived an hour before. She was terrific - knew how to pitch in, did the drinks well, and just got on with things. With her help, I was able to have a good time and talk to our friends.

The happy glow lingers on. The photos I took of Dr P and all the guests show that everyone had a good time. He did not want any presents, speeches or toasts, so there were none (champagne is nasty stuff anyway). Everyone talked to him and to each other. It was all I'd hoped it would be. Dr P had a very good time, and was very happy.

Our Canberra friend K, despite having been here during the week, came back by bus, but was late due to the bus aircon breaking down. He had to catch the return bus at 6pm. What a day.

Now all we have to do is eat the rest of the ham, chicken, potato salad, the cake and the remains of the pavlovas. Everyone just loves pavlovas, especially with berries, and they are really very easy to make - although you do have to concentrate. When I decorate a pav, I just put the mixed berries on top, but our student, L, mounded them, with the strawberries arranged around the outside, and it looked most artistic. I must remember that one.

What with L's help, the cleaning up afterwards was minimal, and the furniture rearrangement did not take long.

I don't usually blather on about lunches, etcetera, but just feel very glad that it was such a happy occasion. I have had a couple of very quiet days. Dr P went to bridge, and all is well.

Dr P is doing some cleaning out of his study. He collects funnies. (Well, so do I. I've got all the farnarkling correspondence from many years ago. And lots of spoofs by the loyal and devoted staff on bureaucratic management edicts such as the introduction of a tea voucher system.) He's got some good ones. He brought out for my delectation a cartoon from The New Yorker. It shows a couple sitting in the office of a female marriage counsellor. She has picked up the phone and says to the couple, "Excuse me a moment. It's my idiot husband." We tend to keep stuff that still makes us laugh. It sure makes tidying up a slow and inefficient process.

I haven't cooked dinner since Saturday.

Friday, 16 January 2009

The Interview

Frogdancer has sent me questions for an interview. I have read quite a lot of the interviews currently appearing on blogs, and it has been fascinating.

Here are the rules:

If you'd like to join in the fun, it's simple.

1. Send me an email or a comment saying 'interview me'.
2 I will then email you five questions that I choose.
3. You can then answer them on your blog.
4. You should also post these rules along with an offer to interview anyone else who emails you or comments that they want to be interviewed.

It has been an interesting exercise, though rather difficult. Frogdancer's questions have made me dig deeply into both past and present.

1. What was it about Dr P that swept you off your feet and made you decide to race off into the sunset with him? Sorry. I'm a hopeless romantic. I live vicariously through my friends.

This is a very  complicated question to answer. I would not categorise it as being swept off my feet, but rather a careful weighing up of factors. Some background is needed. 

This is my second marriage.  The first marriage was not happy. We had a bad start.  I became pregnant straight away, and then caught rubella. Being Catholic, we did not choose an abortion. I'd not recommend that decision to anyone. I miscarried twin boys at 22 weeks. The next pregnancy, which soon followed the first, was an ectopic one. Usually this results in a life-threatening emergency, but this one dragged on undiagnosed for months, until finally I had surgery. Our first couple of years were severely traumatic and tragic. We did succeed in having our three children, and we loved and cherished them. But essentially the marriage never worked. He suffered from severe depression. We were never able to resolve problems. Nothing I did was ever right, or made any difference. 

In time my husband's condition improved - but not the relationship. Eventually he had an affair which precipitated his leaving the marriage. I was distraught, terrified, and wanted to keep trying. To no avail. It took me five years to start functioning again. It was an appallingly unhappy and horrible period. I had good friends and family, slowly rebuilt my life, time healed me, and eventually the sun did start shining again. However, the awful first two pregnancies and the marriage breakup left me feeling very damaged. Sometimes I wonder about the what-ifs of life.
Through my job, I had known Dr P for many years, and we had always got on well. He has a lot of charm, an impressive intellect, and has had a very interesting life. He enjoyed life and we had many interests in common - and also some wide disparities in personality and interests. His second marriage had broken up before mine, and he started asking me out. It took a while for me to become interested, but he persisted, and  I thought to myself  'Why not see what happens? Have a go'. So I did. And one thing led to another.

After some years Dr P  asked me to marry him. He liked me, and he did love me, and was concerned for my welfare and my future. This was a very different experience for me. He lived in Sydney and I lived in Canberra. He had already retired, as he is much older than me. He offered me financial security, which was important, as I had worked part time for most of my career, and thus had been ineligible for superannuation. I agreed to the marriage on the basis that we did not live together, that I kept working, and that we would have separate finances. I had come to love him, but had I not felt sure that he loved me, I would not have married him. It was very good, after that sad and painful first marriage, to feel loved.

So we married. I knew it would not be perfect, and that I needed to be very clear-minded about the likely benefits and problems. And there are problems, because in many respects we are an improbable combination, and he is very forceful, and often very selfish. The age disparity makes our lives more difficult now. His generation can be very uncomfortable about discussing relationships and emotions. I am having to learn to be more assertive and to insist on having my own life. Things can be very volatile. 

2. Do you find that your daughter's addiction to a certain colour makes it very easy or very difficult to find gifts for her at Christmas/birthdays?

It certainly helps, and gives me a head start. The addiction is a shared one, and this makes it fun to find presents for her. Although I often give her kitchen things. (Good cooks need good equipment.) Colour is less important than function here. When it comes to clothes, my motto is if you see it, grab it -  it very likely won't be around again for a while. I find choosing clothesfor her trickier now - will my choice suit her, or fit? I wonder whether she will want my amethyst beads eventually, or any of the purple fabrics I have been stashing away over the years waiting for a good purple fashion inspiration. She managed to find me some purple secateurs a couple of years ago - that was pretty brilliant! 

3. Is the PP thing still on the back burner, or have you resolved the situation?

The PP! The sleep banisher! It is still unresolved, and I cannot see a real possibility of reaching a rapprochement. I still hope that taking a stand might achieve something.

I decided to defer any action because the other SDs were visiting over Christmas, and I judged it better not to introduce any complications or repercussions during their visits. They are all very private people and do not confide personal details to their father or to me. But I have to assume that they do talk to each other, and I don't want the problems between the PP and myself to flow over into the rest of the family - not if I can help it.  My letter probably needs to be softened and to be less detailed, but to make it clear that this is not her family home, but her father's and mine, and that I expect her to act courteously towards me when she is a guest in my home. She has had nearly twenty years in which to become accustomed to the fact that I am her father's wife, and one would think she ought to be grateful that he has me to care for him in his frail old age.

Since her departure she has chosen not to have email contact with her father through me. She now emails her sister who prints a copy and brings it across to him. Dr P asked me why she was doing this, and I said I presumed it was because of our failure to have our discussion. I think her action is pathetic and hostile, and indicates a lack of good faith. I keep worrying that a letter might makes things worse - but as the situation seems to have worsened anyway I might as well make my views clear.

 4. What would be the one thing about your present life that you would wish to have more of?

To see more of my family in Canberra and Melbourne - the children, the grandchildren, sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews. I miss them all very acutely. It is now much more difficult for me to go and visit them. As Dr P won't travel any more, my visits are brief and infrequent. Over the last year I have really struggled emotionally with this problem. I can't do much about it, except to seize any opportunity to go away, and to expect more help from Dr P's family. 

5. What is something that, if you had your time over, you would change?

This comes into the BIG MISTAKE category. I should not have sold my house and moved to Sydney.

After a number of years living according to our original agreement, and with both of us travelling to and from each other's city, I surrendered to pressure from Dr P and to our mutual desire to live together. If I had stayed in Canberra I would have had frequent and regular contact with two of the three children, and could have helped out much more easily. Probably it would have had easier to go to Melbourne more often. I miss the old friends  greatly and as time passes, maintaining contacts takes much effort. 

So thanks, Frogdancer.

If anyone wants an interview by me, now is your chance.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Transformational tidying and what happened next.

This is where I started the tidying up. There was a lot to do. It is a multi-functional room. Ironing, books, camera, sorting room.

Some improvement was achieved. Temporarily.

After the family arrived. What else are  empty spaces for but to fill?

Fox in socks on box on Knox, or baby on towel on rug on floor

Farewell to the shoes. I don't fit into the shoes anymore, nor to the clothes they were bought for.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The most tranquil part of the day

It is late enough to think about bedtime, but instead I am savouring the night. The air is pleasantly cool. Venus has disappeared from sight. The moon has risen, and is still golden rather than white. It has begun to wane. This month the full moon was not visible, because of cloud. I love to watch the full moon, and am disappointed when it is obscured. As this area is hilly, I have to wait until the moon clears the rooftops, and go out onto the balcony to check whether it is in view. I used to take my baby granddaughter outside to show her the moon, and she surprised us all by spotting the moon in the daytime sky. One of the books I picked up at the local second-hand market is Dava Sobel's The Planets, and I read the chapter on the moon first. The title is Lunacy. I am reminded of Yum Yum's aria The Moon and I from The Mikado:

Observe her flame, 
That placid dame 
The moon's Celestial highness
There's not a trace 
Upon her face 
Of diffidence or shyness
She borrows light 
That, thro' the night, 
Mankind may all acclaim her!
And, truth to tell, 
She lights up well,
So I for one don't blame her.

The music I am listening to is sacred choral music by Gesualdo, and has a tranquil, contemplative melancholy about it. You would not think from this music that he murdered his wife and her lover. I have finished for the day, so am in my upstairs sitting room, reading books and blogs. It is the time of day when I gather myself together.  I need time to myself, to think and to feel, to plan the next day, and to resolve to be a better person. If I don't get solitude, and time to myself, I don't function as well. This is probably an innate characteristic, but could have been affected by my being the second of seven children, and as such being constantly called on to give a lot of help around the house. Even when I was newly married, I did not want to go to bed early, but needed time to sit, read, listen to music and have time for myself.

There is much to do this week, to prepare for Dr P's birthday lunch next Sunday.

On Sunday I went through my wardrobe and selected clothes, and shoes which had been clogging up the wardrobe space. I am sad to have had to discard the shoes, as most of them are lovely, and in quite good condition. My feet now need orthotics and very sensible shoes. Whoever visits the local Vinnies might find some good bargains.

Yesterday I cleaned the entire kitchen, laundry and downstairs toilet, tackling all the bits of floor that the mops cannot reach. I cleaned the filter for the exhaust fan - a very yucky job - did lots of washing, and cleaned and tidied all the shelves in the units in our breakfast area. Some kitchen things joined the collection for Vinnies.  All this took until late afternoon, and was very tiring. Although it needed doing, and it was good to have got it done, it was not much fun. Grim unremitting toil is the description that springs to mind.

This morning I went with a friend to a plant nursery, and we looked at plants and pots, deferred decisions and then had  a virtuous salad for lunch. In the afternoon I took Dr P to get his modified driving licence, and fortunately we did not have a long wait. So that's done. A friend is coming to stay tomorrow night, so I have to think of something interesting for dinner.

And so to bed.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Do you brush curls?

Dr P and I are all by ourselves tonight. All the visitors have gone. Order is gradually being restored in the house. 

It has been a busy couple of days. Having got the house in order, I watched in seeming calm as disorder reigned. I wonder now whether I am now past the stage of little babies and small children. Dr P certainly is. No, I did enjoy them, but now feel very tired.

SD 4 is very pleasant and easy to get on with, and none of the problems of the PP occur with her. The little live wire and I got on very well, and played games together, and I minded her a couple of times, and gave her lunch. She has become a very fussy eater, but by dint of allowing her to share my lunch today, she ate quite a lot. We offered each other tidbits. As I said to Dr P, we are older and smarter. She has a wild tangle of red curls, which I itch to brush, but it seems to be a rigid rule, transmitted through the generations and never to be broken - and most certainly not by a mere step-grandparent - that you don't brush curls. The baby is lovely, although he did not sleep much. Dr P appeared to regard these youngest grandchildren with a benign kindness. He dotes on this youngest daughter of his. The four of them are now, I presume, in the air, in economy class, coping with the baby and the two year old, and presumably not getting any sleep at all. Sounds ghastly. They are overnight in Singapore, then make another early flight, and on Monday SD4 is back at work. I can't say I envy her.

I am accustomed to a fairly orderly household. My own mess I can tolerate, and Dr P's mess I deal with. So when guests arrive, and their belongings are scattered all throughout the house and cover every possible surface, I fret a little, although I tell myself it does not really matter, and I can fix it all as soon as they go. Which I have done!  My daughter knows that children are not allowed to take food or drink into the lounge, and that Dr P's TV viewing requirements are paramount. She does not let the children fiddle with things. When the visitors are not your own family, I am a bit softer. As it was only for two days I did not want to seem too restrictive, but bore in mind the helpful suggestion of a friend, who enunciated the immensely sound principle of  "our house: our rules". But I did require towels to be put under the baby, who overflowed frequently. 

The folding cot had to be folded, and this is a bit tricky. You have to press both sides on the frame simultaneously to make it collapse, and my arthritic fingers don't think much of pressing. It is necessary to try to press repeatedly.

Our next excitement will be the renewal of Dr P's driving licence. He can do a driving test or opt for a modified licence. The other day he was all set to undergo the driving test, but the earliest date he could book is in February. Now he has changed his mind, and has decided to get a modified licence. Apparently you negotiate the distance from your home you will be permitted to drive. It is measured as the crow flies. 

Now that modern managerialism has triumphed, and the user/customer/client/taxpayer/citizen has to ring one general number and choose from innumerable options, you cannot, it seems, telephone your nearest RTA and speak to the manager and book an interview. They do not publish any specific phone numbers for the branches. No, you must turn up there, take a number, join the generally extremely long queue, wait your turn, and then hope that the manager with whom you must negotiate the permitted distance will be available to talk to you when your turn arrives.

In the midst of all these events, the internet vanished from my computer. A similar problem occurred a couple of months ago, and so I fiddled around, but nothing worked. The friend who helped last time was away. Then I contemplated taking the computer by bus to the Apple Store to get their free technical help. This was a daunting prospect. Dr P got aggravated and did his usual rant about how his stupid wife could not be satisfied with a Windows computer, which, as everybody knows, never has ANY problems, but Oh No, she had to get the iMac! Thus provoked, I rang the Apple support service and paid for help. It turned out to be one of the simple adjustments you make when your computer gets a bit clogged and starts thinking it knows best, and I changed something which restored the default settings. It is fixed! But why don't they ever tell you these things in the how-to books and the computer help?

I've been having an alcohol free week, but tonight I downed two glasses of red wine. 

Next weekend we have the 85th birthday lunch. At this stage it seems feasible, but panic may well set in later in the week.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The manifold pleasures of the scatty mind

I am having a tidy up. Well, sort of. SD4 and family will be here tomorrow for an overnight stay before flying back to their foreign clime. They have all been staying down the beach - lucky things, and I wish I could persuade their father to go there too, but alas no. I have to get things off the floor, off all the surfaces and make sure that there is nothing the live wire can damage or use to damage herself. All the ornaments will have to be put out of reach. Things must be put away. Etcetera. 

But back to the tidying up. Perhaps I have a scatty mind - actually there is no perhaps about it - and I always have a lot of things on the go at once. I'd made a cake, a honey spice cake, but although I cooked it at the recommended temperature for 10 minutes less than the specified time, it is overcooked and did not rise. I HATE that. This is the same oven that undercooked my friend's cakes some weeks ago. What does it think it is doing? Perhaps the oven has reached the end of its working life. If so, I know how it feels, but it does not mean I am sympathetic to its condition. I can see I will have to experiment on a few more cakes. That won't do the weight any good, notwithstanding the alcohol-free week so far. Another possibility is that the cake tin is too large, so I will have to go to one of the sales and get something a trifle smaller. The Peter's of Kensington sale starts next week - this gives me a good excuse to go.

And the cake was not as nice as it promised to be on the printed page. I hate that, too. All that anticipation wasted.

A friend came over for lunch and then Dr P went off for one of his many naps. I sat about perusing travel books, wondering what might be a feasible itinerary if SD3 and I manage to work out her kind offer to come and Dr P-sit. 

After the stress of contemplating possible itineraries, I needed a break, obviously, so browsed through a few of the books that are lying around. That was fun (apart from the depressing thought resolutely pushed to the back of my mind that I will never succeed in reading all my books. The trouble with the scatty mind is that I am interested in an enormous number of subjects, and I buy books all the time - new, and second hand, and even when I wonder whether I should give some of them away, I ask myself who else that I know might be interested in any of them. The answer tends to be remarkably few people. This gives me the perfect excuse to keep the lot. And, having been in the business for umpty years of providing information on request, I absolutely have to look things up all the time. You need a lot of books to be able to do that. After all, Wikipedia doesn't know everything. I need to know something about the state of the Italian language in Dante's time (this year's Italian class) and there was not all that much available on line.

One of the problems is that despite living in this large house and there  being only two of us, and despite having a lot of bookshelves, I am running out of space. So the books have to go up to three rows  deep per shelf. Then there are the books in the cupboards. It is easy to forget what books I actually have. When I remember, then I have to find them. I do find them, but it is easy to surrender to distractions. I had to look up 1066 and All That recently - something to do with Waves of Danes, etcetera, and now of course, I cannot put it down. Until I pick up something else, of course. Or start to blog...

One of the bookshelves actually looks fairly tidy now, but the floor doesn't. As well as tidying the books, getting dangerous objects out of reach, I have LOTS of bits of paper to sort out. This is a disaster zone. There are receipts, my household accounts, concert programs, the Monet Exhibition programme, a fair swag of my Italian class work, letters, cards, old magazines, and of course the actual stuff that can be thrown out.  There are a number of piles on the floor, and these piles need good homes. Let me put my shoulder to the wheel, my nose to the grindstone, gird my loins and grit my teeth, as they say in the classics. It will get done.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Summer is here

After a pleasantly cool few days, it seems that the heat has set in. Today the temperature reached about 30 degrees, and for the next few days at least it is forecast to be even hotter. As we are near the harbour, it does not get quite as hot here as it does out in the west, where tomorrow it will reach 39 degrees. I read in other blogs how cold it is over in the northern hemisphere. I don't think I want to endure those extremes of climate, but do find Sydney very hot and humid. The nights are hot.

We have air conditioning, but it won't go any lower than 18 degrees. We use fans, and open windows, and while I have become used to the heat to some extent, nonetheless I look forward to the cool nights, which are so much more conducive to sleep. There is less migrating across the bed to find a cooler spot.

The Canberra climate is characterised by hot summers and cold winters. Cold for Australia, that is: the night temperatures fall to below zero  most nights. After 36 years there, acclimatising to Sydney's heat and humidity was a sad trial. I was on tamoxifen for several years, which made me feel hot and sweaty the whole time, and I used to overheat regularly. In the relative cool of Canberra it did not affect me so badly. Now, of course, when I visit Canberra in winter, I shiver madly. All my old warm clothes are brought out, and I dress in many layers.

This house faces east/west. The windows mostly face in these directions. The cool breezes come from the other directions and fortunately there are some north facing windows. Whoever designed and built the house evidently did not consider heating and cooling and energy conservation. In the morning the summer sun streams into the kitchen, and in the afternoon it streams into the lounge, and the upstairs room where I have the computer and the CD player. My bedroom is on the third level, and ALL THE HOT AIR RISES, so with each step I can feel the temperature increasing a couple of degrees. Many Sydney houses do not have curtains or blinds. When we moved in here there were hardly any window coverings, and the few blinds were very ineffective.

Over the years, and with Dr P protesting at every step along the way, I have wrought improvements in temperature control. Curtains now cover the west facing windows, and in my bedroom I had to have installed block-out fabric velcroed to the window frames to prevent a lot of the heat getting in. My latest improvement, occasioned by the need to get Dr P a new blind, was to also get blinds for the laundry and toilet near the kitchen. These have made a great difference. So I might just get another set of blinds for the kitchen. However I will let Dr P get over paying for the last round. Curtain and blind firms certainly know how to charge.

It is really surprising how little attention architects, builders and people in general pay to heating, cooling and energy use generally. Many houses are built for the view rather than for temperature control, and we waste so much energy because of this. Canberra suffered disastrous bushfires in 2003, and over 500 houses were burned down. A very large number of the new houses have been built without eaves - it means the house can be built closer to the boundary of the block, but the result is that an important means of temperature control and energy use is now lacking. 

Today's weather was tolerable, actually. I took my books back to the library, pottered around a few shops, found some nice clothes for my youngest grandson, whose first birthday is this week, and bought a very pretty dress (not pink, but blue and white) for my granddaughter. There was a gorgeous blue silk dress with lots of frills, which was very tempting, but then I thought of the care it would need in washing and ironing, and sadly left it in the shop. She would have looked lovely in it. My son will have to send me a photo of his little boy in the smart new blue and green outfit he is shortly to receive. I tried on some clothes and bought a t-shirt but everything else looked awful, because of the effects of over-indulgence. I think I will stick to the alcohol free week plan.

Then Dr P and I went to the pictures. We saw Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona. I quite enjoyed it, especially the scenery and Penelope Cruz, but it was really a very self-indulgent piece. Dr P usually likes Woody Allen films, but he was disappointed. I wonder if I can get him out to another film. 

Saturday, 3 January 2009

The babies and the oldies

When I moved to Sydney this suburb had very few little children. The trendy area is further down the road from us, and generally has had lots of young people pouring in to enjoy the cafes, restaurants and shops. But you did not see many kids. I was a Census collector in 2001 and in my collection area I remember that only two households had new babies. One of them had a sign by the door telling callers not to knock or ring the doorbell. The mother must have been nervous and sleep deprived. Weren't we all!

This has all changed. There are babies everywhere and little kids. We all exclaim about how many babies there are now. We live on a corner and our side street is populated by the elderly. There's us, and across the lane lives an old lady in her nineties. There have been a couple of deaths in the past couple of years of people who'd lived in the same small and rather decrepit houses for about sixty years. Once they die the houses are sold and the renovations start. Opposite us is a young family with one child who is now about four. No signs yet of another child, and as both parents work full time, it seems unlikely. Sometimes a grandmother comes to visit. There is another couple with a small child in the street. I have not yet spotted who lives in the renovated houses.

But when you walk along the main street there are mothers and babies everywhere. Our area is becoming more trendy, and now it seems that every other place is a cafe or restaurant. The social life of local mothers is very active. The trade in babycinos must be profitable. The local primary school is well attended. And we now have a shop that sells children's  shoes, and a baby wear shop as well.

It is very pleasant seeing all these babies and littlies. Perhaps once we become grandmothers, or get to that certain age, we become very susceptible to the charms and appeals of babies. You want to, and do, smile at them and coax a response from them. You rush to help mothers with prams on and off buses, and hold doors open for them. You dodge the little ones meandering all over the footpaths. You watch how the fathers come out at the weekend and carry the children on their shoulders. And you watch and wonder at the extraordinary development of babies in their first few years, and marvel at how their minds open up and absorb and learn so much. They start off as helpless little bundles, but their bodies know how to suck, what hands and legs are for, and that making a noise is a good way to communicate.

Maybe because I have lacked the frequent and regular contact with my grandchildren that would have happened if we lived in the same city I feel extra susceptible to babies. On the other hand it seems to me that after our children have grown up, and we've had some years for ourselves without active child care responsibilities, we rediscover the appeal of babies and young children. And so we love our grandchildren and those of our friends. Perhaps we are hearkening back to the past when grandmothers were so actively involved in the cycles of family life. Perhaps in fact it is genetic.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Less text, and more technology.

Thanks to Isabelle and her nice clear instructions (I can see why she is such a good teacher), here are a few photos. Positioning seems to be a bit of a problem, but I will persevere. 

Here is the gorgeous sideboard. 
Please admire it.

Next, my fuchsia, which has been flowering for months now. It is the first success I've had with a fuchsia, as Canberra was not the ideal climate - too cold.

There were another two photos of grandchildren, but I accidentally deleted them. It is past midnight, so it is time I put myself to bed. Otherwise I will be up all night metaphorically wrestling with photos. Let us see what the cold clear light of day brings. 

P-off! Scenes of city life.

The Sydney fireworks were apparently a huge success. I walked up to the roundabout and watched both sets, and then watched the people going home.

As I walked up, just before 9 pm, I noticed two young blokes standing facing the wall in the lane, hands on the business end, and about to piss on the walls. I said, 'Hey, guys, I don't think so!" They looked somewhat abashed and I told them about the pub and the likelihood that the pub had toilet and they set off reluctantly. At least they did not threaten to beat me up.

What is it about men that they think it is ok to piss in public, and leave streets and lanes stinking with urine? Is there a male culture that decides these things? There seems to be a lot of yobbo culture about, and an unpleasant lack of courtesy and consideration for others. It makes me want to growl.

Sydney is very quiet at present, and we are just mooching about. It is rather nice.

I went out to Officeworks to buy a diary, but they did not have the one I got last year, so it was a wasted trip. I found a compromise version at the local stationary shop. Now there is a lot of tedious entry of data to be done.

I have been trying a couple of new things on the computer, and am trying to work out what questions I need to ask and what I need to learn when the One on One lessons begin. Like how to load photos...

My children are all pretty expert. But people of my generation are often much slower to learn. I worked in a library, and libraries were among the first organisations to introduce computers, for their catalogues, circulation systems and for data bases. We were trained to use the data bases, right at the beginning of what became the information revolution and later the Internet. Of course, at that early stage, no one had individual computers. Gradually we started hearing about windows. Windows? It took a while for the concept to sink in. Certain people were selected to test systems and to become more extensively trained, while we developed our own data bases. Others, like myself, were left behind, until we perceived the manifold injustice of it all and clamoured to be given the opportunity to learn. Eventually we were all given our own computers, and when computers were upgraded, we were given the opportunity to buy the old ones. I learned basic and elementary stuff and had no need to do the more advanced learning. We certainly knew nothing about graphics, music, photos or downloading.

Because we were part of a large organisation, we had a help desk and in-house training. Being in the business of providing information, we had some idea of how instruction should be given. I knew what I did not know, and how I would explain it to others. Training used to be done along the lines of Press this key and then press that key, etc, with with no explanation of what it was you were trying to do or to learn. We helped them restructure the training. 

But there were all sorts of things we never had to deal with, and thus, once I retired and moved away from the shelter of the help desk, I was on my own. After floundering around for some years, I changed to an iMac, but was/am so inexpert and timid in my exploration of computers that I don't get very far. Hence my new found determination to learn more, and this is facilitated by Sydney's new Apple Shop. This is not an ad for them, but they have been very helpful whenever I have called in. They are marketing service brilliantly.

If I lived in the same city as any of my children I could pick their brains on a far more regular basis, but doing it by telephone is very slow. My son is very helpful, and patiently talks me by telephone through things, like resetting something or other on Dr P's computer, when all the text in the dialog boxes vanished. Stomper knows lots, but she tends to tell me, and my colander like memory forgets most of it. I need someone at my side to explain it as to an idiot, and then to have it written down. They seem to have an intuitive grasp of how it all works, and what to do next. When I download, my desktop becomes cluttered with things and I don't know what to do with them and am scared to fiddle with them. It is pretty pathetic, really. I have some books, but after a couple of pages, my brain bounces off again. I do use Help, but Help does not always have the problem you are looking up, and often Help's index terms are not what you would think of looking up. I remember looking up how to insert particular accents, for example, and there was no heading for accents. (I now have a helpful chart, nicely printed out.)

Slow learning can work out in the long run. I intend to make it so.