Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Up and down from the sky

I returned on Monday from my second weekend in Melbourne, where I had another really enjoyable stay. It has taken all week to recover enough energy to do a little blogging. But I lack the energy to add photos.

I will start with a little whinge in that I wasted money buying The Slap. What a crappy book! Why did it get so much publicity? I don't know what to do with it. I would not give it away to anyone I like. Anybody I spoke to about it agreed it was crappy, and no one wants it, and I hesitate even to put it into the choir's recycling books system. I see it is listed as a finalist for some award - and can't see why, unless it is because of the apparently obligatory and explicit sex scenes in each chapter. The book really adds nothing to any understanding of the human condition.

However, it was a lovely weekend. Dr P managed well in my absence, and now I am back home, changing the sheets and putting the doonas back on the beds, doing all the washing, putting the house back in order, doing the shopping and cooking a few meals for us. Dr P now says he does not like rissoles any more - what was wrong with the last batch, I wonder? 

Stomper picked me up from the airport, and after school we all went to the pool where the boys were having their swimming lessons. Climber is a very impressive swimmer. He swam twice as far underwater as anyone  else in his class did. He is following in the family footsteps (as it were) as I swam well and so did all my children. 

The glare of the pool triggered a migraine, but fortunately I was able to hit it with Panadol before the headache developed fully, and so naughtily drank some red wine in the evening.

The school reunion was a lot of fun. The restaurant was excellent,  spacious and quiet, with excellent food and service. Recognising people was fairly easy. We all have more wrinkles than ten years ago, and I was by no means the wrinkliest. Dr P points out that adipose tissue fills out the wrinkles so they are not as obvious. Thanks for that! One woman has had significant plastic surgery, and I would never have recognised her. There were quite a lot of school photos and assorted memorabilia - none from me, as ours all got handed down to the next sister, and I have very few school photos anyway, which I did not have time to dig out. One woman, Jenny, had a photo of the junior school, taken , I think, when I was in Grade 1. We all enjoyed working out the identities. My older sister was also in the photo. We were wearing hideous gingham dresses. Mine would have been red, I think, and would have been a hand-me down. My sister has dark colouring, while I am fair, and red suited her - but not me. The woes of being a second child! 

In the photo I am standing next to the girl who was my best friend all through our 12 years at school. We were very little - and both of us are still short. Mary's parents and mine were good friends. Sadly, her mother died of septicaemia when Mary was only six, and she boarded at primary school. Then her father died when she was about 12 or 13, and the three children then lived with her  aunts. Mary was a clever, goodhearted and happy person, who has always done a lot to help people. We reminisced about our various mischiefs and naughtinesses, especially in Year 7. Mary said she used to lift the lid of her desk so that the reflection of the sun would dazzle the unfortunate nun teaching us. The nun apparently suspected Mary, but could not work out how she was doing it!

My contact with school friends after leaving was limited. There were a couple in Canberra, one of whom died three years ago, and there are a couple living in Sydney, not all that far away, and we intend to see each other. This might revive some memories. Everyone I spoke to had lived interesting lives and achieved a lot. Some live overseas, six have died, and some others are ill, one with Alzheimer's. The rest of us are keeping on keeping on.

After so many years it is not easy to remember a great deal about school. I cannot remember all the teachers in primary school, although memories are clearer for secondary school. I remember the discipline, and the religious instruction, and the times when I got into serious trouble. Some of us, including my elder sister, wrote some disrespectful and satirical sketches about the school, and were reading them aloud in the cloakroom, totally charmed by our remarkable talents, when we noticed that a deathly hush had fallen upon the hitherto appreciative audience. We looked up and saw one of the most formidable nuns advancing to confiscate our scribblings. We went home terrified, convinced we would be expelled, but I think we were too scared to admit anything to our mother. The school did get in touch with my parents, and we were rebuked, but Mum told us that the nuns said that the sketches were actually very witty! I think this episode was my most serious piece of mischief, which just goes to show how innocent we all were in those days. However, at the reunion we remembered how one girl, a boarder, climbed out of the dormitory windows at night, using sheets, to meet boys. She was caught, and expelled. We were all very deeply shocked.

Probably those who did manage to keep in touch with each other would remember school experiences better. The reunion made me feel quite nostalgic and I would like to have been able to find out more of everyone's lives.

I took my crochet away with me, andItalic finished sewing it together. It was started it two years ago while I was on a jury. It is a baby sweater, and has gone to a great niece, who was born at 29 weeks gestation, and who has just had her first birthday. On Anzac Day I had to try and find a darning needle to sew in all the ends of the wool. It is not the best day of the year to try and find a wool shop which is open.

My youngest sister drove me around, and in the course of our searches we found ourselves in a rather nice fancy clothing and accessories shop, where two exceedingly enthusiastic and pushy saleswomen did their utmost to get us to buy a pashmina apiece. They were very lovely, but as I have scarves and shawls in almost every possible colour, I felt I could and should avoid temptation, and set a good example to my sister, who shops till she drops. Having thus escaped, we went into another clothes shop, where she succumbed to a pair of stretch jeans, which cost twice as much as the pashmina. I should have tried harder to stop her! We returned to the first shop to say we would not be buying the pashminas, and I spied this rather beautiful bracelet, which struck me as just the thing for Stomper's birthday in June. So I bought it, gave it to her immediately, so I could see her pleasure if she liked it - which she did,  and it does indeed look gorgeous on her. So although she had to wait for the teapot, she got the birthday present early, and it averages out as punctuality personnified. And virtue is my middle name.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Flying home

These visits are much too short. I need at least a week. My return flight was nice and smooth, and on time. There must be something about flying, and not having a desk or a computer handy that facilitates writing. Who needs comfort? Stomper drove me to the airport, and then went off to a blog meet, and I am keen to hear all about it. Her willingness to drive me to the airport meant that she missed some of it. Her little boys are both growing up and are very beautiful children. They play very happily together. 

Here is Stomper with the delecatable Bertie Wooster. I'd so love to have a Burmese cat just like him, but we can't. Dr P is definitely not a cat person - he flinches and says the equivalent of 'avaunt' anywhere near a cat. Also, cats get under your feet - they do it on purpose, especially when they decide they must be fed right this minute, and it would be very dangerous. And Dr P might not feed a cat! Bertie is gorgeous and I just love the feel of his silky fur.

It was lovely staying with my sister C and her husband. They are kind, hospitable, generous and loving, and full of practical helpfulness. We talked about our lives and our families, far more than is possible with phone calls. She is a good talker, and I don't know how she manages to pack so much into her life. I feel comparatively idle.
Here I am with three of my sisters. We don't look very alike, and come in a variety of colours, sizes and shapes. This was taken at our nephew's wedding, outside the church.

The wedding - what a happy occasion it was, full of love, warmth and enjoyment. The ceremony brought me to tears - but happy tears, and like everyone present, I felt very emotional. Watching a couple pledge their love and life together is extraordinarily beautiful. I can't help wondering how those joining in matrimony will fare. We all started our marriages with love and optimism, and yet many marriages do fail, with much pain and sorrow. I hope this couple will live in love and joy, and not encounter pain, sorrow or tragedy. And I also hope they will have babies - soon.

 The bridegroom is very dear to me. As his mother said in her speech at the reception, he has grown from a cheeky little boy into a fine person who has achieved remarkable success in his endeavours, and he has married a beautiful and talented woman. He has a piercing wit, and can take the mickey out of anyone and anything. I will never forget a piece he wrote acknowledging some minor misdemeanor, and the reasons why it was wrong, written according to the standard jargon and phrasings, but with his tongue well and truly in his cheek. 

I have made my parents ashamed of me, and they have paid a lot of money and made many sacrifices so as to give me a good Christian education, and I have brought sorrow to my teachers, who are so dedicated and work so hard, and I ought to be grateful....

I knew he'd go far!

It was a lovely reception and a very happy gathering. Good food, lots to drink, lots of family, friendship, good music and dancing.

My sister's marriage broke up  years ago in a very traumatic way, with lots of pain, grief and guilt to all. To everyone's credit, the grief and pain have been largely overcome, the lives rebuilt, and the divorced parents treat each other with respect and affection. I admire them very much for this achievement. It was not easy.

I will be back in Melbourne next week for an old school reunion. Should be fun, and interesting. As I have lived away from Melbourne, I have not kept up much contact at all, but I did get to a reunion ten years ago, and look forward to this one. 

As for Melbourne, well, I do love it. But I laugh when I hear the people complain about the traffic. To me it is calm and quiet. However I did notice quite a few drivers running the red lights. Bad! I could live in Melbourne - but would have to rebuild my life yet again.

I am glad to be home, though. I got Dr P to his medical appointment this morning. All is well. He was worried and fretted about it, and is now much more relaxed. The doctor said he was in excellent condition for his age!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The airport and where it got me

Last time I was here was the day a bikie was bludgeoned to death. Today is easier. As ever, I gave in to my innermost panic about getting there EARLY. Dr P had proposed driving me there and I had resigned myself to another stop and start journey through Newtown.

I had spent the morning doing all the last minute things - bought eggs and milk, and posted a parcel to return to friends the large plastic cake container they'd forgotten to take home months ago when they came to dinner, and which I had never managed to remember when I was in a position to do something about it. You know - you are on the bus and remember it, then you get home and your mind goes blank again.

Packing took an inordinate amount of time. It should not have, of course, given that the trip is only for two full days. But as it is to Melbourne, glory city of variable weather, and likely to be cooler than Sydney (I am writing this on the plane and they just announced that Melbourne IS cooler) I need more choices than seem reasonable.

Obviously I need a choice of wardrobe for the wedding. this means for the top half of me, as on the bottom half of me is invariably clad in black pants. I'd pranced - a relative term - about my bedroom trying on all the possibilities - did it fit, or almost fit, what goes with what, and which colour would I wear on the day out of the options of blue, green or purple?

Thus I did not pack into the smallest possible bag, but into a larger and somehow more unwieldy one. And I had to remember Stomper's Christmas present, by request a new bone china teapot. I found a lovely Vera Wang teapot with a matching milk jug, and did not want to trust it to the post. But I am feeling anxious that despite all the protective wrapping and clothes surrounding it, that some mindless bag handler will hurtle it to the ground and that it will all be in bits - just like an art installation at the NSW Art Gallery which features a broken sculpture on the floor near the entrance.

Back to the sequence of events. (I trained as an historian.) At the last minute Dr P decided he did not feel like driving, so I got a taxi. The driver, an Afghani, told me all about his wild youth, but was thankful that his three children have turned out to be quiet and good. He said he'd been a weightlifter, a wrestler and a boxer, but I am not sure whether he said all that because I told him about my nephew, the bridegroom, being a medal winning weightlifter.

It is rare to have a boring conversation with a Sydney taxi driver.

Once through the check-in, I ambled about the airport, looked at the overpriced shops and their contents, failed to find a chocolate that appealed to me, had a cappuccino and some Pringles chips, and watched the sort of people who relentlessly push past other people. You'd think they would make way for little old ladies, but No! Maybe if I let my hair go grey? I doubt it.

We are taxiing for takeoff now, and once airborne I will read. It is a novel called Knitting, about bereavement, grieving, knitting and healing. Not bad, but predictable so far, and I would not recommend it to my recently widowed friend.

I enjoyed a wonderful view of Sydney from the air, which might even rival the view from the Bridge Climb!

I am writing this on the back of my boarding pass. The creative urge struck and I had no other piece of paper handy.

I am writing the foregoing at Stomper's place, while her boys play on the other computer beside me, with a very animated conversation going on about their game. Something to do with pirates, I think - have they been watching the news of all those Somalian pirates? I am having a good time with the family. Having taken the Skybus and then the tram, my sister C picked me up, we then bought some vegetables, rushed home and prepared dinner, chopped and started cooking vegetables for soup, raced out to the 6.30 session of Summer Hours, came home, had dinner, talked and talked, went to bed, got up, met other sisters, including the exceedingly excited mother of the bridegroom, who is beside herself with delight, and a niece, walked for ages to get to a cafe for breakfast where we undid all the benefits of the walk, peeked in dress shops, walked back to C's place, from whence they all scattered, and then Stomper picked me up and I am having a meaningful interface with the computer, but will stop now and talk to my cherished human relations. The teapot is intact.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Lifting the spirits

The last fortnight has been very busy, and every time I considered posting, my heart sank a little, as I could not think of what to say, or how to say it. It all came out dreary, which is not really how it has all been. I probably left it all too late at night to have any creative energy. Anyway, here goes.

The main cause of tiredness was the choir. We had our concert on Saturday night, and there were long and tiring practices during the week. We had early starts and late finishes. Each night I came away feeling exhausted, and with incredibly sore feet. One of our pieces was very difficult. Fortunately it all came right on the night. Thank the Lord for that, and thanks to all of us who worked so very hard. And if anyone has a cure for tired, sore and numb feet, I am prepared to try it and endorse it on national television with close up pics of the feet before and after. The simple answer might be not to stand rigidly for so long in such uncomfortable and crowded conditions. 

It is an amazing thing that choir members are inevitably forced to endure awful conditions in order to make wonderful music. The first concert I sang in was in a church. It was a freezing Canberra winter night. While the audience sat in heated pews, we sang standing on the marble steps to the altar, and my feet got so cold that I nearly fell flat on my face when the concert ended. Often there is not nearly enough room for everyone, let alone for the music. The authorised choir 'uniform' is often too hot, and ignores the climate or the weather. One choir sings in academic gowns over their clothes, including long sleeved blouses, even in the middle of summer. Often you cannot sit down at all. Obviously we must all really like  singing to endure such discomforts. We do, of course.

The choir having performed well, we all felt very happy, and got a great buzz from the sheer pleasure of it all. It was the last performance with our conductor, who has to return to his family business in his country of origin. We had a terrific two years with him, and now are faced with the challenge of working with a new conductor. It will be a hard act to follow.

Sandwiched in between all this was the blogmeet with Frogdancer, M, Fifi, Anna, Eleanor and Kim. Although I wondered how I would manage to recognise a whole lot of people whose faces I did not know, Frogdancer and I found each other, and it was a great night and enormous fun - just not long enough by half, thanks to the restaurant's unreasonable reluctance to let us continue until dawn...curious fellows. Everyone was so different, and so interesting, and the only frustration was not having long enough to talk to everyone in detail. 

Easter itself was quiet. SD3 and her partner were staying with us for a couple of days, but they went out to meet friends for most of Sunday, and we then had takeaway Thai food for dinner - their choice, as apparently you cannot get good Thai food in Bali, where they work. But I felt as though Easter had passed unmarked, other than the choir's concert, and thus feel rather unfulfilled. And although I talked to most of the family, my heart is always sore at not being together.

I am going to Melbourne tomorrow for a few days, for the wedding of one of my nephews. (I have 21 nieces and nephews, and my children have 26 first cousins.)  As Dr P has a medical appointment on Tuesday, I will be back here on Monday. There is a school reunion the following Saturday, so I will make another quick visit. If Qantas is not making enough profit it is not my fault. This weekend there is no back up for Dr P, so I feel a little nervous about going. It will be good to see Stomper and my little grandsons. 

Today I have been racing around trying to get organised for Dr P - leaving food (rissoles again), notifying the neighbours of my absence, and also giving more details to our emergency/panic service. I just hope that this time there is no crisis. Last time there was.