Thursday, 30 July 2009

Plot giveaway - still wicked

Yet again last night I resorted to a pill to get to sleep, as all the tossing and turning and re-living episodes from the past was distressing, and not what I wanted to do. I want it out of my head, not going in nauseating circles non-stop. I want this visit to be over and done with, and for them to be out of my life. I told myself over and over again not to have any arguments about anything, not to explain, and not to attempt to justify myself. And to recognise that this relationship is extremely unlikely to improve. I set out to try and make it better, and obviously it was a waste of time and effort. The relationship is worse, but I have been able to state my point of view without succumbing to the temptation of abusing her. Obviously she hates this, and me. I do not like her any better, but truly believe I was right to make the effort, and to assert myself.

We both slept in a bit this morning, and when the phone rang I let Dr P answer it - he was still asleep. They had arrived, and arranged to come over here about 11 am. Dr P favoured takeaway at our place, but I told him that going to a cafe would be better. I really did not feel like having to provide a meal. I raced off to do food shopping, to provide supplies for him and SD3, who arrives tomorrow, and got back home about half an hour before they arrived. We all said hello, and Dr P hugged and kissed his daughter and the children. I did not hug or kiss anyone. We all sat around talking for about an hour, and WSD rang her older sister, SD1, so she could join us at lunch. We met at a nearby cafe which is very large, has a good variety of food, and which is frequented by lots of yummy mummies and their babes.

As we left our house, I offered a house key to the WSD, starting to tell her that the front doorbell is broken, and that Dr P was not likely to hear anybody knocking. She refused the key, saying that they were not going to come back to our house - I said, What, not at all, and she said not at all. So, they have come all this way, and how does she intend to see her father - drag him out of the house, or just not see him again? Even when I am away for several days? She won't come and see him again? All of this just to get back at me? Even I cannot believe it! That was the extent of our conversation.

I talked to the children, and to WJ, about lots of different subjects. The one topic that was raised to me, by WJ, the husband of the WSD, was to ask was I still singing. They have two topics for me: the first is choir and the second is how are my grandchildren. It is like a cracked record. Remember cracked records? Of course, they don't really want to know anything about either topic. If I started telling them their eyes would glaze over in two seconds. SD1 was critical of the fact that I had parked in the main street instead of around the corner where there is a disabled parking spot - although in fact where I parked was actually closer to the cafe than around the corner - and apart from that there was not one word addressed to me. This is fairly typical - I sit there, smiling and trying to be pleasant, while the conversation totally excludes me, and I try to find topics that will focus on them. But I would like to vomit them all out of my mouth.

At the cafe Dr P sat in the middle and SD1 and the WSD sat at the far end, with WJ down the other end, the children opposite him, and the last place left for me.

Dr P is, of course, very deaf, and I would have thought that one or both of his daughters would have included him in the conversation. At our house, Dr P kept asking them questions which he has asked them many times before, and to which he has forgotten the answers. You'd think that they would notice his deterioration - and maybe even discuss it with me, his carer? But no. It seems that their policy is to act as though I just do not exist, notwithstanding that we are actually coming up for our 17th wedding anniversary, and that he is very old, deaf, and feeble, and very dependent on my care. I feel sorry for him, as he dotes on these step-monsters, and it is pathetic to watch it all.

I felt sick and very angry, but I kept my cool, smiled and made conversation.

On one level it would be satisfying to call the WSD many bad names, and to scream, rant, and abuse her. But it would be a really bad idea.

During the rest of the day I took Dr P to the doctor, to check his possible attack of gout a couple of weeks ago. All is well and nothing needs to be done, at this stage, if at all. (Instead of going to the dress rehearsal for an opera.) After that, I called the NRMA (the motorists' organisation) as Dr P's car would not start. Turns out that modern cars need to be driven regularly, otherwise the battery winds down. After the service man started charging the battery, I had to sit around with the engine running for about 45 minutes - boring, boring. I drove around our suburb for about half an hour. The speed limit is 40 kph, the traffic is always congested, the roads are narrow, and it is not the sort of trip you would take for fun.

Now I suppose I will have to do something about dinner.

And I am waiting for Dr P to reimburse me for the housekeeping costs, something he never does on time, and which means I have to ensure that there is enough money in my account to pay off my credit card in full. As I type I am seething away and wondering whether I can just run away. AND THEY CAN ALL LOOK AFTER HIM AT LEAST FOR A COUPLE OF WEEKS UNTIL THEY DECIDE IT IS ALL TOO HARD AND PUT HIM IN A NURSING HOME!

I drank several glasses of wine, which took the edge off my wrath, and cooked a ham, cheese and potato gratin (one of Dr P's favourites, subtle, eh!) and spoke my mind vigorously. My heart is no longer pounding furiously. Dr P has piped down, is more subdued and has gone to bed.

At least the day is over. What will the morrow bring? At least I will be away for the weekend.

I WILL be free of her one day.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Dies illa - the visitation comes.

Tomorrow the WSD and family arrive in Australia. They are staying with friends, and we do not know yet when we will see them. There was a phone call the other day from her husband - presumably he rang in case I answered the phone. I did - I am the able bodied person who does all the work around here. I put the phone on speaker, and gave it to Dr P, and then the daughter came to the phone. She was quite monosyllabic.

It would be good to say I feel relaxed and comfortable about this visit, but it would not be true. I feel sick with apprehension, although I am trying hard not to go over the whole sorry history in my mind, and am determined to stick to a strategy to handle whatever might arise.

She might be surprised to see me, as Dr P told her I was going to Canberra. I am, but not till Saturday, as I have to take Dr P to a medical appointment, and as he is getting very forgetful, I need to know what is said and done. Yesterday I consulted my psychologist about advisable strategies, and we decided that it would be best not to refer to the exchange of letters, but to be at home in my own home and act as the lady of the house, perhaps remarking how sensible it was of them to decide to stay elsewhere, because of Dr P's finding it difficult these days to have house guests. We will see how it goes! I certainly do not intend to rehash the whole affair, or to be trapped into defending myself. I hope I can stick to that resolution. I'd really like just to hibernate for the duration. I will be observing the conversational dynamics, and expect that it will be one-way and not at all reciprocal.

There was confusion about the date of this doctor's appointment. Initially they said Thursday, then said Friday 31 July. So that is what we wrote down. Then yesterday we got a reminder call saying Thursday, so I rang to check his morning and they said, Yes, it is indeed Thursday. This means I had to cancel an arrangement to go to a dress rehearsal, and nor can I go to the Thursday art history lecture.

It would be really nice if Dr P was prepared to stand up for me, and tell her to treat me with respect, but this won't happen. He is all too ready to assume I am in the wrong.

SD 3 arrives Friday morning, and by arrangement she will stay with us and keep an eye on her father, allowing me to have some time off.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Lunches, true friends and kitchen gadgets

Today I had a most enjoyable lunch with a friend. My lunch friends nearly all seem to have the same name as mine - what a generational giveaway. We met each other on a trip to Italy, but did not get to know each other very well, but I discovered that she was keen on archaeology, old walls, and is a bell-ringer. This means she has a fine mathematical mind and memory, which is awesome in the true sense of the word.

We got together a couple of years later, as it turned out she played bridge at the same club frequented for umpty years by Dr P. It is a small world. I don't play bridge at all, not having that sort of mind or memory - but never mind, most of us can't do everything, and he can't sing! We decided to meet for lunch and have been doing so regularly ever since. I said to M that Dr P commented that she and I lunch together very frequently, and I replied that it was only about once a month. She told me her daughter said the same thing to her, and was given the same reply. We had a laugh about that.

Our times together are an acute pleasure. We really like each other, which to me has been a great gift, having moved away from family and friends (fool that I was) and finding that making new friends was slow and difficult. We laugh about lots of things, and have a lot of fun together (not 'very fun' as in USA parlance). We can let off steam to each other, and laugh or mourn about the vicissitudes of life, family idiosyncracies, and what we can or cannot do about any or all of these. She has had various serious medical problems in the last couple of years, and I have been able to give her sympathy, and understanding of some of the things which I too have experienced, as well as useful advice (not covered by Medicare, but free anyway), and she is always very sympathetic and helpful when I whinge about the Problem Person in my life, aka the WSD, so that I come away feeling greatly cheered and stronger. But what we both really enjoy is the fun we have together - the way we can laugh, and that we can think through to solutions.

She was married and had five children - who all love her and care for her greatly, and, when her husband left her, she had a hard time of it for many years - now made somewhat easier financially by her ex (and so he should). She is in the process of exploring cookery, and so we have been discussing recipes and cooking techniques. To this end we visit shops with cooking implements, as I recommend various useful tools. She is very happy with the microplaner graters, has bought a blender, and today's little jaunt was to seek out a mezzaluna. This is a curved double-handled blade which is just wonderful for chopping parsley and other herbs, nuts, and it also does a wonderful job in chopping dried fruits for Christmas cakes and puddings. No home should be without one. I have had mine for very many years now and could not contemplate life without it. I have given them to my children and sisters - and hope they appreciate their good fortune.

They are surprisingly hard to find. There is a double bladed variety available, but it is a fool of a thing, small and fiddly, and the herbs all get stuck between the blades and have to be scraped out. I did a bit of a hunt around, and finally found a knife shop which had several different models. So after our lunch we went to investigate the options. She was able to test-drive them all and to decide on one. We also explored various other kitchen gadgets. You can buy silicone egg poachers, and I came across a gadget which makes spaghetti like strings out of carrots (it comes out looking like plastic!), and curly fine slices of cucumbers. Naturally I had to buy one. It is a toss-up whether I keep it or give it to a similar gadget enthusiast. In fact, I was so enthusiastic about all the kitchen marvels in this shop that they offered me a job!

I dearly love a well-equipped kitchen, and enjoy giving kitchen tools and gadgets away. Zyliss potato peelers are excellent, and they now have a versions with serrated blades so that soft fruit and vegetables can be peeled, and there is another with savage little teeth which can produce julienne strips. What is more, I give away little sharp knives, so that the recipients can chop their meat and vegetables more easily. My sisters had few and appallingly blunt knives, so I have improved this situation. A good heavy cleaver is essential for the smashing and chopping of garlic and ginger. We lesser mortals, who will never even think of applying to go on a reality TV show, will probably never learn to chop onions evenly, let alone without tears, or be able to manage an elegant garnish. For us, good tools make life easier and more enjoyable and satisfying. My risotto stirrer is wonderful. However I have to admit that I have never used the fresh cocoanut grater which a similarly kitchen-gadget oriented friend gave me. (She also gave me a hand held electric beater, as she could not stand the sight of me beating cream by hand because it was too small a task to justify getting the Mixmaster out.) The cocoanut grater is a rather savage looking tool, so I always opted for the tinned cocoanut variety. Perhaps its day will come.

However I must rather sadly admit that these days I need very few new gadgets or implements, and that when the sales come around, there is practically nothing I need to buy. Although Dr P has been cooking sweet corn in the smallest possible saucepan over the largest gas hotplate, so that the plastic handle is being burned, and nasty and probably toxic fumes produced. I have pointed this out to him, but he is impervious to advice, let alone such facts.

When I die, will my heirs fight over my kitchen implements and gadgets? I sure hope so! I will be looking down from Heaven to double check.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Society offenders who might well be underground

I am walking down the Italicmain street on my way to a cafe to spend some time with a friend. Usually I'd drive but decide to walk, so as to get fitter and to toughen up for my forthcoming trip, and to help break in some new shoes. My handbag is on my back, backpack mode. Inside it is a heavy jar of Seville Orange jelly, which I am giving to my friend. To lighten the load I hook my thumbs through the straps. This results in my elbows protruding slightly from my body. However, I am walking in a straight line, and keeping to the left.

All of a sudden a man on a bicycle whisks by. He turns his head and yells at me " You nearly poked my eye out." Of course he is way past me before I think of the appropriate response, and I feel livid. He has approached me from behind. He makes no noise as he approaches and passes me. In other words, I have no idea anyone is close by. He is obviously dangerously close to me and could have knocked me over. What is more, he is riding illegally on the footpath. Yet he thinks I have (almost) done him an injury! Bloody cheek.

All of which demonstrates how ready some people can be to take offence. (I should probably include myself in this category. Mea culpa.)

Unfortunately there is daily evidence of people failing to give due consideration to others in the public sphere. Once upon a time, in Australia, where we drive on the left side of the road, we also walked along the footpath on the left side of the road. ( I am told that in the UK, notwithstanding that they drive on the left, when walking they keep to the right. How confusing!) Keeping to the left is so ingrained in me that when I go to Italy I have to stop myself from walking on the left side of the road. Walking to the bus stop is a hazardous procedure. First of all you have to dodge the chairs and tables of the outdoors seating of the numerous cafes. These take up half the width of the footpath. Then you have to dodge the mothers and little children who meander all over the footpath, as well as those who stop to have lengthy chats without getting out of the way first. I am reasonably sympathetic to them, as I know that getting about with small children prams and shopping is difficult, but it is also evident that sometimes they could take more trouble. Additionally you have to deviate from the left because people -mostly men - barge through on the left. It never seems to occur to them that foot traffic would move more smoothly if people did not get in each other's way.

At the bus stop there is often rubbish on the ground - takeaway coffee cups, food containers, and cigarette butts, despite there being a rubbish bin several metres away - too far away! The school children who pass my house each day evidently come from families where no breakfast is provided - although perhaps they are having a second breakfast. Generally they are munching on hamburgers or something else from Subways, or pastries from Baker's Delight, and are drinking large Cokes or other soft drinks. They are certainly not munching on fruit. Naturally they do not take the rubbish to a bin, but dump it on the street, or in my tiny front garden. When they finish school each day, they are in urgent need of more takeaway sustenance. Similarly mothers collecting their children from primary school immediately stoke up their children. They must all be spending huge amounts on takeaway food, irrespective of economic recessions.

Once on the bus, if I am lucky enough to get a seat, there are times when I have to sit beside a man. Usually he is bigger than me, and his legs are spread comfortably apart. He is taking up more than his fair share of the seat, and is invariably remarkably reluctant to squash himself up a bit, perhaps in case his crown jewels or tackle get damaged. His subconscious - and indeed his conscious - clearly believes that he is more entitled to space than any mere female. If there are vacant seats available, I watch where women choose to sit. They won't sit next to a man if they can help it, as they know full well that there will be a failure to share space. Instead they approach the spare space next to a woman, who automatically and obligingly will move over. The other interesting thing I notice is that when I am offered a seat, it is far more likely to be offered by a young woman than by a man.

While I am happily grumbling away, let me also mention, in an indignant and injured tone, the ubiquitous and deplorable practice of cafes and restaurants playing revolting music at a volume which seriously inhibits conversation. Do they not understand that people meet in cafes to see friends and to talk to each other, and in order to do so they need to be able to hear the voices of their companions? It should not be necessary to have to ask for the music to be turned down. Reluctantly they comply, but often they turn it up again. So everyone has to shout, and thus the noise gets even worse.

In large department stores such as Myer's different sections play different music , all competing at high volume, resulting in an absolute cacophony. Shops broadcast loud pop music not only within their premises but to the outside as well. The din is horrific and makes me want to screech. Presumably lots of people either don't mind or - appalling thought - like the din. Many take their loud music into parks or onto beaches, and blast it into the ambient air and the unfortunate eardrums of anybody and everyone who is within a kilometre radius, never pausing to consider whether it is right and just to inflict their musical choice on the rest of the populace. I think it is not. I just want to crawl away into a sound-proofed hole and lie there shuddering until I recover.

I am off to bed now, and will listen awhile to soft and beautiful classical music. Goodness me, everyone would get a shock if I took a ghetto blaster with me into public spaces, and broadcast Wagner, or Mahler at top volume at them. I reckon it would not only be fun, but payback! I am seriously tempted!

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Another grappling with fiddly aspects of blogging

Here is a photo of my new bed, for those who asked. It is a Sealy Posturepaedic, soft rather than firm, and comes with a padded overlay to the mattress. The base comes in two parts. The overlay adds to the height of the bed, and it is quite high, so I find it is not as easy to sit on the bed in order to wriggle into a pair of panty hose. It is much more comfortable than the last bed. I did not buy the cheapest possible bed, but neither did I go to the top of the range - though I was rather tempted. It was in the high side of the middle range.

It does not look very elegant, with the two mohair throws placed over the doona, to give extra warmth, now that Sydney has been having some nice cold nights. The bedroom is at the top of the house and the ceiling follows the roofline. This means that care has to be taken not to bump the head against the ceiling - there is not much space on either side of the bed, so really a narrower bed would have been better for the protection of the head.

My second daughter and her children came to stay for a couple of days, and the four year old, Jessica, slept in my bedroom, on a mattress on the floor. The second night she woke up and cried, so I pulled her into my bed, and she steadily moved across to my side of the bed, so that I had to keep moving her back to the other side. I was quite crowded! Sleeping alone is much more restful.

We had a busy couple of days. As Dr P does not find it easy to have little kids around the house, we spent most time out of the house. We went to the aquarium and the wildlife centre. So did most other families, it being school holidays here. It took ages to get our tickets, even though we were allegedly dodging the queue by buying tickets for both the aquarium and the wildlife. The credit card machine played up - no doubt deeply shocked at the exorbitant charges having to be paid to get in. I knew it was going to be expensive, but oh boy! whoever runs these places must be raking it all in, and doubtless by now is quite filthy rich, a la Kidman or Blanchett. We had a good day, and saw many kinds of fish, sharks, stingrays, turtles, crocodiles and dugongs, but keeping an eye on little kids in such crowded and dark places is hair-raising, and at once stage I got quite fraught. I swear that while I blinked my grandson just vanished! We needed food and drink to calm ourselves down, and that was yet another opportunity to be ripped off.

After that we went to look at the wildlife and we all enjoyed it more than the aquarium, perhaps because it was considerably less crowded, and had a good look at all the nasty venomous spiders, lizards, nocturnal animals, koalas and kangaroos. We arrived just as the kangaroos were about to be fed, and both children got to pat a kangaroo. Very exciting. In Canberra we lived near open paddocks and saw lots of kangaroos, but as a rule you could not get very close: we would freeze, and look at them, and they would freeze, looking at us, but it was at a distance. And of course everyone just loves koalas. I have seen them in the wild, and it is always thrilling. Possums are rather less thrilling as they make dirty old man noises outside the bedroom window in the depths of the night. That I can do without, and also the way they wreak havoc on the plants, even my poor feeble rose bushes.

But the real hit for the children was the butterfly house where lots of gorgeous butterflies fluttered around and could from time to time be persuaded to land on the hand, so that they could be looked at close up.

It is curious to note that at both places people seemed more intent on taking photos than in actually looking at the fish or animals.

The downside of all this tramping around was that our feet became extremely sore.

On Saturday we went to a newly opened park, which was wonderful. It is large and has enough equipment to keep many families very happy indeed. The park is on the water's edge, where there used to be a dry dock. There are lovely views from the park, and I include a photo of my granddaughter.

It was a very pleasant couple of days together and we wish it happened more frequently.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

It made one gasp and stretch one's eyes

There are a number of thoughts and themes whirling around my head, but so far they have not settled nicely into any rational order, or indeed, into a coherent treatise. So, until such time arrives, I will allow my mind to meander freely around this and that. It takes me some time to write a post, and sometimes it strikes me as amazing that in my school and student days I could dash off answers to exams - and do rather well in them. Age is creeping up on me.

Well yes, I had a birthday last Sunday. The day was spent quietly. We had lunch with friends and I spent some very happy and pleasant hours on the phone talking to my children and siblings. Dr P, now that he has resigned himself to the reality of the new bed, is even prepared to give me a birthday present, and so I am thinking of getting an iPod. Before I choose one I will hie me to my Apple class, and discuss it all with whichever instructor gets me that day, and get him/her to show me all the magic bits. Of course a new iPhone would be nice but it is probably rather too complicated for me right now - and there is always (she thinks optimistically) next year.

I was born on 4 July 1942. This is, of course, American Independence Day. My older sister was born two years earlier on Bastille Day, and when I had babies, their birth dates were significant ones - D-Day 6 June, and various Middle East wars also broke out (I like their cheek!) when I was busy doing more important and important things like giving birth - with far more benefit to the world than those troublesome wars.

My father was in the Navy, and at the time of my birth was working for Naval Intelligence under General Macarthur. He announced my birth to all the available Americans, and told them he was resisting the temptation to name me Virginia Carolina Georgia (!). Just as well, eh! I was given a far more prosaic name, which now dates me well and truly. It is actually the name which is most common in the choir, which gives a fair idea of the age demographic. Very few babies are given this name these days. They are all called Madison, Dakota, Lakota, Jordan, Taylor, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, or Mackenzie, poor little sods. Yes, I am one of the naming police. Watch out, I bite!

I might as well continue the saga of the bed. The New Bed. It is in situ and already I am sleeping better. Naturally its delivery was yet another drama. The stair lift firm was scheduled to arrive before the bed delivery men, to dismantle the stair lift. Five minutes after their scheduled arrival time I rang them up to see where they were. Er, they were in traffic. It turned out that the traffic was up around Gosford or Orange, which are both some distance from my inner suburban address. They promised to be there within the hour. The bed delivery men arrived 5 minutes later. Huge blokes they were, father and son, the son flinching painfully from the migraine which was afflicting him. Having heard that the stair lift was still in place, they cast an experienced (and somewhat jaundiced) eye over the premises, cast cistercians, nasturtiums, and aspersions at the soft and lily-livered men who had not even been prepared to have a go, and opined that they just might be able to get it upstairs. Which they did. It was a struggle and a juggle. In their view, the delivery should have been planned to be done by lifting it up over the balcony, with a four man crew. The shop, they reckoned, did not care two hoots about delivery problems, all they wanted was (Dr P's) money. They may be right, but the shop was actually rather good about it all, and did not (so far) ask for any extra delivery payment.

Having got the new mattress upstairs, they turned their attention to the bases. These they lifted up over the balcony. It really made one gasp and stretch one's eyes. Then they carried the old mattress and bases to the balcony level, remarking how much lighter and narrower they were than the new bed, and tossed them blithely onto the street below, kindly and carefully checking, before so doing, for any stray pedestrians or schoolchildren. Crash! I bade the old bed farewell without regret. I am assured that they are recycled.

I was pretty impressed by these blokes, so I gave them a little extra for their pains. Then I telephoned the stair lift firm to say that the bed had been delivered, and thus they could cancel their man. He was almost there, they said, and apologised for their stuff up. Some other emergency, they said, had made them forget me. They said their man would give the stair lift the once over, and that there would be no charge. And it was so.

So it all worked out in the end. I made the new bed, and staggered downstairs for a reviving cup of tea, and to reassure Dr P (who had stayed well out of the way) that all was well. He sniffed and snorted a bit, but was glad he had not been required to have anything to do with it all. (I can't say I blame him.) I took a photo of the bed and showed it to him. The rest of the day was devoted to less arduous and exciting pursuits - such as food shopping or suchlike. I tell you what, I can do without this sort of excitement, it makes me twitch and shake madly, my heart thump, and provokes migraines.

The bed is comfortable and soft, and I am sleeping much more soundly - a couple of times the whole night through. Unbelievable. This has not happened for years. And years. My physiotherapists, who are kindly folk, rejoice in my new and improved circumstances. All I hope is that this bed lasts long enough (ie that I perish before it does), and that I NEVER EVER have to go through this drama again. Not in this house, not with this husband.

What's more, my temper is sweeter, and I have been gadding about happily. My library membership is renewed, I paid my fines, borrowed some more books, bought a few from Vinnies, got another couple from the choir, and gave them some of my spares. I tossed out some old reports that I have not looked at for ten years, so there is slightly more space in the bookshelves. A bed sheet has been re-elasticised. A friend has given me some Seville oranges, and so I will have to make some more marmalade. Work, work, work! The choir is in countdown mode for our concert in about ten days, and I have been reading a lot and listening to lovely music.

Yesterday, Saffronlie and I had a very enjoyable lunch together, and have discovered many things in common and many coincidences. I love things like that.