Monday, 24 August 2009


Let me declare a non-interest. I seldom watch sport, and the miniscule amount that penetrates my defence mechanisms rots away very quickly. Dr P does not switch it off the way I do, and thus it has been impossible not to notice that a foreign country beat us at some supposedly important cricket match.

It is distressing to see grown men weep, especially newsreaders and commentators, as they recount their litany of woe, about how the heart of a nation has been broken.


While I know very little about this fearsomely boring game, as a child I actually read cricket books by the fabled Jack Fingleton, and thus I know all about the devilishly unsporting and brutal bodyline series by that very same foreign country. While I'd like to claim that there must have been a paucity of reading matter in the house, this is not at all true. So the books must have been good reading.

Let it be noted that my heart is not broken. Rhett Butler and I don't give a damn.

Earlier this evening, Dr P having declared that all he wanted for dinner was my fabulously delicious pea and ham soup, made to the ever-reliable recipe by Stephanie Alexander, I dashed into the kitchen. It was not only to hasten the enjoyable consumption of the soup, but more importantly to escape the braying voice of the commercial TV newsreader, who was presenting a story about how our Miss Australia was well on the way to winning the Miss Universe contest. Miss ???, he declared, is now an Australian icon. Amazing. All it takes these days, to become an icon, is being on commercial TV news 4 days running. The same shots of her waggling along a cakewalk in a skimpy bikini apparently confers iconic status. The shots were followed by some breathless speculation about whether the icon would be able to make pots of dough from her experience. Although she is already a household name, strangely enough I can't remember it.

I declare that if I hear any more references to icons, cricketing or otherwise, I will be tempted to hurl a rock through the TV screen.

What with iconic cricket games, and iconic identically hairstyled and semi-clad females, with bikinis cut below the pubic hair line, older females like me who found it outrageous to be shaved before giving birth, tend to seethe slightly. Our very own Murdoch paper, The Australian, manages regularly to bung in photographs of nubile girls revealing considerable amounts of their splendid and sexy anatomies. Columnists regularly write earnestly of the pressures on young girls and women, and how they are sexualised from a very young age, but manage to write in a way which inevitably glamorises such practices. A weekend supplement recently had a lengthy story about how much money young women spent on their appearance and clothes, including such necessities as botox, plastic surgery, breast 'enhancements', hair treatments, hair removal, fake tanning, not to mention cosmetics, clothes and shoes. The amounts were extremely large, and revealed a staggering degree of self-obsession and an evident belief that it was essential to be a sex object.

Today my own breasts were admired and declared to be in pretty good nick not only by Dr P, but by the breast cancer surgeon at my annual check up.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Much much less angst: instead, the mind can focus on trivia

At the end of the week it seems useful to reflect on it. As I have become more tranquil, and as our life has been settling back to being just the two of us, my mind is not whirring quite so much. Which really is rather nice. The migraine eventually folded up its tent and stole away into the night, and I have been following my own variety of pursuits all week.

Our little street stuffed up this week. We all put the wrong bins out and were surprised when they were not emptied. It should have been the paper bins, but we all put out the yellow bins with the bottles, etcetera. How foolish we all were, and felt ourselves to be, but we laughed a lot about it. In the course of the conversations I discovered that the neighbour next to the party-givers did actually call the police about the party, about the same time as I went storming across the street. How loud was the noise? the police asked. Listen, said my neighbour, and held up the phone. Oh, right, said the police and came around promptly.

Today I had lunch with my mate the bell-ringer, and we celebrated her happy use of the mezzaluna. I had not yet used my amazing device when makes spaghetti strings out of carrots, and joined discs out of cucumber, but tried it out tonight, and it worked. Of course, I had to actually read the instructions, something I really resent doing. But it is a necessary evil, alas.

Instructions and the reading thereof have been figuring more in my life recently. Dr P wants a mobile phone for when I am going to be away. He had asked his eldest daughter to organise it and she said she would. However I decided to get my act together. My own mobile is almost a genuine antique - in fact, when I bought it, unbeknownst to me, it was a superseded model. Recently the buttons have been developing a will of their own. Perhaps they have reached their teens and think they are old enough to make their own decisions.

So I went and bought a very el cheapo mobile, an unlocked one, and took it home to try it out.

By now I should know that when I touch technology, something bad and unexpected will happen. And so it did.

At this stage I must confess to having had an unused mobile account for several years. When I subscribed to broadband and changed ISPs, allegedly we got a better/cheaper deal if we bundled the broadband with an additional service. As Dr P refused to consider changing the home phone, I opted for the cheapest possible mobile plan - something like $5 a month, plus GST etc. I never used the account, although the SIM card was in my even older phone, but then SD1 took that phone for her 11 year old son, and I was too embarrassed to confess that there was a separate phone number attached to that phone, because she would have been very scornful and have wanted to know why I had done such a stupid thing - and I really wanted to keep such inanities to myself, and not to have to admit to them out loud and look as stupid as I felt. (Being much more mature now, of course, I am confessing on line.)

So. At home, I swapped the SIM cards around, and found that the old one did not work. Next day I took it to a shop, but they could not help me, as I could not remember the phone number. Oh dear. The shop was very unhelpful, but I kindly refrained from pointing this out. They will have added this to their doubtless innumerable stories about idiotic customers. Far be it from me to say they are wrong. Instead I went to the real ISP shop, where naturally they were able to ring HQ, who told me what my real phone number was, and then the shop supplied me with a new SIM card. Now all I have to do is explain to Dr P how to work the phone. He will not be able to remember these instructions, of course, but at least I am sufficiently aware of the inner workings of the phone to be able to explain it.

Back to reading instructions. There is a nice little booklet for the new phone and with a bit of luck it will not be necessary to read all of them - just enough to get me operating the phone on the basic level.

At the computer lessons I am exploring my nice new iPod, patiently explained to me by these brilliant young Apple workers. It does not come with a manual, although I am sure there is a book out there somewhere, which I have no intention of buying. Instead, inspired by the rush of blood/confidence which flooded my head once I had grasped the miraculous iPod in my hot little hand, my attention is turning towards choosing a new digital camera. My photographer daughter can help me with this one. She knows what she is talking about. I just know that I'd like a good optical zoom, a viewfinder (not much chance of this, apparently) and want the camera to be lighter than the old camera. Then, when I go away I can take lots of photos of fabulous places, and of course, load them on my iPod, and on anything else within cooee.

There is nothing like technology to soothe the fevered mind and the tumultuous emotions, or to displace worries about relationships with the nitty gritty of how to turn things on and off. I will only add that in reply to some pressure from Dr P to do something financial I told him I was too stressed to think about it myself this week but if he wanted to do it all for me, he could go ahead. And he did. Perhaps I am learning from experience. At last.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Fill in the blanks - Parting is such sweet......

They have gone. I survived. A combination of trips elsewhere, plus my usual activities, and a few carefully designed others. No further crises, and even perhaps a slight thaw. Offering to take 12 year old step-grandchild to the Harry Potter film (offer declined), making them pikelets for afternoon tea, and demonstrating and explaining cumquat marmalade making to her as well may have resulted in half a brownie point. I ensured that there was time and opportunity for the WSD and family to visit without my contaminating presence, and gave them space. Mind you, it might not have been appreciated, even by Dr P, who is likely to regard it as my being inhospitable, but the main point is that they had the time together, I survived it, and no further conversations took place. When they were leaving today, we kissed each other goodbye - precipitated by WSD blowing me a kiss (she gets half a brownie point for that), and my awareness that if I kissed the others and not her, it would NOT have been a good thing! I kept my cool, despite my inner turmoil, and held fast to my resolution. It has not been an easy time.

I wonder though. They must have noticed how bad Dr P's memory has become, as he kept asking them the same questions and forgetting the answers, and how much more feeble he is. And how dependent he is on me. Very little communication takes place. I feel very daunted. I wonder do they feel the same way?

I went to a concert with a friend on Sunday - we had arranged to do so weeks ago, as we were both members of this choir, and left, separately, when we could no longer abide the tantrums of our young genius conductor. When I got home I found furniture had been moved, even the chest of drawers in my bedroom, and cupboard doors had been opened and things disturbed. I freaked out a bit, my suspicious and paranoid nature leaping to wild conclusions, but it turned out the children had been playing hidey in the house. I don't think they should have done it, nor left me to move it all back again, but I bit my tongue and said nothing. And went to bed with my headache.

I had a migraine on Sunday, probably due to the fact that the young men living opposite had a party in their back yard on Saturday night, and it kept going until 3 am. As parties go it was not too bad, but the music and conversation were too loud for me to sleep. That relentless thump thump thump backing destroys any chance of peaceful slumber. I tossed and turned, thinking that surely they must stop soon. Finally I got up, put a jacket on, walked downstairs, outside and across the road, and asked them to stop in ten minutes, or I would call the police. The young men were apologetic, and it all wound down shortly afterwards, but I do find it hard being assertive like that. The migraine is still hanging around. Consequently I am not feeling kindly towards Dr P, who could have been more supportive overall. An arm around me, a hug, and some expression of appreciation or encouragement would not have gone astray. It is likely that the other side of the family will be visiting shortly, so Dr P will have that to cope with! Seems fair.

After God made Man, God had a good hard look at him, and decided to make a few fundamental design improvements to humanity. And so God created Woman. Weren't they lucky!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Abroad thoughts from home

After my travels I am settling down again, what with having to write something at speed for today's Italian class. Of course, it was full of mistakes, but we all learned a lot and had plenty to discuss - just hope I can remember not to make those mistakes again. But I do get confused about which tenses to use. Is it age and decrepitude creeping up on me? Perhaps!

Before I start I will have a mini rant. Why not?

Verdi's Otello was on the radio, and I was listening to it on my way home from choir practice. It reminded me of the things I dislike intensely about the character of Otello. Sorry, Othello, in Shakespeare. In days of yore when I studied Shakespeare, the theory of the great but flawed man was in vogue. I could never see that these men were so great.

Nobody ever believes the word of a woman. All it takes is some malign man to whisper a few critical words about a women, to impugn her virtue, her chastity and good character, and that man is instantly believed by the woman's husband or betrothed. She is denounced and disgraced. Everyone believes she is guilty, on evidence you would not swat a fly for. When the situation is set right, it only comes about because another man has contradicted the original calumny. Look at Much Ado about Nothing!

Now of course Desdemona is a bit stupid, she lost the handkerchief and did not raise a hue and a cry - although what good would it have done? and has not the common sense to shut up about Cassio, but really, she ought not to be strangled by her husband on this account. Othello, this grown man, this hero, rolls around the floor feeling sorry for himself, but he never a) asks Desdemona, or b) casts any sort of critical eye about any evidence of the alleged offence, and c) is totally ready to believe the worst about her, and what's more, insults and humiliates her in public. Then he bravely creeps up on her as she lies asleep, and kills her and won't even allow her to say her prayers. Goodness, she ran away with him despite her father's opposition - and you have to acknowledge her father really had a point about this bloke - and then Iago suggests that if she is the sort of women who was prepared to disobey her father and run off with Othello, well, of course she is likely to be an adulteress. A lose lose situation. But somehow we are all supposed to feel really sorry for this jealous murderer and to empathise about how much he suffered. I just hope that when he stabbed himself it really hurt, and that if there is a hell, he found his place in the right circle.


My trip to Melbourne and my time with my family was lovely , as ever, yet somehow bitter-sweet, and I wound up in tears the day I left, wishing that somehow I had managed my life better and not moved away from family. And what's more, it really was (nearly) all my own work. When I see how other members of the family can all drop in on each other constantly, and are so much a part of each other's lives, I wish I were a part of all that. As it gets more difficult to have a few days away, I miss it more and more. My sister was able to help her youngest daughter, who had to have her infected sinuses cleared out in an emergency operation, and to drop into the hospital, and then take her some soup when she came home. I have to plan such things, they don't just happen as a regular and frequent occurrence, and I can't do them very often. It is not as though my life is totally dismal: it is in many ways full of things I enjoy, and I have made new friends. But they do not replace the old friends, and I do not want to lose them.

Never mind, I am just having a little whinge.

The return home also means I have to contend with the rest of the visit of the WSD and family. They are back from their week elsewhere but have not yet been in contact yet, and I am hoping to dodge them. I tell myself to just take it day by day. Tomorow is another busy day, and on Friday I am planning to see a film with a friend. I might even take myself off to see the Harry Potter film. At this stage I have no plans to cook a big family meal for everyone. The cupboard will remain rather bare. Let them eat takeaways, preferably elsewhere.

As I have to get up early in the morning, tidy up, finish reading the Dante for tomorrow's class, get organised for the lecture, and then get home in time to see to the cleaners, I should stop thinking with my fingers, and go and rest my weary body on the nice new bed.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Just pictures

This is for Isabelle:my friend's lovely clump of snowdrops. They are seldom seen in Australia. They are dazzlingly white.
My youngest - and possibly my last grandchild. He is a happy little boy.
The front of Parliament House in Canberra. The facade is white marble - Carrara, I think, and the flagpole a metal structure reaching high above the building, which is partially covered by grass.
These are the wonderful wooden marquetry, using Australian timbers, around the Great hall of Parliament House. There are other marquetry works in the Cabinet Room - which is not open to the public, but I saw them before the building was finished. There are marquetry insects in there - a conceit, as the room is subject to security measures.

The face-pulling phase. Boys!
Ten inch crocheted squares made to use up wool scraps, for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's sponsored Knit-In, at which lots of people join together to knit and join squares to make wraps to send to people in poor countries. I made enough squares for a wrap - or blanket, but did not have enough time to join them all together, so managed to do the long strips so as to make the best arrangement of the squares. Of course, once you start crocheting squares to use up all the wool scraps, you have to buy some more to get them finished.
Persiflage and Stomper in Melbourne yesterday. Photo taken by Cherub. Not bad for a five year old.
Icecreams. We went in search of Charmain's, which had the most superb icecream - but it seems to have vanished. These icecreams were not nearly as good.
This is the amazing gymea lily. It grows on a very long stem and is a large flower. It comes from New South Wales and there are lots growing around Sydney, but I was astonished to see it being grown in Melbourne, near the Arts complex of buildings in Southgate, on the Yarra River.
I have lots to write about, but have spent the evening doing domestic things, and writing my topic for tomorrow's Italian class. The topic? Melbourne!

I am glad to be home, but sad to leave my family there.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Here today, gone tomorrow

It was a busy week, one full of contrasts, lows and high, hostility and friendship, cold and warmth, people to love, and others to try to tolerate, things to welcome and anticipate, and others to dread and endure. My mind and moods have swung accordingly, and I feel rather wrung out.

I was in Canberra from Saturday to Tuesday, and am off to Melbourne tomorrow. While I enjoyed Canberra, despite catching a cold which is creeping up on me oh-so-gradually, I felt in many ways as though I had been driven from home. No, no, I chose to take the opportunity to be elsewhere. While I was very glad to get away, I had a feeling of oppression hanging over me, which of course will not really lift until the step-daughter leaves the country.

Thanks to all of you who gave me such warm and sympathetic comments. They do help, especially when I wonder whether I am just a total bitch. I am not (of course), but there are some people and circumstances which can edge you in that direction...

It transpired that when SD1 said they were never coming here ever again, she did not quite mean it like that. She meant they were not coming to stay. Here. Overnight. Of course, she did not let me finish my sentence about why I was offering her a key to the house, because of the front doorbell being broken and her father being too deaf to hear anyone knocking. So in fact they were coming and going each day. And so were the rest of the family. They have gone elsewhere for a week, and then they will have another week in Sydney, so I will just have to grin and bear it - or go out each day. Or both.

I think Dr P is quite enjoying the visit, but finds it very hard to hear any of them, and I get the impression that there is relatively little conversation directed at or including him. But we are not talking about it much.

Canberra was very cold. All the warm clothes I brought with me from Canberra - the angora jacket, the alpaca sweater, the silk jacket, which are seldom used here, were needed. I stayed with an old friend, whose house has ducted heating, the sort which is on a timer, turning itself off sometime between 10 and 11 pm. My bed had an electric blanket - just as well.

H and I see each other irregularly, and it is the sort of friendship which picks up from where we left off, always enjoyable and supportive. H was widowed nine years ago and so we talked much of life, death and funerals, as well as about people and many other things. We had a lovely time together, talking late each night, each with a lapful of cat. She has two gorgeous beasties, Fred, who is fluffy, and George, who is sleek. These cats go wandering off frequently and people are forever ringing her to say that Fred, or George, or both of them, are with them and have no apparent desire to set off for home again. Fred looks very like a part Persian cat my family had for over 20 years, and it made me feel quite nostalgic. I do so miss having cats, but Dr P is one of those who flinches away from cats them, and thinks 'Avaunt'. Cats do get underfoot - quite deliberately, trying to make you feed them, and it would be utterly dangerous.

I had good times with my children and grandchildren, and saw lots of friends, who were all most hospitable. I was able to see some friends from my former workplace. My son helped me with some of the intricacies of my new iPod, which Dr P has given me for my birthday. It is great to have help with all the new technology, while dandling grandchildren on the knee and playing peek-a-boo.

Trying to take photos of the grandchildren is aggravating. They won't keep still, my camera is too slow, shots are out of focus, and the grandson sticks his fingers in his mouth and pulls it apart, in the (mistaken) belief that this makes him look funny. It is very easy to take photos of the backs of their heads, though.

I took lots of photos of the exterior and interior of Parliament House, including the wonderful marquetry of Australian flora, which decorates the woodwork in the main entry hall. I do think that our new Parliament House building is beautiful, and makes wonderful use of natural materials. Although I call it new, it has now been in use since its opening in 1988. In another post I will have another go at showing some photos.

Today I had a panendoscopy, ie a tube down my throat, done under a light general anaesthetic. All is well, and I get some pills. So I have been rather sleepy today and am about to retire. When I came home I found out that a friend is to have surgery for colo-rectal cancer. After I had talked to her to wish her well, I found out, from another friend, that she already knows she has secondaries in the liver.