Saturday, 24 July 2010

Sale of a house

This morning I went to an auction. The house for sale belonged to our friend B, who died in January. Two of her very close friends are the executors of her will, and it has taken all this time, and an immense amount of work, to get the house ready for sale.

It is a lovely house, about five minutes by car away from us, with a small garden - actually quite large for this area - and it was extended and renovated before B and her husband moved in. The house dates back to the 19th century, and there are apparently lots of documents giving the history of the land and the house.

B and her husband K were friends of Dr P from way back, and they were all involved in significant political and civil liberties issues. I gather from other people that B and Dr P were an item, before he met and married his second wife, the mother of his three younger children. Although political differences later caused a rift, the friendship did endure, although from time to time the debates used to get extremely vigorous. I tend to avoid this kind of robust debate myself, shying away from arguments, and was quite unaccustomed to the sort of arguments that flared up from time to time. Not those three, however, all of them being combative people not afraid to call a spade a bloody shovel. They had heaps of friends, and we saw a lot of each other. They became my friends as well as Dr P's. I keep expecting to see B as I walk around the neighbourhood. There are so many reminders of her.

K died four years ago, and his wife completed the work on his autobiography, had it published and continued with her extremely energetic and active life, until she too became ill with cancer. Despite extensive and painful treatment, she died at the beginning of the year. My friend E and her fellow executor S have worked for most of the year on the will, and E's husband complains he is an executor's widower.  There is still more to be done - huge numbers of books to be disposed of, and furniture to be valued and sold. Etcetera. It makes me resolve to keep at the tidying and the de-cluttering, and to dispose of whatever is likely never to be looked at or used again.

I am glad I went to the auction, to give some additional support and comfort to E and S. We shed some tears together, as we farewelled the house in which we had all spent so many enjoyable and vigorous hours. The house was bought by a young couple with a baby, and we know it will be a happy house for them. It is a house for all seasons. We drank a toast to us all and to the new owners' future.

All of this makes me reflect yet again about death and dying. I hope I don't live to a great age: a nice sudden heart attack would do me nicely. Not a nasty terminal illness, nor a decline into feebleness of mind and body, such as is happening to Dr P, and which is likely to continue indefinitely, as he has a very strong constitution. I'd like to die before I lose my marbles, being alarmed by the fact that it no longer seems possible to learn Spanish, which is what I was hoping to resume doing, especially if I am actually going there in a couple of months. I came home from the auction, and Dr P says he can't remember the house, or even the name of the street, and he keeps asking me the sale price. It is awful watching the decline of a once vigorous and powerful mind.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Here is the news at hand and some miscellaneous observations about this and that

While the vicissitudes of the new computer have occupied my waking, non-sleeping and dreaming hours for the last week, other things have been happening.

Firstly, the news of the rats. After seeing a rat run down the hall, I know not to where, it seemed that laying bait out every night might have resulted in the rats inviting all their friends and family to come and join the feast, and so I stopped putting out the bait. Since then there has been no evidence of rat visitations. Possibly they all dropped dead round about the same time. I feel bitter about having to get Dr P's chair re-upholstered, but it must be done, if only to obliterate the memory of their depredations.

Choir took up much time last week, as there were dress rehearsals Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, followed by the concert on Sunday afternoon. We were singing Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, which is a setting of a poem by Walt Whitman, which seemed to me a rather pretentious, overblown  and far from deathless work which failed to inspire any desire to read more of his work. However, despite being really quite difficult, the music is beautiful, interesting and generally very singable. The high notes all felt good to sing, and, as a soprano, I find high notes are most enjoyable and thrilling to sing, so long as they are written within the nature and reach of the voice, and do not necessitate screeching. Vaughan Williams gets brownie points from me for that quality in his music. Beethoven's Choral Symphony is far more difficult to sing, and an absolute cow to rehearse. The performance itself is ok because the movement is not very long, and so the voice can last. (I hasten to add that the voices of younger sopranos have not yet been worn out by too much wear and tear, but I am getting on in years a bit.)

Our performance on Sunday went very well, apart from some wobbly bits near the end, and I cannot work out quite why that happened. Too late now to worry.

Australia is to have a federal election on 21 August. It is an early election, as it need not have been called until about March next year. I am barracking for Julia Gillard, our new Prime Minister, but fear a very negative campaign, and that it will be a tight and close contest. Thanks to legislation passed by the Howard government, the rolls close very shortly after the writs are issued, ie tonight, and thus many of voting age, especially the young, who had not got around to enrolling, will not be able to vote. Enrolment and voting are compulsory in Australia, and a good thing too. There was legislation passed by the House of Representative in June to extend the period before the rolls must close, but it was still before the Senate. Now that the the House of Representatives has been dissolved and the election called, the existing legislation applies.

It is lovely having the Internet connection restored, and now I will be able to start learning some of the features of the new computer. The old one now will not start up, or stay up: it freezes. Is it not weird that there should be this coincidence of starting and stopping? Now I have to call a repair person to come and fix it all. Although I did back it up relatively recently, it does not include everything. The keyboard is really very small and I keep hitting the wrong keys and getting lost in the text. One must resign oneself. My typoing, (actually I intended to type typing, but the typo evidently jumped straight out of my independent, rebellious and unreliable subconscious) which was never any good, now takes considerably longer, what with all the corrections needed. While I know I can spell perfectly well, my fingers have minds of their own, and my eyes have a tendency not to pick up on typing mistakes. There are loose connections all over the body, these days, it seems.

Dr P had an appointment today with a clinic designed to improve body strength in the elderly. He was very negative about it, and is not prepared to make any effort. Far better for him to cause other people to age prematurely, it seems, and as the person most likely to be affected and afflicted, I feel cross with him, and inclined to mimic the behaviour of my old computer, and freeze and go on strike too. But it has prompted me to consider getting onto a body-strengthening programme myself, which would be a GOOD THING.

Crawls exhaustedly to computer, tries yet again, flings self onto floor and sobs wildly

Where to start?

Early last week I unpacked my nice new iMac. Prudently,  knowing that help would be needed to get it all up and running, I beseeched two kind friends to come and fritter away their spare time helping me. They came, they unpacked, we had lunch, we puzzled and we fiddled. We rang the Apple Support people. Things were not as simple or obvious as they seemed, and this call turned out to be the first of many, reducing me to a gibbering and nervous wreck, and provoking the even more technologically challenged, but notwithstandingly ever-critical Dr P, to loud and irate abuse. The friends departed, and I raced off to choir practice.

My friends returned the next day,  and we spent the afternoon on the phone, changing settings, in the attempt to set up a wireless connection to the internet connection. Our case number was getting expert attention from numerous Apple staff. By this stage, my mind was totally confused, I was exhausted and upset. It is impossible to remember even a small part of the processes we tried. I dreamed a dream of easy access and problem free use of computers. Is there such a thing? We did get a connection, but by the next day, it had vanished into the ether.

Left to my own devices the following day, I floundered along. Domestic relations were fraying rapidly. Having managed to communicate to Dr P  how upsetting it all was, he calmed down, apologised and offered a modicum of consolation and comfort. This left me free to ponder the vicissitudes of life, the futility of effort, the remote prospects of ever being able to rectify anything, and the advisability of flinging myself off the nearest cliff. (The cliffs are actually very close by.) I tossed and turned all night, fretted and fumed, and wondered why the absence of the Internet should leave our lives feeling so totally empty and frustrating. Ever one to take a far-ranging historical vista, I contemplated how in the olden days of my childhood, we had only the radio, and very little other forms of entertainment (other than lots of playing outside, roaming the neighbourhood, or curling up with a good book until such time as my severely authoritarian father roused on me to go and lend my mother a hand, and contrasted such times of yore with this current decadent age where even three year old children have mobile phones and similar devices to while away the incredible tedium of sitting on a bus for fifteen minutes or so.)

I won't attempt to detail all the options tried, nor the conversations between the ISP and the Apple Help people. Eventually, it seemed a good idea to go out and buy a new modem. The connectivity problems had occurred before we bought the new computer, and thus I was able to persuade myself that the new computer was not (necessarily) the source of the problem. So on Friday I bought a new modem, and did my best to connect it, guided by the Apple people. It did seem a good idea to me that someone should actually call around and check it all out physically. This did not happen. Still no internet.  Dr P's patience and kindness were wearing a little thin by this stage.

At this stage my darling son rang and proposed visiting for the weekend. I should mention that we also had what seemed like a plethora of stepdaughters staying this week, and all this computer mayhem was severely impeding any attempts at step-motherly hospitality. It was most embarrassing to have my technological incompetence so readily apparent. My son arrived, we had a very good time together, with lots of deep and meaningful talks, and he talked to the Apple people, checked all the cables, and BINGO, all seemed well. The Apple people must have uttered glad cries to be dealing with someone who knew rather more than I did. We had Internet. Obviously the problem was not merely one of the wireless connection, the settings on the modem, and the impossibility of changing then without an Internet connection, but also something to do with the connection of the trillion cables that are an intrinsic part and parcel of everyday life. The cables are now all labelled, and all the relevant paraphernalia neatly stacked in plastic boxes.

The old computer seems to have gone out on a sympathy strike, as it keeps freezing, and how I am to use the Migration Assistant to transfer data from the old computer to the new one I do not know.

Am I the only person to have such problems? And how does it come to pass that it all takes such a long time to get it all fixed? (Apart from factoring in client ignorance.)

In between all these dramas there were three dress rehearsals this week, culminating in the concert this afternoon. I have no voice left. Overall it went well, with some dicey bits near the end. Don't know quite what happened.

It is evident that there is no shortage of things to keep me occupied, indeed, quite flat out, and with a distinct shortage of leisure time.  There is an immense amount to learn about the new computer. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

A tale of tidying, turfing and transformation

Tidiness is a  very flexible concept, closely related to the ability to be organised, and to keep track of life. It also depends on the personalities, habits and priorities of those we live with.

Some friends are extraordinarily tidy. It would not matter at what hour you visited: there would never be a thing out of place. One friend never keeps a book. She reads it and then dispenses with it. She does not even own a bookcase. There are never newspapers or magazines around either. Everything is organised and put away. She attends to her business promptly and efficiently. It all makes me wonder how she manages it. Other friends have nooks and studies where any 'mess' is confined, and the living areas are immaculate and uncluttered. Such people and places bemuse me. For I am not really like that, myself.

I grew up in a small house, with seven children, and not very much storage place. True, the lounge room was kept tidy and impeccable, but it was for visitors, not for everyday living. We had a family room, where we all gathered in the evening, around the fire, and where we did our homework, with help from our parents. My mother would fall asleep in the armchair, and my father, who was a barrister, worked every night until midnight. He had a separate study, where he used to work on those nights when junior counsel came over to prepare for the current case before the courts. Generally we were all in together, in the family room.

We ate in the kitchen, which was very cluttered, and had insufficient storage space. My parents extended the house, enclosing the verandah, and transforming part of it into a sleep-out, and the study and family room were added. We all shared bedrooms, and the baby of the day slept in the lounge room until it outgrew the cot. As a child, I thought it was quite a large house, but when I revisited it years later, it was actually quite small and rather poky. Most houses were. McMansions were a thing of the future.

After my marriage, when we built a house, I insisted that it have a family room. I had grown up without television, but my husband's family had TV, and the lights were switched off every night while they all watched TV. I hated this, and wanted a separate space where I could read and listen to music.  So we had a family room as well as a lounge.  There was not much storage space but our possessions were few.  

As my husband was incredibly disinclined to do anything or to make any decisions, especially if it concerned something I wanted, the toys were all kept in cardboard cartons in the laundry, the books were inside wardrobes, and, as we never had fences built, the children could not play outside without supervision.

But let me fast-forward. Eventually, once I lived alone, I had shelves made, and was able to accommodate the growing book collection. But the years of having nowhere to put things apparently had a permanent effect. I did not attend to organising the paperwork. Instead of being tidy and organised all the time, it persisted in happening in fits and starts.

Since then, I have been accumulating possessions: household goods, books, CDs, ornaments, clothes, fabrics, yarns. From time to time, everything needs to be re-organised and tidied up. I keep buying books, and do not have enough space for them. They sit three deep on the shelves, and finding any book can present a challenge. The CDs need sorting and rearranging from time to time. My documents need to be sorted and put into files. Once a year the tax returns must be done. The newspapers are strewn around. Paperwork floats menacingly around our tables and living spaces. It does not seem to matter how often I tidy - frequently during the day is the pattern - a  certain level of chaos persists.

Dr P has his own stuff, of course, but as he is now less inclined to sort out things, this responsibility is passing on to me. This week, with the purchase of the new iMac, I have been galvanised into action. My sitting room, where I listen to music, use the computer, and sprawl on the couch reading, has been tidied. The paperwork has been sorted. It has been very hard work. As one thing inevitably leads to another, Dr P's study was cleaned, tidied, and some of his books are about to find new homes. Vinnies, here we come! Then the cupboard in the hall beckoned, and that too has suffered the depredations of the tidying angel. If something has not been touched or used in the ten years we have lived here, it can go!

It has all been good and productive labour. But very tiring. The new computer is still sitting on the floor, and I am expecting friends to come and lend a hand, and their expertise to get me up and running. All this activity has not done my sore hip much good, but the physiotherapist tells me that I really must do the exercises, and ensure that the muscles do not tighten up too much.

The Internet connection still drops out persistently, which is not at all amusing. Next week I may gather sufficient strength to ring India again. Not this week. I have stopped laying baits for the rats and this morning could not see any droppings. The rat trap has not caught anything. Not even once. Evidently rats know not to go anywhere near traps. I hope they have told their friends that there is absolutely nothing to eat around here any more, and that there is no point visiting, but I live in fear rather than hope.

A postcard arrived from Oxford today. How lovely.

It is now time to curl up on the couch with the books I bought at the book fair last weekend.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Where to start? Where to finish?

The questions abound but the answers are scarce. Here is the news from Casa Persiflage.

The Rats. Baits are being eaten. Yesterday morning, it appeared that no rats had visited. However, this morning, another bait had been eaten, and there were more droppings. I got so sooky a couple of nights ago, worrying about rats running across my face and chewing chunks of hair off,  that I crawled into bed with Dr P, so that he could protect me from the rats. And he did. Shades of the Foggy Foggy Dew! There is a door to his bedroom, unlike my room, which is at the top of the stairs, and open to nocturnal visitors of the type that no one could possibly welcome. The rats have chewed chunks out the upholstery of Dr P's tub chair, which means that once the rats are vanquished, the chair will have to be re-upholstered.

What with the rats and the increased amount of care needed by Dr P, I am not getting much else done. We do now have ID for Dr P, a photo card from the Roads and Traffic Authority, and I am almost at the point of final completion of yet another form, but I need to see our GP for his report. My brother in law visited today - all in a bit of a rush - to help with legal matters enabling me/us to cope with the complexities of Dr P's aging and forgetfulness, and to help me handle things. It has been done, but took time, and also took something of an emotional toll on me. My brother in law handled it all calmly, patiently, honestly and clearly. He is a great bloke.

Of late, Dr P seems to have realised my sterling qualities, how much he needs me, and has become very fond and affectionate, which is all to the good. He got a little fright when I went away for the weekend   and underwent some sort of epiphany. We are talking more and understanding each other better.

Dr P is giving me a nice new iMac for my birthday, so I spent one morning earlier this week choosing all the various possible bells and whistles, and am now waiting for it all to be delivered. This is all very exciting, and I am thrilled to bits. A huge technological challenge will now confront me. Fortunately I will be taking regular lessons at the Apple Store and can also ring them up for help for the next three years.

The Internet connection here has become rather temperamental and episodic, and keeps telling me that I am not connected to the Internet. Perhaps it is Blogger, which certainly will not let me delete comments. The Apple people suggested it was due to the ISP, but the ISP tells me it is probably the computer. Who to believe? Having spent 39 minutes on hold waiting to get through to India, becoming somewhat  impatient as a result, I feel more inclined to believe it is the fault of the ISP, but once I was connected to India and was actually discussing the problem, the Internet connection did not drop out once. Just to make me feel both aggravated and persecuted, the connection has been dropping out ever since. Of course, I have no real idea what I am doing. Where are my computer literate children when I need them? You can see why tycoons have Personal Assistants, but, in my view, tycoons have much less need of them that I do. Dr P is totally ignorant about computers, so what use to me is the stereotype that says All Men Understand Technology? (Intuitively.) Ha! Perhaps, once the new computer is hooked up, it will all work magically. One can only hope.

My new great nephew having been born, I have been hard at work on crocheting a cot blanket of granny squares, in shades of purples and mauves. It is finished, all put together, blocked out, the ends sewn in, and it went to Melbourne this evening. I hope the baby, and his parents like it - if not, they are free to reject it and it could then be given to yet another baby great niece or nephew. It is quite probable that a blanket of granny squares takes far longer to make than a quilt, but this is a claim which I cannot prove. Now I am feeling slightly restive, and wondering what to make next. 

Finally, like all good women and people of good heart and faith, I am rejoicing that we have a woman Prime Minister, who is, I believe a person of sound good sense, great intellect and practical intelligence, and with her heart in the right place. I hope she succeeds in her endeavours to lead our country, and will help guide us on the right path.