Saturday, 31 December 2011

Addio al passato

As the evening moves inexorably to night, to the midnight when the New Year commences, I sit feverishly urging it on. Haste, haste. It cannot come soon enough for me. Let it be over.

It has been an absolutely awful year, and I long to be rid of it, and hope fervently that 2012 will be better.  Not that this can be certain, of course.

I hope I will cease to plummet to the depths of emotion, that the swings into the abysses of sorrow, grief, rage, resentment, self-pity, exhaustion, and stringent endeavours will all diminish, and that from all of this will emerge a better future, a happier person, with hope and resolution to make the best of my remaining years, alone.

There have been so many times when I have absolutely doubted my capacity to emerge from this morass of emotions, this buffeting of competing emotions, this negation of life, this almost despair at ever emerging into the light, this forced immersion into the world of bereavement. Can it ever end? Should one just hope never to wake?

Oh no, today is not a good day. Tomorrow shall, must, be better. A new dawn, a new year. The flux of the seasons must allow and encourage the natural progression of life, from birth, to death, and to greet the future with whatever hope I can gather to my heart. Surely the New Year will be better. Once I get past the first anniversary.

While I have had a lot of support from family and friends, for which I am truly grateful, essentially one must bear things alone.

There has been a constant progression of people walking into this peninsula, to watch the fireworks, firstly at 9 pm, and then again at midnight, to bring in the New Year. I walked up to the roundabout a block away, to watch the first fireworks. We can see across to the Harbour Bridge, and there is always a substantial gathering of people, with many children sitting on the shoulders of their parents. People can enter by foot or by bus, but car traffic is confined to locals. There will be bus traffic out, and many people will walk out again. There are sirens wailing.

A Happy New Year to all.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Our Christmas

My son and daughter and their children were with me for Christmas, which was lovely, but exhausting. From my lengthy solitude, and ability to do whatever I choose when I choose, I was in the company of six additional people, and that is a whole different experience.

They all arrived in the late afternoon of Christmas Day, so until they arrived I occupied myself by setting the table, arranging my relatively few Christmas decorations, and organising the food.

Given that the oven does not work, I bought turkey legs rather than a whole turkey, and eventually we cooked them in the electric frypan, which, to my relief, worked quite well. We had a very late dinner, after we had put the little ones to bed.

On Boxing Day we went to the beach. There is a Metro bus which goes from just up the road right to the beach, so we caught that, and arrived at the beach in good time.

It has been rather stormy weather, and when we arrived, the sea was very rough, and the water was cold. Our bathing was restricted to standing at the shore and trying not to be swept off our feet by the very strong seas. The little children did a lot of squealing, and clung onto the hands of their minders. I wore my new bathing suit, a rather fetching piece, several sizes smaller than the last model, but it did not actually get wet. We saw the yachts setting off for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, an event which invariably seems to encounter storms and rough seas. Then we retired to a beer garden for fish and chips, and following that took the bus back home. We then flopped about in a desultory and exhausted fashion,  after attending to the needs, feeding and bedding of the children.

While I was preparing dinner that evening, the eldest of the grandchildren just came and informed me that there had been a disaster upstairs. He had accidentally knocked over a stool, an elderly relic of Dr P's belongings, and, much to  his alarm, it splashed forth evil black liquid, all over the rather unlovely carpet. God only knows what chemical process has been evolving all these years inside the plastic. It was not worth bottling, however. It was not his fault, just a disaster waiting to happen. So as well as feeding all the children, we attempted to clean up all the evil black splodges on the carpet - mostly over the rug in front of the door to the balcony, but also on the plastic carpet beneath. My son recommended white vinegar. He had to go out and find a shop which was open which sold white vinegar. I did not expect to spend Boxing Day energetically but unenthusiastically scrubbing the carpet with white vinegar.

The following day was good, but exhausting. We went to the Powerhouse Museum to see the Harry Potter Exhibition. When we arrived we found that all the sessions were sold out. We explained that the website had not made it clear that pre-booking was most advisable. You had to get to the Ticketek site to do that. Fortunately one of the staff enabled us, and sundry others, to be included in the last session of the afternoon. This meant we had at least three hours to kill, which we spent at the playground and at various other parts of the Museum. There was a Wiggles exhibition, which we all herded our littlies around. I never took the trouble to work out which Wiggle is which, and I remain profoundly ignorant. My mind has only so much room. Each part of the exhibition had its own noise and music, and flashing lights and interactive thingies. I found it all most migraine-inducing.

We managed not to lose anyone, and eventually it was time to queue for entry to the Harry Potter show. It took quite a while before we were let in, but it was well worth the wait. All the exhibits served to demonstrate the brilliance, variety, humour, imagination, and light and darkness of Rowling's world. The numbers admitted each time were not too many, and thus we were all able to take our time and to look at all the delights. The staff of the Museum were all wonderful - unfailingly helpful, courteous and friendly.

We had thought about taking a ferry ride next morning, but settled for coffee and gelato at the local cafe. My son and his boys set off late morning, and my daughter and her children a couple of hours later.

Since then I have been washing all the sheets and towels, and putting everything away. And discovering what happens when you take your eyes off the children for a second. Someone had undone and cut the yarn on a piece of crochet....and snipped the yarn into a number of useless pieces....they had better not let me catch them...and what's more, that very same someone - you know who you are - found all the sewing elastic and cut much of it into small pieces, and discovered all the cottons, which obviously need to be unwound, small threads cut off and then ceremoniously laid here and there around the house. And, in a late addition to this bulletin, I found the same culprit had found (No, it was not lost, just in a place where I could find it when I needed it) the green gardening wire, detached it from its little wheel, cut off several lengths, and left all in a tangled mess. I resisted the temptation to ring him up and cross examine him about these sundry misdeeds and to discover why he thinks it is perfectly all right and justifiable to investigate my sewing stuff and my yarns, and instead had a glass or two of wine. I do not really want to upset him, or his mother, who is doing a very fine job with her children and her nephews. Her eldest child is like the Elephant's Child, full of 'satiable curiosity. It is obviously genetic, polished and perfected by experience. I sometimes wonder when my own genetic inheritance will burst forth - will it be in my lifetime? I think not.

It can come as a shock to discover how accustomed one can become to solitude.  Not that this is to be recommended.

Late yesterday I investigated my mobile phone and realised that I had totally forgotten that my car was booked in for its pre-registration service that morning. Oh dear. Never mind, it has been re-booked for next week.

It is a lovely night. The sun has set and the light suffusing the scattered clouds is still pinkly golden.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Getting it right

Most of yesterday was spent doing the largest food shopping of the year, and then lugging it into the house. This is in anticipation of the arrival on Christmas Day of my two younger children and their children. They will have to be fed, and possibly they might have to adapt to what is in the refrigerator, and what can be cooked here.

My oven has been on the blink for most of the year, and I decided not to get it fixed until such time as we know just whose oven it is. It is probably the thermostat which is the problem. Generally when I cook chicken pieces it takes twice the normal time for them to be cooked. The lack of a reliable oven made it rather difficult to contemplate the cooking of a turkey. Being a purist, I cannot countenance purchasing a pre-cooked turkey, and the compromise solution is buying a couple of turkey legs and some slices of turkey breast, to be cooked in the electric frying pan.

The shops were incredibly crowded, and parking spaces were in short supply. There were even traffic-directing staff on duty. Amazingly, I found a parking place immediately, and then set about shopping, making progressive trips to the car to drop off the purchases, thereby disappointing a number of drivers whose eyes had lit up hopefully as I approached my car, unloaded the shopping, and then failed to depart.

Despite the crowds and the queues, everyone was really pleasant, chatty, nice and considerate, which was very heartwarming for this sore soul so smitten by sad and sorry circumstances. 

 I do believe we live in a very fortunate country, in which most people are decent and considerate. My friend in Melbourne remarked to me that she found the people there generally very pleasant and helpful. I did, too, more so than in this city. I travelled around mostly by tram, and on one trip, a stranger to the city got on and asked about the best way of reaching a particular place. The tram driver gave his considered opinion, other passengers gave theirs, everyone discussed the options, and when we arrived at a stop where a different tram route could be taken, the driver got out to check the timetable, and told the woman that the next tram would arrive in two minutes. The spontaneous civility of the whole exchange was wonderful. We need to hang on to these characteristic social interactions, whereby we do not always put our own needs first. 

Remembering that we might all like some dessert, I bought a large tub of the world's best gelato, made by Tonino, who used to have a cafe just up the street, until his lease was terminated. He disappeared for a while, to the intense and general regret of the community. The food was terrific (such perfect gnocchi!) and the gelato superb, especially the chocolate, the hazelnut and the passionfruit.  Tonino and his gelato eventually turned up at a cafe down the other end of the peninsula, to general rejoicing and enthusiastic consumption.

I have bought some tinsel, etc, to festoon the house a little. And I am listening to lots of absolutely luscious and beautiful music on the radio, and trying to let some seasonal gladness trickle into my heart. I hope that the negative effects of the years of living with Dr P will dwindle and enable me to open my heart and emotions once more. I don't mean to say that those years were all bad and negative: far from it. There were many good things, and we did love each other and enjoy much of our lives together.  However, I had to bend and give more than he did, and his age, and attitudes led to a constriction in my own life.  The last couple of years were very hard, and this year has been awful.

Now, despite my continuing struggles,  I need to open up and expand. And to let the sunshine in.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Much adoing, but is it about nothing?

It is amazing how time-consuming simple things can be. Shopping, for example, and getting from Point A to Point B. Waiting for people to arrive. Sorting through the mail. Writing Christmas cards and then realising that some recipients, there not having been contact between us all year, do not know what has happened to me in the meantime. Finding papers and documents relevant to this and that. Sitting thinking. Talking to people. Buying new bras. And a swimsuit. And a dress. Travelling by plane and taxi.

Catching up with the washing. Sorting out which bills need urgent attention. Organising the very overdue car service. Scrabbling around looking for the leftovers of a particular yarn, and then finding there is insufficient to finish off this piece of work, which probably no one will want anyway. Wondering how to cook a Christmas dinner without a functioning oven. Correcting the typing errors which the tiny Apple keyboard makes me make. Not seeing for some time this typing error dccuments. Wondering why it is that when I write, the letters appear in their correct order, but when I type  the same words, they do not.

Pondering whether I urgently need new glasses. Wondering how on earth I used to manage to work, raise a family, do all the housework, cooking and gardening and have a social life, when my days are now filled with so many apparently minor things.

They do say, don't they, that work expands to fill the time available. A depressing thought, this!

I am back from my family gathering in Melbourne. I don't think I am good company, as yet. Nor have I obeyed the injunction on the sympathy card I bought myself many months ago, which said "Pull yourself together."

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Threads and themes

I am protesting. Against the trivialisation of issues.

Yesterday I went into the city to attend the wool sale. I came away with yet more wool, including a couple of balls which are intended to make a little scarf thingie. Already the first ball has revealed itself to be defective, as a separate length of wool was in the middle of the ball. This is aggravating as I had already started crocheting this scarf thingy.

Now I will have to take it back, and protest. This issue is undoubtedly trivial, although irritating enough.
The wool I bought will be devoted to making blanket squares for the ABNc's Knit with Love. Or for a baby blanket. There is another great niece or nephew expected.

As I sat tranquilly, counting chain stitches, I watched the Australian Public Affairs Channel. Our Minister for Communications was giving a speech to the National Press Club. He was discussing the National Broadband Network, a subject about which I know relatively little, especially given that I do not have a good understanding of my own internet and telephone plans. I thought the Minister gave a good speech, although he did have what I regard as a regrettable tendency to use single verbs with plural subjects, and vice versa. I do like people to speak and write grammatically, and get very upset when people say things like 'Me and Jim had Maccas for dinner' and 'Her and me went out last night..."It makes me wonder what teachers are doing. Not to mention their parents.

Back to the subject, though. The Minister finished his speech and started answering questions, and in response to one question commented that everyone cheered if a tax was reduced, but that if the tax was increased it was seen as F****** dreadful.

Now I know he ought not to have used that awful word, but let's face it, the rest of the world does, almost incessantly. I blush to admit that I have have used it myself, from time to time, but only when provoked, and not as a necessary insertion after every second word. I live near a school, and as the students walk past each morning and afternoon,  I hear most of them use that word at least three times in each and every sentence. It is not as though it is not now common parlance, deplorable though this may be.

In a less imperfect world, one concerned with issues rather than style, one might have expected the issues to be the subject of the news, but No. Each news channel, on the three I have listened to so far, has reported the use of the F word, but given absolutely no attention  or coverage of the issues nor the content or context. I have telephoned all three of them,  to protest against their trivialisation of issues and political coverage. Not that my protests will change anything, of course. Although, the ABC did give some emphasis to the content of the speech in their later news bulletin, so who knows, I might have achieved something

If there is one thing I hate, it is the sanctimonious journalist. (There are a few other things I hate, but it would be tedious to dissertate upon them needlessly. Sufficient to the day thereof...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Renovating and renewing

Isabelle of In This Life has just been fantasising about household renovations, and this got me started thinking about what I might do if I am able to stay in my home.

It is a big house, and apart from having had the outside painted, the garage extended and the plunge swimming pool filled in, and turned into a garden, the sinks replaced with stainless steel instead of stainable porous white plastic, handrails wherever possible, stairlifts installed, and air conditioning, blinds and curtains fitted to help control the overheating of the house caused by the fact that it faces east/west and thus gets fearfully hot, no decorating has been done.

Heavens! That sounds like quite a lot. But wait, there's more, to consider, that is.

If I were to splurge according to what is needed to be done in the house and to my own tastes I would:

  • Rip out the carpets. Put new carpets in. Those on the floor are unlovely, tired and unhappy, and badly fitted.
  • Have the tiled floors fixed. They really need it, and it shows. Many tiles are broken, or wobble when walked upon. This would cost heaps.
  • Re-tile the laundry and adjacent toilet.
  • Get better blinds.
  • Fix the wooden window frames which are greatly the worse for wear.
  • Replace the vanity unit in one of the bathroom, as it is rotting.
  • Replace the kitchen bench surfaces. They are rather unlovely and are rather battered. Dr P, who despite having a chemistry degree appeared not to understand some practical consequences of the theory, such as the melting point of plastics, and who put hot saucepans directly on the benches, causing damage.
  • In fact, fix the whole kitchen. The bench level is higher than the window levels, evidence of really stupid design and planning.  The window frames in the kitchen, dining room and the upstairs sitting room were installed back the front, which means that instead of rain falling away, it can trickle inside, as the slope is to the inside and not to the outside. In the olden days building inspectors should have picked up that sort of idiot mistake, but once things stopped being actually inspected, and were merely ticked off, they got through. So theoretically they should all be replaced.

It always bothered me that the house was allowed to deteriorate. I would have kept it in better order.  Bearing in mind that from from this day forward there is no one to tell me what to do or to veto my decisions, theoretically, at least, from some future date I can make such decisions of wherever and whatever, I will be able to do (to some extent anyway) what I damn well please.

The house across the road, on the other corner was sold recently, and the new owners have moved in, and have started some improvements and renovations. I looked at the house before it was sold, out of general interest, and attended the auction. (Everyone does this as in this city the contemplation of real estate is a predominant passion.) I had not actually met the couple, but as I watched from my balcony at the weekend while garden rubbish was being removed, they saw me and we waved at each other. So I went downstairs, and went across and knocked on their door, bearing a welcoming jar of cumquat marmalade, and we all said hello. They have two small children, aged three and one. Their names are Baxter and April. (Sigh!) The children are lovely.

Although this is said to be a very active and sociable neighborhood, full of community involvement, in fact it is not easy to meet, or to get to know people. In part, this is due to the fact that it is an old area, with very small blocks of land, and no one has front gardens. So you never see people out the front. The backs of the houses have lane exits, and what little space there is accommodates the car, and roller doors. I walk through the lanes to get to the main road and to walk to the bus stops, but it is relatively rare to encounter a neighbour.

Across the road there is a school, and next to it is a large complex of units, but all the residents leave their houses from the back.  Thus there remains the side street. I exit from the rear of the house, which means onto the side street, and I know several of the neighbours, but getting to know them depends on our being outside together at the same time, and the ensuing general conversations. Across the lane lives a very old and deaf lady in her mid 90s, and she never remembers knowing me, although I chat with her daughter when she visits at the weekend, if we happen to coincide. The house next door is used as a a professional premises, and I have got to know the couple. I know the couple down the far end of the lane, having chatted to them from time to time as their house was renovated, and indeed, they kindly witnessed my will for me - that is, as it turned out,  a good way of getting to know people.

Dr P was not sociable towards his neighbours, and so he did not know any of them. After he died it occurred to me that I should tell my neighbours of his death, so I telephoned next door, and called to see the other neighbours. It felt weird, knocking on doors to say that my husband had died, but I am glad I did, as they have been kindly and helpful. And I like to build and maintain connections with people.

All this makes me wonder how I would manage if I were to lose the house, and leave the neighbourhood and perhaps the city. And start all over again.

It is an odd thing. I have lived in houses at the end of a complex, and in a street opposite a hospital but without any direct access to it. Thus there has never been an abundance of neighbours. None of this was done on purpose. Perhaps if I have to move it might be advisable to choose somewhere with more neighbours. However, neighbours are among the very many of unknown factors which surround so many of our choices. It is all rather daunting, as I am actually quite shy.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Date being set

A date for mediation has been set. But not for another couple of months.

In the meantime, perhaps it will be possible to think about Christmas. I do not want to be alone.

Mediation may be only a formality, as it seems that it may not be a serious exercise for the other side.
At least, perhaps for the time being, it will be possible to think about other matters. It is a compulsory procedure, but it does not, of course, mean that it will produce a result.

We will see. Perhaps I can relax a little. There is no point giving up at this stage.

In the meantime I am tired and grumpy. It has all been a most exhausting process, and for me it is my life and its future, whereas for the lawyers it is just another, probably routine, thing to get done.

My BIL thinks my latest effort in reply was a good one. Whether it makes a difference won't be clear for some time.

I hope I can clear my mind somewhat. Think of other things, and be able to enjoy the little, but important things of life.

Being, necessarily, obsessed, by what had to be done, has been most painful, and I have wondered whether my life for these past years has been worth anything. And I wonder further whether I will have the strength and wisdom to make good and positive decisions on whatever the rest of my life may bring. Or whether I am locked or have locked myself, into making the wrong decisions.

Is it possible to know these things, or do I blunder blindly into the void? Should I have folded up my tent and stolen away into that dark night? Have I acted wisely in choosing to contest my future, and trying to counter what I see as the injustices dealt out to me? If I do not try to counter them now, I have fewer grounds for complaint.

It is my desire to become free of it all, to be able to put it all behind me, and to take responsibility for my own fate. And not to have accepted injustices, but to have fought to set it right. I am not naturally combative, but I do have a passion for justice.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A still day

I am awaiting the outcome of the latest hearing, to fix a date for whatever happens next. Nothing will happen until next year. I feel betwixt and between, and don't know what to do next. What is the meaning of life?

My friend, the partner of my dear friend who died three years ago, was here for the weekend, for sundry social activities. We went to the Art Gallery, and he saw the Picasso exhibition, which I had already visited. So I went and inspected a new ultra contemporary art gallery section funded by a very rich donor, and there was scarcely anything there which I though was worth having. Pretentious nonsense, is my opinion of it. There was another exhibition of work entered for a Drawing Prize, and that was far far better. Much more interesting than pseudo arty Christo wrapped trees and/or cliffs.

Last night we went with other friends to Pinchgut Opera's production of Vivaldi's opera Griselda.  We all dined beforehand, and caught up with our various news, and all enjoyed the opera immensely, despite the sadistic and manipulative character of the king, and the seeming masochism of his wife Griselda. The singing was superlative, even though with three counter tenors/male soprani, a soprano and a mezzo soprano, to one solitary tenor (the king) the absence of male sounding voices was quite strange. And I had problems telling the counter tenors apart. The music was gorgeous, and we all came away feeling happy, unlike Griselda, who, it seems, finally worked out that she was married to a rather despicable cad, and who thus (eventually) expressed some irritation. However, opera is not always rational. To put it mildly. I love it anyway.

I drove KP to the airport this morning and am now sitting about at home, contemplating going out to buy a coffee. The weather for the last week has been rather cold and I have needed my hot water bottle again! It is a still day, but it is raining intermittently. With the completion of the latest affidavit, and the departure of my friend, I am wondering what to do with myself. My mood is rather lugubrious, and restless. My foot is tapping all by itself.

I suppose I could vacuum the house, which probably needs it, but vacuuming is not the most enjoyable or interesting thing in life. The cleaners are no longer coming, as they were not doing a very good job, and so in the meanwhile I will save the money. One person living alone does not make a lot of mess. There is nothing to do in my tiny garden - the other day I tried yet again to remove the unreachable weeds underneath the front steps.

I cannot decide what to crochet next. There is an uncompleted  baby jacket, which needs some deep analysis. It is in stripes. There is no obvious baby recipient, so long has it been since I started this jacket. I had started a stole, in a light mohair, but it was not working, and so I have pulled it all out. Undoing crocheted mohair is a devil of a task, as the stitches do not wish to come apart. They stick together.

The solution must be to curl up with a good book, with some opera playing in the background.

Or I could, and should, do some choir practice. The concert is next Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

There passed a weary time...

Except it has not quite passed yet. The past couple of days have been spent preparing and revising the latest affidavit, and in providing evidence to illustrate that what the other side has said or implied about me is false. It is incredible how long this sort of thing takes. My advice to the ambient air and to any casual readers is to document absolutely everything and never to throw anything away...

It would be tedious to describe it all, and probably even more tedious to read it, so I refrain from inflicting it upon the blogosphere. Suffice to say that I got cranky when I found words had been put into my mouth, and thus had to spend hours correcting and clarifying, etc, and even more hours today in the completion of it all.

Thank goodness it is now done to the best of my ability, and several weeks sleep would be welcome. It will all drag on for quite some time to come. I have been active with my tape measure and in the calculation of how many linear metres of bookshelves I have.

Naturally, not everything has gone smoothly in other parts of my life. Why would it?

After the last crochet clinic, I came home with all the parts of the jacket ready to be put together. I decided to sew them rather than crochet them together, as a trial run showed that it was difficult to get the crochet hook through the two parts. Having joined one front and the back using backstitch, inspection revealed some unevenness. Instead of saying that near enough was good enough, I decided to unpick it and do it again. Big mistake. Accidentally I unravelled some of the stitches in the back, and I lack the expertise to fix it myself. Now it was not easy to do this accidental unravelling, in fact it was, in its own warped way, an amazing achievement. Had I been less fussy it would have all been finished by now, and I would have had a) a nice new dark blue alpaca jacket, and b) a sense of achievement.

I have been able to consult with the crochet expert, and on Sunday week will take it to her in the city and she will (she says, and I certainly believe her, as she is a crocheting genius) pick up those unravelled stitches, and all should be well.  Then I will have to decide what to make next. Something using yet more purple wool, I suspect. The mauve sweater recently finished, which is too large for me, still has to be found a good home.

On reflection, I have managed to do quite a lot this week, even if not all has been well done. I read two books, did my Dante homework, got to half the choir practice last night, and was allowed to go home during the break, so as to attend to the affidavit, emailed it after midnight, and after three gruelling hours this afternoon, came away with the finished product. In some ways I am perplexed that it takes so long, but it seems to have taken the professionals just as much time. Their monthly bill arrived yesterday.

It made one gasp and stretch one's eyes...

On Monday night I am going with friends to Pinchgut Opera's production of Vivaldi's opera Griselda, which promises to be an absolute delight, as long as one can tell the three counter tenors apart.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Those recurring weekends

They just keep coming, the weekends, that is. Today I went off to the crochet clinic, where I sat diligently finishing the two front pieces of the jacket I have been doing for months now. It is quite a soothing way of using up a weekend. In the intervening fortnight I got no crocheting done. The sleeve seams have now been sewn, and I am contemplating carefully the joining of the fronts to the back. And hoping the result will fit me and look good. I don't know whether I could cope psychologically if they don't. The camel's back may well break. Let's hope not.

Today was General Household Cleanup Day, and so I went through the house to see what I could discard. If I get kicked out of my home, there are a number of things I would not want to take with me to whatever part of Siberia I'd have to settle for, but those items are far too big for me to move unaided, what with their considerable weight, and all the stairs and the stair lifts to contend with. Thus the items to be discarded included elderly umbrellas, waste paper bins, garden pots, some tiles and bricks, and firewood. And two old speakers. I bought the bricks thinking that somehow or other, unassisted, I could raise the level of Dr P's bed, to make it easier for him to get in and out of it. It remains unclear how it would have been possible for me to hold the base of the bed high enough to enable me, unaided, to slip bricks underneath the castors. The firewood was in the fireplace when we moved to this house, but we never lit the fire, and it seemed to me that it would be a good idea to get rid of the wood. There were a few tiles, which used to be decorative, but they have been unused for the past  eleven years, and it seemed the time had come to dispose of them. Some crafty items also joined the pile.

As the day progressed, various neighbours brought out their stuff and piled them on the footpath, or against my wall. I politely asked them to move them onto the kerb, the designated collection point, and this was done. One young female neighbour, never before spotted, brought out a dead ironing board. I expressed surprise that a young person had an ironing board to be disposed off, but she smilingly assured me that she always ironed her clothes. (Unlike my children.)

I was pretty excited that I had managed to notice the forthcoming collection day, as year after year I used to miss it. Although the Council warned that the collection might not occur on the Day Itself, in fact they arrived, hefty men and their mpressive truck, at about 7 pm and they took absolutely everything.

Late in the afternoon I looked down at the street from my balcony, and saw some neighbours combing through the discards. They took away an umbrella which used to belong to Dr P. Recycling is alive and well around here. It was pleasing to note this.

There are still a couple of dead radiators and a printer and scanner to get rid of. Computer thingies are not readily accepted, and it may require a special effort to get rid of these. You would think that with the manifold increase in computer paraphernalia, and the rapid going out of date that afflicts so many such machines, that councils would have got around to making special provision to help their loyal ratepayers dispose of them, but No.

There are some things which I can take to Vinnies. A woman's work is never done.

I suppose it made a change from the seemingly endless revision of legal documents and the countering of false statements made by the other side. All this resulted in a lengthy appointment with the lawyers earlier this week, and I await the next exciting instalment. It is evident that nothing will be settled in the near future.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Half full and half empty glasses

Our city has had a great tragedy. An horrific crime. There was a fire, deliberately lit, it seems by one of the nurses, who has been charged with murder, at an old people's home, and seven elderly people died, with many more seriously ill in hospital. Heroic firemen, police, staff, and neighbours combined to evacuate the home, and to tend to the victims. Imagine ending your days in an inferno, trapped and immobile in your bed. Unable to see, unable to move, unable to help yourself. A fire deliberately caused! I think of Dr P, and imagine if he had been a victim.

It is nine months since Dr P died. While this memory has been strongly present all through this day,  I bethought me of other and more immediate things, such as half full glasses. This mixture, this conflict between grief and memory, and coping with the necessities of the present tears me in two.

Thus I resort to the more trivial things in life.

On Saturday morning I felt delight, as a tiny boy pointed joyfully at the sky, crying "There's the moon."Well spotted. (I too love moon-spotting.)

My son showed me how to find the planet Mercury. I am very happy about this. I get very frustrated, because what with living on the down side of a hill and with  houses in between blocking the sight of the moon rise, I want to yowl when full moon approaches.

I am halfway through Hilary Mantel's novel Fludd, which is full of unexpected delights and surprises, and which revives many similar memories.

Today when I bought some prosciutto crudo, the young woman beside me at the deli counter complimented me on my pronunciation. I felt unreasonably delighted.

My friend rang to let me know there would be a wonderful program on Italian gardens. And I have visited one of them, at Bomarzo. It is quite a strange one and has a lopsided building on it.

My thoughts have turned to the prospect of going for a swim.

A little more order has been introduced to my documents, and this may possibly prevent their mysterious overnight increasing and multipying. I have become a devotee of coloured plastic folders.

I remembered it was the garden rubbish collection day on Sunday and put it all outside to be taken away. And no one nicked my garden rubbish bag.

I tidied up the contents of the hall cupboard, and have reduced the number of things therein. Now all I have to do is find legitimate means of disposal. There is a General Household Cleanup next weekend, but they don't really mean general, as they won't take dead scanners or printers, or electrical things like heaters. And there are two Marantz speakers which need a good home. Still, they are all now downstairs in the garage. Naturally, it immediately rained and some drops fell onto them.

The red and green alstroemeria still look just gorgeous.

In between them all, and the rampant mint, some basil is surviving.

Tomorrow, more lawyers.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Banks and the ever increasing vicissitudes of life

There are times when irritation smites you. There have been two such occasions this week.

From time to time I fantasise about online purchases. The temptation is not great. However after a lesson about iPhoto I went home to practice what I had learned, only to find that the instructor had used a more recent version than mine. Oh well I thought, I will go in and buy the whole iWork package. However it seems it is no longer available in this form. Instead, you buy bits and pieces of it on line.

I have a typical elderly female reluctance to indulge in on line purchases. I remembered the very techno-savvy husband of a friend telling me how he had a special low limit credit card to use for such purchases. Well, if it was good enough for the brilliant Steve, it should be worth doing.

The experience that has followed could well be serialised and has been more than enough to send me into a ranting and raging virago. (What is the male form of virago, by the way?)

Now here I am, a modest, unassuming aging female, who has always lived within her income, always pays off her credit card every month in full, uses direct debits to make sure I always pay my bills, and who has been a good and reliable customer of a bank beginning with A for quite some years. Surely, I said to myself, I can just call down and get an el cheapo credit card with a low limit, and explain to them I just want an el cheapo with a low credit limit for specific purchases, so that my real and ordinary card cannot be ripped off by those lurking OUT THERE somewhere in the ether to prey on innocent and stupid persons such as myself.

Off I took myself and queued in the bank. Eventually my turn arrived and I recited my request, and a form got filled in and sent off. Much to my surprise - given my existing credit history and the fact that I wanted a credit limit of $500, the request was not automatically approved. I had to supply the name of someone who could vouch for me. I did so and warned the person so nominated, who has known me a mere thirty years or so.

This morning someone from the bank rang me. Obviously they had not read the information I supplied and kept asking me stupid questions to which I had already supplied the answers. I began wondering about their literacy standards. They wanted to know how much I spent each month. I told them it was less than my income and if they wanted further details they could look up my credit card record, discover that I always paid off my credit card in full and paid most bills by direct debits. Eventually I got very shirty and told them that they were very inefficient, and had not checked the information previously supplied, and that I no longer wished to do further business with them, and to cancel my request for a credit card with a $500 limit. After adjuring them to report my dissatisfaction to their employers, I hung up.

But maybe I am just a slow learner. This afternoon I went out to buy food, and even more plastic folders in which to keep the ever-accumulating number of documents related to my current struggles. On the way I called into My Usual Bank, into which is paid my regular income, and from which my direct debits are paid, including my direct debit of the credit card payment. It took forever. I began to feel quite irritated. People kept queueing up to talk to the person with whom I was dealing, and interrupting. Time dragged on. I was sorry to be the cause of their delays. However this bank employee did not display the efficiency one might have expected. Everything took ages. Perhaps it was because that bank uses Microsoft. She too asked me for my monthly expenditure. I told her I did not know, but that as she had all my financial statements before her, she could see what payments were made to me both fortnightly and monthly, she could see all my direct debits, and also how much I withdrew in cash each month. I was starting to tap my feet, and the occasional sigh escaped me. Eventually she said all was done and we (I) would wait and see.

I'd hate to be a person on a low income. While my housing situation is uncertain, pending the outcome/result of all these legal struggles, I am on a comfortable income. Just ask my step-daughters! But we keep getting told how dreadful governments are, and how much better at everything private enterprise is, and then for two days running I find that the contrary is true. I am a good risk, but they do not make much money out of me, because I always pay on time, and thus incur no interest charges or penalty. Again I had to nominate a person who could vouch for me. I nominated my son, and remarked, 'He's known me all his life." This gentle sally provoked no reaction. Huh?

I know I am not as kind and tolerant as I used to be. Having had to deal with accounts and bills and payments after the death of Dr P, I found I was very liable to get very upset and enraged. I hoped that I had recovered from these reactions, but Alas, I found that in this regard I am still just like the tinder-dry bush in the heat of summer, and that the least little spark can ignite an horrific blaze.

So here I sit, growling away just like a lion, and feeling very very ready to bite.

When will it all end? Is all this worth being able to buy the update of iPhoto on line and download it?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Various ilks

Weekends consisting of two days of more total solitude than is comfortable, on Sunday I decided to get out of the house. The fortnightly crochet clinic was on so I set out for that, and spent several pleasant hours crocheting away in the company of similarly dedicated women, most of whom were far more competent than I am, and who were working on more difficult things. The late arrival, who was more of a beginner, turned out to be from the Isle of Man and she is an astrologer. I am not a believer in astrology, so chose not to join in any conversation about it.

I am working away on a jacket and as I kept getting wrong the number of stitches, and having had a few problems on when and how to decrease, decided to resume work on the back of this jacket, so that the other pieces could be measured against it. The back is now finished, and so I now have a model on which to base the other parts. I was all set to take it to the opera study group, but when I got there found I had somehow left the crochet hook somewhere else, and thus was forced to listen attentively instead. have now almost finished it - only a row or so to go. One of these days I will get this garment finished.

There are only a couple more crochet sessions this year.

Having already got myself into the city, I decided to hang around for the rest of the afternoon. At the art Gallery a Picasso exhibition has just been opened, and Members of the Art Gallery Society had a special free viewing available from 5.15 pm. I knew if I went home, I would never drag myself out again, so spent some time browsing around, and buying myself a biography of Maria Fitzherbert while I was at it, and then walked to the Art Gallery to kill the rest of the time, and managed to get myself a cup of tea. We all got cleared out of the Gallery and then had to queue outside so as to get back in.   It was a bit of a press, but as I queued I ran into another woman from one of the Italian classes and she was with her sister. We wound up viewing together.

It is quite an extensive exhibition, and well curated, except that in my opinion a larger size font should be used for the labels used to identify the art works.  I had to do more peering than was comfortable. The art was very interesting, especially as last year I visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, which had quite a lot of his early work. There is no disputing Picasso's immense talent, productivity, and technical facility in every artistic medium. However, I don't think there is any other artist who moves me or engages me less. He seems obsessed by structure, and he must have had a compulsive urge to work, work, work in every possible medium. Whereas with many artists I could happily race off with, and love to bits lots of works, I found there was not one of Picasso's that I wanted, or even that I would ever want to see again.

The National Gallery of Australia is having an exhibition of art from the Accademia-Pinocoteca Carrara of Bergamo, and I absolutely have to get along to see it. I stayed in Bergamo for a few days in 2009, and we went to see this gallery, but it was already closed, apart from an exhibition of portraits in the Città Alta.

In the news just to hand, and with a special cheerio to Frogdancer, two agapanthus buds have been spotted lurking in the jungle like conditions of the Persiflage garden. It is difficult to spot anything at present, owing to the sudden profusion of the red and green alstroemeria flowers. This is Alstroemeria pulchella, but is apparently commonly known in Australia as New Zealand Christmas Bell, although, as my gardening book says, this is a mystery as it comes from North Brazil. I have never heard it so described, but then I don't know anyone else who has it growing. I must have brought it with me when I moved here. A good description of this plant's habit would be 'invasive'.

A citrus beetle was spotted on my kaffir lime, and exterminated, and obviously some pesticide is necessary.

Work, work, work. And innocent pleasures.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A good night's sleep

That's what I need.

It was a late night last night, as I slaved away over my hot computer, completing replies, or at least drafts thereof, to refute the Other Side. I emailed them late at night and then copied assorted documents in support of my statements, sorted them out and put them into folders. I try not to allow order to descend into chaos, but chaos seems to creep up, seep up and engulf me and my efforts.

By the time I got to bed last night I was feeling exhausted and drained. After my Italian class today, I walked up to the lawyer's office, and deposited my documents. Then I went home and flopped on the couch and dozed spasmodically. I need sleep. I feel leaden, exhausted and depressed.

Takeaway dinner seemed a good idea, so I ordered it from the local Thai takeaway. It was horrible, so I feel I should call in and tell them so, and declare my intention of never patronising them ever again. The twice-cooked taste is pretty disgusting. It is almost enough to make me resume cooking for myself. This year I have done very little cooking. I buy spinach and fetta triangles, spinach quiches, sushi, occasionally cook myself a steak and have it with raw vegetables, sometimes cook a ham and cheese jaffle, or have cheese and biscuits. Nothing very fancy. I have made pesto, and had it several nights in a row. Occasionally I have toast with cumquat marmalade. All of this has made me much thinner, which is good, but also much more wrinkled, which is less good, but an apparently permanent condition. I don't care.

For a person who used to be a very good cook, it is all pretty pathetic. But there is something about cooking only for oneself that is quite depressing.

When I shop, it is difficult to buy quantities for one person. A new butcher has opened just up the road. The other day I bought a chicken sate stick, pre-marinated. I cooked it, but should have prepared the marinade myself. ONE chicken sate stick! How ridiculous.

In short, I have lost inspiration.

Perhaps at such times it is difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. All the focussing on affidavits, evidence and writing it all up, interspersed by Italian homework, and choir practice, seems to take up all my energy. I am crocheting, but once again have to count stitches and rows.

At the last crochet clinic I said that this pattern I am now working on was much simpler than the previous one - the mauve 1970s style sweater which is now too big for me, and which thus needs a good home. The teacher/expert said to me "Never say it is simpler. That is asking for disaster". I said, "Well, it seems much less complicated". Never mind, I will go again this Sunday.

I have some interesting books to read, but my energy levels and concentration have plummeted way below the horizon. They had better get back up over it quick bloody smart, that's all I have to say to them.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Away and back

I had a couple of days away, and got back this afternoon. I feel somewhat whacked, and thoughts swirl around my head. They won't stay still, or let me focus on any one theme or strand.

So be it.

I drove to Canberra, stayed with a friend and spent most of my time with my son and his boys. That went well. The little boys seemed pleased to see me, and I did lots of cuddling, and conversed with wildly fluctuating levels of competence on subjects such as the calendar, the planets orbiting the sun, the occurrence of leap years, but skilfully managed to avoid string theory. (I have no idea what string theory is, not having been blessed by a scientific mind, nor do I understand parsecs.) However, thanks to being keen on history and various other significant events and developments in the history of civilisation, not to mention having done some languages, I was able to dissertate with sufficient expertise on how the months were named, and the various changes made to the calendar. It was all rather exhausting and challenging, though. Fortunately, at this stage, although I remain relatively ignorant, I still know more than your slightly above average eight year old boy. I don't know how much he took in, of course.

I also did a bit of housework for my son, and then we went to the park, where the little one flung himself intrepidly onto all the equipment  and the older one freaked out - but kept trying it - going down a rather large slide, panicking all the way down. Eek!

We did some grocery shopping, and I had to catch the little one and put him in the shopping trolley, rather than chasing him around the whole supermarket. The idea flashed into my head that perhaps I am not fit enough to do all this. My back got a bit sore.

My son kindly checked the pressure in my tyres. I blush to admit I have never learned to do this, and will do all I can to avoid learning for the foreseeable future. He is doing a good job with his boys, who are progressing well.

I saw another friend and former colleague, and it turned out to be the 30th anniversary of the death of her seven year old son. We remembered Jonathan together. He'd been born with a heart defect, and eventually had open heart surgery, but he died shortly after the operation. She later tried to have another baby, but the shock and grief caused her reproductive system to totally pack up. The surviving child, a daughter, now has two children. I often think of those of us who have lost children, such as this friend, and another, whose daughter died at 18 from undiagnosed leukaemia. We pick ourselves up when we can, and get on with life, as we must, but those wounds never completely heal.

Now that I am back home, I must turn again to replying to and refuting the affidavits. It is a case of girding the loins and gritting the teeth, and getting it all done. I am staggered by their combination of inaccuracy, lack of veracity, malice and prejudice. As Truth is my middle name, and I have the documentation to counter their false assertions and prejudices, they should wind up looking less than lily white. The things that they say do not invalidate the strength of my case.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Sick in stomach and at heart

Affidavits in reply to mine are arriving. One in particular is sheer nastiness. Guess whose? No surprises there, of course, nor about the other nastinesses, which are less extreme, though. Fortunately, there is a lot of stuff I can document, but, possibly unrealistically, I hoped this process could be done without sneers, nastiness, falsity and exaggeration. But it seems not so. To me there seems to be the whiff of collusion.

I am writing rejoinders, so as to rebut things, but I hope it won't come to the stage of litanies of woe, outrage and relative nastiness, such as she said, she did, he said, he did, they said, they did, etcetera, because this is not what my legal contest is about - rather about the law, and the justice of my claim. The context and the nuances need to be set out. They are not the issue, though. But I must keep my language temperate, measured and rational, and not descend or resort to abuse, or snide comments. Just the facts, ma'am.

At present, I feel I need intravenous tranquillisers, good stiff drinks (I don't drink that sort of alcohol) a warm bath, to be held, cuddled and soothed, about fifty hours sleep, and the ability to switch moods at will.  Lacking most of these, I must persevere, stay on course, and hope I live long enough to get through this process, and to heal and become whole. And if I could then press Delete on many of these experiences, I probably would. Right now I just want to bawl my head off.

In the scheme of things my lot is really not all that bad, and many of my reactions are conditioned, and thus difficult to prevent or halt.

Yesterday I went to the crochet clinic. It was very soothing and productive. I also lashed out, and bought an ice cream.

Perhaps later I will sort through my increasing pile of documents and ensure they are in order.

In the meantime, I will drink my coffee, have some sour dough with cumquat marmalade, and put on some harrowingly emotional opera, or some uplifting Bach or Handel. I am not sure I can cope with an opera with a heroine (foolishly) sacrificing all for the man she loves, though.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Despite the overflowing bookshelves, I keep buying books. While doing my food shopping at the end of the week, I came across a book stall. I bought a cookery book, which was uncommonly cheap, a novel by Hilary Mantel, and two memoirs, one by Margaret Forster, a writer I have long followed, and another Hilary Mantel book, a memoir, entitled Giving up the Ghost.

She starts her memoir with an account of a migraine. Then she continues:

I hardly know how to write about myself. Any style you pick seems to unpick itself before a paragraph is done. I will just go for it, I think to myself, I'll hold out my hands and say, c'est moi, get used to it. I'll trust the reader. This is what I recommend to people who ask me how to get published. Trust your reader, stop spoon-feeding your reader, give your reader credit for being as smart as you at least, and stop being so bloody beguiling: you in the back row, will you turn off that charm! Plain words on plain paper. Remember what Orwell says, that good prose is like a window-pane. Concentrate on sharpening your memory and peeling your sensibility. Cut every page you write by at least one-third. Stop constructing those piffling little similes of yours. Work out what it is you want to say. Then say it in the most direct and vigorous way you can. Eat meat. Drink blood. Give up your social life and don't think you can have friends. Rise in the quiet hours of the night and prick your fingertips, and use the blood for ink; that will clear you of persiflage. 
But do I take my own advice? Not a bit. Persiflage is my nom de guerre. (Don't use foreign expressions; it's elitist.)

Is it not odd how such thoughts, such events, somehow seek you out, and smite  you with their appositeness? What were the chances that I would find and buy this book?

Autobiography has always seemed to me to be a difficult genre. Many autobiographies are very boring indeed. I find I always want more than is given. I want the detail, the nitty gritty. I do not want things left to the imagination, or to be left unsaid. I like Ruth Park's, and Doris Lessing's. They draw me in, and leave me pondering. Less is more: but I want both the less, and the more. Is it possible to have both?

As I write my blog, wondering with each post what I will write about, trying not to harp incessantly on the trials of my life, and to step outside the small sealed box of my reality, to reach once more into the world around me, and to engage with it, I find such chance encounters with the realities of other lives, and the strange and unpredictable nature of coincidences more and more fascinating, and unfathomable.

Sometimes, indeed often, when I read, I am so impatient to know more that I read too quickly and carelessly, and do not catch the nuances, the subtleties. I looked up the book on the Internet, and read a review from The Guardian, thus cheating, to some extent, and found out more. I returned to the book and absorbed some more, but must return and concentrate, and try to notice what missed when I skimmed it so quickly on my first reading. How much of our early life can we truly remember? I seem to have snapshots, fixed points in time, the emotions, the embarrassments, confusions. How much was real, how much could I be sure about?

Two of my sisters have excellent recall. The elder sister, the one with dementia, now has much less grasp of reality, but I wonder how much she is still able to recollect of her childhood and past life? My next sister, C, has an amazing memory, and knows who said what to whom, and when. I wish I had this ability.

While I was at university, I wrote a diary for some years. Eventually I destroyed it, and now I regret this. I have written more about some crises in my life, such as the breakup of my first marriage, but although I occasionally glance at it, I cannot bear to read much of it. I don't suppose anyone kept my letters, and  letters became less frequent, and shorter, as the children were born, and grew and as life became so much busier. Emails restored the practice of writing, but many of them have gone.  Once I moved here, my computer ceased being private. I became very guarded about what I wrote in my emails. My records are thus very incomplete. As is my memory.

I kept the sympathy letters from when I lost my twins, and all the letters when each of my children was born. The children might be glad to have these, eventually. But not yet. And I have all the letters after Dr P's death.

Apart from the intrinsic interest of the subject, I find biographies fascinating, especially when they use the extensive correspondence which was common before telephones and later the Internet transformed the means and use of communications.

We yearn to know, and to know others. We want the meeting of minds.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

You know what they say about sagas....

Yes, they go on and on....

In the olden days of my childhood, radio serials abounded (TV not having yet been made available to the known universe) and at the end of each episode the listeners were exhorted to tune into the next enthralling episode....

It is eight months since Dr P died. It is strange how we mark off the passing of time, and note dates which seem significant. This one does, two thirds of a year. A year since I returned from Spain, and noted, with increasing alarm, anxiety, concern and sadness, the changes which had occurred in those few weeks of my absence. Having had the time away, the changes showed more clearly than if I had been there to observe them day by day. And from then on being responsible for so many decisions. And then his sudden death.

The grief is less, the shock has worn off, I am more accustomed to solitude, and the course of events has dictated how I spend my time. There are times now when I think I should write a little manual of how to prepare for such eventualities, and what to do anyway. One piece of fairly elementary advice is to have a joint back account, and to have utilities and other accounts in both names. One friend, also dealing with an increasingly frail, but still mentally competent,  husband, has now sorted out the procedures for such eventualities.

I fill my time in many ways, the housekeeping, reading, listening to music (lots of that), practising for choir, seeing friends, going to my classes, sorting out all the paperwork, which, try as I may to keep it in order, somehow finds its way into a confused state, and thinking, thinking and remembering. And wishing, and brooding. Hoping to emerge in one piece, whole and sane, in due course.

I wish I had a strategic sort of mind, but at least a couple of such  minds are on my payroll. Another offer was made, but we have made no response, either yea or nay, but rather allowed the effluxion of time to take care of it, while awaiting their compliance with the legal requirements.

This is likely to cause a certain amount of irritation and annoyance, and my immediate reaction to this is one of simple and unalloyed pleasure. This whole process is redolent with anxiety, crossness and frustration, reactions which should be shared even-handedly between all participants. I must not be selfish and keep them all to myself....

A couple of days ago I had another appointment with the counsellor. Was I angry with Dr P? she asked. Well, yes, for much of the time I was, and still am.

She recommended that I do some shouting and ranting to express and thus possibly free myself from the negative emotions caused by Dr P's selfishness, and meanness.  The car, she said, is a good place in which to shout, rant and abuse. Well, I do not drive far enough to follow this advice, and it would not be a good idea to do so while driving to choir practice.  A couple of nights ago I wandered around the house, sorting out the washing, putting the rubbish bins out, crocheting a few rows, and spoke some of my thoughts aloud.  It did not seem to do much good, as it, or something, provoked a very savage migraine, so that instead of going to my classes next morning, I spent most of the day in bed, with a hot water bottle on my head, drawn curtains, and an imperfectly functioning brain. I am much better now, just feeling rather wiped out.

Being alone now, the responsibility, blame or praise rests upon myself. So it behoves me to consider carefully, to think through all possible courses of action, to learn how to vent my emotions, and not to allow them to dictate my future. If I cannot get to my age without learning some sense, and a few lessons from life with its attendant bitter experiences, then heaven help me, and save me from myself.

Watching the film The Eye of the Storm  made me relive the process of watching and dealing with the deterioration, both physical and mental, wrought by age and the progressive failure of both mind and body. Watching the death once more. It felt like being raked all over by long and jagged claws. The tragedy, the pity, and the consequences. Feeling that my time is limited and that I must use it carefully and wisely. I must take responsibility for the rest of my life, and no longer permit myself to be tossed on the wild seas chosen by hostile or indifferent persons. I must carry my own life raft: no one will be there to throw one to me. In so far as is possible, I must make and be responsible for my own life choices. They are not choices to be rushed into. The healing process is slow and conditional on many things. it needs planning and resolution. And acceptance.

These are some of the reasons why I must fight for my future, and not submit to the dictates of others. Not to mention my desire for and passion for justice.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Populating the earth, and remembrances of times past

On Friday I flew to Melbourne to visit family, bearing cumquat marmalade for at least a few of them.  Here are some statistics. I saw my two daughters and four of my grandchildren, three of my sisters, my two brothers, several sisters and brothers-in-law, lots of nieces and nephews and their spouses/partners, and about 13 great nieces and nephews.

The main event was the christening of the most recent great-nephew, a lovely plump-cheeked big boy, who wore the family christening robe. This is about 90 years old now. The lace has become quite fragile, and I think the great-nephew put his fist through it and made a small tear. My own children wore that christening robe.

 My fourth and youngest sister gave me a bed for the first two nights. She is a creative and wonderful cook, and had found some cavolo nero at  a local fruit shop, and used it in a delicious pasta sauce. She bought it partly to get her art students to draw it. I have had cavolo nero  only once previously, in Tuscany, when I stayed overnight with friends. It is not a vegetable one sees very often, nor is it  generally mentioned in recipe books - in fact, as soon as I finish this blog post I will check my own cookery books.

On Saturday I looked after two of my grandchildren.  I saw two films, got my tax done, paid the required tax instalment, and talked a lot. And kept crocheting. It feels quite strange, in many ways, as my life is now so solitary (except when I go out to choir, classes and other things) to go from one family and social event to the next and then the next,  with so much conversation and socialising happening.

It was delightful to see so many of my nieces and nephews and their progeny. Someone did the sums and it seems that our grandchildren now total 28, with another one expected, and very likely there will be a few more to come. We have indeed increased and multiplied.

These quick trips are lovely, albeit tiring, but I think that probably I ought to give myself longer so as to spend longer with everyone, and to catch up on old friends. I keep meaning to ring them, but did not find the time.

Last night I stayed with my second sister, and was able to talk through the latest developments with her husband, my excellent BIL. This was very helpful.

My youngest sister and I went to see The Cup, a feel-good film, and this morning my sister C and I saw The Eye of the Storm, before she drove me to the airport to catch the flight home. One of the actresses in that film was in my class at primary school for the first few years. She is an exceptionally talented person and stunningly beautiful, but she now looks quite old (I thought), so I must look quite old myself now too, however much I generally manage to avoid reaching that conclusion. I don't think the past year has helped my looks, although it has made me shed a lot of weight. One must, however reluctantly, face reality. Perhaps I am not very good at this. But I try.

After the film, before we drove to the airport, C and I crossed the road and had a browse around a dress shop, which featured some very pretty clothes in the fashions of yester-yesteryear. I tried on one dress and it fitted very nicely, but we agreed it was much too young-girly a style, with its fitted bodice and full skirt. But there I was, as in the distant past, with a small waist! It gave me a big wave of nostalgia for the days when my friends and I were learning to sew our clothes and we made quite a few such garments.  We were such sweet, innocent young things!  Had we known what was to come, the consequences of our choices and decisions, how many things would have been different.

I think the clothes from this shop would look very nice on my daughters. The series Mad Men seems to have affected fashion. Better late than never?

Monday, 10 October 2011

Beethoven'd out

After a very solid week of rehearsals, the choir had our two performances of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. The performances were sold out, and the audiences went away very happy. As did the performers. My second performance was better than the first. We were all on a high, and came away glowing and floating. The power of song! However, I intend never to sing it again. It is a voice wrecker. And exhausting. Three times in one lifetime is plenty.

As I sit here typing away, listening to Portuguese polyphony (totally unaccompanied, serenely and austerely beautiful), I muse about the Big Noise school of music. Beethoven's Ninth fits into that category. Brass, drums, and heavy sounds, with lots of blaring.  Magnificent, but I don't need to hear it for another few years. My mind is still playing it relentlessly, and all the bits I had some trouble with have now fallen into my memory. It all kept me wide awake for most of last night. Then the towards morning noises started: garbage trucks, birds, car traffic and then aeroplanes. I live on a frequently used flight path, not very distant from the airport, (although to travel there by taxi costs me a good $50).

I went to the opera study group this morning, and listened to a completely different sort of music, an opera by Vivaldi, which is being staged here some weeks from now. Luscious and melodious. Full of counter-tenors. I will be going to one of the performances. The plot is a shocker, though. Husband, the king, decides to test his wife's character, and inflicts numerous extremely cruel and vicious trials and tribulations upon her. She bears it all with fortitude and true nobility of character, and emerges from these loathsome tests totally blameless, and finally he says to her, 'Just testing, and you passed'. It seems a spasm of irritation finally crosses her features, but apparently they all live happily ever after. It sounds like an ecstatically satisfying marriage between a sadist and a masochist. But I could be wrong. It could well be sheer misery.

It is not always a good idea to contemplate the nature of matrimony.

Despite having been lectured about having far too many books, this weekend I bought another four, none of which I could possibly do without. Some people just won't or cannot learn. Hopeless.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Persiflage rules, OK!

Normal life has been resumed.  After several days of house guests,  consisting of my second daughter and her children, and my friend M, they have all departed and the house is very, very quiet.

The weekend was one of continuous activity and conversation, extensive revisiting of past lives, current doings, looking after grandchildren, and actual cooking.

Having invited mutual friends here for dinner, and to see M, I cooked a proper meal (all that cooking of jam and marmalade does not count). My life has been so solitary and quiet, that the mere thought of entertaining was very daunting.

Notwithstanding, I managed to do all the cooking (apart from burning the marmalade) while looking after my grandchildren and talking non-stop to my friend M. She is a VERY good talker, and I am no longer used to having lots of conversation. Which is not to say it was not good, just that I am no longer accustomed to it. By the end of the long weekend, I almost felt the need to crawl back into my silent and solitary world, wrap myself in cotton wool, and ponder life.

I used to be a very good cook, but once I moved here to live with Dr P, my level of expertise dwindled significantly. He was an extremely fussy eater, and ever ready to criticise. The circle of friends for whom I cooked were also rather fussy, although they probably thought they were willing and ready to eat anything.  This was not so. One could not tolerate chillies, someone else hated garlic, another person was allergic to strawberries. Dr P had immature schoolboy tastes, and really only liked ham, eggs and cheese. Where food was concerned, he was risk averse. The kitchen equipment was not conducive to good cooking. We tended to eat in restaurants rather than at home, until this was no longer feasible. Perforce I stuck to basic dishes such as osso buco, and roast pork. Now, with the oven having developed extreme unpredictability and unreliability, cooking in the oven is no longer a good idea.

M and I watched the AFL Grand Final. However we were talking so much that we missed most of the action. From time to time we would look at the scoreboard and find that another goal had been kicked, and realise that yet again we had been completely oblivious to what was going on. We failed Sports Watching dismally.

Yesterday I attacked the garden,  pulled out handfuls of alstroemerias so that the flower stalks can appear and be seen, pruned some plants, did a general tidy up, and swept and washed the tiles.

I am sitting with my latest crochet,  having consulted with my expert friend about the requisite length, so I can now get on with it. She agreed my other work looked very floppy and unbecoming on me, so I need to find a good home for it. It looked quite nice on her, but I am not sure she'd wear that colour.

This friend says I have far too many books, and should discard most of them.  'Certainly not', I say, 'particularly not yet, and not unless I absolutely have to'. She is a minimalist person, I am not, and what's more, I love and use my books. She chucks hers out once she has read them, or borrows them. You never see a thing out of place at her house, but you certainly do here. As I now live all by myself (apart from stray visitors) I can do what I like. And I do and I shall. My space, my likes, my dislikes.

I did actually discard another few books, which were all collected this morning. The collectors informed me of the forthcoming Book and CD Fair. Oh dear! More temptation.

Another nine and a half  jars of cumquat marmalade are sitting glowing beautifully on my kitchen bench, as they cool. I purr at them as I pass.

And before I dash off to rehearsal tonight, I must indulge in a little skite. My granddaughter and I enjoyed listening again to Rossini's Duet for Two Cats, and then I played for her the second aria of The Queen of the Night. Mein precious Wunderkind sang along with it, and picked up a goodly portion of the melody, the rhythm, and hit the high notes. That child is only six! She obviously has one or two of my genes. Such talent must and shall be fostered.

Friday, 30 September 2011

A full life?

Well, it depends on what you mean by full! There is plenty to do. More cumquats picked, Vietnamese fried spring rolls purchased as a little treat for lunch, more copying and sorting, changing the bed linen before the weekend's visitors arrive, doing my small quantity of ironing, even the pillow cases,  organising to see friends, making a couple of social telephone calls, watching wild life programs on big cats....

There are lots of programs about big cats, so in the late afternoon I often sit and watch them, and get very caught up in the enthusiasm of the cat watchers, and their anxieties about whether any of the cubs will survive the depredations of their animal foes and competitors. Wouldn't it be nice if I could similarly hunt down those who are doing their best to prey on me? Now that would be an interesting documentary. Alas, wishful thinking.

I am crocheting, so as to keep the hands busy and my mind occupied by matters requiring attention to details but yet of relatively little import.

Having swapped the wrong printer inks for the right printer inks, I resumed photocopying, and once more fell into the mire of the inevitable muddle. I had yet another appointment with the lawyer, several days ago. I took my little suitcase full of documents, but as, after all that,  I was not required to leave them all there,  trundled off home with most of the contents.

My lawyer emailed me late in the day with a draft response - as agreed a NO response. It is a pity professional etiquette (as well as common sense) precludes me from being abusive to the other side. But when the offer made is significantly worse than the original provisions, what can they expect? Perhaps they wrote it thinking it was 1 April, as I can't see how it could possibly have been a serious offer. Enough already. We have replied rejecting their proposal.  It always pays to proof read: I (fortunately) found a couple of significant typos which substantially altered the intended meaning. Having done that, I then paid the latest bill.  There is probably no discount for my having picked up the significant typos.

Earlier this week, on the urgings of my family and my doctor,  I met the counsellor whom I saw when trying several years ago to deal with the problem of the Wicked Step Daughter (WSD). Having to give a full account of all the events since then, particularly of the last year, and describing Dr P's death, was very difficult, but has been accomplished. The counsellor expressed her view that I had done all the right things throughout, told me she was most impressed, and that my situation is indeed dire, but that I should fight on. And indeed I will. I hope seeing the counsellor will help me cope with all the tension.

The thing is, it is almost impossible to think of anything else other than my predicament and the problems of achieving a just outcome, which gives me freedom of choice, and the time to work out what will be best for me. Although I read, listen to music, study, see friends, go to choir, make the jam, go for walks, and do whatever else takes my fancy, my mind is consumed, obsessive even, and almost totally absorbed by my pain and my problems. It harps upon it all. It must be borne. But goodness me, it is like a stuck record, relentlessly repetitive, and needing intervention. Remember stuck records?

Perhaps when all this is resolved I can have a long long holiday, far, far away....

My daughter and grandchildren have arrived for the weekend, and I am looking after the grandchildren tomorrow. Another friend, M, who was widowed unexpectedly two and a half years ago, will also be here for a couple of days, and I have invited a couple of friends around for dinner tomorrow night. This is the first time I will have done any real cooking since Dr P died. It is a daunting prospect. Today I did some food shopping and have cooked the lamb Korma, and will do more tomorrow. At the same time I started another batch of cumquat marmalade, but it caught on the bottom and has had to be thrown out. Damn and blast. Obviously it was a mistake to take on too much, after all these months of inactivity. Mind and body are obviously not working effectively together.

I don't know what to do about a dessert, as the oven is not working  properly. My plans of having meaningful time with the children by making a pavlova together are obviously futile. We may have to go out and buy a citron tart, at an exorbitant price. 

Sunday, 25 September 2011


During the week there are regular activities to be done, and these keep me active and out, and with enough social activities to keep my mood up.

But weekends are somehow different. Although I go to the market, and buy the flowers, the sour dough, bread and the vegetables, and look at all the plants I would love to have, but cannot, because my tiny garden space is absolutely full, somehow the weekends are empty, and my moods plummet quite horrifically. Life seems very empty and I cannot foresee a time when everything will get better. Nor can I decide on what course of action might be the best for me.

It will be necessary to reply to the offer made. It is not a satisfactory offer, but I need guidance, and so far, I have not had the advice I need. Waiting for it makes me feel extremely fearful. This can't be helped, and of course, other people have their own priorities, and cannot be expected to dance to my tune, although I wish they would do so. Patience, I say to myself, unconvincingly. In the meantime I keep copying documents. The ink tank ran out, so I went out to buy more. The shop sold me the wrong ink tank, and won't be open again until Monday. Then my other printer ran out of ink, so I had to go out and buy some more. When I copy the documents I get into a great muddle. I forget where I was up to. This is not at all good for my psyche. I went and looked at some of the houses on the market, and came away very depressed.

In the street nearby, for the past ten days there has been a pile of shattered glass, I am not sure from what, other than evidently some louts had smashed something, but I cannot work out what it was. I kept thinking someone nearby would sweep it up, but nothing was done. Accordingly I went out yesterday with my stiff broom and brush and pan and swept it all up, but I am none the wiser as to its source.

It is quite amazing how much rubbish is tossed onto the streets, despite the fact that rubbish bins are  placed all along the streets. Hotels seem to take no notice of the empty or smashed bottles and cans  which they evidently sold to their patrons. Soft drink cans abound, as do takeaway food containers. Bus stops are littered, even though bins are only a few metres away. Such things make my transmogrification into a grumpy old person even more rapid it should be.

Years ago in Victoria on the spot fines for littering were introduced, and all of a sudden streets became much tidier. Now no one seems to think anything of discarding rubbish anywhere along the street. Despite all this alleged concern for the environment, people just scatter rubbish all over the place.

Personal misfortune and difficulties can cause one to be totally disapproving of the world at large. Or perhaps it is a consequence of the ageing process.

Yesterday I went back to the cumquat trees down the road, which are ripening at a very rapid rate. Even though it is only a few weeks since I made a batch of cumquat marmalade, yesterday I went and collected enough cumquats to make two more batches. And there are plenty more cumquats. They have been falling onto the footpaths, going Splat, and being trodden on. I hate to see them wasted. So I go and gather them, even though I feel somewhat embarrassed to be seen there with my secateurs and plastic back, stretching valiantly to reach the ripe cumquats. This evening I made another batch and intend to take them to choir, to be sold as a fund raiser for the choir. I think I have run out of friends who would appreciate another jar. (Wouldn't it be devastating if no one wanted to buy this marmalade?) I spent an hour washing and slicing the cumquats. Each cumquats has to be halved and then each half has to be cut into three. All the pips have to be removed, and soaked, so as to release the pectin. Notwithstanding all this work, there are always some pips which find their way into the soaking cumquats, and which have to be tediously fished out. 

Making jam is somehow very satisfying and soothing.  The cumquat marmalade goes beautifully with the sour dough I buy each week. However if I keep making marmalade at this rate there will be a surplus, of which I might not be able to dispose. I have now run out of jars, which is a bother. Jars can be bought, but somehow it seems an ignominious thing to have to BUY jars. This batch will have to go without beeswax on top, as I have run out of it. Recipients are supposed to return the wax to me, but somehow this never happens. Fortunately I can buy the wax at the local arts supply store, or at least I could several years ago.

To overcome the miseries which weekends inevitably seem to bring I took myself off to see films today. In the last couple of years I saw very few films. It became too difficult to get Dr P there, and his hearing became so bad he could not follow the dialogue. So I got out of the habit. I saw Jane Eyre this morning, which I thought was good, and this evening went off to the Italian Film Festival to see the new Nanni Moretti film, Habemus Papam. I enjoyed it very much, very quirky, lots of unexpected turns, and funny as well as perplexing and sad. I kept imagining how it was filmed, how they managed to find all these elderly actors to play cardinals. It was also pleasing that I could understand all the dialogue. There were subtitles, but I did not have to rely on them. This presumably means that my Italian is improving. Small mercies.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A hint of movement at the station

Early days yet, but there is some movement. Essentially nugatory, I think. But interesting. I gather I am not the only one to find this a difficult process. I also gather that there is some surprise that I have not rolled over and exposed my stomach in surrender. 

We have had our concert, which went well. I sang in the main work and then went off home, to nurse my poor sore head. All the things extraneous to a good and satisfying life sprang up and smote me again on Sunday and the migraine returned worse than ever. I crept around and it seems to be seeping out and away. My daughter helped me sort out some of the paperwork, and reminded me that all this stress is self-induced, as I am taking the action into the enemy camp. This is perfectly true, so I repeat it to myself constantly. If only my heart would stop thumping so violently.

Choir is back, not that it ever wasn't, and we are now gearing up for our performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in a couple of weeks. This is hard work for sopranos as it is very high, and vocally stressful. But I think I can manage it.

My Italian argomento yesterday went well. And today's as well. Then at the Art Gallery I ran into various people and had some good chats. There are some women who catch the same bus, so that over the years we have struck up conversations and some degree of friendship. I talked to one of them while we munched on our sandwiches, and she told me her very old mother had died a fortnight ago, and we shared the grief, and, I hope, some consolation and understanding. Another friend, with whom I travelled to Italy a couple of years ago, is having to cope with her husband's failing health and need for extra care. There are many of us at this same stage of life. Then by chance I ran into a woman I met a couple of weeks ago, at a dinner, when we found we knew many people in common, so we intend to get together soon. They turned out to be best friends with best friends of one of my sisters. Such accidental encounters are both satisfying and fascinating.

They make me wonder what it would be like to re-locate and start all over again. Not easy, I think. Unlike most of my family, who have stayed put, and have had the stability of the same environment and circles of family and friends, I have moved a couple of times, and have not found the process easy, or quick. To have to do so again would be daunting. I like being able to wander around the local shops and to know those who work there, the pharmacist, the bookseller, those who sell me the spinach and fetta triangles, the coffee shop, the stall-holders at the local markets, the neighbours, my classmates. I like the choir, the lectures, the classes, my physiotherapists, the medical practice and all the other friends I have made. The network is my own, now.

Yet one cannot see around the corners. Are there joys and pleasures there, or nasty frights?

There are times when I think that at my age, I should not have to grow up any more.

Yesterday it was seven months since Dr P died, and the wounds are still open and painful.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Cacophonies and visual tortures

The choir's concert is tomorrow night. We are singing a new work by an Australian composer, George Palmer, with Yvonne Kenny as soloist.  We were rehearsing this evening, but I came home early sick with a migraine. The general stress level in my life probably had quite a lot to do with this, having been aggravated these last few days by demands for even more documents, but the trigger was the total abortion of the concert programme. The 'serious' work is modern, and quite beautiful and dramatic, but the other half of the programme is pop stuff. With soloists who are pop singers, who writhe and gyrate and fling themselves about generally, and whose music is amplified to torture levels, and, far, far worse, uses strobe lighting. That is enough to trigger a migraine.

I had to leave, assisted by a fellow chorister, and our choral director came around and sympathised, and it is now organised that I can come on and sing the serious work, and afterwards melt quietly away.

How do people tolerate the excessive noise levels which are inflicted daily on the unwitting and at times witless public? They cause hearing damage, and tinnitus, and probably once they all go deaf, the sounds (cannot really call it music) will be turned up to even more damaging levels.

My daughter is here briefly, busy with her work, but it is lovely to have her here. Even if I did have to go out and leave her to cook her own dinner. She has gone off to bed, and so shall I, as soon as I swallow another pill. Until I fall asleep I will probably continue to brood about excessive noise, rotten taste in music,  migraine triggers, motor bike riders hooning around the  neighbourhood, aeroplanes still flying overhead at 2 am, power blackouts, the cost of printer ink, pathology results, motorists going through red lights, inability to find anything, loud drunks from the local pub, smashed glass on the footpaths, and so on and so forth. Harbingers and triggers of gloom and doom.

But I shall find strength and comfort in the beauty of other music, and the goodness and kindness of true friends and family. And the true power of song.

The cumquat marmalade I made two days ago seems to be a good batch. Good enough to eat.

I shall not falter or buckle under pressure. Not if I can help it.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Immeasurable horrors

Today is the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. Inevitably, the TV is full of memorial programs about these dreadful attacks. These programmes have been playing and replaying all week.

Inevitably I remember the day itself. I was in Italy, in Perugia, on a group tour, based in Montefeltro, in Umbria, and we had been driven to Perugia, where we were to visit the major artistic and historical attractions of the city.  Before we had time to commence our programme, our guide received a telephone call telling him of the attack. At that stage there was little information. Just the bare facts of the aeroplanes flying into the Twin Towers. Pending further information, we decided to reassemble in about an hour. I went with friends to a cafe, where we found the staff and customers watching the TV. I asked in Italian, for information, saying we had been told that there had been an attack, and we were told this was so. We were taken downstairs, where there was another TV, and the proprietor, kindly recognising that most of us could not understand Italian, put the TV on to BBC TV, where we watched the TV footage. We knew the world would never be the same again.

Late that night, back at our accommodation, I watched the Italian TV, doing my best to understand what had happened. There were technical discussions as to how the towers had collapsed. Next morning, we had only Italian papers to read, and I had quickly to learn words I had never had previous occasion to understand. It was some days before I realised what had happened to Flight 93.

I don't want to keep watching the historical footage, to see the images of people flinging themselves from the towers, to their certain deaths. We can overindulge in horror and grief. Nothing will ever obliterate the shock of the horrific and appalling images of aeroplanes deliberately flying into buildings, bursting into flames and trapping and incinerating those within, and killing and destroying so many innocent victims. But we have to remember that all over the world innocent people have suffered and died. Of such tragedies we know little or nothing. It does not mean that the suffering and grief was less. What I do know is that there is an infinite capacity to inflict violence and suffering on ordinary people, in the pursuit of higher and broader aims. We justify what 'our side' does, and condemn what the 'other side' does. Who can say where it all starts, and how it all ends?

Hating those who have wronged us, and wreaking violence in retribution is easy. It is far more difficult to say, along with the Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish,   I Shall Not Hate. What a truly noble spirit is his. I cannot say that his is the only way, nor that global and wider concerns and actions should be avoided. But retribution cannot be the only solution. As we remember the dead, the innocent victims of ten years ago, and those who have died since, we must cling to a belief in the human capacity for good, for tolerance and for forgiveness. And do our uttermost towards reconciliation and peace.