Friday, 29 April 2011

Getting out of bed in the morning is not necessarily a good idea

Last week I went to the crematorium to discuss what to do with Dr P's ashes. I think I have decided what to do, but will wait for some time before making and acting on the final decision. Later that afternoon the funeral parlour director telephoned me. The bill for the funeral has not been paid, and they were about to start debt recovery proceedings. I explained the situation and referred them to the solicitor.

After Dr P's death I was assured that, despite the assets of the deceased estate being frozen, banks and funeral parlours do have arrangements by which funds are released to pay for the funeral.

Payment has not been made. This upset me greatly. I feel that Dr P's memory is dishonoured.

A letter came from the department which deals with Dr P's superannuation (and with my spouse benefit) asking for details of the Executors, who have not yet contacted them. This opened my tear gates and produced a huge flood.

I have sent all the bills to the solicitor, as I was advised to do, and I don't know what the hell they are doing. I am now referring creditors to the solicitor. His last communication advised, in a rather punitive way, that they will cut off all accounts as of 1 May. I have been asking for all these accounts to be cancelled, so that I can meet my own liabilities, but there is no intimation of how I am to establish my own accounts. I expect I will muddle through somehow, and in fact I have managed to transfer one of the phone accounts to my name - but not the other - because I lack legal standing. You'd expect that the merest civility, or standards of professionalism, should cause some propriety in dealing with me, notwithstanding any action I may be taking to exercise my legal rights. It seems I was wrong.

Are the executors/solicitor are being incompetent, or merely thoughtless, cruel, heartless bastards?

Yesterday the telephone stopped working. I was attempting at the time to establish an account in my name, and the systems was one of the worst I have experienced. Voice recognition systems, etcetera.

When I realised that the telephone was not working, as every number I tried to ring gave an engaged signal, I managed to get connected to the telephone company to report the fault. One of their staff tried to talk me through unplugging telephones, cables and the modem. I could not follow what she meant, and suddenly the tear gates flooded yet again, and kept on and on. The staff member stopped trying to instruct me and was most sympathetic. She assured me that all calls would come through my mobile and that by tonight the problem would be fixed. I was glad I was not the person having to deal with me. It must be awful to have someone on the other end of the phone suddenly cry hysterically and become totally incoherent as well as incompetent.

I have been reading a couple of books by widows, on their experiences. One, A Widow's Story,  is by Joyce Carol Oates, an author whose novels I have never read. Her husband died unexpectedly after a short illness. Theirs had been a long and very happy marriage, and her description of their lives, his death, her bereavement and grief, is heartrending and memorable. There is much which resembles my own experience.

I borrowed from the library a couple of books on grieving. They did not help. Too anecdotal, too general. Too wise. I returned them the next day. I know I am doing everything I can to cope, that time will heal - but  I want to rant and flail, to hit out, to upbraid, to make them hurt as I hurt, to abuse. All the academic understanding of the various stages of grief does not help. When friends commiserate, somehow it feels necessary to minimise the pain and distress.

I want comfort, to be held, soothed, and to be rid of the anger which is part (so they say) of the grieving process, and which also springs from the badly drafted will, which takes no account of nor makes any provision for the circumstances confronting me. How could he treat me so?

So I wept very bitterly and long, and there is no end in sight. There may never be a resolution, and whatever happens must be borne.

Monday, 25 April 2011


For the first time in many years, I did not cook an Easter dinner. My daughter and I decided it would be a good idea to go for a ferry ride, and Easter Sunday seemed a good day for it. We  travelled by the local ferry to Circular Quay. The ferry staff on board warned us that because on Sundays there is an all day fare to anywhere and everywhere for only $2.50, huge crowds take advantage of it, and that there were hundreds of people planning (as we were) to go to Manly. And so it proved to be.

We wasted some time by buying ourselves some gelato, raspberry for me, strawberry for my daughter and Mango for my granddaughter, but nonetheless managed to get onto the next ferry. It was a a lovely trip, and everyone was most obliging and friendly. We were part of a massive (mostly foreign) tourist expedition, intent on going to Manly, one of Sydney's famous beaches.

You might think that sensible people, when planning to go to such a famous beach (we are assured that this is so)  would think about taking a towel and swimming costumes. We did not, probably thinking that it was not warm enough to swim. We had reckoned without the boundless enthusiasm of an almost six year old girl, who stripped to her undies, fortunately before wetting all her clothes, and then splashed around with similarly minded children, while we sat on the beach, soaked up the ambience, fresh air, chucked stale crusts to the rapacious and agile seagulls, and enjoyed the sunshine. It is an ocean beach, but yesterday the only waves were those generated by the littlies. We managed to get onto the returning ferry, packed like the proverbial sardines, and then missed the ferry back to our area by a whole minute, and had to take a bus instead.

Today was Anzac Day, which coincided with the public holiday of Easter Monday. Thus  tomorrow is another public holiday. It rained overnight. We wondered what to do today, to entertain the child, and then decided we would go to the Art Gallery. This was a classic example of Not Thinking Things Through. The bus we caught goes to the Art Gallery. Not today, however, at the time we chose to travel. We coincided with the Anzac Day March, which goes all the way along a main city thoroughfare, George Street. It was not possible to cross George Street or to reach the Art Gallery. So we stayed and watched the Anzac Day March. This is something I had never done before. Years ago I had gone to the Dawn Service in Canberra, as my choir was singing the National Anthem. I am not at all militaristic, and have had little sympathy for commemorations or celebrations of war. I find it appalling that world leaders have been so willing to unleash mass slaughter and suffering on their own populations and on those of other countries, and think very many - although by no means all - of the wars which have been fought over the centuries cannot be justified.

Although my father was in the Navy, and fought in the Second World War, around Papua New Guinea, he never really talked about his experiences during the war. We knew he had been in the Naval Intelligence service, under General MacArthur, until he asked to go into active service, during which he was wounded, and had been washed overboard, lost his glasses, which he had to replace at his own expense, out of his far from lavish naval pay. I remember him in uniform, and there being a gun in the house for some time, but he did not talk about it to us children, and I don't remember his ever taking part in Anzac Day remembrances. Maybe we were just too young to take it all in - I was a war baby, after all. Anzac Day was always been notable for the amount of drinking that went on after the March - and this still is a feature. To some extent Anzac Day fell into some disfavour, but then its popularity revived.

My father would have been 100 this year, and there are very few survivors now of the Second World War. My two uncles also served in the Armed Forces, and they too are dead. Even the Vietnam War is a long time ago. My husband did not serve, being an Enemy Alien, and only 15 when the war began.

We found the March very moving: there were so many  different groups participating, and so many old men, and women, and obviously much community involvement in the event. It took a long time, and the crowd was attentive and responsive. We all paid tribute to the men and women of Australia who served their country.

I am glad we were there today.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Active Grandmother and how to be kept occupied

Becoming accustomed to my present condition is a lumpy and bumpy process. It jerks and lurches. Last week I was starting to feel as though some degree of recovery was possible. But the nature of things is that that wild lurching in all directions happens.

My daughter and granddaughter have been with me, and that has been good. I cared for my granddaughter while her mother went off for a couple of days hard work. I worked hard myself, as it is years since I did a couple of days of child-minding all by myself, and it must be admitted that I am rather out of practice. Living with an elderly husband, whose tolerance for small children not biologically related to him was, shall we say, minimal, did not help. He growled at them.  However, she is a dear little girl and I dote upon her, and she loves me. She loves her pretty dresses, and swirls around in skirts, loves purple and pink, and dress-ups and decorations in general. Eventually I may manage to persuade her that it is not necessary to be a princess or a fairy or to wear pink in order to be feminine. Softly softly catchee monkey.

We went out for coffee and gelato each day (we are now regular customers), and went to the park, and read stories, and she watched TV and DVDs. Intermittently I struggled with the vicissitudes of my present existence, but it was good to abandon them in favour of a rich fantasy life and for some dedicated grandmothering. We played Snap, she became a playful kitten and did a lot of miaowing, drew quite a lot and made things out of plasticine. In fact there are plenty of bits of plasticine here, there and everywhere. The cushions are all over the place, and nothing stayed tidy. She got up before me and helped herself to Coco Pops without milk, and generally managed to get through an astounding quantity of food.

I never really believed that my kids would like anything I had taken a while to get to enjoy myself, but unlike my fussy grandsons, who are carbohydrate junkies, my granddaughter and her brother are remarkably adventurous eaters. My grandson decided from a very young age that if someone else were eating something, it must be good, and he was entitled to his fair share. My granddaughter is pretty good too, and, in addition to sushi, cutlets and chicken legs, polished off large quantities of raw vegetables: carrots, celery, capsicum, snow peas, beans, cucumber, tomatoes, broccoli, although she totally avoids potatoes. I was impressed. Having watched my mother diligently boiling and then mashing vegetables for the successive babies, and never believing that it was in any way palatable, I was a lot less adventurous in what I offered my own children. It has to be said that serving up raw vegetables for the evening meal is a remarkably labour saving method of feeding children.

I read her stories, and we investigated what she has been learning at school, and I am very impressed. She certainly understands what she is doing and learning, and wants to talk about it. She has twouble pwonouncing her Rs, and so I wead her Margaret Atwood's book Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes, and last night we did lots of pwacticing of words starting with R and she wepeated words like red, run, river, rabbit, rodent, rose, radish, ridiculous, rubbish, rifle, racing, and rhubarb weally vewy well. She knows how to do it now, and knows she knows. And her mother and I are teaching her to say So and So and I instead of Me and So and So. Never let a chance go by.

She missed her mother, though, and was very glad to have her back yesterday evening. So was I. They have gone home, but are coming back on Friday and we will have Easter together. That will be nice. Tomorrow I buy Hot Cross Buns. I am a purist. I don't eat Hot Cross buns before Good Friday. Standards must be upheld.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Bracing thoughts

Last week I had to have a medical test, and decided to hang around until the results were ready. Just in case they showed an inoperable brain tumour. Or some such. They did not. All is clear. 

So there were a couple of hours to kill, and they were killed by a lengthy browsing of the nearby trendy shops. It is a few years since I saw any of them. There used to be a good fabric shop, from which I bought much of the fabric which still lies awaiting a good occasion, and a lovely button shop. Having done such an extensive tidying up, and thus knowing full well how little I need either fabric or buttons, I gave all such temptations a miss.

I found a bookshop, where I picked up Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn.  I did not remember having read this, so promptly bought it.

Later, at home, I raced through the book, found I had indeed read it, but could not remember very much at all, and then kept re-reading it for the next couple of days, to try and get all the clues and work out what had really happened. As a reader I am too hasty, impatient, careless, and fail to take note of the significant parts. Such rueful but realistic reflections make me wonder whether these failings are characteristic of myself overall. I have a daunting and gloomy suspicion that this is indeed so. My school reports probably made comments like "Fails deplorably to observe what is going on" and 'No grasp of details" and "Too wrapped up in her own little world". No one ever kept my school reports and so I shall never know for sure the awful truth.

After the book purchase, I continued the browsing. 

I found a shop which sold cards. One immediately spoke to me. 

Aha, I thought, this is what I need. I bought it, took it home, removed the cellophane.

The fine print below the figure states:

Message inside card reads:

 Pull yourself together. 

This is what was inside.

What a tease!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Moping and maudlin meanderings

No, that's just a tease. I do like alliteration. And flogging myself, as well as dead horses.

I am home from my Thursday activities, the other Italian class and for the Art Gallery lecture. I missed these last week because of the nasty migraine, and the intervening week has been characterised by lethargy, self-pity, and inattention to essential activities. In response, my stress levels dwindled to tolerable levels. Yesterday I wrote the long-forecast letter to my BIL, and accordingly the levels shot straight back to being extremely unpleasant and disagreeable. Oh well! I am putting together yet another package to go to the Other Side.

Just to illustrate, with chilling realism, how stress, grieving and other moaning-causing conditions can affect efficiency and effectiveness (adversely, of course), I have been typing all these things on my old iMac. This is because it has my CD-Rom Italian dictionary, which the new iMac spat out, and Word. While I was house-bound, I was not able to go and learn about Pages, on the new iMac. My dear daughter, the racing photographer, during her last visit helped me buy two external disk drives, which she then connected to the two computers. Since then, the old iMac has been slower than the wet weeks and the long-drawn out grieving process, and the time between mouse strokes and effective action has become truly tedious. You could file all your nails while waiting for action, and use quite a few rude words too. Therefore the typing of the correspondence, combined with the constant need for editing and correction of typing errors, took an exceedingly long time. Just like my mental processes, in fact. Is the old iMac telepathic?

Now, one reason I kept the old iMac was that it has Word, but also many other things like my pre-new-iMac photos, and I did not want to lose any of these. Almost as soon as the new iMac was up and running, and as soon as we managed to get the wireless connection working, the old iMac conked out. It turned out to be the logic board, a mysterious part of which I had never heard. I sent it off to be repaired, at hideous expense. It should be clear from this decision that I am not an economic rationalist. Perish the thought.

When, over a month later, it was returned, it suddenly occurred to me that the new iMac has a thingy called the Migration Assistant. This makes the computers talk to each other, and instructs it to copy everything on the old one across to the new one. Programs, documents, photographs, the lot. Somehow or other, I managed to use it, and the old data was sent to a new user on my new iMac. This was undoubtedly a good thing. The next minute, almost, the logic board died yet again, probably from shock, at the user having managed to do this little magic trick. Fortunately, the repair job was still under warranty, so they came and took it away again and fixed it. After another month. Around here, evidently, concepts such as the speed of light have little relevance.

Once it was back, I fell into the habit of typing on the old iMac. Obviously I had forgotten I had transferred all this stuff to the new computer, and therefore had Word.

Yesterday, after doing all this tedious typing and editing, which reactivated the previously described stress levels, it suddenly occurred to me that I was not thinking very effectively, or using my brains. Suddenly, I asked myself why did I not go and activate the other user on the new iMac. So I did. It has Word, the Italian dictionary, and it works  much faster.  It is obviously time to activate my Apple One to One lessons, and have a go at learning how to use the new you-beaut machine more effectively. Now that I am no longer housebound, it is high time I did so. In other words I am fast running out of excuses for inaction, stupidity, and typing mistakes.

The package to the Other Side will be sent tomorrow, just as soon as I have typed a list of the contents. You can't be too careful. Today's mail had another couple of overdue bills. You can see the circumstances under which torturers learn their loathsome trade.

My daughter and her children have been with me all week, and I have been doing a lot of child minding, with plenty of cuddling, which has been good all round. Although I am not being a very entertaining grandmother quite yet, let alone a good cook, we have had a very pleasant time. My daughter has been working very hard and long at her photography, and her talent and perseverance are most impressive.

While the traditional and time-honoured babysitter, aka the TV, was on duty this afternoon, I made quince jelly. It made me feel better, it looks and tastes good, and is the most delectable colour. The grandchildren really like it. However, the yield was only seven small jars and I may have to make some more. Quinces are in season. Hail to the future.