Friday, 27 May 2011

Ignorance is not bliss

It is about time I set about improving my computer knowledge, as I have not been able to cope with documents sent to me in pdf format. While I can print them out, I cannot change their contents. So instead of getting on with the main tasks to do with my future, I am floundering around trying to sort out this technical problem. It is the sort of thing likely to provoke wild sobs, bashing brains out, swearing  a lot,  and is a substantial waste of time.

When I bought the new iMac, because of Dr P's feebleness it was not possible for me to activate the One to One subscription, which would have been some help. Now that three months have passed since his death, I can probably manage it, except that most of my time is having to be devoted to producing documents and financial records, and working out my monthly expenditure. Ugh!

I need someone to show me how to do it, kindly and patiently. And to write it all down, for future reference.

Somehow the simplest things seem to take such a long time to do. Sometimes I wonder whether senility is rapidly approaching, and there is moreover the lurking fear that I may not be the only person who has this suspicion. I hope the problems are merely the effects of grief and stress, and that they go away soon. In the meantime, I watch SBS's Letters and Numbers, only to find that my performance has sadly deteriorated. At least I can still spell, although my typing is quite appalling. For this latter defect I blame the wireless keyboard that comes with the iMac, which is incredibly tiny and makes it very easy to hit additional keys. Many of my words contain an additional letter - g in  particular and thus much time is spent correcting ubiquitous errors.

When I was younger I tried to do a typing course at night. I'd go out after feeding Stomper, leaving her to the care of her father, and would come home feeling I had not progressed very far. Stomper, being a perfect baby, did not play up for her father at all, but she stayed wide awake until I returned home. Every other night she went straight to sleep. I never did achieve a typing speed. This seemed to matter little at the time, and it was not until multi-skilling was introduced into the Public Service generally that all of a sudden we had to do our own typing, without ever having been taught properly to do so, and then get to learn computers, which were then in their very early stages, without having any very adequate training. However, it did seem that multi-skilling did not work in reverse, and thus we gained but did not lose tasks/skills.

In the meantime, I am not a pretty sight. I banged the side of my forehead on the corner of my sister's car door, when I opened it to retrieve a parcel. I now sport an increasingly spectacular and technicolour black eye. This is what comes of loving the colour purple. People are asking me what happened to the other fellow.

As loading photographs onto my blog has somehow become more difficult than it used to be, I have no intention of trying to load a photo of my black eye.

My computer obviously realised I was writing about it, and today shut itself down without my authorising it to do so. This was about the fourth such occurrence, so I rang the Apple Help, and was connected to Ben, from Devonport. The Apple Help centres,  I now know, are in Brisbane and Devonport, and while we waited for the computer to do as it was told, we had a pleasant discussion about how lovely Tasmania is.

It turned out that my computer needed its installation DVD to be re-loaded, as all manner of things had gone wrong, and for good measure, we repaired its permissions as well. It is now working much faster, and obviously I should act much more promptly when problems occur.

It has been a busy day, as I went to a film with friends, Mrs Carey's Concert, which was very good, and showed what can be achieved by wealthy private schools with excellent teachers and very talented and privileged pupils. The music education is quite incredibly good - and far exceeds what it was like in the dim distant past when I was at school.  We had dinner together afterwards, and I am just home, and preparing for an all day choir rehearsal tomorrow. Unless I rise early and am very organised, I won't have time to get to the market and buy flowers.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Let's talk about the weather, and what it does

Not for very long, though. It is COLD! Canberra and Adelaide were very cold. Melbourne was mild, but, back home in Sydney, the mild spell is over and I have had to turn on the heating. My fingers are cold, my shoulders tense up as I try not to shiver.

But the camellias have started to flower. In Canberra flowering does not start until early spring. My sasanqua camellia has been flowering for weeks, and is nearing the end of its season. When I got home there were several open blooms on my pink camellia japonica (which was planted so long ago that I can't remember its name, and the red one, which has struggled since it was planted to survive a couple of searing summers, has a gorgeous and perfect flower. I did what I seldom do - I picked them and they are floating in a couple of bowls. They are thawing slightly a part of my sad and frozen heart.

Usually I buy flowers at the local produce market, but, having been away, I have had no flowers in the house for weeks now. Dr P always thought it was a total waste of money to buy flowers, but eventually he gave up grumbling out loud about it.

Before I moved here, I seldom bought flowers, as there was usually something to pick from my garden. Here there is so little room that the only things which bloom rampantly are the self-sown nasturtiums, the red and green alstroemerias (which drop sticky stuff around), the rather insignificant flowers of the lemon verbena, and the Chinese star jasmine.

I generally buy liliums, or alstroemerias of the hybridised kind.They last well. Sometimes I lash out and get the Asiatic scented liliums. Some people do not like the scent, but I think it is delectable.

I think that once I know what I am doing, ie where I will be living, I will plant something in memory of Dr P. Something flamboyant and argumentative, and spectacularly gorgeous. I can't get him a memorial rose: I never managed to grow roses at all successfully. It will have to be able to thrive anywhere, and be something long-lived. If I stay here, a rampant scarlet bougainvillea could be just the thing. If elsewhere, a strong informal double red camellia could be a good choice. Or a blazing red callistemon.

For myself, I'd like a formal double camellia. If I get through the next year, I think something beautiful and perfect might be merited: as a recognition of my attempts to be a good and loving person, and a kind of absolution for past errors, omissions and failures.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Known and unknown destinations

Having travelled twice now in the last 12 weeks, and being about to set off again, I ponder the nature of travel, physical and emotional.

With physical travel, you decide on a destination, arrange it, and then do it. You know where you are going, how to get there, and how to return. You decide on what to do while you travel.

Emotional travel, if one can so label the process I am undergoing, has no such certainty. The journey commences without volition. You know not where you are going, how you will travel, what you will do during the process, how you will recognise the destination. Neither do you know whether the destination will be temporary, indefinite or lasting. Sometimes the weather is clear, while at other times, one is shrouded in a very murky mist, with no clear path, and where the choices are uncertain, confused, and just as likely wrong.

The moods can vary between desperate sadness, uncertainty, confusion, irritation, anger, self-pity and resentment to a dull and deadening ache. Or it can happen that the clouds lift somewhat, that company, love and friendship can bring comfort, gratitude, joy and simple pleasure. Nothing is fixed, nothing is lasting. Not yet, possibly not at all. That is how life is, after all.

My time with my friend was good, with many experiences and memories to share. We talked all the time, went to the theatre and to a concert, and saw friends and former colleagues of Dr P. She was widowed two years ago. She is a person of great courage and resolution. Her husband was younger than mine. Theirs was a immensely happy marriage, and a meeting of true minds. His death was unexpected. Dr P's death, while sudden, meant that he did not linger longer in physical and mental weakness and confusion, which was fortunate for him. While we loved each other, we were very different in age, interests and abilities. As well as the good times, there were misunderstandings, and disputes, which inevitably have muddied the waters of grief. It is impossible to say whose path has been the most difficult.

How can such things be measured?

It is necessary to attend to a few things before travelling again to see many of my family. One of my brothers is having a significant birthday. It seems that quite often men are unable to organise a celebration, and thus the task has fallen to his sisters. I will see my elder daughter and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and great-nephews. There will be discussions with my brother in law about how things are going, and what to do next. Perhaps these will make my heaving stomach settle down a little, and enable me to set to work on the next process and get it all done. I hope so.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Forays into other climes

Here I sit rugged up, with a heater nearby, and feeling quite cold. Yesterday I returned from several days in Canberra, where the temperature dropped to minus 5 overnight. Yesterday's day temperature reached only 11 degrees. Suddenly the weather over much of the southern and eastern states has become extremely cold, and there have been early and heavy snowfalls in the mountains. And it is only May.

Fortunately a combination of optimism, prudence and foresight prevented me from chucking out all my cold weather clothes when I moved here.  I took my very warmest old clothes, including my purple woollen coat, and wore many layers. But still I shivered.

It was a comforting and comfortable visit, spending time with my son and daughter and their children, and many old friends too. The autumn air was clear and bright, and the city looked beautiful.  Being with family and friends felt very healing.

I stayed with my dear friend H, in her warm and comfortable home, with an electric blanket on the bed. She has two cats, Fred and George, who are brothers. It was lovely to sit and talk together with a lapful of purring cat. These cats are well known in the neighbourhood as they range far afield and H is always getting calls from concerned and helpful people who ask has she lost one or other or both of the cats. H was widowed eleven years ago, and it was good for both of us to share experiences and emotions. (There seem to me to be many more widows than widowers. Perhaps I am encountering the wrong sort of random sampling.)

We met about 30 years ago - I had to add it up - when I was on an exchange programme at her workplace.   She is a warm, loving, competent and intelligent person, with a kind and generous heart, and has hordes of friends. She was busy rehearsing for a concert of combined choirs, including the choir I used to be in, on Sunday, as part of the Canberra International Music Festival. I went to this concert, and saw many of my chorister mates. It was a wonderful occasion. The choirs performed the Requiem by Victoria, one of my favourite composers, and sang the premiere performance of a Requiem by our Australian National Treasure Peter Sculthorpe, now aged 80. It was a wonderful work, a true Requiem, intensely emotional and deeply moving, which brought tears to my eyes.  After the concert, while lots of us were having coffee, I was able to approach the composer and tell him how wonderful his Requiem is. Once upon a time when contemporary music was played, I found it difficult to enjoy or appreciate, but I find the later Sculthorpe works to be profoundly beautiful.

It turned out that it was possible to see another old family friend. She is the widow of one of my father's old friends, and they were very kind and loving to me over the years. Her husband died 17 years ago. She is 88 now, and still lives by herself, albeit with some help from family and carer services. Essentially she manages most things, although she no longer drives. She seems to remember everything, and is writing very detailed memoirs. They will be worth reading. While I was visiting another friend who lives nearby, I asked to use her telephone directory to check the number. My friend knew her: their families were friends and colleagues, and when I visited my old friend, she told me she had known my younger friend since she was born. The connections and complexities of human relationships never cease to be amazing.

Of course, it did not take very long after my return yesterday afternoon for everything to spring up and beat me around the head and shoulders. Some things will have to wait, as I am taking off again to Adelaide. This will be much better than agonising and worrying, and letting things agitate me.

For everything there is a season, and a time and purpose under Heaven. Sufficient unto the day thereof.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Life mimicking art

Despite my lapse into abject misery for much of last week, which must surely be related not only to my bereavement and general plight, but also to the departure of my daughter and granddaughter, somehow or other I have been getting on with things.

I went to the opera study group, which had an excellent speaker on the early operas of Verdi. He commenced by saying he could do without Wagner, because he totally loves and admires Verdi. He played plenty of the music, demonstrating its quality, and made a most convincing case. He also revealed that he owns practically every single CD ever recorded of all the Verdi operas, some 1500 CDs (!) and also has 400 DVDs. He noted that his wife thought this collection was somewhat excessive, but justified it on the basis that the singers are all different. As indeed they are.

He managed to make me feel that my own CD collection is quite modest, really, although most other people might not agree. (I did manage today to get in and out of the CD shop without actually buying anything. I am not quite sure why I even allow myself to go inside...) The speaker convinced me that I should listen far more carefully to these operas, but tonight I am listening to Handel.

After the opera group I had lunch with a friend, who always cheers me up and who is a lot of fun always. When I got home I tackled the telephone situation again and it has been fixed. That's a relief. In due course I will tackle again the relatively minor matter of discovering whether any accounts have been transferred to my name, or whether things will just be switched off. At least when I talked to the telephone company they did not require a copy of the death certificate.

In the evening a Canberra friend and former colleague came here. She moved to Melbourne late last year to be near one of her daughters,  and came to Sydney for a meeting, and we arranged to have a meal afterwards. I had expected we would go to a restaurant, but it suddenly occurred to me that there was no reason why we could not eat here at home,  So I actually cooked dinner, which was rather nice, we had no restaurant noise to contend with, and had the whole evening in which to talk,  to discuss her relocation, my woes, news in general, and to enjoy each other's company. What is more, we may even make an overseas trip together later in the year. We have travelled together before, but she really likes cruises, as she hates having to pack and unpack all the time, and on a cruise you only unpack and pack at the beginning and the end. Mind you, she takes her own pillow when she travels....Whereas I feel that being trapped on board something you cannot get off at will, or slope off easily to do your own thing, would give me the heebie-jeebies. So there is something to look forward to...

I whiled away the morning by making another batch of quince jelly, which took slightly longer than I expected, and which managed to boil over while I dashed upstairs to do something, and was rather messy to wipe up. It was finished and in the jars in the nick of time. This was just as well as I had finally made an appointment with Nick, my foot and leg physiotherapist. I had not seen him since just after my return from Spain last year, and what with everything since then, have neglected all the exercises I should have been doing each day. He has put me into much better shape, and exhorts me to do yoga.

Classes resume tomorrow, there is a concert to go to in the evening, and on Friday I will drive to Canberra, and see children, grandchildren and friends.