Friday, 29 July 2011

Things that go bang in the night

There was a power blackout late at night a couple of days ago. After enduring my usual tossing and turning, while hoping sleep would pop up and bash me into unconsciousness, I was awakened by the sound of an alarm going off, and something, never to be identified, going Beep, Beep, Beep.  I got up and peered around, and noticed that the time showing on the clock radio was an hour behind my watch. Having adjusted the time, I went back to bed.

Before sleep could hit me again, suddenly music began playing. I went downstairs and discovered that the CD player had started, all by its little self. I switched it off and went back to bed.

Some time after that, the room was illuminated from below. Yet again I went downstairs, and found that the computer was re-starting itself, and that the mouse and the computer no longer loved each other, and had abruptly abandoned cohabitation.

By this stage a certain amount of irritation was setting in. I flapped about with the mouse and finally got reconnected, and put the computer back to sleep. The computer was far more willing to go back into Sleep Mode than was my fractious body.

It was not possible to sleep in, as I had to get to my Italian class, and once there I found out that I was not the only person to have suffered from mysterious nocturnal electrical disturbances.

However all seemed well, until an email from the solicitor arrived later that day, and I went to print it out. It was not all good news, as I am being billed monthly, and the shock of the bill was about equivalent to the power surge and/or blackout.  Never mind, I bravely thought, no pain, no gain, and one must just hope for the best.

The printer would not print. Oh Oh! Maybe the power thingy had upset it a trifle. I looked at it more closely. The On switch was not. I pressed it. Then I pressed it again. It remained unilluminated. I checked the power point, and did some jiggling there. The printer is definitely dead. Fortunately I have another printer connected to the old iMac, so at least I can still print from that. It seems rather strange that one printer should go bung, while the other one still works. I dare not complain about this, though.

At some later stage it occurred to me that my contents insurance might possible cover the replacement of the extinct printer. So I telephoned them. Not necessarily, said the insurance. Printers, they said, don't conk out because of a power surge. They are plug-in sort of beasties. (Are they?) What you must do, the insurance said, is ring your energy supplier and ask them What Really Happened that night.

So yet again, I had to grapple with a telephone menu system and select from numerous options until I got an actual person. They will check it for me, they said. It could take ten days or so.

It is probably inadvisable for me to sit around waiting for them to give me any news, which, given the way fate has been bashing me about for quite some time, is not likely to be good. Now is the time for all good whoevers to go out and buy a new printer. Just the sort of thing you want to do after getting Round 2 of the legal bills. Choosing technological things is not my idea of fun. Then there will be yet another manual to misunderstand.

I should not have gone out and bought a new shawl the previous day. Just asking for trouble, wasn't I?

Nor should I indulge in lamentations on the computer. Now motor bikes and scooters are being raced up and down the street, making a very loud noise.

Saturday, 23 July 2011


Apart from it being windy, cold and wet, the wettest July ever, or in living memory, it seems, and the fact that (surprise?) the Murdoch empire has been shown to be remarkably corrupt, things here are lying rather dormant. Or can you say 'rather' dormant? I use the word because, although things are being done, it is all preparation, hard work, tedious checking, painful composition, losing things and taking forever to find them, and hoping this is all to some purpose, and will achieve the desired result. And who can say?

I am having to copy documents, double check everything, try and hold it all in my mind, and set it out as clearly as possible. It is not at all enjoyable, of course, but must be endured.

I have zapped off a draft for scrutiny and now await feedback. It is likely that many more hours of revision and clarification will be needed.

It is rather worrying that I keep losing things. We had asked the executors what they wanted done about a particular account. They did not reply, but the direct debit bounced. I can only conclude that the credit card has been cancelled, and that they do not wish me to continue this account. So I have now cancelled it. To do so without penalty I have to supply a certified copy of the death certificate. It took me several hours of repetitive and increasingly frantic searching before my tired brain reluctantly dredged up a memory of putting all these documents in quite another place altogether. Why did I put them downstairs in the sideboard, I hear you cry? God knows. I have been out to the stationery shop to get more plastic folders, so that I can have yet another (and I hope not totally futile) attempt to keep my papers in order. At these times I wonder, and probably not without cause, whether I have incipient dementia. My children, just don't answer this query. I don't want the answer to this. Not yet, anyway. And probably none of you are ready to care for me in my declining will probably in due course have to gird your loins, etcetera....

I managed to cancel another account, and after having to get very stroppy with the unfortunate person on the other end of the phone, she checked with their administration section and discovered that the account had already been cancelled. She enquired whether I wished to have it transferred into my name. Unable to contemplate the horrific possibility of ever having to go through their menu system ever again, I declined. Now I have to work out another telephone plan. I need first to gird my loins and grit my teeth. And probably embark on psychological counselling first. What I really need (are you out there, my children?) is an offspring who can do it all for me. But they are pretty busy themselves. And I am a grown up person. Allegedly independent and capable. Ha.

Well, I rang up, and fortunately, this particular telephone service was quite reasonable and helpful to deal with. So rather than stuff around indefinitely, and floundering around trying to choose a plan, I just opted for one. I had discovered that having cancelled the previous account, I could not make any interstate phone call. I could still make local calls. Just why this is so escapes my understanding. It will be a couple more days before I can ring interstate.

No wonder people have secretaries and accountants. It seems that one should write down every single fact and circumstance, never throw anything away, and have a master list of where things have been - or should have been - put. And thus not have to rely on an already overburdened memory, which actually used to be pretty damn good. There is enough to worry about without the fear of dementia. Maybe I should use my iPod and write down every single thing I do? I'd probably then misplace the iPod.

Then there is bad typing. My fingers keep hitting the wrong keys and inserting more letters than the words in question actually possess. Many more letters, in fact. Mostly Gs.To some extent I can blame the iMac keyboard, but the real reason is me.

I have had some feedback from my BIL. Unfortunately, he sent it to me in handwritten form on my draft, but he emailed it to me in PDF format and it is upside down. I cannot discover a way (is there one?) to turn it the right way up, so have had to print it out, and not all his comments are legible.  It all has to be done promptly, as in about ten days we will be in court for the preliminary hearing. My heart is sinking and gloom pervades my every pore.

There is this to be said about dreadful weather, ie, that there is very little incentive to go outside.

In the meantime I have been going to our dress rehearsals. The concert is tomorrow and it seems it will be a good performance. The music now seems to sing itself, and it is wonderful to be  able to let the high notes fly. I do love being a soprano. Even if no one else does, I like the sound of my own voice. Tell that to the judge.

Friday, 15 July 2011

It is not purple, but....

I was rampaging through my wardrobe the other day, searching for the outfit I had made last year for a nephew's wedding. It needs to be altered, to fit me for my niece's wedding in August.  I came across a genuine antique from my past.

It was at the very back of the wardrobe, where things I am extremely unlikely to wear ever again hang dolefully. This particular garment must be a good 20 years old.

I dragged it out. It is a size 10, and it fitted me. I stroked it and purred. I liked what I saw and felt.

It is a fur jacket. A rabbit fur,  in red fox shades.

I love fur. It is so soft and smooth, so warm and snuggly. So tactile.

Years ago I used to have a lapin fur coat, which I wore until it fell to bits. It was just the thing for the Canberra winters. Furriers used to have special sales in the Albert Hall. Ah, such temptation!

Fur garments fell into disrepute, as animal liberationists campaigned vigorously against them. Furriers closed down in droves, and there was not a fur garment to be seen.

Although I observed some years later that in Europe there were still furriers and garments which were absolutely elegant, gorgeous, and glamorous. Such luxurious shops. They are not the sort of shops you'd go into for a little browse around. Much too posh. One stood gazing at the windows, and lusted after them.

Now fur trims on garments are to be seen here and there, and not all of it is faux fur. Fur is creeping back, it seems.

Sydney's climate is not really one which can justify the wearing of fur, although this mid-July is doing its best to disprove this theory. And the Canberra overnight temperature yesterday fell to about - 6.3.

In August one of my many nieces is getting married in a very cold place. But a fox-coloured and snugly fitting jacket won't go with the purple silk outfit.

My wonderful physiotherapist, Barbara, was rather teary at this week's appointment. Her cat, her beloved pet for 21 years, had cancer and had to be put down.  We exchanged memories of sitting and stroking lapfuls of purring cats.  And hugged and kissed each other, in mutual comfort.

It reminded me of having to put down my lovely cat Meggsie, who also had cancer and who was totally miserable. I took him to the vet, and held him as he died, then came home, and flung myself on the bed and wept. Dr P and I were supposed to be going out that night, but, unprompted, he cancelled the outing, and let me weep. Such memories re-surface unexpectedly.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Light relief from eyes out on stalks

No rest for the wicked, none but the brave deserve the fair, God helps those who help themselves, and  tomorrow I am going to stop procrastinating.

If I were a more methodical person,  I would not be in this muddle of paper, calculations, summaries, conceptual confusion, or call it what you may. Not only must one calculate what has been spent, but one must gaze into the unknown future and make some some estimates, which can vary from wild guesses to  relative probability. Where's the crystal bowl when it is needed? Will I need plumbers, electricians, painters or handymen? Last year we failed to get the air conditioners serviced, so this year it ought to be done.

I am the sort of person who chucks receipts into a box, and sorts them out only in cases of the very direst necessity. I do note down most items of expenditure, I check my credit card statements, and I always pay my bills on time, and do not run up debts. However, I cannot keep figures in my head, and nor can I move them easily around my mind and memory. This means that when I do (try to) sort them all out and make logical, tidy and methodical summaries, things fall out of my mind and I tend to forget what was there. I wish it were not so, but alas, it is indeed so, and I suppose I can always add age and decrepitude to a naturally deficient intellect when it comes to numbers. But perhaps a truer explanation is a simple conviction, born out of centuries of conditioning, that I should not have to worry my pretty little head about such matters. Logically and rationally, I do not believe this for a single second, but oh, how I would like it if someone else did it all for me. Well, this is never going to happen, and so I strive personfully to keep my affairs in order.  When this task has been satisfactorily accomplished, perhaps I won't have to do it again for the foreseeable future.

I buy plastic folders and envelopes, so as to maintain some semblance of order, but the number of folders required seems to multiply exponentially. Periodically it is necessary to spread everything out all over the floor, and sort them all, and then hope for the best. Another of those little voices insists that there are better things to do with one's life, and suggests cunningly that taking a break with some music in the background and a good book is a far preferable way of squandering time. Oh yes!

The reason for all this torture is an impending appointment with the lawyer. All my financial details and circumstances must be revealed to whomsoever they may concern.

The appointment was actually scheduled for yesterday, but when the lawyer rang to confirm the appointment, I confessed that I had not finished all the financial summaries. Accordingly the appointment was deferred until Monday. Just do the best you can, she said soothingly.

So while the cleaners vacuumed, I kept a-sorting. Most things are now in some kind of order, but there is much addition to be done, and forms to be filled in.

Analysing the patterns of expenditure, I note that small and frequent food shopping has replaced the large weekly shopping expedition. Petrol costs me very little now, and it is not worth chasing discount vouchers. Pharmacy costs have fallen hugely. Overall my cost of living has gone up, now that the expenditure is borne by myself alone.

Nonetheless it seems a good idea to indulge in little treats. I have bought some new clothes. The sales have been on, practically nothing fitted me any more, and this year there were so many purple clothes being sold. The contents of the wardrobe now reveal an even more extensive range of purple garments.

I continue to buy CDs and books - in fact, I cannot seem to stop, but I am managing to read more, as there are fewer interruptions. At the second-hand market today I found the Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, for a mere $5. It was a bargain. Cleaning costs are less, as I do not make very much mess. I keep buying wool, and am full of good intentions about using it. Anyway, there has been a month long wool sale, which simply cannot be ignored. Such bargains - the yarns are so gorgeous. How can such temptation possibly be resisted? Not many people were trying to resist, judging from the lengthy queues at the cash register, on each occasion that I popped in to see what I myself could not resist. Hordes of happy females were there, eagerly examining wools, selecting colours, with many a helpful suggestion from other shoppers, poring over patterns, and finally leaving laden with large parcels. What a sisterhood there is of crafty people. It is wonderful. Maybe yarns emit a pheromone which is irresistible to certain females? There has to be some sort of scientific explanation!

In fact I have just completed a large blanket made of crocheted squares, which will go to the ABC's Knit In annual event.  The blanket looks quite good. Enough squares remain for half of another rug.  Oh dear.  More and more work, and more wool purchases. All sorts of spare squares sit in boxes in the cupboards, awaiting the chance to be used up in some sort of compatible mix of squares.

Last week I brought out some fine blue mohair I bought in New Zealand in the late 1980s, during a visit there for a couple of political science conferences. For years I have been wondering what I could make with this yarn, and now I have started making a shawl. The pattern is easy, and can be done on automatic pilot. Here's hoping it all works, as mohair is very difficult to unravel. Of course, I don't know how much yarn will be required, as I am adapting a pattern. Sweet mystery of life.

Intermittently I will resume work on the wisteria/jacaranda coloured wool with which I am crocheting a jumper. I am up to the shaping of the second sleeve, and then must join all the pieces and do the edgings.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Another year older

It was my birthday on Monday, the glorious 4 July, and as I did not want to be all alone, I took off for a few days in Melbourne, where my three sisters took me out to lunch. Somehow, sisters are much better company than are brothers. My time and energy both being finite, I now confine my efforts to reciprocal relationships. They are so much better for the psyche. Perhaps next year my wingspan might increase.

I stayed for two days with a friend from Canberra who has moved to Melbourne to be closer to her daughters. We were colleagues as well as friends, and have travelled together, and never run out of things to talk about. She has to settle in to a new environment, and remarks that she does not know anyone who is her own age, and we (rather ruefully) remark upon the process of relocation and resettlement. It being far too soon for me to know what will become of me, or where I should eke out my (declining?) years, it is interesting to observe how others go about it. At this stage, all I can see is a large variety of difficult adjustments.

And then there is always the weather. I was a good grandmother, and went to watch my grandson's soccer match. It was absolutely freezing weather, and despite wearing three woollen layers, an overcoat, two pairs of socks, hat, gloves and a pashmina, I shivered violently for almost two hours. It was worse than the two Canberra soccer games I attended a few weeks ago. My grandson's team won, and I enjoyed the game, even though it took another hour for me to become warm. We had a pleasant afternoon, with birthday cake and candles, made successfully despite the electric mixer almost dying. Fixit has taken it (the mixer) apart and cleaned it out, and it may struggle on for another while. Yet again I blessed the day (many years ago) that my friend gave me the recipe for this now fabled buttermilk spice cake. We were a very sociable mob, in my workplace, and shared and enjoyed many recipes.

My friend and I went to the exhibition of Viennese Art and Design at the National Gallery of Victoria, which was terrific. As we arrived just after opening time, it was not overcrowded, and we were able to amble around at our own pace, and get a good look at everything. My friend bought me the catalogue as a birthday present, which was very kind of her.

The disadvantage of being away is being deprived of time on the computer. Now it is time to catch up with what the rest of the world has been doing.