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.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011


Yesterday I was poking around my drafts and my edits to see whether any might have been worth further embroidery, and noticed that the post on my niece's wedding had vanished. It must have happened inadvertently, so I re-posted the draft. Great events should be on the record.

Even though the post had apparently vanished, I actually found all the comments on the post, in a part of Blogger I had never previously looked at. Talk about doing so many things in a half-baked way. At least finding those comments proved I did actually post it. And when I posted it again, from my drafts (how did it become a draft when it had been posted?) all the comments jumped back to the end of the post. Most mysterious.

It was rather a bad day, as I turned up for a doctor's appointment, only to find it was for today, and then went to the dentist, only to be told on arrival that because I had an unexpected appointment a few days ago, they had cancelled this one. I am SURE that they did not tell me this, but acknowledge that I must have written down the date of the medical appointment incorrectly. My mind is not quite as high-powered as it used to be, I ruefully acknowledge. I am doing my best to rectify this.

Never mind. I walked to and from the dentist, and felt ineffably virtuous in consequence.

The correct appointment was with the dermatologist, and I had a couple of thingies removed, and various others squirted with liquid nitrogen. The afflicted parts are not a pretty sight, and they had to stay dry for 24 hours after the cutting out procedure, which meant my hair was  a total disaster. My vanity is thus exceedingly offended, and I hate that.

Like lawyers and dentists, dermatologists know how to charge. What is more, I am now evidently worth having as a patient. There is value in everything and everyone, it seems. Come back in six months, they said.

The doctor's appointment today was to assess how I am going, and what, if anything, to do about it. I did not expect this to be a comfortable appointment, as the tears inevitably gush forth. It is for my own good, I expect. Partly I think it is a good idea, and partly I think I am doing as well as can be expected, and am doing all I can and should be doing. Evidently it is not enough. One of these days there will be memory transplants or replacements, which would certainly be discombobulating.


Having seen the doctor this afternoon and obtained another prescription, I hastened to the chemist. They greeted me somewhat bashfully. " We found your prescriptions" said the pharmacist, "underneath this little tray."

Halleluia and Glory Be!

So I had not dreamt it, or imagined it! It really happened. I did leave them there as I dashed off elsewhere. My memory is not (quite) as bad as I feared...although there are a number of books which I cannot locate.

Trivial though it may seem, it is some small consolation.

And I have done my Italian homework, started on my next argomento, endured an hour of gridlock in the city, sewn in most of the ends of the wool in the almost completed sweater (one sleeve remains to be sewn in) and I think/fear it might be slightly too large and that the sleeves are too long, and if that is the case what am I going to do about it, or with it? Raffle it?

I think the Productivity Commission should know about me.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Chance and coincidence

Last night I went with friends to the annual memorial dinner of an organisation founded to defend civil liberties, with a local comedian as MC, who was very off-colour, and not at all funny, and the main speaker a journalist (reasonable). It was a fund raiser, to honour two of the founding members, both now deceased. Dr P was also a founding member, so that was an additional reason for going.

It was held in a very large Chinese restaurant, and it was very noisy, so conversation was difficult. We had a couple added to our table, whom none of us knew, but when I talked to them I discovered they were originally Victorians (as I am) and we knew many people in common, and as they were gregarious and very interesting we had a most interesting and enjoyable talk. They knew my brother and his first wife, and are good mates with very close friends of my sister, the mother of the bride. Ah, the amazing nature of chance and coincidence.

Today, to ward off some of the pervading gloom, I went out. Firstly, off to the local second-hand market. All of a sudden, probably due to the arrival of spring, there are many more stalls. The market was teeming with people with lots of little children. There is an amazing assortment of (in my opinion) absolute junk. Many clothes, all sorts of tizzy and fake jewellery, as well as Indian jewellery, plants and flowers, food stalls, DVDs, old machines and furniture, crockery, socks, nuts, buskers, old linen, pictures and photographs. And second hand books. Today there was even a wool stall. It is fun browsing through the books, and you never know what you might find. There is the usual array of popular fiction, and of various biographies, and there is also quite a lot of history. I have got to know some of the stall-holders, so am evidently a customer worth cultivating.

Today I found the biography of Michael Collins that I have been after for a while. Then I found a large and glossy book in Spanish on the Prado. I have bought it, but won't pick it up until next week, as I was heading into the city, and the book was too large to lug about all day. My Spanish is pretty basic, but lots of things can be guessed - a reasonable knowledge of Italian is a big help here. Week after week I tell myself I should not be buying any more books, but invariably I take no notice of myself.

From there I went into the city to attend the crochet clinic. Today there were quite a few of us, most of whom were doing incredibly complicated work. I took along the sweater I have been making from a very 1970s pattern, in a pretty mauve wool. I started it last year. As the pattern was badly written, there were many puzzles to be deciphered.  I was at the crochet clinic the day before Dr P died, and went again a couple of weeks ago. Today's work was the joining of all the pieces. The seams need to be pressed, the sleeves have to be joined to the body, and then there is some final edging to be done. It looks as though it will fit, and may look quite nice. In between doing this magnum opus, I have been making more squares for next year's Knitting With Love, and intermittently working on a shawl in fine mohair. The shawl may not work out, as I think a bigger hook would have worked better, as well as a heavier yarn. Perhaps it may have to be unravelled.

Once the clinic finished I went off to David Jones to see their spring flower display on the ground floor. The place was absolutely packed, with tourists, mostly Asian, all taking photographs with their phones, of themselves as well as of the flowers. It was the most spectacular display, of orchids, native flowers including Gymea lilies, roses, lilliums, ferns and strange plants I could not identify - one was a huge purple allium, I think.

Then I went to a film, The Help, which I enjoyed very much. I recommend it. I kept puzzling about one of the actors - eventually recognised that it was Alison Janney, who played CJ in The West Wing. Sunday afternoon seems quite a good time to go to a film.