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.