Sunday, 27 November 2011

Those recurring weekends

They just keep coming, the weekends, that is. Today I went off to the crochet clinic, where I sat diligently finishing the two front pieces of the jacket I have been doing for months now. It is quite a soothing way of using up a weekend. In the intervening fortnight I got no crocheting done. The sleeve seams have now been sewn, and I am contemplating carefully the joining of the fronts to the back. And hoping the result will fit me and look good. I don't know whether I could cope psychologically if they don't. The camel's back may well break. Let's hope not.

Today was General Household Cleanup Day, and so I went through the house to see what I could discard. If I get kicked out of my home, there are a number of things I would not want to take with me to whatever part of Siberia I'd have to settle for, but those items are far too big for me to move unaided, what with their considerable weight, and all the stairs and the stair lifts to contend with. Thus the items to be discarded included elderly umbrellas, waste paper bins, garden pots, some tiles and bricks, and firewood. And two old speakers. I bought the bricks thinking that somehow or other, unassisted, I could raise the level of Dr P's bed, to make it easier for him to get in and out of it. It remains unclear how it would have been possible for me to hold the base of the bed high enough to enable me, unaided, to slip bricks underneath the castors. The firewood was in the fireplace when we moved to this house, but we never lit the fire, and it seemed to me that it would be a good idea to get rid of the wood. There were a few tiles, which used to be decorative, but they have been unused for the past  eleven years, and it seemed the time had come to dispose of them. Some crafty items also joined the pile.

As the day progressed, various neighbours brought out their stuff and piled them on the footpath, or against my wall. I politely asked them to move them onto the kerb, the designated collection point, and this was done. One young female neighbour, never before spotted, brought out a dead ironing board. I expressed surprise that a young person had an ironing board to be disposed off, but she smilingly assured me that she always ironed her clothes. (Unlike my children.)

I was pretty excited that I had managed to notice the forthcoming collection day, as year after year I used to miss it. Although the Council warned that the collection might not occur on the Day Itself, in fact they arrived, hefty men and their mpressive truck, at about 7 pm and they took absolutely everything.

Late in the afternoon I looked down at the street from my balcony, and saw some neighbours combing through the discards. They took away an umbrella which used to belong to Dr P. Recycling is alive and well around here. It was pleasing to note this.

There are still a couple of dead radiators and a printer and scanner to get rid of. Computer thingies are not readily accepted, and it may require a special effort to get rid of these. You would think that with the manifold increase in computer paraphernalia, and the rapid going out of date that afflicts so many such machines, that councils would have got around to making special provision to help their loyal ratepayers dispose of them, but No.

There are some things which I can take to Vinnies. A woman's work is never done.

I suppose it made a change from the seemingly endless revision of legal documents and the countering of false statements made by the other side. All this resulted in a lengthy appointment with the lawyers earlier this week, and I await the next exciting instalment. It is evident that nothing will be settled in the near future.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Half full and half empty glasses

Our city has had a great tragedy. An horrific crime. There was a fire, deliberately lit, it seems by one of the nurses, who has been charged with murder, at an old people's home, and seven elderly people died, with many more seriously ill in hospital. Heroic firemen, police, staff, and neighbours combined to evacuate the home, and to tend to the victims. Imagine ending your days in an inferno, trapped and immobile in your bed. Unable to see, unable to move, unable to help yourself. A fire deliberately caused! I think of Dr P, and imagine if he had been a victim.

It is nine months since Dr P died. While this memory has been strongly present all through this day,  I bethought me of other and more immediate things, such as half full glasses. This mixture, this conflict between grief and memory, and coping with the necessities of the present tears me in two.

Thus I resort to the more trivial things in life.

On Saturday morning I felt delight, as a tiny boy pointed joyfully at the sky, crying "There's the moon."Well spotted. (I too love moon-spotting.)

My son showed me how to find the planet Mercury. I am very happy about this. I get very frustrated, because what with living on the down side of a hill and with  houses in between blocking the sight of the moon rise, I want to yowl when full moon approaches.

I am halfway through Hilary Mantel's novel Fludd, which is full of unexpected delights and surprises, and which revives many similar memories.

Today when I bought some prosciutto crudo, the young woman beside me at the deli counter complimented me on my pronunciation. I felt unreasonably delighted.

My friend rang to let me know there would be a wonderful program on Italian gardens. And I have visited one of them, at Bomarzo. It is quite a strange one and has a lopsided building on it.

My thoughts have turned to the prospect of going for a swim.

A little more order has been introduced to my documents, and this may possibly prevent their mysterious overnight increasing and multipying. I have become a devotee of coloured plastic folders.

I remembered it was the garden rubbish collection day on Sunday and put it all outside to be taken away. And no one nicked my garden rubbish bag.

I tidied up the contents of the hall cupboard, and have reduced the number of things therein. Now all I have to do is find legitimate means of disposal. There is a General Household Cleanup next weekend, but they don't really mean general, as they won't take dead scanners or printers, or electrical things like heaters. And there are two Marantz speakers which need a good home. Still, they are all now downstairs in the garage. Naturally, it immediately rained and some drops fell onto them.

The red and green alstroemeria still look just gorgeous.

In between them all, and the rampant mint, some basil is surviving.

Tomorrow, more lawyers.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Banks and the ever increasing vicissitudes of life

There are times when irritation smites you. There have been two such occasions this week.

From time to time I fantasise about online purchases. The temptation is not great. However after a lesson about iPhoto I went home to practice what I had learned, only to find that the instructor had used a more recent version than mine. Oh well I thought, I will go in and buy the whole iWork package. However it seems it is no longer available in this form. Instead, you buy bits and pieces of it on line.

I have a typical elderly female reluctance to indulge in on line purchases. I remembered the very techno-savvy husband of a friend telling me how he had a special low limit credit card to use for such purchases. Well, if it was good enough for the brilliant Steve, it should be worth doing.

The experience that has followed could well be serialised and has been more than enough to send me into a ranting and raging virago. (What is the male form of virago, by the way?)

Now here I am, a modest, unassuming aging female, who has always lived within her income, always pays off her credit card every month in full, uses direct debits to make sure I always pay my bills, and who has been a good and reliable customer of a bank beginning with A for quite some years. Surely, I said to myself, I can just call down and get an el cheapo credit card with a low limit, and explain to them I just want an el cheapo with a low credit limit for specific purchases, so that my real and ordinary card cannot be ripped off by those lurking OUT THERE somewhere in the ether to prey on innocent and stupid persons such as myself.

Off I took myself and queued in the bank. Eventually my turn arrived and I recited my request, and a form got filled in and sent off. Much to my surprise - given my existing credit history and the fact that I wanted a credit limit of $500, the request was not automatically approved. I had to supply the name of someone who could vouch for me. I did so and warned the person so nominated, who has known me a mere thirty years or so.

This morning someone from the bank rang me. Obviously they had not read the information I supplied and kept asking me stupid questions to which I had already supplied the answers. I began wondering about their literacy standards. They wanted to know how much I spent each month. I told them it was less than my income and if they wanted further details they could look up my credit card record, discover that I always paid off my credit card in full and paid most bills by direct debits. Eventually I got very shirty and told them that they were very inefficient, and had not checked the information previously supplied, and that I no longer wished to do further business with them, and to cancel my request for a credit card with a $500 limit. After adjuring them to report my dissatisfaction to their employers, I hung up.

But maybe I am just a slow learner. This afternoon I went out to buy food, and even more plastic folders in which to keep the ever-accumulating number of documents related to my current struggles. On the way I called into My Usual Bank, into which is paid my regular income, and from which my direct debits are paid, including my direct debit of the credit card payment. It took forever. I began to feel quite irritated. People kept queueing up to talk to the person with whom I was dealing, and interrupting. Time dragged on. I was sorry to be the cause of their delays. However this bank employee did not display the efficiency one might have expected. Everything took ages. Perhaps it was because that bank uses Microsoft. She too asked me for my monthly expenditure. I told her I did not know, but that as she had all my financial statements before her, she could see what payments were made to me both fortnightly and monthly, she could see all my direct debits, and also how much I withdrew in cash each month. I was starting to tap my feet, and the occasional sigh escaped me. Eventually she said all was done and we (I) would wait and see.

I'd hate to be a person on a low income. While my housing situation is uncertain, pending the outcome/result of all these legal struggles, I am on a comfortable income. Just ask my step-daughters! But we keep getting told how dreadful governments are, and how much better at everything private enterprise is, and then for two days running I find that the contrary is true. I am a good risk, but they do not make much money out of me, because I always pay on time, and thus incur no interest charges or penalty. Again I had to nominate a person who could vouch for me. I nominated my son, and remarked, 'He's known me all his life." This gentle sally provoked no reaction. Huh?

I know I am not as kind and tolerant as I used to be. Having had to deal with accounts and bills and payments after the death of Dr P, I found I was very liable to get very upset and enraged. I hoped that I had recovered from these reactions, but Alas, I found that in this regard I am still just like the tinder-dry bush in the heat of summer, and that the least little spark can ignite an horrific blaze.

So here I sit, growling away just like a lion, and feeling very very ready to bite.

When will it all end? Is all this worth being able to buy the update of iPhoto on line and download it?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Various ilks

Weekends consisting of two days of more total solitude than is comfortable, on Sunday I decided to get out of the house. The fortnightly crochet clinic was on so I set out for that, and spent several pleasant hours crocheting away in the company of similarly dedicated women, most of whom were far more competent than I am, and who were working on more difficult things. The late arrival, who was more of a beginner, turned out to be from the Isle of Man and she is an astrologer. I am not a believer in astrology, so chose not to join in any conversation about it.

I am working away on a jacket and as I kept getting wrong the number of stitches, and having had a few problems on when and how to decrease, decided to resume work on the back of this jacket, so that the other pieces could be measured against it. The back is now finished, and so I now have a model on which to base the other parts. I was all set to take it to the opera study group, but when I got there found I had somehow left the crochet hook somewhere else, and thus was forced to listen attentively instead. have now almost finished it - only a row or so to go. One of these days I will get this garment finished.

There are only a couple more crochet sessions this year.

Having already got myself into the city, I decided to hang around for the rest of the afternoon. At the art Gallery a Picasso exhibition has just been opened, and Members of the Art Gallery Society had a special free viewing available from 5.15 pm. I knew if I went home, I would never drag myself out again, so spent some time browsing around, and buying myself a biography of Maria Fitzherbert while I was at it, and then walked to the Art Gallery to kill the rest of the time, and managed to get myself a cup of tea. We all got cleared out of the Gallery and then had to queue outside so as to get back in.   It was a bit of a press, but as I queued I ran into another woman from one of the Italian classes and she was with her sister. We wound up viewing together.

It is quite an extensive exhibition, and well curated, except that in my opinion a larger size font should be used for the labels used to identify the art works.  I had to do more peering than was comfortable. The art was very interesting, especially as last year I visited the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, which had quite a lot of his early work. There is no disputing Picasso's immense talent, productivity, and technical facility in every artistic medium. However, I don't think there is any other artist who moves me or engages me less. He seems obsessed by structure, and he must have had a compulsive urge to work, work, work in every possible medium. Whereas with many artists I could happily race off with, and love to bits lots of works, I found there was not one of Picasso's that I wanted, or even that I would ever want to see again.

The National Gallery of Australia is having an exhibition of art from the Accademia-Pinocoteca Carrara of Bergamo, and I absolutely have to get along to see it. I stayed in Bergamo for a few days in 2009, and we went to see this gallery, but it was already closed, apart from an exhibition of portraits in the Città Alta.

In the news just to hand, and with a special cheerio to Frogdancer, two agapanthus buds have been spotted lurking in the jungle like conditions of the Persiflage garden. It is difficult to spot anything at present, owing to the sudden profusion of the red and green alstroemeria flowers. This is Alstroemeria pulchella, but is apparently commonly known in Australia as New Zealand Christmas Bell, although, as my gardening book says, this is a mystery as it comes from North Brazil. I have never heard it so described, but then I don't know anyone else who has it growing. I must have brought it with me when I moved here. A good description of this plant's habit would be 'invasive'.

A citrus beetle was spotted on my kaffir lime, and exterminated, and obviously some pesticide is necessary.

Work, work, work. And innocent pleasures.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A good night's sleep

That's what I need.

It was a late night last night, as I slaved away over my hot computer, completing replies, or at least drafts thereof, to refute the Other Side. I emailed them late at night and then copied assorted documents in support of my statements, sorted them out and put them into folders. I try not to allow order to descend into chaos, but chaos seems to creep up, seep up and engulf me and my efforts.

By the time I got to bed last night I was feeling exhausted and drained. After my Italian class today, I walked up to the lawyer's office, and deposited my documents. Then I went home and flopped on the couch and dozed spasmodically. I need sleep. I feel leaden, exhausted and depressed.

Takeaway dinner seemed a good idea, so I ordered it from the local Thai takeaway. It was horrible, so I feel I should call in and tell them so, and declare my intention of never patronising them ever again. The twice-cooked taste is pretty disgusting. It is almost enough to make me resume cooking for myself. This year I have done very little cooking. I buy spinach and fetta triangles, spinach quiches, sushi, occasionally cook myself a steak and have it with raw vegetables, sometimes cook a ham and cheese jaffle, or have cheese and biscuits. Nothing very fancy. I have made pesto, and had it several nights in a row. Occasionally I have toast with cumquat marmalade. All of this has made me much thinner, which is good, but also much more wrinkled, which is less good, but an apparently permanent condition. I don't care.

For a person who used to be a very good cook, it is all pretty pathetic. But there is something about cooking only for oneself that is quite depressing.

When I shop, it is difficult to buy quantities for one person. A new butcher has opened just up the road. The other day I bought a chicken sate stick, pre-marinated. I cooked it, but should have prepared the marinade myself. ONE chicken sate stick! How ridiculous.

In short, I have lost inspiration.

Perhaps at such times it is difficult to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. All the focussing on affidavits, evidence and writing it all up, interspersed by Italian homework, and choir practice, seems to take up all my energy. I am crocheting, but once again have to count stitches and rows.

At the last crochet clinic I said that this pattern I am now working on was much simpler than the previous one - the mauve 1970s style sweater which is now too big for me, and which thus needs a good home. The teacher/expert said to me "Never say it is simpler. That is asking for disaster". I said, "Well, it seems much less complicated". Never mind, I will go again this Sunday.

I have some interesting books to read, but my energy levels and concentration have plummeted way below the horizon. They had better get back up over it quick bloody smart, that's all I have to say to them.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Away and back

I had a couple of days away, and got back this afternoon. I feel somewhat whacked, and thoughts swirl around my head. They won't stay still, or let me focus on any one theme or strand.

So be it.

I drove to Canberra, stayed with a friend and spent most of my time with my son and his boys. That went well. The little boys seemed pleased to see me, and I did lots of cuddling, and conversed with wildly fluctuating levels of competence on subjects such as the calendar, the planets orbiting the sun, the occurrence of leap years, but skilfully managed to avoid string theory. (I have no idea what string theory is, not having been blessed by a scientific mind, nor do I understand parsecs.) However, thanks to being keen on history and various other significant events and developments in the history of civilisation, not to mention having done some languages, I was able to dissertate with sufficient expertise on how the months were named, and the various changes made to the calendar. It was all rather exhausting and challenging, though. Fortunately, at this stage, although I remain relatively ignorant, I still know more than your slightly above average eight year old boy. I don't know how much he took in, of course.

I also did a bit of housework for my son, and then we went to the park, where the little one flung himself intrepidly onto all the equipment  and the older one freaked out - but kept trying it - going down a rather large slide, panicking all the way down. Eek!

We did some grocery shopping, and I had to catch the little one and put him in the shopping trolley, rather than chasing him around the whole supermarket. The idea flashed into my head that perhaps I am not fit enough to do all this. My back got a bit sore.

My son kindly checked the pressure in my tyres. I blush to admit I have never learned to do this, and will do all I can to avoid learning for the foreseeable future. He is doing a good job with his boys, who are progressing well.

I saw another friend and former colleague, and it turned out to be the 30th anniversary of the death of her seven year old son. We remembered Jonathan together. He'd been born with a heart defect, and eventually had open heart surgery, but he died shortly after the operation. She later tried to have another baby, but the shock and grief caused her reproductive system to totally pack up. The surviving child, a daughter, now has two children. I often think of those of us who have lost children, such as this friend, and another, whose daughter died at 18 from undiagnosed leukaemia. We pick ourselves up when we can, and get on with life, as we must, but those wounds never completely heal.

Now that I am back home, I must turn again to replying to and refuting the affidavits. It is a case of girding the loins and gritting the teeth, and getting it all done. I am staggered by their combination of inaccuracy, lack of veracity, malice and prejudice. As Truth is my middle name, and I have the documentation to counter their false assertions and prejudices, they should wind up looking less than lily white. The things that they say do not invalidate the strength of my case.