Saturday, 31 December 2011

Addio al passato

As the evening moves inexorably to night, to the midnight when the New Year commences, I sit feverishly urging it on. Haste, haste. It cannot come soon enough for me. Let it be over.

It has been an absolutely awful year, and I long to be rid of it, and hope fervently that 2012 will be better.  Not that this can be certain, of course.

I hope I will cease to plummet to the depths of emotion, that the swings into the abysses of sorrow, grief, rage, resentment, self-pity, exhaustion, and stringent endeavours will all diminish, and that from all of this will emerge a better future, a happier person, with hope and resolution to make the best of my remaining years, alone.

There have been so many times when I have absolutely doubted my capacity to emerge from this morass of emotions, this buffeting of competing emotions, this negation of life, this almost despair at ever emerging into the light, this forced immersion into the world of bereavement. Can it ever end? Should one just hope never to wake?

Oh no, today is not a good day. Tomorrow shall, must, be better. A new dawn, a new year. The flux of the seasons must allow and encourage the natural progression of life, from birth, to death, and to greet the future with whatever hope I can gather to my heart. Surely the New Year will be better. Once I get past the first anniversary.

While I have had a lot of support from family and friends, for which I am truly grateful, essentially one must bear things alone.

There has been a constant progression of people walking into this peninsula, to watch the fireworks, firstly at 9 pm, and then again at midnight, to bring in the New Year. I walked up to the roundabout a block away, to watch the first fireworks. We can see across to the Harbour Bridge, and there is always a substantial gathering of people, with many children sitting on the shoulders of their parents. People can enter by foot or by bus, but car traffic is confined to locals. There will be bus traffic out, and many people will walk out again. There are sirens wailing.

A Happy New Year to all.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Our Christmas

My son and daughter and their children were with me for Christmas, which was lovely, but exhausting. From my lengthy solitude, and ability to do whatever I choose when I choose, I was in the company of six additional people, and that is a whole different experience.

They all arrived in the late afternoon of Christmas Day, so until they arrived I occupied myself by setting the table, arranging my relatively few Christmas decorations, and organising the food.

Given that the oven does not work, I bought turkey legs rather than a whole turkey, and eventually we cooked them in the electric frypan, which, to my relief, worked quite well. We had a very late dinner, after we had put the little ones to bed.

On Boxing Day we went to the beach. There is a Metro bus which goes from just up the road right to the beach, so we caught that, and arrived at the beach in good time.

It has been rather stormy weather, and when we arrived, the sea was very rough, and the water was cold. Our bathing was restricted to standing at the shore and trying not to be swept off our feet by the very strong seas. The little children did a lot of squealing, and clung onto the hands of their minders. I wore my new bathing suit, a rather fetching piece, several sizes smaller than the last model, but it did not actually get wet. We saw the yachts setting off for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, an event which invariably seems to encounter storms and rough seas. Then we retired to a beer garden for fish and chips, and following that took the bus back home. We then flopped about in a desultory and exhausted fashion,  after attending to the needs, feeding and bedding of the children.

While I was preparing dinner that evening, the eldest of the grandchildren just came and informed me that there had been a disaster upstairs. He had accidentally knocked over a stool, an elderly relic of Dr P's belongings, and, much to  his alarm, it splashed forth evil black liquid, all over the rather unlovely carpet. God only knows what chemical process has been evolving all these years inside the plastic. It was not worth bottling, however. It was not his fault, just a disaster waiting to happen. So as well as feeding all the children, we attempted to clean up all the evil black splodges on the carpet - mostly over the rug in front of the door to the balcony, but also on the plastic carpet beneath. My son recommended white vinegar. He had to go out and find a shop which was open which sold white vinegar. I did not expect to spend Boxing Day energetically but unenthusiastically scrubbing the carpet with white vinegar.

The following day was good, but exhausting. We went to the Powerhouse Museum to see the Harry Potter Exhibition. When we arrived we found that all the sessions were sold out. We explained that the website had not made it clear that pre-booking was most advisable. You had to get to the Ticketek site to do that. Fortunately one of the staff enabled us, and sundry others, to be included in the last session of the afternoon. This meant we had at least three hours to kill, which we spent at the playground and at various other parts of the Museum. There was a Wiggles exhibition, which we all herded our littlies around. I never took the trouble to work out which Wiggle is which, and I remain profoundly ignorant. My mind has only so much room. Each part of the exhibition had its own noise and music, and flashing lights and interactive thingies. I found it all most migraine-inducing.

We managed not to lose anyone, and eventually it was time to queue for entry to the Harry Potter show. It took quite a while before we were let in, but it was well worth the wait. All the exhibits served to demonstrate the brilliance, variety, humour, imagination, and light and darkness of Rowling's world. The numbers admitted each time were not too many, and thus we were all able to take our time and to look at all the delights. The staff of the Museum were all wonderful - unfailingly helpful, courteous and friendly.

We had thought about taking a ferry ride next morning, but settled for coffee and gelato at the local cafe. My son and his boys set off late morning, and my daughter and her children a couple of hours later.

Since then I have been washing all the sheets and towels, and putting everything away. And discovering what happens when you take your eyes off the children for a second. Someone had undone and cut the yarn on a piece of crochet....and snipped the yarn into a number of useless pieces....they had better not let me catch them...and what's more, that very same someone - you know who you are - found all the sewing elastic and cut much of it into small pieces, and discovered all the cottons, which obviously need to be unwound, small threads cut off and then ceremoniously laid here and there around the house. And, in a late addition to this bulletin, I found the same culprit had found (No, it was not lost, just in a place where I could find it when I needed it) the green gardening wire, detached it from its little wheel, cut off several lengths, and left all in a tangled mess. I resisted the temptation to ring him up and cross examine him about these sundry misdeeds and to discover why he thinks it is perfectly all right and justifiable to investigate my sewing stuff and my yarns, and instead had a glass or two of wine. I do not really want to upset him, or his mother, who is doing a very fine job with her children and her nephews. Her eldest child is like the Elephant's Child, full of 'satiable curiosity. It is obviously genetic, polished and perfected by experience. I sometimes wonder when my own genetic inheritance will burst forth - will it be in my lifetime? I think not.

It can come as a shock to discover how accustomed one can become to solitude.  Not that this is to be recommended.

Late yesterday I investigated my mobile phone and realised that I had totally forgotten that my car was booked in for its pre-registration service that morning. Oh dear. Never mind, it has been re-booked for next week.

It is a lovely night. The sun has set and the light suffusing the scattered clouds is still pinkly golden.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Getting it right

Most of yesterday was spent doing the largest food shopping of the year, and then lugging it into the house. This is in anticipation of the arrival on Christmas Day of my two younger children and their children. They will have to be fed, and possibly they might have to adapt to what is in the refrigerator, and what can be cooked here.

My oven has been on the blink for most of the year, and I decided not to get it fixed until such time as we know just whose oven it is. It is probably the thermostat which is the problem. Generally when I cook chicken pieces it takes twice the normal time for them to be cooked. The lack of a reliable oven made it rather difficult to contemplate the cooking of a turkey. Being a purist, I cannot countenance purchasing a pre-cooked turkey, and the compromise solution is buying a couple of turkey legs and some slices of turkey breast, to be cooked in the electric frying pan.

The shops were incredibly crowded, and parking spaces were in short supply. There were even traffic-directing staff on duty. Amazingly, I found a parking place immediately, and then set about shopping, making progressive trips to the car to drop off the purchases, thereby disappointing a number of drivers whose eyes had lit up hopefully as I approached my car, unloaded the shopping, and then failed to depart.

Despite the crowds and the queues, everyone was really pleasant, chatty, nice and considerate, which was very heartwarming for this sore soul so smitten by sad and sorry circumstances. 

 I do believe we live in a very fortunate country, in which most people are decent and considerate. My friend in Melbourne remarked to me that she found the people there generally very pleasant and helpful. I did, too, more so than in this city. I travelled around mostly by tram, and on one trip, a stranger to the city got on and asked about the best way of reaching a particular place. The tram driver gave his considered opinion, other passengers gave theirs, everyone discussed the options, and when we arrived at a stop where a different tram route could be taken, the driver got out to check the timetable, and told the woman that the next tram would arrive in two minutes. The spontaneous civility of the whole exchange was wonderful. We need to hang on to these characteristic social interactions, whereby we do not always put our own needs first. 

Remembering that we might all like some dessert, I bought a large tub of the world's best gelato, made by Tonino, who used to have a cafe just up the street, until his lease was terminated. He disappeared for a while, to the intense and general regret of the community. The food was terrific (such perfect gnocchi!) and the gelato superb, especially the chocolate, the hazelnut and the passionfruit.  Tonino and his gelato eventually turned up at a cafe down the other end of the peninsula, to general rejoicing and enthusiastic consumption.

I have bought some tinsel, etc, to festoon the house a little. And I am listening to lots of absolutely luscious and beautiful music on the radio, and trying to let some seasonal gladness trickle into my heart. I hope that the negative effects of the years of living with Dr P will dwindle and enable me to open my heart and emotions once more. I don't mean to say that those years were all bad and negative: far from it. There were many good things, and we did love each other and enjoy much of our lives together.  However, I had to bend and give more than he did, and his age, and attitudes led to a constriction in my own life.  The last couple of years were very hard, and this year has been awful.

Now, despite my continuing struggles,  I need to open up and expand. And to let the sunshine in.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Much adoing, but is it about nothing?

It is amazing how time-consuming simple things can be. Shopping, for example, and getting from Point A to Point B. Waiting for people to arrive. Sorting through the mail. Writing Christmas cards and then realising that some recipients, there not having been contact between us all year, do not know what has happened to me in the meantime. Finding papers and documents relevant to this and that. Sitting thinking. Talking to people. Buying new bras. And a swimsuit. And a dress. Travelling by plane and taxi.

Catching up with the washing. Sorting out which bills need urgent attention. Organising the very overdue car service. Scrabbling around looking for the leftovers of a particular yarn, and then finding there is insufficient to finish off this piece of work, which probably no one will want anyway. Wondering how to cook a Christmas dinner without a functioning oven. Correcting the typing errors which the tiny Apple keyboard makes me make. Not seeing for some time this typing error dccuments. Wondering why it is that when I write, the letters appear in their correct order, but when I type  the same words, they do not.

Pondering whether I urgently need new glasses. Wondering how on earth I used to manage to work, raise a family, do all the housework, cooking and gardening and have a social life, when my days are now filled with so many apparently minor things.

They do say, don't they, that work expands to fill the time available. A depressing thought, this!

I am back from my family gathering in Melbourne. I don't think I am good company, as yet. Nor have I obeyed the injunction on the sympathy card I bought myself many months ago, which said "Pull yourself together."

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Threads and themes

I am protesting. Against the trivialisation of issues.

Yesterday I went into the city to attend the wool sale. I came away with yet more wool, including a couple of balls which are intended to make a little scarf thingie. Already the first ball has revealed itself to be defective, as a separate length of wool was in the middle of the ball. This is aggravating as I had already started crocheting this scarf thingy.

Now I will have to take it back, and protest. This issue is undoubtedly trivial, although irritating enough.
The wool I bought will be devoted to making blanket squares for the ABNc's Knit with Love. Or for a baby blanket. There is another great niece or nephew expected.

As I sat tranquilly, counting chain stitches, I watched the Australian Public Affairs Channel. Our Minister for Communications was giving a speech to the National Press Club. He was discussing the National Broadband Network, a subject about which I know relatively little, especially given that I do not have a good understanding of my own internet and telephone plans. I thought the Minister gave a good speech, although he did have what I regard as a regrettable tendency to use single verbs with plural subjects, and vice versa. I do like people to speak and write grammatically, and get very upset when people say things like 'Me and Jim had Maccas for dinner' and 'Her and me went out last night..."It makes me wonder what teachers are doing. Not to mention their parents.

Back to the subject, though. The Minister finished his speech and started answering questions, and in response to one question commented that everyone cheered if a tax was reduced, but that if the tax was increased it was seen as F****** dreadful.

Now I know he ought not to have used that awful word, but let's face it, the rest of the world does, almost incessantly. I blush to admit that I have have used it myself, from time to time, but only when provoked, and not as a necessary insertion after every second word. I live near a school, and as the students walk past each morning and afternoon,  I hear most of them use that word at least three times in each and every sentence. It is not as though it is not now common parlance, deplorable though this may be.

In a less imperfect world, one concerned with issues rather than style, one might have expected the issues to be the subject of the news, but No. Each news channel, on the three I have listened to so far, has reported the use of the F word, but given absolutely no attention  or coverage of the issues nor the content or context. I have telephoned all three of them,  to protest against their trivialisation of issues and political coverage. Not that my protests will change anything, of course. Although, the ABC did give some emphasis to the content of the speech in their later news bulletin, so who knows, I might have achieved something

If there is one thing I hate, it is the sanctimonious journalist. (There are a few other things I hate, but it would be tedious to dissertate upon them needlessly. Sufficient to the day thereof...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Renovating and renewing

Isabelle of In This Life has just been fantasising about household renovations, and this got me started thinking about what I might do if I am able to stay in my home.

It is a big house, and apart from having had the outside painted, the garage extended and the plunge swimming pool filled in, and turned into a garden, the sinks replaced with stainless steel instead of stainable porous white plastic, handrails wherever possible, stairlifts installed, and air conditioning, blinds and curtains fitted to help control the overheating of the house caused by the fact that it faces east/west and thus gets fearfully hot, no decorating has been done.

Heavens! That sounds like quite a lot. But wait, there's more, to consider, that is.

If I were to splurge according to what is needed to be done in the house and to my own tastes I would:

  • Rip out the carpets. Put new carpets in. Those on the floor are unlovely, tired and unhappy, and badly fitted.
  • Have the tiled floors fixed. They really need it, and it shows. Many tiles are broken, or wobble when walked upon. This would cost heaps.
  • Re-tile the laundry and adjacent toilet.
  • Get better blinds.
  • Fix the wooden window frames which are greatly the worse for wear.
  • Replace the vanity unit in one of the bathroom, as it is rotting.
  • Replace the kitchen bench surfaces. They are rather unlovely and are rather battered. Dr P, who despite having a chemistry degree appeared not to understand some practical consequences of the theory, such as the melting point of plastics, and who put hot saucepans directly on the benches, causing damage.
  • In fact, fix the whole kitchen. The bench level is higher than the window levels, evidence of really stupid design and planning.  The window frames in the kitchen, dining room and the upstairs sitting room were installed back the front, which means that instead of rain falling away, it can trickle inside, as the slope is to the inside and not to the outside. In the olden days building inspectors should have picked up that sort of idiot mistake, but once things stopped being actually inspected, and were merely ticked off, they got through. So theoretically they should all be replaced.

It always bothered me that the house was allowed to deteriorate. I would have kept it in better order.  Bearing in mind that from from this day forward there is no one to tell me what to do or to veto my decisions, theoretically, at least, from some future date I can make such decisions of wherever and whatever, I will be able to do (to some extent anyway) what I damn well please.

The house across the road, on the other corner was sold recently, and the new owners have moved in, and have started some improvements and renovations. I looked at the house before it was sold, out of general interest, and attended the auction. (Everyone does this as in this city the contemplation of real estate is a predominant passion.) I had not actually met the couple, but as I watched from my balcony at the weekend while garden rubbish was being removed, they saw me and we waved at each other. So I went downstairs, and went across and knocked on their door, bearing a welcoming jar of cumquat marmalade, and we all said hello. They have two small children, aged three and one. Their names are Baxter and April. (Sigh!) The children are lovely.

Although this is said to be a very active and sociable neighborhood, full of community involvement, in fact it is not easy to meet, or to get to know people. In part, this is due to the fact that it is an old area, with very small blocks of land, and no one has front gardens. So you never see people out the front. The backs of the houses have lane exits, and what little space there is accommodates the car, and roller doors. I walk through the lanes to get to the main road and to walk to the bus stops, but it is relatively rare to encounter a neighbour.

Across the road there is a school, and next to it is a large complex of units, but all the residents leave their houses from the back.  Thus there remains the side street. I exit from the rear of the house, which means onto the side street, and I know several of the neighbours, but getting to know them depends on our being outside together at the same time, and the ensuing general conversations. Across the lane lives a very old and deaf lady in her mid 90s, and she never remembers knowing me, although I chat with her daughter when she visits at the weekend, if we happen to coincide. The house next door is used as a a professional premises, and I have got to know the couple. I know the couple down the far end of the lane, having chatted to them from time to time as their house was renovated, and indeed, they kindly witnessed my will for me - that is, as it turned out,  a good way of getting to know people.

Dr P was not sociable towards his neighbours, and so he did not know any of them. After he died it occurred to me that I should tell my neighbours of his death, so I telephoned next door, and called to see the other neighbours. It felt weird, knocking on doors to say that my husband had died, but I am glad I did, as they have been kindly and helpful. And I like to build and maintain connections with people.

All this makes me wonder how I would manage if I were to lose the house, and leave the neighbourhood and perhaps the city. And start all over again.

It is an odd thing. I have lived in houses at the end of a complex, and in a street opposite a hospital but without any direct access to it. Thus there has never been an abundance of neighbours. None of this was done on purpose. Perhaps if I have to move it might be advisable to choose somewhere with more neighbours. However, neighbours are among the very many of unknown factors which surround so many of our choices. It is all rather daunting, as I am actually quite shy.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Date being set

A date for mediation has been set. But not for another couple of months.

In the meantime, perhaps it will be possible to think about Christmas. I do not want to be alone.

Mediation may be only a formality, as it seems that it may not be a serious exercise for the other side.
At least, perhaps for the time being, it will be possible to think about other matters. It is a compulsory procedure, but it does not, of course, mean that it will produce a result.

We will see. Perhaps I can relax a little. There is no point giving up at this stage.

In the meantime I am tired and grumpy. It has all been a most exhausting process, and for me it is my life and its future, whereas for the lawyers it is just another, probably routine, thing to get done.

My BIL thinks my latest effort in reply was a good one. Whether it makes a difference won't be clear for some time.

I hope I can clear my mind somewhat. Think of other things, and be able to enjoy the little, but important things of life.

Being, necessarily, obsessed, by what had to be done, has been most painful, and I have wondered whether my life for these past years has been worth anything. And I wonder further whether I will have the strength and wisdom to make good and positive decisions on whatever the rest of my life may bring. Or whether I am locked or have locked myself, into making the wrong decisions.

Is it possible to know these things, or do I blunder blindly into the void? Should I have folded up my tent and stolen away into that dark night? Have I acted wisely in choosing to contest my future, and trying to counter what I see as the injustices dealt out to me? If I do not try to counter them now, I have fewer grounds for complaint.

It is my desire to become free of it all, to be able to put it all behind me, and to take responsibility for my own fate. And not to have accepted injustices, but to have fought to set it right. I am not naturally combative, but I do have a passion for justice.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A still day

I am awaiting the outcome of the latest hearing, to fix a date for whatever happens next. Nothing will happen until next year. I feel betwixt and between, and don't know what to do next. What is the meaning of life?

My friend, the partner of my dear friend who died three years ago, was here for the weekend, for sundry social activities. We went to the Art Gallery, and he saw the Picasso exhibition, which I had already visited. So I went and inspected a new ultra contemporary art gallery section funded by a very rich donor, and there was scarcely anything there which I though was worth having. Pretentious nonsense, is my opinion of it. There was another exhibition of work entered for a Drawing Prize, and that was far far better. Much more interesting than pseudo arty Christo wrapped trees and/or cliffs.

Last night we went with other friends to Pinchgut Opera's production of Vivaldi's opera Griselda.  We all dined beforehand, and caught up with our various news, and all enjoyed the opera immensely, despite the sadistic and manipulative character of the king, and the seeming masochism of his wife Griselda. The singing was superlative, even though with three counter tenors/male soprani, a soprano and a mezzo soprano, to one solitary tenor (the king) the absence of male sounding voices was quite strange. And I had problems telling the counter tenors apart. The music was gorgeous, and we all came away feeling happy, unlike Griselda, who, it seems, finally worked out that she was married to a rather despicable cad, and who thus (eventually) expressed some irritation. However, opera is not always rational. To put it mildly. I love it anyway.

I drove KP to the airport this morning and am now sitting about at home, contemplating going out to buy a coffee. The weather for the last week has been rather cold and I have needed my hot water bottle again! It is a still day, but it is raining intermittently. With the completion of the latest affidavit, and the departure of my friend, I am wondering what to do with myself. My mood is rather lugubrious, and restless. My foot is tapping all by itself.

I suppose I could vacuum the house, which probably needs it, but vacuuming is not the most enjoyable or interesting thing in life. The cleaners are no longer coming, as they were not doing a very good job, and so in the meanwhile I will save the money. One person living alone does not make a lot of mess. There is nothing to do in my tiny garden - the other day I tried yet again to remove the unreachable weeds underneath the front steps.

I cannot decide what to crochet next. There is an uncompleted  baby jacket, which needs some deep analysis. It is in stripes. There is no obvious baby recipient, so long has it been since I started this jacket. I had started a stole, in a light mohair, but it was not working, and so I have pulled it all out. Undoing crocheted mohair is a devil of a task, as the stitches do not wish to come apart. They stick together.

The solution must be to curl up with a good book, with some opera playing in the background.

Or I could, and should, do some choir practice. The concert is next Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

There passed a weary time...

Except it has not quite passed yet. The past couple of days have been spent preparing and revising the latest affidavit, and in providing evidence to illustrate that what the other side has said or implied about me is false. It is incredible how long this sort of thing takes. My advice to the ambient air and to any casual readers is to document absolutely everything and never to throw anything away...

It would be tedious to describe it all, and probably even more tedious to read it, so I refrain from inflicting it upon the blogosphere. Suffice to say that I got cranky when I found words had been put into my mouth, and thus had to spend hours correcting and clarifying, etc, and even more hours today in the completion of it all.

Thank goodness it is now done to the best of my ability, and several weeks sleep would be welcome. It will all drag on for quite some time to come. I have been active with my tape measure and in the calculation of how many linear metres of bookshelves I have.

Naturally, not everything has gone smoothly in other parts of my life. Why would it?

After the last crochet clinic, I came home with all the parts of the jacket ready to be put together. I decided to sew them rather than crochet them together, as a trial run showed that it was difficult to get the crochet hook through the two parts. Having joined one front and the back using backstitch, inspection revealed some unevenness. Instead of saying that near enough was good enough, I decided to unpick it and do it again. Big mistake. Accidentally I unravelled some of the stitches in the back, and I lack the expertise to fix it myself. Now it was not easy to do this accidental unravelling, in fact it was, in its own warped way, an amazing achievement. Had I been less fussy it would have all been finished by now, and I would have had a) a nice new dark blue alpaca jacket, and b) a sense of achievement.

I have been able to consult with the crochet expert, and on Sunday week will take it to her in the city and she will (she says, and I certainly believe her, as she is a crocheting genius) pick up those unravelled stitches, and all should be well.  Then I will have to decide what to make next. Something using yet more purple wool, I suspect. The mauve sweater recently finished, which is too large for me, still has to be found a good home.

On reflection, I have managed to do quite a lot this week, even if not all has been well done. I read two books, did my Dante homework, got to half the choir practice last night, and was allowed to go home during the break, so as to attend to the affidavit, emailed it after midnight, and after three gruelling hours this afternoon, came away with the finished product. In some ways I am perplexed that it takes so long, but it seems to have taken the professionals just as much time. Their monthly bill arrived yesterday.

It made one gasp and stretch one's eyes...

On Monday night I am going with friends to Pinchgut Opera's production of Vivaldi's opera Griselda, which promises to be an absolute delight, as long as one can tell the three counter tenors apart.