Friday, 28 December 2012

Now for the New Year

My two younger children and their offspring departed this morning, and thus I have been washing all the bedding, and finding pieces of jigsaws, a Christmas book left behind, pieces of wrapping papers and all sorts of Christmassy odds and sods.

They all arrived late on Christmas afternoon, so there was no visit by Santa Claus to this abode. I think Dr P must have scared him off - he was a Bah! Humbug sort of person about Christmas. Sad, really. His spirit must be lingering still.

I managed a modest Christmas dinner, a stuffed turkey breast, which was quite delicious. In the olden days, when I was a child, I can't remember anyone ever mentioning turkey. Turkeys were strange, foreign and American. Chicken, or chook, as we called it, was a luxury, something we ate only twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. We had no idea then of how common and ordinary a meal chicken would become.

My maternal grandparents kept chooks, mostly for the hens and the eggs. From time to time new chickens would appear, pretty little balls of yellow fluff, which would soon be replaced by rather unsightly and unflattering white, brown or black feathers. My grandfather, who had migrated from the island of Korcula at the age of 16, firstly went to New Zealand, and some years later arrived in Australia. I don't know much about his early life. We only ever got the barest outline. He was an immensely strong man, and I think he came to Australia as the strong man in a circus. He stayed in Australia, and met and married my grandmother. They were poor. Practically everyone was. My grandmother told us how sometimes she would have to pawn furniture in order to buy food.

Years later, one of my sisters and her husband and I visited the island, and found some cousins. It was a wonderful and moving visit.

In those days most people had fruit and vegetable gardens. Food was very plain. Perhaps I inherited some of those genes, as I have always loved growing plants and foods. Although, my grandfather had the advantage of all that chook manure, and thus his results were much better than mine. Despite having moved to the inner city of Sydney, with a microscopic garden, I have squeezed into my garden space a bay tree, which flourishes the way they are supposed to, a kaffir lime, a lemon verbena, lemon grass, parsley, rosemary, a curry leaf tree, and mint, and am struggling to grow cumquats. It always seems possible, and desirable, to squeeze in one more plant.

I have no idea what the selection criterion was,  but come the appointed time, my grandfather would kill  a chicken, which apparently required a certain amount of stalking of the unfortunate bird. My uncle, generally a rather taciturn man, could on occasion be persuaded to give his impression of his father stalking, catching and slaughtering the unfortunate bird. However my grandfather's hands were too large to fit inside the cavity of the bird, and so my unfortunate grandmother had to clean out the innards. This put her off chicken.

Having roast chicken twice a year was most exciting, We all wanted the leg. My mother used to tell us, somewhat tersely, the a chicken was not a centipede.

Which reminds me of the old joke: what did one male centipede say to the other male centipede as the female centipede walked by?
Nice pair of legs, pair of legs, pair of legs...

My youngest grandchild is a grazer, who helps himself. Food is good if it can be regarded as a snack. If named as a meal,  it becomes a very suspect dish.

You can't be too careful. Especially if chicken is an everyday dish.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas and let blessings abound.

My front porch has now been swathed with tinsel. A gesture. Wrapping tinsel around railings does not come naturally to me, although decorating the interiors, choosing the furniture, the pictures and the ornaments produces a lovely result (or so I believe).

Lots of houses nearby have been decorated  far more beautifully. They look good, and of course contribute to the spirit of Christmas.

At the market on Sunday I found a hand-crocheted tablecloth, in white cotton, in perfect condition. I bought it for a mere $20. It is now on my dining table, awaiting the Christmas festivities. I have a smaller one, which my grandmother made for me, about 50 years ago, and I feel rather guilty, but it does not fit the dining table, which seats eight. Such beautiful, detailed work. All of a sudden, great quantities of crocheted or embroidered linen are to be found at markets. I'd love to know their provenance.

This morning I dashed out to buy more food. My local grocery shop does not stock moderately priced mineral water. So I ventured into the depths of the adjacent suburb. This proved a useless endeavour, as there was nowhere to park. Mineral water is heavy so I did not want to have to lug it too far, but even the areas of too far had no parking spaces.

Therefore I set out for my usual shopping centre. As did everyone else. There were men guiding traffic in and out of the parking lot. Much to my surprise, I found a spot quickly, and ventured into the very crowded supermarket.

Despite the crowds and the queues, everyone was smiling, courteous, friendly and happy. Nobody growled, or looked impatient. It felt so good. I love it that we all share these joyous festivities together.

My provedore had apparently run out of raspberry gelato, making me make do with a tub each of mango and passionfruit, but cream could not be found. Therefore I went to my very local shops, and found a carton of cream. (This is just in case I make a pavlova.) The man next to me at the dairy cabinet was on his mobile to his wife, checking out just what sort of cream she wanted bought.  The top of the dairy cabinet is way above my height, but these days they have placed a stool there for the short and tiny to clamber upon and thereby search for cream, etc. So I offered a carton to the man, who was tickled pink. In other casual conversations, milk varieties were discussed, but no one seems to know what permeate is. I remain puzzled.

As everyone was so good-tempered and friendly, I thought I would pop into places like the bank and the pharmacy, and wish them all a happy Christmas. They liked this.

I discovered from Molly that the cake tin she used was a bundt tin. I had never heard of its name, although I have seen such tins.  I looked them up on the internet and discovered a myriad of such tins, full of swirls and curves and odd angles. Most impressive, they were, but daunting, and it seemed to me that turning out the baked cake from a bundt tin was fraught with dreadful possibilities. Tell me it is not so!

 All the ironing is done. I cooked a lamb curry and will eat some of it tonight. Tonight or tomorrow I must wrap parcels. My son and daughter won't arrive until late afternoon. Apparently my granddaughter feels hard done by because I buy her things instead of giving her gift cards or money. Life can be tough, right? As it happens this year she will have both.

There are lots of interesting books to continue reading. In Melbourne I found one by Munro Price, The Perilous Crown, about the period in French history from the fall of Napoleon to the 1848 revolution. French history is not something I have read much about, and this book is quite riveting. I also found, at the local market, the final volume of the diaries of Victor Klemperer, covering 1945 to 1959. The three volumes of his diaries document his life in Germany from 1933, giving chapter and verse of the appallingly detailed and merciless discrimination, persecution and extermination of  the German Jews, followed by postwar life in the German Democratic Republic. I love secondhand books. They really facilitate excessive buying.

In addition, I have another couple of books on Dorothy L Sayers, a fascinating, and erudite writer, a book on the trials of Margaret Clitherow, martyred in the reign of Elizabeth 1, a collection of essays by Simon Schama, Scribble, Scribble, Scribble, a couple of books by Niall Ferguson, Empire,  and The War of the World,  Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, Simon Garfield's On the Map, David Sacks' The Alphabet, and some other novels and biographies. These should keep me busy. There is plenty to read, and my concentration and attention span have been improving. There is always the atlas to be perused, not to mention the provocations and irritations of the daily newspaper.

And there is the blogging world. Which is such a comfort.

Thank you, all you kind commenters and friends, for your comforting and encouraging words. I still feel gloomy, but realise that all this must be borne, and perhaps one way of coping is to lower my hopes and expectations, and withdraw to some extent. One of my sisters rang this evening. We spoke civilly, but neither of us mentioned 'the war'.

Happy Christmas to all of you out there. I am with you in spirit.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A moan

Back home after the trip for the family gathering, I am feeling very alone, and not part of anything or anyone's life. Inevitable, after so many years living far away from most of the family. My attempts to say to my sisters that I wished they had visited me, in the almost two years since Dr P's death, (except for the occasion of his funeral), did not meet with any positive responses. They regularly visit our older sister, with dementia, who lives closer to them, and who does have her husband and other family nearby, but it seems that visiting me is too far, too expensive, too inconvenient. and not important. I feel that I have had to put in more effort than they have done. And yes, I am jealous.

I can see all the reasons why this is so, and will remain so, but I like it none the better for all that.There seems nothing I can do to change it, or to communicate better, so I feel like giving up and becoming quite reclusive. I suppose that Christmas makes one feel more alone and vulnerable.  Simply saying that none of them had visited me in these two years did not bring about a sympathetic response. Too far, too busy, could not afford fares, too many other commitments, etcetera.

When people have asked whether I would move away from here, it does seem to me that re-establishing myself elsewhere would be very difficult. Making a new life elsewhere, at this stage of life, seems too difficult.

So I am sunk in sadness and depression. And self-pity. And I know that I just have to make the best of it. As a widow, I realise I am not important to anyone any more. I am, I hope, a realist, but it does not taste any better for all that. Time to toughen up, it seems, and to build a more effective shell. And to get on with my life, and to cut myself off from such negative feelings.

I will try.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

It's snowing down south

And these days it is snowing up North, too. What has the world come to? (I hear you cry!)

In the days of my long distant and incredibly repressed youth, underwear was precisely that. It was not supposed to be seen. It was Under what you wore.

In those days women wore petticoats. Now, it is such a long time since I had such a garment that I do not remember why we wore petticoats. Perhaps it was to prevent any possibility of skirts being sheer enough to permit any sort of glimpse of the female body. A petticoat prevented any such glimpses.

There were two kinds of petticoats: the full slip and the half slip. Half slips were easier, but were totally reliant on elastic in the waists,  and sometimes they took heed of the laws of gravity (that is to say they tended to head for the earth, rather than that they were frivolous in their very nature). When the disgraceful event occurred of a petticoat becoming visible, that is to say, below the hemline of the outer garment, to wit, the skirt, a helpful female would whisper, or mutter, somewhat sotto voce, 'It's snowing down south.' This would produce an embarrassed and surreptitious sort of wriggle, as the guilty female thus addressed would hoist the offending petticoat upwards, in defiance of the laws of gravity, so confidently propounded by Newton, although probably totally in ignorance of the implications for female underwear. Such wriggles were quite common, and I wonder whether the males within cooee were aware of the cause and the nature of such phenomena.

I have no idea whether the petticoat still exists, having long since abandoned them as a necessary or desirable item of female garb. However, old strictures die hard, and there lurks within me an ineradicable conviction that Underwear ought not to be seen, even fleetingly, let alone on  permanent display.

And if your bra was at all visible, this was totally embarrassing and shameful. Straps were to be concealed, and the rest of the infrastructure even more so. Goodness me, you could not even lean forward, in case a glimpse of the contents of the bra became apparent. Your boyfriend would reprimand you and say 'They are mine!' These days the reaction would be, what cheek, but I lived in less liberated times, and it took a while for such thinking to change.

These Days (what a Dated Expression this is!)  the world and the worm have turned, and mores have been totally abandoned and contradicted.

 It seems that underwear must be visible at all times. I suppose it saves a lot of people, both male and female, the trouble of wondering What Lies Beneath. For there it all is, in full display.

Bra straps. Not just the straps but that which they hold up. There is not much place for imagination or guesswork any more. And sometimes panties being evident either above or below the boundaries of the outer garments.

I have to keep slapping myself, metaphorically, to stop myself tapping some young (or not so young) thing on the shoulder and saying, 'Excuse me, dear, but your bra straps are showing'. Still less can I opine that it is 'Not a good look!'

Is it, in fact, these days, a good look? Is it sexy?

Does everything have to hang out?

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

What to do? Bah, Humbug.

Everything is winding down for the year. I am not sure I approve of this, however inevitable it may be, as one's attention must be turned to consideration of celebrating Christmas. I am very out of practice at this, as Dr P did not celebrate it at all, and perhaps in some ways his attitude was contagious.
Never mind. My character must be stiffened, resolutions be made, and preparations made.

I have done the cake baking, not that anyone except myself cares about that. Cake baking in such  celebratory mode is good fun, character and tradition building, part of our glorious heritage,  etcetera. If it is good enough to buy artificial Christmas trees, lots of tinsel, and all manner of Ho Ho Ho things, some of us actually like to think about why we celebrate the birth of Jesus, and to consider our historical heritage and what we (or I) consider to be good, and probably better than various other traditions.

Mind you, when I broach such topics of the religious significance of Christmas, my children say things, like 'Well, you did not bring us up in your religious tradition'. They are right. No, I did not, but it makes me sad to see children regarding Christmas as a massive opportunity to be given heaps of toys. Acquisitiveness starts early these days.

And I absolutely hate the way big business advances each festival relentlessly months before there is any need to. Christmas things appear in early November. The amount of sheer tizz per square metre is incredible. Quantity is everything.

By mid-January there will very likely be hot cross buns in the bakeries. And lots of chocolate Easter eggs.

Perhaps I can try and get the grandchildren to learn some carols. I need some careful thought, and some helpful suggestions.

Perhaps I will buy a small tree, even if it is a European one. I may even decorate with nativity scenes, and candles.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas cake

Today I cooked a Christmas cake. This was a very illogical thing to do, as there is really no one to eat it except myself, and eating one whole very large Christmas cake cannot be regarded as being good for you. My (foolish) children don't like Christmas cake. But I have always liked making Christmas cakes. In the days of yore I used to make three different recipes.

Last year, of course, I did not have an oven that worked, and there was no point in replacing it until it was clear whose oven it was going to be. Once that question was settled, I bought a new oven. It is not perfect and I have not tested it extensively.  Today was quite a test for it, and until the cake is sampled, it will not be clear whether all is well in my kitchen.

This cake requires a lot of work. Firstly, the ingredients have to be bought. These days it is quite difficult to buy fruit cake ingredients. It is said that 'young people' do not like fruit cake. I cannot think why not. The other irritating thing is that supermarkets these days have reduced the quantity in their packages - 200 grams instead of 250, etc. What profiteering bastards they are. You have to buy more or less than you need, hissing and fuming in consequence. I had to check the pantry to see which spices and essences I needed. It was necessary to buy a couple of spices - of course, once I got back home, I found I did indeed have some nutmeg, so now there is a nutmeg glut in my pantry. How much nutmeg does one use in any given year, and how long does it last? I wonder am I the only person who takes forever and an age to find things in the pantry?

Having bought all the ingredients yesterday, I set about preparing the fruit, so as to sprinkle them all with brandy and leave them to absorb it. Then today, once I was home from my class, I prepared the cake.

The recipe uses 12 egg yolks and 6 egg whites. It took quite some time to separate the eggs, and naturally a couple of eggs did not separate.

Sine Dr P died, I have used hardly any eggs, and indeed have had to discard some from time to time. This time I carefully checked to make sure that none of the eggs I used were stale. I now have 6 egg whites to use up, so naturally I have to make a pavlova. I will take it along to the knitting and crochet group morning tea this Friday, suitably decorated. You cannot just waste 6 egg whites.

Then I had to line the cake tin. This took longer than you would think. Three layers each of newspaper, brown paper and baking paper. All neatly cut out, placed in and around the cake tin, and stuck together. Next all the ingredients had to be combined.

This cake is very large. Once the fruit is added, the mixmaster has to be abandoned, and the mixture combined manually. I have a Huon pine spurtle, which is a great kitchen aid. Finally 6 egg whites have to be beaten until stiff, and folded in, and then it all must be placed in the cake tin. It is all elementary, my dear Watson, but it all takes a while.

This cake cooks very slowly - about five hours, and the aroma is quite heavenly.

As I finish for the day, the cake sits cooling on the kitchen bench. I think I will take half the cake to the family gathering in a couple of weeks, and the rest will have to be consumed very gradually. Too much cake is bad for the figure.

Given that for the past two years I have done practically no cookery, it does seem to me that to have embarked on this foolish marathon Christmas cake baking means that some emotional recovery is occurring.

Let it be so.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The fruits of labour

What a funny old week it has been. It has ranged from an appointment with the skin specialist, who sprayed me with liquid nitrogen in a few places, such as the face and head, thus disfiguring me for the next week. Fortunately nothing serious was found.

Less seriously, there has been a prolonged struggle to fit a new squeegee on to my mop. I have had to retire defeated. Although I set out to buy a new mop, with an easier was of replacing the sponge, it transpired that there was actually no alternative. They are all the same design. This provoked bitter thoughts about how such things are designed, probably by males who never actually mop the floor themselves, or, indeed, have ever had to replace the sponge. My fingers are not nimble enough to put in the little screws, which are too close to the edge. Perhaps a better model may be found if I ever get to the Great Hardware Shop in the Sky. I would not bet on it, though. Not that I ever do bet.

Prodded and inspired by a friend, who is a very competent perfectionist, and who is rich (she has just replaced her perfectly good Mercedes for an even better model), I have been attending to my tiny garden. She said my front verandah looked awful, and I should fix it all up. Hindered only slightly by the need to find new pots which I could actually lift and move about, I have repotted and moved things around the very limited available space, in the front, the back and the atrium space in the middle of the house, now made relatively glorious by the new drain fashioned by Fernando. I bought two fuchsias and a geranium, pruned the sorry looking palms, and now hope for the best, even despite the fact that the weather is going to get very hot. What I would really like is a Wollemi pine. However they are not available anywhere handy to me.

This is such a very urban area, with tiny gardens, that the few nurseries nearby tend to have very little variety. The local markets offer a better selection and I bought a new cumquat. The trees I have been harvesting for the last umpty years have been cut down - more and more apartments will be built on this hitherto derelict site (redeemed only by the cumquat harvest) - a devastating blow to my marmalade making career. So I bought a small tree. Of course I will be dead long before it gets to a size which would give a sufficient yield of fruit, but one must live in hope. The next search is for a pot large enough to accommodate the cumquat.

In between all this excitement, there has been a book fair, to which I have hied several times, making purchases on each visit,  as well as picking up another several at the markets. There is a lot of reading to be done, but now that I am on my own, I do read much more, and with better concentration.

Actually instead of all this book and plant buying, I should turn my attention to the study, selection and purchase of a new vacuum cleaner. It does not sound like nearly as much fun....

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Oh Sleep, why dost thou elude me? Surely you have a sense of justice and entitlement, and really ought not resort to punishing the innocent insomniac. I lie awake, obeying advice not to read, or have music going. There was a sleep expert on the radio some time back who said these habits were bad for being able to fall asleep. This is the third successive night of having trouble falling asleep, and it does get very tedious. And exhausting.

I have to be up early enough to get to my class. There have been two assignments for Italian in the last two days: the first was this morning, and I wrote on the even-enthralling topic of the glories of the quince. We all had a good discussion. I don't think my ratio of correct to incorrrect usage, grammar and vocabulary have improved markedly, alas, and I always have dreadful trouble thinking up a topic.

Anyway everyone present at the class loves quinces and so we all had a good time talking about them and discovering more botanical, horticultural vocabulary as well as more about cooking terms. Like the words for poaching or simmering gently until setting point is reached.

I have a CD-Rom with an Italian dictionary, which helps, as I have that and the word processing open simultaneously, and it does seem easier than picking up the printed dictionary and flicking through its pages. Suspect things are underlined by the spelling and grammar checker, but it does not pick up everything and we all seem to have problems working out which preposition to use before the infinitive of a verb. One of my old grammar books has a little list, and I can remember some of the rules, like decidere di and continuare a, but possibly the subtleties of language are becoming more rather than less confusing. I could not work out how to say 'set into the floor'.

For this morning's class, which starts in five and a half hours, the class's task was to prepare something special, in our experience, about Venice. My preparation had me going through my numerous books on Italy/Venice, and various photo albums, until I decided to do a piece on Monteverdi's tomb in the basilica of the Frari. Naturally, while I worked I had to listen to the Monteverdi Vespers.

Then I went to bed, a little later than usual, and evidently my mind won't relax and shut up until I arrive at the class in a semi-somnolent state. And probably with a blank mind.

It is now 4.18 am.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Close by me

The sun has set, the moon is well up, although low in the sky. From my house there are not many stars visible, although you can see the planets. The Southern Cross tends to be obscured by the fact that I am downhill, and that the nearby houses obscure the view. I have to try really hard to spot it.

Periodically I go out onto my balcony to look at the sky, including the sunsets. The power lines rather spoil the effect of gorgeous skies and sunsets. Tonight, when I went onto the balcony, I could smell barbecue. Which of my neighbours is barbecuing tonight, I wonder?

I know a few of my neighbours, but others I have never even seen. I live on a street corner and my garage is on the side street, which is very short, and has two lanes running behind the houses on each side, and a lane running between the two streets.  It is close to the main street of the suburb, and is a very handy location, close to shops, cafes, restaurants, a little supermarket, the post office and the bank, the primary school, the weekend markets, my general medical practice, and buses.

My front door faces on to another main street, but across the road to the right there is a high school, and to the left a very large complex of apartments, none of which face in my direction. That is, they do, but residents leave via their garages, which are out the back, and so I have no idea who any of them are.

Before I moved to this city, and lived in the general suburbia of our capital city, people generally had front gardens, and so you would see people as they gardened. Here, however, the houses are small and the outside areas are microscopic, and thus you never see anyone at the front of their houses.  Really, if you want to see people, you encounter them in the back lanes.

My next door neighbours don't actually live in the house, but use it as their professional premises. They are both very pleasant, and we see each other quite often as we come and go. They had a bit of a hard time while Fernando was here, what with all the jackhammering and associated bangs and thumps, but were patient and understanding, despite the nuisance I had created. I did not realise quite what a nuisance it would be, let alone for how long it would continue, and so had not warned them. Mea culpa. Indeed, mea maxima culpa.

We who live in the main street back on to a lane, so occasionally you see people going in or out by car, but mostly we seem to be invisible to each other. There is a young man a few doors up, who is an incredibly keen gardener. I see him occasionally in the back lane, and we chat briefly. He has had severe cancer and was very gravely ill, but survives. There is another couple who walk their dogs, but they do not seem sociable.

The house across the lane from me is home to a very old lady, about 96, who has lived there for most of her adult life. She is pretty deaf, and though we have met a number of times, both in the street and socially, she never remembers me. I see her daughter from time to time, on Saturdays when she comes to see her mother and take her out. The council takes her out once a week, to old people's activities - don't know what they are!

Then there are the neighbours in the rest of the street. Next to the old lady, live (I think) a male couple. I don't think I have ever seen them, let alone spoken to them. I got a bit irritated recently as they had taken to leaving their garbage bins outside my house. I felt it was an unneighbourly thing to do. After some time I took them back to the back of their house, and so far they appear to have taken the hint.

Next to them live a very nice couple, who have been pleasant, chatty and helpful - they actually helped me in the search for lawyers after Dr P's death, and they are keen gardeners, who manage to grow citrus in  pots successfully. After Dr P's death I thought I should let them know of it, and also told the couple across the road from me. They had the key to the house, and were prepared to be an emergency contact.

The house across the road used to be rented. From time to time they'd have parties which went very late indeed, and at 3 am one night I got out of bed, put on my dressing gown, went across and told them that if they did not turn the 'music' down and finish, I'd be calling the police in 15 minutes. Turned out their next door neighbours actually did call the police, who asked how loud the music was. They held up the phone. The police were convinced.

That house was sold a couple of years ago, and was bought by a nice young couple with two children living there now. It is good to have some littlies around.

The other neighbours I know are at the end of the lane on the next corner. As I walk that way to get to the shops and the bus, I see them quite often. They actually witnessed my will, as it happened that I needed two people together who fell into independent categories, and there was nobody handy. They kindly agreed to witness my signature. Out of such things linkages are made.

And more linkages are being made through the knitting and crochet group.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Get over it, right!

Minds and moods seem to be independent of the will, and can be stimulated or provoked by what most people would regard as quite little things.

It is 21 months since Dr P died, and apart from the emotional toll, there have been many things to cope with, and to do or get done. Dr P's belongings have been sorted out, the house has been reorganised to some extent, and the rising damp problem has been remedied, at considerable expense. The legal issues concerning where I was to live were resolved by settlement, and the house is now mine, to live in, to repair, to maintain as I see fit and as circumstances permit. Life has slowly begun to have some degree of normality.

But I find little things throw me, and provoke a disproportionate reaction. They don't seem so little, and I have been feeling stressed and weepy, despite chiding myself. This 'little' thing is that I have conscientiously, although not gladly, forwarded all mail to the stepdaughters which has arrived here in the 21 months since his death. I have sent it on to their mother. The mail still arriving is not very important. But this week, suddenly, one way or another, I have had enough. They have had ample time to have arranged for all their mail to be sent elsewhere.

I find myself upset, and resentful that I still feel so upset and stressed by what, rationally viewed in the context of the history of the relationship, is a small thing. I cared for their father, and gave them hospitality, but there has never been one word or gesture of appreciation towards me - and nor will there ever be.

What to do? Well, I could write to their mother to inform her that no more mail will be forwarded. I could put it all in the bin with no further notice. Or I could have it returned to Sender.

I decided to return it all to Sender.

Their mail is not my problem.

This post will, I hope, help me to put such mental rubbish and negativity into the rubbish bin, and have it all incinerated. So that I no longer feel like bursting into tears at such provocations.

Get over it, ok? Finished, kaput, done and dusted, to coin a phrase, to put it in a nutshell, as they say in the classics.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Chaos out of order

Much time has been spent, she says, and please note careful use of impersonal voice, in trying to become better organised, and not to lose or be unable to find so many things. It seems that the experience of having house repairs done can only have exacerbated a deplorable tendency to not be well-organised. Sporadic efforts to change this characteristic seem to have only temporary effects.

For ages I could not find my prescriptions or my medical referrals, for the various minor conditions that the General Practitioner deems worthy of more expert evaluation. You can hardly ring up for an appointment if you cannot find your medical referral. Although why does a referral only last for one year when the condition is perpetual?  Perhaps the reason is that it is a good earner.

Finally, yesterday and today, I found them all and can now set out to make the appointments, before I lose all this paperwork yet again.  There is nothing very serious, it is really just routine maintenance, just like the grease and oil change in the car.

It has taken considerable time to sort through all the documents, bills, receipts, correspondence and to put them into folders. Small piles of papers lay all over the room. All that is needed now is to buy a few more folders, and to maintain an organised and well-regulated schedule and NOT to lose things ever again.  And while things are still tidy, I should get my tax return done.

As if I needed any further aggravation other than those occurring because of my many personal imperfections, my computer just lost its internet connection. No obvious reason, but somehow my domestic network just went and hid itself. The little green light was on, and it all looked perfectly connected, except that it was telling me that there was no connection. Finally I did the simple and obvious thing and switched it off and on again. That made my network option reappear. Technology is so inexplicable. I will never understand it.

In the meantime, as light relief, I did the ironing. Yes, I am one of those prehistoric humans who still does the ironing. And who says to her children, and latterly to the grandchildren "You can't go out looking like that!"

However somewhere or other there has disappeared a little bag containing some vital information about a new and excellent wool supplier. Where can it be?

Yesterday I went along to the knitting and crochet group. What huge fun it all is. Our numbers are growing and the conversations are entertaining and noisy.We all enjoyed our visit to Wrap with Love immensely (and I wrote about it for my Italian class this week) and we all love being part of this growing network of women working together to help others and to be part of the wider community. I get all misty eyed when I think about it.

When I started going to this group, I was the only crocheter. I have been teaching some of them to crochet and now some of the group are joining and edging squared with crochet. And they are starting to crochet some squares too.  A few of them will have to have a go at teaching me to knit! Now there's a challenge.

Fate, however, is still lurking around seeking to inflict more of its random blows. The beautiful red gum entertainment unit I bought six months ago suddenly produced some fine red dust. It must have been incubating or harbouring some wood-eating pest. The makers will have to come out and have a serious look at it and probably take it away for some expert fumigation. Sigh.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Suffer the little children

Out to dinner with friends, I am just home, recollecting with pleasure our common links and shared experiences. I am overlooking the fact that I took some wine which should have been venerably aged and a pleasure to drink, but instead it turned out to be no good. What did it think it was doing, all these years, lying there to reach its peak?  And all to no avail. However the food was good, the ambience excellent, the noise level low, the service excellent and we all had a lovely time. I do not know whether the rest of that vintage is worth opening, or whether we just got a bung bottle.

We are all old enough to recollect our pasts. There has been much publicity here about pedophilia, by teachers, clergy and those in positions of power. We are now to have a Royal Commission into the whole issue. When reviewing our past experiences, we agreed that we had encountered remarkably little of such evil exploitation of the young and vulnerable, and are thankful for that. Evidently we lived in a more repressed, ignorant and innocent age. I find it hard to believe that people in positions of authority and power over the young could have abused their positions so dreadfully. Yet so many, evidently, have suffered grievously. When did such a situation come about?

I am from a much more ignorant and innocent generation. We knew little and imagined less. The abuse of little children was unimaginable - and it remains so, to my mind anyway. I feel sorry for those repressed, inexperienced and frustrated people, but cannot excuse them for their exploitation of children and for their cover ups, their denials and their rationalisations.

I am of an age with Cardinal Pell, but do not suffer from his certainties, his authoritarianism o his blinkered vision. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Uses and abuses, squares and remedies

It has been very quiet around here. Too quiet....then the mobile rang. Where was I? Was I all right? Yes, here I was, sitting quietly at home,having spent the previous day at the crochet clinic and at a concert. It transpired that my land line was on the blink. I had to ring the phone company.

Now, what is their telephone number? I could not find it in the directory, hunt though I may. finally I retrieved my phone bill. Ah, there it was! So I rang them, worked my way through their menu system, successfully identified myself, and finally spoke to a real person.

She wanted to know how many telephones I have in the house, where they all were, and was the internet working. Finally she said, Yes, there appeared to be an external fault, and promised faithfully that it would be fixed by tomorrow night, and that in the meantime all my calls would come through the mobile at no cost to myself. Goody, I said. Please stay on the line, she said, to answer a questionnaire about their service. How would I rate the response to this call? I placed it squarely in the middle. Why had I chosen this? Because, I said, you have promised to fix the problem, but I don't yet know whether this will be accomplished.

Flushed with my quick thinking, and rapier-like wit, I then set out to do some shopping. For food, you understand. I have had a week without the delicious ham and prosciutto I usually buy.

Shopping for one's single self can have problems. I find I do not want to buy two avocados at a time - one will do me nicely. I'd like one sweet corn, but they come in packs of three. Of course, I could buy one of each, but I get charged more per item. This makes me a bit aggravated. So I expressed my dissatisfaction, after I had bought my ham and prosciutto at the deli counter (where they allow you to buy whatever quantity you require).  Yes, said the woman serving me, but this is how we do it. So I went off an bought an avocado elsewhere. So there.

I have to keep my mobile in my bra cup all this while, as otherwise it (the phone, that is) buries itself in the most inaccessible place imaginable and I never find it in time to answer the call.

While out buying the food, I popped into the pharmacy to buy some nail polish. This is a substance not generally kept in my house. However, one must think outside the square.

You would think, would you not, that a man with a chemistry degree would understand a bit about plastics and synthetic substances, and their melting point, and thus would not put fearfully hot frying pans onto the kitchen bench beside the hotplates. Alas, this is what Dr P did some years ago, melting said plastic and leaving holes. Perhaps unreasonably, I fretted about this. While Fernando was here, one of the little additional tasks I gave him was to put silicone around the kitchen sink so as not to let any water drip into the cupboard base. Complaining vehemently about the rotten workmanship of the man who had installed the sink and cut too big a hole for it, Fernando took it all out, cleaned it up and put it back, nicely siliconed into position. (Poor Fernando had many bad things to say about those who had done such bead work and thus caused the rising damp problem, etc.) I thought perhaps he could put a few drops of silicone into the burnt spots. He did, but alas, this did not work.

Nail polish might work, I mused. So yesterday I set off to buy some. A soft mauve was the colour closest to the murky light grey of the benchtop. I bought it, took it home and tried it. It did not look right. For some light relief from all this drama, I painted my nails soft mauve. They did not look right either.

At the chemist I found some soft grey, and brilliant sparkly purple nail polishes. I bought both, and some nail polish remover. The burnt spots now glisten softly grey, and look ok. The deep sparkly purple did not do my nails any favours, so that came off, and I am once again au naturelle.

My other reason for shopping was to get a few more balls of wool. So as to be able to finish the next blanket. An impudent woman tried to push in front of me at the checkout, but had to wait her turn. I bit my tongue over some appropriate reprimands. To further amuse myself and to widen my horizons (or something) I went and tried on a few dresses.

Fashions are at present reminding me of my glorious youth. There are some pretty fabrics and styles. Now that I am thinner, I thought I would try on some dresses. Alas, they are too short in the skirt, and do not look good with lace up shoes. I expressed the hope to the saleswoman that pretty dresses with longer skirts might sell quite well. She sighed. Yes, she said. I hope the next lot won't have such short skirts. Most of my customers are over 35, and they all say the same thing about the short skirts.

Perhaps some fashion designer out there might be less fixated on the under 18 market, and think outside the square. One can only hope.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The socialising

While I was away, I had another blog meet, just as enjoyable as our first a little while back. EC and I talked books, personal matters, families, health, this, and that, and I do think we have a true meeting of minds, both of which have a good sense of fun, what is what, and what right is right. So thank you, EC, for adding  so much to the enjoyment of my life. I look forward to the next time. After all, we did not even discuss gardens. Although with my tiny patch of earth these days I can only reminisce about the glory days of poaching adjoining land and squeezing as many plants in as would possible fit. Although, the last time that I crept surreptitiously around what used to be my garden, I was very saddened by the effects of the drought and the lack of attention to what had been a rather lovely and interesting garden with a great variety of plants. I don't suppose I shall ever have another such garden.

While looking around for EC, I found myself standing a metre away from a friend and former neighbour, who was also prowling around the same book stall. It can be a very small world sometimes. I find such coincidences and linkages quite precious.

When I go away, inevitably my time is limited and so is my energy, and ability to organise enough meetings in the time available. This time, I did not manage to contact some of the friends I would like to have seen, and, of course, being a child-minder, I had to squeeze it all into the daytime. Maintaining friendships takes time and effort.

I had lunch with another friend today before setting off on my return journey. We have known each other since the early 1980s, in a variety of circumstances, including our professional lives and membership of the dame choirs, and we are now both widowed. My friend H is a wonderful person, always interesting, friendly, so very competent, a cat lover par excellence, and a wonderful host who gives me house room from time to time. We met at a local art gallery, to which I hied in order to pick up a framed print which I bought, despite having had to squander heaps on Fernando. But it is a beautiful print, and is now hanging on my wall,  I purr at it as I pass, and pause to gaze, and am glad.

I had a short time with another  friend, who has to be one of the keenest gardeners of all time. She is a former colleague and in her retirement has become a good and impressive artist, and I am very tempted to buy a copy of her print of red toadstools and associated scenery (when I recover from Fernando and my latest extravagance, I hope).

It is nice to be home, to admire anew my timber floors, and to be putting things away, and taking up the threads of my everyday life. Tomorrow the Knitting and Crochet group is going to look at the Wrap with Love Headquarters, and I am looking forward to that. Not that I managed to get much done while I was away. And now there are all these new books to read. Or to dip in and out of.

Child care and foreign affairs

Home again after my week away, caring for two of my grandchildren, and socialising to some extent in my spare time, I sit at the computer thinking up what to write about. It is a funny thing that while deprived of the means of communication, my creativity seems to run riot, but now, back home, every creative thought and expression seems to have plunged into the inaccessible depths of my mind.

My daughter's computer is a laptop, and she takes it away with her, so for a whole week I wrote nothing. Of course, I could have resorted to pen and paper, but somehow this does not work.

The drive home was uneventful, apart from driving through a storm, which actually was quite severe in other parts of the city and has caused many homes to lose power. And by the time I unpack, put things away, check the mail, and drink a glass of wine, creativity is firmly on the back burner.

I am glad to be home. I have to confess to buying more books.  I had a great time playing with my daughter's kitten, and have scratched arms and legs. He is very sweet, purrs madly, but is a scallywag. The grandchildren were pretty good on the whole, and I enjoyed them, but at times they have a regrettable propensity not to do what they are told WHEN they are told, and this occasionally made getting them to school on time, and to swimming lessons on time somewhat fraught. And when there are blood sugar tests and insulin injections to be done, time has to be carefully managed. My grandson seemed interested to know more about the USA election, which I found quite impressive.

Yesterday I was glued to the TV to watch the USA election results as they came in. Most engrossing, and I am glad that Obama has been re-elected. The USA's political system is so different to ours: voting is voluntary rather than compulsory as in Australia, and turnout is very low by our standards. Judging by the queues, turnout was higher in the USA in this presidential election, and I will be interested to learn if it really was higher, and to what extent. The USA uses voting machines, some of which are apparently very antiquated, whereas here we write on our ballot papers. The TV coverage I saw did not give the number of Electoral College votes of the states, so I had to rely on the commentary, and my old memories of past elections.

The USA is good at political rhetoric, but, unsurprisingly, given its size, diversity and complicated history including the War of Independence, slavery, the Civil War, its constitution and the division of powers, you can never work out what will be proposed or done by Congress.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Week 12. Away away

How life changes suddenly. Here I am at my daughter's, for a week's child-minding. I would have quite liked a week's getting myself together, but needs must.

Fernando seems to have finished. There are probably a few little things to fix, but basically, suddenly,  we have finished. The rubbish has been taken away, the garage tidied, most of the paint spots have been wiped off, the dust is less,  and the paint is left to harden. It is hard to believe that the end is in sight.

There is still much dust to be removed, and much to be put back in place. I cannot find my medical referrals, although a couple of prescriptions have turned up. When I say turned up, I actually mean that countless sorting through things has finally revealed one or two of  the lost items. Much chaos still abounds. Sometimes, alas, I think age and decrepitude are overtaking me.

I am now in Canberra now, set for a week's babysitting. Actually what I really want to do is to rest and sort myself out. I feel quite exhausted. It will have to wait, the rest, that is. Week 12.  I have yet to calculate the total cost, and to think about all the other things on whih I could have spent all this money. However  it all did have to be done.

Today I loaded my car up with lots of books and crochet, so as not to run out of things to amuse myself with, while childminding.

Sydney was hot when I left. Here it is quite chilly.

Although Fernando worked hard, there were things about his modus operandi which drove me mad. He'd seize tea towels and use them to wipe paint off things. The tea towel would be ruined. I had to remonstrate about the fact that these things were  not actually disposable rags. He'd grab my little sharp knives and leave them bespattered with paint or glue.  He soaked things a good mug filled with turpentine. I do not like having to remonstrate about such things. Obviously I am a fusspot! And I am used to being by myself. I n many ways I am lonely, but on the other hand having someone in the house for a whole 12 weeks has been too much: I need my own space.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Sexism and misogyny

A debate is - how to describe it? - raging, spitting, frothing,  moving like the weather on a number of fronts - in our lucky country. The debate is making me hiss and spit a bit, just like a cat pushed way beyond its limits of patience and forbearance.

There has been much said and written, propounded by experts, would-be experts, victims, the morally superior, and ordinary types like me. It is called Misogyny.

Although various misogynists protest their a) innocence, b) purest of motives or c) whatever, let it be said right here and now that there is indeed a lot of misogyny about. Much of it is common garden misogyny. Look, if we did not have a female Prime Minister, there would be no problem.(!)  It would all be the best of blokes together, with the occasional woman playing a relatively important and visible part. But knowing her place, and being suitably humble about it.

Lots of people far more qualified to comment than I have put in their various viewpoints. I have just watched our Prime Minister's speech to the Parliament, fierily rebutting misogynist attacks on her by the Opposition, in particular by the Leader.  It was indeed a fine and stirring speech. It has won huge support, and many plaudits, in my view deservedly so.

Last night I went to the opera, to see Richard Strauss's opera Salome, a misogynistic piece if ever there was one. It is based on Oscar Wilde's play, and reeks of misogyny. All the characters are vile, but the women are seen as the worst. Although well staged and brilliantly sung and acted, I never want to see it again, as to my mind it perpetrates dreadful misogyny.

Years ago I read Germaine Greer's The Feminine Mystique, in which she wrote (inter alia) that women did not realise how much men hated them. It was true then, and it is true now. If one little boy wants to deliver a deadly insult to another little boy, he calls him a girl!  Says it all, really. When I see the relentless trivialisation of women and the constant brainwashing to have women see themselves in terms of their sexual attractiveness, I almost despair. This despite the immense progress I have seen in my lifetime. In some ways the brainwashing is far more extensive and overwhelming than it was in the past, and much of it is packaged in allegedly liberating terms.

Recently I had my annual check up for breast cancer. The only magazines in the waiting rooms were those which featured celebrities, make-up, plastic surgery, sexy clothing, very high heels, psychic advice and forecasts, and star signs. Plus some recipes and feel-good stories. It is so depressing, especially if young women drink up and believe all this propaganda and sexual typecasting.

Opportunities for women are so much better than when I reached adulthood. Women, once they married, could expect to lose permanency in jobs which were permanent for men and for unmarried females. Married women were ineligible to join superannuation schemes. There was no equal pay. Men tended to be promoted over women, even in occupations in which women  predominated. Gradually these injustices were corrected. But now there seems to be a blatant but insidious campaign to put women back into their proper roles as sex objects.

As I walked up to the Art Gallery today, I passed the windows of the major retailer, David Jones, which were filled with images of women (gorgeous young things) modelling swim suits. They all stood in unnatural poses, flaunting their sexual attractiveness. Unfortunately so many of us women seem to be very vulnerable in this respect. And I don't exclude myself, even though, having been married twice, divorced once and now widowed, and well past menopause, I am past all that. But I still want to look attractive.

I observe the debates raging about Islamic countries and their treatment of women - in so many cases the women are covered and veiled, and denied basic human rights. Some justify the veiling of women as being the choice of the women. I dispute this. We read reports of male mob sexual assaults being perpetrated against female journalists.

Our country is a secular democracy, and men and women have equal rights, political, social and personal. These are the standards which we absolutely must uphold and we must protect and defend those forced into subservience and double standards.

Women are more than faces, breasts, and vaginas. Just as men are more than handsome hulks, penises and testicles. We all have brains, souls, minds and characters.

We are all human beings and should act as such.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Away and back, and some mood management

Here I sit, yawning away. It is time for bed, after some dozing on the couch. Yesterday I returned from looking after grandchildren, while my daughter flew off to earn some wherewithal. I am weary, and not as young as I used to be. The driving hither and thither is quite tiring. As is the child-minding.

My hands are scratched, from playing with her most beguiling kitten. He is very sweet, and makes me think I need a kitten myself. It would be lovely to sit and stroke a purring kitten.  But first I need to investigate the near-by-ness of catteries.

In between playing with the kitten, caring for the children and feeding them, and coping with an over-sensitive smoke alarm, I pulled out lots of weeds, and pondered the waywardness of heredity. I have always loved plants, and enjoyed gardening, and growing as many species as could possibly be squeezed into the available space. Not so my children, who display a total indifference to such pursuits. How can this be? Whose genes leapfrogged over mine and knocked them off course?

More child-minding looms, and I feel tired in anticipation, and in the consequent displacement of my regular activities.

Fernando is back, for week 11. He has been painting. Perhaps age is withering me, as I feel somewhat peeved to have him plonk his paintbrushes into my kitchen sink. He has already filled my clothes baskets,  and my buckets, and used my little sharp knives for this and that, as well as my nice French tea towels to wipe paint off things. There are things that I am not good at protesting about, and these are amongst them. The inconvenience of not having a clothes basket in which to carry the washing to the clothesline is, of course, neither here nor there. I gave up, and put it all into the clothes dryer instead. My carbon footprint must be heavy right now.

Some wild and heavy rain pelted down late this afternoon and much of it came in underneath the kitchen door. It took a lot of mopping up. This happened just after I had cleaned out my sinks and scrubbed off the paint residues. I then spent some time removing books and CDs from the shelves and cleaning off the dust. Again! Then I vacuumed some of the dust from the furniture. It is an exciting life, moving book by book, CD by CD, wiping off the dust, traipsing back to the kitchen to rinse the sponge, and so on and so forth.

It must be nice to be in control of one's life. Perhaps in my next incarnation I could create a greater nuisance.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Just because

The topic of this post should be about the Prado exhibition, but let me see what comes out through the fingers. Reality has this habit of interposing itself between what was on your mind to write about and the most recent events. Avaunt, recent events.

Yes, Fernando is still working away here, in week 10. He is sanding and painting, and that means everything is yet again covered in dust, and why I try incessantly to clean it all up I do not know - it is scarcely the act of a rational human being. Tomorrow he will paint another coat, and perhaps do the outside doors and windows. I will be on the road, as I am to mind my grandchildren while their mother sets off again for the delights of photographing racehorses. What I really want to do is stay home and attend to my own pursuits, and perhaps rest a wee while, but, as we all know, the maternal instinct burns strongly within our breasts. Petrol prices have suddenly escalated hugely, doubtless due to a filthy capitalist plot, and  naturally I have to pay these prices for both trips. I might nick down to the knitting group before setting off, just to get my fix of female companionship and collective good will and endeavour.

Brisbane and the Prado. Well, we had a very good time. The Art Gallery is an attractive building and the exhibition was great. We listened to a guide, and then went hither and thither as our fancies took us, coming out for lunch, and then returning.

I visited Spain in 2010, and went to the Prado, which was a wonderful day. This visiting exhibition has a relatively small selection of its collection, and it ranged quite widely, from portraits of the royal family, to still life paintings, Goya paintings and etchings, and other artists such as Ribera and Zurbaran. There is an intensity to Spanish art which connects with my own emotions and sensibilities, and I have had a long-standing interest in Spanish history, despite not having an extensive knowledge of it. Velazquez is one of my favourite painters.

At the entrance to the exhibition there is a digital photographic montage (??) of the room in the Prado which exhibits the most famous of Velazquez's many royal portraits, culminating, at the far end ,in that most famous painting Las Meninas. As you stand and gaze towards the end of the room, you become quite dizzy, as the effect of the montage is to distort the spacial properties of the room. There is a bench upon which you can sit and have your photo taken so that it appears that you are actually in the Prado. I am not sure I approve of such ploys, but it is very effective and cleverly done, and so we each have our photos of it.

We browsed afterwards in the bookshops, but managed not to buy anything much - paying Fernando each week must have imbued me with some sense of financial prudence - but I must blushingly admit that I did pick up a couple of bargains.

After a Spanish style afternoon tea we walked across to the Contemporary Art Gallery, where we saw such artistic wonders as an immense collection of tyres roped together, which can be seen from below and above, and another masterpiece, - a collection of large rotating brushes, such as you can find in car-wash places, but three times as large. I am rather depressed to realise that the perpetrators think a) that this is art, and that b) we the taxpayers have coughed up too much money to buy it and inflict it upon lots of innocent art-loving taxpayers.

The next day we walked through the Botanic Gardens and admired all the trees, ducks, water features and greenery, and then proceeded to Parliament House House, where we were given a little personal tour by an enthusiastic and very knowledgable man who has worked there for 25 years and who was absolutely the full quid on everything to do with Queensland politics. My own background fitted in nicely with his, and so we had much to discuss. He was most impressed when I succeeded in identifying the anomaly in the 1862 stained glass window of Queen Victoria. Everything has its uses, it seems.

Then we took the Airtrain to the airport, parted company and set off on our respective return trips. we saw each other again today at our own Art Gallery, and  glowed again in our recollections.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

When not to write a new post...

New posts should not be written after a long day, late at  night, when bed is where you should be, fast asleep. However, seize the night, say I, and it has been the only opportunity for the last few days.
That's because I have been away, and not able to do a post.

My friend and I went to Brisbane to see the exhibition from the Prado. I 'let' her organise the accommodation, which was within walking distance of the station. We took the train from the airport to the city, and, I must say, it sure beats using taxis.

We flew separately. I went to the city in the morning, to the crochet clinic, as I needed to check whether my interpretation of the pattern was correct. And I was missing the fun of going there. Then I caught the train to the airport. A Chinese couple was sitting in the carriage, and I almost asked them whether they knew what they were doing, as their luggage bore the tags of an international flight, indicating arrival rather than departure, but desisted, thinking perhaps it would be impertinent to put this question. The train moved off eventually and then they asked me. They had indeed just arrived, and should have alighted. So I told them to get off at the next station and go back to the city, and have been reproaching myself ever since for not interfering.

Must repeat to self: Interference is good.

My friend and I, having arrived safely at the apartment, then faced the problem of where to eat. No one was on duty at Reception to give us advice. The apartment had a booklet of places which would bring food to us, but they cost an arm and a leg. Everything was closed and no one was about. We needed our legs, so we went out for an exploratory wander.

First we found the Anglican cathedral and went in for a look, to be greeted with glad cries by a clergyman, who told us all about it, allowed me to take photos, and invited us to stay for the evening service, so as (inter alia) to enjoy the choir's singing. So we did, for a while, before setting out once more in search of food.

We found ourselves down by the riverside where all the restaurants were hideously expensive. Eventually we decided to starve and set off back to the apartment, and then fortunately found an Asian and moderately priced cafe, and thus consumed enough to sustain us for the extensive efforts of the next day.

The next morning we went out for coffee, and discovered there was a supermarket close by. Thither we went, and bought bread rolls, and lots of salady things, so as to be able to eat in the apartment, and not experience the traumas of the previous evening.

Thus replenished and nourished, we set off for the Art Gallery, and the exhibition from the Prado.

We had the whole day to look at Great Art. I can announce quite positively and with absolute certainty that the art of the past is infinitely superior to that of the last fifty years.

But bed calls, and there is a class or several to get to tomorrow, I have been at choir tonight, and have had a busy day, with Fernando back, doing all manner of things. No, it is not finished yet...

More anon.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Oh my aching back

Age is withering me and custom spoiling my infinite variety. Oh, my aching back! Ouch! too much lifting and moving of things around. What a shame I have not lived in an era in which someone - spouse, servant, or eager helpers - sprang to my aid and did all the heavy lifting. Alas, No, there is just me.

Fernando turned up this morning, in a rather subdued form, having had a serious quarrel with his wife and he is wondering whether they should separate, but may perhaps in the meantime seek some sort of counselling. It seems to be a volatile relationship. I hope he sorts it out, as break-ups are awful and take years to recover from. I speak from experience.

However, my own concerns being uppermost in my mind, I am glad to say that the power points have been put back together, the window winders and door locks are back in place, and much to my surprise Colin also turned up, and thus most of the furniture is back in place.

There is still some painting to be done, but as it is raining, this cannot be done immediately.  And there is this and that to be done.

Mostly, it now seems, by me. I have been moving things around and putting the contents of the shelves back into position. The thing that perplexes me is where exactly were all the rugs? Have I put them back  in the right spots? I am not sure.

My back is aching like billy-oh. I should go to bed with a hot water bottle and a painkiller. Perhaps age is creeping up on me. Perhaps there is no perhaps about it. It is all very exhausting. You can see why people suddenly go into retirement villages and let others take care of practically everything. But no, not for me. Not yet. Not for ages, I say optimistically. There is far too much still to be done.

This tiredness must be partially due to the recording we have done for the past two nights. A fascinating process, with many repetitions. The Man in Charge, Tom, the one with the superlative ear, had a line which we came to recognise. Excellent, he would say. And then he would add, Ummm.... And we would all say 'Oh Oh!' Then he would say, "I think if we repeated it from Bar 101..." And we would then do it all again. And again. The composer apparently was quite enthralled by it all, and I must say it was all rather fascinating, albeit tiring. Not that I am complaining. Just observing. My voice will be amongst all those others making what we all fervently hope will be glorious singing. And I just love hitting all those high notes! Our soloist, Amelia Farrugia was wonderful.

My sisters were all good at playing the piano, whereas I was woeful. Only in recent years have I realised that some of my difficulties were due to my eyesight, as well as to an innate lack of talent. But singing is another matter. It has been something I was able to get better at doing, and I remain convinced that singing gives greater pleasure than mere playing. That's my story, anyway.

Time for bed! What will the morrow bring? Probably not Fernando, not for another few days. It surely cannot be possible for everything to be so suddenly completed. I am off to Brisbane on Sunday to see the exhibition from The Prado. Whacko the diddle-oh!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

This is Week Nine

It is a nice quiet day. Here I am back home after my visit to Melbourne, more of which anon. But where is Fernando? I prowl around my dusty home, wiping surfaces (pointlessly), and contemplate the newly painted door and window frames. Not all of them have had their locks and handles screwed back on. The pictures cannot yet be re-hung. Some of the light switches have yet be be put back. The laundry trough is full of a washing basket full of tools, too heavy for me to lift out. And the lounge is still packed with everything and the dust rises only to settle unkindly close by.

There is a new hot water service installed, and thus there is hot water. All the taps rushed and gurgled when first turned on. The new tank is shorter than the old one, but fatter, so the back door cannot open fully. Nor did it occur to me to consider getting a gas hot water service. That's the trouble with reality unexpectedly cascading all down your front, like baby burp products or or turmeric stains from an Indian curry. Reality is difficult to ignore.

Fernando is probably going to be back tomorrow. This is Week Nine. Week Ten is ominously close. At this rate I am rapidly abandoning the Mustn't Grumble attitude.

Melbourne was exceedingly cold. Despite wearing three layers, I shivered a lot. In the few days before I departed the weather here was rather hot, and I packed a sleeveless dress - which stayed in the bottom of the suitcase. Fortunately I bethought me to check the weather forecast before I left - just as well.

The christening was lovely, and we all enjoy getting together to catch up with all the nieces and nephews and their numerous progeny. I just found out that my generation's 31st grandchild is expected (all going well). And two of my generation have yet to have any grandchildren. The baby looked lovely in the family christening robe, which is by now in a rather fragile condition, and has to be put on and taken off with great care. He was a serious little bub all throughout, but all the other littlies rushed about delightedly and delightfully. I gave this baby the completed purple cot blanket.

We also called over to see the latest newborn, just a week old, who is quite beautiful and who lay there in that very intense sleep of the newborn. I gave her a present - but alas, took the wrong one along - it was for the baby boy just a couple of months older, who has arrived with the rest of his family from the UK. All has now been set to rights, fortunately.  Next time I visit I hope to see them all awake, instead of merely gazing at them sleeping.

One of my grandsons has just had his birthday, and his father's occurred during my visit, so it was all very festive. I had a lovely time with my daughter and family, and my grandsons are delightful. And I weeded their small herb patch, so as to inspire more plantings.

The choir is busy recording a new composition which we sang some months ago. It is being done two nights in a row, and is a complicated business, with lots of starts and stops and repetitions. The man handling the recording process has the most incredible musical ear. Oh, to be so gifted!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

And on and on it goes

You've all heard how people beat their heads against walls in sheer frustration and because of lack of alternatives. Alack and alas, and woe. One thing leads to another, inexorably, it seems. How does one avoid things being inexorable? Just because it is a lovely word does not mean we want to have it inflicted upon us.

Here I am, in the throes of fixing my rising damp problem, and on and on it goes. One thing leads to another. The floor is there, looking rather lovely, albeit still covered each day (despite the best efforts in wielding the broom) with fine dust, covering everything, and reducing the owner of all this dust, ie, me, to the dismals of despair, wandering around wiping away, without  prospects of achieving dustlessness.
We, that is Fernando and I, are coming to the end of the 8th week, and I would have thought the end should have been well in sight, if not receding rapidly into the past. Alas, No, one thing leads to another.

Inexorably (there is THAT word again), the ninth week approaches. I am off to Melbourne tomorrow, for a family christening and some birthdays -my grandson's, my son in law's, my son's, and there is a new great niece, who is about the 30th grandchild to be born to my numerous family. October is evidently a good month in which to give birth.

Having resigned myself to the 8th week, somehow or other I did not foresee that further disasters were about to envelop me. This morning Fernando discovered that my hot water service is leaking and thus needs replacing.  He had already pointed out that a) it was rather old, and that b) it should have been sitting on a tray. Both these defects are about to be remedied. I have to get a new hot water thingy and Fernando will install it. He can, it seems, do anything and everything. I hope he does not see me as the bottomless pit, because I am by no means such a thing.

Fernando has been painting the walls. This is an open plan house. This means there is a serious lack of doors, and that walls go right through from one room to the next. Thus, where can one stop painting? And there are windows composed of glass bricks, and the walls around these seems to be seriously defective. Alas and woe. Will it never be finished? It seems not.

My light switches are dangling from the walls, the dust abounds, remnants of paint cling to my sink, and I cannot find anything at all. For a person who seeks to reassert control over her life, to combat the ferocious blows of a malign fate (sob, sob) it is all a bit much.

This afternoon, as Fernando was on his way out, I got him to lift this piece of hard foam, originally inserted to stop Dr P from tripping when he went from the breakfast area to the toilet through the laundry (a frequent trip, given his prostate problems). Now that there is a new and lower floor, the plastic piece is too high and thus needed to be fixed in case I trip on it and fall, (more sob sob) and lie there undiscovered for months...... Having levered  it off, the tiles came up with it, and thus this too needs to be fixed. Where will it ever end?

I have been attempting to blot out harsh reality buy crocheting furiously, and have just completed a cot blanket. I hope one of the family will like it, so will take it down as an offering, but if rejected, I am sure it can find a good home and purpose somewhere around here. It is in shades of purple (surprise) and came about because years ago I had crocheted a number of squares, but not enough of them to make a whole blanket. And then, of course, it became impossible to buy more of the same wool. Waste not, want not, I said, and thus crocheted furiously around them all, and in the twinkling of an eye have completed a blanket. Now all it needs is a good home and a baby. Purple is a good unisex colour, yes?

I went shopping today for baby presents, and came away depressed at the inexorable (there is that word again) pink for girls, and cars and trucks for boys divide.  However, banish sorrow, banish care, I am looking forward to meeting these new babies, and hope to give them a few cuddles. I just love little babies.  The way they snuggle softly into your shoulders, snuffling softly. The newness of them. Their responsiveness. How human they are, right from the word Go. The way you can engage any little babe, smiling into their eyes as they lie in their prams, and how they look at you and smile right back. We are hard-wired to love babies, I fervently believe.

Is this why I keep crocheting cot blankets?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

No one tells it all

It is taking me a while to do this post, as I keep mulling it around in my head. It springs from  In this life's post, replying to a reader's comment chiding her for her comments about missing her offspring. I take up her comment that in blogging no one tells it all. And indeed we don't. We tell a a lot, but our writings are edited, for many, many reasons.

I wanted to comment on this post but could not summon up a considered response, and therefore thought to write a post of my own.  The on-line debate continued, but Isabelle has asked for no further comments, and thus I will pursue my thoughts here. Even though they are probably not particularly original, I wanted to disentangle and explicate some of my reactions.

In blogging we tell our stories. If the unvarnished and full accounts are to be written, it would be in a diary. But warts and all in a blog? No. Thus both strengths and weaknesses are revealed in this combination of public/private discourse.

You never know who reads, or who knows about our situations. I do not talk about my children's lives, other than in the most general terms, as our lives and relationships are our own business, and I know that casual remarks can be quite wounding. So I am careful about what I write.

There are things and emotions I do not express in my blog, or which I express in a cautious or guarded fashion. I guard and edit to protect myself, but, candidly, also to not display my worst and most negative and self-pitying characteristics. Generally I want to show myself in a positive light. But I also want to complain, to moan and groan from time to time. I tell no lies: but I tell my own truth. But the whole truth, all the nitty-gritty? No, I do not.

There were many times when I was tempted to write more about Dr P and the step-family, especially in the first year after his death, during which I endured an intensely stressful and difficult legal battle. Generally I tried to write with balance, and with some degree of impartiality. And, having spent months preparing affidavits, setting out in minute and documented details all the particulars of my life, my marriage, my relationships, my family, my finances, and having had to rebut lies designed to put me in a negative light,  to criticise and denigrate my character, enough is enough. It is time for me to look to the future rather than to wallow in the past. While at times I want to hit out, to flail, to reproach, I do try not to do so. There are times when it is best for me to just shut up.

I am now trying to recover, to rebuild my life, to be able to enjoy the good things, and to overcome the bad, the deprivations and disappointments. It is not easy. Thus from time to time I express things in my blog. To do so helps me to cope and to think again, to meditate, and, I hope, to be positive rather than negative. Blogging has expanded my world,  brought me into contact with many other soul mates. We are not alone, but reach out to each other. And the world keeps turning.

Friday, 28 September 2012

A trough full of electric cords, sanding machines and many spatulas

Evidently it does not occur to builders that houses contain items for everyday household use. Rather, they are there to enable builders to accommodate all the things they do not want to lug to and fro each day.

Thus, in addition to my not having much use of the kitchen, the kitchen bench, or being able to find things, let alone cook things, and having to traipse from room to room in order to get the milk or anything else from the refrigerator, it does not occur to Fernando that perhaps I might want to use my laundry trough. Kitchen knives and other cutlery are handy tools for this and that, my nicest mugs are seized to serve as containers, and my good face washer has been ruined because he used it to mop up the glue. Why he could not have used Dr P's old underpants I cannot tell. Or ask whether there are any old things he can use.

Apparently in the UK people say 'Mustn't grumble.' I cannot entirely adopt this sentiment as a modus vivandi. Or as an overall philosophy. Indeed, I feel very much impelled to grumble, especially as there seems little point in venturing to complain outright, for whereas he might stop doing one thing, he is very likely to do something similar. I am reminded of issuing reprimands to small children, only to provoke the protesting cry. "You never told us not to do that' they bleated, in injured tones. Well, it never occurred to me (or to other rational parents) that they might think up doing whatever it was. Such are our failures of imagination.

And so it seems to be with builders.

Well, I/we have come to the end of week seven and week eight is by no means certain to end it all.
Mustn't grumble, though. He took off all the window handles, door locks etc, and put them all back on before heading off for the long weekend. (Fittingly enough, Monday is a Public Holiday for Labour Day.) He is taking the family up the coast, and I will sit amidst the encircling gloom. Before he finished for the day Fernando put all the handles and locks back on all the doors and windows. This was a Good Thing.

Undercoats of paint have now been applied and the next decision to be made is whether to go along with Fernando's original suggestion of off-white ,or for his latest choice of white. I think it will be white.

The cities of Melbourne and Sydney are in the midst of a popular frenzy as all the footy finals are to be played tomorrow. Sydney has a team in the AFL final, which used to be a Melbourne team.

While I quite like AFL, and detest the NSW rugby games, I cannot get very excited about footy. Being neither an Eldest Child, not the First Boy, as a child I was low in the pecking order, and very seldom actually got taken to a football game. And so I lost interest. Dr P ruled the selection of TV viewing, and arguing about sport never seemed to be worth the effort. But perhaps I might watch the AFL tomorrow. It depends on whatever else might be available.

My evening was enlivened by the TV revelation that the British Prime Minister did not know who had written Rule Britannia. Neither did I, but it somehow never blighted my life. But I do know about Magna Carta.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

And on and on..

Fernando sanded down all the doors and windows, having done the walls yesterday. It was not too noisy, and I hope it was not too difficult for the practice next door. One's tolerance of noise seems to vary as the experience continues. I spent some time this morning cleaning the windows and dusting down the flyscreens.

I had not expected Fernando this week, as he'd talked of going away for a week, but by now I dare not allow any possible completion date to winkle its way into my mind. Avaunt, I tell such thoughts. We had to get the sanders/sealers back, as they had used white putty sort of stuff as fillers, and they were obvious. Apparently it was easy enough to fix, which made me wonder why they had not done so in the first place. Ah me!

Fernando has done a lot of sanding and filling, so as to paint it all, and this raised vast quantities of dust, so much that it set off the smoke alarm. He managed to turn it off, but not the flashing alarm light outside. My technological knowledge and ignorance, not to mention fear and loathing, is considerable. I came out of choir this evening to find a message from the neighbour across the road, as the light was flashing into their children's bedroom. I telephoned the security firm and they talked me through it, but I am consumed by guilt and shame at my technological deficiencies. Really, you should be able to grow out of being a total sook. It is time I grew up. All the same, those security systems are horrible things, and are all too likely to reduce me to a quivering pulp. And it has been the case that every time I manage to clean off some of the dust and grime, even more comes and covers absolutely everything.

All these (relatively trivial) experiences seem to drive out sustained thoughts about more serious matters. The weekend was rather quiet. Choir practice took up most of Saturday, and on Sunday I wandered up to the market and came home with another couple of books. One is by David Crystal, entitled By hook or by crook: a journey in search of English.  I am dipping in and out of it, and came across an account of writing something in which every word starts with the same letter. Slowly started, simply, soon sampling seriously sustained sentences, synopsis of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Simply staggering.

And very entertaining!

Margaret Atwood has written several children's books using this technique. I have two of them and they invariably make me chortle. They are Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes and Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda.

I used to read them to my grandchildren and gave them copies. The other book, which I have never been able to find, is Princess Prunella and the Purple Pea. The books came with a CD of Margaret Atwood reading them aloud.

Just so as to distract myself from thoughts of building noises, security systems and other technical matters, I quote the final paragraph of Rude Ramsay.

So while the raccoons, rabbits, robins wrens and raggedy ravens all roosting on the ramparts cheered, Ramsay, Rillah, and Ralph the red-nosed rat crawled back through the Roman-vaulted rat-hole...and romped riotously among the roses, beside the rippling river, under the radiant rainbow.

What I need now is some escapist literature/reading matter, and some soothing music. And a glass of wine.

Friday, 21 September 2012

The cracked record

That is what I feel like to myself. I could rant on and on about the dust and chaos in the house and the fact that it will be another couple of weeks before it is finished, because Fernando wants a week's holiday, etcetera, but I sound like one of those aggravating cracked records and there is only myself to lift up the needle and to get it playing again.

I know that there are people in the world who do not know about records, and how they got scratched and therefore hiccupped in the same spot until manually moved on. Now I don't suppose I want anyone to come and manually move me on, and thus I have to think electronically and select another track. Perhaps it is only going to play the same sort of music. So beware.

I am just back home from having a meal at a restaurant with a friend. We were all set to finish the meal with a raspberry gelato, but the main courses were too large for us to manage anything else, and thus such delights must wait for another day.

This morning I went to the knitting and crochet group, which was fun. From time to time people wander in and observe us.  Today a woman came in with her small daughter, as the daughter is interested in learning to knit. They seemed suitably impressed. Perhaps one day someone can teach me to knit. However the delights of crochet are being transmitted, and now the squares are being joined by crochet. I have, after all, achieved something in my life.

I had all sorts of intentions for the rest of the day, but it was swallowed up by this and that. I changed the sheets this morning and put them on the clothesline. Mine is a very tiny back garden and my bed is a king size one, and thus the king size sheets do not fit properly on the line. Off I went to the knitting group, and then down came the rain, which naturally interferes considerably with the drying process.

Being increasingly bad-tempered about the dirt and grime, I set about trying to clean up the kitchen. Oh dearie me! what a task, and much scrubbing was required. Of course I have no idea whether there will be yet another layer of dust once things get sanded down for the painting.

But hey, as they say, I was not even going to talk about that. It just slipped out and typed itself, even if the typing did require some editing and corrections.

Last night I went to a concert performance of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, performed by our wonderful Brandenburg Orchestra. The music is sublime and the singing quite beautiful, excellent and gorgeous. I share and understand all that grief and loss, even though I don't quite understand how Orfeo let poor Euridice wander through the grass and get bitten by the snake. He should have been there with her, beating the grass and driving out all the snakes and other nasty beasties, instead of blathering on, ever so musically, about how much he loved her.

But that's men for you! And the legend has given the world such wonderful words and music over the ages.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Stinging eyes

Back home from an agreeable time at the opera discussion group,  where luscious music from Gounod's Faust was played, followed by lunch with a friend, my eyes are now stinging and my nose protesting from the strong smell of the substance used to seal the new floors. Round One. Round Two is tomorrow.

I may have to migrate.

I can't get into the kitchen or dining room, so it will be hunting and gathering at the local takeaways tonight.  Last night I slept very badly, for fear of sleeping in, as the sanding and polishing firm was to turn up at 7.30 am . Once that is all done, then there is some repainting. Perhaps it will all be finished by the end of the week, but it is surely unwise to say this out loud.  At least the firm this morning stuck up drop sheets all over the place, and what a pity this did not not happen during the last five weeks.

Just as well I had the opera study group to go to.

I took my crochet along, as is my wont, and I must say that doing crochet is a wonderful icebreaker and conversation piece. The crochet clinic was yesterday, which is all good clean fun, and I rewarded myself with an ice cream afterwards. There is a great fellowship in handcrafts and making things. but what is the female word of fellowship?  Fellowship sounds very blokey. I want a nice female word.

I left the house early so as not to get into the way of the workers, and thus had a slow trip across the city in hideous traffic. I sat in the car, waiting for it to be time to go into the hall for the talk.  Then my sister rang me, and we talked for some time,  which made my phone battery almost flat.  As I drove home this afternoon, it occurred to me that I had left my mobile phone charger in the kitchen, and thus could not get to it.  I drove over to the nearest set of shops, bought new chargers, as well as two books for $5 each, and some sliced ham to nibble should midnight starvation afflict me tonight or tomorrow night. Perhaps the prospect of the fumes addled my reason, as one book is on fabric painting and decoration, and all I can say in my defence is that I must be a cock-eyed optimist, and/or be completely divorced from both reality and probability. The other is on the Sun King's Garden, and while it is of fairly modest interest, surely for a mere $5 you can't go wrong.

Now a blowfly has come in through the open door upstairs. And where is the fly spray?

Downstairs in the kitchen. As is my little sharp knife. How will I slice the cheese?

The floors look very convincingly wet, but promise to look good.

Friday, 14 September 2012

PS - amazing scenes

Here is an update.

I went into the lane this morning and took photos of the rubbish. A bit later, before setting off to take my car to get serviced, I checked the lane again. The kids were all there. I took a photo and called out to them that I was checking the amount of rubbish they left. I said 'Do you think you could pick it all up and put it in a bin somewhere?' They called back, 'Yes, we'll pick it all up." 'Thanks, that's great', I said.

After dropping off the car, I went back into the lane to see what, if anything, had happened. The rubbish was (mostly) gone.


Can this last?

Now I want to talk to them and find out more about their pre and after school feeding hebits. Dare I?

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Week five: looking forward to sawdust-less life

The completion of the works is tantalisingly within sight, but, like a mirage, recedes on close scrutiny. Further necessary works present themselves. The prospect of these makes my heart thump alarmingly, even though the daily litany of what happens next ought, by now,  to have prepared me. Partly I suffer from an ignorance of building techniques. Suddenly I discover that when you get doors painted you need oil based paints. The rest can be water based paints. It is tempting to do what was done in the past, thus causing me so much angst and so much money, and just to opt for the cheapest option. But I say to myself, sternly, that fixing things properly does give me freedom of choice. And I need freedom of choice. Who knows what will happen next, what blows of fate may yet rise up to strike me?

Sanding and sealing are booked in for Monday, as we enter week six. I hope we will not need week seven. The second set of steps might be completed tomorrow. At the end of each day, the amount of sawdust is staggering. I feel the house will never be clean.

However, yesterday I cooked some Anzac biscuits and took them along to choir, it being the first sopranos' turn to do tea duty. They all got eaten. Not even a crumb remained. And tonight I cooked myself some dinner, having first wiped all the sawdust off the hotplates.

Despite my attempts to maintain cheerfulness and tranquillity, I am tempted to throw my weight about. The local school children sit in the lane, eating, drinking and smoking before they arrive at school. I am very tempted to go and take photos of them, and of all the mess, butts, drink and food containers that they leave in the lane. Then, I may perhaps send them to the school. Who do they think cleans up all this mess, and who collects all their rubbish? Do their (unfortunate) mothers follow them around so to do? I fear not.

Actually I would rather like to talk to them and to discover whether they eat breakfast before they set off for school, and how much money they spend each day on the way to and from school. Certainly the local shops do a brisk trade in Slushies, and other takeaway food etc after school. I am quite curious as to how much is spent by families each day and week on takeaway food and drinks. So many of the children are eating on their way to school. Why is this so?

Tomorrow my car gets serviced. There was some shuddering of the brakes on the trips to and from Canberra, and the service is overdue anyway.

The local climate fluctuated dramatically today. Just like real life.