Monday, 30 January 2012


Back home after several days in Melbourne seeing all my children and four of my grandchildren, I sit at the computer feeling strangely lethargic. Where to start? What to say? Perhaps my muse is still in the air. It is certainly not inhabiting my imagination.

Being with all my children does not happen very often. My daughter Stomper and Fixit gave me, in their loving home, my lovely grandsons, a bed, cups of tea, a sympathetic ear, the chance to put aside the things which beset me, liberty to do whatever suited me, Basil the cat to play with (he was really only interested in the long narrow ribbons dangling from my nightie - the rest of the time he played difficult to find and hard to get). My other daughter and my son and his boys were also there. It happens rarely that we are all together, and it felt good. We all spent some hours yesterday at the pool. Pools and swimming are such enjoyable pursuits, and it was lovely to see so many families having such a good time, with the littlies flinging themselves in and out of the water and having such fun. It was a VERY hot day.

I have returned home feeling better than when I left it. The minor vexation occasioned by the impenetrable instructions in the crochet pattern was assuaged by all the good and nice things that happened.

I had dinner one night with a friend. My youngest sister and I spent some time wandering in and out of shops of varying degrees of trendiness. I tried on a sundress, but it was too short. The salesgirl suggested it could be worn with leggings.  With a sundress?  No way!

When we parted, I decided to walk some of the way home. My newish sandals chafed my little toes, and thus I resorted to the tram. Alas, a tram had broken down further up the line, so the route was clogged with stationary trams. It enabled me to get out, and go to the supermarket to buy bandaids for my little toes, and then get back on the tram again.

On Saturday I met another sister and we saw the Metropolitan Opera's production of Gounod's Faust, which went for over four hours, and was absolutely stupendous and enthralling, with superb singing and acting. I recommend it.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Imagine all the people

It's people, not pills, that make the difference. For me, that is.

I have endured a lecture from my youngest sister urging me to go on anti-depressants. She means well. It works for her, but not for me. Yes, I know that if you have a broken leg, you use crutches. I don't think they work as well for hearts and emotions. I think she fails to understand the difference.

Nevertheless I will discuss it all with my doctor. She is a sensible and good woman, whose advice deserves respect. If anything I would need tranquillisers, to help deal with all the ongoing stress, and that which is to come with the legal proceedings.

My sister has had huge support, personal, emotional, social, legal, and financial, from family and friends. And from anti-depressants. She has a very outgoing personality, is brave and talented, and is very attractive.

I am different, as is my situation. I must use my own qualities and apply my intelligence to my situation, While it does not change the emotions, or the practical difficulties which confront me, I am able to analyse how and why I feel as I do. It must be endured. This metaphorical dark night can be extremely long, but I hope to experience the reality of the saying that "weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning".

What makes the difference for me is people. They give me the sympathy, practical help, emotional support, kindness, laughter and understanding, all of which are essential. I need the people. Their support  helps keeps me going. This is why I needed my children to be with me over Christmas. Even if I was not much fun.

I love my distant family, but I have had to be the one to make more of the efforts to keep in touch. They visit me seldom. When I visit, they are good, kind and hospitable. They came here for Dr P's funeral, but none has visited me since. All their visits have been to others, such as our older sister, who has dementia, but none has hopped on a plane or a train to come and be with me during this first year.  So I have had to ask, to be demanding. I am subject to jealousy. I know they all are busy, have many other commitments, their own families. But I need them. And I don't want to feel that I am always the supplicant.

I don't like admitting to such ignoble feelings, and think it would be very inadvisable to express them. I'd rather be able to think well of myself. It is necessary to come to terms with them myself.

There are friends here who have given me enormous support and comfort. My friend MH and her husband, who constantly ask me over for dinner, ring me up, who gave me their opera tickets, with whom I can both laugh and cry.  MG, the bell-ringer, divorced many years ago, left with five children to bring up, who had a mastectomy at the age of 80. My juror friend N, and her husband, with whom I share so many interests and passions.  E, such a kind and gentle person, with understanding and compassion.  M, in Adelaide, widowed three years ago, so brave, so wonderful, so constant. My friend C, ever interesting and always compassionate, whose daughter died suddenly from cancer at the age of 18.  G, whose son died after heart surgery.  KP, partner of my closest friend. And there are others, from my classes and from my choir. These are the people who continue to make a difference and who give me comfort. They understand loss and bereavement and they know me. We are able to laugh together.

My blog, and all my blogging friends, who have commented with such kindness, generosity, humour and understanding, have helped me. To all of you out there, I thank you, and appreciate everything. You have been balm and comfort to my soul, offering practical wisdom, kindness, generosity of spirit,  insight and understanding. This has meant very much to me.  Truly it is people, with their milk of human kindness, who matter most. They make and keep the ties that bind.

Friday, 20 January 2012

No place for me, no good place to be

Today is awful. It is the period in between what would have been Dr P's 88th birthday and the anniversary of his death in a month. I am sitting around crying and feeling sorry for myself. Sad, depressed, fearful, and aware that I am not a real part of anyone's life, except for being a bit of a nuisance. I wanted to go away to see family for a few days, but everyone is busy with other things, and I cringe about having to ask for a bed. Everyone is working, busy, holidaying or away. Too busy to talk on the telephone.

I am terrified that at the last minute my brother in law won't be able to come here for the mediation in a few weeks. That despite plans something will crop up, and I will be alone on the day. And that all will fail, that all the struggle will have been for nothing.

Indecision about my future is paralysing me. I feel I have been away from places for too long and that I would be incapable of building a new life yet again. I don't know what to do, or how to do it. All my coping mechanisms have fled or gone on strike. I cannot be brave or hopeful any more.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Idiot female

It never pays to become smug, or even slightly secure in one's coping mechanisms. There I was, walking down the road, having attended to the sundry necessities of life. And then I caught sight of my car. All was not as it should have been. How did it happen that I did not notice this as I left it, but only when I returned to it two hours later?

Simple answer, idiot female, not paying enough attention. Automatic pilot is clearly inadequate in many circumstances. CON-CEN-TRATE! on what you are doing. Don't let your mind just wander off like that!

Preview to the day's events:

Last night I had to personally attend to the demise of three cockroaches. With the fly swat.

I have been clambering up my little ladder to try and peer more closely at the crippled curtain track.

In a further attempt to be more organised and to get rid of things I no longer need/like/fit into, I managed to fill two bags of clothes and linen, which I will take to Vinnies. I intended to make a round trip, first to have lunch with a friend, and while in the vicinity to visit the bank to feed my credit card again, and to establish internet banking for it, and finally to drop off the bags. As I was carrying these bags to the car, the skies opened, and a huge downpour poured down. In the several seconds it takes to get from the back door to the car, the handle of one bag broke, and the contents spilled onto the ground.  

The rain was so heavy as I drove along that I switched the headlights on.

I don't think I need to describe what happened next. Suffice it to say that two hours later, having attended to everything, I had to call for roadside assistance. After the car was started, I had to drive it around for a while, to make it feel all better.

The NRMA man was lovely. I admitted my sheer stupidity, and he told me I was his tenth such case that day, all because of the rain. As I drove around recharging the car, I kept noticing other cars with their lights on. I wanted to hail and warn them of dire consequences. Well, nuisance type consequences, more realistically.

When I arrived home there was yet another communication from the lawyer, sending me a bill from the estate to be paid. Funny that they have not get got around to reimbursing me for the money I am owed.

Despite the very enjoyable lunch, I am left yet again with a sour taste in my mouth.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Gremlins on the kitchen bench

In my next incarnation I intend to be a tidy and organised person. In the meantime it seems necessary to put into practice some techniques towards achieving this desirable status.

It is time to register the car and to do all the necessary and associated things. I have a few days up my sleeve and so I thought I would get a wriggle on with it all,  be efficient and have a sense of achievement.

I keep all my 'to do' documents on the kitchen bench, and periodically flip through them to bring to the top of my consciousness whatever it is that must be done next. So when I went looking for one piece of paper, somehow it had disappeared. It was nowhere to be found, and this aggravating fact makes me question my own competence, memory, and sanity. Finally - I KNOW I had it in that pile only a few days ago - I abandoned the search and decided to ring up and get the people to process it personally for me by phone. A very nice man talked me through it all, and then I tried to pay. The credit card would not work. Enquiry revealed it was over the limit. It has been a very expensive month, and I did not monitor it carefully enough.

So I had to fritter away time and energy in going to the bank, withdrawing REAL cash, going to the other bank and handing it over. As there are even more bills to be paid in the coming week,  I will have to repeat the action. It has been necessary to mentally slap myself, and to severely utter admonitions to myself to become efficient and methodical,  NOT TO LOSE THINGS anymore, and do things straight away. Yes, I say to myself, tomorrow I am going to stop procrastinating. (Isn't that a lovely word?)

I thought I was making some slight progress, as I went through the pantry, to examine the quantity and quality of all the jam therein. This resulted in  my chucking out quite a few jars, and the pantry suddenly has much more room. And I won't have to go and buy more jars quite yet. How these trivial activities consume time and give some sense of purpose and achievement.

Just as it appeared that a modicum of order and control might be entering life, the act of drawing the curtains the other night resulted in the breaking of the parts of the curtain tracks which hold the hooks, so that the curtain is suspended from each end and nothing in between. Someone with a long ladder and sufficient know how and skill will have to come and see what has to be done, and I am desperately hoping it won't cost an arm and a leg.  These things are always a hassle.

Despite all this moaning and groaning, I spent some very pleasant hours this week with friends. Other kind friends gave me their tickets for the dress rehearsal of Turandot at the Opera house yesterday morning, which was most enjoyable.

There are many things to do which are interesting, enjoyable, and not stressful.  Crochet to occupy the hands and to periodically puzzle the mind, books to read, music to play, people to see, energy levels to raise, lassitude to overcome, years of bad habits to break. Goodness, life can be full! But of what? Therein lies the rub. 

Normal life and ordinary things take lots of time, and give some sort of sense of achievement, notwithstanding their relative triviality. They are in no way a substitute for making the larger decisions of life and the future, which remain unforeseeable and imponderable, but somehow they give some sense of progress being made. Time is occupied. Things get done. The larger confusion, the indeterminacy, remain, and as yet, no clarity has emerged, and no decisions are made. The future lurches awkwardly towards me.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Summer time, and the living is easy

Casa Persiflage is presently inhabited by my elder daughter and her boys, and thus there is a lot more activity than usual. The boys are  busy making plasticine flowers, watching DVDs, exploring the contents of the cupboards, playing on the computers, and using Dr P's inclinator. This is a source of endless fun and interest to the littlies, but eventually the damned thing gets stuck half way up or down, and beeps aggrievedly, a sentiment inevitably transmitted to the person in charge - which means I have to work out yet again how to make it go, and how to make it stop. If I ever come across the wretched mortal who invented electronic beeps and gave them their incredibly irritating sound, I shall devise cruel and unusual punishments for him - has to be a him, could not possible have been a her!

Things such as inclinators are wonderful for the afflicted persons for whom they were designed, but from the point of view of the abler-bodied carer - to whit, me - they are a damned nuisance, as I have been the person going up and down the stairs, usually carrying something, and they get in my way. While I understand, and accept the fascination they have for the young, I do not share it.

There are times when I think that living with a very old man has destroyed part of my capacity for enjoyment and toleration of the young.  I hope I get it back. I love having them here, but I have become very accustomed to sorrow, solitude and quiet, and wonder whether I can ever again achieve normality and human enjoyment. I have become very introspective, and have lost a lot of my sparkle. I am not the world's best grandmother right now, nor am I a barrell of laughs, but I know having them here is healing and restorative. I hope that we are doing enough things for them to be having a good time. I need to have good hard thinks about all sorts of things.

Not all our time is spent on inclinators. We took a Metrobus to the beach, which was fun, except that the waves were real dumpers, and I therefore avoided being dumped, and only got my nether limbs wet. The beach was not as wild as it was when the other half of the family and I went there on Boxing Day, but the waves were not the sort that could be used for body surfing. Then it started raining lightly. Now I understand that the object of bathing in the sea is to get wet, but somehow it seems an indignity to get wet at the beach by being rained upon.

Today we went to the Powerhouse Museum for them all to see the Harry Potter exhibition. I did not go again, but they all enjoyed it. Two of my grandsons were selected for assessment by the HAT which allocated them to a Hogwarts house. They both chose Slytherin.

I continued my trip into the city, and bought another couple of balls of wool so as to make a few more squares for yet another cot blanket. Somehow or other, all these surplus squares made from scraps have to be used up.

I have started another sweater. In purple wool. The initial effort was the middle size, but this seemed too big, so I started again, with the smaller size, and it took me about six - SIX! efforts to do it correctly. I am so ashamed. Mind you, the first effort was aborted because of a knot in the yarn. Then the second effort revealed another knot. This was really too much.

Perhaps if I keep making things, I can re-make my life along with them.

Tomorrow we are off to have a ride on the ferry, and then plan to make another trip to the beach. Third time lucky, perhaps? I may yet immerse myself in salt water.

Tonight is a full moon, and it is clearly visible, which is always a great pleasure.

Let the light shine on all of us.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Aprons and things

The newspaper the other day had a photo of Stephanie Alexander, one of our great cooks and writer of a most authoritative book, which tells you practically all you ever need to know about food, exercising her skills and instructing the universe. She was wearing a large blue and white apron. As cooks do. Or ought to do, in order to qualify as a serious cook.

This got me thinking about aprons. In particular, my own apron collection.

As my Huon pine chest, which houses my shawl and scarf collection, needed tidying and refolding of all its contents, I mounted the stairs to tackle this task. Right down underneath all the shawls were the aprons. Five of them. Then it occurred to me that there were some more in the linen cupboard. Yes, there are another five.

These are the spare aprons. They are being held in reserve for an apron shortage.  In case I never get another chance to buy some more. This collection does not include the several aprons which are in use.  You can't be too careful, and the aprons save a lot on dry-cleaning bills. They are good for drying the hands, as well as for catching all the splashes and splodges. They also came in handy when eating food such as curries and laksa, which use turmeric, or dishes such as bolognese sauce.

My earliest aprons were made by my maternal grandmother, who was a most practical and competent person. When I became engaged, she gave me some aprons. My other grandmother was not noted for her domestic skills, although she was an excellent pianist, and used to play me the Waltz of the Flowers, when, perforce I had to stay with her after my brother's birth. I was six at the time, and almost about to go back home when I contracted mumps. She made me stay in bed, and I was most horridly bored.

Spare or odd pieces of fabrics were made into aprons. In those days fabric was not wasted. These aprons did not cover the chest, only from the waist down. The scrap material was gathered and sewn unto a band, which was, naturally, tied at the back, and there would be a rick-rack decorative border. Or some cross stitch embroidery. I still have the blue and white gingham apron, extensively embroidered.
I remember my grandmother made one using the scraps left over from a skirt she made me. This was most decorative, as the apron part was made of sheer organza. I can't find that one, alas. If it is still in existence it would be over 50 years of age. Almost a genuine antique. It must have fallen victim to one of the five yearly cycles of tidying up the linen cupboard. There's nothing like moving house: it makes you get rid of things. "I'll never use this," you think, "It will have to go." Years later, one mourns this foolish and mistaken decision.

In the tea towel drawer in the kitchen there are another three or four aprons. Some are very worn by now. Good grief, there are actually five of them.  One of them, a fetching wildflower one, was a Christmas present.

My favourite aprons are those I bought in Italy. The earlier ones are made of robust cotton, and wear extremely well. Some have art works printed on them - one is an apron featuring the Uffizi, and another of Leonardo da Vinci. Then there are the pasta, the cheese, the oil and the wine aprons.

From 2010, I have an apron from Barcelona. It is in a fetching dark blue and features some Gaudì buildings.

It would be good to start using them, but their predecessors have not yet worn out. I have had to replace the tape in a couple of them, but that good sturdy cotton wears extremely well.  Some of the successor aprons use synthetic fabric. They are not as good. I do have a fear of running out of aprons. I must candidly admit that this fear is not at all well-founded.

In Italy, the further you get away from Rome the better the prices are. Not that they were ever very costly. However, the design choices are not as extensive.

I noticed that my sister is still using the apron from our trip in the mid 1990s. She really does need a new one. Aprons make good presents, they are practical, light, unbreakable, and often very attractive. They don't cause excess baggage charges to be incurred. And with them come precious memories. I have a much smaller collection of little Italian hand towels, which are quite beautiful. I love Italian textiles.

Long live the apron. Mine are already becoming quite venerable. It seems unlikely that I will ever be able to wear out all my aprons. Will my daughters want them, in due course, after I go to the Great Kitchen in the Sky? I am curious to know whether others have similar collections.

Perhaps some enterprising museum could put on an apron exhibition. They could do a roaring trade in apron souvenirs. It might solve all their funding difficulties.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Meandering, maundering, malingering and making

The car service was done today, so now I can get the car registered. As I did not have a lift home, I decided to while away the hours at the nearest shopping centre. I have not been there for ages, so it seemed like a good opportunity to browse around looking at things I should not buy.

Naturally I went to the book shop, which is having a sale, but the city store has much better pickings, so I did not buy any books. This caused feelings of virtue to froth away in my breast. Then I browsed at a pharmacy which sells the brand of makeup I have been accustomed to buy. I left it all in the shop, so that I can better afford the legal bills. Next I carefully perused the range of ice creams, but resisted the temptation. I tried on a dress, but we did nothing for each other.

It then occurred to me that here I was, stuck for several hours, and that this presented me with the opportunity to see a film. The Iron Lady was on, so it seemed a good idea to see it, as Meryl Streep is such a wonderful actress. In case sustenance was needed, I succumbed to evil temptation, and bought a packet of chips, and a drink. Another bright light started flashing in my brain, which suggested to me that it might be chilly in the cinema. I found a place which sold cheap but nice shawls, for a mere $20, so now have another to add to my already substantial collection, in an amazing array of colours, patterns and fabrics. And I bought a pair of purple socks. (They can be very hard to find.)

The film allegedly started screening at 12.15, but it actually did not commence until 12.30. A very disparate progression of shorts and ads were inflicted on the hapless audience. I now know that there are a number of films which can safely be avoided. There was an ad to tell you to avoid too much exposure to the sun, so as not to develop a melanoma. That made me want to leap to my feet and tell the unwitting audience about the melanoma on my bottom, which has probably never seen the sun at all. But I resisted the temptation. They all had a narrow escape, though.

I liked the film, although I was never keen on Mrs Thatcher. We had our own John Howard, who has just just been given the Order of Merit. Meryl Streep gave a wonderful performance, very moving as she flickered in and out of dementia and forgetfulness. This is still very close to the bone, for me.

In the middle of the film my mobile rang. It was the car service people telling me that my car was ready. It was a naughty thing, to leave it on, but I had it ready to grab, and switch it off, and I ducked out of the theatre to ring them back.  I transmitted silent apologies to the afflicted audience.

Having eaten quite a lot of the chips, it seemed a good idea to walk back to the car place, rather than take the bus for three whole stops. So I did. I had prosciutto and salad for dinner - and wine. I dusted the lounge, and cleaned some windows. Then I resumed the latest crochet project. I am a bit worried that it might be too big, although my tension is correct. Should I pull it all out and make the smaller size, I wonder? As I wondered, I came across a knot in the ball.

Aarrgh! this sort of thing happens all too often. I complained to the wool shop the other day about too many knots in balls of yarn and they told me the acceptable knot rate is two (2!) per ball. That is two too many.

No wonder people have nervous breakdowns. Things like knots in balls of wool are the straws that break the camel's back.