Thursday, 28 June 2012

Away, away

If common sense ruled me I'd be packing for a weekend in Melbourne, instead of vegetating in front of the TV watching a program on the Panama Canal. Can I compare my life to navigating a supertanker through the narrow canals, with only a metre or so spare on either side, hoping there won't be landslides of other natural disasters? Engineers rule, ok?

It was a busy day. After choir last night I had to do the homework for today's Italian class. It can be difficult to make myself do it. We have been studying Dante's Inferno and we were required to describe our reaction to it. It was a daunting task, as it is such an immense work, especially writing in Italian. I got it done, impeded slightly by the fact that I could not locate the button on Word for italics. I know it used to be there, but it snuck off somewhere, and I wasted valuable creative time looking for it, and maybe the inventor of the programme ought to be sent down to one of the nastiest circles, I brooded bitterly. I use the old computer because that has my CD-Rom Italian-English dictionary loaded on it, and I have not been able to load it on to the newer computer.

In my view, if Dante were alive today he would be making horror movies.

Finally I bashed out something reasonably meaningful. In the Italian class we tend to sit in the same places each week, and I am down one end, which means that probably about 75 per cent of the time I have to start off the discussion. A while back I protested, and now occasionally we start on the other side, and I get a break and time to rearrange my thoughts, not to mention my vocabulary and my grammar. Dennis ought to start first, in my view, as he is so erudite and he churns through complicated literature just like the dredgers cleaning out the landslides from the Panama Canal. Mind you, he used to teach English. I tend to do a lot of my comments off the cuff, or on the spur of the moment. It is amazing what you can get away with!

By the time I had done my Dante, it was quite late, but I wanted to keep reading David Lodge's Therapy. I observed some blog posts ago that there were a lot of books I had not finished reading, and one of the comments expressed surprise, and thus I felt a bit of a fraud and a failure. It is not that I don't want to finish the books, it is just that some of them are too long, or the sort of books you and read a part of, and then go back to them as desired or needed. Such as the history of Christianity or of the Roman empire or the Renaissance, or some biographies. Or some other book or subject demands immediate attention.  There are now far fewer calls on my time and energy, and I am able to read more.

If it were not so late at night, and if I did not have to pack and catch a plane tomorrow, I would make some more comments on David Lodge's book. Briefly, it was most engrossing, and showed many different ways of writing, leading me, his reader, on a merry and dazzling dance, deftly guided by his mastery of his craft. I did finish the book.

It it strange how things coincide suddenly. Recently I went to see the film The Way, with the wonderful Martin Sheen playing a bereaved father who continued his son's pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela, scattering his ashes along the way. Having done some scattering myself of late, this touched all the chords of my heart and the tears streamed gently down my face. Unexpectedly, to me, Therapy also took the protagonist of the novel - a scriptwriter - on that same pilgrims' route.

How does it happen that such things find you, so suddenly, so aptly but so randomly? It is a mysterious thing.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Putting to rest

Some weeks ago I scattered half of Dr P's ashes in the gardens surrounding where he used to work. Today I made arrangements for the other half of them to be placed in a niche, with a commemorative plaque, at the crematorium. Because he was a person of some note who served his country in a number of capacities, I felt that some of his remains should be in an identifiable and public place. Accordingly, today I finalised this. It will take some weeks for it all to be done, but the decisions have been made, the wording on the plaque chosen, and the payment made. This process is now almost complete, and I am relieved to have brought it to this point.

My emotions continue to fluctuate from week to week, from day to day, and from hour to hour. I still feel a lot of anger and resentment, both towards him, and towards his children. I still grieve, and have many regrets, wondering how I should have led my life, and how much better I should, or could, have done. Perhaps all these feelings will recede, and there will be a more complete recovery, but I know there will always be regrets, and feelings of 'if only'.

I cannot express myself very well here. Will it be possible to recover, to become more positive, to heal, when there are so many negative feelings swirling around? To what extent can recovery occur, given that I am alone, and have entered into the last years of my life?

If it were possible to live one's life again, would it be possible to do it better, to love more fully, to choose more wisely and more generously, to do unto others as I would be done by? What mistakes could be avoided?

Oftentimes I feel that both my marriages were mistakes, that my parenting has been defective, and that my virtues and better qualities were cramped, confined, twisted, embittered, and that any promise of any kind that I showed came to naught, or if not that, to far, far less than I anticipated or hoped. One can find excuses, blame society, religion, parents, partners, blind chances and misfortunes, but I cannot avoid my own choices, my personal mistakes, and character defects and all their consequences. And I do not have it within me, yet, or perhaps ever, to forgive many of the wrongs done to me during these last years.

I have done what I should have done in these last years and during Dr P's decline, illness and death, and endeavour constantly to overcome my failings and to face my future.  But my heart remains sore, and I feel very daunted.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Head in a book

There are so many books waiting to be read, and I cannot keep up with them. Not that this stops me from buying them. I remember reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World when I was a student, just out of school. All the little babies growing in their test tubes were being brainwashed in order to fit them into the appropriate class categories, and I remember thinking that in some ways it would be rather nice, and efficient, if the contents of books could be thus absorbed into our conscious memories. Of course, this never worked, but it seems to me that there is a residual conviction that if they sit on the shelves for long enough, the contents of the books will somehow leach into my mind.

Many are the books I have started, but far fewer are those I have finished, and as to how much remains in the memory, who can say? It is some comfort to know that if some subject comes to mind, about which I need or want to know more, that there are many books on my shelves I can use to check facts, refresh my memory, and to learn more. One book leads to another, of course....I always do want to know more.

At present I am having a bit of a binge on the novels of David Lodge. I have read his books since I was a young student, and have enjoyed them all, some much more than others. The one I started with was The British Museum is Falling Down, about a young couple, who had three children in rapid succession, while the husband/father was trying to complete his PhD.  Because of the ferment about whether contraceptives, in particular oral contraceptives, could be used in good faith by practising Catholics,  this was of great interest to me, as a young engaged woman. I was too ill-read to realise that Lodge wrote much of the book parodying various literary styles, and authors. And I still have not read Ulysses.

At present I am half way through A Man of Parts, about H G Wells. I knew a bit, but not much, about Wells, and I must say how much I am enjoying this book. I am somewhat more educated now, albeit with vast gaps in my knowledge and reading, and find the intellectual ferment of the early 20th century fascinating.  A Man of Parts is a most congenial book, and I don't recollect ever categorising a book in this way before. It makes me smile, it makes me more curious, and avid to know more. It entices me, it draws me in. I am learning quite a lot, and linkages between my knowledge and understanding are being formed, and I just love it. It reads so easily.  Lodge's erudition, writing and style are quite superb.

As I read I leap from subject to subject, from book to book, to look up this or that, or to read some other relevant subject. I am up to about page 400, and find I am forgetting things from the first part of the book, so that I need to flick back and forth.

Lodge writes about H G Wells' friendship with the Blands, and Mrs Bland turns out to be E Nesbit. I had never read any of her books, even though I like and re-read lots of juvenile literature, but I was drawn into and transfixed by Lodge's account of Wells reading her books. Last week I went to the bookshop and bought the couple of novels by Lodge which had somehow avoided my buying and reading - they are sitting panting on my coffee table while I hasten to get through all the other books and start on them. But I did buy E Nesbit's The Railway Children and have zipped through that, and thoroughly enjoyed it - a most enticing read it was too.

Here I pause to nip down to the kitchen to check on whether the evening meal is cooked, overcooked or burned....Not burned, phew.

I am up to the part where H G begins an affair with Elizabeth von Arnim (who was born in Australia but lived here for only three years, and who later married Bertrand Russell's brother). H G had a very active sex life and an exceedingly tolerant wife. He seems to have written his books with the speed of light. Perhaps I will get around to reading The War between the Worlds and The Time Machine, but in the meantime there are so many books and so little time. And I have another two David Lodge novels to read once I finish A Man of Parts. What a wonderful title it is, and so perfectly apt.

Friday, 15 June 2012

What's the time?

My new oven does not have a clock, only a timer.  The old one did, and I was accustomed to look at it to check the time. The trifling fact that the old microwave, at the other end of the kitchen, does have a clock, has not sufficed to break my habit of checking the time in the other direction.

There should be a simple remedy to this minor dilemma. In fact, I could always look at my watch, but what I want these days is comfort, and not to have to change my habits.

So the solution seemed simple: to buy another clock and put it down that end of the kitchen.

But where do you buy clocks?  So far I have had no luck. Watch suppliers do not stock small clocks. Two dollars shops do sell clocks, but they are too large for my purposes. The all-purpose department stores like Target and Big W (well, I have yet to get to a Big W)  have nothing suitable. I am perplexed and feel somewhat put out. It seems to be a simple enough need, but so far is consuming more time that it would warrant. The spare clock radio I bought for Dr P was remarkably recalcitrant when it came to setting the date and time. It did not seem to matter how often and conscientiously I followed the instruction manual, the clock radio resolutely refused to do as it was told.  Instead I felt like an idiot, and a completely defeated idiot to boot. Eventually I just gave up. Dr P, I hasten to add, was only a little bit better at such minor technological problems. Not that this memory is any consolation.

Never mind, the children are coming soon, and I will ask them to have a go. They all know their parent is technologically challenged.

My mind flickers on and off, seeking to suggest another store which might, just might, have a small clock.  All I want is a small clock, with nice clear numerals. Is this too much to ask? It seems so. Why is it that seemingly small tasks require totally disproportionate amounts of time? And still are not accomplished.

When I have conquered this trifling difficulty, I might move on to finding a radio on which I can preset stations, instead of having to tune it manually.  The reason I want this is that the ABC, in the mornings, until 9 am, has a most irritating, gushing, patronising and folksy announcer, who tells you what the Guest Weather is in Timbuktu, Woop Woop and other places I care little about, and who presents puerile summaries of opera plots and refers to parents as mums and dad: eg Aida's Dad pops up to tell her she must discover and reveal to him the route the enemy army will follow in the forthcoming battle. What is wrong with the word 'father'? I ask. I would rather have an adult vocabulary being used on the national broadcaster, thank you very much, and rather resent this patronising blabbermouth inflicting what increasingly resembles verbal diarrhoea over the hapless airwaves. She makes me shout at her. I just want to be able to switch her off and transfer to the other station. I would use this other station more regularly than I do, but for the fact that the reception is somewhat erratic and crackly.

How I suffer! Grrrr!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Some piffling thoughts and a worthy cause

There have been some problems with Google over the last few days, but no problems with non-Google internet sites. All very aggravating. Especially when you get told that the problem is with your internet service provider. And suddenly, the number of spam items arriving in the inbox, offering to hugely enhance and enlarge certain body parts (which I do not have), has at least quadrupled. What is going on? I am afraid that I have no desire to take up any of these offers and thereby be transformed into a Real Man.

There seems to be little which can compare with the rage and frustration these problems provoke. There is no one (that I know of) to whom I can complain. Thus I cast my thoughts onto the ambient air, and I know not what the ambient air will do with them, other than waft them further into the ether.

The substitute batch of quince jelly seems fine, although I wonder whether its consistency is a little stiff. I think it tastes good though. And it is quite true, as Joan commented, that it is when one is on a roll and being super-efficient, that mistakes and disasters smite the hapless would-be super-person. Just to keep you from becoming smug and self-satisfied.

Forget all that, though. Let's talk about the weather. The sky has not been beautifully blue, although probably the glass is rising very high, and it has not continued fine. And yet it rained but yesterday.

Didn't it rain! children! Talk about the rain, oh my Lord, didn't it, didn't it, didn't it, oh my Lord, didn't it rain!

All day and a fair part of the night it rained, poured, bucketed down, drenching everything. The drain outside my house could not cope and the water was all over the road. Fortunately none got into the house, and the roof did not leak.  There were lots of traffic jams, floods, fallen trees all over the city.  I sat inside the house, and not much got done. What a cold and miserable day it was. I wondered how people who generally endure Diamond Jubilee sort of weather cope and keep up their spirits.

I have been doing a lot of crocheting, mostly for the continuing project fostered by our ABC, Wrap with Love, (see whereby lots of people get together and knit or crochet squares which are then joined to make wraps, or small blankets. Local libraries support groups who get together once a month to work away, and once a year there is a huge get-together at the ABC when squares get joined up. I have not been to the annual event, but this year I have done enough, so far, to make three blankets. The trouble comes in selecting the colours and trying to make the assorted combinations look good together. I use wool rather than synthetic fibres, as I do not like working with synthetics.

At the local second-hand market, amongst all the myriad items on offer, there are lots of granny square blankets, as well as used linen, embroidered and with crocheted edges. I noticed, when Dr P was in the nursing home, that many of the old people had such blankets draped over their chairs and beds. So it seems there is still a use for them.

At the same time I want to make another garment, so have been busy going through old patterns to try and choose one of them. Making squares is very repetitive work, although it is portable, and does not need close attention. I take it along to the opera study group and work away. Nobody seems to mind, fortunately, and it gets people talking together. But it is time to start something else.

When  my girls were small I made them lots of crocheted things, little dresses, and ponchos. Such hand-made things need careful laundering, and they cannot just be bunged into the washing machine to be belted roughly around.

And who has time for hand-washing these days?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Some days...

There are days when I stuff up my life with dazzling expertise. One little thing leads to disaster. Of a kind.

Chopped quinces are simmering away. Two saucepans of them. Jelly-making in progress. The quince season is short.

I sweep the floor. It needs washing. So I wash it. This means I have to stay off the floor until it dries.

But why waste the water? I proceed to wash the tiles at the front of the house. Then I nip up to the computer, while it all dries.

An aroma drifts upstairs. One of the quince saucepans has boiled dry. Very convincingly, in fact. The aroma  has permeated the house. Out go all those carefully chopped quinces, now all black and ruined. The bottom of the saucepan is covered in burnt quince remnants, and it needs a lot of serious scrubbing with steel wool.

It all seems to be part of a pattern. An ineradicable pattern. In which I make decisions which lead to consequences ranging between not very good and disasters of varying import. How did I do this to myself? By now I ought to be able to sort things out. But I feel unable at this stage to remake myself and my life. Too hard, too late, too old, too alone. Too entrapped in the mire.

Weirdly, little screws of unknown origin keep appearing in the house. Where are they from, what are they for, what do they do? I wish I knew. Am I screwing up, or is life just unravelling?

Never mind. I went out and bought more jars, and more quinces. These are now dripping through the jelly bags, and perhaps the morrow will see another completed batch of quince jelly, all clear, unsullied, and flavoursome.

So I hope.