Friday, 31 August 2012

Dust, dirt, grime, and chaos

It is coming to the end of the third week of the floor replacements, and I think there is at least another week to go.  When Fernando and Colin left yesterday, they had put most of the kitchen floor in, fitting it underneath the kitchen cupboards, which, mercifully, they had not had to remove, but which required agility and awkwardness in the insertion of nails and glue. Not to mention doing things from underneath the floor.

I looked at their progress in mid-afternoon, and thought, Hmm, I don't think there is enough timber left to finish it. And so it proved. Some more has to be ordered and I presume that it might not arrive for a few days. Once the floor is in, it all has to be sanded and sealed, and that will take days for it to dry.

The timber, even in its unfinished state, promises to be beautiful.

There is an eerie silence in the house, punctuated only by the sinister sound of relatively quiet key strokes on the keyboards, and, from outside, the whoosh of the passing cars.  I have not yet restored the music station - in my absence the blokes change it to some sort of commercial pop station, which certainly is not music to my ears. But I think, well, it is hard and dirty work, and if it helps, that's fine. I just don't want to hear it, that's all.

They won't be here until this afternoon, so I am enjoying the silence.

I am now able to clamber into the kitchen although reaching into the pantry is requiring caution, as does getting from the dining room to the kitchen/eating area. I need to hang on to the cupboard tops, while carefully placing one foot after another on the joists. Imagining falling through them and lingering helpless until discovered does not require a particularly vivid imagination.

The dust and grime and chaos are getting to me. I want it all clean and organised. The furniture is all pushed together, and I cannot retrieve my concert ticket for next week until better access is available. At present a table is upside down on top of this piece of furniture, and even though I wriggled through to it this morning, it is not possible to open a drawer. I itch, fret, and ache to restore order.

Tonight a friend and I are going out to dinner. Last night I had cheese and biscuits and some sultanas. And some nice red wine.

Yesterday I succumbed to total stress and panic, as I needed to find my referral from the GP to the specialist for next week's breast check-up. Pile after pile of documents were examined, and confusion reigned. I knew I had put it somewhere.

Finally, a dim memory surfaced. It had been necessary to take everything off the bookshelf so it could be moved. Its contents went here, there and everywhere, and then I remembered putting the plastic box containing my pills, prescriptions and YES!!! the medical referrals, into the pantry. This pantry is in the furthest corner of the kitchen and I could not get to it until late yesterday. But now I have it, safely in my handbag. At least that is one minor problem solved.

But as I prowl around looking at the state of the house, I become more daunted. Smears of glue are on walls and other surfaces. Will they come off?  And a cupboard door is hanging awry.

I have to get out of here. Off now to do some food shopping, and to have a coffee. There is nothing like domestic chaos to provoke pensive and profound ponderings on the meaning of life. Answers remain to be discovered.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Away away, a blogmeet and home again, jiggedy-jig

It can be quite difficult to know where to start after you have been away for a few days, cramming a lot into them, but being without access to a computer.

These flurries of activities were spread over six days, two of which were required for travelling to and from my daughter's place, and the other four were occupied by my minding her two children.

I am now safely home, after a trip which seemed incredibly quick, and No, I did not speed. But when I got to the Motor Way there was an HOUR's delay due to a serious accident, and we all inched, or rather centimetred along. I did not expect to find out what had happened, but it featured on the TV news tonight - a truck flipped over, and it took a long time to extricate the driver.

There is never any point getting aggravated by such things, so I practiced some saintly patience while listening to the whole hour's interview by Margaret Throsby with an intrepid journalist. Eventually I got home and put the washing on - having been unable to work how to use my daughter's machine - could not even open the detergent dispenser (Oh, you just pull it out, she told me this morning.)

My kitchen floor has been removed, and thus I am kitchen-less, which has never really happened to me ever before, and it is a weird feeling.  The reek of damp is strong, and there is more dust on everything than any rational person would have thought possible. Doubtless my slumber will be beset by a lengthy series of nightmares about cleaning up, finding everything and putting it all away in new places, but there is no need to panic, as such activities are by no means imminent. Fernando rang me while I was twiddling my thumbs and occasionally moving forward a few metres, to say he had gone off with a rather sore back, but that the floor can now be laid. That will probably take a couple of days and then it will all have to be sanded and sealed. Njal's Saga has nothing on this, let me tell you.

Overall the children were pretty good, and I managed, with my son's help and my daughter's instructions and encouragement to do the insulin injections for my grandson. Not without fear and trepidation, but we all survived the experience, and his sugars were quite stable over the four days.

When my daughter and I arrived at the school and took my granddaughter into her classroom, her teacher looked at me and said 'I know your face! We sang together years ago'. I recognised her face too: she was in her teens then, and came from a very musical family, and we were in the chorus for a Handel opera all those years ago. We had to learn by heart and sing eight long choruses (with lengthy fugues), while moving around the stage with face masks on (and without spectacles). After those performances, with real-life opera singers, I decided that I could do anything (not quite true as it turned out, but certainly an experience which stiffened my spine, and led me on to many other things). I was delighted to see her again - now a mother herself and a splendid primary school teacher. Isn't life amazing at times!

And I had a wonderful blogmeet. I enjoyed it so much. I knew I would, despite feeling rather nervous, as this blogger voice and her images repeatedly resonated with me. We made our arrangements, and I confidently turned up, but could not find her. Eventually I telephoned, and found I had stuffed up well and truly. We agreed on this location, and my mind repeated it, but I actually went to a completely different location. Fortunately I managed to make contact with her home, and then realised my error, and she was told, and waited for me. Mea culpa, well and truly. We had such a good time talking. And I look forward to the next meeting.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Et lux perpetua

The choir performed Verdi's Requiem last night, and our second performance is tomorrow afternoon. We sang well, and the audience seemed very happy with it. The Requiem is a work in which you can sing your heart out, and always respect. It is a big and a strenuous sing. To soaringly sing all those top notes gives immense pleasure.

I woke up this morning having lost my voice. Some germ crept in and attacked my vocal cords. It is disconcerting to wake up voiceless. As the morning progressed, my voice came back and I am able to emit some notes, but I am having to be very cautious.

It is not an easy work. It has complicated fugues, with fluctuating tempi, and it is easy to become lost. You think you know it, and then it pops up and says to you " I am not so easily mastered: you must try harder". So you try harder, and sometimes it all comes together, and other times it can fall apart, and you think 'Oops' and resolve to do better. Even the professionals can flounder. The music traverses the many and conflicting human emotions and reactions to the end of our being.

But Oh! When it works, it is simply glorious. The music reverberates in your head, and you could sing it all day, and never tire of it. I am listening to some early music as I write, but what my mind is hearing is the Verdi. And I think about what a fabulous composer, and how miraculous he was. We immerse ourselves in his sound, in the complexity of his composition, in the emotion that a Requiem creates.

I have sung a number of Requiems since I became a chorister, and each has brought its own message about dying, and the meaning of the texts. One cannot really explicate how music works on us all: only that it truly seems to meet a fundamental human need and emotion.

I never tire of such music. There is this fundamental message: we all die, and this is what happens. Whether or not we believe, we are caught up in the solemnity and the finality of death. Truly it passeth our understanding.

The glory is in the music. Music is what moves the soul, what expresses the emotions, what activates so much of the brain, the mind and the heart. Is it not marvellous that human beings have created such wonderful sounds? Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?
There is so much glorious music, which taps directly into our hearts and minds, into our emotions, and, dare I say it, into our souls?

We are so blessed.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012


Somehow or other, the incorrect use of pronouns has become endemic. Perhaps it is only those aged 50 or more who understand much about parts of speech and the rules of grammar. Increasingly the difference between subject and object pronouns seems to have evaporated.

English verb forms do not generally tell us who has the active voice. So English uses both subject and object pronouns. I, you, he she or it, we, you and they, are subject pronouns. Subject pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, you, and them. I hope I got that right.

Thus you say 'I met him' and not 'me met he'.

People generally can cope with correct use of subject pronouns when there is a single subject: eg 'I saw her.' But when the subject is plural, confusion reigns. 'She and I saw him' becomes 'Her and me saw him'

'Him and me took it'. 'Her and him go out together'.

Strangely enough, you don't often hear 'Us went out'

You cannot talk or write thus, for example, in Italian. The verb form tells you who the subject is. You don't need to use the subject pronoun. You can, but only for additional emphasis.

My daughter used to say " Me and Tracey' and I used to correct her each time, 'Tracey and I...' But it did not seem to do much good. The grandchildren make these same mistakes now.

The confusion between subject and object pronouns now seems endemic in fiction. Me remembers encountering it in Tracy Crisp's Black Dust Dancing and it made I wonder whether her wrote this deliberately or whether it was a genuine error. Now I keep coming across it all the time, the latest encounter being Ruth Rendell's novel The Vault. Verisimilitude, that how the people talk these days.

Don't teachers teach grammar any more?

Although I froth privately from time to time, I am provoked to write about this today because of an interview I listened to yesterday, on the ABC, with the excellent Margaret Throsby interviewing an economist, the journalist Jessica Irvine. Irvine is moving across from Fairfax to News Limited,which is a bastion of rather conservative values, and which employs a lot of people who want proper grammar taught in schools. (As do I.) She writes well, and clearly, and takes many examples from our everyday lives to make her points about economic conditions and theories. However, during the interview, although in many ways expressing herself clearly, she overused the expression 'sort of'. I was sufficiently provoked (or needing distraction from the nitty-gritty of my present existence) to listen again today to the podcast of the interview.

I did not manage to list all her uses of 'sort of', but there were more than 40. She did it so often that my innate pickiness was provoked, and perforce I took note.

They included:

That's the sort of competitor to Fairfax...
People are sort of worried about this tide of people
Sort of doing on-shore processing
That we're sort of talking about
And sort of make each other better off
To sort of smooth out
To get the government sort of out of the economy

Sort of every economist I know.
Sort of heart swelling music.
The central sort of lessons of economics
I've sort of given the example
Sort of satisfaction, well-being.
We sort of follow habits...
This has sort of been the big advance of economics
We'd much rather sort of buy a $100 pair of shoes.
We have sort of become a slave to the mortgage.
They make their money by sort of making losses.
It occurred to me to sort of put to them
A mathematician who sort of runs the numbers (!)
To work sort of through the High Commission
I'd sort of been at Belco High in Canberra
Political economy is sort of a different way to study way economics
To sort of view economics as a social science
Adam Smith is sort of where it all began
Societies sort of arrange themselves to the benefit of individuals
Corrupt sort of Wall St bank
A piece of sort of electronic music (and I thought it was was excruciatingly boring)
Sort of sound fixing board
I've sort of got this theory
It's sort of a spoonful of sugar
Economics sort of tells you how..
I'm sort of excited...

Oh dear!

And as for the disappearance of adverbs in spoken English, well, words fail me!  However, I may yet rise to the occasion. Angrily and grumpily, but accurately and, I hope, convincingly.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Death of the vacuum cleaner

Yet another appliance died this morning. There I was, trying to vacuum my bedroom after too many weeks of inattention, but suddenly my upright vacuum cleaner fell to bits. The dust bag fell out and undid all my work.

A tiny bit of the plastic which enabled it to go from upright to usable vacuuming mode had broken off, which was a nuisance, but I was not expecting the whole thing to go suddenly from moribund to completely dead.

There are two other little push and pull along vacuum cleaners, neither of them much use, but one of them had to be put to work. One was mine and the other was Dr P's, but, apart from being better at cleaning the stairs, they are not very effective.

The dead vacuum cleaner can go to the tip, with all the other bits of rubbish, broken bricks, pavers, pieces of tiles, etc.

Obviously doing housework, in my present circumstances, was a very bad idea. There is some compulsion within me that makes me desperate to get myself and my house in order. However the tasks are beyond me at present. I keep losing bits of papers with important stuff written on them. As most of the things from the kitchen and dining room are in boxes here there and everywhere, it is almost impossible to find anything, although I did manage to find the secateurs and chop off a few dead bits of plants. All three secateurs turned up, and Fernando fixed them by giving them a few drops of good olive oil. Did the trick nicely.

Fernando and his mate Colin have lugged many buckets of pre-mixed concrete into the drain area, spread it all out, went away to let it start setting, and Fernando is now back, dashing away with the smoothing trowel...

The timber for the floor will be delivered and stored in my lounge room, so even more things have to be moved yet again. It is all increasingly resembling those cards which are set up and which them are allowed to progressively collapse completely. I wonder whether I will ever find anything again?

Colin suggested that I put in a new kitchen. I said I couldn't afford it. Fernando looked at my dishwasher the other day and asked why it was just sitting on the floor in front of the back door. Where else could it go? I asked. You'd have to take out the drawers, and then one thing would lead to another. It is bad enough to realise that it would not be a bad idea to get a couple of suspect things fixed in my bedroom.

In the meantime, I have a couple of stair lifts to dispose of. I had a quick look on eBay, and it did not look very promising. Perhaps a sign out the front, saying 'Inclinators - free to good home' might do the trick. Or perhaps not.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The love of money and resulting spleen and vexation

It is very cold here. Wild winds have howled, trees have fallen, lots of places lost power. Fortunately this area suffered only from lots of leaves being blown off trees (and into my newly cleaned out garage).

Fernando has been working hard, and has installed two fans underneath the house, so as to help it dry out. The smell of damp inside the house is very nasty. To get the second fan in, the refrigerator had to be moved. When we bought a new refrigerator, I took the opportunity to have a good look at the space.  The floor was rotten there, too, so a handyman cut out the rotten parts and put a piece of timber underneath, for the new refrigerator to stand on.  Of course, the sensible and prudent thing would have been to start fixing it all and to prevent it getting any worse. But whenever I suggested such things, I was met with hostility, and curt and blunt refusals, backed up with accusations that all I wanted to do was spend money.  And the house belonged to Dr P, not to both of us. His attitude seemed to be that    money was to accumulate, to hoard and to gloat over. Not to be used on frivolous things like house repairs. Although somehow it could be used to let me go on overseas trips,  for which I was and am most appreciative and grateful, and which helps me recall that there were good things happening too.

I suppose one of these days, such as when it is all finished and order has been restored, I will stop feeling so cross about all of this.  To me it seems totally stupid and irrational not to fix things up before they turn into total disasters.

I am very cranky about the lousy builder who used inferior materials, and whose shoddy workmanship over the drainage and damp-coursing caused the problems in the first place.

Having things all over the place, dust and dirt everywhere, makes me twitch. I have scrubbed the walls behind the shelving units, and fortunately all the nasty mould stains came off.

The removalists took away Dr P's vintage wardrobe, lowering it from the balcony onto the ground and then into the truck. They made it look easy, but it certainly was not easy.

This afternoon the choir had a rehearsal with the conductor and the orchestra for our performances of Verdi's Requiem.  The music is so intense and wonderful that I have cheered up and calmed down somewhat, and spent an idle and frivolous evening with a couple of glasses of wine, watching a DVD of a very old series When the Boat Comes In, with James Bolam and Susan Jamieson. Tomorrow, back to the fray!

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Flagging, due to excessive hard work

All of a sudden my energy levels have plummetted. Hardly surprising, given the amount of things I have had to do, physical as well as mental.  It has become quite difficult to leap nimbly up the stairs.  A certain amount of lethargic lounging in front of the TV is taking place. (Note subtle use of passive tense.)

Fernando spent Day 2 jack-hammering. The next door neighbour called in to ascertain how long the jack-hammering would last. I never thought to let them know what was about to happen. Bad neighbour. The neighbours do not actually live next door: it is their professional premises. If further building work ever becomes necessary, I promise faithfully to advise them. Mind you, no one has ever advised me of what is going on. And in terms of nuisance, the gardening in the medium density complex across the road is far far worse. It starts at seven am, and chain saws and blowing machines go on for hours. I tend to think I should be able to wake up naturally, instead of being blasted into reluctant consciousness by chain saws pruning. The hapless plants across the road do their utmost to grow a bit, and then every few weeks along come some blokes, replete with earmuffs, and implements of garden destruction, gleefully wielding il chainsaw du jour. And leaf blowers! What is wrong with nice quiet rakes, I ask?

Every so often the little toothed thingy piece of the jackhammer, that lifts up and breaks the tiles, flies off and has to be found and put back.  I have got quite expert in spotting where they fly to.  Every so often we have a cup of tea and a biscuit. But tomorrow I am off to my Italian class, and will have to think of other things. Perhaps during the bus trip I can look up the Italian for damp, rotting, jack-hammers, stairlifts, timber floor boards,  removalists, fine white dust, etcetera.

The jack-hammering has been finished, and Fernando tells me that the particle board beneath is very low grade stuff. This comes as no surprise, as the more I learn about the building practices the more depressed I get. Fernando has had a look underneath, tells me it is wet, and hands me a handful of soil to confirm his statements. I feel the soil myself and he is not wrong. He is about to get me some fans so that the underneath can become drier. Come the day. Naturally, what with all the damp, there has been a certain amount of rotting of the door frame. This plunges me further into gloom. All the news is bad. The door and window frame is rotting away there. It will have to be a patch job rather than a total replacement. What with having had to feed all the lawyers, financial prudence is in order.

I keep trying to remove all the fine white dust.  This afternoon I took another four boxes of discards along to Vinnies. They could probably open a new store, what with all the stuff I have donated over the past year. I admire the way the volunteer staff receive all these things gratefully and graciously.

It is necessary to time drop-offs to Vinnies carefully, as there are parking restrictions and heavy traffic. You can't park nearby after 3 pm, as after that there is a clearway, and before that parking places are scarce. Today all went well. It required only four dashes across the road, carrying one box at a time, to donate my surplus stuff.

However: the stair lifts have been removed, and repose elegantly in my garage, until such time as I can work out what to do with them. People suggest E-Bay. This is yet another experience in waiting. To accommodate the stairlift bits,  I had to tidy the garage, and it is now in quasi-pristine condition.  It is LOVELY having a full width staircase. You can almost float up and down it.

The removal men arrived to take away the furniture I have sold to the vintage furniture people. Fancy being old enough to discard vintage furniture. They agreed to take away Dr P's desk, which gives me a whole room to play around with. (Late last night I realised that the drawers had not been emptied, and thus had to work out how many of the biros worked and how many staples, etc, should be kept. It is exciting work.) And they have taken away most of the other pieces, except for the wardrobe. The men were not happy with this piece. The corridor was not wide enough to get it into the stairwell. They alleged it must have been hoisted into the house by a crane. I was not present when Dr P moved his stuff into this house, but don't believe he would have agreed to have a crane used. However, the vintage furniture people have organised another firm to come and take it away, with four men, by means of ropes and the balcony.

I rang my friend M this evening, and we sang that classic of Bernard Cribbins Right Said Fred. She could remember all of it, and I only the odd verse or several. What goes around comes around.

Most stuff is still upstairs, and the downstairs things are now covered in sheets, but the fine dust managed to drift imperceptibly onto everything. It will be fun washing all the sheets.

Taking all my cookery books off the bookshelves made me more aware than ever that I have too much stuff. Accordingly I devoted some time this evening to examining the cookery books to see which of them can be discarded. Not all that many, alas. Although, do I really need one devoted to how to make crepes and pancakes? Maybe not, but the grandchildren might enjoy a meaningful cooking interface with their grandmother.

I will have to find something to do once all this excitement is over. To sleep, perchance to dream?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Total mess and displacement

Before I stagger off to bed this evening, doubtless to dream of chaos, fine powdery dust, and jackhammer noise, a little blogmoanscript creeps from my fingers and tired body and brain.

The dining room floor tiles have been removed, and there are tile chips everywhere. Even more everywhere is the fine dust covering everything. Although I moved as many things as possible out of the way (or so I thought) I did not realise that the whole ground floor would be covered by fine white powder.

Tomorrow the stairlifts are to be removed, the kitchen tiles are to be jackhammered out and removed, and Dr P's furniture is to be collected by its buyer. It all sounds simple enough.  Conceptually rather than practically. Once the stairlifts are removed, it should be easier for the large wardrobe to be brought downstairs . What went up must come down. The buyers have kindly agreed to take away Dr P's large old desk, and donate it elsewhere. It is a big old style desk, many years pre-computer, and not much practical use these days. Except for the ubiquitous plasticine creations. Little black blobs of plasticine were discovered tonight, when I crawled underneath it to check for nasties. Obviously plasticine breeds at night.

What I should have done before Fernando started was to cover things with sheets. A lot of washing, wiping and covering was necessary. I have done all that now, and hope that this will limit the fallout somewhat. It probably won't, though. It is a very open plan house, with hardly a door to be found. I have carted as many things as possible upstairs, but am rather perplexed about what to do with the contents of the shelving units in the breakfast area. There are far too many cookery books on them.

More damage is being progressively uncovered, such as the doors being rather rotted away by the damp. The damp smells awful.

When I was a young thing, the prevailing culture was that The Man of the House was supposed to take care of all such problems. Such myths and fairy stories bear little relation to reality.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Some absolutely brilliant blog posts have been half composed, but alas, only in my head, at times when my computer and I have been far, far apart. All this prose, which appeared deathless at the time that creativity was surging through me, has evaporated completely. The world will never know what it has missed.

The Olympic Games are happening, but as some time ago I cancelled all the sports channels on Foxtel, I am not seeing very much sport. Last night I had a go at watching the diving and the trampolining. (I had not noticed that trampolining is an Olympic sport.)

It is hard work watching sport. Much of the commentary is fatuous and chauvinistic. Then ads come on every ten minutes, making me splutter and snort and seethe.  At such times I wish I were the Minister for Broadcasting, with unfettered power to switch things on and off, and to force inane and chauvinistic commentators into re-education camps. But I am probably in a very tiny minority holding such views, so all I can do (apart from letting off some steam here) is grin and bear it, and get on with the more pressing exigencies of life.

And the exigencies of life are abounding, even as I blog.

Fernando is coming on Monday to start fixing my damp problems, and to re-do the floor. Just in case there are rats about, under the disintegrating floor, I have put rat poison beneath it.

Let me assure the blogosphere that all of this is far more stressful than any Olympic event could possibly be, and, what is more, no one is likely to buy my story, interview me on TV, or get a team of experts to re-do my floors. Let's face it, some realities would make pretty awful and depressing viewing reality TV.

On Tuesday the stair lifts are to be taken off the stairs, and put in boxes, to live in the garage until such time that I decide whether to try and sell them, or to hang onto them until I am decrepit enough to need them to be re-installed. If the removal is indeed done, in the afternoon the vintage furniture people who are buying Dr P's old furniture are coming to take it away, tra la.

This makes some room for the contents of the dining room to be put into the lounge.  The cupboards etc have been emptied and put elsewhere. Those not fitting into any elsewhere will have to be found a good home, eg Vinnies or the Salvos.

It has become very obvious that I have far too much stuff. This process of discovery is incredibly time consuming. This evening I went through the boxes containing tools, hardware and garden implements. The boxes are far more orderly now, but the contents have not decreased noticeably.

All day tomorrow I can fine-tune all this. Then on Monday I have to go to a timber place, to decide on the timber to be used for my new floor.

I do not quite know how I am going to mange when we reach the stage when the refrigerator,  freezer and dishwasher need to be moved and put somewhere, so that the new floor can be installed and then sanded and sealed. Will the contents of the freezer have to be chucked out? How will I cook? Will the milk go off?

When all these problems have been resolved, perhaps I can become an expert on logistics and give highly paid lectures, or perhaps feature, smiling, decisive and competent, in reality TV programmes, on logistics, and the minutiae of the application of chaos theory to Everyday Life.

In between all these events from the Olympics of Everyday Life, I have been going to choir practice.

Yesterday five of us from our local knitting group went along to the ABC for the Wrap with Love Knit In. That was great fun, an absolutely wonderful event, full of people working to help others, and in so doing creating vast amounts of social capital, as well as thousands and thousands of wraps to keep people warm.

And I reflect on the course of my life, and how to wrest control and transform whatever I can. The sands of time are running out.