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.