Thursday, 28 February 2013

Stroppy? Who? Me?

Perhaps it is increasing old age, but my levels of tolerance seem to be diminishing. While waiting to be served in the bank last week, I suggested to a young woman that if she wanted to have an extended personal conversation upon her mobile phone, she should go outside, instead of subjecting all the other customers to her loud conversation.

This modest suggestion rapidly developed into a rather startling brawl. She did not take kindly to my suggestion, and immediately accused me of being a nasty old woman, racist, who could not abide hearing anyone speaking in a language other than English, accused me of being a stupid ugly old woman, thought I wanted foreigners to be put into concentration camps, or to be deported, and who could see no reason why she should consider modifying her behaviour because of being in a business premises. Goodness gracious me! Obviously I have no right to exist, let alone mildly suggest that consideration for other people should modify her public behaviour.

I felt very upset because of this, as I am not a very disputatious person - although living with Dr P, who never hesitated to dish it out to others, while not necessarily accepting that sauce for the gander was sauce for the goose, should have prepared me for such a reaction.

But increasingly I feel that I should not have to put up with, or tolerate, the bad language or bad behaviour of other people. Perhaps I am just getting cranky, the effect of old age and the vicissitudes of life.

Yesterday while walking to the bus stop I came across three female high school students who were standing together and talking. Every second word was 'Fuck'.  I am not exaggerating.   They were talking happily and amicably together. So I stopped, and having learned a modicum of caution after the experience in the bank, and said, politely and pleasantly:

'Excuse me. Can you tell me why you all swear so much? You are all bright, attractive and intelligent girls, so why is it that you use such language so frequently?'

They all looked rather embarrassed. We talked a bit, but they just said that they did not feel it was swearing, it just came out casually.

 I hope I gave them pause for thought. This is probably a vain hope. I hope my grandchildren do not grow up using such language. At least not every second word.

I wonder whether the young students - from 13 upwards - talk like this at home, at school or generally. Where do they learn it? Is it permitted in schools? At home? Does no one give them any standards of behaviour, private or public?

I live close to a high school - a selective school, and the students walk past my house every morning and afternoon, and the swearing is constant, incessant, and noisy.

There is a lot of hypocrisy about the use of swearwords. Some time ago a Federal minister swore at a press conference, in an off the cuff remark, and the heavens opened, and he was generally abused - and in my view, rightly so. But on TV shows the word is regularly used, and no one seems to bat an eyelid, let alone press the bleep button. So what gives?

I am over it. As they say.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Waiting for Fernando

The Rime of The Ancient Mariner springs to mind:
Water, water everywhere and all the boards did shrink.

Well, I hope they don't. Which is why I am waiting for Fernando.

There has been a vast amount of rain. Thus I was impelled, during a night when sleep did not happen, to get up, go downstairs and just check whether all that rain which relentlessly pounded the area was getting into the house. There has been so much rain over the last few weeks that the back doors have absorbed water, and thus could not be closed. The repainting somehow or other stopped the flyscreen/security doors from closing, and thus the water came in underneath the doors. Much mopping up had to be done. Water was also coming underneath the laundry door, but at least that was draining.

The downpour was extremely heavy, and came, unusually, from the east. As the house is on a slope, and on a corner, the water from the lane and the side street rushes downhill, goes around the corner and into the main drain in the street, just outside my house. So much water was going in that my drain could not get its fair share, and thus the water level rose.  Lots of wet towels to mop up all the water were needed.

So Fernando is coming to have another go at those doors. And to fix the joists so that the bounce and movement in the floor ceases to happen. I am rather sick of it but now, as it happens where I walk from the kitchen, through the dining room, into the lounge.

There is always something to contend with. Life is never dull. Just as well, eh!

At least the weather has been much cooler than February usually is. My house is rather chaotic at present, due to sporadic efforts to sort things out, and perhaps discard some more books. From time to time I go through some of Dr P's old files, to see which of them can be discarded, and which ought to be sent to join his other papers in our National Library. This is a time-consuming and laborious task, and not very effective, either. Perhaps it is the effect of summer, but at present I am not managing to deal effectively with my own affairs, such as the tax return. It is almost ready to be sent off, but interruptions have been very disruptive, and then, once energy returns, I need to start all over again. As it is, I make rather brief and feeble attempts to deal with it all, and then desist, closing the door behind me so that out of sight becomes out of mind.

You can understand why people employ secretaries: anything to avoid having to deal with such things oneself.

I am reminded of a photograph of Albert Einstein, surrounded by huge piles of books and papers, standing looking puzzled, with the caption: I know I had it here somewhere.

I feel just like that.

It is so much more enjoyable to read, to listen to music, to go (with feelings of ineffable virtue) for walks most days, to crochet, to see friends and go to classes and choirs. And engaging in such enjoyable pursuits puts off the task of sorting out all the documentation of all the less enjoyable duties of life.

Fernando has been here, given his diagnosis and remedies: more work, to enable more water to drain from the area, and then to sand down and shave the doors, and repaint. In the meantime he has managed to close the doors. Alas and woe. I had hoped it would be simpler. But it must be done. He has checked the joists and says it will be simple to fix. That's a relief.

Thursday, 21 February 2013


Today is the second anniversary of Dr P's death. It has been, overall, a sad and sombre day, leading to reflections on our life together, the good and the bad, the joys and then sorrows, the love and the fights, the caring between us, each in our own way, and the sadness, struggles and sorrows as his health and mental capacity declined dramatically in his last year of life. Since his death, I have had to fight to get justice for myself, and for freedom to lead life according to my own decisions. In this I have, largely, succeeded.

As anniversaries approach, one reflects constantly on life together, and on what it was and what it could have been. Reality cannot be changed, but regrets endure, with many wonderings about what if and if only...But that was then, and now is now. Having trained as an historian, with a Catholic upbringing, and having worked in providing facts, information and analysis for all my working life - and beyond -  I try to face facts, to acknowledge reality, and my sins of omission and commission. I loved my husband, but he could be - shall we say? very difficult, hard hearted and selfish, and this complex mixture makes memory far from an unalloyed joy. And I, too, am a very imperfect being.

I am sad, and tears spring to my eyes. My widowed friend M telephoned, but my children and siblings evidently have not remembered the anniversary. Natural enough, I suppose, and no point repining. Tomorrow I will gird my loins and set forth, metaphorically, again. But today I mourn and reflect.

I went to the Italian class this morning. We always have coffee together afterwards and one member of the class said to me that I looked sad that morning. So we talked about the anniversary.

One thing I set out to do, and it has been done. I visited the crematorium and his niche and plaque. That having been done, I think I will not need to do it again. My farewells have been said again.

I scattered half Dr P's ashes in the gardens of the institution where he spent much of his working life. The other half has been placed in the niche, with a plaque recording his details. Strictly speaking, I had no right to dispose of his remains, but have done so, as the settlement precluded me from further dealing with the step-family. I took rosemary from my garden, and placed it near the niche.

It feels as though this second anniversary of Dr P's death is a kind of watershed for me, and thus I hope and expect that I will recuperate further. Recovery is, after all, a natural process.

But for the rest of the day, I remain sombre and reflective, taking stock, gathering forces, and striving to be ready to greet the morn. But mourning must, like rivers and the sea, take its own course, and flow on.

Friday, 15 February 2013

It's Friday already

Here I am at the end of the week, planning tomorrow night's dinner.  I have invited friends for dinner this weekend. I will cook a curry, a good standby when one is very out of practice with cooking.

Cooking for one is not exciting. The last time I cooked steak on the gas cooktop, it set off the smoke alarm. Despite pressing the buttons to switch it off, it took some time for it to stop. What a fearful and hideous noise these alarms make They make the heart pound, and the mind freak out. Obviously I need a better smoke extractor, so I should go to my local shop and check them out.

I have managed to contact Fernando again and he promises to come and prop up the joists, which allow noisy movement in the floor. I hope he manages to come soon, as the noise is tiresome. While he is at it, I will see if he can fix my back door, which got swollen in all the rain and won't close properly. He told me my exhaust fan is useless, and says he can install a new one for me. But is he a qualified electrician?

Such minor problems are vastly preferable to the major problems encountered in the last few years. It is all relative. But even so, they are not much fun. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. So to speak. So I hope.

My morning walks continue, and today people smiled and said hello to each other. Sometimes this does not happen. You never know. There is a family which runs most mornings, pushing a three-child stroller, containing their triplets, who look about two, and who are all sucking their thumbs. I have only ever encountered one other family with triplets - and they completed a family which already had six children.  Running while pushing a stroller with three children strikes me as serious exercise! Older walkers, such as me,  look on with total admiration. When my children were small,  exercise was not in vogue, and there was quite enough to do without taking time out for running, walking or riding. School to organise, lunches to make, housework to do - in those days husbands/fathers did not do such chores.

The tide was very low this morning. I like to see the extent of the oysters festooning the rocks, and wonder about how polluted they are. Lots of walkers take their dogs, which are sometimes given the delights of having sticks thrown into the water, so that they (the dogs, that is) can swim out and retrieve them.

 I met a neighbour while out walking, and we arranged for me to give her some more kaffir lime leaves. My tree was quite large and apparently flourishing, but last year one of the big branches suffered from dieback - who knows why - and had to be pruned. FErnando did it for me, but since then I have bought a saw and can now remove smaller branches if need be. Lots of little branches sprouted, but there are still some bits doing their best to die. Expert advice is needed.

It has been a busy day, with the knitting and crochet group meeting this morning. We added another couple of completed blankets to our stash, a new person came along, and we talked the legs off all the nearby iron pots. We are meeting a local group next week, to see whether they would be prepared to give us some funding towards the cost of the yarn.  I am accompanying one of our movers and shakers to add support, and we are taking along some of our works. If we don't get any funding, we will keep going regardless, but the cost does add up to quite a lot, especially if you use good yarns.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Thou shalt have a little fishy

I am just back home from dinner with friends, at a lovely local fish restaurant. These days I cook very little, and thus when these friends from Canberra emailed to say they were visiting, we arranged to go to a restaurant just up the road. We had a lovely time, and a very good meal.

We have been friends for many years, beginning from being colleagues at work. Friendships are such interesting phenomena. We have many interests in common and also many differences. Sometimes friendships are situational, and wear out, and other times they persist, despite the differences in circumstances.

These friends lost their second child. Their little son was only seven, and had heart problems requiring surgery, which he did nor survive. I remember studying, just before his operation, and remembering that the operation was imminent, and writing to them. The next thing was reading the death notice - their little son had died. I do not know how people bear such sorrows.

I have not had to bear such sorrow, but I lost my twin sons prematurely. This was seen as a blessing by many people, as I had rubella early in the pregnancy, and almost certainly the babies would have been severely affected. Of course, I did not know there were twins, and the shock and grief were immense.

Most people thought it was just as well that we lost these babies, and doubtless they were right, but one grieves, notwithstanding such considerations. In fact, I don't think that one ever recovers fully. One buries the grief, one realises that "it was just as well," but all the same, the loss of one's babies is both shocking and very traumatic.

After all these years, with three adult children and with grandchildren,  it is not something I can write about with any ease. It is still raw. In those days we did not have ultrasound, or much in the way of diagnosis. There were statistics, that was all. The rubella was at the worst possible time. No counselling afterwards, either. Just being told it was just as well, that we had been spared much, and that it was fortunate that I had gone into premature labour, and that both babies were born dead. There was no counselling, and perhaps it would have been of no help. The first birth was traumatic, and I was barely conscious for the second, and had to be told hours later that a second baby had been born - both babies way too premature to have survived.

There was a lot of sympathy from family and friends, of course, but we were expected to  get on with it, and to consider that we had been lucky not to have had not just one, but two children with severe birth defects. And this was true. But just because we had been spared having children with severe defects, it did little to mitigate the emotional shock and grief. How could it?

I do not now think about it very often, and it was very many years ago. At times the recollections are both sharp-edged, but blurry in the details. But I do wonder whether these sorrows made me feel that true happiness would never be my lot, and that somehow my life would always be blighted. That such a start to married life meant that  we would never recover. As indeed we did not. Another disastrous pregnancy followed, and despite later having three children, and both of us trying to make the marriage work, we were locked into failure. Irremediable.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Cut off from civilisation as we have come to know it

For the third time in about as many months my telephone and therefore my internet are on the blink. I sit at the local library on a booked session. It is supposed to be fixed within another few days but as this is the weekend, I do not expect the repair to be done sooner. Of course, it is not just the blogging I miss, although it makes me feel very cut off from that world as well as from the parallel universes, but I cannot look anything up. As a chronic looker-upper, this makes me twitch.

Still, there are lots of wonderful and fascinating books to be read. I find that being on my own has somehow or other made me far more capable of reading more, and in a more concentrated way. While I still dip in and out of the large number of new books festooning the living areas, and while I still pick up far too many second-hand books at the markets, and borrow from the library, my concentration is better and my interests keener. Which all makes me wonder about the effect of matrimony on the mind, the psyche and the character. I suppose there is something about the fact that living with another person or persons allows other things and frequent interruptions or distractions to flourish, as it were.

We have had a lot of rain and today is distinctly cool.  It is rather nice.

In between all the reading I am finishing another crocheted blanket. This is in blues, and white and I have decided to keep it as an occasional throw over my bed. Most of my bedroom linen is in blue and white.

The knitting and crochet group resumed yesterday, much to our general delight. It was over far too quickly. and choir is back. We are singing Rachmaninov's The Bells, which is set to Edgar Allan Poe's eponymous poem. Fortunately we are singing it in English and not  Russian. Next week the Italian  classes resume. The opera group is back and so are the lectures at the Art Gallery. So life is about to be very busy again. I am no good at sitting around with nothing to do.