Saturday, 27 April 2013

To spray or not to spray?

My younger daughter's cat is in residence (and so is she). He is a Burmese cat called Maxie, and can often be a wild and independent spirit. He loves racing up and down the stairs, and sharpening his claws on the carpet. He frequently yowls for food, although he is actually rather well fed, and the picture of feline health.

My daughter has been out taking photographs all day, so he has had me to deal with. I am slightly less indulgent with him than she is. I have strong views of the hierarchy of living creature, with people at the apex.

We went out this morning for coffee, then she had to leave for work. When I arrived back, the cat was nowhere to be seen. I searched high and low (this is a three storey house) and absolutely could not find him. Not a peep, not a tinkle of his bell, let alone a miaow or a yowl. Evidently he was doing the feline thing of sleeping all day and getting prepared for the next bout of racing madly up and down, in (but not out) and here and there and roundabout. (He reappeared, demanding food, in the late afternoon.)

I gave up searching for him, and went about my business. When deciding what to wear today I pulled out a light woollen top and put it on, only to discover it had nasty little holes in it. Moths or silverfish, or both,  had evidently been feasting.

This was alarming. I hastily checked all the other woollen garments, but this one was the preferred meal. The mothballs and anti-silverfish substances had evidently been used up. Time to buy more. While I found packages of anti-moth substances, single mothballs were not readily available, but finally, on my second expedition, I found them at the two dollar shop. I have yet to put them through the drawers and wardrobe, but soon everything will smell of camphor. I don't like going out smelling like that, but even less do I like finding nasty little holes in my fine woollen garments.Having just finished crocheting a jacket, the very idea of these beasties devouring it is more than human flesh and blood can stand.

As well as dealing with moths, silverfish and the disappearing cat, I have had to get all the tax stuff organised. Finally, and to the best of my knowledge, I had it all copied, a summary typed out, and it all posted to the tax agent, so that when I visit Melbourne for my sister's 60th birthday, I can go and sign it all, and feel a heavenly sense of ineffable virtue and accomplishment. Until next time, of course.

When I was a young thing, one's man did all this. That was the theory, but in fact often the men were as fallible and inefficient as the women - a fact which gives me no pleasure, but merely a heavily reinforced sense of human imperfections. There are times when I feel I have more than my fair share of human imperfections.

It is amazing how pleasant and consoling it is to sit there stroking a contented and purring cat. There is a chicken roasting in the oven, and I look forward to a companionable evening with my daughter (and the cat).

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Wrestling, puzzling, and more floor crawling

Sometimes it seems to be a false memory that I ran a house and family, and a job. these days the apparently simplest things turn into events of huge and time-consuming complexity.

Now that I have a nice new Internet Service Provider, and am almost of the stage of cancelling the old service, I would have thought life might have become simpler and easier. But No.

The technician put in a new phone and this promptly disable all the other phones in the rest of the house. It is a three story house with a lot of stairs, and it is simply not possible to b=get from the top story to the ground level before the phone call expired through effluxion of time. None of the other phones worked. How did it come that the technician did not think to ask or consider what other telephones would be affected.

Not being technically expert, and being far far away from those loved ones who could help, a certain amount of inexpert floundering took place. Eventually I realised that the previous mother phone, without which none of the other chicken phones would work, had been disabled and that the new one could not or would not talk to the rest of the house.

This sort of problem makes me rather prone to bad language and a certain amount of emotional distress. Finally I remembered that there was a phone in Dr P's old study which, if disconnected, rendered all the others dumb, silent and useless. Oh well, I thought, let me see if I can re-connect it. Perhaps if I could get this to work, all the baby phones would wake up and do their thing.

Now I NEVE EVER assume that it can't be too difficult a task. Experience has taught me otherwise. Thus began a series of trial crawlings  around the floors , the moving of furniture so that all the sockets could be reached and putting this into that and testing the phone lines. They remained adamantly dead.

Unfortunately such technical ability as I possess is easily challenged. I can start from a reasonably conceptually clear beginning, but by dint of more error than trial, I quickly become confused, and, worse, forget just what is was that I did only a minute ago.

I had been down to the new ISP service provider shop, and complained and sought help, but they said that what with all the heavy rain, they were fully occupied with serious emergency calls, and that, ergo, mine was not really serious or urgent, and they made an appointment for a couple of weeks from now, and warned me that if someone else (who might that be?) had caused the problem, they would charge me. I did point out that the technician should have thought to check what might have happened to all the other phones in the house when he connected the new one, but they did not sound too convinced or worried by this.

Thus I decided to take photos of the offending equipment and hied me to my local Retravision store, where George, David and Steve gathered around, gazed at my photos, had a man to man discussion of some length and depth, and finally sent me away equipped with a couple of connector thingies.

Back home I crawled around the floor once more, trying more seemingly endless combinations, and finally I seem to have managed to get the mother phone working again. So I took more photos, went back to Retravision, and returned the connector that was not needed, and went back home to have a nice glass of wine.

I just wish I had more technical ability, and did not get into such a flap and panic when things go wrong.

It gets very tedious, takes endless hours, gets sin the way of things which are far more interesting and enjoyable, and makes me deplorably prone to bemoan my lot and to wonder what will become of me.

Friday, 19 April 2013

A Change is as good as a ?

Some things sound complicated but turn out to be simple. Others sound so simple but instead turn out to be very complicated, requiring much help from family and the various associated people.

After many years of using a very slow internet package, I finally decided to change.  The major reason for the delay in making a better choice was the inevitable complexity and consequent confusion associated with all this.

I needed help. My younger daughter provided this, and came along to help me through the selection.  Having signed on the dotted line, carefully avoiding consideration of the limitless alternatives and price comparisons, I awaited implementation day. It duly arrived. I had chosen to have a technician come and see to it all, and God only knows how you would cope without a technician.

The Internet Service Provider sent a text message giving me a date for the technician's  arrival. then  another message arrived, and then another. Today was the day. The technician arrived early in the morning.He seemed to think he needed to get under the house, but, post Fernando, the entry to underneath the house could not be opened. Fernando will have to fix this up when he returns to fix the problem of the moving floors. No matter how the technician tugged and yanked, the door to underneath the house remains obdurately closed.

Why do such problems abound?

Despair not.

The technician searched for various cables,  and finally connected this, that and the other thing. He gave me my new security code, and email address and password. With every step my confusion increased. Finally he declared all was set up, and departed.

More fun ensued. The password did not work. Help! Why was this so?

I had yet to cancel the old service provider - it seemed a little foolhardy to rush in and to assume everything would work. This proved to be just as well.

My daughter spent a very long time on the phone to the new ISP and finally it was sorted out. It all involved the Help getting direct access to my computer to get it all sorted out. I sat along side my daughter, freaking out, as quietly as possible. Ai'n't technology wonderful!

Is this what they call hacking? I think so. It was quite weird.

Finally it all seems to be working. I have yet to cancel the previous service. In the meantime I am busy informing the world at large of my new internet address.

All I can say, at this juncture, is, thank goodness for gmail, which seems to work easily and has been an alternative to the aberrant service of the big company's 'service'.

I kept asking myself why it took me so long to get all this organised and done, and of course the answer is not being able to face the inevitable trauma and puzzles such changed inevitably provoke. For years I have put up with slow, inefficient and costly service, culminating in almost total dropout of the connection with no one being able to say why this was happening, or to be able to fix it.

I hope all is well now. I am in the process of going through my addresses and notifying everyone of my new email address. And I remain as puzzled as ever about how it all happens and why it is so.

I feel as though the Great ISP in The Sky is writing on my report 'Lacks Application. Should Try Harder!'

They are not wrong.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Cause and effect

Some things are just not fun.

I am doing my tax return. Last year's, that is. What a revolting process and task! I need to be better organised, and to have proper boxes and files into which everything would be placed, in absolute chronological order. But instead, bits and pieces are here, there and everywhere. It must all be done within the next few weeks.  I am going to Melbourne, to celebrate my third sister's 60th birthday. My tax agent lives there, so everything must be ready by then.

I have never found that keeping documents and papers in order came easily. All sorts of other things can be well organised, but NOT the tax documents.

There are many excuses. Lack of time, too many interruptions, not enough files, folders and boxes, no secretarial assistance at all, and of course the fact that (thankfully) there are many more pleasant and interesting things to do. Thus when the dreaded hour arrives when things absolutely MUST be done, the result is little piles all over the floor, and a certain difficulty in placing things in chronological order.

I cannot find a particular receipt, so had to telephone the charity to beg for another copy. This has been sent, but I cannot print it, as all my connectivity problems have broken the nexus between the computer and the printer.

My daughter kindly left one of her wireless devices here, which means I have internet, but my devices are not all speaking to each other. I am changing my ISP and thought I would have to wait for another couple of weeks, but today was advised that the technician can come on Saturday. Later today they rang to say Friday. Goodie. I hope he/she and I manage to communicate, so that I know how to work all the new arrangements. And, a panic-stricken thought has just struck me - I suppose I have to notify the ISP that I am relinquishing that they are no longer required. I bet they charge me a cancellation fee. Perhaps someone has a handy guide to changing your internet service provider?

There is a certain human propensity to avoid the difficult and tedious tasks, and to indulge instead in things which are far more fun, infinitely more interesting, much easier and for which one's mind is far better adapted. This is perhaps what is meant by human evolution, but someone or something up there neglected to eliminate or simplify things like tax returns and computer connections. Not kind.

My time has been far more productively and pleasantly spent in making a cot blanket for the latest great-nephew, in fetching shades of blue and cream, and in completing the jacket I have been making at the crochet clinic. This latter creation had a few hitches in its making, not all of which were my fault. In fact the pattern had quite a number of errors in it, and thus I needed the crochet expert, to help me sort it out.  It is all done now, the buttons sewn on, it has been pressed it so that the corners do not curl up, but lie beautifully flat instead. IAfter all these months and all this work, do I still like it. Not sure .It is quite heavy - I must weigh it - and it occurs to me that the next masterpiece should perhaps be made with a 4 ply yarn instead of 8 ply. The only problem is that I still have a lot of 8 ply yarn to use up, and no 4 ply at all. Just  blue, purple, and green 8 ply yarn, as well as a significant quantity of mohair.

What to do?

Just keep on making blankets, obviously. And keep on reading. The latest Kate Atkinson novel, Life After Life, is absolutely brilliant and stunning.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Bad Guest....

How things have changed! Good manners in particular!

I am spitting chips tonight. My daughter and granddaughter are staying here, and so are friends of hers. She asked could they stay here, and I agreed.

They all went off to the races. I decided to cook a curry for dinner, on the basis that it would be ready any time, and could wait the hour of their arrival. I had bought the lamb yesterday, and had said to my daughter that I would cook a curry. While they were all at the races I prepared all the ingredients, and this afternoon set about cooking it. It is quite a lot of work but I did not mind that. The cat miaowed eagerly and gobbled up all the trimmings from the meat.

And I even made a dessert - a quince and apple crumble, with the apples and quince carefully separated from each other.

However, in the late afternoon I reminded my daughter that I had cooked the curry. Oh! she said. Her friend's husband does not eat curry. They would get something else for him.  I told my daughter that this was the height of bad manners, incredibly rude. And I still think so. When they arrived back here, I suggested we all go out to dinner so that each of us could choose our meal. Oh No, said the females, we want the curry. And so we ate here, at the dining table.

Now comes that awful phrase - When I was young....

When I was young, if you were a guest in someone's house, you ate what was put in front of you. It was unthinkable to knock something back. It would have been incredibly bad manners, an insult to your hosts. You would have forced it down, eaten it and thanked your host politely for all the trouble they had taken to accommodate and feed you. Otherwise your parents would have thumped you, well and truly, and given you lectures on the insult caused by your refusing your host's food.

But no. Much better to buy two frozen meat pies, to be reheated in the microwave oven. and then to sit at the table, contributing nothing to the conversation.

The guests would not realise this, but since Dr P's death I have done hardly any cooking. Just the simplest of things. Nothing that involves a lot of preparation and planning. Of course, they don't know that, but I went to a lot of trouble over that rejected meal, and that should have been obvious.  I feel as though this man has spat in my face. I think his wife was very embarrassed, but not a word from her husband.

Now I am still seething away and indulging in a little fantasy, in which they buy me flowers in appreciation of my hospitality. Oh No, I could say. I hate roses...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Persiflage’s guide to mastering the recalcitrant ether

Make sure you have available an expert. This, most often, is one of your children. In cases of technology, they all know more than you do. Be sure to buy their children gelato often, as a simple way of giving thanks. Childminding also gives you brownie points. As does simple family affection.

Cultivate friends who understand all these complexities, and who just love being able to demonstrate their expertise. And who are good and loving souls.

Be sure you know how to turn everything off and on. Also, knowing what and when to unplug it all, and waiting 20 seconds, is a valuable skill.

Make sure you know what the modem lights are for. When in doubt, unplug it all and start again. NEVER assume you got it right the first, second, third or fourth time….

Also, work out just what exactly the screen means when it refers to a device.

I have just solved a little (LITTLE!) problem by remembering that these days your keyboard is likely to be a device. (I keep forgetting that the current keyboard needs a battery to work.) Switching it off and on has just worked a treat. Don't just sit there muttering 'Device! what device? It does not help.

Do not forget to seek help from your computer firm – in my case Apple – and your Internet Service Provider. Don’t allow yourself to be embarrassed by your rather demonstrably obvious lack of simple understanding of what the hell you should be doing. Remember that these people on the other end of the phone do this All Day Long, probably for 12 hour shifts, and have to cope with long, abstruse, careful explanations and instructions all day long. (And you thought YOU had problems!)

Be aware that this inevitably results in being on the phone for at least three hours. It also means that you have to crawl around the floor, unplugging and re-plugging, and of course moving all the desks and other furniture and equipment that generally are placed carefully away from the trip zones of the house. You don’t want to lie on the floor with a broken leg, unable to continue to rectify your technological problems. Do you?

When all else fails, change your internet service provider. I am in the process of doing just that, but it won’t happen for a couple of weeks. This is because I am paying to have a technician to the home to set it all up for me (and, I hope to write down simple instructions). Or is that a contradiction in terms? Probably.

Remember that there is possibly a simple explanation for your problems. Or maybe not. And even if there is a simple explanation, there probably won’t be a simple remedy. But you never know. One can live in hope.

Best of luck.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Chance linkages

The Book and CD fair has now finished. We went along for the final day, as everything was reduced to half price. Naturally I came away with several more books. Four of the books I bought were biographies: David Herbert Donald’s Abraham Lincoln, Michaael Shelden’s Graham Greene: The Man Within, Nathan Miller’s  FDR: An Intimate History and Ivan Cloulas’s The Borgias. They were all book-plated, part of the same personal library.

Curious to discover whose taste I was thus sharing, I looked up the name on the internet and found that the former owner used to be the Anglican Dean of Sydney and Melbourne, Stuart Barton Babbage. A notable, erudite and good person, according to his obituary, by Tony Stephens:( 

He died at the age of 96, late last year. His family must have been clearing out his belongings. I am glad to have these several items in my possession.  I am still  winnowing down Dr P’s books, while adding to my own collections. But you can’t read, or keep, or need everything.

Such linkages seem to me to be both precious and fascinating. Learning and history are transmitted in so many ways. I am very curious about the lives of the famous and the notable, and indeed of lesser mortals too. Apart from what they wrote, and did, I want to know what they were like. Increasingly, I read biographies, seeking the private person, the personality, their achievements, their joys and their sufferings.

Biographies used to be mostly concerned with the public person. Family life never got much of a mention in the case of famous men, Marriages and births would be mentioned, but often not given more than fleeting mentions. Sexuality tended not to be delved into. There were many discreet veils drawn. It seems to me that since more biographies came to be written by women, there has been a far more extensive exploration of the personal, of the inner lives.

Although in this respect I am a sticky beak, overall what drives me is a desire to know more – a great curiosity, which is continually confronted by the vastness of human endeavour, the complexities and variety of history, and the incredible advances in human knowledge and understanding. Individually we can go only a certain distances, constrained as we are by our own lives, our opportunities, interests and the limited time available. Yet, collectively and individually, there is so much learned, understood and discovered, and it seems, endless possibilities. So much to learn, so much to understand: so little time.


My daughter and her children are here and thus there is a lot of child-minding being done and to be done. We are almost at the end of Day One and I feel quite tired. Age has caught up with me, it seems. Shortly it will be feeding time at the zoo, and their mother will be home to do the insulin injection. Although I can do it, I remain somewhat apprehensive about it all.

The children have (mostly) been really good and we have had a pleasant day, with only minor hiccoughs. But I am tired and will be pleased when I can sit down and not have to do anything further. Not until tomorrow!

The local co-operatively managed classical music radio station does fund-raising by having a book and CD fair and their latest is being held at my local town hall building. I have been there a few times already and tomorrow everything will be half price. Most of the books I am interested in have been sold (only partly to me) but a few remain. I have bought quite a few biographies, and it seems they were mostly donated by the same man, who had put book plates into all of them. I must look him up on the internet, as his name rings a bell or two.

Such self-indulgence means that I have a lot of books to get through, and it somehow seems there is insufficient time for me to manage this. It's a worry. Oh joy, oh bliss, though, amongst the CDs I found  Marc-Antoine Charpentier's, Le Jugement Dernier and Miserere des Jesuites, Erato 2292-45174-2, which I already own, but which is a bit damaged. It seems no longer to be in the catalogue, so to find one undamaged is a great joy. It is probably my first choice of the music I would like played at my funeral. I will be listening, up (or possibly down) there. But I expect other opinions might prevail, once I am no longer able to argue the case.

One of my self-indulgences is music. I have a vast collection of CDs, and these days, aware of impending mortality, I am making a greater effort to play and to replay them, to get to know the music better and to have it in my memory. It is a daunting task, what with listening to the radio and to its selections, and also spending quite a lot of time out of the house doing non-musical things.

Over the last week I have had problems with my Internet connection, and have spent hours on the telephone trying to get it all sorted out. It seems necessary that I dance to some other' provider's tune, to get more, better and faster service, and so  my daughter and I (plus children) are shortly going to consult a rival firm, as well as to replenish the larder. All this stuff (not the larder-ing) makes my head ache and my mind confused, so all help is very welcome.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Home Alone

By choice, I am home alone for Easter. Mostly because I could not face the travelling necessary to be with family. My emotional and energy levels are hovering slightly below the 50% level. Being solitary now seems to be my normal state. I had better not mention this to my sisters as they would be inclined to recommend counselling, tranquillisers or anti-depressants, whereas I feel as though I am merely adrift and afloat on the sea of life. One of these days I might make it to land.

Two young men rang my doorbell yesterday. As I opened the door, one said 'Hello, darling'. I looked at them, somewhat askance, and said, 'What did you just say to me?' And so they repeated it. I said they had no business addressing me like that: they did not know me, nor I them, and it was impertinent and familiar. Oh, the young man said, it was just his usual way of greeting people. Well, I replied, it would be a good idea to think more carefully about how to address people, such as total strangers, from whom you are trying money for your particular cause'. So they left, empty handed. I am still experiencing a mini-seethe. Bloody cheek! I say to myself. One wonders whether those employed to do door to door canvassing ever get any training on courtesy and sales techniques.

And this morning, after going out for the morning walk, I found I had to go and find a shop that was open - it is Easter Sunday, after all, and most shops are (rightly) closed. I am cooking some more quince jelly, and found I did not have enough sugar, so tried one of the nearby shops, and it was open. Laden with my sugar, I decided to have a peek at the viewing office of proposed new units, in a nearby area formerly used for industrial purpose but now sold off and to be 'developed'.

In I went, and said I'd like to look at their display. I do not want to buy a unit: I merely wondered about how it might affect or change the area. They wanted my name and address. This made me feel stroppy, so I refused and left. I do not want to be part of their data base. I had just bought sugar from the shop, and they did not ask for my particulars. Grrr.

It is interesting that in such small ways I find myself becoming more assertive. In the days of yore, female assertiveness was generally much less common, and there was a far greater expectation of courtesy, both in private and in public interactions. And, having had to pussy-foot around in the past with such people as husbands, and step-daughters,  it has taken some time for me to release mists and fumes of assertiveness into the ether.  What else might transpire? So when I feel lonely, even as a result of my own decision not to drive away from home for Easter, I can muse about not having to try to please or placate husbands. (They had their good points, but at times failed to develop or use them. Doubtless they  felt the same about me. Well, nobody's perfect.)

Today's batch of quince jelly is sitting glowingly on my kitchen bench, so something was accomplished. It tastes good. And the colour is makes me feel quite beatific. And tonight I did a fairly good sort of all my muddled collections of papers. Things look quite tidy and organised now. Let me see if I can keep up the good work.