Sunday, 28 July 2013

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Domestic chaos very likely

Melbourne was very very cold, or so it seemed to me, having finally become acclimatised to the Sydney climate.  Despite having returned on Tuesday, and having had a full day at home, it still feels cold. Here I sit, waiting for the men to come and begin the waterproofing of the en suite bathroom, and lo, the man - just one, has arrived and is unpacking his gear. I hope I can ask him to change a couple of lights for me - my ceilings are way too high for me to reach and my step-ladder is not high enough. Bernard is tall, so here's hoping. It seems mad to have to hire someone just to change a light globe. It does drive me mad, a bit, to have such small things without some drama or special arrangements.

There was another power blackout the other night, causing a flurry of searching for the candles, the matches and the torch. Perhaps there needs to be a torch on each level.

A close friend, in Adelaide, rang me to say she was in hospital with a broken ankle. She has atrophy of part of the brain, which will eventually result in Alzheimer's, but the early symptoms were loss of her peripheral vision. With lots of help from the medical profession and friends, she has managed so far, although she had to stop driving, but now it seems clear that she can't continue to live at home, as the house is too difficult to be modified for her. Early days, but it seems she will have to go to respite care, once she heals enough to be discharged, and then go to some sort of aged care facility. Ageing is often a process fraught with problems. She is only two years older than me, and we have known each other  and been dear friends since university, and our parents were friends.

Melbourne was mostly good (apart from the cold) and the family gathering was lovely, with all the nieces and nephews and their progeny. We met at a hotel somewhere near Woop Woop (or so it seemed to me) which had enclosed play areas and the room was large enough for all the little ones to run around a lot. I stayed with my second youngest sister and then with Stomper for the other two nights. All very pleasant, and lovely to spend time with them all. My grandsons are delightful and it is a happy home. However the cat seemed disinclined to smooch with me!

However there was a short but distressing episode with one of my sisters, which although smoothed out, with good will on both sides, continues to upset me. In due course I will settle and recover, but I do, alas, have a propensity to fret and to replay and to agonise, and I still feel rather unfairly done by and thus bruised.

Probably what I should do right now is go out and buy a coffee, and/or make something nice. Bernard might like a coffee too.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Family reunion

Tomorrow morning I travel to Melbourne, to attend the mid-year family reunion. One of my nieces said that as we all enjoyed the pre-Christmas reunion so much, it would be lovely to have a mid-winter one. And so this Saturday is the appointed day. My family is large and I need all my fingers and toes to count us all. I love the family gatherings, but they do contrast with my solitude here.

Melbourne is sure to be colder than Sydney, so packing needs to be done with care, and to not take too many things.  By the time I load the camera, the warmer clothes, some reading matter, some quince jelly to give to the quince jelly appassionati, the chargers for the various entertainment thingies, my small bag is most likely to be bulging. I do tend to overpack. I need to take some crochet with me, so that my hands do not succumb to unaccustomed idleness and boredom. As I will have to lug myself and my bags on and off trams, I do not want to carry too much stuff.

I have been in low spirits, due to solitude during the break between classes, etcetera, and to the likelihood that my daughter intends to move further away, and thus I am likely to see less of her and her children. It is not that I think that children ought to conduct their lives according to the needs and desires of their parents - life and nature does not work that way - it is just that I wonder about the rest of my life. Is making quince jelly and cumquat jam, and crocheting blankets for people in refugee camps  the best way of coping with the later stages of life? Apart from being good things, in themselves, to do?And at what stage do you become a burden on society? At least I can still sing - I think if I lost that the joy in life would dwindle substantially.

Today I had another lesson at the Apple Store, and this went well. My classes tend to hop and lurch all over the place, as I know a little about a number of things, and tend to learn incrementally. Thank goodness the teachers are patient and adaptable.

I have been investigating the amount of fabric and yarn I have, and came to the conclusion that most of the fabric needs to be donated to a good home. Although I think I can crochet quite a lot more, sewing appeals much less, and the lovely woollens, linens, cottons and silks are not likely to be used. They need good homes.  There is also quite a lot of hand painted silk fabric, but I can't think of what to do with it. Inspiration is needed.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

I am not sure I like weekends

It is late Saturday afternoon as I write, while listening to a CD of John McCormack singing Irish songs. Allowing for the age of the recording, it comes up rather well.  I bought the CD thinking to send it to my sister in hospital, but from talking to my other sisters, I think that she would be ubable to play it without someone else helping her. So I sent her chocolates instead. It is her birthday tomorrow.

On Saturday mornings I go to the produce market and buy sour dough bread, fruit and vegetables and flowers. Usually it does not take long - the worst thing is the Saturday morning traffic and finding a parking spot. This market is open each Saturday, sunshine or rain. The flowers are cheaper and better than at the florist's or the supermarket. Before moving to Sydney I never bought flowers, as I grew my own and managed to have something, however small, to pick for most of the year round. But after moving here, to a house with a very limited space, I started buying flowers. Dr P, who had little aesthetic sensibility, did not think much of my buying flowers (and his daughters commented adversely in their affidavits about this extravagance) but I took no notice. And I continue to buy flowers - lilies, in particular, and alstroemerias, and they give me great pleasure.

As quinces are still available I bought some more, which means that more quince jelly must be made, and given away. Making jam gives me pleasure, and occupies the time. The cumquat trees, which for years gave me enough fruit for cumquat marmalade, have now been chopped down. Luxury apartments are to be erected on the site. There are still some frozen cumquats to be used, and while walking around the neighbourhood I have noticed a couple of places with large cumquat trees, so I am contemplating dropping off a letter to them to ask whether they might be prepared to let me have some of the fruit. All they can say is Yes or No.

That the bread stall and the flower stall knows what I buy,  that the local cafe remembers how I like my occasional cappucino, that the sushi bar remembers my preference, and that the patisserie remembers my liking for spinach, that the pharmacy, the bank and the post office staff know me, all these give me some pleasure. Although alone, I am not absolutely anonymous. Little human interactions, in themselves of no great importance, do make a difference.

The woman two doors away with the two black scotties said hello this morning. First time ever! But there is silence in the neighbouring house across the lane, and no lights. The old lady is about 97. Although I have met her a few times, she never remembered me - too old, and eyesight too bad. The last time I spoke to her daughter, who called to see her each Saturday morning, she said her mother was failing.  The car left just as I got back from the market, so it was not possible to enquire. Perhaps she has had to go to hospital or a nursing home - or perhaps she has died.

Weekends tend to make me feel rather morbid.

Thursday, 11 July 2013


Today one of the excellent teachers at the Apple Store gave me a lesson. With regular lessons, careful note taking, lots of practice, my computer skills may stop atrophying and perhaps may even improve.
When I first started blogging, I found it possible to insert photographs but at some stage the programs were changed and I could no longer do it. Hooray, it seems that it is indeed possible, and relatively easy, although certainly not within the scope of my intuitive powers.

These few examples will do for a start.

This is the knitting and crochet group. We have put up an exhibition of our wraps at the main branch of our library. the staff are all very helpful and supportive, and last week we had an opening of the exhibition, which was attended by a goodly number of people, and we all provided food and drinks. The photograph was taken by the photographer of one of the local papers.

Putting up the exhibition took  a lot of planning and organisation, and much thought. I restricted myself to taking photos - and we now have a good record of our meetings and finished products. However I need to get better with the camera as the lighting is not very good at all. Off to the camera shop for some help, I think.

Helpful handy husbands. I wish I'd had one of them. Like they say, I love work. I could watch it for hours. In fact watching these capable women do all the planning, liaising, selection of photographs and arrangements of the wraps was quite enthralling.


                                                       Many hands make light work

These wonderful women included a session teaching children to knit. As I cannot knit, I did not attend that, but now I wish I had. But in the meantime I have finished another wrap, which looks good. 


Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Swirling thoughts

Since my last post I have had a birthday, celebrated by having friends here for dinner. As the day itself, the Glorious Fourth, was very busy with the Italian class and then lunch together, most of the cooking had to be done the previous day. Just as well, as I am not as fast or super-efficient as in the days of yore - although I hastily add, that I am still pretty efficient.

So I spent the Wednesday cooking - osso buco, and a quince and apple crumble, leaving the risotto alla milanese until the next afternoon. It is very satisfying having an all-day cooking session, moving from task to task, refreshing cooking techniques, checking the progress of the cooking, and the sensations of slicing, chopping, pounding, mixing, frying, stirring,  simmering, enjoying the aromas, ticking off the tasks, and working out what is next to be done. Cooking has always been a pleasure and an interest, more in the past than in the present. Cooking for one's self only cannot compete with cooking for many.

And I had a very lovely evening with these dear friends. They have all been so good and kind to me, taking such good care of me, with conversations, practical help, entertainment and wonderful company.

Little life changes happen too. My daughter had said she did not like the dinner set I have used for years - a gift from my mother, (who died in 1973) and I decided it was time to re-arrange the deck chairs before the boat sinks.  I brought out the other dinner set, and put it into the kitchen cupboards, thus necessitating  a lot of moving about of things. It had made me meditate on how our bodies learn to do things, - reaching into the cupboards to find things, and then having to think through the new arrangements. The bowls of the 'new' set are much smaller than the old ones and it takes some getting used to the different shapes and sizes. I'd like to hand some of these things to my children, but their cupboards are small and already full.

My friends arrived with a bottle of bubbly. Oh, I thought, I do have champagne glasses, but hardly ever use them. Memory was not much use here, so I had to check all the possible places before finding them.

The champagne glasses are Waterford crystal, very beautiful, not shallow bowls, but deep and narrow. My father sent them from Ireland when he visited the country, and I remember this large box arriving, and unpacking it. It was full of padding and straw, and I carefully looked for the contents. When the sixth glass was found I presumed that was all - but then checked the label to find there were eight.  These glasses have hardly ever been used, as I do not often drink champagne, but am now resolving it is time to use all the things kept for best or for special occasions.  Dr P and I often used to go out to restaurants with friends, and having friends over for a meal became a relatively infrequent event, and I still do not do it very often. Which means that lots of things sit in my cupboards and are not used the way they should be. I hope in the fullness of time they will find good homes and frequent use, but in the meantime perhaps I can mend my ways and get back into the kitchen. And not confine my efforts to the making of jam and marmalade - satisfying though this is. Are there still domestic goddesses? Or is it only Nigella?