Saturday, 23 November 2013

How time slips away

Sometimes there is nothing to say that you would want anyone to hear. Thus it has been with me since my last post. Negative, depressed and sad thoughts have oppressed me, like heavy mists which settle and will not lift. How to tell whether such moods are to be with me permanently?

Today is the 25th anniversary of my father's death, and, of course, yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy, a man so admired, so charismatic, of such promise, and whose senseless murder so many of us grieved. It was the time when black Americans were finally achieving their civil rights, and also when the Cuban Missile Crisis seemed about to bring the world to nuclear war. I was a student then, as it happened studying American history, and the course included the Civil War and the Post War Reconstruction, and the legal and social means devised to ensure that black Americans did not have full civil and political rights. Now there is a black President of the USA, so many things have come to pass which seemed impossible in my youth - or at least very difficult to achieve.

My father was a lawyer and he became a judge. He was a man of great ability, intellect, integrity and goodness, who made a very great contribution to society. He could be very stern and the domestic discipline was strict. I was the second child and there was a considerable domestic load on me, and when I tried for more independence, it was not easy to achieve. Still, this was so many years ago, and now, in my life alone,  it seems important to review my life, my character, my achievements, my failures and my future. Such as it may be.

And what should I do with the rest of my life? Continue in this city, living alone, but with regular and enjoyable things to do, which do, however, contrast sharply with the solitary times and the loneliness of having no partner to love and no one to whom I am essential and special?

And ten days ago it was the 21st anniversary of my second marriage. All these anniversaries impelled m to look at the photograph albums. They sit up there in the cupboard, looked at seldom, because looking at them takes time. I wanted to write a piece for my Italian class on the changes in photography over the years, and got about half way through it, hit the space bar, and the whole text vanished and could not be retrieved. It felt a bit like the way life, as a whole, happens. Then it took me a while to find a particular album, which contains copies of the family - parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins. Most, of course, are dead now.

The album was compiled as a gift for my older daughter's 21st birthday. My father asked me what he should give her, and this album was my idea. I think my stepmother must have done the actual compilation. I asked to have a copy made for me. I am so glad I did. Photographs and negatives and their organisation is very time-consuming and thus, it tends to be a job imperfectly and incompletely done. This afternoon I have been perusing these albums. It gives great pleasure, many memories, some loss of memories - who is that, you ask sometimes, but also quite a lot of pain.

When my father was dying I took photographs of him and the family. I looked at them again this afternoon, remembering. Possibly, because I lived far away from my family, the sisters, brothers, and most of the progeny, and my opportunities for visiting were relatively infrequent and all too short, these photos matter to me. I spoke to one of my sisters this afternoon, and I referred to the photos. She said she did not like them, and I felt frissons of disapproval of me for having taken them. But I don't resile. They matter to me, and form a significant part of my memories - given that I lived, and continue to live, far away.

And then they ask, why not move back to the city of my youth? I don't know. It is daunting to be faced with the possibility or the necessity of yet another move, and reinventing my life yet again. Reinserting oneself into a social and familial life after so many years. The loneliness could be even greater. I don't want to wallow in such gloomy thoughts - that is neither positive nor enjoyable, but there are times when the nice, quick, sudden, hear attack, or whatever, has its appeal.

But not yet. No, no, not yet. There are still things to do, and people to see.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Winds, power cords, thingies and photos

Home after caring for my grandchildren, there are many things to be done. Some food shopping, going to the market this morning for flowers, bread and fruit and vegetables. Watering the plants. Wondering why a long thin electrical looking cord, which yesterday was attached to the side of the house, has fallen down. It must have been the wind. What is this cord for, and does it matter that it has fallen down? Will I have to find a handyman, one who can explain to me how the air conditioner in this room works? It used to. Sigh.

The Knitting and Crochet group has decided it would be good to have a photo album made of our many and varied works, accomplishments, festivities, the exhibition, and displays of expertise and accomplishment. Generally I have been the person who has brought along the camera, and so most of the photos are on my memory cards and the computer. A couple of the girls are coming around here on Wednesday to work through the photos and to organise how to get them all into an album, multiple copies thereof.

My very talented and efficient younger daughter, a professional photographer (mostly of racehorses) whipped through these photos a while back, improving them as much as possible. This was due to family love, and to pay back for my looking after her children at regular intervals. All I have had to do is select them and copy the photos on to a thingy.

I used to be able to do this. It is not (I fervently hope and believe) age and inevitable decline that has given me problems, oh no, it is the fact that the Apple software updates have somehow or other (and they probably did this deliberately) have made it much more complicated, puzzling and difficult to copy them on to anything. They really do not want you to copy stuff and go elsewhere for an Album, No,  they want you to do it all through Apple. And therefore their Help does not encompass the sort of directions I needed, although I am sure that it used to. This sort of capitalist plot can make the hapless user feel very badly done by.

My collection of things I am not quite sure of how to use includes CD-Roms and DVDs, so I assumed it would not be beyond the ken of the inexpert user to do this without too much carry-on. Alas, No.

However someone thought or uttered the magic word, describing the little gadget you stick into the computer to move things onto. It took a while for the collective wisdom nearby to remember, but it, of course, turned out to have several names, such as flash drive, memory stick and USB. With luck I won't forget these terms in a hurry.

So here I sit, gloating away and feeling as smug as a haplessly ignorant user is entitled to be. I think that perhaps, maybe, we are about to count down and lift off.

In the meantime there are squares to be crocheted...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Home after childminding

It is a bit too early to go to bed, and there are lots of things to do before I get around to sleeping.  I drove back home today, and have been checking the mail, the washing, the cupboards, and where everything goes and rediscovering where I put things. Necessary but rather tedious, and then having to go to the shops to buy something for dinner.

I am feeling rather distressed. When I collected my grandchildren from after school care yesterday afternoon, my grandson, who is a Type 1 diabetic, was not well, and was upset, having performed some misdemeanour, (which sounded fairly trivial to me). He had been disciplined, but had then fallen asleep. When I got him home - and thank goodness I stuck to my routine of picking the children up at 5 pm rather than 6 pm - I did a test, and discovered that his sugars were 2.1, almost comatose levels. Contacting his mother, and also my son, I quickly administered fruit juice and then some sweets and watched him carefully while he recovered. His father arrived to pick the children up at 6 pm, so I had to explain what had happened to my little grandson, so that his father could monitor him carefully. When the sugars are very low, it affects the reasoning capability of the diabetic. They cannot think clearly, and he is only a little boy.

I should have gone over to see my son and his boys yesterday evening, but I stayed home with the cat, feeling very sad about my poor little grandson. Dealing with diabetes is an hour by hour, day by day, week by week thing, and is not easy for anyone, especially the young child with the condition. I was in Canberra when he was diagnosed, very ill, and in emergency care for two days, and have watched his condition, his progress and the fluctuations and effects of the illness for nearly ten years now. Children, of course, cannot understand why they are thus affected, whereas the rest of the world leads a normal sort of life. And there is no explanation: it is just the way it is, it is bad luck, unfortunate, but it could be much worse and there are many things which would be worse. Except that this condition never goes away. Until the hoped-for medical cure....

So here I sit, typing away, and wiping the tears from my eyes as I type, thinking about my darling grandchild. He is by no means perfect, of course: he is a volatile child, but he is lovely, interesting (even though he is absorbed by cars, weapons and other technical things in which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever) and we have a very special bond. I hope he is all right tonight.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

My aching back and other quibbles with what really happens.

It has been a long day. We have been unable to see my son and his boys, as they have all had gastric germs. We do NOT need those, so have not seen each other yet. Instead we went to the school fete. The children enjoyed it reasonably well, but this fete concentrated on rides and sausage sizzles and there was little to  attract me, although there was a very extensive book stall snd I managed to buy a new novel by my son's childhood friend Louis's  famous mother. For $2.00. Bargain. I have started reading it, but so far it seems to lack the truth in fiction quality  I think essential. This is the first book of a projected four.

It is interesting. Somehow, no matter how competent, how extensive the research, some books ring true and others just don't. For me, this one doesn't.  Truth in fiction is an elusive quality. The research can be well done, the writing competent to good, but somehow or other, when I read some books, I just don't believe what I read. I can be very picky, I know, but I do not set out to disbelieve. I find myself analysing the prose, watching how characters are introduced, and how historical events are introduced, and I just do not believe it all. Not this one, anyway.

It is not that I dislike historical fiction. I have read quite a lot of it, probably starting with Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, and I have my own historical biases. However, wanting that something or other had happened cannot ever be equivalent to being satisfied that in fact the preferred version was so. I have just picked up again Hilary Mantel's book Bring up the Bodies,  and while I can already disagree with some aspects of her historical re construction, her version is indeed plausible and quite compelling.  At times I can get quite crabby and aggravated about books which postulate events in a way that satisfies the writer's desire that this is the way it should have happened. Not that this was in fact what happened .

I will not necessarily be persuaded, but her interpretation is arguable. I am not at all sure that one can recreate the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine in a way that can fit in with modern conditions and heavily adjusted reality. So far it is not working, for me.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Being away

It is a bit strange being away. At home I fill my days with my usual pursuits andregular
activities, such as Italian, choir, lecures and seeing friends, In between, I  organise my life, tidying, organising, shopping and seeing friends. It is as though these things convince me that I am in control of my life, and that I can pursue a  well-ordered existence. This is, of course, a nonsense. Life cannot be thus ordered.

But being in your own home with your own things, does give the illusion of choice. You can potter around, organising the books, the correspondence, the kitchen, the pantry, you can make jam if the fruit of choice is in season. This is a bit of a nonsense, as when you live by yourself,you cannot possibly consume all the jam that you make. So you give it away, and you can also hoard in case the  cumquat supply is  destroyed (it has been) or there is a sudden surge in consumption). But how much home made jam can you eat in a week?

Yes, living alone can be pretty pathetic. But when there is a family call on your help and your time, it can be difficult to respond effectively. So here I am in my daughter' home, minding her two children for five days, and filling my time can be perplexing. I am not into electronic gadgets or toys, nor into extensive TV. So I tend to tidy them up. And I go into the garden and pull out weeds, and prune the roses. Now there is a contradiction. I have never grown roses successfully, but here I am pruning. These weeds tend to be the type that have runners and very strong survival habits. Single parents don't have the time to worry about the garden in rented houses. So a bit of weed eradication seems a smallish contribution to making life easier. But I am not able to mow the grass.

I have been tidying up my granddaughter's bedroom, which is quite a a large task. Perhaps I will move on to my grandson's room next. He will be thrilled.  His mother will be thrilled too. Tomorrow I hope to see my son and his boys, but he has been stricken by a dreaded lurgy. While the children are at school I hope to see some friends, and keep the warmth of old friendships  well noursished.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Back in the real world

For the next five days I will be looking after two of my grandchildren, while my daughter works in Melbourne. They go back to their father's care next Wednesday evening, my daughter left over an hour ago, and the children are yet to settle for the night. My granddaughter cried very hard when her mother left. I hope she copes during her mother's absence. They will go to their father's care on Wednesday. The transitions are not easy - for anyone, it seems. I hope that in the morning the children and I will have adjusted to the situation. We have done it before and it has always worked out. One wonders whether children find it more difficult as they grow older.

As for me, while I enjoy looking after them, I do miss my own space, and means of entertaining myself. I will pull out some weeds, and do a bit of housework. And I hope to see my son and other grandchildren, but he has been smitten by a gastric upset, which I have no desire to catch. While the children are at school I hope to see some friends. And I have brought some crochet with me. This morning, before setting off for the journey, I spent sn hour with the Knitting and Crochet group, which meets fortnightly at the local library.

This group is enormous fun. Our productivity has increased quite dramatically, and our numbers have grown. And the wraps we are making for the Wrap with Love organisation are becoming quite remarkable creations. We document all the wraps we make, and have a good relationship with our local Spotlight shop. In a couple of weeks we will have an end of year lunch at my house.

But right now I am tired and feel flat and uninspired. The prose is certainly not deathless. I still feel jetlagged.   The cat, a Burmese, of independent and  and occasionally wayward temperament, is doing  mad dashes around the house, and is disposed to pounce on any moving object, such as wiggling toes, or teasingly yanked strands of wool. The children are both still awake, and may yet need to be sternly addressed. But for now, transmission for the night is about to end.