Friday, 26 December 2014

Bite your tongue

Before I left home to go to the family gathering, one of my sisters rang for a chat. We were discussing current politics. She suddenly blew up at me.  It was extremely vitriolic, and she accused me of being patronising, and a know it all. She dragged up things I had said and done, some from forty years ago, citing opinions and  attitudes of mine, which she had obviously deeply resented, not just then, but to this very day. When she had finished, I asked if I could reply, and did my best to put it into context, and to say that I had changed in many ways, that many of my attitudes and opinions had changed as I had matured, and that I had thought we had developed a better , more positive, and affectionate relationship.

I went to bed, but not to sleep.  The conversation repeated itself in my brain endlessly, and  my emotions churned into a sticky, unpleasantly textured mass, never resolving. And I did not lnow what to do. I did my best, at the time, to answer, explain and justify, thinking all the while that she really must dislike me, and had always disliked me. And that seems dreadful to me.

I cannot do conflict very well. I tend to brood. I cannot remember all the details of past conversations, and who said what to whom, and when and why.  I do not act with malice. I do my best. My best may not be good enough. But I do not seek to hurt, injure, disrupt, act with malice. I want to get on with people, especially family.  I am not always tactful, try as I may. But I have bitten my tongue many a time. When I was young, any sort of female aggressiveness, or outspokenness was very much frowned upon. I do not think that I have ever spoken like that to any of my siblings. It was, quite simply, awful. How to recover, how to get on an even keel?

I do not want to offend people, even when it seems to me that they feel free to dish it out to me. But it strikes me that I often come back from visiting family feeling rather battered. And I feel that I am losing my authentic and real voice, for fear of offending others. I cannot cope with the inevitable conflict, and avoidance seems the easiest, perhaps the best  strategy. I am alone.

Where is my real voice, and how can I find and express my true self? Truth is fundamentally necessary for me.  I cannot lie. But nor can I always tell the whole truth. Where does the balance lie?

My sister rang me the next morning, apologising, and it was sorted out and smoothed over as much as possible. But recovering from this is difficult, as it is hard to avoid the feeling that there has been and is a lot of dislike and resentment. On the Sunday we were both at the family gathering, but did not talk until later in the gathering. We have talked since, but it seems to be a situation in which you do not mention the war. I feel battered, and injured. And I feel that I am retreating, and not engaging in life. Irrelevant in all ways.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Seeing the distant family

Today I return home after several days in Melbourne. I stayed overnight with a friend and enjoyed hours of conversation and amity, and a good dinner at a local restaurant. Then I was staying with my daughters. One after the other, that is. My younger daughter is recovering from her radiation treatment, looks much better, although painfully thin, but is  able to eat more foods, speak more clearly and is becoming stronger. She has been through such a tough time.

My older daughter has put on he annual concert of all her young tapdancing students, and it was a wonderful show, brilliantly choreographed, excellently danced by her pupils of varying ages, ranging from preschoolers to early teens. The large audience of parents, relatives and friends had a great time, and were treated to post-concert chips, fairy bread and other things which are bad for you. My daughter's imagination,  dedication, ability and organisation are wonderful. My photographer daughter, her partner and father photograped everything, and I say comfortably and admired it all. i could not take any photographs because too manypeople obscured my view.

Yesterday we all went to the extended family gathering. I did not do a head count, but our numbers are legion. It was a good day. I met the youngest, a nephew's six month old baby, but he cried when I held him. I must smell foreign, or be losing my touch.

This morning I am sitting outside enjoying the sunshine as I type. I have to get my tax return signed, sealed and completed, and then go to the airport to return home.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Power outage

A quiet life is something to be desired. The weather has been generally stormy, but my little area seems to miss the worst of the storms. But tonight, all of a sudden, the power flickered, went out, and then came back on. Cautiously, I went outside to see whatever could be seen. And the power line has come down. A tree just up the road has been struck by lightening, and branches fell across the road. Some of the neighbours called emergency services and they were here in the twinkling of an eye. 

Being a cautious and prudent person, I went outside to see what was what, and met another couple of my neighbours, and we talked to the emergency services crew and showed them that not only was there a problem up the road, but also on my corner, where there are two live wires lying across the road. A bit scary really. I am impressed by the speed with which emergency services people have arrived. They have taped the afflicted areas, put out witches hats, and are directing traffic. And they shooed me back inside, once I had made it clear that there were live wires lying across the road. I have found, and lit, all the candles, and have the torch, just in case Things  Get Worse.
These men seem very competent, impressive and calm.

This is an old area of Sydney, as is the infrastructure. It seem a good idea to have an adequate stock of old-fashioned things like matches, candles, batteries. Just In Case. These items seem to be necessary quite often.

Such events have shown me that there is no point sitting back waiting for things to be fixed. You have to make sure you tell them what has happened, just in case they do not know.
 And I have to say it certainly is an unexpected way of meeting the neighbours. Although we all live cheek by jowl, we do not necessarily see each other, let alone have the opportunity of talking to each other, except in such emergency circumstances. So I have learned to be more  proactive.

I just went out to see if they needed a cup of tea, which was declined. They are still waiting for the electricity people to come and fix the power lines. In the meantime I am making sure the candles keep burning. .

 In the dark , in the dark! Would you , could you, in the dark?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

My spelling mistakes are typos, not spelling.

It was my turn to write the argomento for today's Italian class. I wrote on the subject of oratory, having been so deeply moved by Noel Pearson's wonderful tribute to Gough Whitlam.

Notwithstanding my diligent efforts,  I made many mistakes. You would think I would learn. I have just finished writing my bit for my other Italian class tomorrow. It probably contains just as many errors, if not more.  My learning curve is worsening. However, at least I know the difference between adjectives and adverbs, unlike Christopher Pyne, the Minister for Education, who this evening, in the course of defending his cuts to the education budget, twice used adjectives instead of adverbs. And a double comparative. How can he hold up his head? I dashed off a Letter to the Editor, but I bet it will not be published.

There were wild storms this evening, and I had to run around putting towels to soak up the water which was driven under the doors. The storms seem to come from the west. My area, generally, seldom seems badly affected.

There was a minor disaster. The garage truck has hit and broken a part of my brick garage wall, so I have had to ring the local council, to get them to make the garbage contractor fix it up. The garbage collectors damaged the wall in February this year, and I think twice a year is twice too many. Alas and woe.

In moves to keep myself in top of things I have booked my flights so as to attend the family gathering, arranged to see an old friend, and made an appointment to get my tax return done. And I have gone through the bookshelves again, and am discarding old books which I would probably never get around to reading. Such as novels by Evelyn Waugh. There are so many more recent books piling up, and it seems that these days I read more history and biography than fiction. And I am chucking out much of the blank writing pads which Dr P had, so old that they are foolscap and not A4. There is thus a little more shelf space available.

 I am reminded of the doleful and depressing advice given by Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, to his son, the Prince of Wales. "Life is composed of diuties... " he intoned. Bertie thought otherwise, and so do I.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

At the cinema and other musings

The other day  I went to see the film My Old Lady. It was well reviewed, but wrongly.  In my view it was pretentious crap. Do not bother going to see it. At least I did not have to pay for it, as I had a complimentary ticket.

Much more enjoyable was watching the state election in Victoria. The Australian Labor Party won. It was for me a most enjoyable night. The New South Wales paper this morning did not see fit to give sny report of the election until Page 9, and then a fairly cursory report. The wonders of a federal system mean you do not have to take sny notice of most of the rest of the country. Unless, of course, it concerns sport. The papers have been far more concerned over the death of a very good cricketer, who was struck  on the head or neck by a very fast ball. 

Now I do find this a tragic event, but cannot help thinking that in a game where the object is to bowl a very hard ball as fast and threateningly as possible, then the possibility of a batsman being injured must be quite high. And it makes me think of the Bodyline bowling in the past where the whole idea was to aim the ball, bowled with as much speed as was possible, in a way that was extremely dangerous to the batsman. And here we are again.

I regret to admit that I am not very trendy. Carve my name with  Pride.  My type of person is doomed. Evolution will ensure that I, and others like me, are doomed to extinction. But in the meantime, I am chortling with glee because the seemingly inevitable demise of me, and others of my ilk, may perhaps be deferred for some little time.


Sunday, 23 November 2014


Trying to atone for cooking  failures, this morning my grandson and I made bolognese sauce. I have not tasted it should  but it should be quite a good brew, and should provide my daughter and family with a few meals. They need to acquire some plastic containers in order to freeze it.  We enjoy cooking together.

My poor daughter's mouth and tongue are very sore and sensitive, and will take some time to heal.  Her partner has been, and is, splendid.

Apart from some tidying, the cooking (of variable quality, thanks to the oven being, well, how shall I put it? Unreliable and unsatisfactory. Making bolognese sauce is much more satisfactory. I have pulled out some weeds, gone to the shops for provisions a few times, helped collect my grandchildren after school, albeit getting lost the first day, but have not done a great deal, except try and give comfort and support.

It is my grandson's 13th birthday tomorrow, but it has not been possible to shop for him, so the present is cash.

The children had spell -a- thons this week, so I spent some time hearing their spelling. I made them spell every word several times, and we laughed a lot. They both got full scores, so they, and all the adults, especially me, feel pretty damn well pleased with our efforts. Just as well spellathon was not on the list if words. The children had to spell it for me!

Apart from the caring for my daughter and family, I had the enormous pleasure of recontacting a friend. We were at school together for the whole twelve years, our parents were friends too. What with my having moved so far away, we gradually lost regular contact  but I telephoned her, and I met her and her husband for dinner. What a good night it was. It was as though the intervening years had vanished, and the essential love and glow of our friendship shines strongly. What joy.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Corporate works of mercy

Now that is an expression not commonly heard now, but which was common parlance when I was growing up. I am  in Melbourne, spending most of my time with my second daughter, the racing photographer. She had a tumour in her tongue removed just before I left for my overseas trip, and is now completing the radiotherapy treatment. She finishes tomorrow, and then will recover gradually.

Radiotherapy is not much fun, especially around your head. The hospital staff seem excellent and are doing their best and everything possible to minimise and alleviate all the side effects. It will take my daughter some time to bounce back.  Her partner is caring for her and the children very lovingly and effectively, and it is good to see her in a such a good relationship, so different from the one she left behind some years ago. Her sister has been making soup and providing food for all and has been a great support.  Their father is here too and lots of relations.  Her friends have been great too. But my heart is sore. Watching family endure such things is difficult.

I made a cake yesterday but have a nasty suspicion I used plain flour instead of self raising.  Must try harder, and have another go. Finding things in other people's kitchen is not easy. My grandson turns 13 on Monday, which is the day I fly home.

 It is interesting being in Victoria, which feels very different from Sydney. There is a state election in another week, which may result in a change of government. I am not familiar enough with the politics of the State to make any prediction. The main Melbourne paper is so much better than Sydney's, and gives are far more extensive and thoughtful coverage of events.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The past resurgent

 There was an obituary in today's paper, for Ida Elizabeth Jenkins. The nsme rang a bell. She had been one of the people involved in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's programme for children, The Argonauts. This took me back to my increasingly vague memories of my childhood.
I used to listen to it, although not very attentatively. And I was never an Argonaut. Nor did I ever really cotton on to it. This, of course was in the immediate post war days, long before television.

Being a bookaholic, I buy books here and there, both new and second hand. And a book I picked up, most likely at the local market, was a book on the story of the Argonauts.  It is a rattling good read, and an important, but quite possibly almost forgotten, part of Australian cultural and social history. All sorts of people were involved in The Argonauts. Ruth Park, scratching out a living, with her husband Darcy Niland. And Barry Humphries was an Argonaut. Although, did he live up to its promise?

Intermittently, while I read this book, I seethe and fume, because our hideous and lousy government is inflicting further cuts on the ABC's budget, so that we all will think one way. Thoughts of Chairman Mao, Stalinist , received wisdom, papal infallibilty, and the Rupert Murdoch View of the World. We cannot have diversity of thought, debate on issues, we must only adhere to the rigid and doctrinaire views of Rupert Murdoch, and be Right Wing, or die!

 Pardon me for being carried away. I am sitting quietly writing this, listening to a Bach Cantata, after my choir's performance of the Mozart Requiem. We perform it again tomorrow. Such music moves my soul, and if it had not been for the ABC, my life would have lacked so much music and so much of what I hold precious, in our cultural heritage.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Plugged and stuffed

My suburb is being transformed. Once a poor working class area, house prices are now very high. This is on a par with most of the city. It is close to the city centre, to public transport, and is on a little narrow peninsula. It still has a village feel to it. And there are plenty of cafes ats well.The demographic character is changing. There are many young people moving here, and they have been nesting and hatching. Prams, babies and little kids are everywhere, and the school enrolments are increasing.

The devoted parents take their children to and from school. What amazes me is firstly the number of babies being wheeled around with their mouths plugged by dummies (pacifiers in the USA) . Quite old children suck on dummies - two to four years of age. Why do they need dummies as they are being wheeled along the streets?

Nor is it only the dummies which fill their mouths. They seem to need feeding before and after school. They call in to Baker's Delight and are bought iced buns. After school they are back, having sweet soft drinks, iced buns, chips and other snacks, like Slurpies and ice blocks. What do they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? When do they stop sucking and chewing?

Some days I am tempted to take up pen and forms, and to do a questionnaire. Do they do this every day, before and after school? What does it cost each day, per child and in total? Do they eat breakfast before they set out for school? I wonder has any such survey been done?

I hasten to sdd that I am no paragon, and have over-indulged  on confectionery far too often and for far too long. My own bad habits  have led me to regard general over-consumption with some degree of concern. As I write I am munching rice crackers....

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A tribute to greatness and nobility of soul: Gough Whitlam

Today there was a public memorial service for one of the great men of Australian politics and history, Gough Whitlam. He was the leader of the Australian Labor party from 196? To 1977 and led the ALP to victory at the 1972 election. His gpovernment faced an obstructionist and hostile Senate, which proceeded to vote against and block major reforms. This led to a double dissolution of the Parliament, and the Labor government was re-elected. The Australian Constitution provides for a joint sitting of the Parliament so as to resolve legislative deadlocks. The joint sitting was held, and the legislation was duly enacted.

 I will pass over the events of the rest of that Parliament. Suffice it to say that the Opposition blocked Supply, and the Governor General, instead of allowing the crisis to be resolved politically, dismissed the Prime Minister and appointed the Leader of the Opposition as Prime Minister. The Labor Party was crushingly defeated, and also lost the following election in 1977.

Notwithstanding his failings, Whitlam was a great man, who achieved mightily for our country and polity. He reformed the Labor Party, which had suffered a bitter split. The Joint Sitting enacted universal health care. And it achieved reform of federal electoral law.

There had been a permitted variation in the number of electors enrolled in federal electorates, of plus or minus 20%. This was enacted shortly after federation, in order to maximise the political representation of rural areas, which permanently favoured the rural party, the Australian Country Party (later the National Party of Australia, as there could be 40%  fewer electors in rural electorates than in city electorates, making a mockery of the concept and ideal of One Vote, One Value. Thanks to Whitlam and the Labor Party, this malapportionment has become a thing of the past. This achievement and example enabled the subsequent reform of state electoral systems, suomething bitterly opposed by the conservative side of politics.

Later today I will watch the rebroadcast memorial service. It was held in Sydney's Town Hall. There was room, after the 'official' people present, for only 1000 members of the Public (aka ordinary people)  but a good 6000 had put their names forward, to no avail.

It is almost 40 years since the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, but its memory remains clear, compelling, scarifying, and dreadful for millions of the men and women of Austalia ( which is how Gough Whitlam addressed the people.) it is a wonderful thing that his life, his achievements and his history remain part of our treasured political memories. Vale Gough Whitlam, 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

This persiflage has been mega-idle

Feeling at least partly full of virtue, having done my Italian homework for tomorrow, I remain at the computer to see what else emerges from my brain. Although I have been back home for over a week, the jet lag has been severe, the sleep, haphazard, the energy low, the efficiency not anything to boast about, and the mind rather fuzzy.

My topic for tomorrow is the visit I made to Carrara, which has made me look at all the photographs, read what I wrote on the blog and the emails, and to recall what a great day it was.

It is, of course, good to be home, and to start retracing the steps of everyday life. My clothes are all washed and everything has been put away, and all the photographs put onto the computer. It will require hours to add all the details of what and where they are are.  As normal life takes over, details tend to recede in the memory. So I had better get a wriggle on. The growth of the garden has been rampant, so some pruning has been necessary. Aphids have multiplied and need to be exterminated.

Wild winds raced through Sydney yesterday, and my power went off for a couple of hours. There is nothing much to do when the power is off. Apparently it was far worse everywhere else. I have caught up with all the bills to be paid, gone back to choir practice, changed the bed linen, swept the floors,  crocheted even more squares for the next wrap. I need about another five or six and then they can all be joined.The next group meeting is not until Friday. Can it be finished by then? Or would it just give me RSI?

Partly I am still in travel mode, feeling it is time to be catching a train somewhere. But mostly I am getting back into the usual grooves, and working out which bills need to be paid, going to the local shops, to pay bills, buy a few groceries, and to gaze at the fences put up in the blocks which were blown up and burnt and where everything had to be demolished. Flowers and cards have been placed along the fences, and the local horror and sadness seems palpable. It makes me shudder at those who inflict violence on others, and seem oblivious, or even glad, to inflict disaster and suffering on the innocent.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The last supper, the last day and thoughts and body flying off for the long haul

Thus is my last full day in Italy. I leave for the airport in the middle of the day, and the flight departs in mid afternoon. That flight will not be so bad. The second is most likely to be dire, and real time will stretch into what will feel like twice as long.

Today I hoped to go to the Janiculum, but despite making careful enquiries, I could find neither the bus stop, nor the bus. But I did do something I had never done before, and it was great. I ascended the Vittorio Emanuele monument, firstly to the balcony, and then in a lift right to the top. The lift fits only eight people, so there are long waits to ascend and descend.

Once up, you could see, in all directions, the most wonderful views, with photo information to point out what can be seen.  I stayed up there for ages. Perhaps in other cities there are such views possible, but I have really only seen views from New York. They were spectacular, but nothing to rival the views from Rome in all directions. It made me realise what a testament Rome is to the Baroque period, with amazing domes on all directions. Not to mention all the remains of ancient Rome, which are stupendous.  And when you go inside the buildings, mostly churches, with domes, you realise how amazing their envisaging and their construction was. Not to mention painting all the frescoes. Talk about occupational health and safety issues !

 Having failed to go to the Janiculum, I revisited old haunts, such as Piazza Nsvona, Santa Maria degli Angeli, and Bernini's sculpture of an elephant balancing an obelisk on its back, ( I think the obelisk is a real one) and from there the Pantheon, and then straggled my way to a bus stop, having had to work out which direction my bus was taking. By this time of day, buses are very very crowded.

 I have had my last evening meal in Rome, which was quite good, and am now sitting typing this in the hotel sitting room. There are two American women here discussing their marriage breakups and the financial settlements, the chairs are more comfortable than the one in the room, so as I write I am perforce eavesdropping on their conversation and pondering the matrimonial financial arrangements of Americans. However (like me)  they are able to travel.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Resting quietly in the hotel lounge

Here  I sit in the hotel lounge. Hotel rooms give you a straight backed chair, or sitting on the bed. But here there is a lounge, which is rather more comfortable. There is another woman in the lounge, but we have not spoken to each other. She too is working on her iPad. There are computers here too, which I have not yet investigated. As a solo traveller, there are only so many travel experienes for a solo  that I can cope with in a day.

I have another day in Rome and then I go home. I have to admit that travelling alone is hard work, and I yearn for company. I am quite good at falling into conversation with fellow train passengers, diners, and other casual  acquaintances, but I do yearn for a companion. However, lacking a companion, I make the best of it.

 I  went by bus to the Vatican.  I cannot face the queuing and the crowds to go to San Pietro and to the Vatican Museums, but I went to St Peter's Square. There I fell into conversation with a group of Australians, who had a party of schoolchildren on tour. We had a pleasant
conversation and exchanged email addresses.

Tonight, as I dined alone,  I talked to a young Swede, a cancer nurse. The Swedish government changed at the last election, and this man told me that cancer patients now have to travel quite some distance for their cancer treatments.

I am ready to go home now. Travelling solo can be stressful, and I do wish I had a companion. Dr P waa too old and unfit to travel with me, but he did, kindly and generously, make it possible for
me to travel, and my solo travels are a constant reminder of how he cared for me in this way, and so, as ever, I think of him constantly.

I caught a bus into the centre, and walked around revisiting places, and then, in the period when nothing is open, I walked along the Tiber. I love doing this, reflecting on the construction of the embankments, to prevent the disastrous floods of the past, and looking at the river, the Isola Tiberina and the Ponte  Rotto, through the extensive branches of the trees, now changing onto their autumn colours.

The buses are very crowded and it is not easy to get a seat. I visited Piazza Navona and allowed the ubiquitous pigeons to feast on the crumbs from my panino. They do clear up a lot of mess. Piazza Navona was not very crowded, as most shops were still closed. I revisited Campo dei Fiori, which is where my sister and I stayed on our first visit. The market was finishing, and so I walked through Piazza Farnese and then through to Via Giulia and then to along the Tiber. I would like to go to the Gianicolo but have not worked out from where to catch the bus, and so, I expect, will allow the day to unfold itself.

 I have one more day here and have not yet decided what to do. Probably I will wander, and make it up as I go along. There are churches and art galleries to explore, at will. I do so love tbis city.

And then I have a half day before going to the airport, and enduring the long flights home.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Show me the way to go....

At the end of a long day, I droop over my bed, doing my one finger typing and wondering how many people can touch type. I never could, and it seems that little iPad keyboards impede any attempt at touch typing.

I am now in Rome, having travelled by bus to Camucia, and from thence to Roma Termini. Being a kind and gentle person, or so I claim to be, it occurred to me that some of my fellow passengers might not know how to work out which platform they should be on. And so it was, and we all caught our trains.

You have to be impressed by the Italian road and train system. Perhaps it was easier for European countries, being smaller and more densely populated than Australia, to build a good network. There are some very impressive engineering feats, over often very difficult terrain. (I keep wondering however people found their way across precipitous snowclad mountains.)

Having walked from the station to the hotel, and settled in, I went out to explore, snd to test my deep conviction that whatever direction I take to a place will turn out to be mistaken. And so it proved to be yet again, but I did at least get there and back, and so, presumably, did most of the milling hordes.
In Rome I like to revisit places, so I found the Triton fountain of Bernini, and the Palazzo Barberini (where you can see lots if Caravaggio paintings, which are fiercely protected from the likes of tourists and art lovers by the ever watchful but grumpy staff).

I like to revisit via Rasella, the site of an Italian resistance group during the German occupation of Italy. They managed to kill about 33 German soldiers, and in retribution the Germans rounded up, at random, ten times the number of those killed by the resistance, took them all to the Ardeatine caves,
shot them all, and filled the entrance with cement. Those massacred are now remembered.

Via Rasella runs off the street where the Palazzo Barberini is, and , as I stood contemplating history, tourists, traffic, gelato, and tired feet, my attention was caught by a large gathering of uniformed police and sundry helpers, who hooked up and then removed first one sleek and large black car, and then an inoffensive and microscopic car, and tow them both away. Don't even think of parking here! I was entranced and took many photos, which I would try and load if I had the strength, the will, and the know how.

However, i managed to have a meal, not very good, and to get the hotel to show me how to work the airconditioner, and to replace a light globe. So I think I will take to my bed, soon, instead of just sitting on it doing this one fingered typing.

Goodnight, goodnight, to who ever my readers might be. Buona Notte. Tomorrow is time enough to work out what to do next.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

On the move

My hotel bill has been paid, and seemed very moderate for a pleasant room with a double bed, a walk in shower, and a spectacular view to the valley below. Despite the mistiness, it is very beautiful.
Yesterday I went to Arezzo, by bus. Apparently the train journey would have been quicker, and once I had run out of steam there was quite a long wait for the bus.
My photos all look very grey and dark, what with so much mist. The sun peeked out only briefly. The interiors of the churches are very dark. I walked up to the park, which my sister and I had done on my first visit here, and enjoyed the beautiful views and the cloudy sky. The sun came out  briefly.
I am now waiting for the little bus to take me to the station at Camucia, and from there travel by train to Rome. My hotel is within walking distance of Termini, but it will be easier to take a taxi. I am hoping that someone will help me get the suitcase onto the train. The train I cuaght here had three steps up, rather daunting.
I could swear that despite sending a parcel home, and despite exercising great restraint in buying things, the suitcase is heavier. How can this be?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Mozzie bites, and steepness

This is Cortona, a hill town made famous by Frances Mayes. It is very steep, and climbing up one of its upper parts wiped me out this morning. Being  popularised by an American, lots of her country people are here. Overall, I prefer Montepulciano, where the hotel and all therle were lovely and kind, and, here, because I think I have run out of things to see and do. And there are mosquitos. I am supposed to avoid being bitten, because of the lymphodoema, but I have been bitten on the afflicted arm, and the bites itch madly.

I am rather terrified it will flare up badly again.

Which is not to say  Cortona is not lovely. It is very misty. It stays that way all day. The man at the hotel desk shrugged and said, "it is October."  My window faces the direction of lake Trasimeno, site of an historic very bloody battle centuries ago. I cannot remember whether it involved the Etruscans, or Hannibal. But The Etruscans do not interest me much. All their things are rather tiny. Give me Greeks and Romans any day. The view is lovely and there is a long road, so straight it must, surely, be an old Roman road. Although it is autumn, there has not been much change in the colour of the leaves, but notwithstanding that, they are falling. The Piazza Garibaldi, where the hotel is, has fabulous views, and there are many holm oaks, an evergreen oak, which are just now dropping their acorns. I cannot  take any home, though. We have strict quarantine laws in Australia, rightly so.

And the internet connection is very, how shall I say, episodic, if I go down to the lobby, it works, but in my room, it falls out. And it just did, so the temperature in my room is rising. These things cause  some angst and distress, seething and fuming, although basically I am a gentle soul.
 In one years from now it will not matter.

I managed to buy a half bottle of local wine, and having found a glass, of plastic, in the bar fridge, I can sip away. But I would quite like to leave tomorrow, and managed to buy my ticket, at the tobacconist's. The woman there was very helpful. And I now have a ticket pasted all over with stickers, but what they all mean I do not know. I am sure they must be something obligatory.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

The bells are ringing...

But they stopped just now. Bells are everywhere, up high, and yesterday I climbed up lots of stairs to get the fabulous, though misty, view of the Tuscan landscape. It is breathtakingly beautiful. Misty in the mornings (two, so far) and from the top of the very steep hill upon which Montepulciano is built, you can see in every direction.

The city has a lovely calm and grace, as well as beauty. There are fewer churches, and a small art gallery, bell towers, and heaps of birds, which perch in holes in the bricks. I wonder whether holes were purposely msde for the  birds? There are little lanes leading from the main street, leading to panoramic views.

And the hotel is just lovely, pleasant relaxing and comfortable, and my room is large with a double bed (letto matrimoniale) and there is a separate shower. Bliss! I am much more comfortable here, and have found some people to talk too, Canadians.

There are cats everywhere, many looking very alike, perhaps quite a lot of inbreeding has gone on, although this afternoon I saw a tabby with a gingerish tinge. There are a lot of leather products, and I confess I bought a new purple handbag.

Tomorrow I leave for Cortona, and it will probably be a complicated trip. I hope less complicated than getting to Montepulciano.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


Pistoia is somewhat off the beaten tourist track. Apart from my solitary self, this morning there were a couple of tourist groups about. Whereas Florence is open for most of the time, Pistoia closes down quite convincingly, and then springs back to life in the late afternoon. There are lots of people riding bicycles, not with the ideological intensity of many Australian cyclists, but with the air of cycling being a normal and everyday activity, a way of getting from point A to point B.

Alas, my hotel is very basic despite its Ritzy name. A very small room, an uncomfortable seat and cats cannot be swung with any ease. A mosquito bit me on the lymphoedema arm last night, which puts the arm at risk, despite all my care in wearing the pressure sleeve all day.

Tomorrow I go by train to Montepulciano, a journey of about four hours, but the countryside should be enjoyable. I have to change trains twice, which will be challenging, especially if the stations lack lifts and stairs need to be gone up and down with the suitcase. A kind young man carried it down all the stairs for me yesterday, so here is hoping for such luck snd courtesy tomorrow.

Yesterday I posted home the books I bought in the Czech Republic and Austria, so there is less weight to heft about. The woman at the Post Office here was just lovely. It took wuite a long time, with all manner of complicated things to be done and forms to be completed, but, ecco fatto, it got done and the package has gone. I have told myself not to do any more shopping.

Things cost less here than in Tourist Heaven cities, coffee, panini, etcetera. This device wants me to spell in Italian, and it does not like my insistence on overruling it. And the hotel wifi wants you to reconnect with infuriating frequency.

However, I must not whinge. There was a gorgeous almost full moon last night, and a lovely sunrise this morning. And I had a lovely personal guide of the silver altar piece in the Duomo. The sky was grey and cloudy this morning, but the sun came out, which helps with the photography. And I had a good meal last night.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Marvelling at marble

Yesterday I went on a guided tour of the marble quarries of Carrara. For years I have wanted to go there, having had a great interest in stones, since my childhood. I used to pick up diiferent chips of rocks at the local monumental mason, and frequently walked through the cemetery, on my way to the creek. For years I kept samples of granite and marble, and wanted to be an archaeologist. This ambition was thwarted by my lack of scientific ability snd knowledge, but the interest in stones and rocks remains.

Carrara is a bit off my usual beaten track, and somewhat complicated to get there. But hotels have lots of leaflets advertising tourist opportunities, and one kf them had a tour of the quarries of Carrara. So I have been and gone. It was a long day, but satisfying and fascinating.

The tour people picked me up from the hotel, and a busload of people gathered outside Santa Maria Novella station. Only six of us were going to Carrara, the rest were going elswhere.

When we arrived at the meeting point at Carrara, we tranferred to a jeep, rather uncomfortable, and with no seat belts for the four of us in the back. We sat facing each other, clutching whatever we  could, and it was not easy to see much of the landscape. The other three people in the back with me were an Australian family from Perth.

The road by no means resembled the splendid road system of Italy, and is mostly used by trucks and workers in the industry. Our guide, a German who married an Italian, drove the jeep with panache, and spoke in detail about the history of the marble mountains, the Apuan, and the quarrying industry. Apparently, due to privileges granted some centuries ago, the quarries are privately owned.
Eventually we reached a working quarry. As it was Sunday, there was no work going on, and we had a splendid view of the mountain, the quarry, the view to the sea, and all the working equipment. Naturally we all took many photographs, and the sun was so bright that it was impossible to see what we were photographing. Whoever got rid of viewfinders in cameras?

I am so glad I went, but wish we could have seen something of the city itself. Instead we drove back to meet the bus and then visited both Pisa and Lucca. Both very interested, with hordes of tourists, and eventually we arrived back at the station and I walked back to the hotel.

Now I am about to pay my bill, and go to the station again, to travel by train to Pistoia.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Things seen and done

Briefly resting in the hotel room, sitting on the bed, resting my weary and sore feet before going in search of food, I find there is much to reflect on.

There are many more really large and fat people to be seen, including children. And there are hordes of smokers, keenly puffing it into your face. Probably recent research shows that smoking doesn't cause cancer, or anything else nasty. Older women must learn to keep out of the way of all others. Here the footpaths are extremely narrow, so when someone comes from the other direction, I am the one to give way. Why is it so?

The traffic is interesting. You cannot take your eye off it for a second. Lots of bicycles, and motor scooters. There seem to be receptacles for rubbish permanently in the streets, and my two days here have not been enough to work out the intricacies of when the rubbish is collected.

Yesterday I visited the pietra dura museum, l'Opificio di Pietra Dura, which was wonderful. I am totally entranced by this art form a of making tables and pictures out of intricately  and precisely carved stones, marbles, granites and semi-precious stones into wonderfully beautifal things such as tables, and the decoration of churches and public buildings, and private palaces and homes. (In fact, I lust after it.)

I packed a lot in today, and my mind was on that and not on watching what I was doing when preparing myself to go out.  After arriving back at the hotel, I realised that I had my top on inside out. At last, I must have looked trendy. As I am about to go out for dinner, I readjusted reality.  And I deleted most photographic evidence. My mother used to say (and I repeated it to my own children, ad nauseam) 'You can't go out looking like that!' But I did!

When I set out this morning I intended to vist some gardens, I Giardini dei Semplici, which apparently meant plants useful for various remedies and purposes. Alas, they were closed, due to damage from a tornado in September. I did not think Italy had tornados, but there was one some years sgo on Isola Bella, and now this.

It was a very active day. I found myself at San Marco. So I made a leisurely tour, seeing the cell used by Cosimo di Medici, and aldo Savaronola's quarters they were all austere and their life seemed to have few comforts.

The piazza has a pottery market this weekend, but I resisted not so later in the day, when I lashed out and bought a tea towel and an apron, all Tuscan cotton and linen blend, blue and white with a deisign of bees. I wended an accidentally circuitous route to San Lorenzo and the markets, resisted all the enticements(?) - around Ponte Vecchio is much better value. I have indulged myself by having a small raspberry gelato each day, but finding somewher to eat each night is not easy. Tonight I found quite a good place and fell into pleasant conversation with an American couple from Oregon, celebrating their silver wedding anniversary.

Tomorrow, very early, I am going on a bus tour to Carrara. i love marble, and have always wanted to go to Carrara and the marble quarries, but it is not an easy place to get to. I am going on a bus tour, and hang the expense! I may never get another opportunity. The crack of dawn awaits me, and I am being picked up at 7.30 am. Eek

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Mostly Mozart

A very good time is being had by all, as far as I can tell. The tour group is now in Salzburg, after our several days in Prague, and a couple in Cesky Krumlov. It has been music, music, music, with excellent lectures by our tour leader,.

I loved Prague, apart from the inevitable press of the flesh from the innumerable tourists. It was so crowded. And I failed to get my tongue around a sincle Czech word. I won't do a travelogue, as thousands of others would do it far better. Although I think the food in this part of the world is really stodgy. We are used to a widely varied choice of food styles and cuisines. Cesky Krumlov was pretty, extremely crowded, but the hotel was very very ordinary, with a TV from the 1950s, cupboard doors falling off and associated inconveniences.  And the plumbing is not the best. The people in this part of the world must be very spry, to clamber into baths and use showers of varying degrees of complexity and inconvenience, and as most of us are getting on a bit,  we would rather have a shower you can walk into and out of, without risking your neck, legs or arms.

Tonight we saw of Mozart's The MagicFlute, a marionette performance using an old tecording conucted by Ferenc Fricsay, with Rita Streich songing the Queen of the Night. It was quaint but strange, albeit expertly done. This morning we went to a Mozart museum. When we visited the Mozart family home the other day, it was full of pele and difficult to see and move. This one, on the less touristy side of the river, allowed a leisurely visit and it was not so crowded.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

what tourists do

Travel seems to play havoc with the iPad, as before the group went out tonight, I wrote half a post, saved it, and returned to the hotal to find it was not saved at all. And my back is sore from uncomfortable sleeping on the aircraft. How I suffer!

The trip was long, and long, and long, and aircraft seats do not fold out to being horizontal, as a real bed should be. This makes it difficult to sleep, and helps your body give in the the nasty suspicion that you are, perhaps, somewhat more decrepit than of yore.

While having my jetlaggy moan, let me include in the causes the camera battery becoming exhausted and the inordinate time it takes to recharge. Yesterday, the day of arrival, the group, having met and started to become acquainted, went out on walkabout, suitably armed with cameras. Alas, my battery ran out, and I had failed to take the iPad with me. I did take it out today so now I can start feeling like a genuine tourist, who cannot convince herself of having been anywhere unless there is photographic proof.

Prague is really interesting. Lots of historic buildings, streets, little granite pavers on footpaths, trams, hooked together, offering a very frequent service, casual pedestrians barging across the tram tracks, absolutely hordes of tourists, following their guides, people everywhere, shops full of crystal and really dark garnets, big squares, and quite a number of shops and ubiquitous brands. Tomorrow we go across the Vltava river, walking across the Charles bridge, and looking at the castle and church on the hill, and looking, looking, looking.

The people in the group are pleasant and interesting, and good talkers. And was really our first full day. This evening we went to a performance of Dvorak's first opera, Alfred, set in Sacon times, and never, ever performed.

It is a curious work. More like an oratorio than an opera, and what we saw was a stage version, with a very large choir and the requisite number of soloists. All very good singers, excellent conductor and orchestra, but to me it was a curiosity rather than a neglected and notable work. This being a tour concentrating on music, much of it by Mozart, we are attending a performance of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony. We also had a long guided tour of the Municipal Chambers.It is an arduous thing to be a tourist. 

Monday, 15 September 2014

Would you, could you in the dark?

There will be a lot of time to be whiled away. Here I sit in an airport lounge, waiting for time to elapse. It is getting dark, and I am to be seated in the middle of the plane. Nothing much to be seen in the dark.

My friends have been urging me to pack lightly and not to take too much stuff. When I checked in my suitcase, it weighed less than 14 kg, so I am astounded. My carry on luggage contains quite a lot, though.

My daughter is home from hospital, and her pathology results are good. What a load off our minds. She sounds tired, and speaking is still awkward and tiring. She is glad to be home and that her ordeal is over. My emotional soreness and worry is easing.

Having spent the days away, I did not realise that my telephone (yet again) was not working. So. I spent the last half hour before departure on the phone to get it fixed. Sure enough, there is yet another fault in the exterior line. The situation was probably not helped by the  bubbling potholes nearby, and in the middle of all the traffic chaos from the explosion, fire andcontinuing work to demolish the several buildings affected, the Water people turned up to find and fix the broken pipe. The street is no longer bubbling, so they must have managed to fix the pipe. Quite likely the water  might have seeped through the the genuinely antique pit wherein lies the wire for my telephone.

The demolition of the buildings continues. It is a slow process, with care taken in the removal of rubble and asbestos. People have left flowers to honour and remember those who were killed.  The street is not yet open, so there is a lot of detouring to be done.

Packing is a tedious business. Put it in, think some more, take it out. Make sure the documentation is all in one place. Agonise whether to take something to crochet, to while away the many hours in the air, and to prevent productivity from falling drastically. Actually I did get a lot done while sitting by my daughter's hospital bed, and actually finished a scarf, which is now available to the first claimant.

 It really is dark now, so boarding time must be approaching.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

It has been a busy and anxious week. I was in Melbourne to be with my daughter, in hospital for surgery to remove a carcinoma on her tongue, and to help care for hrr children.

My elder daughter picked me up from the airport, and next day we went to the hospital. Her house, the hospital and my second daughter's house are far apart, so we have all spent a long time on the road. The two girls decided where I would be and when.

When we arrived at the hospital my daughter the patient had not yet been returned to the ward, so my elder daughter and I, and the partner, waited. Their father was also present.

Eventually she was brought to the ward, very woozy, and the surgeon declared himself pleased with the surgery. The pathology results should be through tomorrow. I spent a lot of time by her bedside, and did a lot of crocheting while she recovered from the anaesthetic. The following day she was improving and when I spoke to her yesterday she was doing well. Her partner and I managed the children and the diabetes, and friends and neighbours helped with getting them to and from school.
My return flight was late, so I went straight to a concert.

Tomorrow I leave for my holiday. Packing, and trying to be rational, have taken quite some time, but it is almost done. I hope it will clear my mind from all the worry, and remove some of the unpleasant reminders of the past, and what is evidently continuing hostility and incivility, even in the situation of the health of my daughter. The main thing is my daughter's health and recovery, and the welfare of her children.

In my meantime I struggle with a deplorable tendency to take much too much stuff. And to br indecisive. But I have managed to vacuum the house, and have walked around our neighborhood, which is still afflicted by road closures, and the demolition and removal of the buildings. This neighborhood is devastated by the explosion, fire and deaths of innocent people, and the effects on the community.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Vicissitudes of life

Our little community is stunned and deeply upset by the explosion, fire and deaths from last week's disaster. The main road is blocked off, the shops cannot trade, the traffic is banked up in my street for ages, the children can get to their primary school from the rear entrance. There was a public meeting on Sunday to learn more, and to express concerns.

I was not there, as I went to Canberra to see my son and grandsons. We were very happy to see each other.  I watched the boys at their gymnastics class on Saturday. All the children and teachers were keen and enthusiastic and they all seemed to love it.  My friend, his partner and I went out for a Thai dinner, and my son, his neighbour and I had another Thai meal while the boys went to a film night put on by the gymnastics people. 

On Sunday we went to the arboretum, before I set off on my return trip. 

It was lovely. The area and all the old trees had been destroyed by the fires which swept through the Australian Capital Territory and Canberra in 2003. The government has planted more trees, which are still quite small, landscaped the site, and built a display and public area, making extensive use of timber,  and it really is quite stunning.  

I am in Melbourne now.  My photographer daughter is undergoing surgery this morning to remove a cancer in her tongue.  She asked me to come and be with her. The surgery sounds scary and unpleasant.  Surgery to the head seems more invasive and frightening than for other parts of the body. I keep reflecting on my mother's cancer, my own, and now my daughter's.  Is it genetic, or random misfortune?

I had to miss my physiotherapy appointment, to see whether the lymphoedema is better, the same, or worse, but without the fluid measurement being done, more general caution is necessary. I return home on Friday, and on Monday leave for a month in Europe, planned ages ago.

My elder daughter picked me up from the airport, and we will go to the hospital early this afternoon. I had little sleep last night, worrying about her.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Dreadful things

It has been a day of drama and tragedy. Two blocks away from my home, there was an explosion in a convenience store in the main street, resulting in a massive fire, and a very dangerous situation. The explosion happened about 4 am, but I did not hear it or wake up. When I did wake up, about 7 am , I noticed that there was heavier traffic than usual in my street, and then heard on the news that there had been an explosion and a massive fire. There are apartments above the local shops. The streets are still blocked off, the building collapsed, people jumped to safety, others are missing, including a mother and her year old baby boy, and it seems that several people have probably died. The owner of the convenience store was found, almost completely covered by the rubble, with only his hands showing.  It feels incredible that such a disaster could have happened. I have walked up a couple of times. The street remains closed off, and the adjoining buildings are in danger of collapsing.

We are so used to seeing bombs and explosions in war torn nations, that to have such a disaster - with the cause unknown at this stage - seems incredible. I am wondering how I could have slept through such a huge blast, such a short distance away. And I am wondering how severe the repercussions will be for the local businesses and people.

It is a small suburb, and I walk up and down the main street on most days, either to walk a bit, to shop or to catch the bus into the city.  Most residents do much of their shopping locally and we residents know our shops, business and locality well - and they know us. It is a comfortable and familiar environment. We know each other's faces, we smile and greet each other, we feel at home. And not to be able to traverse our streets, and to go about our daily routine, is a rude shock - and of course most of us are affected and afflicted in minor ways. We have yet to learn the full human tragedies of the explosion and fires.

Friends and relatives from far away have heard this news and have telephoned. We are a fortunate country: we rarely suffer from such disasters, and those that do afflict us are but seldom caused by human evil and action. This local disaster and its repercussions and consequences will undoubtedly give pain and problems to those most nearly affected. Today there has been the human tragedy, and the minor inconvenience of blocked streets and clogged traffic. We wonder about our dead and injured: while we fear the worst, we hope for the best. And we admire the way the emergency services, the police, the firefighters and the medical services have swung into action.

Some time ago our local fire station was closed. There was an outcry from the community. It has since re-opened. The alarm went off in that station early this morning, and within three minutes the fire brigade and fire fighters were there, being absolutely heroic, keeping out society functioning, rescuing and helping people, and doing a good job. I hope the bean counters and the economic rationalists take due notice. People and their lives do matter.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

After all these years

Tonight I met one of my neighbours. I live on a corner block, and the little side street connects two access roads to my suburb. My garage (very lucky to have one around here, in an area with tiny blocks and very little land) is on the side street.

Perhaps in normal suburbia, with larger blocks of land, it is easier to meet neighbours.  Here, the front gardens are very small, and you do not often see people out the front. And cars exit from the garages from the back lanes, all  built in the days when night carts collected waste products. Opposite there is a high school, and a large complex of apartments. So the side street is where there is the best opportunity of meeting neighbours.

I know the two closest to me, and they have spare keys to my house. I let them know if I will be away. On the other side of the lane there used to live a very old lady. She was related to people who I used to know while Dr P was alive, but since his death I no longer have any contact with them. The old lady was very deaf, and although we encountered each other fairly often, she never recognised me from one day to the next. I knew her daughter, who called in to see her every weekend. She found her mother on the floor more than a year ago - she had fallen, and was unable to call for help, and was, I think, put into hospital or a nursing home and I do not know whether she is still alive. The house is empty, and in a serious state of decay and dilapidation, and quite likely will be totally demolished at some time.

Next to the old lady's house there are two men, probably gays, but I never see them, and do not know what they look like. Further up the street, I did know the owners, but they packed up and moved to Queensland, and I have not met the new owners, who are Asian without children. I have met the woman who lives on the corner of the next lane but see her rarely, and she has been having a lot of renovation done. Like me, she had her house damaged by the garbage trucks coming through the lane so there have been some repairs.

My immediate next door neighbours are doctors who use the house as their professional premises. I know them and we chat briefly when we encounter each other.

In the main street there is a woman I know by sight, with two small black dogs that she walks every morniong. It is only recently that we nod to each other. I do not know anyone on the far side of her house, although when I walked up the street the other day to investigate the flow of water in the gutter, I met the owner of the house on the next corner. He was busy hosing out his stormwater drain. He said he had an olive tree in his back garden and that its leaves clogged up the drain. Oh, and there is a young man whom I encounter in No 84, and we talk on the rare occasions that we meet. He is an ardent gardener, so we have interests in common.

So although I know quite a few local people I have relatively little contact with immediate neighbours. It is a curious situation. Now that I come to think of it, I have always lived in houses with few opportunities for meeting neighbours. The first house we built, my husband and I, after our marriage, was across the road from what was to be a hospital, and so there were no neighbours opposite.

There was a knock on the door tonight, and a man explained that his wife's car, which she had picked up after repairs had been done to it, was now blocking my garage exit. The steering had failed, and they had to wait until the insurance sent around a tow truck to take it away. It did not matter to me. as I was not planning to go out at all, but I discovered that he and his wife live on the other side of the road of the small side street, and I have never seen them, in all these years. I have walked past the house often enough. There is a large camellia on one side of the path to the front door, and the other side has a healthy and flourishing collection of weeds, and I have often been tempted to weed it for them. I commented on the camellia, and how lovely it is, and the man told me it was given to his wife by her son, who was later killed in a motor bike accident.

So many lives. So many stories. How can we all connect? One of the great blessings of the knitting/crochet group is that after quite a few years in this neighbourhood I am coming to meet and to get to know local people.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Pressing matters

Having finished another blanket destined for Wrap With Love, and having  checked the all the ends were sewn in,  I have now pressed it very carefully. Sometimes the edges are somewhat irregular and wavy,  and must be steamed into a more even and regular shape.  This task recalls to me the perennial parental lament and reproach 'You can't go out looking like that!'   And I have posted a blanket to my son and his boys. Productivity rules, OK. Well, sort of.

Our group met on Friday morning, and as usual it was very productive. And immensely enjoyable. They are all such good, able and talented women. It is very inspiring that so many women are doing all this work to help others. We are all fascinated that there seems to be a renaissance in making things by hand.

My house is littered with squares, al;though this afternoon I did do a little tidying.  They must be put together in as pleasing a composition as possible. Making the squares is the easy part, joining and sewing in the yarn ends, and then doing a crab stitch edging takes just as much time.

On Sunday  there was a significant birthday party for one of the members of the Italian class. This was a lot of fun. Our friend and her family had been cooking up a storm. Everything was delicious. She and her husband live quite a long way away, in a much leafier part of the city. Not like around here, with its microscopic gardens, and the sight of so many plants bursting joyfully into flower was wonderful. I was fortunate to get a lift there from another class member who lives near me. Afterwards we were all driven to the station,  and we went home by train and bus.

The depressing part of the last week was my appointment with the physiotherapist. To my disappointment and dismay, the lymphoedema has worsened somewhat after a fortnight of not wearing the pressure sleeve. Back on with the sleeve. Alas and woe. Will it ever get really better?

To distract myself I cleaned the oven. And I am puzzling over the intermittent interruption to the internet. My connection drops out quite often. I made an appointment with Apple, to test the wireless thingy (Airport, I think it is called), in case that is what is causing the problem. Technical confusion on my part does not help. Perhaps the computer is also ailing, and a new form of symbiosis is smiting some of us lesser mortals. It does not bear thinking about.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

fleeting thoughts and things

Is it not amazing and immensely aggravating how you think up many blog topics while on the bus, or in the middle something more important, but  you  cannot write it down, and you forget. And then you have a total memory failure. This happens to me often. It make me think the brain is shrinking, disintegrating, turning into custard,  sinking into oblivion, and just plain not working. It is not a happy  thing to happen.

So here I sit, having a rest from crocheting and from contemplating possible colour schemes, while pondering the stream of consciousness, both in theory and practice. Perhaps there are so many minor matters cluttering up both brain and memory that true creativity does not have the chance of a snowflake in hell.

So, the news from this tiny corner of the world.

The internet is very irrational and episodic. I fear a call to my ISP must be made. This prospect is mega daunting.

And for some reason or other, the iPad charger is not working. It sends some sort of error message, which, like 98 % of error messages, matches exceedingly poorly wth human comprehension. The iPad went down to 4% which was rather scary. I foresee a visit to the Apple Store, and long queues to endure.

The printer needs new ink, so I went out and bought some, but am not sure the shop sold me the ones I need.

It has been raining and raining. Not happy.

I had a medical checkup this afternoon. All is well. I could not remember the nurse's name (Liz) and the doctor and I had an impassioned  discussion about media treatment of women, sexism, and such like. I had to get a referral to the breast cancer specialist. Why cannot they give you an ongoing referral, instead of a new one every year?

Friday, 8 August 2014

Vale Peter Sculthorpe

Today's news announced the death of the Australian composer, Peter Sculthorpe, at the age of 85. He was an extraordinary person, an excellent and versatile composer, whose contribution to Australian cmlassical music cannot be underestimated.

I am not familiar with all of his work. What I did hear was well worth it.

I met him a couple of years ago. During a visit to Canberra, I stayed witho a friend who is a chorister, and we sang in the same choir. She also sang in an excellent smaller choir. During my visit my former choir gave a concert, and the program included the Victoria Requiem, and Peter Sculthorpe's new work, a Requiem. It was a very moving work - in my view a true Requiem, in the great tradition of Western classical and religious music.

After the concert I met various friends and fellow choristers. Peter Sculthorpe was sitting with friends at a nearby  table . I wanted to tell him how wonderfu and moving his Requiem was - in my view a true Requiem. I  went over to his table, and told him so, and expressed my admiration and appreciation of his music, and added that I had been recently widowed, and that this Requiem resonated powerfully with me - which is what we want and need from such music. Peter Sculthorpe was so kind and sympathetic, and seemed glad to be told that his music reached my soul.  I was privileged to meet him and to talk to him. His work will endure and we will remember him and his music.

Requiescat in Pace.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Hard cases and tragic results.

Last week it was my turn to write the argomento for one of the Italian classes. My topic was commercial surrogacy. I can understand the desire and hunger to have babies - from my own experience, having lost babies, and having feared that I would be unable to bring a baby to term. However I do feel profoundly uneasy about commercial surrogacy. To me it reeks of slavery, of buying, selling and owning another human being. To me it is anathema. I think that the USA's history of slavery may have left a residual, perhaps unconscious feeling that human beings can be owned and traded. Certainly the concept of racial superiority was deeply embedded.

While at university I studied American history. One part of the syllabus was the civil rights of African Americans, and the struggle against segregation and for voting rights was long, hard fought, difficult and often bitter. Many died in that struggle. Legal reasoning had to change.

Our Italian class debated the issue vigorously. The next day the newspapers reported the story of a Thai woman who carried and gave birth to the biogical children of an Australian couple. She was found to be be carrying twins, and the male was found to be afflicted with Downs Syndrome, and also had a heart defect. The biological parents wanted the boy to be aborted, the surrogate mother refused. The parents accepted the baby girl, but refused the boy. The surrogate has kept the boy.

This story has aroused much controversy, both in Australia and in Thailand. The surrogate is about 21 and has two children of her own, aged six and three. The family is poor. Many people, having read this tragic story, have donated money for this family, and for the baby boy. There are varying reports of the story, and there are disputed and contradictory reports. But it makes my blood run cold.

How can it be that people are so desperate to have a child that they enter into a surrogacy contract, and then urge abortion, and reject their defective offspring?  It is wrong.  It seems to me to resemble thae way racehorses are bred.

I hope that some good may come out of this case, not only for the baby, the surrogate mother, the other members of her family, but also for the purchasing parents and the chosen baby.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Friendship, nature and beauty

On my way to bed this evening, I sat here and read Friko's blog, in which she discussed memory and forgetting things. This made me realise that I had not written about my lovely weekend. So now is the hour, despite the fact that I had almost gone to bed.

A while ago I met a former colleague, who moved to this city some time ago. She is married to a chap in the army, who has had a sterling career and who has been posed to all sorts of interesting and important positions.  She and I did not know each other very well, so although I had heard she had moved here, I had no idea where she lived. We ran into each other at the Art Gallery lectures I have been attending for years, and we took to having quick drinks of water or cups of tea afterwards before catching our buses home. She has just become a grandmother, so there are lots of baby photos to admire.

We have been to a couple of concerts together, all very enjoyable, and last week she invited me to accompany her to their beach house up north. We had a lovely weekend. She drove, and I did not even have to think about the route. I contented myself with bringing quince jelly, bolognese sauce and some wine, not to mention lots of crochet and a couple of books.

The beach house is in the most beautiful country, and looks across to the sea, which is now mostly blocked out by the eucalypts. The block backs on to the bush, and we went for a few rambles and walks. Lots of plants were flowering and it made me a mite sad not to have much in the way of plant life around me. But I now have many photographs of shrubs, flowers, and trees. And birds.

My friend brought some ham and prosciutto, and obviously the local birds know her well as they flew to the verandah and looked very expectant. So she fed them with chunks of prosciutto and mortadella. They preferred the prosciutto. Who wouldn't?

Evidently kookaburras are at the summit of the bird hierarchy. There were up to five kookaburras perched on the railings, looking - no, not hopeful, but expectant. And they were prepared to eat out of her hand. The next in the pecking order were the magpies, but they certainly knew their place. Distinctly second. So what with the feeding, the laughing, and the warbling, it was gorgeous. I now have more photos, close up shots of kookaburras that I can possibly need, so some deleting is in order.

One of these days I must have another go at loading photos onto the blog.

We walked along the beach, looked at the sea and the waves, and at the plentiful quantities of seaweed.
And before we set out on the return trip, we did a little bush walk, and I took even more photographs of the rocks and the trees, including the angophoras. I do not think I had seen any previously. Their bark turns pink in winter, and the habit of the branches can only be described as creatively gnarled.

In between all this bird feeding, plant inspections, and filling up the holes dug by rabbits and/or wallabies, to get at the tasty roots of the plants, we sat chatting, and doing some craft. Much progress was made. She makes tapestries, and temari balls. Goodness, they are so complicated and require such precise work.

Making good friends is a lovesome thing, God wot.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Is the end nigh?

As the end of the month approaches, I am hopeful that my arm has recovered sufficiently from the lymphoedema to allow me to wear the pressure garments for very short periods. It will be a couple of weeks before my next appointment with the physiotherapist. She will measure the fluid content of the arm, and I hope that the improvement so tediously made during the last six months can be maintained. Then I may get around to writing a letter of demand to the hospital to ask for reimbursement of my expenses. All these months I have not felt tough or energetic enough to do this. But the time is nigh.

I have been able to remove the pressure garments at nights for some weeks, which is a huge relief. In the morning, after the massage I decide what to wear and then put the sleeve and glove on, and then coax the sleeve over them.The glove makes doing anything in the kitchen more difficult, and it is easy for it to get dirty. Washing and drying it is a fiddle, and when the time comes to remove them each day I sing halleluias. I cannot crochet while wearing the glove, and the other wrist gets a bit sore, probably as a result of overuse. It is to be hoped that a combination of carefulness and caution will prevent the recurrence of the swellings, as with this second bout, the risk of further recurrence has increased.

Things could be worse, though. after some quite cold weather it has become warmer and the experts opine that there won't be any really cold weather again.

Yesterday I planted a pieris I had bought at the local market. The seller worried that the garden might not be shady enough, but we shall see. Before I could plant the pieris I had to attack the planter box severely, as it was full of self-sown nasturtiums, and the red and green alstroemerias. The alstroemeria is certain to fight back. Its red and green flowers are very pretty, but it certainly has been programmed by the great gardener in the sky to do its utmost to take over the world. It seems that some people regard it as a weed. They may be right.

The removal of great chunks of nasturtiums revealed that the small daphne in the corner has lots and lots of buds, and I hope it will burst into flower soon. And I think the mint is about to do its utmost to invade some of the space. There are herbs in pots which would love to be planted, and there are azaleas out there which would do their utmost to tempt me were I foolish enough to go anywhere near them. The lemon verbena got severely pruned, so that it is now possible to reach the back door without bumping into its branches. The bay tree needed more white oil sprayed on it, and the kaffir lime showed a sign or two of dieback. Aargh! The garden is indeed hopelessly overcrowded. Most of it is in what used to be a plunge pool, but as the pump and filters did not work, and the water resembled a very nasty looking soup, it got filled in and turned into a garden. Much more pleasant and satisfying.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

So much happening, not all of it good.

Every so often it occurs to me that the house needs a bit of a clean, and thus I pull out the vacuum cleaner and drag it all over the house and up and down the stairs. I must say that vacuuming is truly boring, and I would rather do practically anything else. And, as a rule, I do. One of these days I must get around to finding a cleaner.

Here I sit, listening to a live broadcast of the King's College Choir, enjoying it mostly, except for a rather dreary period of 19th century English music. Early music is what touches my soul. I gather that this choir is all, or mostly, male. Although, perhaps I am wrong, and that these days they do admit an occasional female.

It has always seemed to me both extraordinary and outrageous that rather than allow females to sing in church, those in charge chose to castrate males. Makes you think, eh? Does the mere possibility of a mixed choir cause testicles to atrophy and to fall off?  I wonder.

 Is misanthropy innate in males? I would rather not think so, but there is much evidence to support the theory.

The choir is now singing Britten's Hymn to St Cecilia. It is a piece I sang early in my chorister life, and I do love it.

 In between all these pursuits I am reading a lot of Irish history, mostly written by the remarkable, productive and erudite Tim Pat Coogan. He gives me much food for thought, not all of it tasty or digestible. Sometimes it is difficult to believe in the possibility of the perfectibility of human nature.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The evil that men do lives after them...

Our media has been full of the frightful and evil shooting down of an aeroplane over the Russian part of the Ukraine, with the appalling loss of life of all on board. I cannot even contemplate how people think that this violence is justified in any way whatsoever. Or what they think they can achieve through such evil.

Somehow, suddenly, the world seems to have contracted and to be very small. Out TV screens are full of the awful images of the wreckage, and of course we are not being shown the most graphic of the images of the wreckage and the bodies.

You would not think you would know any of the victims, but of the Australians killed - a small number of the total victims - there are some we know of, or with whom we share links. An elderly nun of Sydney was one of the victims, and tonight I heard that one of my nieces, who has just returned from a conference in Europe, had links with the nun from Sydney who was one of the victims.

Our leaders are warning the Czar, as the saying goes, but the evil has been done and the consequences are spreading and rippling outwards, touching and affecting so many more people than you would think possible.

Words fail. There is much weeping, soreness and sorrow throughout the world. It seems that for so many people it is easy to inflict evil and suffering, and to assume that our own pain is all that matters, that of others matters little, and that revenge should be taken. And that revenge will rectify matters.

Friday, 11 July 2014

No man is an island

World peace seems far off. An impossibility. It is difficult to understand how so many people think that killing others is justifiable, both morally snd practically. Why do so many think that killing is either desirable or necessary? How can there ever be peace in the Middle East? Why do the lives of ordinary, innocent people matter so little. Why do so many people glorify getting the blood of others on their hands. How do they justify, morally and practically, the blood of innocent people on their hands? Why do innocent lives matter so little? Why do nations feel able, and justified to take actions which result in the death and sufferings of so many innocent people?

Why do they not mind their own bloody business?

We ordinary people spend our time going about our legitimate business. We extend ordinary courtesy to our neighbours and to strangers in our midst. We give them directions when they are needed. We smile at each other, offer others seats on the bus, give directions to places if asked, we help mothers with children in pushers, we smile at others, and co-operate. We fall into casual conversations, we make the world go round. In our daily lives we recognise the importance of consideration and courtesy towards others.  I help the blind man off the bus, I give directions. Perhaps living alone makes me more aware than perhaps I was in the past to to the way little interactions help keep our society tolerant, helpful and generous in our everyday lives. When we ignore everyday courtesies, our hearts   harden, we ignore the needs of others and the ways in which societies function well.

If we maintain our essential civilities, we will, I hope and believe, ensure the ways we treat each other do not worsen.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Interfering old biddies

Public transport provides many benefits to the users, other than that of getting them/us from Point A to Point B. You do not have to worry about the details of the route, other than in the simplest details, such as where you get on and where you get off. The bus driver will generally help you out on these finer points of journeying. For example, on my way home from the airport on Monday I did actually get on the wrong bus, but realised this quickly, and the bus driver confirmed the number of the bus I should have taken. I do not always keep infrequently-used bus numbers in my head, just where they go.
And yesterday, on my way home from my pacemaker checkup, I decided to walk part of the way home, so as to keep the body (if not the mind) fitter.

I was running late for this medical appointment, but having managed to get there on time, sat patiently waiting for my turn to be called. After  an hour, I had finished my magazine, the other magazines in the waiting room were from 2009 and 2010, and thus very old news and comments, the waiting room had emptied, and I wondered what was going on. So I asked, and it did appear that there had been something off a stuff up in the paperwork pile relating to who was there and who was next.  I said I did realise they were busy, but there had been a failure in courtesy. This was acknowledged. Good.

The result of the c heckup is that my heart is working pretty well, and the pacemaker is not needed very often. I have been put down for annual checkups.

Having walked halfway home, I caught the bus. I often note how mothers with young children  seem to fail to instil in their darlings how to travel safely, how to be considerate and polite in public, and are permitted to stand on seats, instead of keeping still and learning elementary safety measures to be used on public transport.  Are they permitted to travel by car without using the seat belts, I wonder? The child in yesterday's bus whined and grizzled, and refused all offers - a bottle of milk, snacks, amusements, until eventually he was given the iPhone, which shut him up. Naturally he had not stayed in his pusher, but was clambering over the seats. This is not safe. But I held my peace.

When the bus neared my stop, I prepared to descend. The mother tried to get her kid back into the pusher, and he was totally unobliging - a little brat, in fact.

So I interfered, helped the mother, told the child firmly but nicely, that he had to sit down in the pusher and get his straps done up, as it was time to get off the bus. He complied. We all got off the bus, and the mother thanked me.

But why cannot the parent just insist that when on public transport the child may not stand on seats, get on and off them and wander around from seat to seat? And why can they not cope without being fed constantly, or being plied with drinks? And why cannot so many parents not find ways to make travelling interesting? 

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Cold feet, ice and snow

Here we are sitting around, after a good dinner and wine, with a pot bellied stove to keep us warm and cosy, and replaying our day in the snow.

 It did not actually snow, but rained a bit, but the cold was the genuine thing. It is very many years since I have been in this alpine area, and it is absolutely beautiful, with tall straight eucalyptuses, a myriad of ferns, and many roadside and fastflowing narrow rivers, some with felled tree trunks across them (perhaps to encourage the foolhardy,to clamber across them, in a 'look Mum, no hands' attitude. The bush is incredibly beautiful. I wished the sun had been shining, but it was overcast, with low clouds and light rain drizzling.

My daughters had borrowed snow gear and so we were all rugged up, but nonetheless our feet got very cold. We parked our cars in a tightly packed car park and took a bus to the Mount Stirling area where there was some rather sodden snow, but more than enough to allow the little boys and girl  to make and hurl snowballs  at all and sundry. It is more years since I can calculate since I spent any time in a snowy environment, regarding it as rather nasty cold wet stuff, but we did all have a lot of fun tobogganing, and despite having celebrated a birthday only yesterday, I tobogganed down three times, but, would you believe (I can't) not one of my devoted family took a photograph of my prowess, which, really, considering the modern obsession for photographing eleven out of every ten events, is pretty pathetic, but considering all the other lovely things they did, I can overlook and patdon.

 It has been a lovely few days with my daughters and grandchildren, and they have been so good, kind, and considerate in organising all of this.

Tomorrow we pack up and return to Melbourne and the next day I go home, in time to go to the opera on Monday night. These days together will glow in my memory.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Post prandial thoughts

Here I am with my two daughters and four grandchildren, near the snowfields on the Victorian Alps. Although our Alps are not very high. Tomorrow we ascend the mountains, in a variety of snow gear, and I expect to feel very cold. Today it cooled down a lot, the clouds arrived, the skies lowered, and some rain fell.

 I have not been in this small town since some time in my teens, and this was many years ago. I was still at school, cars were relatively primitive and liable to break down, far from mechanical help. The family car did indeed break down, on a scorchingly hot summer's day, and it took hours for help to arrive  and for the car to be repaired.

The town was small, and not at all touristy. It is very different now, and is an attractive place, with craft shops and second hand shops and all sorts of other attractions.

 We are staying in a large dwelling described as a homestead, with many bedrooms, bathrooms and living tooms, extensive grounds and it is very comfortable. The gardens need a lot of attention. There are many rose bushes, all in dire need of pruning, and many types of citrus, a couple of which I cannot identify. Lots of eucalyptus trees, and magpies and kookaburras.  It is all very lovely, and the frustrated gardener within me itches to get out and prune, pluck and gather, perhaps to make marmalade. There is a pot-bellied stove, and ample logs of wood. All very cosy. My daughters orgainised it all.

 Today is my birthday, and since my elder sister's death several months ago, I am the oldest person in the family, and there is no longer anyone  who has known me for my entire life. There is much food for thought.

 We are lazing about now, having dined on delicious roast lamb, followed by the renowned within the family buttermilk spice cake, a recipe I obtained from a Canadian friend and colleague, the most more-ish cake you could ever encounter.

 I am both happy and sad, glad to be with family, but with many reflections on life, past, present and future.

And I am hoping not to get too cold tomorrow.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

It's cold in them thar hills

 It is several hours before I head to the airport to have a few days with my daughters and their children, and we are off to the country, where we expect to endure and enjoy cold weather, snow, much hilarity and contentment. If snow is encountered, snowballs will be thrown. Possibly even at my august figure.

I am going through the usual antics in working out what clothes and things to take. My daughters have cautioned me to bring a small bag, as the cars will be full of stuff and we will all be very squashed.  So I have done my best to comply. The bag is small (but it is now heavy). Some wool and crochet has been squashed in, as I cannot be expected to sit around idly. And I have remembered to pack a couple of jars of quince jelly. This is usually a popular move.

On Sunday I chopped some quinces, and put them on to simmer, so as to make more jelly. Alas, the telephone rang while they were simmering, and we talked at length, and it was not until I sniffed odour of burning quinces that I remembered the saucepan. It was a waste of good quinces,  and it took some time and effort to remove all the burnt stuff from the pan.  In future I must concentrate better.

Before I go to the airport I am to see the physiotherapist, and discover how well the arm is going, and whether I will need new pressure garments. It all gets a bit tedious. It is five months since this condition recurred.

I return on Monday, in time to go to the midyear production by the Pinchgut Opera company, of an opera by Salieri called The Chimney Sweep. This is the first time that this company is putting on two productions in a year, which all Pinchgut fans joyfully and heartily applaud, as all their performances have been uniformly excellent. So I must make sure I do not miss my return flight.

Last night dear friends took me out to dinner to celebrate my forthcoming birthday, and to give me practical instructions in packing lightly. We had an excellent time, and wonderful food.  No wonder my mood resembles a rosy glow.

Before I leave, I must play Purcell's Chorus of Cold People, from his King Arthur. It has some excellent shivering in it. Better get in the mood....

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Winter howls in

How beautifully blue the sky
The grass is rising very high
Continue fine I hope it may
And yet it rained but yesterday.
Tomorrow it may pour again
I hear the country wants some rain,
Yet people say, I know not why
That we shall have a warm July...

I hope I got that right...Mostly, I think.

This is not quite accurate, but it has been a very mild autumn and early winter, with warm and sunny weather. Suddenly that is over. It is cold. Snow is falling in the high parts of Australia, winds howl, trees  fall, the Yarra River in Melbourne overflowed its banks. And suddenly it is very cold. I needed two hot water bottles last night. The windows are rattling. As I sit crocheting the border of an almost completed blanket, using crab stitch, which, like the crab, goes backwards, and which makes the hand feel quite sore, I am glad of the warmth of the whole blanket.

It takes quite a long time to get all the way around the blanket, and so as not to get RSI, or to aggravate the lymphoedema, I take it slowly and carefully. It is a bit of a bore. But doing this handiwork is a way of filling the time, which, when you live alone, needs to be done from. Tuesdays are my quiet days, without any particular or regular commitments or activities.

One of the knitting group came by today to get copies of all my photos of the Knitting and Crochet group, as we like to document all the blankets and things we make, and I somehow became the general photographer. Not that I inherited my daughter's talent, alas, and the camera has been playing up. Perhaps it was the memory card, as the colours of the photos taken several weeks ago were unpleasantly washed out and insipid. So I now use a new memory card, and also the iPad, which I must say does take good photos. I think perhaps my camera is a bit sick, and I may have to get the shop to take a look at it. Perhaps I need a new one?

Last week was very busy with choir. We had several rehearsals and two performances. It all went well, and I came to appreciate the music - Berlioz's Romeo et Juliette - more than I thought I would. And last night I went to a dress rehearsal of the opera - Rigoletto - which I did enjoy, and, as it started at 6 pm, allowed me to get back home at a reasonable hour. There was no possibility of sleeping in, as across the road, where there are large numbers of expensive apartments surrounded by extensive landscaping, the men arrived early to do the pruning.

Naturally they do not use ordinary secateurs, but instead nasty petrol operated chain saw thingies, which are VERY noisy, unpleasantly so. It seems, the council tells me, that they can operate after 7 am. Well, they were still going until about 10 am, and all that unpleasant loud, unrelenting noise makes me somewhat cranky. Once they have trimmed it all in a very military precise way, then they use blowers, also very noisy, to sweep up all the prunings. Perhaps such techniques are also used to torture political prisoners?

Rigidly uniform pruning does not appeal to my aesthetic sensibilities, which are both pronounced and exaggerated (yes, I am a delicate little flower). I don't like all this hacking and pruning. Although, this very moderate climate does make things grow like billy-ho, and I do have to take the secateurs to the plants in my own tiny garden. The bay tree grows like the proverbial, as does the curry leaf tree.

Anyway, the perfectly horrid and unrelenting noise of the chain saws put me into something of a grumpy and evil mood, and thus tonight I ended my week of abstaining from wine, and have been enjoying some red wine. Ah, that's better. Back to the crab stitch. And all the bad news from far far away.

Monday, 16 June 2014

If I were...

Studying the subjunctive is something which, for me, at any rate, requires more than a modicum of thought and analysis. In English, it hardly exists, except for sentiments like 'long live the king', so be it, be that as it may, let there be light,  if I were you'  etc. (Further suggestions are welcome.)

In Italian, it is much more complicated. I hesitate to bore however many readers or followers my blog may have. It seems that if you want to learn another language, you must be either keen on grammar or prepared to think deeply about language and its usage. It seems that at present my Italian class is concentrating on the subjunctive, and it also seems that many of us in the class do flounder around quite a lot when trying to make the subjunctive spring readily to mind, and of course into speech.

I have been sitting perusing one of my Italian books to make the subjunctive spring fully fledged into my mind when I try to speak or write Italian. The book gives examples such as 'it is necessary that you should... Or ' long live liberty'  or ' I wonder what he wants'.  Uncertainty has a lot to do with it, as does a sentiment that expresses something that is contrary to fact. Such as 'if I were taller, I could change that light globe.' I am not tall enough and therefore I cannot change the light globe. ( This is a great shame, as it means I have to take extreme measures to get the light globe changed, or otherwise buy a longer ladder and clamber up it precipitously and have a go...)

Or, 'if I were you...' I am not you, and never could be, so  I am expressing an impossibility. Or ' if I had been at home, I would have answered your telephone call.'  I was not home, so answering the phone was impossible. Etcetera.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that in Italian we have to think through a number of verb forms snd parts. We have to think through the various tenses of the verbs (and don't even begin to think about irregular verbs ) we keen but enduringly imperfect students must conceptualise each bit of the verb.

Oh dear. No wonder I come away from the class feeling somewhat wiped out. This, allied to a severe and ineradicable dislike of ever being wrong or making a mistake (let alone more than one)  tends to increase my stress levels. And you think you have problems. Whoops, is that a sentiment that requires the use of the subjunctive in Italian., Yes, indeedy, I think that it is.

 Perhaps it is better to live and think in certainties and facts, instead of in doubt, uncertainties, and  the hypothetical. Be that as it may, I struggle on.