Friday, 31 January 2014

Home alone

The family has departed. My sister left yesterday afternoon. We had a good time together and she did lots of things, but my goodness, she is bossy. Actually they have all been bossy. I just sit quietly, crocheting away there. They are all younger than I am, and thus by rights I should be the bossiest.

Oh well! My sister did a bit of tidying the pantry, and turfed out my collection of plastic supermarket carry bags. I did a bit of follow-up tidying, and have disposed of the mandolin slicing gadget which I have never used, and the device which houses the plastic wrap.

It was nice to have them here,  giving me so much help. And it was just as well. All things considered. I really do appreciate all that the family did for me. It is a pity that it takes an emergency or health scare to get them here, rather than visiting for the sheer fun of it, and being able to gad about together. I am not yet up to gadding about.

Today has been fairly quiet. Three of the Knitting Group visited this morning, bearing a gorgeous bunch of purple and white flowers, just beautiful. It was lovely to see them. They are so kind.

The implant site is less sore, and I am sleeping better, but it is still very swollen. I suppose it takes time. The pacemaker seems to be kicking in less frequently, so I presume it and my heart are becoming accustomed to each other. I have another medical appointment in another week, to deal with the form required to have my driver's licence annotated.

My handyman rang this afternoon, and he will be here tomorrow. I will be glad to get all these various repairs and improvements done.

In the afternoon there is a birthday party to attend, for my son's godmother, so I will be negotiating the bus system. And I am considering how and if I can get to choir next week. Perhaps I will have to lash out and get taxis.

Generally I feel rather subdued and bashed about. It takes some adjustment, to realise this device will be with me for evermore, yet another part of the ageing process. And it was all something of an ordeal. But all's well that ends well.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

A post before bed

Here I sit at the computer, listening to Ian Bostridge sing Schubert. An Die Musik is the track playing right now. So beautiful: it goes straight to the heartstrings. Music brings me such joy, such pleasure, and so many emotions. I can never have too much music.

It is very quiet tonight. My son, his children and my daughter have all departed, and my other daughter arrives tomorrow for a few days. I am glad to have their love, help and support. (They were very bossy. Talk about role reversal!) But I am trying to get back to being a functioning human being, even though for the next few weeks I will be limited in what I can do.

The shoulder and the afflicted part are still sore and rather painful, and I may not lift my arm above my shoulder. This makes getting dressed and undressed a little tricky, and loose fitting clothes are easier to get on and off. I fear that I will be wearing the same things for some weeks to come. But I can manage to fasten a necklace.

The pacemaker seems to kick in quite frequently, and it seems it could take a while before I get used to it, or for things to settle down. It feels as though I am having panic attacks. This is what the isolated occurrences felt like too, so that I kept asking myself why I felt as though I was in a panic, knowing perfectly well that I was not. I feel somewhat fuzzy mentally, which might in part be a reaction to all the drama and to the anaesthetic. Better to have this problem rather than something nasty in the brain.

My daughter saw a couple of my neighbours and let them know of my problems, so they both called across this evening to see how I was. Very kind and nice people, they are.

It will be interesting managing without a car for the next month. I don't drive very often, as so many shops and services are local, and mostly I walk or travel by bus. But I might have to miss choir for a few weeks, as it is located on the other side of the city, and I'd have to get there and back by bus and train. I expect it will all work out.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A piece of old crock

Last Monday I fainted again, and my daughter dragged me off to the doctor. Well, actually, she wanted to call an ambulance straight away, but I decided we should walk up to the GP just around the corner. And so we did, I was examined, and then the doctor called the ambulance, to take me to hospital while my daughter went home and gathered some things for me.

Once there, and having been processed in the Emergency Department, which took most of the day, I was admitted, and transferred to the ward which deals with strokes and other funny things which happen to the brain. My brother suddenly appeared. He was in Sydney to have a swim at Bondi.

These tests took up most of the following day, which was Tuesday. I had a ECG,  and then an MRI, which was perfectly horrid. I coped by concentrating on the pitch of the nasty noises made by this machine, by breathing as deeply as possible, and by playing in the mind lots of my favourite music, but once I came out, I got very cold and shaky. And cried a a lot. They keep you fasting while all of these things are done.

Eventually they decided to do an EEG, which involved coating my scalp with sticky stuff, so they could attach wires to my head, all the better to see what was going on in my brain. While I was sitting there being tested, I suddenly fainted again. This was a good move by my body, because all my brain activity was being captured on video tape, and they discovered that the brain was perfectly all right, but that my heart had stopped beating for 9 seconds. And this makes you faint, and/or die. They all got very excited, and ran the video to any interested medical person nearby, and it was thus declared that my brain was perfectly ok, and that it was my heart that was the problem.

So I was transferred very expeditiously to the cardiac care ward, and they decided to put in a pacemaker. But first they put in a temporary one, through the groin, and I had to lie perfectly still for very many hours, until the next afternoon, when the real operation was performed. The lying still was the worst part of it all, as my back rapidly became exceedingly uncomfortable and hurt a lot, and I cried rather a lot in the wee small hours of the night, while of course, keeping perfectly still. You cannot read, do anything, reach anything, it is extremely boring, frustrating and unpleasant, and sleeping is not readily achieved.

The operation was done the next afternoon. There is a lot of hanging around before and afterwards, which is not fun, but which enabled me to help them discover, minutes before I was wheeled into the operating theatre, that they had accidentally put in rather too much heparin into my blood, which would have been very bad for me. Least harm, soonest mended. Once the operation was completed, I was sent back to the cardiac ward, with a very very sore shoulder. However it is getting better, although it is swollen and painful.

I was sent home this afternoon, after they had removed all the wires, made appointments for follow up care, and gave me a booklet which tells you a little of what you need to know, and a card which states you have a pacemaker, so that you don't have to go through scanners at airports, but get frisked instead.

I was fortunate to have my daughter here, watching out for me, and who became very bossy. And my son and his boys came up here too, and it is perfectly lovely to be surrounded by and swathed in family love and care. They have all been so good to me. My other daughter will also come for a couple of days and so will one of my sisters.

I won't be allowed to drive for a while and have to notify the Road and Transport people of the pacemaker. Heavy lifting, and this and that are also not to be done, and in the meantime I must not lift the left arm above shoulder level, which limits what you can do, like getting dressed, hanging out the washing, and I suppose quite a few other things too. However it must be borne, and I am fortunate that the cardiac stopping and starting is something which can be regulated and controlled.

Off to bed now, and hoping for a good night's sleep.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Open windows and the cat, the birds and the noise

There is a lot written about free range chickens and eggs. All very well. But what about the free range cat?

Was my house designed in order to accommodate the needs and desires of a free range cat? It certainly seems so. Not only is the house on three levels, but my bedroom is at the top of the stairs and the stairs lead straight into the bedroom. No doors. The cat bolts up and down them, constantly, madly and frenetically. What fun he has.

I like to sleep with the window open. This house would not win any awards for good design. The block faces east - west, and that where most of the windows are. The summer sun comes both morning and night. The west facing windows have shutters and these are permanently covered by block out fabric, to keep out the heat. The east facing windows also have blinds and curtains. The remaining window faces north, and I like to keep it open for fresh air and whatever breaths of wind comes from that direction.

The cat likes it open too. He sits on the window sill, peering out, fascinated by the unreachable bird life which perches on the power lines nearby. The birds shriek  in a constant cacophony as soon as they see the cat in the window, and they launch periodic sorties against him. The cat cannot get the birds, and the birds cannot get the cat, Both cat and birds find this very frustrating. They complain loudly.

I am not a bird, and so do not want to get up with them. It is not possible to sleep through this constant attack on peace and quiet, nor through the attempts of the cat to bite my toes, get into bed with me, and go for extensive forays underneath the sheets. If the bathroom door is open, the cat nudges it open even further and then prowls around the basin and bench.  He has already broken one mug...

So what with the cat, the birds, the traffic, the garbage collection trucks during the week, and the incoming flights nearby - Oh sleep, it is a blessed thing, but hard to achieve around here. How does my daughter remain sound asleep while all of this is going on?

Notwithstanding all these trials and tribulations, I will miss the cat when he and my daughter leave.

Bruce, the handyman, came on Friday, and started fixing lots of things. The front electric doorbell has been replaced. He installed a real bell, with a genuine bell sound, at the back door. He is changing the unreachable light globes. He is a tall man and thus even my rather short ladder is useful. he pulled down the cover of the bathroom fan so I could clean it.  He is patching some plaster. And investigating the various problem blinds and will return with the necessary bits and pieces to fix them. And he will replace the handrails out the back, which are rotting and therefore unsafe. And he is doing other things, as we find out about them.

It is a great relief to get all these things done.

My daughter and I went shopping together yesterday and she came home with a fine bone china teapot. We also went shopping locally a few days ago and she came home with several rather fetching new dresses, all of them bargains.

The knitting and crochet group met on Friday, all very exciting, and everyone delighted to be back together, with lots of completed wraps (two of which were mine). The blanket I am making at present is for my nephew and his wife's expected baby, and I am up to the edging. National productivity has soared. And I have seen three films in the last week or so.

And I thought of Dr P, who would have turned 90 on Saturday.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Sporting prowess

No, not mine.

A friend rang to ask if I would like to go and watch the tennis with her on Friday. I was delighted to accept, and thus spent the whole day watching tennis at Homebush, all for free. We had such a pleasant day, and had plenty to talk about.

Although I sometimes watch tennis on television, it is a very different experience seeing it live. It was even fun getting there. We met at the station in the city, and took two trains and then a bus to the tennis stadium. When the day's events were over, we walked back to the station, with heaps of other people, and then fell into conversation with an incredibly knowledgable man, originally from Argentina, totally passionate about the game. He told us just what were the abilities and deficiencies of each player. Then the train arrived and we lost each other.

Before it all started, we wandered around the area, looking at all the freebies, which was fun. I declined to enter a competition guessing how many balls were inside a pseudo tennis racquet - I am hopeless at guessing. It was all very relaxed and friendly. While there were plenty of people watching, it was by no means crowded, and it was all very relaxed and enjoyable. I took my crochet along and intermittently crocheted squares together. I like to do more than one thing at a time.

The matches I enjoyed most were the doubles. Those games are so incredibly fast, and the skill and communication between the partners was dazzling. We enjoyed watching the children who collected and handled all the balls. What I did not like was when a line call was disputed, slow clapping started, which we thought was very rude. Also those who run the tournament seem to think that if the action stops, loud music must be played.  But apart from these minor complaints, I had a very good time, and after watching the game again on TV realised that seeing it live is so much more enjoyable.

While my daughter was working in Queensland, I have looked after her cat, a Burmese. He is a nice cat, and he became quite cuddly and affectionate, in between fighting and biting. But I do not want to sleep with a cat, so he had to be kept in the laundry. The house is very open plan, with few doors. He is a determined little animal, and does not like being put to bed for the night, so the door had to be closed as firmly as possible. He managed to open the door, even though there were obstacles to impede him, and came upstairs to greet me, and to lap up the water in the shower recess, and then to leap onto the window sill and peer out. He is not allowed outside, which he thinks is extremely unfair. I do sympathise with him. He likes to race up and down the stairs and to sharpen his claws on the carpet. And he can be quite noisy.

My daughter is due back here tonight, so I expect that he will abandon me and snuggle up with her instead.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A sad state of affairs

Perhaps it is the New Year. There are a number of things which need to be fixed in the house. Some are very trivial. This house has high ceilings, and I do not have a big tall ladder. Nor do I want to buy one, as it probably is not prudent to clamber up ladders to change light globes in high ceilings. Visions of falling and needing help assail me. Prudence dictates I find handymen to do all these repairs. And one thing leads to another.

I have made a list. Yesterday I went to the hardware shops to buy some things. Hardware shops are pretty fascinating places, full of things which you either need, or might need. And there are endless temptations. I came away with a couple of microfibre cloths. Them, when I got around to checking and tidying kitchen drawers I found I already had some, sitting there tamely and quietly, unused. Why don't they make things which beep if you don't use them?

Speaking of not using things, somehow or other, I found myself checking the contents of the pantry.Oh dear! How embarrassing. There were many jars in the pantry dating back to the days when I used to do a lot of interesting cooking. The use-by dates were rather embarrassing. They said things like Best Before 2005.  The contents went into the bin, and I washed the jars. It takes ages to soak off the labels. It is now necessary to make some more jam to use up the jars. But I already have lots of jars of jam. I hope all the friends to whom I have given jam are ready for some more.

I used to be such a good and adventurous cook. These days I worry about setting off the smoke alarms. The sound of the alarms ought not to be quite so alarming. And these days I eat such very simple meals. Lots of raw vegetables, and very little stir frying. If I make pesto it lasts me three meals. A couple of weeks ago I made a curry. That gave me four meals. No wonder I had to throw out the sesame paste and the hot bean paste, not to mention the mysterious jar of sweet mustard chutney. I don't even like mustard, except for a thin smear of it when I bake salmon in the oven. (I no longer fry the salmon in case it sets off the smoke alarm, and thus triggers a heart attack.)

So all this prowling around the house revealed that the windows should be looked at, and some blinds really need to be replaced. The hand rail from the garage to the house level needs to be replaced. The Chinese star jasmine needs severe pruning, and the bay tree is now too tall for me to be able to spray all the insects which infest it. The garage gutter needs fixing, having languished for years since being severely damaged by a truck hitting it some years ago. From time to time trucks go through the very narrow lanes in this area. Quite often they hit walls.

Some cupboard doors need fixing. My doorbells do not work. The clothesline needs re-threading.  I have to get the phone number of a man who did some work for me some years ago, but who is not in the telephone directory. And I clambered around the windows, cleaning the frames, and checking the blinds. This sudden energy surge must not be wasted. And I have ordered a new vacuum cleaner. (This is one of the least exciting things that I can think of.)

On my way home from the local shops I encountered one of my neighbours, a very pleasant young man, who I usually encounter only once or twice a year. He rides a bicycle, is a amazingly keen gardener, and recovered some years ago from a nasty cancer. He has been pruning. You should see his back garden: pots and plants everywhere, and there are just as many in his front garden.We fell into conversation, and he has promised to come around and prune the Chinese star jasmine, and to prune the bay tree. In return - well, I do not really know what return I can make, other than giving him an indefinite supply of bay leaves, but perhaps he might like some jam, and he might like a self-seeded curry leaf tree ( from the murraya family). I have a very vigorous one, and it self seeds everywhere, but what a pleasant and easy tree it is. It can be pruned, and never complains, just keeps growing. A more intractable problem is that some years ago I bought a cardamon plant and put it into my planter box. It seems to spread by its roots, and it seems bent on overpowering any other plants in its vicinity, and obviously it needs manpower, not female power, to remove more than three quarters of it.

The garden is actually looking quite good, despite being ridiculously over-planted. I do keep trying to squeeze in more plants. My daughter gave me a Wollemi pine, a tree which is a survivor from prehistoric times, and which was only discovered relatively recently. It lives in a forest, and does not like to get too wet. Yesterday it rained heavily, so I hope that my plant will not suffer.

While at the nursery yesterday I ventured into the garden part, to look at pots (very dreary) and plants (a monotonous lack of variety) and thus came away empty-handed. I can do better at the local market, and shall hie me thither this weekend. And perhaps I will resist temptation. But perhaps not...

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Transcribing and recording

A fairly tedious task in the New Year is the transcribing of all the data from the old to the new diary. It is almost finished, the transcribing, that is. Choosing a diary is always more time-consuming than it ought to be, as I like the diary to be small, not printed sideways, and to include the moon phases. The only diary with moon phases is small, and thus transcribing names and addresses takes some time, and has to be writ small. Almost finished, though.

Some people would probably argue that all this stuff should be stored electronically, and they are probably right, but I do not want to have to cart the iPad everywhere I go, delightful though this device be.

I keep the old diaries, which are surprisingly useful. I learned from Dr P how to use mine more efficiently and effectively. Before retirement, I relied on the work diary. While these diaries never provided a narrative of out lives, salient details were often recorded, and came in handy for various things which needed to be checked. Doctors' appointments,  other medical matters, bills being paid, and sundry other matters. With luck, my diaries won't be needed, but I still refer to them form time to time.

I suppose blogs also provide a record of our lives, although most blogs are not a catalogue of events, more of aspects of our lives, and who went when and when.

As a young girl, I kept a diary, in which emotions were expressed, but eventually I threw these out. Even I could not be bothered reading them: the torrid emotional outpourings which, having been expressed, had served their essential functions. Now I blog, but the blog does not necessarily give an account of daily life, and, of course, what is in a blog can be highly selective. Views, not facts.

When newly married, I wrote a lot of letters, and received many in return, but mostly these were not kept. Every time you move house, it is desirable to reduce the number of possessions and records of life. Now, I wish I had kept more. However, much was written to other people, and would not have been retained, so for all intents and purposes they are gone. As babies were born, as lives became busier, as new careers were undertaken, the written records of life diminished drastically, and with every house move, letters tended to be thrown out. What I have kept is highly selective, and I must admit, reading handwritten letters is tiring. As telephone calls became cheaper, we tended to talk more on the telephone, and to write many fewer letters.

Then came email, and it seemed that correspondence flowered once more. I like to keep personal emails, but unless you knew what you were doing, it was easy to lose emails if you changed your internet service provider. Imperfect understanding caused me to hit the wrong key and thus lose many I wanted to keep. Alas and woe. So there are large chunks of my life for which I have no records. It does seems that the daily writing of a diary may have been the best way to record one's life.

Some things I have kept. Some of the correspondence from my first marriage, from the period of our engagement. Letters from family and friends about the first disastrous pregnancies.The letters received on the births of my children. Some records of when my first marriage failed. Divorce records. Some material from my working life. Letters and emails from close friends and families. Records relating to Dr P's last years and death. The legal documentation and all the affidavits. But all in all, there are relatively few records for much of my life. It does not really matter, as I hardly think my children and descendants will be very interested. Many of us would not want to think our existence should pass unrecorded. We want to leave our marks, however faint, upon the earth. But probably, more comprehensive biographies were possible for the periods when extensive letter writing was practised, and the letters retained, whether for family or for posterity.

Someone should interview biographers,and find out what they all think. Where would they have been without letters? The letters of famous people are now collected and published. How many of these volumes have been read?  Many of us humans are curious: we do like to know lots about other people. Witness the rise of reality TV. And let us ponder about the reliability and truthfulness of such records.