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....