Saturday, 14 November 2015

Evil, wicked, criminal, merciless deeds. Let us remember the innocent who were slaughtered. Surely not in the name of God?

Evil flourishes. Killings abound. The wicked persist in shedding innocent blood. How can we bear such evil?

The innocent suffer,  freedom is imperilled, and our hearts break, for the suffering of so many, who were going about their everyday lives, and have been slaughtered by the wicked.

How can they justify this slaughter?

My day has been spent watching SBS TV, which has been broadcasting the dreadful crimes committed in Paris. Not that much is known, as yet, or if it will be known at all.

Today in the newsagent's I talked to two other customers, strangers, to each other. All of us had been in Paris in the last month. We are sore and sick at heart. How is such evil overcome? How can people think such slaughter of innocent strangers can be justified? I do not know. I have no answers, only a reaction of appalled sorrow and anger, and a wish that this frightful willingness to kill others could somehow be overcome.

Let us remember this latest atrocity, in the long history of wars, slaughter and oppression.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Point of departure

Here I sit in the lounge at Madrid airport, waiting for my flight. The morning was spent walking around Madrid. Being Monday, galleries were closed, so I retraced my steps hither and thither. The loud amd prolonged sexual actity in the room adjoining mine kept me awake, as did the subsequent garbage collection. Etcetera. I feel weary. It will be a long slog before I arrive home on Wednesday.

The hotel proprietor unbent slightly this morning, going so far as to urge me not to leave early for the airport, and even going so far as to walk to the end of the street to find a taxi. If ever I travel again, I will splurge a bit more on hotels. Lesson: read the fine print! However I did leave, even though it has meant a lot of sitting around. I pulled out my crochet and worked away at that. At a sleeve. I have in fact made two sleeves, but the tension is different, so I am trying a third time, with a smaller hook size. I think that in Australia there would be conniptions at the very idea of a crochet hook being wielded on board, but in Spain they seemed relaxed about it. I did check with security before checking in!

The airport here is huge and you have to take a train to get to the appropriate departure gate. It was a very threatening day, with wild and dark storm clouds all around, and a perfect rainbow. The Spanish seem to me to be a kind and positive people, ready to help, and to enjoy life. I hope to learn more more about their politics. The issue of Catalan independence is looming high and I wonder what will happen. My Spanish is not good enough to give me more than a glimmer. When I try to speak, it is at a very basic level, and I cannot remember many verbs or tenses. I have managed some basic exchanges, and it seems people appreciate efforts to use their language. We English speakers tend to be lazy linguistically, and mostly we get away with it.

However for my last two evening meals, I had sushi. And enjoyed it thoroughly. I can be multicultural with the best of them"

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Last days in Spain

This post is from the cafeteria of the MuseoThyssen-Bornemisza, where I am spending much of the day. And having something to eat and drink. The hotel which I foolishly chose for reasons of economy does not serve breakfast, nor permit any food or drink in the rooms What a poor choice that was. If ever I travel again, I will not try so hard to economise! Apparently Madrid hotels are totally booked out. I must post a review of the hotel on Rooms must be vacated by midday, and bags may be left until 3 pm. My flight does not leave until after 9pm, so there will be quite some time to kill.

Yesterday was Halloween. I had gone past a sushi restaurant and decided to eat there. One of the waitresses had her face painted accordingly, with stitches and wicked witch like grin. The sushi was lovely, so  I had two serves and two glasses of wine.  Around 3 am I was woken by screams, shouting,  sounds of violence, things smashing, and it was quite scary. I asked the concierge, who seems to me to be suitably witch-like, what was the violence, and she shrugged and said it was Halloween! When I left the hotel at 9.39 am,  all was calm, all was quiet, hardly anyone about, except the melancholy looking guard outside the Camera de los Diputados.

All the companions from the trip have gone their separate ways hither and thither , and I feel as though I am filling in the time. Having used the tourist bus I now have a better sense if where things are in relation to each other, although come darkness I can stll get lost all too easily. Yesterday evening I joined the throng to visit the Prado, which is free from 6 to 8 pm. The queue was really long when I joined it at 5.30, but it all worked well, eventually. But I had only just found the Goya paintings at 10 to 8, when we were all shooed and hustled out, so I will go again this afternoon. Perhaps I will visit the gardens of the Retiro. So far I have not managed to find a church to get into,
the only promising one being occupied with a wedding.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Far far away

I am on a trip to France and Spain, concentrating on mediaeval art and architecture. So far so good. After several days in Paris, we arrived yesterday evening at Dijon, where I am sitting awaiting le petit dejeuner. I am a bit early, and still in the throes of jetlag and overall confusion, trying to dredge up some remnants of school French. Other languages keep intruding. . Especially Italian. I wonder whether, once I am in Spain, all my schoolgirl French will interrupt as insistently as Italian is doing.

In Paris we visited Sainte Chapelle, with its glorious stained glass windows and soaringly high ceilings.. Then we visited Notre Dame, where High Mass was being celebrated, officials quickly separated the sheep from the goars and we goars were allowed ro walk around the outer aisles.
I cannot believe the number of selfie sticks there are used at every possible opportunity, irrespective of place, context and whatever else may be going on. It is quite bizarre.

The group was taken to a welcome dinner, at an apparently notable restaurant. We were given a mixed menu, and it was pretty ordinary. However the lights in the restaurant were very pretty, but we were left wondering what the food would have been like had we been able to choose.

The Cluny Museum was next, and it was most interesting. I do like mediaeval stuff, but am lesskeen on the negative attitude to humsnity and its manifold imperfections. Especially in all the  attitudes to women, as the source of sin and evil, without rights.

 There has been no formal process of introducing people to each other. It is all casual and happenstance, and Ithink quite a few of us find it difficult to remember names. Perhaps had there been an introductory meeting, this could have been done. Those of us who arrived on the same flight as I was on were picked up, but there was some sort of protest demonstration by motor bike riders, which completely gridlocked the city, so whatever would have been dine at that meeting did not get done.
The countryside is beautiful, the cattle are white, the trees are turning into their autumnal colours, and it is fascinating looking at the different housing and roof styles, and seeing how many flowers and vegetables are grown in people's gardens.

It is time now to assemble for the day's programme. We are going to Vezelay, and somewhere else. As I recover from jetlag  my possible future blog posts may become more coherent.
A bientot. 

Friday, 11 September 2015


The first cataract operation was done on Wednesday, and my daughter was with me, to drive me to the hospital, and bring me back home, and to note all the instructions for eye  drops, etc. She was great.  I am so glad she was with me, and able to get me home and organised before catching her flight home.  It made me better able to tolerate the fright and the stress.

When the anaesthetic is administered, so is an amnesiac, so that there is absolutely no memory of the procedure. This is a good thing. When you wake up you are plied with tea and biscuits, and tissues to mop up any tear duct which insistently and independently overflows. My daughter sorted me out and organised everything before flying back home.

Yesterday a friend took me for the first check up, and it was declared satisfactory. I am not permitted to drive yet, which cramps the style somewhat, and I decided to have a quiet day at home, rather than trying to get to the Italian class and then the lecture. I cannot get to choir, or drive to do some food shopping, but there are plenty of places nearby, such as sushi, quiches, and there is plenty of food in the freezer. I walked to the shops to buy a bag of chips and other things which are bad for me.

My expectation was that my sight would be improved immediately, but this is not so. It is a gradual improvement. But colours look different. The better eye, which is to be done next week, sees as before, but out of the left eye, the colours are all wrong. How weird.

Even weirder was the fact that while typing this, the alphabet suddenly changed into a language with a non-Roman alphabet which obviously wrote from right to left. Now how the heck did that happen?
 I should stop now while the earth is still spinning correctly on its axis.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Yet more proof of one's myriad imperfections

it took me four goes to type that heading. I blame my own incompetence, the fact that I am typing this with one finger on the iPad, and so on and so forth.
I am typing this on the iPad because my iMac has just been taken away to be made better. It was made worse because I foolishly downloaded an upgrade, only to remember too late that the upgrade will not support Word, or, in face, my photographs. I did manage (I think) to copy the documents onto a disc, and even this caused me a certain amount if grief because it took me some little while to get the disc out, until from the far off and dim recesses of my brain I remembered that the keyboard has an Eject key. Ecco fatto!

My next step was to search the internet to see whether I could  uninstall the software update. Oh No. Alas, and  Woe.

Off I went to the knitting group , where it was my particular and designated task to teach people how to crochet granny squares. There are some very speedy learners there, and we all had a good time. Usually some of us have lunch together afterwards. I told them all of the latest in what seems to be a long list of mistakes and other silly and humiliating things I have done. We all laughed heartily and shared various other horror stories. Then I said I needed to get a computer person to come and see what could be done. Oh, they said, there is a shop in this little arcade, where we always have lunch. You walked right past it, they told me.

So I went inside and discussed my errors and problem. It reminded me of going to Confession. The man came to my home and checked this and that, installed something else, and said he would need to take the computer back to the shop so that it could do all the things he had told it too, while he could be in his shop attending to people like me and perhaps with a few normal and rational people as well.
I hope all will be well, although I will have to learn a little about the alternative word processing system. This sort of thing is supposed to keep the brain active.

Next week is the first cataract removal. My younger daughter is staying here for a couple of days and will be able to take me to the hospital and back home, if they finishe me in time for her to do that and still catch her 3pm flight home. It will be a great comfort to have her with me. I should be all better before I leave on my trip. Perhaps after both eyes are better I can marginally improve the French and Spanish which are in my brain. Somewhere!

Monday, 24 August 2015

What can you see coming?

When I tripped and fell over some weeks ago, the lens of my glasses of my better eye was badly scratched. In the process of getting the glasses fixed, I had another eye examination. The optometrist said that the cataract on my bad eye really should be removed, and he wrote me out a referral to a specialist.

The prospect of having cataract surgery freaks me out. As a young child, I had surgery on my left eye, to correct its habit of wandering all over the place. I have never had normal vision, and, as far as I can tell, the effect of the surgery was probably cosmetic. The brain pattern must have been fixed, with each eye seeing separately, and never in a unified image.

The surgery was done when I was about six. Hospitals all those years ago were not family friendly, and family visits were few. My eyes were bandaged, and I had no idea what was going on. All I could do was to call for someone to come. I think I was in hospital for perhaps ten days, with a painful eye and much boredom. Once home, I did not wear glasses, and in early adulthood developed short-sightedness. Now the time has come to have another go at improving my sight.

Quite simply, I am traumatised and terrified. Evidently the trauma of the surgery is lurking inside me, waiting for anything to awaken it. The mere thought of needles and knives being used on my eyes, even if I am anaesthetised, makes me cry. People - doctors, nurses, and those who have had the surgery assure me that it is not too bad. It makes no difference to me. I remain terrified.

I talked to my GP about it, and have been to see the specialist. During the tests, the measurements and the consultation, I wept and wept. I wept all the way home and all throughout the night. The GP prescribed some tranquillisers, which I am using, and they do help. But I weep in the twinkling of an eye and the tears are lurking. I have had a lot of surgery in my life, mostly for very serious conditions, and none has given me this sort of trauma. This is different.

One of my sisters recommended counselling. She has not listened to me. Her 'solution' is not the one for me. I know what counselling can do to help, having had plenty during various crises of my life such as divorce, step-parenting and bereavement. This trauma is different. I resent her insensitivity and failure to listen to me. It made me very angry. That anger needs to be put aside.

Now that I have made the decision to have the surgery, I will do my best to be rational, to try to be calm, and to concentrate on the things and people who can truly help. After this ordeal, better sight should result. So it is worth doing, and I must bear it, and receive and appreciate the amazing technology and skills that will improve my sight. To those who will help me through this ordeal, that is, my children and friends, I give my grateful thanks and appreciation, and pots of quince jelly and cumquat marmalade.

There will be two separate operations, a week apart. Except from the cataracts, the eyes are healthy.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Warding off brain rot

Recently I re-read some of my old blog posts, going back quite a few years. There are accounts of my travels, and of my life with Dr P, his decline and his death, and all the things that had to be done and coped with in the aftermath. Life is simpler now, but lonelier. And in many ways it feels as though my life has contracted, and that I am becoming? have become? a less interesting person. Although, how does one judge how interesting you are?

This all made me think of that common remark sometimes appended to school reports. Must try harder, a useful catch-all summary.

OK, so I will try harder. And I do try.

There ar lots of things that I continue to do, and to enjoy. Singing, crocheting, music, reading and learning. And I make jam - too much jam, but it is a satisfying thing to do. the quince season has ended and there are many jars in the pantry. Last week I found some cumquats at the market, so I made cumquat marmalade. This is the best marmalade you could ever taste.  However, I suspect that I did not soak the fruit for long enough before cooking it, so perhaps I should not give jars away until I have either reassured myself - or what? It is probably edible.

There are papers to get in order, and bad habits of letting papers accumulate into a distressingly confused and confusing set of inchoate heaps. Yesterday I spent several hours sorting out all the material from the Italian classes. In one of the classes we students took it in turns to write an article. There they all were, higgledy-piggledy. They are now sorted, although what remains to be done, for my own essays, is to write in all the corrections, so that I have a perfect copy. (But I won't throw out the copies with all the mistakes.)

This particular set of tidying came about because the topic of the city of Matera came up, at my Italian class. Our teacher has returned from his Grand Tour, and he described his visit to Matera. And indeed, it is an unforgettable city, where the poor lived in caverns cut out of the rocks, and where they had to work for hours to get to their work in the fields, and had to leave their children alone all days. So they drugged them.

Now, if I were a novelist, I would have cunningly adopted a strategy of working backwards, but instead of such a meaningful and pre-decided strategy,my increasingly haphazard mind is doing quite a lot of butterfly-like flitting.

In a couple of months I am travelling to France and Spain, and I enrolled in an intensive French course. It is 50 years since I did any French, and, unsurprisingly, I was the worst in the class. There is, however, some French somewhere in my brain, and who knows what might pop out if put to the test.

I studied Spanish several years ago, and found it very interesting and appealing. As the knowledge is now well below the surface,  I enrolled in a Spanish class. This clashed with the Italian class I have been attending for many years. Never mind, I though, I will return to Italian next year.

When I arrived last Thursday, half an hour before the Spanish class was due to start, I tried to find its allocated room.  As I stood wondering whether anyone was going to turn up, the lift door opened, and out stepped my oldest stepdaughter. There has been absolutely no contact between the stepdaughters and me since the legal settlement was reached more than three years ago.

We said Hello, but nothing more. I felt very churned up. It makes you wonder about chance - how in such a large city we could encounter each other accidentally like this. I keep seeing her face. And I wonder how her sons are. I was fond of them, and of Dr P's other grandchildren. All the past history is running through my mind. I wish it would not.

I went downstairs to find out where the class was. Oh, the receptionist said, that class was cancelled.
Oh, I said, Nobody told me.

We enrolled you in another class, on Tuesdays. Oh, I said, nobody told me. So, of course, I had missed the first class.

The good thing is that I can continue in my Italian class. It is one of the joys in my life.

Perhaps Esperanto was devised to cope with this sort of concatenation of events?

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A cooking spree

Since being widowed, my cooking standards have deteriorated significantly. Even that is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but, etc. I used to be a really good cook,  but after the end of my first marriage, the rot set in. Cooking for one person cramps the style.

And when I remarried, the standard and the achievement fell well below what it had been. My first husband was by no means love's young dream, but at least he appreciated the food. And in the years between divorce and remarriage, my standards declined. Cooking for oneself leads to decline of standards. It hardly seemed worthwhile to cook up a storm for oneself.

When Dr P appeared on the  scene, it quickly became apparent that he was no gourmet. Accustomed to fending for himself, he was a ham cheese and eggs man, interspersed by occasional Chinese meals - usually an omelette, or sometimes a curry. Not vegetables, though.  He was an extremely fussy eater, but was happy to fend for himself, and did not expect meals to be provided.
Once we moved in together, I had this wifely urge to do the cooking. It was neither expected or demanded, but eventually we worked out how to eat  together. But my cooking standard declined, and  now I am no longer the cook I was. Which is a pity.

Now, four years after Dr P's death, my standards have not risen very much. I have adopted easy solutions. Besides which, I worry about setting off the smoke alarms, which frighten me  fearfully. Yes, I am a real sook. And my social life is minimal.

A couple of days ago, friends came for lunch, and I cooked up a storm. And thoroughly enjoyed it. And managed it efficiently. Nor did I burn or ruin anything. Lunch was good. and there were leftovers. Very nice too.

Perhaps all is not lost. I may yet recover both my competence and enthusiasm.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Get fitter

My doctor recently advised me to get fitter. How much walking did I do, she asked. Well, I said, I walk to the bus, and here and there, and from the city to the art gallery. And sometimes I do go for a walk.

Do more, she advised. And so I did, the other day, and the result is not pretty. I tripped and fell, and grazed my face, hands and banged my knees, and my equilibrium and temper are also damaged. Bother, and words to that effect. Not a soul was around to help me to my feet, and so I staggered home to look at the damage.

The right lens on my spectacles was quite badly scratched, and so I betook myself to the optometrist to organise a new lens. While we were at it, he did another eye examination, and the left eye has deteriorated even more, and also has a cataract on it. So I should get it removed. And I will.

My eyes do not focus together, and as far as I know never did. As a child I had glasses, and when I was about 7 or 8 had surgery, to fix, or more probably, to straighten the wandering eye. As a child I never knew that the way I see differed from normal vision.

I think the surgery gave me a great horror and fear of having things done to my eyes, and the mere thought of having surgery while conscious fills me with dread. Not to mention having an anaesthetic injected into the eye. I think it will make me want to scream and faint. Fainting seems a very good idea, actually.

Recently while travelling on the bus I fell into conversation with a woman, through admiring her grandchild's lovely red hair. The woman had had a cataract operation, and she told me that you are doped with enormous quantities of painkillers and tranquillisers. I hope she is correct.

I have made an appointment with my doctor to check out the procedure.

There is always something to look forward to in life, and cataract surgery surely is one such something.
In the meantime I feel battered and bruised, and not just physically.

In the meantime, once my knees are less sore, I will try walking again. My daughter - always able to describe my defects and peculiarities (in a loving and caring way, of course)  says my upper body leans forward when I walk. I must straighten myself up. And out.

Oh well, nobody is perfect.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Winter, and the imminently oppressive need to get updated.

It is cold. Well, OK, Sydney is not really a cold place. The heat is more of a problem than the cold. However, I have acclimatised, and recently have needed hot water bottles. And it is the first day of winter. The night sky is cloudless and there is a gorgeous full moon. Periodically I go out onto the balcony and check its luminous progress across the sky. I do love the full moon. Ooorrrooohooo...

My computer has been misbehaving a bit, and I could not print out my gmail. However, having tried this and that, and downloaded something or other, suddenly what had not printed now has done so. I do not understand. Computers can be very aggravating. They tell you that this version of Safari is no longer supported, and suggest you try another one, without giving you the least idea of what might work for my increasingly out of date computer. Surely this need not mean I should buy a whole new computer? I have to confess to using the computer less and the iPad and iPhone more. Except that these devices have such tiny keyboards and thus far more needs to be corrected than is necessary with the computer.

I went off to Apple for a workshop which was recommended as a way of working out what the hell the problem was, and how to fix it. However, I was misdirected and when I joined the workshop it turned out to be all about the new you-beaut system, AKA operating system, which is many years more advanced than mine. Now I am booked into an appointment with the Genius Bar. They are the geniuses, certainly not me. I came away from all this in a rather grumpy and discombobulated temper. However I was cheered up by finally getting very good and kind service about camera battery chargers and their ilk. Naturally, somehow I have lost the original charger, and had to buy a generic one, the use of which was not blindingly obvious. Sigh. Note to self, label everything as soon as you get it. and try to be tidier and better organised.

Next I went to the wool shop which is having its latest mega-tempting sale. So far I have not succumbed, notwithstanding all my attempts to make myself succumb. If they had had two packets of the rather gorgeous 10 ply wool, instead of only one. I might have succumbed. Not that I have any patterns for 10 ply wool! As a penance for considering wilfully succumbing to temptation I had another look at my stash of yarns and came out of the room somewhat thoughtfully abashed and daunted. As I seem to have developed some tendonitis, from being too much in a hurry to finish a blanket, it is obviously an extremely stupid idea to think of tackling another pattern. Instead I am slowly and cautiously doing a scarf, from a couple of balls of yarn picked up for less than a song at our latest group get-together at the local Spotlight shop. I never use synthetic yarn, as it feels rather yukky, but this yarn though synthetic, is rather silky. However, it has changed its colour in the ball, despite being allegedly the same. Perhaps this was why it was reduced to $2 a ball. (They give us a discount on wool, knowing full well just how easily we all succumb to temptation.)

If I could remember how to load photos on to the blog, I would load photos of (some of) my wool-in-waiting. The good news is that finally, after a mere two years or so, they have again stocks of a light blue wool, which I need in order to complete the other half of a blanket. When my wrists are better, I shall tackle this (and a few other) works in progress/waiting.

Perusing the large collection of patterns acquired over many years, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that years ago I was much better at making complicated things. All this making of blankets composed of granny squares has rotted my brain, it seems. Never mind. I still have some rather complicated shawls, and jackets. If I did it then, surely I can have another go!

Never mind. I am still better at reading nice big books than at understanding devices.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Too old and grumpy? Who, me? I am afraid so.

I am off to choir very shortly, as we are performing this afternoon, singing this and that, including Verdi's Quattro Pezzi Sacri, or, in English,  Four Sacred Pieces. I was tickled when the email arrived with the attachment, which had a typo, calling them the Quattro Pezzi Scari. That is how I shall forever remember them. They are very difficult.

I need some comfort and cheering up, after a telephone conversation with one of my sisters. Her elder daughter and her husband have recently moved to the city where my son works. I innocently suggested that they might like to contact my son, who is, after all, one of her very numerous first cousins. Apart from parents, aunts and uncles and siblings, first cousins are your nearest relations.

Oh boy, did I ever cop a lecture! Oh no, they were making a new life, branching out on their own, and this meant that making contact with a first cousin was not something worth doing. It is true that they do not know each other very well, but I meant it as a kindly suggestion, having more than once moved to a strange city and had to meet people, make friends and create a family life and our careers. And it is not as though they are newlyweds, as they were married in her husband's country several years ago.

Such reactions from my siblings really bug me. There is a very evident double standard, in which they evidently feel free to tell me what they think I should do, but if I suggest that it would be a loving action to visit me every few years, or that cousins might perhaps make contact with each other, it is Oh No, they are far too busy and have huge family commitments. Or the young ones are much too important to consider meeting another family member.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I have to think beautiful thoughts, in order to sing well thus afternoon. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Vaccinations: a personal case for them.

The government is trying to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated. The issue has had plenty of media and social media coverage, and the policy is to tie receipt of some forms of social security to having had your children vaccinated. It seems that informed people know the issues, and the overall consequences of lack of vaccination or low rates. However in some communities there is some opposition to vaccination of children.

Here is my personal experience. It is not easy to write about, despite the passage of 50 years. So if this account sounds wooden, it is because it revives a terrible experience, with profoundly affected me - and, of course, my husband.

I was the second of seven children. We all had our triple antigen injections, but vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio had yet to be developed. when the fist polio vaccine was developed, a doctor friend of the family had some reservations about the vaccine - I cannot now remember whether it was the Salk or the Sabin vaccine. Eventually I did receive the polio vaccination.

The link between rubella during pregnancy and birth defects was known. My mother kept saying that it was important to get rubella (then known as German Measles). Every time she knew of a friend whose children had caught rubella, we would visit, in the hope of catching it. We knew families with deaf children. And victims of polio. Many children with such afflictions were institutionalised.

I did not contract rubella. Not during my childhood. Mumps, measles, chicken pox, yes, but not rubella.

I married at the age of 22, and, being Catholic, and prohibited from using contraceptives, became pregnant in the second month of the marriage. A few weeks later, on a Saturday morning, I woke up feeling very sick. We were preparing to go to a friend's wedding. I noticed I had a rash, and immediately suspected the worst, that it was rubella.

We were living in a rented flat and had no telephone. We had to use a public telephone, and ring the GP. As it was Saturday, it was not easy to get through. When I succeeded, he said he could see me, but as he was going to a wedding, it had to be that morning. It turned out he was going to the same wedding. The doctor thought it was rubella, and managed to get me an urgent appointment with a specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis. The GP, being Catholic, said that he would not terminate the pregnancy, but he could refer me elsewhere. We chose not to terminate, because of the church's blanket and absolute prohibition on abortion. Nowadays I would have no hesitation.

Once I had recovered I returned to work. Pregnancy nausea was rather vile. The worry was much worse. How would we all manage? A few weeks later I had a threatened miscarriage. Off to hospital, but the pregnancy survived.

At 22 weeks, I bled again, and pains started. Back to hospital. Late in the afternoon, and very suddenly, the waters ruptured, and a tiny baby was born, a boy. I thought that it was all over.

But the pains continued, and got much worse. They continued into the night, and nurses were continuously at my bedside. They must had injected pethidine, or something, because I was very groggy and not aware of the time, nor of what was happening - and no one explained. In the depths of the night, I was aware of contractions and pushing, but no one explained what was happening, or what had happened.

In the morning, a nurse came and calling me by name, said, Did you know you had another baby?
No, I said, I want to see it.

It was another boy, much larger than the first tiny babe. And I wept bitterly, for my two dead babies, who had had no chance to live, and who would have faced dreadful damage - sight, hearing and other effects. My husband came in and I had to explain to him. We wept together, and told each other that losing our babies was the best thing, as they would have been so damaged. This was true, but they were my babies and I loved them. They were baptised, and I named them to myself.

The next pregnancy was an ectopic one, and I was very ill.

I do not think we ever recovered from that awful start to our married life, despite continuing our lives, our jobs, our savings and the building of a house, and the births in rapid succession, of our two daughters, followed five years later by the birth of our son. Such memories live on, and while the sorrow and pain is less acutely felt, I feel it still. It lives on. I weep as I write.

I would not want anyone to have such experiences. Thus when I read or hear of people refusing to have their children vaccinated, on what seems to me to be very suspect and specious grounds, I feel very upset. We have personal responsibilities, and social ones. We owe good care to ourselves, our families, to each other and to the whole community.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Mellow fruitfulness

The equinox is past, autumn is here, the leaves are starting to change colours. There has been an eclipse of the sun in the northern hemisphere, and we in the south have seen amazing photographs. I nearly wrote down south, but why is the south considered to be down, rather than up? Is there some reason apart from northern mindsets?

The culling of my books has slowed down. I have managed to weed some light fiction. But not the Flashman novels, which are entertaining with their alternative and cynical interpretation of political events of the 19th century. The Barbara Trapido novels are going, as they now seem to be seriously dated. And the science fiction collection has been reduced.

Apart from such mundane aspects of life, I am considering getting a cat, or rather a kitten, if I can manage to find a source of kittens. A Burmese is my preferred choice, but all the breeders seem to be located in Far Outer Woop Woop, and getting hither and thither is a daunting prospect. I can get very lost very easily.

I have made two batches of quince jelly and, perhaps foolishly, have bought more quinces for a third batch. I ran out of jars, so had to buy more. Even as I type, the quinces are simmering. Making jam is a most absorbing process, what with sterilising the jars, making sure the sugar dissolves before the mixture boils, and watching out for the setting point. I wish I had a source of cumquats, to make cumquat marmalade.  Surely somewhere there is someone who will donate their cumquats to a good home?

In between times I produce crocheted squares and am now arranging them in what I hope is the best possible design. There will be a lot of ends of wool to darn in. This is a tedious process. But it must be done.

Monday, 9 March 2015

What can be shown?

Tonight I watched the ABC programme QandA, which dealt with feminism. It left me somewhat bemused. The mix of panelists seemed designed to provoke, and to enable the discussion to lurch all over the place. Lots of good things were said, But with such a format, it simply is not possible to discuss most issues in any depth.

Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, was very good. Germaine Greer was herself, playing to the audience, and to her own self image. She still makes a lot of sense, despite a tendency to try to be a bit outrageous. The other panelists were varied and interesting, and the audience, both physically present and off line, rampaged through most of the possible permutations, some good, some bad and others fair to middling. Which is what you might expect really.

The audience was interesting. It was predominantly female. As the camera panned around, I looked at them. Hairstyles varied, some quite tizzied up. Makeup, lipstick, some plunging necklines. Quite different from a male audience, with suits and ties, etc. The females conformed to many of the stereotypes, and to the expectation to present themselves predominantly as sexual objects.

The preceding programme was about a doctor, a good man, a Muslim. He wore ordinary western clothes. But the females in his family, wife and daughter, wore head scarves. I find head scarves and veils very confronting and objectionable. It seems to me that it is truly inconsistent with equality of women and men, to insist on covering female parts - such as hair, head and most of the body, while the men can get about showing their fine hairy chests, and their faces and heads, without being covered. It makes me very upset to see such evidence of inequality.

Suddenly I recall scenes from my youth, being at a ball, wearing a scooped, (but not low) neckline and being chided not to lean forward, in case my breasts became visible to other people. The male in my life said that those breasts were his, and should not be glimpsed by other males. I was too silly to tell him that the breasts were not his, but mine.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Plumbing the depths - or at least the middle of the house

For the past year there has been a leak in the bathroom, which has had me frantically worried and petrified. It seemed likely that very expensive repairs would be necessary, and that, like getting my rotting dining room floor replaced, it would take months. And I could not face it, or decide what to do.

Eventually I looked at the house plans, at my local council. They were no use whatsoever. They showed the layout of the house and the discussions between the owner, the house next door and the council. No plumbing, wiring or fittings. Nothing useful, but least I discovered when the house was built, only about 25 years ago.

Last Tuesday, while I was outside, on my balcony, idly watching men repairing the road - a frequent event in this area - one of the workers  told me there was someone knocking at my door. So there was. It was a plumber, with no work that morning, who was using his spare time to distribute his card.  I told him I did have a plumbing problem. He said he could do some tests, make a diagnosis and give me a quote for repairs. What the hell, I said to myself, I can't go on like this, fearing the worst and not doing anything. Right, I said to him, have a go!

He ran various tests, turning on each bathroom tap in turn, while I trembled below, fearing an imminent collapse of the dining room ceiling. He ascertained that the bath was the problem.The next step was to cut a hole in the ceiling of the dining room. My trembling worsened. It then transpired that the valve thingy part of the bath could not be reached from the ceiling hole.

 Back upstairs we went, and the plumber had to destroy a tile. He was then able to reach in and fix the leaking valve. Then he went out to buy a cover/grille for the ceiling hole.  He has contacted a handyman mate of his to come and insert a grille to replace the broken tile, so that if the problem recurs there will be access. He fixed the dripping tap underneath the hand basin, and he changed a light globe for me.

Next week I can chase up the handyman.

I am relieved and delighted that after all my angst, the problem has been fixed, and will try not to be such a sook in future. It has been difficult, dealing with such things since Dr P died. But I do wonder about building practices! Why would you put tiles over a connection that might start leaking? Why would you not put a grille over it, in case of a leak? Why are plumbing details not put on plans?

Perhaps my next go at being a big brave girl might be to investigate getting a better exhaust fan over the gas hotplates? But I will have a little rest first. And I hope that if other things go wrong I will feel more capable of getting them rectified. And my house visitors will have a bathroom to themselves, instead of having to share mine.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Remembering a significant life

Today is the fourth anniversary of my husband's death. All today I am thinking about him, and our lives, both separate and together. And I miss him. It is a sad day. He was a remarkable person who made significant contributions to society and to politics, being one of the founders of the movement to protect civil liberties. He never lost that passion. An immigrant himself, he believed in assimilation rather that multiculturalism, participation in the political process, and in the democratic system. He was a most intelligent and interesting man. Overall, I am glad we were part of each other's lives.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Who is doing what to whom?

One must be glued to the airwaves at the moment, as there is trouble and dissatisfaction in the rarified environment of the government. This makes me quite happy, but one must never rejoice too soon. A spill motion in the government parties is bruited. What will transpire? Well, what would I know, far removed these days from the immediate political environment. Perhaps it is too much to hope that our PM is facing imminent dethronement.  There is grouping and regrouping going on apace. Our glorious leader has evoked a quaint theory that only voters can remove a leader, and that only by means of an election. Goodness me, this theory cannot hold water. It has been disproved many times in our political history. The simple fact is that leaders may be removed if their parties so decide, and there are very many instances of this in the history of our federation. As an erstwhile historian and political scientist, I can point to many such events, and for our leader to pretend otherwise is blatant dishonesty. Why am I not surprised?

Who knows what will happen, and while the deck chairs are being rearranged, I can only ponder the political history of our Commonwealth government, and indicate the dubious factual errors and imaginative analyses of the political situation. There are indications of a certain displeasure from Above, as my internet connection mirrors the uncertainties of the political situation.

Never mind, I have had a good day, with the knitting group, where we make blankets to be sent to refugees. We, at least, produce things which are useful to those in need. And we enjoy what we do. 

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Being blessed

My son and his boys are staying with me for a few days. What joy. He is such a good and caring person, and has been doing very helpful things for me, such as sorting out my phone plan, which cost far too much and gave me very little. What is more, he has bought a new iPhone and has given me his old one. This involves me in more of a learning curve than I am accustomed to, but I think I am going to cope. I will need to concentrate, though.

Phone plans seem intrinsically complicated and confusing, and thus I have spent some time on a rather expensive plan. No more. It is all sorted out now.

After our session with Telstra, we treated ourselves at the nearby gelateria, and then went for a swim in a harbour pool, which was lovely. We waited until low tide, so that there was uncovered sand, and the water was not too deep. Then we came home to enjoy Tuscan roast lamb. Now all is quiet. The boys are in bed, my son is on the balcony playing his guitar, and I am sitting here at the computer communing with the wide wide world, watching the flashes of lightning and the departing aircraft. The clouds are low and so the aircraft, though they are flying low, are not visible. The storm is nearer, and the thunder noisier.

My son is a single parent, and his boys are blessed to have him. And I am blessed to have him. I had to argue hard to have a third child, and to have him, so loving, caring and generous in spirit and practice, is a great joy. He is kind and patient, and very thoughtful. What we call a truly good person.

I have not been an ideal parent. The breakup of my first marriage left me very damaged. I did not cope well. Yet out of all this my children have turned out to be good, decent, loving and caring people and parents, and have dealt, and deal, well with their own vicissitudes of life. I hope that, despite my own defects, that in some way I have helped them.

Monday, 12 January 2015

The New Year tidying up

A quiet week caring for my granddaughter has turned into the annual tidying up of things. We have been swimming a couple of times, and yesterday made Anzac biscuits. Later we might make a cake, as a togetherness activity, and to welcome home her mother and partner, who return this evening. Little Flossie has been very good, but has been missing her mother. The cat has been rampaging through the house, and sharpening his claws on all sorts of things which I would rather he had not. He is totally impervious to any discipline or discouragement, more's the pity, Kitty! And he yowls loudly, under the impression that he is grossly underfed, which of course is simply not true.

I have been going through the contents of drawers. The Christmas cards have been re-read, and put away. This led to checking the contents of various drawers, and deciding what to keep and what to throw out. They are much tidier now, and I found a few misplaced items.

It seems a pity that over the years, with moving house quite a few times, and combining household when I moved here permanently, that many letters and other documents have been thrown away. In the past most people wrote letters. I have retained some, but not very many. When I try to re-read them, I find the handwriting is difficult to decipher. And the contents are generally very mundane. I have a few letters from my first husband, and some from the time of our divorce. However re-living that distress is too painful, and I do not suppose that my children will ever want to read them. I did keep the cards and letters from friends and family to celebrate the birth of my babies. My children might like to have those. And their baby photos.

We wrote letters years ago because telephone calls cost too much. Now we have email. I do keep a lot of emails, but there are many from the past which are gone. Those sent from work, and those saved onto the computers. Many were lost when I hit the wrong button, when changing the ISP. Now I print out any which matter to me. Well, that is an exaggeration, as I have not printed out most of the blog posts. And I do not put photos on my blog, having not got the hang of how to do it.

There is such a contrast with the past, when letters were essential in keeping alive contacts with family, friends and the rest of the world. Biographies rely on letters. Florence Nightingale, who suffered/enjoyed ill health for many years, took to her bed, and maintained a most voluminous correspondence. For which historians are rightly grateful.

And I did find my missing diary, for 2011. That was a relief. The contents of the linen cupboard were checked, and the surplus has gone to Vinnies. Now for the rest of the cupboard.

Why is this activity called spring cleaning? This is the height of summer!

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

This and that in the turn of the year

My daughter, her partner and my granddaughter are with me at present. I will be looking after my granddaughter while they are working in Queensland. There is a a lot of mutual help going on, with light globes being changed, the hotplates extractor fan being cleaned, and this and that, here and there. My granddaughter is busy playing with all my little silver and enamelled Florentine animals and birds. She likes to rearrange them, and to look at and fiddle with the various ornaments. I enjoy seeing her pleasure in these things.

The cat races around everywhere, rushes up and down the stairs, sharpens his claws on the carpet, gets very underfoot, and wants to hunt all the birds. They see him peering menacingly our the upstairs window and squawk threateningly to deter him and to warn the other birds. Life is noisier. Today we are taking my granddaughter to have her eyes examined, and I have booked her in to a creative writing workshop at the library next week. My daughter is exploring the local shoe shops, and helping them to stay afloat financially. And I have booked in my car for its pre-registration service. It is all rather different from my usual solitary existence at this time of year, the Great Pause between festivities and celebrations and resumption of Normal Life.

This year I was alone for Christmas, as the children were all doing things with the other side of the family. Dear friends invited me to Christmas lunch with them, so it was a lovely day. Otherwise I would have felt very bereft. Such situations make me ponder the future.

Before the arrival of my daughter and family, I had a surprise visit from a Canberra friend and her daughter, who were here to see the latest grandchild. We went off to the Art Gallery to see the Pop Art exhibition. It was interesting - and a very extensive exhibition, but there was nothing that I longed to own, or wished to linger over.  We walked across to The Rocks and looked at craft, art and glasswork. My friend is about to do a course in glass working and design, which sounds exciting. She and I used to do silk painting together, and always had a very good time together. Once you move away, it is not all that easy to keep in touch, especially once grandchildren arrive. It was lovely to see her and to discover the links of friendship which endure and give such mutual pleasure. My friend made my dress when I remarried,  a deep blue/purple silk dress. Gorgeous! Her new works will be wonderful, I am sure.