wings and things


On Tuesday, Dina and I arranged all of the stuff I wanted valued onto two tables ready for the antique guy, Mike, to value and/or purchase. When he arrived, introductions were made and he got his little eye-magnifier-thingy out and began what ended up being over four hours of a fascinating adventure into the history and mystery of everything from chinaware to silverware to walking sticks to coins etc.

Every time Mike said “Oh, you know what this is?” or “Now that is beautiful!” I felt quite chuffed. As Anthony was/is an antique enthusiast and, to some extent, a collector, it was interesting to find out what the things he had bought, or we had bought together (prints/lithographs; a piano stool, the grandfather clock, coins/banknotes, a silver egg coddler, willow pattern china, a Gallopili photo, etc.) were actually worth.

As the three of us went through the wares, I wrote down what things might be worth and what Mike would pay me for items he was interested in. Anything chipped or cracked was either discarded or put into the garage-sale box; most of the silver-plated and brass goods were deemed low in value as nobody wants to polish anymore. Mike wasn’t interested in any of that so Dina and I put these items onto a separate table for me to sort out later.

Interestingly, it was the little tangled-up trinkets plus my grandmother’s collection of Royal Doulton teacup sets, that had more value than the bigger, more impressive-looking objects! I sold a few of these to Mike but kept this one (see the peacock?)


Family heirloomy stuff for Ming went straight into my now decluttered office at the back of the house; give-to-relatives stuff went into a couple of boxes; stuff to keep (because I love it) will go back into the living room; garage-sale things ended up in several boxes!

Call me mercenary but I had not wanted to give away or sell anything that might be worth a fortune so, thanks to Mike, I am now in the position of being able to give/sell things more cannily – ha! And it is almost a relief to know that none of this clutter is particularly valuable monetarily.

This means that I can now retrieve the objects that have/had sentimental value for Anthony’s mother, Ants, Ming, my own mother and father, and me … and put them back on display. I particularly like the silver and brass because I can remember polishing it with Anthony’s mother, Gar, and then with Anthony. I haven’t polished any of it for some time so will not take a photo until I have, but it is beautiful!

Towards the early afternoon, as Dina and I sorted things according to Mike’s valuations, I remembered to show him the coin I’d bought for Anthony in the Christmas of 2000. It is a one-kilo silver coin produced by the Perth Mint for the year of the dragon – absolutely beautiful and very heavy. Mike was impressed and suggested I do a bit of research into what it might be worth now (I paid $600AUS at the time).


Well, after doing a lot of googling and ebay-scouring and general research I found out that this particular limited edition coin is now worth up to $5,500! People appear to be selling them at lower prices than this, but it is interesting and rather wonderful to find that this random Christmas gift has turned into a worthwhile investment and I feel quite clever.

You should have seen Anthony’s face when I took the coin in to show and remind him, and tell him its value had increased so markedly. He actually grinned! Money does that to him.

Later that day, I was telling Ming about how it all went and he was a little nonplussed at my thrill. But, just as I was about to put Gar’s plastic tomatoes, which have hung in the kitchen for over 50 years, into the bin, Ming yelped “Nooooooo!” So they’re freshly washed and back where they were!


It is now the fifth week of my experience with Dina, who has helped me to declutter, reorganise and create space where there was chaos. I have discovered, in this process, that I can do such things without the anxiety of Anthony’s hoarding, my sentimental attachment to objects that just made me sad (eg. a pair of glasses once worn my my father), Ming’s fickleness. There has definitely been a bit of a power struggle between Ming and me but I have now reasserted my authority haha!

I have learned so much about the notion of value and it has got absolutely nothing to do with things. Of course I already knew that but the reminder has been wonderful!


Taboo topics

I am always very careful not to write details of our story on this blog that might embarrass Anthony. The taboo topics are to do with matters of the groin area: sexuality, ablutions, incontinence, libido, that kind of thing. These topics are not taboo for Anthony and me of course and actually provide us with some rollicking conversations in a slapstick comedy sort of way and some of his male friends who visit love to tease him about his past exploits (not me, I can assure you ha!)

One of the things that most amazes me when I watch various television shows/series is that no matter how long a particular character is trapped, or imprisoned etc. he/she never seems to need to go to the toilet (I think Nicole Kidman was one of the first do so in her last movie with Tom Cruise – not sure).

Anthony is utterly unembarrassed by incontinence and made me laugh my head off the other day when he said, “I hate having a wet nappy!” when I tried and failed to get him to the toilet in time at the nursing home. Unabashed, he said, “Those kids will help me soon” (he calls all of the staff ‘kids’ for some reason.

But even writing the above paragraph makes me worry that (a) this would embarrass him; and (b) that relatives and friends who read this blog might think this is ‘too much information’. However, whenever I present my worries to Ants and/or read bits of the blog to him, about him, including the above, he reassures me with his half smile. He has a very healthy ego! Libido is of course another taboo topic but the hilarity with which Ants has approached this now diminished capacity (“This is a gold bar”) is, I think, an important part of a story of extraordinary resilience.

I remember thinking, years ago, that if this or that were to happen I would not be able to cope any longer. I was right; when this and that happened, the nursing home idea saved us – our marriage, friendship, love.

If I write the Anthony book, I want to be honest about these taboo topics; I want to demystify them, make them less scary, put it out there for those who are going through the same kind of thing.

Off to the toilet now!



It has been a very long time since I have had anything published, which is probably due to the fact that it’s been a very long time since I have submitted anything for publication, which is probably due to the fact that it’s been a very long time since I have written anything new. Sigh.

Of course I realise that blogging IS writing and I am very grateful for the fact that I have kept some sort of written record of the last few years’ events via this blog. And I am also grateful for other bloggers’ support. However, I am frustrated with my writing self in that I STILL haven’t put together a manuscript about Ants and Parkinson’s disease. I have begun the process of copy/pasting blog entries into an manuscript but it is quite tedious work as I have to do this post by post by post, get rid of the photos and ensure the dates are correct. I’m doing this but am still in 2012!

And now that I am spending many hours of most days in the nursing home, where this kind of job is impossible due to internet connectivity and my own iPad ignorance, I find myself slackly watching series with Ants, and always quite tired! Not that this time with Ants is wasted; it is brilliant to be together but when I began to do a crossword today (for me this is what old people do – no offence to older readers) I realised that I had to make better use of this time than pass it in such a passive way.

So, I am going to retrieve the notebooks from the top shelf of Anthony’s cupboard and begin to type our conversations out (the ones I began to jot down before he became so quiet). I can do this on either the iPad or the laptop as neither will require the internet.

I can easily put aside all of the things I don’t do very well: photography, acrobatics, raft-building, gardening, cartooning, etc. etc. because I know I can do one thing really well and that is writing. I want so much to write something meaningful and moving and encouraging for those who are afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, and those who care about them/for them. I want to write unsentimentally about the pragmatics of hope and care and comfort, beginning with Anthony’s story.



The irony of my one and only published book (about Alzheimer’s disease) is that I had no idea, at the time, that my own husband would one day look at his windowsill and ask me to get the dog out of the room.



Gutsy, or Gutsy9, our pied peachick/hen, turned two last November. Anyway, she has now assimilated into our flock of peafowl but the others are still in awe of her audacity. If I leave the back door open even for a few seconds G9 will not hesitate to come into the house. This morning, for example:


She is often outside one of the four doors to the house, wanting to come in.


Or posing outside; yes, she is quite the poser and always has been.






Sometimes she still tries to fly up onto my shoulder but she’s a bit big for that now so I usually sit at one of the outside tables and she jumps up and lets me tickle her under the chin or stroke her head feathers. I wish I could take her into the nursing home to see Ants but it would probably freak her out now (not to mention the staff!)

Oh well, I can always show Ants the photos – the old and the new.


In the following photo she is resting on Anthony’s arm in the nursing home (2012).


And in this one, she is looking up at him during one of his last visits home (early 2014).




G9 has been, and continues to be, a very important addition to our lives. As many of you know, she was a bit of a foundling, rejected by her mother (whose identity I still don’t know) possibly because she is half white and half blue (‘pied’) and she has a very crooked toe on her left foot. Raising her was a learning curve for me because I had to take her everywhere with me during those first few weeks of her life, either in my pocket or underneath the collar of my shirt – a shock of course to anyone who spotted her. The funniest of these occasions was when I met friends for lunch at a restaurant and she poked her little head out of my shirt.

In many ways, G9 represents the years of our transition (Anthony’s, Ming’s and mine) from Anthony being home/coming home to Anthony being in the nursing home permanently. It is now the beginning of his fourth year there which somewhat flabbergasts me as he has outlived his advanced prostate cancer now by years. It is the Parkinson’s disease that so incapacitates him. He is now (and has been for some time) a ‘two person assist’ meaning that it requires two carers to get him out of bed/chair to toilet/dining room etc.

It’s a peculiar comparison perhaps but G9’s adorability, tenacity and head-held-highness resembles the way Anthony is coping with his situation. He is never depressed, rarely complains and is able to glean joy from the smallest of things; my presence in his room; freshly picked flowers; the domestic staff’s attention to detail; food (the lunchtime roast, my gifts of blue cheese and cherries); the occasional brandy; a soft blanket pulled up around his arms (yes, even in the heat of summer!); quips and humour from carers; slapstick comedy via Ming and me; and the pot of fake silk roses I gave him some time ago that everyone admires.

G9 is gutsy, yes, but Ants is gutsier; Anthony IS Gutsy.



I went outside specifically to take photos of the cheeky willy wagtails but of course they disappeared as soon as my clumsy presence was felt, so I just took photos of anything and everything. And they are not very good photos because, even though I have a camera or two, I am not a photographer.

So this is Blaze, son of Doc 3 (deceased):

And this is Jack, the Irish terrier, who was gentle until Blaze taught him to hunt which is why we no longer have any poultry:

Blue wren:

Flame trees from dog yard with one of our many Christmas trees somehow flourishing in the heat:

Blaze again:

Feeding time – that’s Gutsy9 in foreground:

The last figs:

And, just a moment ago, Ming’s best friends about to take him out on the town:

This afternoon I sat with Ants watching two episodes of our latest series, ‘Luther’ then came home around 5.30pm having told him, as usual, that I would be back later. I hate this lie but it works! When I leave Anthony in the late afternoon, or evening, and promise I will be back soon, I re-enter the reality of dusk on the farm, and a sense of peace. Of course I wonder if he will be okay as the carers put him to bed but, now that I am a staff member as well, I hear wonderful stories about his sometimes witty okayness with the way things are.

In the summer, dusk can be dusty here, but it is also rather beautiful in a dry way!


The rule of “good morning!”


Ming is so funny. If I forget to say ‘good morning’ he gets absolutely furious! For example:

7am: Ming gets up, gets his breakfast and turns the television on.

7.15am: I get up, put the kettle on and turn my computer on, remember I need to ask Ming to help me figure out an email glitch. I go into the living room where Ming is munching his cornflakes.

Me: Do you reckon you could help me figure out this email thingy?

Ming’s face contorts with fury.

Me: I mean not now but when you’ve finished breakfast. Plus the shower is still blocked – we need to get a plumber and….


Me: Do what?


Me: I’m not….

Ming: AND JOBS!!!

Me: Sorry but….


Me: Oh, I see. Good morning, Ming!


Me: You’re absolutely right, Ming, I just forgot.


Me: Okay, I’ll just go out and come back in again.

Ming: GOOD!!!

I go out and come back in.



Me: Okay, so when you’re finished eating could you help me to….




“If you listen quietly enough life will whisper its secrets to you”
― Rasheed Ogunlaru

Anthony’s dysarthria is getting worse. Dysarthria is difficulty in speaking and, in Parkinson’s disease, is caused by the vocal muscles not working properly. Except for occasional unwhispered flashes of eloquence (usually in response to visitors or staff talking directly to him and waiting for an answer), his voice now is mostly a whisper.

This means that over a period of hours, Ants and I may only speak a few sentences and that it is mostly me doing the talking. Sometimes I have to put my ear right next to his mouth to hear what he is whispering and often I still won’t understand and he will shake his head in resigned frustration.

At other times, Ants may form meaningful words into sentences that to me are indecipherable. As a result my mind-reading abilities are improving and usually I will be able to figure out what he is saying. Sometimes, of course, the sentences do make sense syntactically, but not semantically, for example when he asks me to move the calves outside his window.

It may be a long way off, or it may be soon, but eventually Ants may not be able to speak at all so I am preparing myself for that possibility by writing down the things he does say as well as the things that I say that trigger his half-smile. I am a bit scared though because his facial expression is mostly pretty frozen (another PD thing) so it may be hard to ‘read’ him.

The contrast between this whispering Anthony and the loud, bellowing, laughing person he used to be is acute but I refuse to allow this to be heartbreaking, and I refuse to revert to the fug of despair I felt so long ago that I hardly remember its blah. There is nothing heroic about this newfound attitude; it’s a matter of pragmatism and survival I guess.

There was a period of time way back when Anthony’s inability to smile spontaneously, coupled with my down-in-the-dumpness, made my visits to him sad and difficult and I would come home in tears. But now it is so wonderful because I look forward to seeing Ants, almost like the teenager-in-love I used to be, and evoking this new half-smile from him easily now, and often, is fantastic fun!

That half-smile highlights our days and Anthony’s whispered “I love you, Jules” makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. I so admire his resilience, acceptance and unsadness in the face of this horrible disease. His fortitude and courage continues to amaze me. He is not just my hero; he is a hero of Parkinson’s disease and I salute him.

And every whisper is a weapon against the impending silence.

weights 2


A sublime sense of space

Dina, from Chaos to Clear came over this morning to help Ming tackle this:


Some of the stuff in this particular area was paperwork that I either didn’t know what to do with, didn’t recognise, and didn’t even remember putting there. But most of it was Ming stuff – lego (and lots of it!) brio trains and tracks, and a whole lot of other ‘things’ from Ming’s childhood. As this was Ming’s first experience of decluttering his own stuff with Dina, it was interesting to see his initial reluctance transform into a very healthy ruthlessness and we filled four garbage bags and two boxes with rubbish to be taken to the dump – wonderful! It was also quite moving to see what he was still sentimental about:


While this was happening, I sorted all of my plastic containers, got rid of all my old cook books and only put the Aga cook books in the kitchen drawer, and put all of the paperwork we found into the filing cabinet that is now functioning as a proper filing cabinet thanks to Dina’s labels. Bliss!



For me, the sense of space that has been created is the most wonderful thing! I have never known a cupboard, shelf or drawer in this house to be empty before so I am having a lot of fun thinking about how I can use these empty spaces. Wonderful!




And this is the beauty of Dina’s service; she helps you to cull, but she also helps you to put the things you want to keep back into the new spaces. Dina is way more organised than I will probably ever be, but she has given us such wonderful help and tips and sympathy!

She has also given us her friendship and is even happy to come and help me take Anthony out on occasion. Thanks again, Dina, for your tact, efficiency, respect and empathy. You are a wonder!

We even have a box of stuff to go into the nursing home.


The loop of loss and longing

Tonight I came home from my shift at the nursing home (which is now from 3-7pm) feeling terribly sad for one of the residents, B. She had been taken out by her daughter for fish and chips with some of her family but when she and her daughter returned, they were finishing a conversation which must have begun on the drive back and B, referring to her deceased husband, was saying things like, “So R is gone is he? I see … And I can stay here can I?” The grief and confusion in her beautiful face was a stark, mottled blush and her eyes seemed to be looking inward, grappling with the enormity of her bereavement. We – the staff – sat her down and reassured her and her daughter left.

I was already sitting at a table with two other residents, looking at magazines and a bird book, so B made a fourth. She was uncharacteristically quiet and still. I gave her a magazine, a hug and a cup of tea and she eventually said, “It’s hard when you lose someone and you’re all alone.” I squeezed her hand and said, “I know how it feels a bit, B, because my husband is in a nursing home.” With that she looked at me with eyes full of empathy and she enclosed my hand in both of hers. “I’m so sorry darling, that must be terrible for you.” Her sympathy amazed me since she had just heard about her husband’s death for the first time (of course it is not the first time in reality) and she seemed to be in a bit of shock.

But, less than 15 minutes later, as B finished her cup of tea, she asked the same questions she asks over and over and over again, “Do you know where is R? I need to be getting home. Can you give me a ride? He’ll be getting worried won’t he?”

Most staff go with the flow and reassure B that R will be here soon, or that he said it’s okay for her to stay here for the night. It is sometimes very hard to know what to do to comfort B because she is constantly on the move, ready to go home. She is mobile, articulate and always immaculate, but so terribly confused and anxious. A couple of the staff will gently remind B that her husband isn’t here anymore and she will be shocked and grief-stricken but within minutes will have forgotten this and will begin again to ask where R is.

I wish I could figure out how better to comfort this woman who constantly asks for her deceased husband; it’s as if she is stuck in a never-ending memory loop of loss and of longing.



It is surprising how much continues to grow, and even flourish, here, despite the fact that this is the third summer I have stopped watering any of the garden. For those who don’t know why I stopped, the reasons are four-fold:

1. Even though I have an endless supply of good, clean bore water, turning the hoses on activates a pump which translates into a very high electricity bill;
2. I am not the least bit interested in gardening;
3. After Anthony went into the nursing home, I didn’t care much about anything except his well-being; and
4. I was conducting a scientific experiment based on Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

Palms, aloe vera, frangipani, cumquats, bottle brush, figs and grapes (as mentioned in past posts), and many other trees and plants continue to flourish regardless.


Even the house is sprouting!




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