wings and things


The following poem was written by my mother, Meg, before any of us knew the outcome of Ming’s court hearing on Monday. I thought she’d written it for Ming and that he was the gymnast, then I thought it might be for me because my hope was faltering; then I thought it might be for Anthony whose mobility is deteriorating; then I thought it might be for the various family members who have been affected by the car accident; then I thought it might be for all of us – everyone….

I now think Meg’s poem was all of those things, but it was mainly for our big, loud, dancing Ming!

Focus. Meg. April 14, 2014

A gymnast
On the balance board
Looks steadfastly
Towards that spot
Far in the distance
And his body
Perfectly in tune
Glides smoothly forward
Step by step

The tiniest distraction
Left or right
Behind ahead
Above beneath
He falls

Resolves next time he mounts the board
To fix his eyes
On One who beckons.

The board seems now so wide and safe
His toes spread out
His balance now regained
A joyful happy jig.
The tightrope turned into a dance floor

Thank you, Mother.


PS. I think I need to get a new photo of Ming dancing because I am quite sure I have posted this one before; I also need to throw those obscene green shorts (that I bought Anthony for a joke over 20 years ago) in the trash. Why Ming insists on wearing them constantly is beyond my comprehension!


Question: How many times do you begin again?

Answer: Every single day.


Ming's Christmas present 2010 - 'Black beauty'











Julie and Woody best






Blog blessings

I began blogging in November 2011, with no clear intention other than to write something every day, which I have for the most part. The subject matter meandered from birds to Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease, to Ming’s teenage-hood and scoliosis, to our personal struggles. I dabbled in novel and romance writing, briefly promoted my book about Alzheimer’s disease, attempted some poetry, began to write about Anthony’s and my love story, posted pictures, and generally wrote a whole lot of this-and-that.

In view of the miscellaneousness of my posts, I suppose “Wings and Things” isn’t a bad sort of blog title so I’m sticking with that because it allows me to meander in the usual way. This is obviously not good for the stats as themed blogs get more ‘hits’ but, despite wanting to make more people aware dementia sufferers should be treated with more respect, I don’t care any more about the stats.

One of the things that has astounded me about my blog journey so far has been the incredible friendships wrought (with people I may never meet in person), and the mutual support system enabled via WordPress. The blogs I subscribe to are an eclectic mix of bird, photography, illness, writing, grief, dementia and philosophical blogs (to name a few) and it is often very difficult to keep up. The good thing is that most bloggers understand this difficulty and don’t mind if you don’t read their every word/post – phew!

I would never go to a support group, I already have enough friends in my non-blog life, and I am not naturally gregarious, so I am rather astounded at how much I have come to depend on the bloggers with whom I have become close – an extraordinary community made up of some of the kindest people I have ever come across. I also enjoy offering my own friendship and support to these fellow bloggers and this has become a meaningful part of my life.

This blog has also connected me better to my already-there friends and family, sometimes disconcertingly. For example, I said to my friend the other day, “Guess what happened yesterday?” and she said, “I already know, Jules – I read your blog.”


So, in the spirit of miscellaneous gratitude, here is Diamond, our shyest goose….


…. saying thank you with me!


Cooler weather, finally!

As you can see from the pictures below it has been very very dry here but finally today it rained properly. Ahhhh! The best thing about this for me is that my nearly healed pompholyx condition will hopefully not come back. It is definitely much better now that it isn’t so hot.

Pearl and Woodroffe searching futilely for insects in the dry grass:
Michael Jackson wishing the pond were fuller:
A forlorn parrot on a dead palm branch:
Freckle and MJ waiting for rain (or bread!)
One of our many crows in a dying wattle tree:

I did a whole lot of reading today (once again) about pompholyx, and was alarmed at various people’s stories. Some people had suffered repeated outbreaks for over 20 years! One man had tried to kill himself. Another had had to quit his job because it entailed the handling of chemicals. One woman was unable to change her baby’s nappies due to the pain. I read story after story after story and it became very clear to me that there is very little known about the disease, there is apparently no cure, despite many remedies, and I have now compiled a list of vitamins and creams and potions that I will buy tomorrow. My dermatology appointment isn’t for another week and a half so in the meantime I have taken bits of advice from all I have read and will endeavor to avoid all of the possible triggers: water, soap, coffee, cleaning products, dairy, wheat, dust, tea, heat, stress, alcohol, wool, and anxiety.

I feel very positive – and cool – and a bit dirty!


To my sister-in-law, Pat

Dear Pat

I am finding it very difficult to believe you are gone because Anthony and I were just talking about you the other day, about your pink jacket, the fact that you made the effort to come 200 kilometers south for his 75th birthday even though you and your family had to go back to Perth that same night. You and Anthony sat next to each other all night and I was a teensy bit jealous!

Anthony and Pat2

And I remember your 90th – the joy of it, and your family, and your beautiful pink jacket, and how much you loved the photo I gave you of Anthony sitting on his motorbike with baby Ming. In amongst the food, frivolity, speeches and chitchat, you shone bright – always, always with a glint in your eyes, a mixture of wisdom and wit. And once again, you and Anthony sat next to each other.

The weekly phone-calls, before your hearing failed and Anthony had gone into the nursing home, were a highlight for us. Ming would answer the phone and yell “It’s Auntie Pat, you guys!”

I remember being a bit nervous of you when I married your little brother even though, at the time, he was 57 and you were the age he is now. It took you a little while to approve of me but, when you did, you gave me your full older-sister-approval and I learned how to answer you back!

Even though I never had a chance to tell you when you were still alive, I want you to know, Pat, that you taught me how to be assertive, how not to take nonsense, and how to love unconditionally. You also taught me the art of a brandy before salmon mornay – and the way you and John smiled at each other is an image that is imprinted on my mind forever.

I know, if I had tried to say these things to you in years gone by, you would probably have shrugged them off as sentimental because, like Anthony, you were/are pragmatic and that is one of your many legacies.

At your 90th, I was sitting next to Mary, the daughter who lived with you and she said, quietly, with her eyes full of tears, that it was a privilege to look after you. And, that day, seeing how much all of your children and grandchildren loved you, I wished for a moment that I had had more than one child.

One of the things I will miss most is those booming phone conversations you had with Ming, both of you shouting into the receiver so loudly that I could hear the whole thing. Your first question was always “How is Anthony?” and Ming and I would reassure you.

And remember that time you came to Glengarry Hospital, when Anthony was being assessed for a new medication regime? You created a bit of a scene with your “What are you doing with my brother?” The nursing staff loved you immediately!

I will miss you so much, Pat. And the first thing I am going to do, after your funeral, is to buy a pink jacket. My/our deepest sympathy to your beautiful children and grandchildren. You were – you ARE unforgettable.

Lots of love
Julie, Ants and Ming


Things that go bump in the night

You know the other night when Ming and I had that argument and he fled from my wrath to his shed? Well, the argument was about the fact that even though he moved into his shed months ago, he still hadn’t cleared a lot of his stuff out of his bedroom in the house. I had been extreeeeeeeemely patient about his procrastination until that night, when I snapped, the reason being that this bedroom was to become my new office so that I can get out of this little back veranda hovel that the mice like to invade (they like paper).

After Ming stomped off to his shed, muttering things like “You always make me feel so bad”, and me shouting, “Just clear your stuff out tomorrow or I will chuck it all out the front door!” he and I reconciled via texts and he promised to do the job the next day.

Well he kept his promise because at exactly midnight I was awoken by some very noisy activity in his ex-bedroom (which is adjacent to mine). I lay there grinning like a hyena listening to what I realized was Ming moving his stuff out of that room. This went on for about an hour and then all was quiet again, I tiptoed into the next room to find it totally empty! Elation! Then, on the hall table, Ming had left a long list of things he would do when the sun came up. I grinned again and went back to bed.

It wasn’t until after breakfast, that I discovered that he had simply moved all of his stuff into the living room! But it’s okay now – all of it is in his shed which now resembles the chaos of a crime scene (what happened to my neat and tidy boy?)

But my room is ready for me now and I am so excited! It is a room with lots of history because it used to be Anthony’s mother’s room, then it was the office where I wrote my PhD, then it was Ming’s childhood bedroom. We have now taken the huge musk-pink carpet mat out (over 40 years old) to reveal the beautiful jarrah floorboards, and Ming has vacuumed from corner to corner and cleaned the windows inside and out, and we have arranged for a handyman to fix the cracks and holes in the wall and ceiling. Then we will get my painter friend in to paint it crimson (just joking – white!)

It is a big, light-filled room with a view to the front paddock from the north-facing windows. That’s where I will put my desk, computer etc. tomorrow!

The interesting thing about this little adventure is that, for me, it feels like I will have my own beautiful space in this house for the first time in 20 years. It’s not that I felt deprived but, having married an older man and moved into an already established household, I have never quite felt a sense of ownership and, in terms of making any sort of mark, I have done very little in the way of interior decorating, renovating or changing anything – so much so that when Anthony’s relatives drop in they feel they have stepped back in time!

I have decided to call this old/new room my writing room. A new beginning. It will be wonderful to move out of the hovel of an office I am in now where things go bump in the night constantly, especially in the ceiling where rodents, goannas and possibly snakes have sprinting competitions.

Ah, the joy of change!


Tomorrow is always waiting for you.

Today was pretty awful and was made worse by a mother/son argument that escalated into recriminations, guilt, and ‘walk away’ tactics. To some extent, this worked but Ming and I were still so miserable – he in his shed and me in the house. So we began texting each other and have now established that I am the boss and he is the slave and he has even called me ‘Commander'; this is a good move.

Oh the joy of tomorrow! Of course tomorrow brings a fair few uncertainties but it mostly brings the excitement of anticipation, adventure and something new and fresh … and a new Ming, a new me and, maybe, a new Anthony!

Tomorrow is a gift.


The Land of Blah

For several days now I have been in and out of the Land of Blah – you know, that place where, even when you stub your toe badly, you can’t be bothered saying ‘ouch’. It’s a funny sort of place, this Land of Blah, but not in a way that makes anyone smile; smiling is kind of frowned on here because it depletes energy and you need energy to get out of the Land of Blah.

I never choose to visit the Land of Blah but sometimes I accidentally wake up there (nightmares can do this), or else I am sitting with Anthony in his room in the nursing home and I am transported into the surreality of his confusion so much so that his blank expression becomes mine.

Sometimes I meet people I know in the Land of Blah and it shocks me. ‘What are you doing here?’ I feel like asking them but of course I don’t because it is a place of such silent mystery and private misery – a paradoxical place of in-between.

I don’t like it in the Land of Blah so I usually manage to clamber out and up into my normal life. And this is what I see: a beautiful peacock family.







Robyn's photo

And the Land of Blah once again recedes into its own grey nothingness.


Sitting ducks

I have a new respect for birders and people who take photographs of wild birds. This morning I went outside with my camera specifically to take photos of wild (as opposed to tame) birds.

There was an abundance of course, all flying to and fro, landing in the trees, frolicking on the lawn, singing raucously, and playing hide and seek (from me!)

So I had to content myself with my happy-to-pose-for-you sitting ducklings.

Here is one of Michael Jackson who has developed some stylish markings on his head:


And here are Misha and Freckle:


I will keep trying with the wild birds ….



The wild birds!

We have a lot of crows, parrots, doves, magpies, willy wagtails, wrens, and other wild birds, who hang around a lot more then they used to here. This is obviously due to the overabundance of wheat (which is what I give all of the peafowl, guinnea fowl, and the gang).

This afternoon I decided to sit down and watch quietly as the wild birds fluttered and tiptoed into the tame birds’ little sanctuary. Tomorrow I plan to take better photos but here are a couple of Gutsy9 sharing a bowl of wheat with two crested pigeons.



(I actually thought these guys were doves until I googled their description. I feel really knowledgeable now.)



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