wings and things

The loss of Gutsy 9, our pet peahen

The evening before last, Ming found Gutsy 9’s body just in front of his shed. He came over to the house to tell me that he wasn’t quite sure that it was Gutsy but he’d taken the body to the woodpile. He had two friends over to stay, so he said they would leave me alone and they retired to his shed.

Once the boys had gone, I did the crying thing, then I took a torch and went out to the woodpile, but I couldn’t find her, so I came back inside and cried some more. I felt bewildered, because, despite the danger of wild foxes, the peafowl have always ranged free because they can fly up and away. Our dogs, too, had become so used to their presence that they would drink from the same water trough.

I will never know what happened that evening, or how it happened, but at dawn yesterday I went over to the woodpile and there she was – her crooked left foot and her white feathers making it easy to identify her body. I picked her up, but couldn’t find where she had been wounded; her eyes were closed and her neck flopped against mine in a last hug.

As a pied peachick (half white, half blue) G9 was rejected by her mother nearly three years ago, so I raised her, and we all loved her. Just the other day, we had some visitors and I picked her up and put her on my lap and she purred her unique hello.



I feel absolutely devastated, but am now beginning to appreciate G9’s fantastic presence in our lives … in retrospect – my beautiful bird.




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!



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!


Feathers and figs

Well the whole lawn is strewn here and there with the feathers shed by our peacocks. Periodically I go around picking them up and last week Dina (my decluttering expert) tied them into bunches to be sold and she bought 20 herself, so I made $20!


Don’t worry. I don’t keep a display like this on top of the stove ordinarily; I just put them there for the picture.


As you can see, peacock feathers are varied. The above picture shows the underneath feathers.

The lawn underneath the two ancient fig trees is also strewn – with dead figs. Tip: never step on a dead fig and, if you do, clean the sole of your shoe immediately. Dead figs are like superglue!

I have been picking and giving away as many figs as I can because the heat is killing them off fast. This morning was a bit cooler so I picked heaps and they are now in a sink full of water to drown the ants. I’m taking them into the guys at the restaurant Ming works at. They go very well with blue cheese.


Picking figs always reminds me of Gar, Anthony’s mother. She would always want me to try to pick the topmost fig by hook or by crook and, yes, we usually used her walking stick to do so.


So, with the figs and feathers, I am feeling quite rich!


The elusive parrot


I bet you can’t even see him! Every morning I wake up and through my bedroom window I see these guys all over the giant pear tree but as soon as I venture outside with my camera they hide!

I’ve never seen this variety of parrot here before but then again my observation skills are not well honed and it may be that I have mistaken this breed of parrot for the very common ‘Twenty-eight’ parrot. Here is a link to information about the 28

Unlike the 28, this elusive parrot is multi-coloured – greeny blue at first glance but with an underside of red, yellow and sometimes a red cap – absolutely beautiful! I’m going to keep on trying to get a decent photo but it is difficult to see them in amongst the pears.


It feels like a bit of an adventure to me – figuring out what kind of parrot this is, and training myself in the art of observation (and getting up early again, early-bird-catches-worm and all that!)

Once upon a time I would have been shocked at the idea of bird-watching, picking flowers, noticing the sunset, growing tomatoes (okay well I grew two before they died), cooking a curry from scratch, listening to music without doing something else at the same time. I would have thought what a waste of time! But now all the wing flits, the snow of wattle blossoms on the lawn, the aroma of a simmering curry, and the constant squawking of the crows, peacocks and this elusive parrot – all of of this life stuff, simple, small, daily details – makes me appreciate every single moment I have left with Anthony.


The peacock dance

Every morning at around the same time, King and Prince do this incredibly synchronized dance next to the water tank. Usually I watch them from the bedroom window but today I went out to take some photos and when they saw me they seemed to put some extra effort into their routine. A couple of the females came up to me in the hope of bread but when they saw I had none, they turned up their beaks as if to say ‘well you’re just as useless as those two fools flirting with the water tank.’

The peahens’ indifference to the peacocks’ efforts is hilarious to watch and it is a wonder to me that any chicks are produced at all! Anyway, I watched the peacocks dance for about an hour (yes they can do their routine for well over an hour; it must be exhausting), then I came inside with a big smile.

I will take the photos in to show the women in the dementia wing of the nursing home where I volunteer on the weekends between 3 and 4pm, and to show Anthony of course.



What a peculiar blog!

I have just looked back to discover that tomorrow will mark the third anniversary of this blog. The reason I was looking back was because I want to find, in amongst all of the bird stuff, everything I have written about Anthony and Parkinson’s disease and how he, Ming and I have coped. I thought it might be useful to compile these entries into one document and see if it works as a whole, maybe as a book. Apart from the wonder of all the friendships wrought via blogging, it has also been wonderful to find that I have a record of these past three years because I don’t think I would have remembered otherwise, except as a kind of blurry fog of joys and sorrows – mostly joys.

The birds, and the wings idea, have punctuated the last three years in real and metaphorical ways. Many have now been lost to fox attacks, I have given the emus away, and all three of the original caged birds have been set free. We now have a dozen peafowl, nine guinneafowl, five geese and one duck. The casualties have been heartbreaking and I have decided not to acquire any more due to their vulnerability to fox attacks. Gutsy9 is still thriving and one of the two peachicks hatched last year has survived and I think there will be more chicks soon. I have stopped interfering in the way natural selection works. All of the birds still take bread out of my hand and give me enormous joy (except Godfrey, the gander who likes to bite me!)

But everything changes and now that most of my daytime hours are spent in the nursing home, the birds and I don’t commune as much. Hence, when they hear my voice, they come running AT me with a mixture of love and greed (for wheat) that it is hilarious to watch. And even the birds who are gone continue to live on via Anthony’s hallucinations. Almost every day he points them out through his nursing home window. The outdoor tables and chairs become turkeys; the lawn is speckled with chooks and guinneafowl; and the flowerbeds are parrots. I can see them too.

It seems a rather peculiar blog in its higgledy-piggledyness and some of my entries make me cringe, but hopefully I will be able to draw out enough of the love story to compile a coherent record that might be helpful to others who live with Parkinson’s disease.

Here is a picture of the nearly grown up peachick, still very much attached to his mother (in foreground)!


A white peacock twirls: a haiku (or two)

A white peacock twirls
in an old, red dairy shed,
his dance ancient, new.


He wrestles the wind
and the dust of the old shed,
to be absolute!


Gutsy 9 – my fantastic bird-in-hand

For those who don’t know, G9 is a peachick who, for some reason (maybe because she was half blue/half white) was abandoned by whoever hatched her. I caught her as she was scuttling, terrified, into the old dairy and pretty much raised her with the hands of Ants and Ming.


Today, I decided that I would come home earlier than usual from the nursing home. I told Ants I had to go and feed the birds and dogs, and then said I would see him later.

Ants: You won’t come back.
Me: What do you mean? I always come back!
Ants: Not, yes, what car?
Me: Our car, silly!
Ants: How many calves? I need those people for the fireplace
Me: Only ten left to feed. Ming will do it. I know who you mean for the fireplace.
Ants: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, should we ring tomorrow?
Ants: You do it – something is wrong with me.

When I got home, I went straight out to find Gutsy and, as usual, she was waiting for me:

I’d like a word, Julie


You’re always out and about and I feel ….

Oh I think I’m going to cry – how embarrassing!




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,684 other followers