wings and things


Statistics have never been my forte, however, in the process of putting together a photo-book for my mother’s 80th birthday, I have had to become a bit statsy:

For example, in sifting through hundreds of photos, with the simple quest of finding each of the eleven grandchildren conveniently posed next to Grandma, I have found 1500 of Ashtyn, but only one or two of the other ten. So now I am terrified that one or other of my mother’s grandchildren will be upset not to to be featured as much as their peers.

Not to worry: I have now made a list of all of the grandchildren who have been printed out: with Grandma, without Grandma, upside-down, looking gorgeous, looking like the ink ran out, tolerating the fact that their baby photo has the wrong name on it. I think it will be a lovely gift anyway as soon as my mother reimburses me for 15 ink cartridges, post-glue-stress syndrome, and helps me clear up the mess of my previously tidy writing room!





There are several reasons that I have become somewhat disconnected from the blogosphere lately:

1. I have made Anthony’s nursing home room a simulation of our home;
2. I’ve become addicted to the Danish series, The Killing;
3. I’m preoccupied with crafting a present for my mother’s soon-to-be 80th birthday;
4. I have given up on trying to tempt Ming with my ox-tail stew;
5. My volunteering in the dementia ward on the weekends is a gift to me because, years ago, when I worked as a nurse in various nursing homes, there was never any time to actually chat with patients; now it is actually something that is scheduled!

So, I have decided to go for a job at the nursing home in the hope that my so-far volunteering reputation will help.


Rowing the boat!

My mother’s 80th birthday is happening soon!
We are all going on a boat cruise lunchy thing in a few weeks.

Over twenty of us –
That’s my two brothers and me,
our spouses,
plus all of our kids,
plus my nephew’s wife,
and my niece’s husband,
one newish grandkid (very special),
the boys’ girlfriends, the girls’ boyfriends,
someone who knows how to row the boat!

Idiotically (I am not the least bit art-and-crafty) I suggested putting together a book for ‘Grandma’. I solicited quotes and photos from all grandchildren, very successfully, and now I am covered in glue and ink, and know the difference between a portrait and a landscape photograph.

Ming came into my writing room tonight to find the recent neat-and-tidiness chaotic with the ‘casualty’ photos all over the floor.

Me: I love doing this, Ming! Grandma is going to be thrilled!

Ming (backing away cautiously): Mum, I’m on my way out, okay? I’m not interested in whatever you are doing here because it just looks like a mess to me. Bye!

Anyway, I am having a huge amount of fun with the Grandma book and it is comforting to know that if that boat-cruisy boat falters, Grandma will probably row us back to shore ….



Anthony picking olives a few years ago

I have had a much more social week than usual with the arrival of my niece’s in-laws from Scotland: activities have included a beach barbecue, a day-long winery tour, a visit to our farm, my great-niece’s first birthday, and then a 21st last night. All delightful! Obviously, this altered the routine with Ants and the volunteering, but not hugely and I didn’t visit him at all on the winery day, hoping he wouldn’t notice.

This week is similarly social, with my best friend, Tony (the priest who married us), coming down for the night and a professor I worked with a couple of years ago, dropping in with his wife on his way back to Perth the next morning. This will slightly alter the routine with Ants once again but since it all worked out okay last week, I figure it should be okay this week too.

I think I blogged about the new routine awhile ago; it’s pretty simple really and was probably staring me in the face for several exhausting months, but I have always had rather slow reflexes – ha! The epiphany arrived at the doorstep of my heart one foggy morning and said two words: “Switch homes”.

It took me ages to understand what Epiph meant but then, bingo, the penny dropped. Instead of bringing Anthony home, either by wheelchair taxi, me, or Ming (visits that became increasingly gruelling, physically, mentally and emotionally, for all three of us), it was gently suggested that I simply make myself at home in the nursing home. Epiph is good like that; she recognizes my lack of pragmatism.

Since then, our marriage, Anthony’s illness, Ming growing up, and all the other bits and pieces of emotion and stuff….

have uncurled raised/dropped fists
have unfurled the residue of grief into a great wide flag of hope

The social stuff is good too because it provides me with conversation material for Ants. He loves it! I feel like I am learning something really important about dementia, or maybe love, not sure yet. A year ago I was struggling with how to cope with the impending boredom of the nursing home. Now, this is my attitude:

“Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.”
Thomas Szasz


Food, glorious food!

I bought the slow-cooker, pictured below, several months ago when I thought our electric stove/oven had had the bomb. It wasn’t until our electrician came over to do another job, that it was discovered that the switch to the stove was turned to ‘off’ somehow. Embarrassed, I admitted that I didn’t even know there was an on/off switch.

Anthony used to do all this stuff, I said, meekly.

No charge, said the electrician, wryly.

Anyway, during all of those months when I didn’t think I had a working stove/oven, I learned how to use the slow-cooker and I love it! I used to chop everything finely but now I just throw it all in, uncut, and do the mixing/mashing when I get home. After all, why chop everything at 7am when you can just mash it at 7pm?

I am not quite sure what I am making in that wonderful slow-cooker but here is what I threw in:

Minced beef
Wild garlic + leaves
Onions, chives, lemon grass
5 red and 2 green chillis
Turmeric and ginger roots
Masses of fresh parley and coriander leaves
A cup of red wine
A few cups of stock
Salt and pepper
Lemon juice

In case it isn’t already obvious, one of the things I love about this kind of cooking is that you can be really creative, and experimental, because whatever you are cooking is going to take so long that you can easily get up at 2am and check for flavor. Sometimes the dish needs more salt; sometimes a bit of honey (if it’s a strong curry).


Happy birthday to my beautiful great niece, N, and to my friend, M – nice partying with you!


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!


Another person dies

A few moments ago I found out that a neighbor had died and I got the most terrible shock. His office was next to mine at the university a decade or so ago, but then he retired to run a farmstay. Not so long ago, I gave him my emus because he had bigger yards. He was known fondly as ‘Farmer John’. I have sent a private message to his wife, and will go to the funeral, of course, but am still reeling that he is actually gone.

He left the university to follow his dream of having a farmstay and, with incredible hard work, and his wife’s support and culinary expertise, he made a success of it. I salute him.


Flowers, food and fun

It is so interesting that the avocado tree has unreachable fruit at its top, but is blossoming down below. The very last edible avocado is in the refrigerator, ready to take to Ants tomorrow (he loves them!)

photo (2)
photo (4)

I’d been bringing various camellias, roses and even bottle brush into the nursing home but the other day I thought I may as well tear off a whole branch of avocado blossoms and arrange them in Ants’ room. This whole flower thing is kind of weird because I really don’t have a clue about this garden Anthony established all those decades ago and have only begun to take a bit of an interest now because, well, why not! Also, every time I bring Ants flowers he gets a thrill out of it. I found two stray roses yesterday and their scent was fantastic.

Ages ago, I began taking an interest in cooking more interestingly, partly in order to be able to provide Ants with cakey stuff (he has a sweet tooth), partly in order to provide Ming with sustenance (he has a fussy tooth) and, more recently, because I have become fascinated by, and dedicated to, preparing food from scratch. It’s really time-consuming to chop or grind the herbs, roots, chilis etc. but what a great feeling/taste, and how nostalgic it makes me for my early days on this farm when Gar (Anthony’s mother) would point me in the right direction of the flour tin with her walking stick; teach me how to make white sauce; show me (with Anthony’s help – probably our first vaguely romantic moment!) how to pluck a duck and prepare for roasting.

Okay so my latest food discovery is stone-age bread. I just typed this into google out of curiosity and was a bit surprised to find there were already so many recipes. I tried the first one and bingo – beautiful! I would have taken a photo of my own successful loaf of bread but I’ve already eaten it! I will refine the recipe and post soon (yeah, I can hear the non-sighs of anticipation ha!)

Before Anthony became so ill with Parkinson’s disease etc., we had a relationship that was full of banter, teasing, laughter, fun. Some of the fun stuff was simply giving cheek so, today, when Ants tried to say something to me in his newishly quiet, croaky, soft voice, I took him by the shoulders (gently!) and said “SPEAK UP, ANTS, CLEAR YOUR THROAT, STOP BEING SO FEEBLE!” Then I punched him lightly in the shoulder and, yeeha! I was the recipient of one of his gradual, wonderful smiles – kind of like sunrise in the mist, bit by bit by bit.

[Note to other bloggers: I hope you know I am reading your posts but just no time atm to comment etc. x]