wings and things

“Handsome man!”

One of the staff at the nursing home always makes a point of greeting Anthony with “Handsome man!” Her wide, glorious smile almost always elicits his own smile and today that was the case.

The simplicity and constancy of this gesture is extremely comforting for me too, because I know she, and so many other staff, care about him. Genuinely.

A recent conversation:

Anthony: They love you. They always ask for you – they say, ‘Where is Julie? Where is your wife?’

Me: No, it’s you they love, not me, silly!

Anthony: No, it’s you! They always want a Julie in the room.

This afternoon, Anthony was extremely lucid until around 4.30pm when he kept ‘seeing’ me on his right hand side, when I was on the left, and vice versa.

Anthony: Where is Julie?

Me: You mean me?

Anthony: Oh there you are!

And that was when she came back – this beautiful staff member – and said those magic words:

Handsome man!


This, that….


Well I got back from Perth last week and the first thing I did was to rush to my new beaut vegetable garden and also check the chooks. I fed and watered both with a sense of quiet glee.

The second thing I did was to go inside and log on. When nothing happened I didn’t panic since all the green lights were indicating merrily that the internet wasn’t too far away.

Six hours later, having spoken to six different technical support people, all of whom were amazingly patient, kind and positive (with the exception of one woman whose sighs, when I didn’t understand her click34xcableetc instructions, became thunderous on loudspeaker) were confident.

At one point, during this ungleeful, longwinded experience, I rang Ming who said that when he got home he’d sort it out in a jiffy. Well he tried, and even spoke to other technical support people, to no avail.

The Ming then said, with great compassion and a generous hug, “Maybe you’re just not intelligent enough, Mum….?”

I let his observation linger for the ten days during which I had no internet except via my phone. When I began to get the 5s mixed us with the Ss, I gave up.

Anyway, yesterday the replacement modem arrived at the post office and Ming picked it up, brought it home, connected it and voila!

So what am I supposed to do now? I can’t possibly answer all of the zillions of emails and comments and facebooky stuff; I can’t possibly catch up on ten days of my blog friends’ blogs; I can’t even catch up with what I was going to do before I lost the internet because my blog kind of reminded me of what to do.

I survived my ten day blip of no internet, but the person most affected by my off-the-internet-radar status was my beautiful mother. Meg and I have a strong internet relationship via email and Facebook, but she is more attentive to messages than I am, so, when I lost the internet, she was the first to miss me.

And today is her birthday. She is 81, looks 61 and acts like 21. So today Meg came to the farm to see the vegetable garden then we went to a local winery for lunch. The secret surprise was that Ming and A. would join us and that was a fantastic thing!

It’s great to be blogging again. That internet blip taught me something really profound: I need the internet!

One of the hardest things for me now is having fun – the guilt of it. Lunches with friends, learning how to garden with new friends, figuring out the future, altering and/or discarding things in this old house, renewing ….

and the other….


I am so cool!

I feel the heat terribly and, as some of my friends may remember, a couple of summers ago, I developed a condition called “pompholyx“.

(Warning: if you click on the above link you might be grossed out by the pictures, just as I was by the condition).

Anyway, since one of the triggers is excessive perspiration, which I vividly remember my dad having and now it’s obviously my turn, I made a big decision. Air conditioning!

I pretty much live in my writing room, which used to be Gar’s bedroom (Anthony’s mother). Anyway, her 1970s air conditioner died last year, so last week I made the call and the aircon. guys and the electrician installed it this morning. It’s not a particularly hot day (only in the mid-20s C), but as I waved my saviours goodbye, I was already dripping, despite wearing a sweatband.

And now? Ahhh, the bliss of being so cool and the comfort of knowing that when the temperature hits 40 degrees (any time soon as summer approaches), I will have a safe haven! Okay so, in the big scheme of things, pompholyx may not seem like such a serious condition but it drove me quite mad for months a couple of years ago.

I was reminding our doctor the other day and he immediately looked at my hands where, during a funny little heatwave last week, the blisters had begun to appear.

Me: You can’t see them now – I scratched them off and it wasn’t that bad.

Doctor: Mmmmm.

Me: But I can feel them coming back – the blisters. So I think I might need botox to stop me sweating? I read about that possibility.

Doctor: No. I’ll order some blood tests; it could be hormonal.

Me: Yes, of course, but I don’t think it’s just menopausalish because I perspire a hell of a lot more than any of my equally menopausal friends!

Doctor: Mmmmm.

Me: And remember how we discussed cranio-facial hyper-hydrosis, or whatever you call it, last year? That’s me! It’s just my face, head and hands – the rest of me sweats normally.

Doctor: Mmmmm.

Okay so the doctor doesn’t do the mmmmmm thing loudly but it’s definitely a component of our conversations, with a chuckle here and there. I much prefer the mmmmm.

Anyway, as the young aircon. guys were leaving, I apologised for the peacock noise (it’s spring, so they are yaaaaawking constantly). One of the guys said ‘They are so cool!’

I agree and here are a couple of shots of Prince minus his back view!

As this beautiful white peacock does his twirling, fanning, wonderful dance, his feathers muscle their way into the breeze and sing:

I am so cool!


The suffering conundrum

I just don’t get it. Why does one person cop multiple illnesses? And why does this seem to happen to the beautiful people?

Later this week I will be travelling to Perth to meet my friend at the airport, after which we will spend two luxurious nights at a resort. During the days, I will take my friend to her medical appointments; in the evenings we will sip wine, eat pizza, and reminisce.

She was the first kid to say hello to me on the bus to school after my family moved from PNG to Australia. Since then, we have had years of little contact due to busyness, geography etc. but, more recently, have reconnected.

‘How is it possible for you to still laugh?’ I asked her on the phone tonight, to which she replied with her laugh.

My friend suffers severe eye conditions and an unhealed broken foot and yet she can still maintain laughter within her suffering. How does she do this?

I haven’t mentioned her name because she is very private but I so wish I could salute her publicly because she is amazingly philosophical and pragmatic.

And maybe she and I will make a bit of sense out of the suffering conundrum when we see each other in a couple of days. I can’t wait!


Sorry about that image. Prince always seems to want to give me the back view. Here is a better view.




I have discovered a route around this countryside that is hopefully truck-free; I have bought a new bicycle pump; I have dusted the cobwebs of my bicycle; I have made myself determined ….




Full of Beans 2

Well, I am so delighted that I am almost speechless. In a mere 24 hours ….


I have to admit that I found myself a bit shy of the tall, red-haired man who performed a bit of a miracle so energetically. I came in and out of the house, met his lovely wife and youngest (part of his team), made them a cup of tea but not much else.

Now it will be up to me.


Full of beans!

A long lost dream is coming true via a tall man with red hair, named Dan, whose business is called Full of Beans. Thanks to him, my vegetable garden is being created! If it weren’t for being invited to join the gardening group I would never have known about him, so I am very grateful. Ironically, I can’t attend tomorrow’s get-together because Dan is coming back to do the planting and I want to learn.


One of the things that really appeals to me about Full of Beans is that it provides an ongoing maintenance service for gardening novices like me.


Okay, so gardening friends far and wide may see this as a kind of cheating on my part (employing someone to make me a vegetable garden) but oh well. I am already crazy about what Dan has begun to create and can hardly contain my excitement.


Anthony was an avid gardener, despite not having much time, with milking the cows and looking after his mother. Nevertheless almost everything he planted, over 50 years ago, still survives. But he was never the least bit interested in growing vegetables. A couple of years into our marriage, I asked for a vegetable garden but he said there was no room. I argued that there was plenty of room (5 acres around the house!) to no avail.

And, as Ming grew up into an adolescent, he formed the same opinion. It was just a small dream of mine but neither of them would have a bar of it. That’s okay; they just weren’t interested and maybe didn’t realise how much I wanted the vegetable garden. I couldn’t do it by myself so one year my brother came out and dug me a patch and every single gigantic zucchini gave me a thrill. But that went by the wayside in the face of Anthony’s mysterious deterioration in health (we didn’t know about his Parkinson’s then) and the fact that I was working full-time that year.


Now that Anthony is no longer cognisant of our shared reality; now that Ming is in a fantastic relationship; now that I am learning how to be completely alone, a vegetable garden seems profound.

A long lost dream is coming true via a tall man with red hair, named Dan, whose business is called Full of Beans.


An argument about Anthony’s smile

You know how I’ve been saying how wonderful it is to see Anthony smiling again, and that I’ve been crediting myself with having made a huge effort to get that smile back? Well, Ming disagrees.

Today was a day off work for Ming so he went to see Anthony and I had a day at home. When he got back he told me that he had Anthony laughing!

Ming: Mum, Dad never lost his smile!

Me: You don’t see him as much so you don’t know – anyway you can always make him smile because you’re Ming!

Ming: So can you and so can anybody!

We left it at that; after all there is no point having an argument about a smile. Nevertheless our brief argument got me thinking about Anthony’s Parkinson’s ‘mask’ (the blank, unblinking, slack-jawed expression on his face, typical of PD). And I realised that the only reason I see this more than anyone else does is probably because, when I visit, I am there for hours so I see the fluctuations.

For example, when staff come into Anthony’s room and banter or flirt with him, he smiles; when friends and relatives visit, he smiles; when Ming and I visit, he smiles. So perhaps I should adjust my thinking to the possibility that it has become easier to conjure/coerce that smile? Maybe Anthony’s smile, and even his laugh, was always there, always ready to be there.

Maybe it was my own smile that went missing for so long.


Pea and ham soup is not photogenic

That’s all I have to say!

ps. The extra ingredient is another ham hock, so it kind of changes into ham and pea soup. But it still looks like muck ha!



For the last several weeks I have been making pot after pot of pea and ham soup, freezing it in little batches, or serving it to friends and family, but mainly eating it myself. I just can’t seem to get enough of it!

I take it into the nursing home and share it with Anthony often. He is a ruthless great food critic. Some of my experimental additions weren’t very successful; for example, the addition of chilli, mint, capsicums and curry powder didn’t work. I mean it was edible, but it just wasn’t pea and ham soup the way it’s supposed to be, you know?

Having run out of my last batch, I over-enthusiastically over-filled the slow cooker and had to transfer half of the ingredients to another big saucepan before the kitchen floor became a lake of pea and ham soup. So now I have two simmering pots filling the empty house with aroma.

The usual ingredients are split peas, chopped vegetables (onions, garlic, celery, but not capsicums) and, of course, a ham hock. But I do have one extra secret ingredient and I think this makes MY pea and ham soup superior, ha!

Tomorrow, the answer to this conundrum will be posted, as well as a photo shoot of the finished soup. I am hoping that, universally, kitchens, restaurants, food journalists, and people with nothing else to do, will clamour at my blog-door.

But that probably won’t happen because I’ll take a small batch of this big new batch of pea and ham soup into the nursing home and Anthony will taste it and just say, “Not bad” and then we will have the following argument:

Me: What do you mean ‘Not bad’? Why can’t you ever say it’s fantastic or wonderful?

Anthony: Because it’s, well ….

Me: What?

Anthony: Ordinary.

Almost every day, I go in and sit next to Ants, watch television, chill out, answer emails, wrestle with my iPad, for several hours – and he and I have these strange, fragmented, haphazard, conversations. Sometimes it seems really lazy to just sit there with him, always with my hand on his arm, watching Dr Phil then going back to our current series, West Wing.

He is sleepier and sleepier every day this week. I wonder what next week will be like apart from a surplus of pea and ham soup.

Next week will be ordinary, and ordinary is a joy.