wings and things


The weather here is warming up rapidly and the five peacocks are madly competing for the attention of the three peahens. (I definitely need to replenish my stock of hens but don’t tell Ming!)

Every Spring the guys do their display thing, flirting with everything from the old dairy shed, to the car, to the windows of the enclosed back veranda. They also flirt with the peahens of course whose indifference is hilarious.

For most of the year, King Ken and Prince are the best of friends but during Spring they become bitter rivals:

King Ken: Don’t come any closer, kid.
Prince: Sorry, Uncle.

King Ken: And stop copying my moves!
Prince: I don’t mean to, Uncle, it’s just sort of automatic.

Prince: I bow to your majesty. You have to believe me, Uncle!


Then, all of a sudden, they flew up and at each other with claws and wings arrowed. I wasn’t quick enough, with my phone camera, to capture this brief struggle; also I had to break it up! King Ken skedaddled with the other Kings so I comforted Prince with a bit of bread.



Sometimes I wonder why I write these little stories, put fake words into the mouths of these beautiful, wordless birds via captions. I think it’s something to do with the way I first began to cope with Anthony’s Parkinson’s – the birds we accumulated – guinnea fowl, peafowl, various poultry…. In the beginning it was such a joy.

Then, as Anthony’s health deteriorated, and Ming needed spinal surgery, and I had to resign from my job at the university, the birds became symbolically, and realistically, a source of incredible comfort.




I’m sure Blaze was calmer last time I took him into the nursing home to see Anthony. This time, instead of following me in, he ran across the road to a block of flats and wouldn’t come back until I sat down in the parking lot and pretended I had food in my handbag.

Once I’d grabbed him, I carried him into the nursing home to see Ants. I had envisioned a cosy afternoon watching television with Blaze on Anthony’s lap, snoozing. But Anthony was in the dining room and, despite staff being able to get him to shuffle, using his walker, nearly all the way to his room, both a wheelchair and the hoist were eventually required to plonk him into his armchair. In the meantime Blaze and I went out into the back garden area, then visited a couple of the residents, then sat in the foyer.

When Ants was settled, I carried Blaze in and shut the door wishing I’d persevered in trying to find his leash. He was too excited to stay on Ants’ lap for long and kept wandering around curiously and trying to get out. He’d been patted and admired by staff and residents so I guess he wanted a bit more action. I accidentally shot a whole lot of little videos when I was actually trying to take a photo. The following is the only one that doesn’t include my expletive-ridden “Why won’t this camera work?”

Giving up on the camera, I took about 50 photos with my phone, which all look exactly like this one.

Fake caption: Man’s best friend.
Real caption: Jules, take this bloody dog away!

In light of this remark, and, after Blaze had done several hundred laps of Anthony’s room and bathroom, refused to relax on Anthony’s knees, turned his nose up at the water in the water bowl I’d brought in, I decided it might be time to go.

It was at this point that I realised there was a power failure because I couldn’t get Anthony’s television to cooperate. Then I got a text from my mother asking me if I were coming to my brother’s barbecue. I answered saying I thought the barbecue was the next day and I had Blaze so might only be able to drop in for a quick drink.

Unfortunately, my departure from the nursing home was delayed when I couldn’t find my car keys. It was suggested by several Blaze-loving staff that I could re-trace my steps. So I shut Blaze and Ants into Anthony’s room and went back to the flats where Blaze had first run away. No keys. I then went back to my car and looked underneath. No keys. Back inside the nursing home, I went back to all of the residents I’d visited. No keys. I went outside to the garden. No keys. I went back to Ants’ room to find them both nonplussed as I emptied my handbag of all its contents. No keys. I rang my mother and said, “No keys”.

Finally (an hour and a half after annoying everyone in my vicinity, especially Ants!) I remembered sitting in the foyer with Blaze. With hope hugging my heart, I shut Blaze in with Ants and ventured to the foyer and … there they were!

I said a (b)elated goodbye to all, gave Ants a big kiss, and came home, promising myself I would never take Blaze into the nursing home again without a leash; and never ever again lose my car keys.

Today, the latter has already happened!



‘Ago’ is a word I have never thought about until this afternoon. Now, I miss ago.

Lately, I haven’t been able to find the right words to describe Anthony’s condition as it ebbs away. A few days ago, he was so incredibly, cheekily, the Ants from many years ago; the next day he was like someone comatosed; today, as I left, he asked me to get four pieces of steak for tea.

Physically, he and I both cope well. After all, at the moment, Ants has very little physical pain, and me being a young girl (ha!) of 56, driving from farm to town to see him is not a big deal.

One of the many lovely staff at the nursing home sent me this picture of Ants during an animal visit activity. Thank you so much Chloe!


This has inspired me to take Blaze (mini-dachshund) in to see Ants tomorrow again. Blaze (son of Inky 2 and Doc 4) will remind us of once ago.



Swings and roundabouts 3

We had a couple of family gatherings on the weekend. On Saturday it was my first great niece’s birthday party. Neve, my oldest brother’s first grandchild, is already, at 2, very stylish, so I bought her a multi-coloured tutu which her mother says she loves. The finding of this tutu was somewhat serendipitous because on the day before the party, my friend (E. from the nursing home, who I wrote about a few posts back), had set up a stall of her crafts, including tutus! And, just before she packed up I found the perfect one for Neve. I am kicking myself for forgetting to take a photo of that tutu – oh well.

Then, on Sunday, we had another family gathering at the home of another crafty person – my mother. One of the purposes of this pizza + cheesecake lunch was for family members from down south, and in-laws from Scotland, to get their first glimpse of my first great nephew, Spencer. And it was a great glimpse as you can see in this photo of my youngest brother with his first great nephew.


Like E. (oh to hell with anonymity – her real name is Ellen) my mother, Meg, is talented in the art of craft, her own speciality being hairpin lace. Here is a picture of Spencer in his Meg-made baby shawl.



And the above scanned picture is a newspaper article from a few years ago that featured my mother’s hairpin lace baby shawls! I thought she was going to get famous (I was going to be her rich agent!) but I guess baby shawls are not in the category of investment, especially if they are burped upon.

There are two more babies-on-the-way in my family now so my mother will be busy with hairpin lace once again. In the last 12 months around eight of the nursing staff have had babies and we gave them all a shawl; I paid for the wool and my mother did the craft.

Okay, I need to bring this to a coherent conclusion but I can’t be bothered with coherent. Prince is still trying to impress the indifferent chooks to no avail….



The last time Anthony came to a family occasion was about two years ago and it was a horrible experience – the wheelchair taxi, my family’s empathy, my tears on his departure. When I look back, I am in awe of how we tried always to include Ants in every family gathering … until it just became impossible.


Martha: She’s forgotten to get the laying pellets again.
Mary: What? I’m starving!
Prince: Will you two just shut up!


Happy birthday, Neve!
Happy arrival, Spencer!


Swings and roundabouts 2

The two photos I put up in yesterday’s post had absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote and I only added them because, having been on the phone for nearly two hours, trying to get the internet back from its little holiday, I could! So here is my attempt to interpret what those two photos (and a few others) actually mean.


Prince – white peacock
Martha and Mary – the two white chooks
Whoopie – the new chook with the fancy hairdo

Prince: What the hell?
Mary to Martha: Quick! Hide! There’s a huge creature on the other side of the fence!

Martha to Mary: I think it’s okay. He just did this little purry thing in his throat. Anyway, we’re safe in this yard.
Mary: A purry thing! Martha, do you not realise that he is probably flirting with us?
Martha: Yeah, but you have to admit he is kind of cute.
Mary: Cut your beak off, Martha!

Prince: I’m not sure whether these strange, short, ugly things are my cup of tea after all.
Mary: See, Martha, not only does he talk to himself, he’s insulting. Ignore him!

Prince: Okay, so I’m not that good at introductions, but to be rejected so soon by these two whatever-they-ares is very disturbing.


Prince: Indifference hurts.


Whoopie: Is the coast clear yet?

Note 1: Whoopie was given to me by a friend who breeds beautiful poultry – thanks so much, Jane!

Note 2: When I first began writing this blog, Anthony was still at home, but ailing. We started to accumulate guinnea fowl and chooks because Ants remembered having these as a young boy/teenager and I wanted to cheer us all up. But then I got a teensy bit carried away with the whole bird thing (as past blog posts reveal ha!) It’s good, now, to begin again with just a few chooks…. even though this bewilders the peacocks!


Swings and roundabouts


Yesterday I said, rather blithely, “I refuse to be sad” (about Anthony’s Parkinson’s disease etc.). This morning I realised why it’s possible for me to say this.

Anthony isn’t sad!

It’s as simple as that. Okay, so saddish moments come and go, and the first year of him being in the nursing home was a hell of mutual sorrow. But, in retrospect, it was me shedding most of the tears, not Anthony. In fact often, when I left to come home, he would comfort me.

But it’s now that matters and in-the-now neither of us is sad, which is a bit of a miracle really. The weird irony is that I would not be able to cope with Anthony’s illnesses if it weren’t for his own emotional resilience. I’m not very good at emotional resilience, but Ants is.

People often think that the person in the nursing home is the vulnerable one and that he or she is the one in need of comfort. But sometimes it’s the other way around; it’s the visiting spouse or daughter, or grandson, or friend, who is in need of comfort.

Anthony comforts me!



The ‘climate change’ of Parkinson’s disease

I sometimes joke with various staff that Anthony’s ‘thermostat’ is faulty. I’m not sure why I do this jokey thing because it’s not funny and it’s one of the things that I worry about most.

Mostly, Anthony is freezing cold during the day – regardless of what the temperature is outside – and boiling hot during the night (again, regardless of the temperature).

So, as we enter Spring, it might be humid outside, and cool inside the nursing home. But, regardless of whatever temperature it is in reality, Anthony’s body temperature is almost always uncooperative/opposite/unpredictable.

When Ants was still at home, we lit the fireplace fire, the Aga, turned multiple heaters on, and even got air conditioning in the living room. But I could never get him warm enough!

During the days, all of this heating would be on and I would cover Ants’ knees with a blanket, light the fire etc., but he would still be cold.

Conversely, during the nights, Ants would be so hot and sweaty that I would have to take his blankets off and put the fan on.

A couple of the staff have told me about how hot and clammy he is when they put him to bed, so I bought a bunch of singlets in the hope they they will ‘magic away’ these temperature fluctuations.

It really bothers me though. Apart from me worrying about whether Anthony is too hot or too cold, I also worry that he has now reached the stage of not being able to tell anybody that he is too hot or too cold.

Anthony never complains about his illness, about being in a nursing home, about staff, about anything; he is the most resilient person I know.

I wish I could show the world what Anthony used to be like – LOUD, gregarious, kind, generous … and a zillion other adjectives!

PD doesn’t have to be sad. Okay I am struggling with Anthony’s PD and trying to figure a lot of things out, like this thermostat conundrum, but I refuse to be sad ….

…. because I have met some friends now who help me to cope and their kindness is extraordinary – the staff at the nursing home!