wings and things

Imagined conversation 41

Me: Nostalgia can be quite a pleasant sensation, can’t it, Ants.

Anthony: Yes and no.

Me: What do you mean, “yes and no”?

Anthony: Well every time I see anyone who looks a bit like you, I get a pang of it.

Me: With me it’s not people as much as things.

Anthony: Like what?

Me: That pottery we used to search Perth for.

Anthony: Arabia ware.

Me: Yes, except it’s from Finland.

Anthony: How do you know that?

Me: I just googled it.

Anthony: We don’t have any left do we?

Me: One saucer. I was going to try and get a cup to go with it but have suddenly realised I don’t particularly like it.

Anthony: Sacrilege!

Me: Anyway, how come a workaholic dairy farmer like yourself had a thing for Scandinavian tableware.

Anthony: I’ve taken that secret to my grave.

Me: C’mon, tell me, Ants. It’s one of the many things I wish I’d asked you before you died.

Anthony: Actually, I’ve forgotten.

Me: Oh well.

Anthony: And all these years I thought you liked it as much as I did.

Me: So did I! The only reason I want to find it now is because it reminds me of you, not because you are the god of good taste.

Anthony: But I am! I suppose you’re going to tell me you don’t like willow pattern now … hey, wait a minute, where are you going? Don’t avoid the question. Jules? Come back here!

Me: Haha!




Anthony’s sense of humour

Yesterday my first-born nephew (I have six nephews on my side of the family), and his beautiful fiancé, visited us in the nursing home. Jared has always had a soft spot for Anthony and vice versa. I didn’t tell Ants they were coming because I wanted it to be a surprise. It’s awhile since they’ve seen each other because Jared lives several hundred kilometres away, and Ants hadn’t met Carly yet. I was very excited, and a little bit nervous, about the visit.

When the young couple entered the room, I was in the middle of feeding Ants his tea; I jumped up and said, “Ants, Ants, it’s Jared; Jared’s here!”

Without the slightest hesitation, Anthony looked up at Jared and mumbled, “Well, I didn’t think it was Jesus Christ.” We all cracked up laughing, as I introduced Ants to Carly.

Anthony’s sense of humour, sometimes expressed in sentences that come out of a void of silence, always flabbergasts me. It can be a bit of a struggle for me to get Ants to talk, to smile, to even look at me. And yet, with a single remark he can have me laughing my head off!

Thanks, Jared and Carly; you two will now become a topic of conversation in the future. I will remind Anthony of his funny remark about Jared not being Jesus Christ, and, in my more contemplative moments, I will, perhaps, wonder if he was.

Anyway, back to Anthony’s sense of humour: I lightly kicked his shin as we were leaving and he said, with mock ferocity, “There’s no need for that!”

[Note to blogger friends: After my modem died and was replaced, my computer then died but has now been replaced, so I am very behind with reading other blogs and Fbook posts. In other words, I have fallen in love with the word ‘delete’ because there is too much to catch up on!]


On realising why I woke up miserable yesterday morning when I should have been happy ….

Yesterday evening I suddenly realised why the morning had been so blah, and the reason for this is going to sound absolutely ridiculous. But here goes:

The day before yesterday, Dina, from, came over for the final big job here – Ming’s extremely cluttered (but otherwise beautiful) shed that Anthony and I had renovated for him several years ago so that Ming could have his own space and some independence. Here are the before-and-after shots:
Untitled Untitled 2

After Ming’s shed was done (Dina never stops until it is done!) and we all had coffee and a chat, Dina hugged us and left but, even though I knew we would see her again after the holidays, I felt bereft! Maybe that is what happens when a problem is resolved? You find yourself in an enormous cavern of space (and for me this was both literal and figurative) in which you feel strangely lost.

Thankfully I woke up this morning in a much more appropriate mood, extremely happy with what we have accomplished, and full of incentive to maintain the new order of things. The garage sale is something I need to advertise pronto and I am really looking forward to this as it’s a wonderful opportunity to cull everything from old blazers from my university days, to old bicycles, to Ming’s lego, to bric-a-brac, to books etc. And now that I’ve met the Dardanup Heritage Park people, I have a good idea of what they might want so I will donate some items and sell others. One of the things that appealed to me about their museum’s philosophy was the way in which they enjoy displaying objects in a way that tells a story of the past in a personal way.

Here are some of the items that will go to the museum:

IMG_4482 IMG_4484 IMG_4487 IMG_4488 IMG_4490 IMG_4472 IMG_4504 IMG_4493 IMG_4495 IMG_4508 IMG_4491

Anyway, back to the strange sense of misery I felt yesterday morning: it is probably due to the exhaustion of being so driven to declutter; the extraordinary success of doing so which still seems miraculous to me (I could never, ever have done all of this without Dina); and the incredible journey back in time to an era preceding Anthony and even preceding his mother, affectionately known as ‘Gar’. Strangely, the moments of nostalgia I’ve experienced during the last several weeks of this adventure have mostly been due to memories of Gar and her stories about her own past shared with me over coffee and timtams or else a gin and tonic. She was a pivotal figure in my young life, this 83-year-old woman who commanded the whole household and dairy enterprise with a slight wave of her formidable walking stick, and encouraged my teenage heart in its infatuation with her son, Anthony. On her deathbed she said (after a couple of days of not saying anything and I know this because I was there), “Look after Anthony.” And I have, just as he has looked after me.

When I began this post, I thought I had a simple answer for yesterday morning’s misery but now, having written it out like this, I can see clearly why the whole adventure with Dina has been so cathartic and yet so bittersweet but, ultimately, absolutely beautiful.

I had to go back in time in order to go forward in time. So many memories, and artefacts of other people’s memories, have touched and intrigued me and now, with Dina having finished the big jobs, I have time and space to reflect, pause, re-imagine! Hindsight thoughts are particularly interesting.

Oh shut up, Julie, and go to bed!


Wedding anniversary thoughts

In a couple of days it will be our 23rd wedding anniversary. Over the years, Anthony and I have been hopeless at remembering this and my mother usually reminds me! But, even after being reminded, Ants and I have never done the whole anniversary present thing, just as we have never bothered with the Valentine’s Day thing.

Our love story, in retrospect, is very romantic but we have both been a bit cringy about public displays of affection and have never adhered to expectations around both occasions. In fact, until now, we have never held hands in public. Perhaps, having hidden our romance for so long, when I was younger, and having had such a wonderful platonic relationship beforehand, our friendship didn’t require the usual trappings of romance.

I think that when a romantic relationship begins with a platonic friendship, it is easier to manage the ups and downs of a marriage. I can remember years ago Anthony suggesting that he might one day buy me an emerald ring and silly, young me hoping to get this on my 40th birthday. Instead, he bought me a wonderful lithograph that he had always wanted!

After Anthony experienced my dignified disappointment (“You just bought me something YOU wanted!”) he began buying me silver bangles every Christmas and birthday, picking them out himself during the years before he became too affected by Parkinson’s disease to drive into town. So he began to send me into town to pick whatever silver bangle I wanted, which I did, reluctantly to begin with and unhappy with the thought that I was romancing myself! I eventually quickly began buying my annual bangles at just above Anthony’s budget instructions. It was hilarious to watch his expression when I came home and said, “I’ve found one and I love it, but it’s a bit expensive!”


Anthony (having always been extremely tight careful with money), would ponder the situation, look at the picture of the bangle, then at my greedy grin, and say, “Yes, okay, Jules.” These were gleeful moments, mischievous and hilarious and as solid as the silver in the bangles.

In light of our current circumstances – Anthony in the nursing home etc. I was tempted to just pretend the whole silver bangle ritual. After all, that’s what I did last Christmas and for my birthday in January. But then tonight I suddenly thought Ants will get a kick out of giving me a new bangle so tomorrow I am going to find one that is really unusual and take it in to get his approval.

Our romance began when I was 23 and now we have been married for 23 years, so I will get the chosen bangle engraved with 23 – yes!


Best laid plans

It has been another extraordinary couple of days with Dina, my decluttering/organising friend.

Yesterday morning we tackled the wash house. For those who don’t know, in Australia, people used to have separate-from-the-house facilities for washing clothes, and out-houses for toilet matters. To my knowledge there was never an actual out-house here but the wash house is and I have never had a problem with going out the back door and into the wash house to do the washing. What I have had a problem with, though, is that this wash house’s washing machine has had to share its space with cupboards FULL of junk miscellaneous tools, ancient bottles of cleaning fluids, pesticides, methylated spirits, even old photos and jewellery, old boxes of shoe polish and brushes, funny little tins full of buttons, a multitude of rusty nails, screws, AND the enormous mess made by animal life attracted to the water I guess – lizards, goannas, rats possums, wild cats who tend to have their babies on the roof of the wash house, visiting snakes (possibly), and several years of dead leaves blown in daily because of course there is no door. After all, it’s a wash house! I am beginning to wonder if I am the only person in the world to still think this is a normal arrangement!

Anyway, in less than two hours, Dina and I cleared the cupboards, brushed all the cobwebs out, swept the leaves out and categorised things. Tools went into one box, rubbish into another, stuff for the Ming to decide about into another and we were done!

In retrospect, I am a bit embarrassed that while Dina did most of the dirty work of de-cobwebbing and brushing the walls, I mulled over objects like old hammers and wrestled with what was rubbish and what might NOT be rubbish. But in the end we sorted the stuff and put back the useful stuff and I was able to decide between rubbish and garage sale categories very quickly.

Dina has been sending me summaries, with before-and-after photos, every week, and I have become rather addicted to reading these because of how wonderful the ‘after’ photos are! To have made so much progress so quickly in decluttering and organising this house has been a mixture of exhilarating and exhausting but not once have I shed a tear of nostalgia; instead, I am rejoicing because finally, after three years of sorrow, this house is becoming the comfortable, orderly home it always was. AND for the first time for so long, I know where everything is!

This morning (and that’s where the best-laid-plans theme comes in), Dina and I met at the nursing home at 10am with the intention of sorting all of the hundreds of photos out. A couple of situations came up that prevented us from doing this in the planned time frame but we still managed to sort photos into labelled envelopes (‘family history’; photos Ants might be interested in – old cars, dogs, cows; my own family photos of childhood; and the Ming.) The latter subject – an over-photographed little prince from 1994 to high school – have been kept in photo albums in one of Anthony’s top cupboards to scan and turn into photo books at a later date. I took these photo albums into the nursing home a few weeks ago with that purpose in mind but also to remind Ants and it has been great looking through them from time to time.

It is several weeks now since I first discovered Dina’s service and it is probably the best decision I have made for the past three difficult years to solicit her advice and help. She does this magic trick of holding various things in her hands and asking me, “What do you want to do with these things?” And she always has boxes ready for the various categories – absolutely brilliant!

Thanks again, Dina. The space you have helped me to create in this house and in my mind has helped me (and Ming too I think) to begin to live in the future and not in the past.


A sublime sense of space

Dina, from Chaos to Clear came over this morning to help Ming tackle this:


Some of the stuff in this particular area was paperwork that I either didn’t know what to do with, didn’t recognise, and didn’t even remember putting there. But most of it was Ming stuff – lego (and lots of it!) brio trains and tracks, and a whole lot of other ‘things’ from Ming’s childhood. As this was Ming’s first experience of decluttering his own stuff with Dina, it was interesting to see his initial reluctance transform into a very healthy ruthlessness and we filled four garbage bags and two boxes with rubbish to be taken to the dump – wonderful! It was also quite moving to see what he was still sentimental about:


While this was happening, I sorted all of my plastic containers, got rid of all my old cook books and only put the Aga cook books in the kitchen drawer, and put all of the paperwork we found into the filing cabinet that is now functioning as a proper filing cabinet thanks to Dina’s labels. Bliss!



For me, the sense of space that has been created is the most wonderful thing! I have never known a cupboard, shelf or drawer in this house to be empty before so I am having a lot of fun thinking about how I can use these empty spaces. Wonderful!




And this is the beauty of Dina’s service; she helps you to cull, but she also helps you to put the things you want to keep back into the new spaces. Dina is way more organised than I will probably ever be, but she has given us such wonderful help and tips and sympathy!

She has also given us her friendship and is even happy to come and help me take Anthony out on occasion. Thanks again, Dina, for your tact, efficiency, respect and empathy. You are a wonder!

We even have a box of stuff to go into the nursing home.



One of the things I have had to do in all of the recent decluttering is to toss some things into a miscellaneous box to be figured out at a later date. Despite the fact that this box is getting rather full it is good to know that I have one place to put anything that I don’t recognise. I will hold the object out to Dina and say, “Do you know what this is?” (Usually it’s some sort of ancient tool – an artefact from Anthony’s past). If neither of us can figure it out, it goes into the miscellaneous box – perfect. Then it’s over to ‘the Ming’.

I thought it might be quite fitting to write a bit of a miscellaneous post, having discovered that ‘miscellaneous’ is a definite, and quite acceptable, category. So here goes:

Most of the grapes are ripe now and I can just pick them and eat them whenever I go outside. I think it’s just the one vine and the wild birds get to them as fast as I can so there is almost no point picking them. They grow just outside the back door and I’m not sure if Anthony planted them or if they were there before the family came here.


The figs are nearly finished for the year as the heat is getting the better of them – and the butcher birds (which Gar, Anthony’s mother, used to hate). Last year I just let most of them fall of the tree and frizzle in the sun but this year I have given many bags away to friends, family, the local pub, the restaurant where Ming works (my mother and I went there today for lunch and the fig and coconut muffins were a hit), neighbours etc. I have also eaten quite a few with Ants in the nursing home. I also went to another restaurant and asked if they wanted figs and they said YES and I asked what I would get in exchange, suggesting a lunch voucher and they said yes to that too, though a little less enthusiastically.


After lunch with my mother today I went in to the nursing home to spend some time with Ants before my 3 – 7pm shift in the dementia house. I had my camera with me so took some photos through his window of the outlook from his room. This garden area – one of many – is where he often ‘sees’ calves and often asks me to go out and check if they are all okay, which of course I always do and the calves are always okay.


Periodically, I rearrange or change the pictures on his walls. The photo of younger Anthony has pride of place very high on one wall where there happened to be a hook and he rather likes looking up at himself!


Me: You really like looking at yourself don’t you! Such vanity, Ants.

Ants: Men need to love themselves.

Me: Why?

Ants: In case nobody else does.

Okay I am kind of cheating here as the above conversation happened over a year ago. Ants doesn’t articulate so well anymore but he sure as hell likes looking at the photo and so do I. It kind of pulls us both into the time warp of when we first met.

Then there is the oil painting of cattle that I commissioned from an artist friend years ago; a calendar my mother made of moments/months in our lives (e.g.. Ming recovering from his first spinal surgery); and one of the few photos of Anthony and his mother in her latter years, that I had framed for him once upon a time.


Then I took a picture of the rose plant I gave Ants not long ago. Everybody has remarked on their blooms and many people, including Anthony, thought they were real until I finally had to own up to the fact that they were VERY expensive fake roses made of silk. Some people are still fooled though, especially when I spray them with rose perfume – haha!


Well now that all of the ancient rose trees on the driveway of the farm are either dead or dying, the fake rose tree seemed like a good idea. In my defence, I am hopeless at gardening and every time I water something the pump makes the electricity bill soar!


Just before 3pm, after watching Judging Amy with Ants, I went into his bathroom and quickly changed out of my t-shirt into my new uniform, put my name tag on and explained I was going to work. He always only remembers a bit of this new situation so I have to explain again that I am not going somewhere else but will be working just next door and that I might be able to see him a couple of times during my shift. This reassures him and whenever he gets anxious I just tease and tickle him into his new half-smile and all is well.

This afternoon it was a bit too humid to take many people for a walk outside or through the complex and it wasn’t until I took a teary S for a wheelchair walk that I saw Ants again (just as I saw many of the people in the high-care section as S and I did a lap of the gardens and hallways).

S. Who’s that old chap?

Me: My husband.

S. Not bad-looking!

Me: Keep your hands off him, S!

S. (chuckling and sticking her tongue out at me) All right.




Memory Lane!

One of the most extraordinary things about my mother’s 80th birthday last week was her gifts to us! To each grandchild she gave beautiful engraved keyrings, and to each of her children – my two brothers and me – she gave a photobook and a CD of photos of our childhood in Canada and Papua New Guinnea. None of us had seen these photos from 30-40 years ago because most of them were on slides; it must have been a hell of a job to get them Cd’ed and it was such a wonderfully unexpected surprise! I keep looking at all of the photos with a mixture of nostalgia and joy; actually I can’t seem to STOP looking at them because I am gobsmacked at how cute I was haha!








One of the best things is to see Dad again; he isn’t in many of the photos because he must have taken most of them – our wonderful father, Brinsley Lane, who died suddenly when we were still in our teens and Mother was just entering her 40s.

Her gift to us is, of course, ongoing – a rich and vibrant record of a strange, varied and unpredictable childhood that is/was so much like Narnia – magical!

Thanks Mama!


The stove that died

A couple of weeks ago I put the kettle on and it boiled and I made my morning coffee A bit later, I put the kettle on again for my second cup and nothing happened. Anthony’s 1963 stove died quietly.



Sigh … it is only three years older than I am, poor old thing!


The big red shed