Sunday, January 31, 2010

TOLD YOU THEY WERE OUT TO GET ME

DAY 55
What is it with Huntsman spiders at the moment. I’ve seen more in the last few weeks than I’ve seen in the last few years. Pulled up at a red light yesterday, and have come to the conclusion this victimised group of arachnids still have me in their sights and are determined to take me unawares at the most inopportune moments. Trekking across the driver’s side window was yet another unwelcome visitation from one of these critters. Fortunately it was on the outside so I managed to stay calm and not run into anyone, but when I arrived at my next port of call I wasn’t sure whether to leap out of the car with great bravado or climb over to the passenger side and get out that way.

Alighted as quickly as possible, found the critter trying to make himself look smaller by cringing just inside the door, took a swipe at him but he sped off at a great rate of knots before I could even have a second go. The shop staff loaned me some surface spray which I applied liberally, and with great courage I continued my journey to my final destination whereupon my son blasted the car with his high pressure hose, getting into every nook and cranny in the hope of dislodging him or drowning him, or both.

Sprayed another half can of surface spray inside and outside the car when I got home in the hope they get the message……”YOU ARE NOT WELCOME!”

For more recent hairy legged sightings check out the Hairy Beast and Insect Grapevine previous postings. Here's hoping this will be the last entry on that subject.

Friday, January 29, 2010

MOVE OVER TERMINATOR, I'VE MET THE XELERATOR

DAY 53-54

I must admit, public toilets are not usually a subject of great interest, unless you’re busting of course and desperate to find one, but there is a certain amount of information you gradually build up over time about your own town’s public facilities. Such as where they are firstly depending on what part of town you’re in, which ones to avoid and which ones are acceptable, which ones never have any toilet paper, which ones are shut after hours, which ones you would only hover over and never sit on etc etc.

Well, there I was at one of my usual loos in Launceston, unisex ones, when a guy came out leaving it the only one unoccupied and there was absolutely no way I could even get near the door let alone lock myself in there for several minutes without expiring. What on earth he’d been doing in there I don’t know, well….I do know, it was all too obvious, but the extent to which he’d been doing it was unbelievable.

Quick exit to head to the next known toilet destination when I spotted a sign directing me to some new facilities I’d never seen before, and for the last couple of weeks since their discovery they have become my preferred calling point when caught short in town. Out the back of Bakers Dozen on Brisbane St and just left of the Yolanda Jean CafĂ© in a very neat paved courtyard sporting framed artworks would you believe on the brick walls of the adjoining building, there’s about six in a row, all clean, brightly lit, stocked with oodles of paper, but the piece de resistance in each one is the hand dryer.

No nice gentle stream of warm air under which you have to rub and rub and rub and rub your hands waiting for it to actually dry them. Installed in these loos is the ultimate drying machine, THE XELERATOR. Picture in your mind those documentaries of astronauts in training on the G-Force whirligig thing. As the speed picks up suddenly the skin on their faces seems to turn to jelly, like the flesh has become separated from the bone and is smearing itself all over their faces in a fear stricken grimace.

That’s what the Xelerator does to the skin on your hands. It’s like it turns to liquid and is pushed this way and that by the sheer force of the thing, accompanied by a roar to wake the dead. Unfortunately it’s so effective your hands are dry in next to no time, but it’s worth the visit just for the experience.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE PYROTECHNIC FINGER

DAY 51-52

Never underestimate the power of a splinter and the consequences of not getting it out straight away. Managed to get one from picking up a piece of firewood in the first week of August last year. Being right handed, it wasn’t exactly easy to extract it from my right little finger using my left hand. Obviously wasn’t going to work, so a couple of days later asked a nurse friend if she’d have a go so out came the splinter probe. Prod, poke, pick, but no luck, couldn’t get the thing.

Persisted with my own attempts, still no success, so off to the Doc. Now, my Doc’s a good bloke, but when it comes to things like this he doesn’t do anything by halves. Sliced and diced the jolly thing, too bad about the pain, even he couldn’t find anything. It was there, I know it was there.

Meanwhile, even with no obvious infection which splinters have a habit of doing when you don’t get them out, the little finger started to look rather weird. What had started out as a small lump encasing the offending invader was now growing, and each day brought with it something new to observe. Two months into the saga it finally decided to get infected and had grown into something resembling Vesuvius about to erupt. Back and forth to the Doc, it got to the stage where he was calling me The Finger, so he sends me off for an ultrasound to see if the blighter that started all this is hiding somewhere we can get at it.

Must admit I felt a bit of a dill having an ultrasound on my little pinkie, but when that also turned up nothing he concluded that the increasing mass overtaking the top of my finger was probably a pyogenic granuloma, the skin’s adverse reaction to the initial injury. A what? Had to Google that one to check it out, made sure I could find a picture, and there it was, in fact there were several sorts, all little volcanoes on the verge of exploding.

So what next? Off to the surgeon, by now it’s the first week of December, and after four injections (oooooh that was the worst bit, you don’t exactly have any fat on your hand to cushion the pain of those), the volcano was cut out, leaving a crater the size of….sorry, my knowledge of moon craters is very limited, but it was big, and when it’s on your little finger there’s really nothing to pull together and stitch up. “So what’s going to stop this thing growing back again?” I ask. “Well, I cut it out,” says the surgeon, “no reason why it should.” Went home satisfied, driving with my bandaged pinkie pointing skyward.

And the outcome? IT’S STILL THERE! Thought it was healing nicely, but as the crater filled in it began to look suspiciously familiar, and now almost six months into the long drawn out saga I still have this lump on my finger which admittedly is not as bad as the original, but it looks back at me with a disconcerting alien face. Who knows what we’ll have to do next.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DISORDERLY DISTEMPER

DAY 50

Had a bit of fun in the process of establishing a new email account after finally leaving dial up behind and launching into the world of broadband which most people take for granted. When you have the name Di the dictionary can provide a wealth of ‘dis’ words which seem quite appropriate for the task when you substitute the ‘dis’ for Di’s at the start of an email address.

I thought disconnecting made a lot of sense for logging in to my emails, the computer said ‘No’. What about discontent, I mean I’m a pretty contented sort of person, the computer said ‘No’. I tried disbelief, disagreeable, disgraceful, dishonourable, displeasure, disillusion, dispossessed, you name it I tried it, the computer wasn’t having a bar of it. It kept making all these obscure suggestions of how I could fit the word with my name in an acceptable form, but then it didn’t make sense and defeated the whole purpose.

After such a fruitless exercise I was very tempted with distemper, but I don’t really have one, not a bad one anyway, well, mostly not. Takes a lot to get me riled up. I’ll be struck with mild annoyances now and then, like email servers who won’t let you do what seems perfectly simple and obvious, I mean what difference is it to them what you call yourself. A few friends have called me Lady Di for many years, but I figured I’d probably end up as ladydi50698@somethingorother as there’d be a ton of those already.

Finally decided on one, then had to work out another one for the blog, hence my “Di’s embarking” signature at the end of each day. I’ve been scribbling spasmodically for a long time, but in setting myself this daily regimen I guess I saw it as disembarking from the apathy of the past and embarking on a new journey which will hopefully take me….somewhere. In amongst the ramblings there are hopefully brief glimpses of brilliance (well, illumination of some intensity anyway), and the only way those moments are going to become more frequent is if I stick at this and see it through.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A SUPER SENIOR MOMENT

DAY 49

Unbelievable. What was lost has now been found. Funny how when you’re looking for something it mysteriously turns up when you’re looking for something else. Headed into the cupboard under the laundry trough to get something out, had to drag out the bag of cleanings rags to get at it, and there’s this other bag in there which I assumed was another bag of rags, but no, it’s the clothes I’ve been missing since the end of October it turns out, as that was the last time I stayed overnight anywhere and would have brought home a bag of washing.

Now, in my defence I’m going to go down the same road as scores of politicians who have found themselves on the wrong end of sticky questions which may bring their character and judgment into question. I have no recollection Your Honour of the event, or of how the item in question came to be in its current position.

Not only were the track pants, shirt and cargo pants I knew were gone found in the bag, but there were T shirts, a windcheater and various bits of underwear too. I obviously don’t wear them enough to miss them, but I’m mystified how they ended up in such an obscure place. I can only plead ignorance and put it down to a ‘senior’ moment, a handy excuse for all manner of things inexplicable.

Had a teenage girl doing Business Studies and work experience in our office during last year. She did pretty well mostly, but in those moments when things didn’t go quite as planned she’d chastise herself with “Oh, I’m so blond!” Encouraging to know the younger generation have their own version of ‘senior’ moments.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

EARLY AUSTRALIA DAY

DAY 48

“If you value your life, stand well clear of the throwing area.” The women are back in force to contest the Gumboot Tossing, one of the many events held yesterday in Poatina’s annual Australia Day Festival. We always hold our community festival on the Saturday closest to Australia Day so we were 3 days early this year, but that doesn’t stop people coming from all over the place to enjoy a good day out with the family. With prizes sponsored by local businesses, anything from a box of ice creams to cricket sets, gift vouchers, wheelbarrows, river cruises, electronic gadgets, dinners for two, then there’s the ultimate reward for the gruelling 4km wheelbarrow race through bush and creek and up and down dale of a weekend’s accommodation for two plus dinner and breakfast for all 4 participants in the winning team.

You might think the idea of running in an egg and spoon race, sack race, walking on stilts, bubble blowing, playing In the pond Out the pond, My Big Fat Pony and the Hokey Pokey is all a bit passĂ© and far too embarrassing to be seen doing in public, but given the right situation and plenty of encouragement you’d be surprised who participates. Face painting, jumping castle and wind tunnel all entertain the kids for endless hours, bring out the Tug of War rope and the blokes are lining up to flex their muscles and prove their masculinity, amateur golfers have a crack at the Hole in One, and even the teenagers find themselves joining in more activities than just punishing the crowd with their Karaoke efforts.

At the end of the day all are fed, have a smile on their face, not all of which you can recognise as they’re covered in face paint or sporting a sculptured balloon creation, and go home admitting that doing something simple with the kids which didn’t involve technology or a console or a bucket load of money really was a lot of fun.

You hear those who are a little older talk about how much simpler life used to be, how families and neighbours were more connected, how bonfire nights and billy cart derbys and cricket in the street or back alley was the norm. Many long for the ‘good old days’ as they put it, but with the right spirit and motivation it is still very possible to recreate events which bring people out of their houses and into their neighbourhoods in such a way as they discover the value of once again being connected at more than just a nodding acquaintance level. Give it a go.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

INSECT GRAPEVINE WORKING OVERTIME

JAN 8-23 - DAY 32-47

Two weeks have slipped by very quickly with nothing written, shame on me, took me a while to negotiate the maze of broadband installation, sign up with a new email account, get my very long contacts list to coordinate with my new email account so I didn't have to laboriously start from scratch and enter them in manually, and become accustomed to operating in a format which looks completely different from the last one, things that when you're as clueless as I am kind of slow you down. Rather than piddle around pretending to know what I'm doing and stuff it all up, I find it far quicker to wait for the all knowing ones to come along and set me on the right track.

I'm beginning to believe there is a code of conduct amongst the insect and bug population where they look out for each other and pass on vital pieces of information via antennae twitching, hairy leg rubbing or simply by general chit chat on warm balmy nights as they pass each other up the drain pipe, in the undergrowth, on the compost heap or wherever it is they socialise.

Half way through watching a movie last weekend there they were, those telltale legs again, another Huntsman spider deciding he'd like to make a house call and check out what was in the bookcase. Sorry, but he had to go, tolerance level is very low when they actually invade my territory. Gave him a good squirt, moved some books to get at him, and of course, couldn't find him. Amazing how such a large spider can so easily hide itself. Poked and prodded with the broom, no luck, squirted some more in the hope that would finish him off, eventually gave up and picked up the books to put back on the shelf, and sure enough, all the time I was looking for him in the books, I'd actually removed him when I took the books off the shelf and he'd been happily sitting on the floor next to me. Not to be outdone I unceremoniously stomped on him for trying to outwit me. The victory was mine, but in the days to come I think the locals had got wind of the slaughter in my house and began to take their revenge.

First there was the Jack Jumper ant crawling up the door frame of the toilet. Now, these are not nice little fellas like in Antz or A Bug's Life. These are nasty little beasties who have a habit of being very jittery whenever you get too close, hence they jump around a bit to avoid being stepped on in the hope they can get in the first bite, and if you do fall victim you definitely know about it. If you think the bite is bad, the ensuing itch that lasts for days in its wake is enough to drive you to distraction. Known to send people into anaphylactic shock, I rid the world of each and every one I come across without the slightest remorse.

Then there was the White Tail spider, also trekking across the floor in the toilet, an equally nasty beastie to be avoided at all costs. Both met their deaths, but that wasn't the end of it. My daughter in law Biz nearly freaked out when she headed into the loo a couple of nights ago to be confronted with yet another Huntsman spider. Relief soon came though as she realised it was on the outside of the window and not the inside, but who's to say that's where he intended to stay. Sneaking a peek is what I reckon he was up to, checking out the right time to slip in the back door unawares and get his own back for the depletion of his species. So, out came the straw broom and another arachnid was swiftly dispatched.

Not sure what the lesson is in all of this. Live and let live? Nah!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

FREEZING QUOLL, STINKY QUOLL

JAN 7 - DAY 31

Mentioning quolls reminded me of a couple of run ins I’ve had with these quirky nocturnal spotted native animals, one good, one not so good. Going back to my first winter in Tasmania in ‘95, we still hadn’t quite got used to the idea of virtually no petrol stations being open after dark. Returning from Hobart late at night we had the misfortune to run out of petrol on top of the mountain 14km from home, in the falling snow, far enough away to make it too far to walk, and with an extra passenger who wasn’t exactly amused.

Suffice to say we obviously made it back down the mountain 8 hours later courtesy of the first log truck going our way, but while up there in the dark we got out of the car simply to appreciate the spectacle of the falling snow and the quiet stillness that comes in its wake. Surprised to see little footprints coming from the other side of the road and going under the car, we found a small quoll about the size of a cat huddling under the warm engine, a reward I think for our predicament.

Run in No 2 was something else again. In the middle of housework I suddenly became aware of a dreadful smell, and seeing as I had the windows and doors open I thought maybe a bird had hit the window and died underneath it. Couldn’t find the source, smell seemed to be coming from the toilet area but it didn’t smell like anything I’d ever inhaled in such a place, even in a men’s public toilet, and having cleaned a few in my time they can be very nasty!

Had to be the back porch, and there, hiding in the corner behind the ladder was a very sick looking quoll. Not a cute looking one either, but a mangy version of the largest of the species, a Tiger Cat. Very unusual place to find one of these creatures to say the least; he must’ve crawled away to die somewhere and decided my back porch was as good a place as any. Wasn’t sure how he would respond to my attempts to coax him out, but he eventually roused himself and took off, probably to find a less disturbing final resting place.

I’ve smelt dead animals, but this was a shocker and he wasn't even deceased yet. Had to clear everything off the back porch, hose it down, splash disinfectant everywhere, hose it again, and repeat the process till finally it was habitable.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

MURDER IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT

JAN 6 - DAY 30
Came round the corner at the end of my 3.5km this morning to find a carpet of white feathers on the ground, evidence of a somewhat frenzied attack, a foul deed on a fowl indeed. In the past residents with chooks learned the hard way to lock up their feathered friends at night to keep marauding quolls and feral cats from stealing their egg producers, but a few of the current crop of resident’s chooks have taken free range literally, and roam wherever and whenever they please, obviously to their peril.

Cats are actually banned from our village in order to protect native animals and birds, but being in a rural area the ferals have been a perennial problem and can be quite aggressive, especially when caught. A grey tabby cuts across my yard all the time, and being a cat lover from way back I haven’t the heart to make an attempt on his life. I figure it’s not his fault he was dumped in the bush to fend for himself, or his mum was, or his grandma. He’s only trying to survive like the rest of us.


BLOWIN' IN THE WIND

JAN 5 - DAY 29
Went to get my short sleeved linen shirt out of the wardrobe this morning. Not there. Wasn’t in the washing pile, ironing pile, in any drawer, on any shelf or on any hanger. Puzzling, adding to the mystery of where my favourite cargo pants went which I wore recently, as well as my grey track pants which I use for my morning walks. I doubt we have a phantom washing line clothes pincher around here, so have to assume they went skyward off the Hills hoist in the last gale.

Being an island, Tasmania is accustomed to gale force winds, and it’s not too often the evening weather report doesn’t have a high winds alert, farmers alert, bushwalkers alert, boating alert or some such dire warning somewhere in the State. Living in the shadow of the Great Western Tiers we are relatively sheltered here in Poatina, but every few months we have a doozie of a gale to remind us that even here we can’t escape the forces of nature.

On one occasion our motel restaurant which faces west caught the brunt of a continuous onslaught which blew open a glass door, smashed it and the window it hit on impact, then blew out a window inside on the opposite side of the restaurant, smashing it and depositing it in the passage outside the ladies loo. The last big one three months ago brought down fourteen trees on the golf course as well as wreaking havoc elsewhere, makes for a restless night when you think the roof might disappear. Did find some guy’s satin boxer shorts on the golf course once, no one claimed them, maybe they belonged to one of the farmers down the road.

We’ve had to insist the oldies in our community stay inside when the wind gets up. Three of our elderly ladies have literally been blown over in the wind, sustaining some quite nasty injuries, this is no ordinary wind when it gets itself worked up.

Still doesn’t explain where my gear went. I know I’m getting older but I’m not that forgetful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

HIDDEN IN THE WEEDS

JAN 3-4 - DAY 27-28
My neighbours who have been friends for many years are currently in Nigeria for an extended period, so I offered to look after their yard while their other friends and family come and go from their house. I’ve always been partial to weeding, have trouble leaving other people’s gardens alone when the grass and weeds start taking over, but with two yards to keep tidy, plus a bit more mowing for my neighbour on the other side who fell down some steps and ended up on crutches for months, I don’t venture much further afield than my little patch.

Visitors from the mainland, or North Island as it is sometimes referred to here in Tassie, have this expectation that Tasmania is lush and green all year round because it is supposedly so wet and cold here. Looking down on the landscape as they fly in across Bass Strait they are surprised to find we are just as dry and parched as where they came from, and find it difficult to come to terms with Australia’s southernmost island State being in drought.

The paddocks are already dry again, but this past Winter gave us a drenching even Noah would’ve been impressed with, in proportions even the ducks may have been seeking shelter from. No one was complaining mind, the farmers were hanging out for as much as they could get in the hope of undoing the damage of the past few dry years. Only problem is, with that much rain, come Spring not only what you want to grow is going to take off, everything else you don’t want to grow is going to go rampant too.

As a result, there I was on the weekend digging out grass almost 6 foot high in the garden beds next door which I had been neglecting. That’s no joke, it was taller than me, and as I plunged into it discovered there were also thistles in there as tall as I am. Hoping against all hope no tiger snakes had decided to take up residence I kept at it, and by Sunday afternoon it was looking pretty schmick, but the best surprise came right at the end of all the effort. Finishing off some fiddly weeding around some ground cover, a blue tongue lizard crawled out from right underneath my hands and calmly headed for a spot where he wouldn’t be disturbed. Was quite uncanny, I hadn’t seen him at all, was a nice reward.

OCH AYE HERE COME THE LADIES FROM HELL

JAN 2 '10 - DAY 26
Annual visit to Edinburgh Castle via the TV for the Military Tattoo. Quite an event, the bagpipes, both stirring and hauntingly poignant, the spectacle created in the arena with projected images on the castle walls, tartans flying, sporrans flapping, furry busbies blowing in the breeze, too bad if your chin strap slips you won't be able to see a thing, flaming drumsticks going every which way courtesy of the impeccably timed Swiss, the humour in amongst the precision. And then the lone piper on the castle parapet to bring it all to a close.

Apparently the sound of bagpipes was not always welcome in wartime. Not if you were on the opposing side that is. With a reputation as being fierce in battle, the kilted commandos earned not only the respect of their countrymen and allies, but their enemies as well. Dubbed the "Ladies from Hell" they could strike fear into the staunchest soldier just by picking up the old bagpipe, let alone a weapon to go along with it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

NATURE'S FIREWORKS

JAN 1 '10 - DAY 25
Hah, who needs fireworks. Our community New Year's Eve celebrations complete with fireworks and sparklers for the kids was upstaged well and truly by an hour long spectacular natural lightshow, lightning from the west and south flashing continuously and the rumble of thunder drowning out the popping and banging as the storm slowly made its way in our direction. After a stinking hot day we were treated to a short lived downpour at the end of it all, leaving the air fresh with the earthy smell of the ground's appreciation.

Weighed and measured myself this morning, before I ate anything so the gut would be at its smallest for the day. Not good, I'm actually the heaviest I have ever been, apart from being pregnant and that doesn't count. The goal? To lose 5 kilos, and hopefully in the process the inflated spare tyres may end up looking like punctures.

Surprised myself by exposing said lumpy body at the village pool along with a friend who was feeling equally hesitant about flashing the rolls of fat and arctic suntan, though I did cover up the cellulite with bike pants over the bathers so as not to scare the locals. Have lived here for 15 years, haven't been in the pool for about 14, seeing as my last dip proved that an outdoor unheated pool wasn't exactly up my alley. But, today was a rare one, I think we topped the State's temperature with around 30+, which in Tassie can feel pretty much the same as 35 on the mainland. Don't ask me why, must be something to do with less air pollution, or sitting underneath the ozone hole, whatever it is you can burn to a frazzle an awful lot faster here than anywhere else in the country.

The initial plunge confirmed my memories of years ago, but once in it was well worth it. Will endeavour to do it again.


GOING PEAR SHAPED

DEC 30-31 - DAY 23-24
When you're only 5'1" tall and lightly built it's amazing how a few extra pounds, I mean kilos, and centimetres in the wrong place can weigh you down. Sorry to mix the metric with the imperial, but there are some measurements which simply don't convert easily in my head.

Like when someone has a baby and it's 3.8kg, is that little, medium or big? I have no idea, so need to go rummaging for the kitchen scales to discover that's 8lb 6oz, which is a pretty decent size, something I wouldn't want to pop out in a hurry. Son No 1 weighed in at 6lb 10oz, 3kg exactly now that I have the scales in front of me, nice size I reckon, though it still took several hours of puffing and panting and hyperventilation to extricate him, and Son No 2 decided to overcook for a week and tip the scales at 7lb 8oz, or 3.4kg. Hyperventilation went off the scale with one despite the rigours of pre natal preparation, and the sight of me breathing into a paper bag with each contraction even made me laugh, which at that point wasn't real helpful.

I guess it all comes down to what you grow up with or get used to. If I was in America and we were warned to be on the lookout for a 6'2" suspect on the loose weighing 280lb, I wouldn't have a clue if he were 10 stone, 20 stone or anywhere in between. I'd be in just as much a quandary if you told me he was 190cm tall and weighed 125kg, I still wouldn't know what to look out for.

I ditched my Approach to Cookery High School cookery book some years back as it was all in imperial measurements, but the textbook Cookery - The Australian Way which replaced it in 1966 when Australia went metric with money is also in imperial. Reprints right through to 1971 when I picked up my copy were still in imperial. After dragging down my recipe books from the top shelf as they are not referred to that often, I was intrigued to discover my 1970 edition of The Australian Womens Weekly Cookbook is also in imperial measurements, as are my 1971 fondue recipe books. So, when did Australia expand its metric-ness to include everything else besides money? Probably find the answer on some obscure Google site.

So, back to the question. What is going pear shaped? Me. Gravity and inactivity have been steadily at work over the years, producing the current product which definitely needs some reshaping. The pot belly which used to only stick out is now starting to sag as well, along with additional spare tyres above it, not a good look. I've never been into New Year's resolutions, I'm not that disciplined, but along with the daily writing challenge I think I seriously need to exercise the body more in the hope of getting it back into a slightly smaller version than it is at the moment.

YAY FOR THE GREY BRIGADE

DEC 29 '09 - DAY 22
Never underestimate the amount of fun you can have on an outing with some "seniors". Bundles two elderly lady friends into the car and off to town to the hairdresser and grocery shopping as their usual chauffeurs are on holiday. Left one in the capable hands of the hairdresser who we knew would be kind enough to help Dora across the bust street after her appointment, as her eyesight is very poor. From there, she can make it the block and a half to go and visit her husband in the nursing home. Meanwhile I head further on into town with Thelma, who once you get there, takes off on her errands with no assistance, a pretty sprightly 91 year old.

We chat at great length over lunch, have a laugh, go back to pick up Dora, and decide to do it again next week, much to their delight. The five hour round trip which took me away from the mundane routine of paper shuffling and computer gazing, was I think more rewarding for me than it was for them.

Elderly people can be so easily overlooked. They fade into the background, too often relegated to "past their use by date". But go out of your way to spend time with them and I guarantee you will be enriched by the encounter. They are guardians of a wealth of history and experience, they are gracious and so appreciative of the smallest courtesies afforded them. Wouldn't hurt us to take a leaf out of their book

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wii SPORTS ARE A HEALTH HAZARD

DEC 28 '09 - DAY 21
Ouch, my left glutes hurt, or is that left glute, and all I played last night was a few games of 10 pin and 100 pin bowling. It's all in the step forward release the ball action, which I obviously overdid, unless I'm even more unfit than I thought I was. That's probably closer to the truth, have lost count of how many "Now this time I really am going to get fit" campaigns I have started and never continued with any regularity.

My pedometer tells me how many steps and kilometres I've covered, how many calories I've burned off, which I then dutifully record on my computer grid. Not quite sure what that is supposed to achieve, but at least it feels like I'm being somewhat proactive and reminds me how many days or weeks, or during the winter, months it's been since my last power walk. But I do carry weights, 1.2kg in each hand which doesn't sound much, but after 30 to 40 minutes walking at a decent pace the arms are struggling to pump with as much vigour as when they started. Funny thing is, if I walk without them, feels like I'm not making any effort at all.

The walking itself is the easy part of the equation, dragging myself out of bed each morning, now that's the hard part. How long does it take to form a habit?

Just consulted the dictionary, apparently we have 3 glutei in each buttock, must be the Gluteus Maximus giving me trouble. Hmm, sounds like a movie role fit for Russell Crowe.

Friday, January 15, 2010

CHRISTMAS ALL OVER AGAIN





DEC 27 '09 - DAY 20
Farewelled my friends who have gone to spend a few nights in the jail cell accommodation on Maria Island before heading home to Queensland. Hope they're allowed to lock the door from the inside.

Packed up the car for the hour drive to Glen and Mel's house to have our family Christmas, complete with cricket in the backyard after a pitch was mowed to make it possible, more good food, keeping wrapping paper away from the little bloke so he wouldn't eat it, watching with delight to see Bella's reaction as she unwrapped her dinosaur from Uncle Kris & Auntie Biz. Was a big hit, she even took it to bed.

I'm champing at the bit as I was surprised with the gift of a wireless broadband kit, can't wait for Biz to come round to help me set it up, afraid I'm a little too technologically challenged to attempt it myself. Have been struggling along with dial up, which when I first connected back in 2002 sufficed ok, but is now virtually useless. I'm so looking forward to heading out into the stratosphere instead of lingering on the ground floor. I won't have to connect, go and cook dinner, come back to move from home page to where I want to go, go and eat dinner, come back to open something at the location I went to, that is if it hasn't dropped out already, go and wash the dishes, come back to go to next page, go and make a cuppa, come back, you get the drift.

HOWZAT, HERE COME THE YACHTS

DEC 26 '09 - DAY 19
Aaaaagh, audible sigh of relief. I like Boxing Day. It means the big day is over for another year, now comes some put your feet up time. Except I made mine head out the door early and clock up a 3.6 km power walk, burning up 142 calories in the process, though I'm not sure that will compensate for yesterday.

What is it with pre Christmas grocery shopping? I mean, how many days are the supermarkets closed? One, one lousy day. There really is no need to stockpile the underground bunker in preparation for an alien invasion or Armageddon, even if the rellies are all heading to your place to eat you out of house and home. And how come my fridge is still full? I thought eight mouths would've demolished a fair bit of tucker yesterday, so does that make me guilty of the same thing? Whipped up a few dishes to feed everyone, that should thin things out.

The MCG curator got to show off how immaculately he can crisscross mow the grass as the Boxing Day Test against Pakistan got underway in Melbourne, the fleet sailed out of Sydney Harbour in a great fanfare for the annual battle down the east coast and across the sometimes treacherous
Bass Strait on its way to Hobart. Line honours have a certain prestige, but when you see just how small some of the yachts are in comparison to the maxis crewed by a cast of thousands, you can't help but respect these mad men and women who pit their skills against the elements.

MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL

DEC 25 '09 - DAY 18
Well, the big day has arrived at last. Cup of tea for breakfast, don't get any further than that as I have to venture out to borrow an electric beater from a neighbour because mine is making a noise but nothing is happening. I knew that smell it was giving off last time I used it to beat the cream meant its days were numbered.

Chook goes in the oven, then out for short Christmas morning community church service, kids get to 'show and tell' their presents which is a bit of fun. Back to prepare lunch, which motors along surprisingly calmly with no disasters, accompanied by the Melbourne Christmas Eve Carols by Candlelight repeat TV broadcast in the background. When you don't attempt all those delicious looking concoctions from the Christmas recipes which vow and declare can be whipped up in minutes, even if they do have twenty ingredients, most of which are never staples in anyone's pantry, you can be assured of success. Accustomed to cooking for one, staging Christmas dinner for eight is quite an undertaking for me, but all goes well. Friends bring ham and drinks, chook tastes great, even the gravy isn't lumpy, made sure of that by getting the instant stuff. Funny how you can make perfect gravy and custard at the drop of a hat, until you have guests.

Games of Bananagrams and Doodlebugs amongst dessert and continued grazing through the afternoon, lots of fun and noise, finished off with a lazy evening in front of the TV. Missed the news which was probably a good thing, don't really want to find out what awful things are happening around the world on this day of all days when I would love peace to permeate the planet even for a short time.

TIS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

DEC 24 '09 - DAY 17
No rest for the wicked, or anyone else for that matter. More computer work, more paper shuffling, catch up with my friends who arrived last night and are staying in a holiday house around the corner, and manage to head for town by 1 o'clock for the all important purpose of acquiring those last minute gifts for those not yet covered, oh and then there's still the groceries to buy as well.

Six hours later and I'm back home, not bad if I say so myself, seeing as an hour and a half of that was spent in the car going there and back, half an hour doing work stuff, and a coffee in the middle of it to fire me up for the final onslaught. All bases are now covered, everyone is accounted for, but not before the interesting moment in the ABC Shop where I ran into my son and daughter in law while looking for her present, which I knew I probably wouldn't find anywhere else.

Yes, they had the one and only copy of Dr Who's Brain of Morbius left in the whole of Launceston, now, how to acquire it and conceal it without looking like I'm shoplifting and make it to the counter and out of the shop before she sees it. Ran into them again an hour later in another bookshop, if I had my way I'd give everyone books as gifts, they are my one weakness.

Had dinner and a great catch up with my friends who I haven't spent time with for five years since I was last in Queensland. I love that about friends who you can simply be yourself with, and just pick up from where you left off.

DROWNING IN PAPERWORK

DEC 22-23 '09 - DAY 15-16
Amazing what can accumulate at work when you're sick. Picked up pile breeding at an alarming rate on the floor and organised it so I could actually attack it.Attacked it with great intensity. Two very long days of computer data entry, paper shuffling, bill paying, receipting, more data entry, more paper shuffling, eyes hanging out by the end of it. Shared the goodies hamper received last Friday when I paid my final visit for the year to Corporate Express where we buy all our office stationery. They're a good mob.

YOU HAVING A GOOD DAY NANNY DI?

DEC 21 '09 - DAY 14
Every so often I get the opportunity to look after my grandchildren while my daughter in law puts in the hard yards, standing on her feet all day attending to the needs of passing shoppers who she hopes will not only browse but actually part with their money. Bella is 4, so the past few years have been relatively simple in terms of looking after her while her mum and dad are at work. But now Zandar is on the scene, a very cute 6 month old bundle of demands, so the equation has changed somewhat.

When my kids were little it all seemed so much simpler. That's the beauty of hindsight I guess, and true, I did have a lot more energy then. Hang on I'll get you a drink in a minute, Zandar's awake, which dinosaur do you want me to put away? Oh that one, yes he does make a scary noise, he's the bad dinosaur, he goes back in the cupboard. Nappy change, greeted with a smile to melt anyone's heart, warm up bottle, give the little bloke his bottle, burp, promptly poohs his pants so another nappy change, typical routine. What are we doing now? You want Nanny to draw dinosaurs. How about some lunch first. Bella's lunch, my lunch, more toys dragged out the cupboard, colouring books, the baby doll is undressed, bathed in Zandar's bath, dried and dressed and given a bottle by her very attentive mother. Even after all this treatment the doll is flagrantly unappreciative and shows its displeasure by squawking its head off, courtesy of Bella, not any mechanics within the doll, and no amount of comforting will shut it up. Zandar's lunch, another nappy change, back to bed for him, out come the easel and markers and dinosaur book so Nanny knows what they look like, and we draw big dinosaurs with lots of things in their tummies.

And so it continues ad infinitum for the nest few hours, am so glad I did all this when I was in my twenties. But I do love 'em. Go home knackered.

FOUND THE HAIRY BEAST

DEC 20 '09 - DAY 13
I knew he'd come out of hiding eventually, having taken up residence in the firewood heap on the back porch about a month ago. He was a lot livelier then, not easy to catch, but I spotted him while getting the newspapers ready for recycling. Saw a telltale leg, so gingerly moved papers until I found the critter. He looked a little less feisty having found a cosy spot in the newspaper pile to snooze for a few weeks, then I surprised myself by convincing him to attach his eight hairy legs to a loooong stick so I could deftly remove him to the garden.

I trusted he had no friends or family sharing his space, and promptly removed the rest of the pile. Quite pleased with myself, as I do have a colourful history of dealings with Huntsman spiders. If I'm not taken by surprise I'm relatively ok, but the memory of driving in bumper to bumper traffic as one crawled up beside my face on the inside of the driver's side window, while the boys who were duly restrained by their seatbelts were trying desperately to remove themselves from said threat, gave me one of those 'someone walked over my grave' shivers.

Long drawn out saga, finally managed to pull over. It was dark, which obviously didn't help, but he conveniently crawled along the inside of the windscreen, and having to calculate in a nanosecond the right angle to hit him, the right amount of force which would squash him without smashing the windscreen, he copped the full fury of my indignation, terror and shoe. Suffice to say, desired outcome not quite achieved. I hit him, I know I hit him, but where did he go? How come you never have a torch in the car when you really need one.

With a few kilometres to go, cars streaming by, no one stopping to help the damsel in distress, and the boys curled up on the back seat being very brave, well, they were only four and six at the time, it took every ounce of resolve to complete the drive, with the expectation that at any moment an angry arachnid would take its revenge for being so violated. Arrived back in one piece, victim was found under the brake pedal, glad I hadn't known that, stunned but not quite dead, so he was removed forthwith, not by me that's for sure.

DID I GET SWINE FLU?

DEC 19 '09 - DAY 12
Just what sort of virus did I get anyway? Pooped after yesterday's effort, feel like something the cat dragged in. Wrapped the presents though, distributed tinsel in strategic places, vacuumed the house, festive spirit not very evident yet. I do enjoy buying gifts though, going through the process of calling the recipient to mind, envisaging what would bring pleasure.

Fell asleep in front of the TV, woke up with my neck all askew, a pain to wake up just so I can pack myself off to bed. Probably won't sleep now.

ONE OF 'THOSE' DAYS

DEC 18 '09 - DAY 11

As opposed to one of those 'days' if you get my drift. It would have been my 38th wedding anniversary today, if there had still been two of us to celebrate it. Bob died six and a half years ago from cancer, will probably fill you in on more of our story as time goes on, but as you lose someone you love you tend to inherit other anniversaries besides the obvious ones.

Like the date you receive the news right out of left field that a brain tumour the size of a golf ball is about to change life as you know it, the date your loved one dies, the date of their funeral. All are filed away and remembered along with birthdays, engagements, weddings and other significant family occasions.

Fortunately I am blessed with a pretty even and positive disposition, definitely not a depressive, and it's amazing what you can deal with when you're thrown into the thick of it. Life comes at us head on, plans go out the window, we diverge off the main highway we're barrelling along on to a bumpy side track we've never ventured down before. Not an easy road to negotiate, it can feel like the way is full of obstacles we don't want to deal with. But we do, one by one, and if we're prepared to be open to the possibility that just around the next corner things may not be so threatening, we can be surprised by the unexpected joys which inevitably come our way.

So, on this anniversary of sorts, I dragged my limp body to town with definitely no festive spirit in tow, but as I headed from one end of town to the other the brain started ticking over with ideas for gifts for the family. Fortified with a skinny latte, extra hot, and a rum ball, off I set and managed to complete a decent chunk of purchases before heading home. Wasn't so bad after all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

BACK AT WORK

DEC 16-17 - DAY 9-10
Gathered all my resources of energy, which wasn't much, and put in two full days of work, passing on rent to the private home owners who lease out their properties in this little village. Also managed to pay a pile of bills, organise the receipts from the various commercial enterprises ready for banking, and add to the pile of accumulating paperwork gathering on the floor as there's no room on the desk. Temporarily out of sight, but not out of mind, will have to attack it next week.

Haven't even attempted opening the filing cabinet drawer yet to see if there's anything worth revising in the way of writing, or the Stories and Story Ideas files on the computer. At this point, this is all I can muster.

At least I can read again, which I couldn't do while I was at my worst, and am enjoying Through a glass darkly by Caroline Jones, ABC TV presenter. Details her personal story of turmoil and grief leading up to and after her father's death. Very honest, lays bare her shock at the extent to which his death affected her, and her struggle to find solace in a faith she thought was rock solid. A good read.

THE END IS IN SIGHT, CAN I NOW BEGIN?

DEC 15 '09 DAY 8
Still at home, still lethargic, though I think I am over the worst of it at last, but have now progressed to the drowning in the draining sinuses and choking on the gunge stage. How does your head manufacture all this stuff? There is obviously a medical explanation for it all, but that's little comfort in the midst of a mucus attack.

Watched the midday movie again, where on earth do the networks dredge these movies up from in the lead up to Christmas. I'm a sucker for a good Christmas movie, emphasis on good, something like Noel with Susan Sarandon, which not only portrays the usual fare of families getting together, but also shows the reality of what for many is a disconnectedness with other people at this time of year, turning the Christmas and New Year period into one of loneliness and despair.

Put up the Christmas tree, took me all of ten minutes. Mind you, it is only 30 cm high, so one strand of tinsel, seven bells and a star on top complete my big effort. I've never been big on decorations, but with friends complete with kids coming from interstate this year, thought I'd better jollify the place. More cards have arrived, climb on the dining room table to put up an extra line of string above the window.

MY GET UP AND GO GOT UP AND WENT

DEC 14 '09 DAY 7

Still feeling miserable, razor blade throat. Stayed home from work. Unthinkable, unheard of. Even watched some morning television, that tells you bad I am. And the midday movie as well, even squeezed out a tear at the appropriate moment in the story, oh dear, when will I feel human again.

Most energetic thing I attempted all day was to hang the Christmas cards which have been arriving since early last week. Will I manage to reciprocate? Somehow I don't think so. Not that I don't value my friends, don't get me wrong, but with my main Christmas shopping days having passed over the last two Fridays while very under the weather, and no cards or gifts bought, I'm going to be up against it this year.

It's not like I live just round the corner from the shopping centre and can nick out when I feel better. Here I am just north of central Tasmania part way up a mountain, 45 minutes from the nearest town of any substance, a 120 km round trip, not the trip I really want to do, can afford to do, or have the time to do more than my scheduled once a week. Living here does have its advantages though. With less than 200 people in this little village, everyone knows everyone else, not in the bad sense of everyone knowing your business and intruding on it, but in the sense of looking out for each other and caring about what you're dealing with. Bev the postie brought my mail on her way home (we don't have home delivery, everyone picks it up from the community post office), as well as my Monday paper, just to make sure I wasn't on death's door.


STUFF A COLD, STARVE A FEVER

DEC 10-13 '09 DAY 3-6
So much for commitment, the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak, very weak. 95% of the time I am healthy as a horse (then again there was the equine influenza, so even they're not healthy all the time) but my body chose this week to pick up a virus from somewhere and knock me rotten.....hang on....pause for four sneezes in a row, not little ones mind you, the kind where the tickle and the build up starts, you feel it coming....yes, here it comes, no, it's gone, wait, here it comes, no, gone again, yes, here it....AH......you know the sort. The top of your head disappears somewhere, and seeing as all the plumbing in your head is connected, the ear infection which started this unwanted interlude from normal everyday activities is crying out for more antibiotics, and I'm sure an extra piece of barbed wire has infiltrated to intensify the scratch in the throat.

No cold and flu tablets for me, a definite no-no says my doc, don't want the blood pressure getting a free ride. Managed a real coup though. Now, how often can you actually get in to see your doctor when you're sick? Seeing as we never plan our ailments two weeks in advance so we can fit in with our doctor's availability, I thought having an appointment set up for a totally unrelated matter on the day I woke up feeling like crap took particular skill.

Ear infection from last weekend has returned, along with shivers and shakes, sweats, watery eyes, streaming nose, cough cough cough, even my skin hurts, moan, groan, plaintive cries of 'I want my Mummy' can be heard from under the blanket. How come my hot lemon drinks taste nothing like the ones Mum used to make for me when I was a little girl? Who invented eucalyptus tissues? You wonderful, wonderful person. Between them, the Vicks VapoRub (not on the chest, but on the nose so I can breathe), Strepsils, lemon drinks ad infinitum, antibiotics, Inner Health Plus capsules and yoghurt to offset the destruction of the antibiotics, paracetamol and lemon and ginger herbal tea I guess I'll survive.

Hopefully tomorrow will dawn with a glimmer of hope, my blocked up head will start to clear, my body will feel like something other than a lump of lead, and I will have the wherewithal to think.

THIRD TRIMESTER HERE WE COME

DEC 9 '09 DAY 2
If my genetic heritage is anything to go by, having just passed the penultimate birthday before one of life's big milestones, I am really only on the cusp of my third trimester. My mother made it to 90, and my father to 93, so with 60 looming within my sights I could still be around for another 30 years. That's an awful long time to put up with arthritic pain and endless nights of broken sleep if you think of it, but it also means there is still the chance to discover more of who I can be, what I can be, and even what I might want to be which until now hasn't surfaced.

The third trimester is an interesting time in a woman's pregnancy. Even though this new life has been cooking away for six months, the last three months become a period of waiting as your body increases in size and decreases in activity. You start to look inward, wondering just what sort of person you've created here, the impact this new arrival will have on your own life let alone the life of your family, whether or not you'll be up to the job of meeting the needs of this thing which has complete disregard for anyone else's needs but its own. Will you be completely swallowed up by this new being, or will you still have some shreds of yourself left over that are somewhat recognisable as the 'you' who existed BC, that is, before child.

The third trimester of pregnancy is the beginning of the end. There is light at the end of the tunnel, there is an inevitable goal in sight, to be greeted with joy, fear, anticipation, dread, excitement, or resignation, depending on your circumstances. I've been there done that, twice, feels like a lifetime ago, though if you sat down with me long enough I could bore you with the stories of the births of my children with a lively running commentary of which any sports presenter would be proud. Try it with any mother. Whether a year ago or fifty years ago, the details are etched firmly within our psyche.

So, what of this new trimester I am heading into. Am I relegated to the waiting room to join the queue for the slippery slide downwards to the end? While I wasn't taking much notice, time started ticking away a lot faster, so if I'm to face this next step with expectation rather than resignation, I have to get cracking. Am I past the point of having a go at something new? I hope not. I don't want to simply count off the days to the end, days which threaten to become so predictable they are mind numbing and soul destroying. Definitely the formula for disaster, so while there's life there's hope. No, in this third trimester of my life I need to bring something new to birth, but as with all births there is the 'labour' that cannot be avoided. So, after 59 years of gestation, the labour must begin in earnest.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A NEW BEGINNING

DEC 8 '09 DAY 1

Watched the movie Julie & Julia last weekend as I was crook and needed some curl up on the couch time. Loved it, couldn't get it out of my head and have been inspired to finally rouse myself from my apathy and actually get writing, before I think this daily blog thing which seemed like a good idea at the time turns out to be unworkable, before the housework beckons, before the grass grows and I have to spend several hours taming it into submission again, before gearing up to prepare for the big project of painting the hallway, the laundry, the study and spare bedroom, before I remind myself there are so many other things I should be doing. Should? Maybe that's could. But definitely not before breakfast, which is now.

Ok, Weet Bix and strawberries are out of the way, courtesy of my doctor's latest instructions. Need some extra fibre he says. Don't care what you put on it he says, can even be Froot Loops if you like, but those dreaded flavourless milk absorbing lumps of stuff which I somehow doubted ever really belonged to any of the food groups have now become part of the morning ritual, so I've opted for one, not the two as instructed, dare I confess next time I see him, but topped with fresh strawberries they are at least palatable. Definitely cannot start the day though without the Vegemite on toast, so armed with my favourite orange herbal tea I am now raring to go.

Despite the talk of food, this blog will definitely not be a Julie & Julia project discovering the delights and disasters of French cooking. If I followed the regimen in the movie I would undoubtedly balloon to the size of a blimp by the end of the year. No, my culinary needs are much simpler; I cook to make sure I stay alive.

However, with the purpose of my blog in mind, my attempts to write something over the past few decades that might actually be worth sharing with more than myself, my writer's class of which I've attended a few, my writer's group of which I've attended a couple, and friends who I correspond with, have come to a big fat zero. I have the first chapters of umpteen stories which started with a bang and ended in a whimper; short stories, some short, some rather long winded, most unfinished; there are lists of themes and issues to explore, opening lines, quotes for the inside front page, files of idea to stimulate the brain, but what has it produced? Filing cabinet drawers and computer files of Nothing.

For someone who is a 'completer/finisher' in most areas of my life, this is one area that fits well and truly into the procrastinator part of me. For those creative pursuits where validation of your efforts requires you to actually put something out there, I am sadly lacking in courage. And discipline, and effort, and time management, and......probably many other things as well. But if Julie Powell can set herself a target of completing her project in 365 days and achieve it, then I'll make a darned good effort to do the same thing.

The Great Australian Novel it will not be, but maybe I can take heart along with the countless other frustrated, self doubting wannabe authors out there, for at least it will be a beginning. I will do what writers should do, yes, should do. I will write very day.