Wednesday, April 28, 2021

School Set Readers

Do you remember the books that you HAD to read at school?

Some were cool.  I know that we did The Crucible, The Merchant of Venice and The Great Gatsby. 

 I always tried to read the set texts the holidays before so I had read it with pleasure without the pressure of "needing to study it".

However all delicious recall of such titles and joy is completely quashed by my memory of the Year 9 English book that I didn't get forewarning of as I was moved from the English class that I thought I had (that had some cool and wonderful book) to Miss C- (I think - or was she a different teacher? - they all blur after a few decades).

Miss C (or whoever she was) had set some woeful book about a girl turning 14, finding drugs when she was babysitting and dabbling and then becoming a full addict, broken home, mental institution and postage-sized Pyrrhic hope on offer on the last page if you are willing to take the "at least she didn't die" approach. 

I can't remember the title - Unhinged or Unraveling or Jesus Wept (not the last one, I would have remembered) and the author was some bint who had an unspellable last name.

My goodness, if "Year Nine is the worst year of your life" needed a mascot, that was the book for it.

So - what were your highlights?  (or lowlights?)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Things to do on a Thursday

You can wake up to the sound of rain on the roof - or you can wake up to the wailings of the now ag-ed Eddie-cat and discover that the windows were inadvertently left open to the moister-than-usual elements and invited them inside.

I did not choose the latter.  It chose me.

You can make decisions about what is on the tele, as there are the proverbial 57 channels (and yet still not achieve that perfect program).

You can create a feast of the mundane.  You can get wet when out shopping.  You can be trounced by an eleven-year-old in new board games.

You can balance the books.  You can make resolutions.

You can observe in the rearview the most bizarre period in your life and realise that while this is a year that we will (hopefully) look back upon.

You can find a television station that is selling the most tinny Christmas trivial knick-knack so badly that you think it a form of theatre.

You can enjoy the sunshine and measure the rain and feel the plumpness of limes and revel in the vibrancy of the chillies ripening.

You can imagine being with friends and family far and wide and hope that there is peace in their worlds right now.

You can remember reading of other times of trouble in other parts of history and the parallels and lessons unlearned and wonder how the hell we got through and how the hell are we going to get through this.

You can realise that one of the many diseases uncovered this dig is the dis-ease in our society where the I is so much higher than the we to the detriment of us.

You can hope and hope and hope that it will indeed be better.

You can eat chocolate and contemplate that tomorrow will be a new day.

And even better, a holiday.  And another day where you can enjoy what life has to offer and be thankful.

Best wishes to all.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Melbourne, Migraines and the Meaning of 42

Good evening.

It is a good evening for me for it is post-many things that were not so pleasant in quick succession.  For me.

On the sliding scale of good evenings available in the world, however...

It is a great evening for those who had lockdown imposed upon them who have been released into the relative freedom of Stage Three restrictions.

It is a confronting evening for those the that marvelously followed all restrictions at all point, observed the relaxation of rules in a reserved and sensible manner and were blasted out of the water by the wandering ways of an underpaid casual labour force and cultural divides being fanned through wilful ignorance and educated guesses.

I had something today that was not a contemplation when we first set to shield ourselves from the current scourge that is Covid-19.

I had elective surgery. 

Something that I chose to do on a whim as I have been banned from giving my most wonderful O Negative blood to the Red Cross Blood Bank for being too low too long in iron.

I mean, they weren't as severe as all of that.  They were nice about it.  But my Dr had to sign off on my paperwork before I would be allowed to darken their comfy chairs again.  And the free food after.

So once things were open enough again to see the good lady in person, I took my piece of paper and my anaemic self to see her.

In the good old days, I would have just taken a longer lunch-break and done it on a work day.

The only downside to working from home is that this now requires me to take a 1/2 RDO to fit in appointments.

And therefore it is so much more noticeable when you have an appointment, as it no longer feels like a holiday.

Anyhoo, after much "a lady your aged" and "rule out other possibilities" and something about a large needle of ferrous matter in the fat layer, I had a promise of a phone call for a specialist appointment.

Came the day (managed to make it coincide with a re-scheduled dental cleanse to make the whole 1/2 day RDO worthwhile) and met with the man.

Again, after discussions of the kerfuffle-valve, menopause, medical statistics and one attempt at humour - the man does not do humour but is intelligent enough to recognise it very dryly.

I was sent to talk to Alana.

Alana was very friendly and business-like about the whole deal.

Apparently Endos are done on a Thursday and a Friday.  How about next Thursday - the 2nd?

Did you hear me scream?

I mean, besides the fact that she was talking about a date 8 days ahead, it was also the week most feared and loathed (with a twist of sheer exileration) in the various roles that I have held over the last thirty-mumble years.  End of Financial Year - the 32nd of June is a most exhausting day, generally - and the last thing that I could ever do to a job would be to leave them in the lurch in that week.

So no.

And also, what is this "we can do your non-urgent stuff next week" about anyway?  I live regional.  I expect delays.

I could find no valid excuse to dodge the next week though - I mean, other than it being a really crappy end to a wonderful long weekend with 'Salina for the first time in months, and an enforced extension of my "holiday" for elective surgery.

It meant that the last day of my holiday with 'Salina was one that comprised entirely of food that is not in my general repertoire.  Both 'Salina and Paris were incredibly bemused by my voluntary purchase of white bread. 

I did manage some yummy food from the limited list available to me, surprisingly.  I made a pumpkin soup with just chicken stock and pumpkin with a swirl of cottage cheese - and white bread.  And for dinner, while the others had Chicken Enchiladas I got some poached chicken, mashed pumpkin, white pasta and cottage cheese and inefficiently smooshed them all together (or as is referred to on cooking shows as "rustic") and baked it with the Enchiladas.  A mighty fine concoction.

The drive back from there to here took over 5 hours, courtesy of roadworks.  I was fuelled soully (oops, solely) by 5 hours of sleep, black herbal tea, black coffee, water, chicken stock, fantasy fiction for pre-teens and Radio National.

I had a date at 3

with some convolutedly-hard to get medication at 3 and made it within echoes of it chiming.

I will leave from that time until the knowledge that my day ahead was going to be horrendous roused me to your imagination.

I don't know if you suffer from migraines

, but there is modern medicine out there that can change SUFFERING to suffering and allow you to escape having to live EVERY SINGLE SECOND of a migraine - but as I had this other medication on board, and because there was no bit of literature that I could lay my hands on once in the throes that advised me that I could access that recourse, and because the Endoscopy Unit weren't answering their phones during the period that I could have possibly used it (and as it hit during the wee hours of the morning, I awoke with it in full swing and no chance to catch the bolting horse anyway).

The worst bit is, I had fore-warning.  I am on a message-board where I mentioned it as an aside in a conversation and several members told of migraines.  I was just (as usual) too blithe and (as usual) unprepared for the ferocity.

The best thing about migraines is the emergence at the other end.  It is like no other feeling in life.  It is rebirth after a glimpse at hell.

This one was one circle of hell lower than I had ever met before.

For a start, under medical instruction I was not to imbibe in any more clear fluids after 7am.  So when I got out of bed at 6, already 4 hours into a migraine punctuated with urgent requirements induced by the medication, I proceeded to guzzle 2 bottles of water in the vain hope it would wash away the migraine and stave off too much thirst in the ensuing hours.

Vain hope.

Instead, my head, my entire food-highway and my energy all got into a bit of a bingle, and I was this shattered shell of my former self, constantly dissolving further and further into patheticness.

Paris went to shelter with Queen Jean, and V valiantly drove me in, ice-cream bucket in hand (reminding me of my childhood with a propensity for car-sickness and a family-propensity to long trips on dusty roads).

The first place we went was the wrong place. 

Of course.  I mean, we were relying on the navigation of a woman whose mind was currently not at its usual address, instead being wrestled to below ground by pain and nausea, so it is possible that it was bound to fail.

Luckily, I had managed to get through to the Endoscopy Unit (in time to find that the time that I could have taken medication for the migraine had passed) and so they were ready for me and my complete inability to be a functioning human-being and whisked me through as fast as the machinations of a day surgery unit in a Private Hospital can run.  Yes, I had a headache.  No I didn't have a fever.  No, I haven't been overseas or in Melbourne in the last few weeks.

Now, what is it about Christmas movies and hospitals?

I mean, we got V's knees done in April - which was were we got to see most of a grainy rendition of Arthur Christmas while in a far-away from civilisation family waiting room.

Today it was A Christmas Tree or some such twee.  I think.

Finally the ball got rolling, and I got my lowest reading for well over a decade on the scales, which was a brief blessing among all the misery!

The pain level, I told the aptly named "Joy" was about 9.  They inserted a drip and injected pain-relief.  It barely registered before the put me to sleep.

And then they woke me up.

If you have ever suffered a migaine, you may know the term migraine-shadow.  It is where there is a hollow in your brain where the pain resided and has not yet retaken its shape.

Let me just say that, while you are relieved that the pain is no longer in residence, you are both cautiously happy and terrified at the same time - because you still remember it being there and cannot quite believe that it is gone.

Add to that the layer of post-anaesthesia what-the that occurs.

So, that has been my day.

Oh, that and then getting told that I am to start working back in the office from next Monday.

But Melbourne, I really feel for you right now.

Because while some of us imagine this absolutely unruffled Melbournian, I think that the very least that we can do is give you whatever support that we can because it would be so hard - but if you guys weren't doing it for us right now, and we hope to goodness that you have it right and we aren't too late then this is our own futures.

I lived in Melbourne for one year in 1997.  It was wonderful as the people were wonderful.  It was pathetic because for all of the wonderful people in Melbourne, the city was too small for an ex and I.  Well, that and the weather.

But the people were absolutely wonderful.  And the people that I knew in Melbourne were even more-so.

So 42 days people.  I am pulling for you every step of the way.

(Although, I do hope that not all - or any - of those 42 are going to be migraine level suffering)

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

When you can't find them for looking...


My husband has lost a pair of glasses of late.

I often wonder what its like, being able to lose a pair of glasses.

As one whose vision is not only enhanced but made sense of with the occultation of some mighty weird lenses, this blithe disregard of the whereabouts of such an essential piece of equipment is - well, as fuzzy a concept as my eyesight should that misfortune ever come to me.

He thinks it might have happened on the weekend.  No, the one before - it was after that Friday anyway.

Just before "this bloddy thing" hit back in March, my deteriorating ability to read combined with separate pairs of not-quite ideal glasses was upgraded - at a premium - to one pair of multi-faceted light-sensitivity-tinted you-beaut glasses.

My eyesight does not come into that category that fits neatly into any sort of specials that Optometrists and health funds delight in - used to delight in.  It is the sort that requires ADDITIONAL cost to ensure that it doesn't end up so heavy it will fall off your face.


I had a run in with the poor girl who was my first attempt at making a transaction.

I have a type at Optometrist Dispensers.  Well, I would like to have a type.  The type I would like is one that would tell me exactly which one would suit me at the most inexpensive price and this is how the ordering process should occur - as opposed to the type that is actually attracted to me - the boss you about, take you for a fool, employ industry slang and jargon to bamboozle and then jump you with the bill.

I am sure that the poor young thing was just as jangled as I given the circumstances of the almost hushed atmosphere of mid-March pre-covid.

(Ah, remember then?  Hand sanitizers and food shortages and gob-smacked at Italy, France, the UK and Spain,)

She made one move - said one thing, the wrong thing, the wrong way and I was a jangling ball of anxiety about the impending requirement of being grown up enough to navigate Health Funds, Diarising, Budgeting, Fashion and Fast Lunch-Breaks.  Like a young horse I bolted and cowarded out with an "Can I take a Quote Away and Think About It?".

I have parked in a different spot at the shopping centre since then.  I don't like to walk past in case she might pounce.

He thinks that he may have left them in a shop.  Don't know which shop or why.  On a shelf somewhere.  Imagine being able to navigate life without them.

But I don't want the operation.  I have no problem with other people doing what they like with their eyes, but there are moments when I don't mind being unfocused.

That and I don't want someone sticking a knife into my eye.

Every time I see a pair of his glasses lying around the house, I tell him.  I say "oh, honey, I saw a pair of your glasses on the bench/in the bathroom/in Paris' room/downstairs" and he says "which ones?"

He's so funny.  As if I could tell them apart.  They all look like men's glasses to me.  His eyesight is such that Optometrists not only offer him deals, they GIVE HIM glasses with no gap! 

Me, the pair before the last lot, I got hoodwinked by a modern edgy Optical Dispenser who managed to give me a quote for nearly a grand for two pairs because I had been lulled by the possibility of sunglasses (imagine, sunglasses - I have NEVER had a pair of sunglasses that I could see clearly through without contacts, and they are a pain in the butt - well the eyeball, but whatever) before she got to the "oh, we don't do that deal for your prescription, you need to pay an ADDITIONAL cost to ensure that it doesn't end up so heavy it will fall off your face."  Like a very grey mare I shied and cowarded out with an "Can I take it Away and Think About It?".

"Oh, thats the pair that I keep for the garden" he tells me when I find yet another pair in another spot.  Or maybe they are the same pair that he just keeps rehiding on me to send me crazy.

The pair before that, the older, respectable matronly Optical Dispenser not only talked me down from the fact that the glasses were giving me instant migraines whenever I wore them, she made me endure another week of hell because she thought it was because I wasn't wearing them enough and I should just battle through before calling in the learned one.

The next week she allowed me into the inner sanctum.  "Oh" the Optometrist said - giggle - "we've put the prism in upside-down.  These would have been of no help whatsoever - leave them with me for a few days." as he ushered me out the door.

But she was in wait for my leaving, because she bamboozled me with being grown up and navigate Health Funds, Diarising, Budgeting, Fashion and a Lunch-Break to be terminated with a return to the world's worst workplace.

She tricked me by offering the possibility of sunglasses and had led me well down the path and turned with the  "oh, we don't do that deal for your prescription, you need to pay an ADDITIONAL cost to ensure that it doesn't end up so heavy it will fall off your face."  Like a startled foal I started and got the guts to "Cancel what the Witch Suggested" (aided by the dire state of our finances a the time - my embarrassment has made me pay for far more stupid things in the past).

"No," he said, when I held aloft a pair found secreted on a cluttered horizontal space "those ones only have one eye."

I wonder if there are many pairs of one-eyed glasses hidden around the world in the houses of those who only require a half-view?

Anyhoo...  do you get Optometrist Anxiety too?

I always feel like I am going to fail the test that I have been called in to sit for.

They ask such dumb questions.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Queen Jean and lardy larder lures

I learned how to make lard pastry on Sunday.

My lovely next-door neighbour - Queen Jean -  is a dab hand at pastry.

She is an amazing lady.  She is the same age as "the other Queen" and I swear, there is a portrait of her somewhere.

But she has had an interesting few years - her life has been made up of interesting years.  For a lady who had hardly left her neighbourhood for over 40 years, the second half has been a whirlwind.

She had only recently returned from a few years of interesting, and the sudden transition from being constantly in the presence of others to - nothing - with not enough books and not enough dvds - to keep her from rattling, well, she has been rattling the cage and discovered where the rungs are most malleable.

But one thing she had not turned to during this time was cooking.  

Her daughter had arranged for meals to be delivered which meant that she did not technically have to venture forth for too many grocery items and she would be not be nutritionally bereft.

Last week, I asked to write down her pastry recipe.  

She has always done pies due service (and above) - even when we first met, she would sneak over her offerings (and sneak away from her fourth husband (but not her best)).  There was this one sausage and egg pie she once gave V that has folk song status in our house.  

When she admitted she had not cooked a pie "for years" she got in mind to get a few apples and making a pie.  She did - it was fantastic.  I begged that she let me know how she did it.

It is amazing how offhand she can be about her signature dish.

"Take a cup of flour - it doesn't matter what sort - and half a cup of fat" she starts.

"Butter?" I ask.  "If you must", she responds, "put a little butter in to make up the quantity of " and the word gets lost somewhere in the last 94 years.

"And you must have a beaten egg - in a cup - to the side.  Some is to go on, and a little bit in with a bit of liquid - but not too much." 

(You and me both Ed)

"How about I show you" she says.

We wash our hands.

QJ: About a cup of flour.

Me: What sort of flour (she has used self-raising)?

QJ: Any sort, it doesn't matter.

The secret is light fingers.

We wash our hands and  take off any rings.
QJ:  Don't overwork the dough.

Rub the flour through the fat.  Just your fingertips. 

Oh, and you should have the oven on at about 180.

A dash of milk in the egg.  And its the liquid - only a bit - and some of the egg mix.

QJ:  Mix it - I use a fork - until it comes away from the sides.

Onto a floured surface, roll out enough for the base.

I am using a wine bottle as my rolling pin now.

Don't push - just roll across until it is the right size.

Use a little of the grease on your pie tin.

Try to get it over the middle.

Fill it with stewed apple that has had just a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar.

Roll out the lid and pinch the edges with your fingers.

Brush it with the egg wash.  (I always just use my hands)

Put a few slits and cut some heart shapes - like this (roll a rough circle, cut into quarters and make hearts - just like that)

Find a jar of Robertsons Fruit Mince (from the secret larder) and make a little Fruit Mince Pastie.

The Pie.



Thank goodness I found that the punnets of pansies that she planted out in the last few weeks (for their glorious burgundy flowers) were actually planted out in the punnets, so I could repay her benificence with some gardening work.

"I like making them, but I am the only one here and I have nobody to give them to" she said.

It is such a pity that being the only people she could give her pies to has such weighty consequences.  But then again, I am sure that I could broker at least one household a week that she could share her talents with, because those pies.