Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Sunday 27 March 2011

Sunday Selections.

Sunday Selections, brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, is an ongoing theme where participants post previously unused photos languishing in their files.

Anyone can join in, just post your photos under the Sunday Selections title, link back to Kim, then add your name to her Linky list at Frogpondsrock.

Just to be consistent - I am going back to Antarctica, and hope you will come with me.

Memorial at Port Stanley, Falkland Islands.

This one made me more than ordinarily crabby.  The arches are whale ribs.  Humph.

From here on in, things of beauty I promise.

Rock Hopper Penguins (and they do) and Albatrosses.

Baby King Penguins

Gentoo Penguin

Magellan Penguins

Wednesday 23 March 2011

(Overly) Ambititious Plans for Spring

Lusting after Spring is not rational because Canberra does Autumn and Winter beautifully, and they are both seasons I relish.  Nonetheless we have this week succumbed to the wiles exerted by the catalogues of garden porn we have been receiving.

Through J.N Hancock and Co I have ordered:
100 Premium Rainbow Mixed Daffodils
Gamblers Pot Luck (end of season run, including probably about 50 bulbs)
100 Split Corona Daffodils
100 Double Mixed Daffodils, and
100 Perfumed Mixed Jonquils.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me the smaller portion ordered through Van Diemen Quality Bulbs:
200 Mixed Triumph Tulips
200 Mixed Darwin Hybrid Tulips, and
50 Yellow-Purple Blends of Dutch Iris.

We are seriously loopy.  At the moment getting down to the ground is very difficult and very painful for me.  Getting up again is worse.  So between us we have ordered 900 bulbs. Since I discovered this I have been weeding my heart out so we will have somewhere to put them all. We will also have to buy copious amounts of smelly fertiliser for the cats to snort.   It is really lucky that we ordered different things.  The work will be awful but I hope the results will be worth it.  I weed and plant, himself plants.  He is much faster than me, so he will be putting in a lot of bulbs this year.

Last year the results of our work in the jungle looked like this:
Our neighbours across the road hold tea parties to celebrate the blooming of the crab apple each year.

This year we seem to be planning a bigger and better display.  I am more than a little perturbed about the work involved, but looking forward to the drama of the results.

On an entirely different note.  Last night I didn't get to sleep because of muscle spasms and pain.  So I devoured the Faber Book of Diaries that I had previously been savouring.  It was really cleverly presented, itself in diary form, with three or four entries for each day from predominantly English diarists.  Some of them I have, some of them I have read, some of them I now know to avoid and others I lust after.  And will track down. 

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Setting the Record Straight(ish)

I finally came clean to a very longstanding and dear friend and admitted that I was playing in the blogosphere.  Some of her comments horrified me.

'The one about MS is very very special. As is the one about getting stuck on the toilet – among other things. It sounds like YOU – and that’s how all the ones I’ve liked best sound. There are others that are well written and have plenty of content but where you sound like A Very Nice Lady with a Dear Supportive and Kind Partner. A very nice lady who would wear muted colours and probably have her hair done regularly… As you might guess, they don’t speak to me in the slightest...  It’s your own distinctive, black-humoured (and dribbling) voice that I love. Long may it reign. '

This is not the way I saw my posts but ....Truth is hugely important to me so I thought it was time to amend any misapprehensions that are lurking about.  Like everyone else I am a complex mix.

Although I am a caring person I am not 'a nice lady'.  Indeed not being a member of the peerage I object to the term lady.  I am regularly bad tempered. Far too often ballistic with rage.  What makes me angry?  Injustice, inequity, dishonesty, prejudice, cruelty (particularly to animals but not excluding humans), pretentiousness.  Jazz swinging from my butt purring loudly.  My body's refusal to do what I tell it.  Losing words and forgetfulness.  The isms - think racism, sexism etc.  My ongoing feelings of inadequacy.  And the list goes on, but that is a start.  Some of the things that make me angry have positive outcomes.  I contribute to selected charities so that I can feel that I am helping to work on things that make me angry.  When I can I ignore my body.  And the gaps in my mind.  Forgetting things means I can re-read and rediscover things of joy.  And sometimes being angry is a waste of energy I just don't have.  Which, regretfully, doesn't stop me.

Most of the things that make me angry/sad are concepts rather than things I guess.  On the other hand I am made happy by small things (small things/small mind?).  The people I love.  Dawn.  Autumnal colours.  The cats in all their moods.  Winning against the challenges my body sets me.  Watching the birds.  Fresh produce from the garden.  Flowers ditto. Wine.  Chocolate.  Discovering/rediscovering authors who can educate, amuse or transport me.  Art in its multiplicity of guises ditto.  And this list goes on too.

I revel in my black sense of humour and view it as a life saver.

I love my partner dearly - we have now been together for over thirty years but in some ways he is best described as a selfink.  And I am sure he has equally opprobrious ways of describing me but we won't go there.  This is my blog.

Whilst in the workforce Maggie Shepherd clothes in all their glorious and LOUD colour clashings were my outfits of choice.  I have a deep and abiding passion for earrings and some of my favourites are shaped like cat's bums.

These days I dress for comfort in trousers and t shirts. Worn to death and beyond.  Shoes rarely, but if they are necessary, flat.

I loathe and detest hairdressers and go (several weeks after I should) only to get my hair cut.  I have a game which I call the hairdresser game where I make up family scenarios if I feel their questions are too probing.  And never remember what scenario I have used - but that is another issue.  My hair is curly or very curly depending on the weather.  I had chemotherapy towards the end of last year and only lost my grey hairs - something which continues to amuse me.  I don't own a blow dryer - my style is 'wash and wear'.  Possibly wild and woolly is the right description.   I look like my mama (though my nose is less parrot like) so I don't do photos.  The critic who was the impetus for this post tells me that I look down my more abbreviated nose like a disapproving camel when inspired.

I read 'good books' and agreeable trash with equal pleasure, often concurrently. At the moment I am reading the Faber Book of Diaries and Dawn of the Dreadfuls (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).  Both have charm.

My middle and eldest brothers have the family pomposity gene.

I don't think I dribble.  Yet.


Sunday 20 March 2011

Sunday Selections

Sunday Selections, brought to us by Kim, of Frogpondsrock, is an ongoing theme where participants post previously unused photos languishing in their files.

Anyone can join in, just post your photos under the Sunday Selections title, link back to Kim, then add your name to her Linky list at Frogpondsrock.

And it was brought to me by the lovely River .

I have chosen balloons (the big ones) because I love them to bits and because a balloon festival has just finished here.  When I can I love to go and watch them being inflated and taking off, even if I am not flying.  But this year I missed out - given his druthers the smaller portion sleeps until noon and the balloons are inflated at 6.30am.  And this week has been cloudy every morning so I didn't have the heart to drag him out of bed for a maybe.

I was given not one but two balloon rides for a significant birthday a few years ago.  They were truly lovely and I was super grateful that two sets of people dear to me thought I would love it.  They were right. I think that ballooning is one of the few things which are actually as good as they look on television and/or movies.  And because I suspect that I could no longer clamber into the basket they are memories to add to the cherished pile.

 Blurred a bit cause my hands were shaking (with excitement rather than the dread disease I think).

Both houses of Parliament

Saturday 12 March 2011


Just after Easter 2004 my mother died.  The last five or six years of her life were difficult for us all as she descended into the depths of alcoholism.  She was sad, lonely and afraid and I grieved for the mother I had known and was angry, bitter and despairing.
After she died and I received my inheritance, I had two choices.  I could invest the money and put it away for the home modifications, medications etc I am likely to need (be sensible in other words).  Or I could use it to fulfil a dream.  Something I had always wanted to do, and had not thought possible.
I flew to Argentina - challenging because some of my medication is injected and it is very, very difficult to fly with multiple syringes these days.  Flew again to Ushuaia (where I was simultaneously fascinated and appalled when the other passengers applauded the pilot for landing safely) and boarded a Russian ice breaker for a 21 day tour of the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic.
I spent the next three weeks in heaven.  I dislocated my jaw on a daily basis gaping at the sights around me.  One day I was really, really tired and thought I would have a quiet afternoon lying on my bed.  And when I got to my room we were floating past a large iceberg with penguins sliding down it, laboriously climbing to the top again and sliding back down to the sea.  So my nap ended before it began.
Baby King Penguin in its first moult
I was appallingly seasick and it didn't matter.  I have been sick before and I expect I will be again, but never in surroundings like that.
There are restrictions on how close you can go to the wildlife - but no-one told them about it.  I had a baby seal gumming on my knee and penguins pecking at my boots.

I took every chance I had to experience as much as I could.  Which is how I  swam at Paradise Harbour when the water temperature was 1.4 degrees C, and where I had to dodge floating bits of ice.  The next day I swam again - at Pendulum Cove in the flooded caldera of Deception Island.  The water was a little warmer there - but still brisk.  I hadn't realised that there was a volcano there.
I saw Shackleton's grave, and the graves of less famous individuals.
Very lonely graves at the Argentian base.
 And everywhere I went I was filled with awe and wonder at the beauty.  One day we travelled by Zodiac (small inflatable boats) through a version of Monet's waterlilies executed in ice.
We saw Humpback, Minke and Fin whales even though it was too early in the season for many of  whales to have reached Antarctica.  There were usually Albatrosses to be seen.  And Frigate birds.  And many others too.
It was obscenely expensive and I would do it again in a heart beat.
Adult King Penguin in all its glory
Magellan Penguins
Adelie Penguins
I have literally hundreds of photos and each time I look at them my heart wells with gratitude.  And the calm serenity and beauty of the trip gave me the impetus to take the first steps towards forgiving my mama and recognising the many positive things she gave me in life. 
Blissed out male Elephant Seal surrounded by his harem.
Taken at Midnight on my last night.  Midnight and Dawn both.

Thursday 10 March 2011

Not Just a Grumpy Old Woman

But grumpy nonetheless.  It is trashy tabloid time again. ( Note to self:  I really should stop even looking at it.  I don't do anger well.)
However, this time the anger isn't at the journalism, but at the story they covered, which you can view in its ugly entirety here.
Essentially a man who assaulted his wife so badly he was sentenced to 17 years' jail has asked for ownership of the couple's former home and part of his ex-partner's victim's compensation payment!!!!!.
Words fail me.  I resent the oxygen used by specimens like this one.  Fortunately the judge agreed.
To prove that I am not just grumpy I will move speedily on to better things.  Lifeline was busy today so I came home feeling a little like chewed string.  To be greeted at the door with the news that superb parrots visited us today. Aren't they beautiful?  They are out of their territory by more than 100 kilometres here so we always feel privileged to see them.

And the smaller portion had put a champage flute and a piccolo of bubbly in the fridge to reward me for a gruelling day and a job well done so now I am feeling more than a little mellow.  Except towards the man in the opening paragraphs (but that goes without saying).

Tuesday 8 March 2011


I was flipping through one of our trashier tabloid papers this afternoon when I was forcibly reminded why I don't read it.  The story in question related to the world's smallest man who is visiting Oz to raise awareness about sex trafficking and to seek donations for his foundation which supports orphans and people with disabilities in Nepal.  (though they described it as the disabled - another of my bug bears).

The article in question (which is by-lined) did not bring up these issues until the third paragraph.  In the second they commented on his height saying and I quote 'To put it in perspective, this is smaller than a typical tea-towel.'  You can see the whole rotten article if you can stomach it here .  And I complain about newspapers and the media more generally objectifying women.  I can't bring to mind a comparison quite as offensive as this one.

I am so angry I could just spit.  As one of our cats used to say when displeased MUNG, MUNG, MUNG.

Stylish Blogger Award

Stylish Blogger!!  She says in shock and horror.  I have only been blogging for ten minutes and feel totally undeserving.  None the less a big thank you for the encouragement that Angela gave me this morning.

Step One:  Make a post linking back to the person who gave you the award.  Tick (see above)

Step Two: Share seven random things about yourself.
I don't do anything by halves, be it reading, gardening, blogging, swimming or ...I have convinced my family that none of us need any more things and now presents are plucked from various charities.  The ones I have liked best have been bicycles for midwives in Africa (Oxfam) and mine removal in Cambodia (Care).  I have swum in Antarctica twice sans wet suit (and loved it).  Our cats rule my life with iron paws.  There is very little that can't be made better by applying chocolate.   I have been white-water rafting in Nepal (and loved that too).  I don't drive.

Step Three: Award 15 recently discovered (I assume by me) bloggers with this award.  This is relatively easy.  As I said, I have only been blogging for a very little while and have discovered some magical blogs to haunt.  Thank you all.
1 Aim to Change
2 Ampersand Duck
3 Blurb from the Burbs
4 Copperwitch
5 River
6 I am Hopeless
 7 Lexicon Harlot
8 living in the Kingdom of too much
9 Pea Soup
10 Princess Pandora - Queen of Denial
11 Snowbrush
12 The Dangerous Kettle
13 The last Lovely Leaf
14 Trying To Be Ann O'Dyne
15 Two Tigers Creations

Step 4:  Contact these wonderful bloggers and tell them about the award.

And a big and heartfelt thank you to you all for enriching my life.

Saturday 5 March 2011

Pumpkin Curry - based on one by Charmaine Solomon

As you requested River.  I love this recipe and make it often.  It freezes well too.  It  is mild and slightly sweet and goes well with rice.  Leftovers when the pumpkin has largely disintegrated are good too.

500 g of pumpkin (I use butternut)
1 onion chopped
Garlic to taste (finely chopped)
Ginger (ditto)
3 fresh chillies, seeded and chopped (or again, to taste - I often use chilli paste as I am less likely to rub it into my eyes)
8-10 curry leaves
Heaped teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
A generous teaspoon of fish sauce (the original recipe says pounded maldive fish or dried prawns)
11/2 cups thin coconut milk
1/2 cup thick coconut milk
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

Peel the pumkin and cut into large chunks.  Put into a big saucepan with all the ingredients except the thick coconut milk and the mustard seeds.  Bring slowly to simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, until pumpkin is almost done.

Grind the mustard seeds in mortar and pestle and mix with the thick coconut milk.  Add to the simmering pot and cook for five to ten minutes longer.

If, as is often the case, I am being super slack I just use a whole buttenut pumpkin and get a bit more generous with the spices.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

MS and me

Antarctic - heaven on a stick
Not a scientific post, not a medical post, just musing on what having MS has meant for me personally.  Not least of which is to be grateful for a black sense of humour.

I was diagnosed during MS awareness week eighteen or nineteen years ago.  With the benefit of the twenty twenty vision that hindsight bestows I had MS for a good ten years before the diagnosis.   My overwhelming feeling when I was told was one of relief.  There was something wrong, I wasn't a hypochondriac and I could start to tackle it.  And, if you have to acquire an incurable disease there are many worse ones about.

I was working in disability policy at the time (oh the irony of it) and after some time off returned to work.  My then manager took to speaking slowly and loudly to me and using little words.  I asked her to stop.  She didn't.  So, in an interdepartmental meeting when she did it again, I dropped my jaw and dribbled at her 'whats that u say, I dindna unnerstand'.  She was mortified.  I should perhaps be ashamed but am not.  And while I don't think it did my career any good I think she learnt something (though perhaps it was just not to push me too far).

Over the next few years a pattern developed.  I would have a relapse and take a few weeks off.  I would go back to work and get more and more tired.  Tired to the point of nausea. Tired to the point where as soon as I got home from work I went to bed.  Where I spent most of every weekend.   So, I started working part-time.  And too soon for my liking discovered that really wasn't practical either.  So, I was invalided out of the paid work force.

And discovered that for me at any rate, at a lot of my identity was based around what I did.  So I became a voluntary telephone counsellor with Lifeline.  Which has been magical.  Some shifts are gruelling.  Some calls have made me weep for and with the callers.  Some have terrified me.  Some callers have made me smile until my face hurts. And the sexual fantasy callers (Lifeline is cheaper than the sex lines) piss me off big time.  But whatever is going down in my life at the time I have never completed a shift without feeling grateful for the life I lead and the people I love.  And now I am a supervisor for other telephone counsellors too.  The organisation asks a lot.  Ongoing compulsory training and supervision.  Regular shifts.  Professionalism.  Acceptance of difference.  And I am not yet even contemplating giving it up.  And since the end of last year I provide peer support over the  phone to other people with the dread disease.

Physically MS can be hard.  I move less freely. I drag a leg a bit.   I am as flexible as a brick.  I have, as I whinged on an earlier post, got stuck on the toilet.  There is significant pain.  Teemed incongruously with reduced sensitivity.  My epidermis is much less sensitive and, as a result, having treatment at the hospital late last year I was burnt (and blistered) when I didn't realise that the warm damp cloth the staff had applied to bring up a vein was in fact hot and wet.  I knew I had reduced sensitivity in my feet and legs but hadn't realised it extended to my hands and arms.  The pain is deep pain and can wake me (and the smaller portion) shrieking.  It doesn't disturb Jazz the psycho cat.  My hands shake and my fine motor control is shot. My handwriting is less legible.   I am dangerous with kitchen knives.  Sometimes I lose (fortunately so far temporarily) my vision.  All these things are irritating, but so far manageable.  I once wanted a pumpkin curry and had no-one available to cut it up for me.  So I threw it onto the back deck where it shattered quite satisfactorily.  And I like that curry anyway but it tasted particularly good that night.

Heat is an issue.  On hot or humid days my symptoms are exacerbated.  At the worst I fall over.  On the plus side apart from a trip to Antarctica five years ago I haven't needed a coat at all.  And that is a significant plus in Canberra where it can get chilly.  I can go out and collect the papers in my bare feel quite happily.  On the negative side I would love to go to glass making classes.  However the temperature issues teemed with my shaky hands means that option is out.  Sigh.  But not a huge price to pay.

Fatigue is also a big problem.  Not relieved by having a nap/going to bed early.  And I often don't get any warning.  I can be going along quite happily and then, whammo, I am stuffed.  So I have to stop before I am tired or pay the price.  Which I often do find myself doing.  So now I use the pain/gain equation.  When I want to do something which I know will exhaust me I weigh up whether the pain is worth the gain.  And I think all of us have to play that game to some extent anyway.   

My memory is shot.  So I write lists, ensuring that at least one thing on the list is easy so I can cross it off.  And it means I can reread books.  In murder mysteries I may not remember who died, much less who killed them.  I lose words - cannot get them out of my mouth.  So I have to resort to mime.  Difficult on the phone.

There is plenty of scientific research underway into finding a cure.  Fingers crossed.  However I have real reservations - most of what I have seen so far concentrates on treating the symptoms which are highly variable).  And I believe finding a cause is integral to finding a cure.