Friday, October 26, 2012

Outback and back

Well, that was a tiring trip.  Drive up north, pick up my mother, then head further north and out west.  My mother's definition of outback means emus.  It ain't the Outback until you've seen an emu.  Which I think was somewhere between Tambo and Longreach.  So, both of us sitting in the cab of my VW Caddy, chanting "Are we there yet, are we there yet, are we there yet" and giggling...  Yes, maturity can be wildly over-rated, although I'm sure (at 46 and 79) we displayed elements of it.

Not so sure I recommend driving almost 4,000km to someone still recovering from CFS.  Particularly when you have distinct time frames.  There's coal/gas mining going on out west, so booking rooms well in advance is advisable.

Snapshots (memory and digital) coming up.

White bread and all sorts of interesting interpretations of Chicken Parmigiana. Who knew a chicken breast dunked in batter and deep fried would count?

Lots of places have been painted up.  But - there are also a lot of closed businesses (including pubs) and houses that have obviously been repossessed or walked away from.  Artesian water supplies most towns and the greenery makes a huge difference to the feel of the towns.  The mining is an unknown in relation to the water supply, and there is a very real fear of contamination.  A lot of places don't have hot water systems - they have cold water systems that they turn off for winter....

Driving through the Bunya Mountains and having the most magnificent meat pies at Blackbutt (also an incredible selection of fudges, but we didn't sample those).  The Bunya Mountains are a deep green and literally covered in Bunya pines.  My grandfather used to have the nuts sent to him during WW1.  Highly nutritious as well as a reminder of home.

Wide flat plains full of mitchell grass and feeding the Lake Eyre basin.  No emus, plenty of wallabies.

Augathella cemetery. Grave of a local Chinese and a comparatively close encounter with an Inland Taipan.  We stayed at the Augathella Palms and made friends with the owner's blue heeler.  I've already got dog-withdrawal.

Longreach.  Several visits to the QANTAS Founders Outback Museum, as this is a topic dear to Mum's heart.  She was an international hostess between 1956 and 1960, a time when most hostesses burnt out or married after a year.  She also donates a relevant book "in memory of" when a crew member from her time dies.  Scratch dinner on the Saturday night made up from what I could scrounge in the local petrol stations - Mum was too tired to eat out and the Chinese was shut.  No supermarkets until Monday morning..... I WAS able to get coffee (make that a double shot) from the Stockman's Hall of Fame.  I'm sure there were places open on Sunday morning, I just couldn't find them.  They also had a great selection of books for sale (guilty as charged. One of them was a biography of Daisy Bates).  One great-grandfather drove coaches for Cobb and Co up to Longreach.  Great variety of housing - classic Queenslanders up on stilts with wide shaded verandahs.  Tiny cottages dumped on footings and held together with whatever comes to hand.

Wide streets.  Wide enough for a bullocky to turn a team and a load of wool carts.

Main street in Roma lined with bottle trees.  Relatives ran a sheep station out that way.

Morella - a CWA building in corrugated iron and a railway line stretching to the horizons.

Winton.  QANTILDA museum - a room devoted to QANTAS, another to Waltzing Matilda, outside shed with carriages, another one with communication devices (old telephones, old phone switchboards, telegraphic equipment, computers, typewriters).  A room full of different bottles.  An old wooden railway cottage full of day to day memorabilia.  Some of which I live with and use.....  Mum worked for several months as a companion/governess to a small child on a property outside Winton.  Too isolated, and being propositioned by the owner was a bit much.  Signs that say "Dinosaurs, 5 km". This is also fossil country and there have been spectacular finds in the last 10 years.  And yes, all the street bins are in dinosaur feet.

Barcaldine.  Absolutely magnificent sculpture incorporating the remains of the Tree of Knowledge, poisoned by some mongrel bastard.  The old theatre remains.  Coffee and an awesome white chocolate and butterscotch muffin in a local cafe.  I was flagging and needed instant energy.

Charleville. Chinese that night - OMG - fresh vegetables and no hot chips!  We also lived it up with a glass of wine each.  Yep, we sure know how to party.  Staying at Hotel Corones - built over 5 years by the Corones family and still running as a working pub and hotel. If you are not able to cope with the idea of staying in a working pub that's a bit run-down - probably not for you.  But we once went out to Bourke and the rules on that trip were "no accommodation that isn't at least 100 years old". Heritage listed, so hopefully there will be a conservation plan and funding for much needed work. Definitely not to the silver spoon standards of Papa Corones, but very evocative.  The floods came through last year and ran about 5 foot high through the ground floor.  Lots of beautiful silky oak used throughout.  The roof has been repaired and solar panels put in.  Once the big structural stuff is done, other repairs can follow.  Not much sense in repairing plasterwork until the building is water-tight. Other relatives worked on Rosewood Station out this way.  Proper coffee and an amazing cooked breakfast at Heinneman's bakery in the morning.  It's opposite the Historic House which is well worth a potter through.

Tambo.  I was very pleased to see Tambo on the way up.  I'd left Augathella and forgotten to check the fuel levels.  The Caddy made it in with the gauge on the right side of E for empty. 874km out of one tank of diesel (I'd filled up at Maleny).  The most amazing teddy bears are made at Tambo.  Initially a way of bringing in some money during the drought, over 35,000 bears have been made from sheepskin and stuffed with wool.  They live all over the world and the shop keeps a register of who they live with and where.  Suzi Quatro has one :).  No real coffee though.

Ilfracombe.  Langenbaker House.  11 children were raised here.  Nothing wasted, everything used, re-used and kept against need.

Goondiwindi.  Home of  Gunsynd, a grey thoroughbred who won major 1 mile races and had a song written in his honour.  Dinner at the Vic.  Last time Mum went through, it was up for sale and potential demolition.  Now it's back in use, done up and maintained.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not About Heroes

This time, it's getting posted.  No more write, edit, delete, start again.  Deep breath...

Post title is from a play. An absolutely brilliant play by Stephen Macdonald, drawn from Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon's time at Craiglockhart near Edinburgh.  Back in the 1980s, Mum took me to the play and at the end of the first act the theatre was still.  In shock and utterly caught up.  There was about 5 minutes silence before the thrall was broken and the standing ovation began.

What is a hero?  Who is a hero?

We can look to the sagas, myths and chronicles.  History shares much the same definition - a warrior who fights (and sometimes dies) on behalf of good.

Modern media widens the definition.  It is no longer just on behalf of good, but achieving a goal - generally sports, sometimes business.

This makes me fume, it makes me despair.  Such narrow definitions that do great disservice to what humanity is capable of.

Definition:  a hero is someone who does what they believe is right, generally against the odds or mainstream opinion.  Some names and reasons are easily recognisable, others less so.

Sassoon was a hero - he spoke out against the bloodiness and stupidity of war.
Sassoon and Owen were heroes - they wrote and published what they saw as the truth. My mother's father, who served as a stretcher bearer and medico in WW1, then as intelligence in WW2, because he couldn't reconcile it with his conscience to fight, nor to not be involved.
Nelson Mandela - stalwart against South African apartheid.  Stephen Biko - ditto.  Christy Moore - for singing it.  Neville Bonner - first Aboriginal Senator in Australia.  Eddie Mabo - fought for land rights in the High Court of Australia.  The Gurindji people, who walked off Wave Hill Station in protest of poor working conditions and for what we recognise as the start of the land rights movement.

Pick an artist in any field - they generally struggle to create (time and/or money) and it does not pay well.

Pick any political activist - it takes guts to stand up and say this is wrong we need to change things.  I'm including environmental activists and workers in this.  And the ferals who camp in the trees and the bush and try to draw attention to the destruction of our world.

Pick some politicians.  It's actually not that well paid when you think about what is involved (and there is a LOT of tedious stuff that has to be done in the background) and how exposed your life is to the media.  Hopefully, some of them are there because they want to improve the world.

People like Pen Farthing, trying to help animals in war zones (  People who work in animal shelters and rescue all over the world.

People who live their lives in desperation (violence, illness, depression, poverty - whatever) and keep wading forward and try to make the best of it.

Pick people like Mum Shirl, Tedd Noffs, Fred Hollows who spent their lives helping others.

Pick not just those who work on the large scale, but also those who simply try to live principled lives and make the small changes that can ripple outwards and influence others in a quiet way.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

RIP Jon Lord

Three friends emailed me today to tell me the news.  They know me well.

I grew up on classical music, mixed with Noel Coward, Frank Sinatra and swing.  So I was properly exposed to rock music at university.  I can lose myself in music - it's not a background thing to me. I used to blast the deep dark blues away, fall into the exuberance of a song, weep at Debussy's Clair de Lune.  Deep Purple is one of the bands I love.

Jon Lord was an incredible musician across a range of genres.  He founded one of the most influential bands in the history of rock and roll.  The "Wall of Sound" may be associated with the Beachboys, but the massive heartbeat of heavy metal was driven by Deep Purple and Jon Lord's brilliant amplified Hammond organ.

Vale Jon Lord

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Time's winged chariot

Hello ether!

Actually, the title was going to be Not About Heroes (may yet manage that one), but somehow May has morphed into July and content for this blog remains tucked in the shady corners of my mind, not quite ready to leap into the brave sunlight of the interwebs.

Very pleased to report that I continue to improve.   Polished some furniture on Saturday, and the house still smells deliciously of the liquid beeswax.  Had to sleep Sunday afternoon, but still, vastly better.

Finally finished A History of the Georgian People from the beginning down to the Russian Conquest in the Nineteenth Century (WED Allen).  First half felt very Old Testament/Norse saga-ish - lots of genealogy to keep straight in my head!  But quite fascinating to reflect on how the landscape and climate affects the history and how much difference individuals make - the chance or fate of being in a particular place and time, how behaviour and decisions can turn on small things, on big things, unintended consequences rippling through.

I am now allowed some light reading, but somehow have David Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by my bedside.  I think this is a reaction to not having a functional brain for so long - it wants to polish itself back up :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

As May swooshes by

I remain at home, working 4 hours a day.  Resting and then doing small jobs (or a larger job broken down into smaller, manageable chunks).

Tiny, incremental improvements are a relief - getting interested in what I wear again, having that little bit more energy to do something else, brain feeling just that little bit sharper (not consistently, but hey, every little bit helps).

Winston continues to think that this is all for his benefit.  Human permanently on tap, lap or cuddles on demand, able to wander around the house and pick where he wants to sleep.  Fearghus tends to lie where he can keep an eye on me.  Molly mooches about happily, dropping in for head rubs and then off on her own little plan for the day.  Which often includes chewing on sticks.  Although we've had our first decent frosts.  The medlars have bletted and she thinks they're divine, so is happily foraging about for fallen fruit.

I have had a couple of meltdown periods, "what if this is as good as it gets" sort of stuff.  Well, we'll just have to manage.

Since when did being an intellectual become an offence?

And a perjorative?

I must be missing something here - using your brain is undesirable?  Is this an Australian peculiarity (along with the perceived worship of sport) or a wider phenomenen?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

We apologise for the radio silence

At least it hasn't been the static that was in On The Beach (Nevil Shute - very good, very depressing.  Try his Round The Bend instead for something less bleak).

It has indeed been a time of limitations.  A slide back into chronic fatigue and all the fun stuff that goes with it.  Debilitating lassitude.  Sleeping inordinate amounts.  Thinking (irrationally) that I should not have wished for being sick enough to not work, but well enough to vege out and watch some of the DVD collection.  As it turns out, no DVDs have been watched - it just hit the too hard basket - after all, it does require a certain amount of concentration and that just wasn't on the menu!  Being grateful that Best Beloved was feeding the animals and preparing our meals as well, because even trying to think about what to cook was beyond my abilities.

Socialising has been pretty much off the cards, as have phone calls, so email is a boon.  Getting over the guilt of saying "no, I can't".  Slowly improving but constantly aghast at just how little I could do.  Then my brain finally starting to work again and OH the bliss of being able to read properly again!  It transpires that I am seriously lacking in light and fluffy reading, particularly of the short variety.  Even short stories by PG Wodehouse were not viable for quite some time.

Consequently, the reading list to the right is missing rather a lot of entries - I've mislaid the paper list, will add them as they come to mind.  Must say, it is fascinating to consider what reading reflects about someone and their context (awkward phrasing, will edit if I can come up with the right words).

Cancelled obedience training with Miss Molly - who turned one yesterday.  She really is such a sweet dog and extraordinarily companionable.  We've done lots of afternoon naps together over the last few months.

I still have my sense of humour and the lovely doctors at the clinic that I go to have commented on that.  They have been brilliantly understanding and accepting and that is such a huge thing. As with depression, it is such a relief to have it, this loathed part of my life, validated.  Still have to do the diagnostic rule outs, but at least for this I don't get ask if I'm suicidal.  So strange, the first major bouts of depression I was never asked that and I was suicidal.  The last few, I've not been and I've had that question.  I suppose it's indicative of progress in the broader community, so that is A Good Thing. I'm doing fortnightly appointments and constantly assessing how I'm feeling.  There have been a few bleak episodes when my brain is decidedly impatient with how badly my body is coping and I've felt mentally rumpled and adrift, unable to settle to anything. There's been the odd day where I've actually felt pretty good and wondered if I was malingering - overdid it and had to do a mental slap up the side of the head "NO, you are not!".  By and large though, I know that fretting is just a waste of energy - and since I've got limited amounts of that, I'm not wasting it :)

I'm sort of back at work - incredibly fortunate that most of what I do can be done via a remote connection, so getting some hours in and pacing myself.  Management have been supportive (well, they haven't complained so that definitely counts).  The pacing is difficult and part of the constant assessment - I want to do more, do what I usually can.  But when I've attempted that, it plain hasn't worked, so it's rest, back off, then start up again slowly.  I'm aiming for doing my (doctor) approved hours and then having energy to do a gentle walk with one of the dogs (up the reserve to just past the electricity substation and back - a whole kilometre), prepare dinner and be up for something resembling intelligent conversation with the spouse. And be able to continue doing it.  When I can do that for a fortnight, creep the time up at work a bit more.  The hope is to be back at work full-time in May.  While I'm loving the quiet house, I miss my colleagues, ratbags that they are!

Which for CFS is pretty damn good.  It needs to be said that my experience of CFS is very much at the better end of the spectrum.  For some people it can be completely disabling for years.  I am so lucky that each time I've been able to pull out of it within months.  I have to sleep enough.  I'm positive that eating predominantly fresh, organic food makes a difference - at least for me.  I know I'm vulnerable to these episodes, so I have to manage them (oh good, just like the depression).

I'm going to have to recall the warning signs, figure out how to mitigate those circumstances and come up with a tune that our household can play to...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hello darkness my old friend

I've come to talk to you again...

Actually, this time, the title was easy.  Getting around to writing the post has been the hard bit.  I am already over this year.  Have been to the GP and will have a raft of blood tests to rule out anything exciting.  But - first steps.  And both she and Bruce are aware that a relapse of CFS is one of my worst nightmares.

I do know the tiredness feels different to when it's depression-related.  And I did one of the little "how do you feel" tests which my lovely GP said was almost normal.  Hear that, I'm almost normal!!!!  Wowsers, it's been a long time coming!

I am so BLOODY TIRED!  And tired of being tired.  Knackered from a few hours work.  Needing a nap most days.  I've been struggling through, getting through the work day, managing the basics of keeping the household running, some blog reading and it feels like that's it.

Then the excitement of last week.  Spouse has had a mix of blepharitis and conjunctivitis.  Yucky and painful.  Winston and Fearghus had a fight over the top of me (I was fetching an apple out from under the kitchen dresser) and I got bitten on a forearm.  Both dogs deeply mortified.  Despite being well flushed out, an infection, fever, cramping muscles, possible reaction to tetanus shot.  Heavy duty antibiotics and their delightful side-effects.  Combination of all these has not helped.

Still struggling not to re-order the plates that Best Beloved put back in the pantry this morning.  This is me staring down one of my obsessive tendencies.  I know it's a waste of time and energy, now to convince my head of this as well.

Anyone got some spare energy?