Saturday, December 24, 2005

Wedding Planners

We have done well. R's sister and brother in law to be are getting married in Sydney. They have managed to buy appropriate clothing, jewellery etc. We did the rest.

The location is the Botanic Gardens with the bridge and opera house in the background.

The clelebrant we found has been very helpful. She can arrange everything, for 'my personal booking fee is $40 per item'. The bans have been published and all documentation is in order.

We are travelling on the upmarket airline Jetstar. I got the airfares for $79 each. Good, but Virgin have just released some tickets for $69. I knew this might happen but it would be taking a big chance waiting to save ten dollars. Fortunately we know the Jetstar manager at Avalon and we asked him to upgrade us to business class and he promised he would. Somewhere in the back of my mind I know there is no business class on Jetstar.

We are staying at the Holiday Inn in the salubrious suburb of Potts Point. Actually it is just behind The Crown in Kings Cross where we have stayed before. Potts Point in name, but The Cross in location. It is $140 a night and now we are closer time I checked the price again for the time we are staying there and it has gone up, so I did well there.

A day coach trip to the Blue Mountains x 4 pax was over $400 so instead we have hired a Caprice or Fairlane for the day at less than a quarter of this and I can drive through the newish Cross City Tunnel under Sydney. Oddly after checking Avis, Hertz and Thrifty, for all models, Hertz is the cheapest and Thrifty the dearest. The depots are just a short walk from our hotel.

I am really looking forward to a few days in Sydney in the new year. But as we 'Mexicans' say 'great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there'.

Unrelated, after our family c mas get together tomorrow, I will go to work and miss the low key get together at our oldest friends' place in Box Hill South. Such is shift work. I drew the short straw this year.

Best christmas, chanukah and holiday wishes to all.

Hard to buy for

Almost all of my family are hard to buy for so we have pretty well resorted to vouchers for c mas gifts. Everytime we asked my step father what he wanted as a gift, he would answer a campervan.

I have reduced the size of this pic but the original printed out beautifully as a photo. We superimposed L's campervan on the side and my mother's name on the front above the cab and then popped it in a cheap photo frame along with a note, 'Sorry L, we are a bit short this year to buy you a campervan but we will get you one next year. We hope you like the model we have put a deposit on.'

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Brave Lass

You can get quite attached to someone who you only know through their newspaper columns. I have read Pamela Bone 's columns in The Age for a long time and I am saddened to hear that she is retiring due to ill health, that is terminal ill health. Her last column was a moving and dignified exit. Best wishes Pamela.

I have learned in this year of illness that legislation for the right to die at a time of one's own choosing, and with help if necessary, will and should come.
'YOU have multiple myeloma. It's not curable, but it is treatable. The usual outlook is one to eight years." In the bed next to mine an old man who'd had two toes amputated because of diabetes was crying loudly. I don't know why they insist on putting men and women together in hospital rooms these days. I don't think either sex likes it much.
I had never heard of multiple myeloma, which is cancer of the bone marrow. I'd been in Africa, was sick while I was there and sicker when I got home, and thought I had picked up some exotic virus. My doctor sent me to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where after many blood tests the diagnosis was made.
The world of illness is a different world. Weeks later I stood before the mirror, 13 kilograms lighter, my head completely bald, a plastic tube burrowed into my chest, and saw myself a poor, diminished creature. I used to bustle about. Now I walked slowly, weakly. When I went out into the street I marvelled at how well and strong all the people looked. I felt no longer one of them.
I didn't cry, though I came close to it when my hair came out in my hands and lay in long strands on the floor of the shower. I didn't pray, and I didn't ask, "why me?" as others have told me they have. As far as I can tell there's no one up there handing out fairness; in any case, I wouldn't even want a God who would save me and let so many innocent children die. I am sure the parents of those hundreds of children buried under the rubble of the earthquake in Pakistan prayed.
All right, if I'm going to die, let's get it over with, I thought. But that was a year ago and I haven't died yet, despite my refusal to think "positive" thoughts. Why am I writing about this now? Partly because I couldn't before. But also because there is nothing unusual about my case. Multiple myeloma is fairly rare, but cancer is not. One in four, or even one in three people will get it. There's a whole community of us out there; we can be seen around the place in our headscarves and wigs and beanies, and we recognise each other and give each other sympathetic smiles. Please leave Kylie Minogue alone, I shouted silently to the media. She's one of us and I know how she feels: she just wants to be left alone.
What have I learned in my year of illness? That there is an amazing degree of kindness around. I have been overwhelmed by kindness: the kindness of family, of friends, of work colleagues; the kindness of people in shops and cafes in my local shopping centre; the kindness of the doctors and nurses at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, far beyond the requirements of their professions (oh, but the food at the RMH is an insult to sick people!); the kindness of my specialist, who tells me to stop talking about dying. There simply is a great instinct for kindness in most people. One thinks a system should be devised in which this is more strongly appealed to.

I have learned that this is a society in denial about death — hardly a revolutionary discovery, it's often been remarked on. On one level everyone knows they are going to die, but the mind slides away from it. People change the subject. At first I was critical of this, but now I think it has to be this way. You can't spend your life being constantly aware of your death. Harder was the other realisation that struck me with force: not only will I die, but so will everyone else: every single one, every little baby with dribble running down his chin, every carefree teenage girl, every rich and powerful businessman.
All must die. What is the point then?
You have to learn again what you always knew. Life is more precious because it is brief and the only one there is (and really, who would want an eternity of anything, even paradise?). What matters — and I do apologise for this sentimentality — is that although every individual will die, the human race will go on. I believe it will, and I even believe it will get better. Notwithstanding the strange, apocalyptic times we are in, I still believe in the continuing, gradual, difficult, faltering improvement of the human condition. If I had space I could make a rational argument for this.
Fear of death is natural; it's what keeps us alive when we are young and strong. But for most older people, for whom death is no longer a remote, unlikely possibility, the fear is not so much of death as of what might precede it: prolonged pain and sickness and (especially) dementia. More than death, what most people fear is the prospect of being kept in some sort of half-life for years, being spoonfed and toileted in some nursing home, sans mind, sans personality, sans dignity.
What I have learned in this year of illness is that legislation for assisted suicide — for the right to die at a time of one's own choosing, and to have help to do so if necessary — will and should come. It will come because the majority of the population wants it (according to opinion polls), and because those who protest so loudly every time the subject is mentioned are a minority. To know there is the means to end life peacefully and painlessly when they want to would be a great comfort to most old people. This is a kindness that we, as a society, need to extend to ourselves.
Last week when I walked into the hospital, which is now as familiar as a second home, some schoolchildren were there singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing. All year, music students come into the hospital wards and play instruments and sing. Others come to offer conversation and pastoral care, for those who want it. In the foyer, volunteers sell knitted toys and jams and raffle tickets to raise money to help the hospital. There it is again, that human kindness. It's all around, if you care to look.
This is my last column. It has been an immense privilege to have this space for so long, to have my say about things. I have not set out to be a "contrarian", as I have been described, but then, to offend no one you will say nothing. I do want to thank all of you who have read, either approvingly or disapprovingly, what I have written over the years. I will miss you.

Select R for backwards

Two in one day!!!

Car entering main road from side street sticks nose out into main street traffic lane. Car approaching rapidly with nowhere to go. Side street car puts gears into reverse and slams into the car that had just arrived behind him.

P plate male is in the middle of an intersection waiting to turn right. Light turns red but he was busy chatting to g/f. Traffic starts to move towards him. He panics and reverses backward into a pedestrian who had started to cross the road. Just a bit of bump, but if it was an old person, it may have been the end of them. It wasn't a bump such as is reported in Fijian papers. "A forty year old male was bumped by a motor car in Davies Road, Suva and died at the scene".

Kiddies, you must look behind you when you reverse your motor car.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Highriser's c mas gauge

I have heard that the statistics are good for a happy retailer christmas. My annual christmas traffic congestion observations indicate otherwise, although there is still some days to go. However, it is not as quiet as the year we had 'the recession we had to have'.

I would be quite happy to hear that people have restrained their spending this year. Mr Visa and Mr Mastercard must be making a fortune from us all (ok, I am speaking for myself).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

HRH, hot or not

Expat Rolf Harris has painted a rather odd picture of our Head of State. Here it is, courtesty The Age. I much prefer to see her with a slightly annoyed pout, like when you see her at Ascot and her horse has lost a race.

It has been interesting talking to the o/s rels who hail from northern England. They are quite dismissive of the royal family and are convinced, and they say so are their peers, that Diana was killed on orders from the royal family. My surmation of their thoughts is that the royal family is just not relevant to them and their lives.

What does seem still relevant to them, is Margaret Thatcher. They still feel the pain of the time she ruled. They remember vividly the poll tax riots in their hitherto peaceful town, all brought back to them by the action on Sydney beaches. They remember her spite and vindictiveness towards the working person. They hate her so much, that her name must not be mentioned and the converstation is steered in other directions.