Category Archives: Life

The one I couldn’t help

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Near work I found a man trying to get a cat off the road. He was successful but she went back on and sat down in the middle of the road. She had a collar on and seemed friendly enough so I picked her up off the road and took her to the footpath. When I lofted her I just felt ribs. She was clearly used to being held. I have her a rub under the chin and checked her collar. No tag on collar but noticed she was infested with fleas. I waited until it looked like she was staying off the road and continued to the shop. On my way back to work she was sitting in the middle of the road again. After much deliberation I decided to go back
to work and get a box and walk her to the vet around the corner to see if she had a microchip. She had a desexing tattoo. Someone has owned her at some point. By the time I came back with the box I couldn’t find her. I just keep telling myself at least she’s no longer on the road.

Farewelling a giant


Today Andrew ventured into the heart of Sydney to join others who had gathered to pay tribute to the late Gough Whitlam, former Australian Prime Minister. Whitlam became prime minister when Andrew was about 9 months old. The changes that Whitlam made in the following 3 years in part helped Andrew be there today in his loaned electric wheelchair. Whitlam was behind medicare and without it so much of assistance that Andrew receives for his disability, would be out of reach – a fact not loss on either of us. Today because Whitlam believed in universal health care, Andrew was able to join other like minded souls paying tribute to this giant of Australian politics. He was there right at the front of the crowd near the large screen as Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly sang ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’. Andrew held up his iphone for just over 6 minutes to video the crowd – which with his muscle condition is not an easy task. He knew that it was a special moment and one he wanted to share with me. What he captured which you don’t get on the official video above are the cheers of the crowd – many of whom were Aboriginal – as they sing about the tall stranger who appeared in the land.

Whenever a public figure dies, there is often praise and remembrance. In the case of Whitlam I’m delighted that people are celebrating the way he changed our country forever. Too often his achievements, his vision and ambition for Australia is overshadowed by his dramatic dismissal from power. No matter what your political persuasion; no matter what your thoughts on the controversies of his time; I think it would be hard to disagree that the changes Whitlam made – and paved the way for – in 3 short years, changed the face of the nation for the next 40 years or more. A truly remarkable man.

For Carmen and my foot

Carmen has spoken. What has happened to the blog? I’ve never met Carmen. I’m sure she exists, although I suppose it is vaguely possible she is my father’s imaginary friend. Either way she wants to know, what happened to the blog? Hmm… I think I do too. I could write a post about what’s been happening in my life since April 25, or I could give you a stream of thoughts from just this morning.

The day started with pondering the connections between children’s songs. I know. You all wake up wondering how Old Macdonald links to the Wheels on the Bus song. This for me is a sure sign that work has infected my brain temporarily. It’s not an infection that you need the serious antibiotics to be rid of. More like when you have a cold and your voice gets gravely and people notice. It’s there, it’s different and you just have to wait for it to go away.

My boss has asked me for an inspiring presentation for Wednesday. I know that inspiration is not going to come from Old Macdonald – possibly one of the most annoying children’s songs of all time. If I were free to choose any topic I like I’m sure that I could unearth some inspiration somewhere. Sadly, I am not. I need to make a quality framework sound inspiring. Galumph and humph to that. The strange thing is that at times I have been inspired. Um… scratch that. Not inspired… fired up, emotional and passionate. If I can find that, perhaps I can meet his challenge.

Meanwhile my foot is starting to groan with pins and needles. On top of my foot (besides my leg) is my cat. (times 2). They have actually lost weight. Saffron is now a cool 5.5kg and Licorice an even 6 but with both pancaked on top of my crossed leg, my poor left foot is…. VIBRATING AND SINGING… oh that would the iPad with Andrew wanting to FaceTime.

I has unearthed the iPad from under fat cats, blankets and legs.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Writing a blog post?’

‘Oh. That would the first of the year?’ [Cheeky grin]

‘Nope, the first since April 25th if you must know.’

‘And what are you doing?’

‘Reading about the legacy of pragmatism in the element of design’

‘Of course.’

Suddenly Quality Frameworks have an instantaneous appeal. They are far more lush and enticing than a 25 page orgy of academia on the construct of ideas in art. He did tell me the title of the article; I can’t remember it exactly but if I were to call it the ‘permutation and liberation of design from post modernism’ it would make just as much sense as the real title.

He read me a paragraph. It reminds me of sentences created from word salad fridge magnets, except not nearly as much fun. Certainly a long way from the TED talk I watched this morning which is promoted as ‘lyrical origami’. Only after watching the video could I truly appreciate the accuracy of the description of ‘lyrical origami’. A truly delightful, witty and mellifluous talk. Here it is for you to enjoy for yourself: http://www.ted.com/talks/rives_on_4_a_m

disABILITY

AndrewA clever marketer came up with the concept of disABILITY.

Most of the time I would agree that to focus on the ability of people who have a disability is a good thing. Yet, there are times when the disability really has to be acknowledged for the hideous and limiting thing that it is.

Losing more function can be frightening, depressing, soul-destroying, frustrating, not to mention bloody impractical! At the end of several weeks which included all of those things, there ARE some things to be thankful for.

1) I have an amazing partner who despite losing the last remnants of his ‘walking’ and ‘standing’, only managed to lose his sense of humour for a day here and there. Without that wit and comic relief, I’m not sure where we would be right now.

2) We are fortunate to have supportive family, friends and workmates.

3) There are some bloody awesome Norweigans out there who made the molift hoist equipment.

and finally…

4) It doesn’t matter how stressed you become, the cats still give you cuddles. Sometimes two at a time.

Double trouble on the couch

Andrew and Pickle

Dating disability style: 2 years on

I wrote the blog piece below 2 years ago and not much has changed. I’m still climbing on chairs to reclaim items out of reach. The latest of which was a milk jug. A square milk jug. Now, square may be aesthetically pleasing but trust me, it’s not a particularly functional milk jug! If he’s going to ask me to climb on things it could at least be for a fully operating piece of equipment… no?

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Andrew and I recently celebrated our 2 year anniversary. It got me thinking about dating disability style. If someone said to me, I’m thinking about going out with a guy in a wheelchair, what advice would I give them? This is my somewhat tongue in cheek list with a few serious thoughts thrown in.

Don’t be afraid of heights

You know those things in the ceiling which emit light? Well, it may usually be men who fix them but if you’re dating a guy in a wheelchair, let me tell you now that you will be climbing on that ladder with light bulb in hand. You will also be putting and retrieving things from the tops of cupboards; hanging pictures; removing curtain rods; repairing blinds. Get used to being the ‘tallest’ person in your relationship and develop a love of ladders and chairs – you will need it.

While not height-related, another ‘man job’ you may have to do is putting air in the car tyres. I know, my mother would be horrified. She always says, ‘I don’t do garbage and I don’t do tyres – they’re you’re father’s jobs’. What I’ve learnt is that tyres are really not that tedious; the hardest part is finding a service station with a working air guage.

Check your figures

Before you get very excited and launch yourself at your man with a hug, check the weight bearing load of his wheelchair. Sadly some of them aren’t designed for you to sit in his lap, so perfecting the lean over hug is a must.

Ask!

If you don’t know why he’s in a wheelchair, ask him. A person with spinal injury will have different needs to someone with muscular dystrophy (Andrew has something very similar to muscular dystrophy). If you’re afraid to ask, or he’s hesitant to discuss, personally, I’d run for the hills. Someone who is able to freely talk about their disability and its impact on their  life has probably reached a greater level of acceptance than one for whom it is a touchy subject.

Rediscover the romance of simple things

Sometimes when it is not possible to do whatever you want, whatever you do becomes just that bit more special. I still remember the day that Andrew picked me up from work and casually said – do you want takeaway? We drove to a Thai place, picked up some food and then he said, why don’t we go eat it by the water? We found a place to park which had a nice view of the bay. It wasn’t until he pulled out plates and cutlery that it twigged he’d planned a ‘car picnic’ at dusk all along.

Think big

I know I just said that you get to enjoy the simple things as some others are off limits but this point is about questioning the impossible. There are many outdoor physical activities which are certainly possible, especially if your partner has upper body strength. (I missed out on the nice torso muscles :-( ). Sometimes you may find it’s you being challenged and not him.

A while ago I bought Andrew a surprise gift of a Harley Davidson ride (as pillion). Upon giving him the gift he said he wasn’t sure whether his lateral muscles were strong enough to hold on. I rang the company back. They suggested swapping it for a trike ride. Great. Now I had to go with him! I’m not sure who was more nervous that day – him or me!

Grow a wicked sense of humour

If you don’t already have a slightly odd sense of humour, dating disability style will sure help to develop one. I worked for 10 years with people who are blind or have low vision and now with children who are deaf or hearing impaired. One things I’ve found is that most people with a disability have a remarkable sense of humour. I do recall one guy I worked with who, if placed in a humour competition with a termite nest, the nest would win hands down… but he was an exception.

Here’s two examples of Andrew’s dark sense of humour.

While shopping one day, Andrew was staring at all the motorbikes. He loved riding motorbikes pre-muscular dystrophy (hence my aforementioned gift). He turned to me and said:

I love to roll past these guys and say to them: ‘I used to ride one of those’. The look on their face is priceless.

If you think that’s a little dark, well, the second example is worse. He once told me that he was bored at home and chatting on a disability forum. He posted a message on the forum saying that The Gap (a cliff face in Sydney known as a suicide hot spot) was discriminating against those in wheelchairs as there was no ramp.

Thankfully someone else in the forum had an equally wicked sense of humour and wrote back:

I have found a suitable ‘dispatch’ point for you in the Blue Mountains. Should you wish to kill yourself, you’ll have to drive 2 hours west.

Have fun

My last tip would seem fairly obvious in any relationship however I’m including it anyway. Lack of walking doesn’t equate to lack of fun. In the two years I’ve had with Andrew, 90% of the time, I’ve had a ball! Who could ask for more than that?


Through the hand runs a dime

1966 Washington Quarter‘Do you remember I told you about going into Kelvin’s room after he died and finding a notebook open with the words through the hands run a dime written down and there on his bed was a dime?’

Not quite sure why this thought has suddenly popped into Andrew’s head, I just respond: ‘Yes, that’s the dime that you still have right?’

‘Yeah. Well, yesterday I was at the vending machine, and it was the anniversary of his death yesterday and the machine wouldn’t take my coin. I thought it was a New Zealand 10 cents, but when I picked it up to look, it was an American quarter.’

In Australia we often find New Zealand 10s and 20 cent coins but American ones are not common at all. It didn’t surprise me when Andrew told me he’d kept the coin. But the morning’s lesson didn’t end there. Andrew proceeded to tell me how American quarters were once made largely of silver but that became too expensive in the 60s and they then used copper in the centre. He told me that I had to check out the coin’s edge where you could clearly see the copper centre. Indeed you can and  there is a large portion of a Wikipedia page dedicated to explaining how the Washington Quarter – a silver coin – came not be made of Silver but rather the “clad composition with Flanagan reverse.” (Sounds like it could equally be an olympic diving move to me)

1966 Washing Quarter copper edge
This little interchange lasted but a few moments yet I know that the quarter, along with the dime, will stay. These will both be additional memories of Kelvin and the remembering of him.

I imagine that some people may visit Andrew’s house and wonder why there is a quarter stuck to the wall, just as I first asked why there was a dime stuck to the bed head. Yet I will know and remember the quiet moment when Andrew recalled his brother. It’s much like the moment I share with mum each year on Anzac day when we compare the state of polish on our shoes as a way of remembering my grandfather. The coins and the shoes are both obscure yet personal references that only family would understand and when Andrew shares this with me, it’s a lovely moment of feeling like family to him.

The lipstick manufacturer’s conspiracy

186I’m the daughter of a 3 lipstick woman with a floundering 4 lipstick philosophy. In my youth, I decided that only 4 lipsticks were necessary. 1 that was pinkish. 1 that was brownish. 1 that was reddish and 1 that was dark reddish (think red wine). With 4 lipsticks, a girl couldn’t go wrong. It was an advance on my mother’s lipstick collection, which I’m not sure even totalled 3. Mum is the kind of woman like the kind of men who wear one pair of shoes until they wear out. Mum had lipsticks that ran out… or at least I recall that she did. My lipsticks have gone ‘off’ because they have run out. I think this is because I am not a lipstick everyday girl. I choose make-up when I feel like it and the rest of time I go without.

But back to the floundering 4 lipstick policy. It seemed a good strategy. Nice and logical. Except for 2 things. The first, I cannot blame on any cosmetic company. It is quite simply my lack of organisation. A while ago we had a function at the Australian Club. It’s a gentleman’s club – and not that sort where they stuff dollar bills into girls knickers. It’s an old style polished establishment. A great venue for a charity to have an intimate evening with its best supporters. I made myself a dress. I knew exactly what I had in mind. Something conservative while being a little elegant. The afternoon of the function arrived. It was time to get changed in preparation for the dusk event. Wrong lipstick. I had to go to the chemist and buy one. I just couldn’t bring myself to wear a brown-ish red lipstick with an eggplant coloured dress. It was just plain wrong. (And this after I’d forgotten my shoes and my mother had diligently ferried them from my house to my workplace.)

Fast forward several months and picture me in Los Angeles. Complete fish out of water – a non-clinical person at a clinical conference. The only database person in a hotel full of Audiologists and Auditory Verbal Therapists (aka Listening and Spoken Language Specialists). What have I done wrong? Brought the wrong lipstick of course! I already had to visit a chemist since the airport confiscated by toothpaste for being 10ml over the allowable amount. I could have argued with the woman that the tube was a quarter used and as it was a 110ml tube that there was less than 100ml left in it and I hadn’t broken any of their liquid rules… but she didn’t seem the type to argue with. Easier to go buy new toothpaste… and a new lipstick.

But that only accounts for having 6 lipsticks on a 4 lipstick policy. How is it that I’ve come to have more than that. In fact, I think I’ve hit double digits. This is where the cosmetic companies come in. Should you find a lipstick you like… one that will serve you perfectly well in a 4 lipstick philosophy, if you aren’t in the habit of wearing lipstick every day of the year, there will come a time when your lipstick has gone manky. It’s hard to describe this unless you’ve experienced it. The lipstick acquires a strange taste and smell and while it’s not likely to turn into an unexploded bomb, you know that the time has come to part with the lipstick.

The logical, albeit sometimes forgetful, person that I am says I just need a replacement. Of course the cosmetic’s companies have considered this scenario. Some marketer has decided that ‘Starlight indigo’ was so last season… and ‘Rum n Raisin’ is far too predictable. And if it’s not annoying enough that you can’t buy the colour you want, you have to cope with all the ridiculous names while hunting for an approximate. Who decided that ‘bitch pink?’ was an appropriate name for a lipstick? Or ‘Berry Alluring?’ Oh, my ribs ache at that pun. ‘Rose Serenity’ sounds more at home in a funeral chapel than adorning my lips… as does ‘Enduring Iris’ and ‘Faithfully Tan.’ But best of all is ‘Raven’s Pout’. I ask you, when was the last time you saw a pouty Raven and thought, oh yes, I’ll have my some of that as part of my daily make-up routine?

I’m sure, dear blogging friends, it will come as no surprise to you that I still have my manky brown lipstick. I hold on to it – this rare beast with a logical name of cocoa – in the (probably vain) hope that I shall one day find something that approximates it. In the meantime, I have acquired myself several ‘imitations’ with ridiculous names.

And that is how the daughter of a 3 lipstick woman, came to have a floundering 4 lipstick philosophy.

How many lipsticks do you own? Leave me a note!

The neighbour’s cats

Mini and Tails this weekend were happy for me to get close enough to take their portraits. These two Turkish Vans are quite skittish so often you just get the rear end!

Tails

Tails

 

Mini

Mini

Budgie Smugglers

budgie‘You might have to explain to your international readers what budgie smugglers are’ says Dad upon me entering the house.

Oh. Oops. Didn’t even think of that.

Then again, I know that my international friends seem exceptionally well read and would probably know what they are anyway. I on the other hand am still occasionally stumped. I had to write to Isobel (of Isobel and Cat fame) recently to ask whether ‘cream crackered’ was a term familiar to her, or whether it was well known. Cockney rhyming slang it turns out. Last week, I learnt about ‘Pinkertons’ on the back of watching Ripper Street. (There are times when wikipedia is really indispensable).

So, back to the budgie smugglers. In case anyone isn’t familiar, it’s a slang term of men’s speedos / swimming costumes and seems to be used often in reference to our now current Prime Minister given his fondness of sport. It takes a man with a good body (think well built surf life guide), to be able to get away with wearing budgie smugglers without looking pathetic. It’s something about the way they droop with water… the swimming costume that is. I refuse to even contemplate Tony’s actual anatomy. Ew. Sick. Now.

So dad reckons I need a glossary of terms for my blog. Really, there’s only a few you need to know to follow the plot. Here they are:

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The Scroobious Pip.

That’s me.

Sometimes people ask me what exactly a Scroobious Pip is, I just reply – ah, that is the question! The story was a childhood favourite, written by one of the two great masters of nonsense – Edward Lear, an epileptic depressive who had a great love of his cat Foss.

IMG_2061Andrew. 

My unconventional partner / boyfriend (depending on your preferred terminology). (Andrew associates partner with gay cowboy movies, I associate boyfriend with sounding 14 and temporary). Unconventional? Well, we don’t exactly fit the traditional model. We live separately. I work full time. He doesn’t. He’s domestically competent. I’m domestically challenged (except for light bulbs, I do those). I think the only thing traditional about us is he takes out his own garbage. My mum always taught me that men should do tyres and garbage.

Definition of Andrew? mischievous, Naughty. A 4 year old trapped in a 40-something year old body. An extremely talented artist (if only we could convince him of this) combined with a largely gentle soul. I say largely. He isn’t known for being a placid calm driver – especially if you take a disabled parking spot and you have no disabled parking permit.

Pickle sleeping as only Pickle can.

Pickle sleeping as only Pickle can.

Pickle.

The oldest of Andrew’s two cats and the most like him in personality – bloody naughty!

Andrew always said that if he couldn’t have a dog he didn’t want anything. Then after a while he decided a cat would be ok. As long as it was a girl cat. And black, or tabby.

So he adopted a ginger boy who certainly lives up to the tag Ginger Ninja. Andrew wanted a dog… well he’s doing his best to mould Pickle into a dog. Surprisingly, Pickle is mostly complying.

Recently, an ambulance officer referred to Pickle as a ‘caramel cat’. This has earnt him the title of ‘o Caramelle’ (said with a ridiculously corny French accent!)

Andrew and Gesso

Andrew and Gesso

Gesso.

Named after the white primer used in painting, Gesso has developed his own fondness for paint. While every other cat has stood in the paint just once, Gesso has done it at least three times… if not more.

Gesso is medium haired and deaf.

He makes you work for his affection but strangely we just seem to love him even more for it. When he actually lets me cuddle him for a little while, I feel that I’ve won a great battle / been included among a privileged few.

Gesso is frequently also called ‘the white cat’ (with the emphasis on THE), or squirrel.

And that’s half the fur family…

Licorice and Saffron

I don’t think it’s quite right for me to write about the two separately, for they really don’t separate you see.

Suitcase? What suitcase.

Suitcase? What suitcase.

That’s Saffron (8) on the top and Licorice (11) on the bottom. Two undeniably fat couch potatoes of cats with an everlasting number of hugs and smooches to give.

Licorice hates the vacuum cleaner. Licorice hasn’t figured out that each morning when I go to the fridge to get the food, she doesn’t need to follow me as I am just coming back with it. (Saff waits patiently in the bathroom). On the whole, Licorice is the gentle giant; except when at the mothership and it’s time to go back in the cat cage.

Saffron on the other hand, is reasonably ok with the vacuum cleaner but scared of all things new. Strangers / Visitors – check under the bed and you’ll find her.

PS: Mothership = home of my mum and dad a.k.a Cat Hotel.

So there you go dad. A glossary. Complete with pictures. Have I forgotten anything?

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I couldn’t resist including one more picture of Pickle. Cheeky Pickle.

Snarks and Boojums

Snark. Dictionary definition… oh codswallop. There is only one definition of Snark that matters and that is the Lewis Carroll version.

Carroll is most famous for Alice in Wonderland, however the Hunting of the Snark is equally delightful. This agony in 8 fits about a Bellman and his crew in search of a snark is a quirky, funny nonsense tale. I’m not sure whether there was any ‘rationale’ behind the Snark story. Certainly Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is filled with characters which are a parody of key figures of the day, or even the author himself. My favourite of Carroll’s subtle jibes is the suggestion that the Lion and Unicorn are representative of the British Prime Ministers Gladstone and Disraeli.

puffer-fish2If I was today going to write a parody and feature our new Prime Minister as a character, I’d have to choice between a Goanna and a Puffer fish – a poisonous toady looking thing. Puffer fish are supposedly more poisonous than cyanide. I think Abbott definitely fits that bill.

Don’t you think the likeness is scarily accurate? True, I’m not sure that puffer fishes ride bicycles wearing a set of budgie smugglers but it would sure be hilarious if they did!

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