Sunday, July 12, 2015

Standing as the Labor Candidate for Kooyong

Well ain't life funny.  I am now the official candidate for Australian Labor in Kooyong.A map of the electorate is here:  

Kooyong has been held by the Liberal Party or its predecessors since it was established in 1900.  It is thought that the name Kooyong comes from an Aboriginal word (I would hope from either Boonwurrung or Woi Worrung the language spoken by those people of the Kulin Nations who lived in and around the area that now makes up Metropolitan Melbourne) meaning camp or resting place, or haunt of the wild fowl.  

The path to my candidacy is mapped against another group.  I recently took a step back into the waters of activism by joining Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children, a loosely organised group of older women who are desperately concerned about the plight of children in detention and decided to make a noise about it to try to convince the Government to take a humanitarian approach to the plight of asylum seeker children and their families.

Joining the Planning Group and helping to organise the first 'action' at the front of St Paul's Cathedral last year reminded me of the power of a collective group of people.  I have been a member of the ALP off and on since 1977 and had various levels of participation and activity.  The Grandmothers reminded me of the importance of being active, the importance of taking a stand.  They reminded me of the importance of 'turning up' to quote Tony Windsor.   So I started going to branch meetings again, and when the thinking started about nominating a candidate for the next federal election, I decided, with some persuasion, to put my hand up.

That was the start of an interesting journey.  At first it looked like there would be 4 nominations, however eventually it came down to two of us.  For the first time since 1982 we had a contested pre selection in Kooyong.  

We campaigned, I emailed members, both of us spoke to a joint branch meeting and were subjected to a couple of hours of questions from local members.  Then there was the local plebiscite and it was a draw!  So then it was off to Public Office Selection Committee, first both of us presenting to the right, then to the left then to the committee as a whole.  The vote was fairly heavily in my favour so at least that decision was clear cut.

So now I am campaigning.  Now dear readers this does include of course spelling out what I stand for, clarifying my position on a number of issues, planning a strategy for getting to know the people in the electorate (some 65,000 households) and understand what are the issues that are important to them and working out our campaign tactics.  It also involves photos.  I am much more comfortable being the one taking the photos, however I am convinced now that reasonable photos that give the electorate a sense of who I am are important.  So I asked my lovely niece Susan D'Arcy to do me a favour and take a few photos to give me something to start with.  This is one of her shots.

But then I had to have the official photoshoot.  Yesterday we did the on location photos and, the day before my studio photos for posters etc....  The photographer, Anthony Leong, is a delight, full of stories about the photos he has taken over the years, thoughtful, professional and in the most delightful way suggesting which of our ideas would be useful and which would not.  I dragged the family (Beci, Raph and the kids) out to be the family that I was talking to in front of the Medicare office, I met with a group of enthusiastic young people at Swinburne University, I met with a group of Grandmothers and had the opportunity to yet again have a hot chocolate at Xocolatl, the best chocolate makers in Kew.  I stood in the rain at Camberwell Station with the previous candidate for Kooyong, John Kennedy.  I had to have the discussion - make up or  no make up - I went for a touch of make up.  I had to deal with Anthony saying that this was all about me, something which doesn't sit comfortably.

But we got it done and now I anxiously await the results.  I am not the most photogenic person, I don't particularly like looking at photos of myself.   So I leave it up to my campaign manager and committee to choose.  

The committee is made up,  interestingly, of mostly men reflecting those who have put their hands up. I am on a round of attending branch meetings, talking with people and arranging dates...  I have a website in the making, I have a Facebook:  Marg D'Arcy Labor For Kooyong and a twitter address @Darcy4kooyong - check them out.

So far I am loving it, have renewed energy for life and relish the challenge of taking on Josh 
 Frydenberg in the seat of Kooyong and playing my part in putting Labor into Government.

Here's a litt bit about why I am standing: 

I see Labor Governments preserving and protecting the things I hold dear - investing in public transport, building a strong education system, protecting universal access to quality health care, introducing NDIS to give people with disability and their families choice and control about how they live their lives, acting to stop climate change and taking real action so that women and children can live free from the fear of violence.

i despair at the Abbott Government that Josh Frydenberg is part of.  A Government that has no vision other than to wreck all the gains that Labor made.  A Government that wants to destroy our working conditions, our universal access to quality health and education, that is blind to the impact of climate change, and a Government that works to destroy the jobs that have been created in the renewable energy industry. A Government that is intent on destroying the ABC and taking away it’s editorial independence.  A Government that fosters fear and division and is taking us backwards so that we lag behind the rest of the world in action on climate change and achieving Marriage Equality.  I want to work to get rid of that Government and make Australia a country we can again be proud of

So if you want to follow the journey, stay tuned.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

ANZAC Day and My Dad

It's ANZAC Day in Melbourne. It's wet and cold.  I know I'm not the only one who has been a bit overwhelmed by all the focus on ANZAC Day this year.  The media hype has been unrelenting.  And you know what, I don't like it.  I don't like war.  I particularly don't like that I'm made to feel unpatriotic because I don't get teary when we talk about Gallipoli.

I am saddened by the lives that were lost at Gallipoli, all those young men heading off into a horror that they did not understand, fighting in a country that we had no quarrel with.  Killing tens of thousands of Turks for no good reason and losing thousands of young Australian lives.  Causing untold misery to the people left at home, the mothers, the fathers, brothers, sisters and lovers.  Causing long term trauma to the villages and local Turks who were witnesses to the carnage.

And for what?  Because some hare brained politician thought it was okay to send soldiers off on some wild goose chase to forge a path through the Dardanelles.

From Dad's photos from the Middle East

However, ANZAC Day is an important day in memory.  My Dad always marched whether it was in Melbourne, Albury or wherever he happened to be at the time.  As a kid I would go and stand on the sidelines and watch.  As I got older often Mum would take Dad into the march then come to our place and we'd watch it on television and wait for the 2/23rd to appear.  Once we saw Dad marching, medals clinking, surrounded by his mates we'd turn the tele off and enjoy ourselves until it came time to pick Dad up from he reunion.  He'd always be quite happy, a bit pissed as were most of his mates and we'd bring him home, often dropping off a few of his mates on the way.

He loved coming back to our place, loved it best if it was a cold day and we had the fire going.  He didn't talk much about the war but he'd give us the goss on all his mates and sing some of the old songs - my favourite was:
 Around her head she wore a yellow ribbon, she wore it for a paratrooper far far away, far away... 
Yes he started off his war service with the paratroopers, but for some reason he couldn't leave with them so he joined the 2/23rd an infantry battalion based in Albury.  He went to the Middle East and was in Tobruk.  I am lucky enough to have some letters that he wrote back to my Mum while he was over seas.

HIs letters show me a man who was a bit bamboozled by it all, who didn't cope well with regimentation and who maintained his sense of humour all the way through.

My favourite bit in one of his letters is about a time he'd been injured:
I happened to be in the vicinity of one of Jerry's shells when it came over.  Thought i had joined the Air Force for a while, but when I came down realised I was still in the footsloggers
He goes on to talk about his recovery and the hospital then says:
When you are in the trenches you hate the Ities and Jerrys like poison, but once you capture them or they surrender you feel quite sorry for them.  I came down in an ambulance from the front alongside a wounded Itie.  A few of my cobbers had been killed the night before, and although I felt like shooting the Itie at first, before we got back to hospital we were quite good cobbers.  Couldn't understand a word he was saying, but we had some fun.  He used to call me 'Tom Mix' don't know why though.
Seems to me to sum up the craziness of war, fighting someone who has been designated an enemy for whatever reason, then realising that really they are no different from you.  

Anyway Dad. thought of you today, the fire's going there's a leg of lamb in the oven and I wish I could share it with you and Mum.  I'll have a glass of port afterwards to toast you and try to avoid all the reports of today's tourist invasion of Gallipoli.

My brother Harold, has sent me this history after reading this blog and responding a question from one of his daughters. Both he and my other brother Frank were in the army at different times.  So this gives the correct history, interesting how I got things quite confused......

He was then around (when a photo my niece asked about was taken) 24 or 25, in 1940-41 He was a temporary sergeant in 2/22nd Battalion when he was sent to Portsea to do a PTI (PHYSICAL TRAINING INSTRUCTORS), when he returned his Battalion had left and he was transferred to 2/23rd Battalion reserves, and as there was no posting for him as a Sgt, he became a private again and went to the Middle East with a large group of reinforcements. He arrived after the Tobruk siege but took part in the pivotal battle of El Alamein, and many other important battles. He was wounded twice in the arm, but after treatment in field hospitals, returned to fight.
He travelled to M East on the Queen Mary and returned on the Queen Elizabeth. 
He then volunteered for the newly formed Paratroopers, and after training in NSW was based at an airstrip In FNQld at Mareeba. His Paratroop Battalion, was held there in reserve if the Japanese had landed, but they were not needed in combat. After Mum (Nana) was attacked late at night in wartime Melbourne he was transferred back there on compassionate grounds. They were married on 6/5/1944 almost a year before I was born. Dad had a clerical posting in Melb until he was discharged.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Changing plans and making the most of it

My birthday, had planned to celebrate in style, trip to Hobart to see MONA, booked classy accommodation on wharf, planning luxury trip.  But, 6.30am on way to airport, text from Jetstar difficult phone call with one of those generated message, I am sorry was that yes or no?  In the end it was for heavens sake just put us on to a person!  Told flight cancelled, could get us on to another at 7.40pm - but we were only going overnight, so cancelled with promise to refund.

So, was with my mate Annie, decided to have a coffee (and a glass of sparkling) while we pondered our dilemma - what to do?  Went through several options, but in the end decided on a road trip to visit my childhood home in Tallangatta which I had not seen for a long time.  With a feeling of freedom and a little bit of 'aren't we daring' headed off down the Hume Highway.  It was pouring rain, that type of rain where you slow down on the freeway because you can't see far ahead.  Were we mad? Probably!  But by Seymour the rain had stopped and the sun was out, that beautiful, after a storm type light, illuminated everything so clearly.

First stop was a winery that we used to stop at on our many many trips up to Falls Creek.  Fowles near Avenel.  Discovered it was the home of one of my favourite wines 'Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch' and a young woman who was so delightful and charming, had a bit of a natter, tasted a few wines including the Riesling which compared favourably to my other favourite Delatite Riesling.  So very happy chappies we were!

Then onto Beechworth where we stopped at the renowned Beechworth Bakery for our lunch and I had the most delicious pie I have had in years.  I want to go back just to have another one.  I am not usually a pie eater, but this was chicken and leek and luscious.  Wandered around the town and reminisced about the family reunion Mum had organised more than 20 years ago, where over 300 members of the Mann family attended.  It was so good to be reminded of that event, the way Emily helped organise and Em and Bec and their respective boyfriends joined in to learn the 'old time' dancing that we did. Mum's uncontainable excitement and pleasure at having so many members of her extended family attend and the efforts we all put in to make it a success.

On the way out of Beechworth saw a sign to Woolshed Falls, the sun was shining and there was a light rainfall, so we decided to detour to the Falls.  They are beautiful, and sitting in the sun with such a light rain falling was just magical.  Isn't it fascinating how flowing water, whether it's the sea or rivers and waterfalls, just has a most calming effect.

Next stop on the trip was Yackandandah, where we wandered through the town, I tried to find my friends place without any luck, so we wound our through Tangambalanga to the Kiewa Highway and finally found the old town of Tallangatta. The town was moved in the 50s while I was living there, to allow for the building of the Hume Weir and my childhood memories are of houses being put up on trucks and moved out of the town. One of the houses we lived in while we were there was up on the hill, in the area that we used to refer to as Toorak. So that house is still standing and we crossed over the bridge up to where I thought the house was.

 First thing I saw was the old bus stop, where I have memories of waiting for the school bus with my brothers and the 4 or 5 other kids who lived up there.  I have very few memories of my childhood, I think because we moved a lot from house to house, by the time we moved to Melbourne when I was about 12, I had lived in 4 towns and at least 6 houses.  But seeing the bus stop, the old butter factory, the road where the old hospital was where they kept shetland ponies who I remember being quite vicious, the farm out the back where we went mushrooming and the old farm across the road where the Kirk's farm was, took me right back there.
the old bus stop, so lovely to see it referred to as Toorak and have my memories confirmed
The house where we lived, the room with all the windows was mine, helped me understand why I love to have open windows in my bedroom and find it quite stifling to be in a room with only small windows.
We found the old house quite easily, I wanted to ask if I could see inside but was put off by a dog barking loudly and loud music with someone yelling at the dog to be quiet, so we hit the road again.  Headed to Mt Beauty to see if the Yurt place was still there to stay overnight.  It wasn't, but we headed for some apartments that are up on the hill on the road to Falls Creek.  The first response was that they are only available for two nights but when we told our sob story about the plan to fly to Hobart etc, they relented and let us stay in one of the apartments.  We bought a couple of bottles of sparkling and got out onto the balcony just in time for the sunset.

The bonus was that the balcony had a hot tub, and there was another in the bathroom with a huge window looking out at the night sky.  After opening the Dal Zotto Prosecco, toasting my birthday (again) and marvelling at the sunset we made a dash to the supermarket.  Then Annie cooked up a feast of Salmon, Broccolini and little tomatoes, washed down with more Prosecco and some of the Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Riesling and eaten out on the balcony overlooking the lights of Mt Beauty.  A long soak in the hot tub under the stars and it was the end of a perfect day.  So a forced change of plans actually gave rise to what was probably the best way to celebrate the birthday.

In the morning we headed home via Bright, where it was Annie's turn to reminisce about family holidays, diving from the (not really very high) diving board into the Ovens River and camping at the home of a family friend.  We both remember the days when our dads would head to the pub,  us kids would get a raspberry lemonade if we were lucky but otherwise would play around somewhere while waiting.  Stopped at Brown's winery for lunch and stocked up on the bulk port for our port barrel.  It's not on the list but if you ask you can get 10 litres in a box.

I was reminded how beautiful Victoria is and of the joys of road trips.  We travelled around 800 kilometres in the two days and through beautiful country, it was nostalgic and beautiful, the one thing I missed was that view that we used to get from Pretty Sally of Melbourne spread out before us, that has been taken away with the advent of the freeway where the road was diverted or lowered or something but you don't get that breathtaking view where the city appears in front of you.  But it was a great trip with good food, good wine and good memories.  Now refreshed and ready to face the madness that this Government continues to wreak.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The drink you need after 4 children have an overnight stay.

It's 12.00 midday and I have just sat out on the deck at my beach hideaway and finished off a very nice glass of Delatite Riesling while playing Gurrumul's second cd (thanks to Annie).  Yes it's one way of surviving Abbott and his cronies but there is more.  While it sounds a bit degenerate, however let me put it into perspective.  I am old enough to have a seniors card.  I have two grandchildren and two step grandchildren and contact with lots of others through my partner who has 9 grandchildren and 5 grands.  So I am used to having kids around and having them stay with me.

Last night I had 4 ranging from 3 to 12.  Children who I am related to but not any of the grands.  Children whose parents love them I know, but struggle to show them that love or to provide them the care that all the grands in my life take for granted.  They struggle to do simple things like have all their books and uniforms for them when they start school for the year, and in the case of one when she starts high school for the first time.

They are basically delightful kids who mostly have a reasonably positive outlook on life and cope very well with all the slings and arrows that life throws at them.  And these 4 and their big brother have had lots of them over the years.  But there were four of them, with me, overnight.  I am used to having kids where I say it's bedtime in half an hour, and they say fine.  I am used to having kids where I read them a story at bedtime and they fall asleep during the first chapter. 

The slings and arrows they have all dealt with over their short lives have had an impact.  For one the anger that she feels is always just below the surface, ready to bubble up.  For another, the ups and downs just in the last six weeks have meant she is all over the place.  Interestingly it is the girls who let their emotions show while the boys seem to hold it inside.  Let me restate they are delightful kids, I love each one with their own funny ways, even the one who is contantly saying 'it's not fair' or 'I hate you (to her sister), I wish you were dead.....'  Such raw emotion that comes to the surface.  Such misplaced anger!

They love devices, give them access to facebook or instagram or Minecraft and they will be quiet for hours.  But I feel uncomfortable about allowing an 8 or 10 year old to spend a lot of time on Facebook and hey Facebook, what is this rubbish about only providing accounts for those over 13 - what checking do you do?  How do you cope with a 12 year old writing on her facebook account that someone is a cunt?  Then when I challenge it explaining so sweetly that she didn't write it, she was just reposting what someone else wrote.

And the juxtaposition when I force them to turn off the screens and play outside and they climb the trees or swing on the slightly too high, slightly dangerous rubber tyre swing with such happy abandon.  They have an amazing social life, all of them have friends who they spend nights with, go to the beach with, have a good time with.  None of them could be described as socially isolated. Of course for the older ones it's all a bit fraught re who is their best friend, boy friend, girlfriend etc. 

As I said their parents love them I am sure, but they struggle to be the parents I know they want to be. At the moment they live with their Dad who does his best as the parent of 5 children who are constantly in his care.  So back to me. That's why I had 4 of them for the night.  I respect so much what he is trying to do, he is the one who gives them some security and gives them a roof over their heads. 

But my goodness it is hard.  I only had 4.  Four children whose pattern of behaviour is so different to what I am used to.  Four children who have not known the security of always having a roof over their heads, food for their bellies, books and uniforms for the beginning of the school year and knowing if there is a school camp or excursion they will be able to go on it.   I wonder how that can happen in this community where we all feel so self righteous about having such a good lifestyle that others risk their lives in order to join it.  I wonder how we, as a community, can rest at night knowing how hard it is to put the safeguards in place to ensure that all children have the basics in life and access to a good education that does not depend on their parents using the money they get wisely enough to provide them with shelter, food, school uniforms, lunches and books. 

How can Christopher Pyne talk about any level of equity in education when we have so many kids who start off behind the 8 ball?  How can he talk about funding schools to become independent when we have schools that are in the lowest socio economic areas where, the year 7 coordinator says to me that my grandniece will not be alone in not having her books in the third week of the school year?  How reasonable is to expect that parents will be able to find $800 or more for each child, just to support their children being able to participate in the classroom, never mind the addons of excursions and extra curricular activities?

And so I am reduced to drinking Riesling (very nice I would reccommend it) on the deck and using Gurrumul, who himself has had a few slings and arrows to deal with, to transport me to to a place of serenity and peace.  I want everyone to have that ability to be able to find what they need to transport themselves to that place.  I want everyone to know that feeling of security of having a place to live, to have not just the money but the motivation and the wherewithal to be able to provide themselves and their children with that safe place.  Until then I will finish my Riesling (may even have a second glass) and get to work cleaning up the detritus that 4 children can leave in their wake. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The day after the apocalypse

Well here we are in the post Rudd, post Gillard world with Tony Abbott as our Prime Minister.  This blog is for those people who feel a sense of despair about this and wonder how they will get through the next 3 years.  My concern is that this man has said and done whatever he thinks will get him to the position he is in now with little regard for the truth and with no respect at all for the Australian population.  I acknowledge that Labor stuffed up badly and am not into recriminations about this but do want to acknowledge the leadership, resilience and dignity showed by our first woman Prime Minister, Julia Gillard who faced continual attacks from the Opposition, the media and from within her own party.  Sure she made  mistakes but what PM has not?  She balanced a minority government and achieved real democracy by successfully negotiating a hefty package of reform through the Parliament which we will enjoy the benefits of.  Her legacy will be celebrated for years to come.

However, now we have the mad monk and many of my family and my Facebook and Twitter firends are in despair.  So I want to offer some tips that I will use to survive the next three years. 

1. Is to say thank you to Van Badham for this which certainly helped lift my spirits this morning.

2. Celebrate the people in  life that bring  joy and ground me, including my dog, my family and my friends.I will try to be kinder to them, to let them know how important they are to me and  acknowledge and celebrate the ways in which they contribute to the world being a better place.

3. Find ways to get involved in more grassroots political movements like this one and in my local community so I know I can work towards making a difference no matter who is in power.

4.  Work towards creating a smaller footprint.  Now this is a hard one for me, I drive to work, I have a beach house which I drive to whenever I can, I sometimes even am so lazy I drive the dog to the park when I take her for a walk!  So more solar panels, less driving, less reliance on power driven gadgets (but not giving up my Ipad).

5. Eat well and drink well.  Use fresh vegetables from my garden or local market gardeners to give goodness and nourishment.  Hang out for free range meats like chicken and bacon.  So if pay a little more, I'll eat a little less.  Buy organic when I can, yes I know you can't always trust the labelling, but at least if it's labelled organic there is more likelihood that it will be than if it's not.  Drink good wine (and the occasional spirits like Gin and Tonic) when I can afford it and if I can't afford the good stuff then go without.  Savour tastes, smells and the look of the food I put on my table.  Take time to prepare meals properly and appreciate the work that I and others have put into it.

6. Feel the sunshine on my skin, the feeling of the water when I swim, the joy of the wind when I cycle, the breeze blowing up from the sea.  Take time to smell and feel close to the roses, the native flowers, the fuschias that grow wild along the coast in spring.  Have fresh flowers in the house all the time.  Listen to and savor the birdsongs, the possums playing on the roof, the laughter of children and create and listen to music.

7. Take a stand, get angry - remember that 'the behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept'.  So whenever someone says or does something that I find offensive or disagree with, I'll let them know.  Politely if I can, with humour when I can, but I will try not to just listen and nod or let it go past.  Respect others have a right to their opinions but I have a right to mine and have a right to express those opinions without harming or causing offense to others. (unless they are right wing, bigotted, conservatives who will be offended by anyone just having an opinion different to theirs, never mind expressing it)

8. Avoid shock jocks and the right wing bigotted conservatives -(does that mean left wing bigotted conservatives are okay - probably not!) avoid bigotted people in general and dont; liten to or read their rants.  My stance is not to pay for newspapers anymore, though I admit to reading them at work and in cafes where I don't have to pay, so I can stay in touch with the world around me.  Turn off people like Jon Faine or The Drum when they annoy me and I'll let them know I am doing that. Don't get sucked in to behaving like the trolls and use personal or obscene insults.

9. Find political analysts and commentators that I can respect and read and listen to them.  That doesn't mean looking for people who say only what I want to hear but people who provide a reasoned position, don't resort to personal attacks or insults and can support what they say with an argument that makes sense even if, in the end, I don't agree.

10.  Live life with joy and vigor - get out there and talk and dance and listen to and play music.  Go to places where there are like minded people.  Shout and cry and laugh and enjoy the quiet when it's appropriate.  Find places that ground me and lift my spirit and go there frequently.  For you it might be a tree in a nearby park or a magnificent waterfall, or a good cafe, or a spot in your home, whatever it is, find it and enjoy it and seek solace when you need it.  Take time to watch the sunrise (or if you are a late riser like me, the sunset).  But look at up at the sky whenever you can.

And hopefully in 3 years time if we all work at saying what we think and encouraging others around us to think and argue and look at what's on offer we can vote for a positive change and someone like Tanya Plibersek or Kate Ellis can be a Prime Minister that we can be proud of again. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Traveling solo in New Zealand

Well it has been a while, first a quick update on the knee front.  Going remarkably well, only thing I still have problems with is if I am sitting for a while then its awkward to get up.  Otherwise the right knee is pain free when I walk, which is pretty amazing.

The recovery is so good I have been able to travel to New Zealand where I joined up with a number of work colleagues to go to the Wearable Arts Festival in Wellington.  But thought I would take advantage of goinh there and see a bit of the countryside first.  So I travelled on my own from Auckland to Wellington.  Stayed in Auckland the first night and with the maybe false sense of security of a traveller, felt quite comfortable wandering the streets at night and finding a lovely place to eat at called Elliott Stables, which is like an upmarket food hall.

I was incredibly lucky as the weather was amazing, clear skies with a bit of rain at night and a bit of rain on the road as I travelled from Auckland to Taupo where I stayed at Debretts Spa Resort which is a cabin park with its own Thermal Springs so spent a lovely few hours in the hot springs.  Bit daggy as they are quite old, but relaxing none the less.  Can't get over how amazingly friendly and helpful New Zealanders are.  It made it such an easy country to travel in on your own.

the slide at the thermal springs, no I did not go on it, chose instead to laze in the many pools

The NZ countryside is just beautrful, green rolling hills, then roads winding beside rivers with strange red lowlying shrubs more rolling green hills with lines of mountains off in the distance.  Stopped at an incongrous little roadside break and discovered the most amazing waterfalls which were not even signposted.  At Napier, on the East Coast,  got caught up in the first ever National Earthquake Drill.  At the info centre when the siren went off and they told me to get behind the counter and kneel down.  When I explained that I couldn't kneel they were a bit discombobulated so said 'oh well just put your hands over your head' I am sure that would help  if  a ton of concrete was falling on  my head.

Travelling on my own forced me to plan a little bit more which meant deciding each morning where I would stay that night.  So on the third night chose from the internet a place called Himitangi Beach because it had a cabin park and according to the info it was good place to watch the sunset....  More green rolling hills, and now snow covered mountain ranges in the background.  Stopped at a winery called the Junction where the woman who owned the place with her husband suggested I sit in the sun and look out over the mountains  while she brought out wines for me to taste.  Choice! (that's what NZers say when they are happy I think)

At Himitangi Beach turned up at the cabin park to find they had a nice little self contained cabin available and when I asked the woman if there was anywhere I could get something to eat, she said 'mm what day is it? Wednesday - ahh the Cossie club will have their ten dollar roast.'  so after a walk along the most amazing and primeval beach I have seen - full of huge chunks of driftwood, huge sand dunes, groups of men with strange traingular fixed nets, that I learnt were for catching whitebait, I went off to the  only place to eat in this lovely village, the Cosmopolitan Boaters and Firshermen's club for what turned out to be a lovely roast lamb and a chat over dinner with some fellow cabin parkers.

Himitangi Beach
Then drove down to Wellington where I met up with the mob from work, 11 of us in total.  Had a lovely lovely time.  Wellington behaved admirably, sun shine every day, very little wind, spent lots of time walking along the waterfront, going to the markets, eating and occasionally drinking.  Best meals - the lobster sliders at the Hummingbird cafe in Courtenay Place, the kilo of mussels done in a coriander and coconut sauce at a German pub near Lambton Quay, and sweet things a Crack Pie at the market.  The locals celebrated the sunshine and summerlike temperature of 18C by going out in pedalboats and jumping off the pier into what I am sure was freezing cold water.  Lots of music, a ladies ukelele band at the market, dancing to 60s music, then an Irish band and the knee held up remarkably well.

Wellington Wharf
So all in all a good time.. loved travelling on my own and would recommend it to anyone who has not tried it, there is an element of freedom that allows you to stop and take photos, have different conversations wiht the people you meet, eat, drink and just soak up the place without having to negotiate.  But it's also good to travel with a companion, what's important is having the choice......

Friday, June 29, 2012

on the path to recovery

Well, back again and it is now nearly four weeks after the big cut..... So far so good, the knee is doing everything it is supposed to be doing, I can bend to about 130 degrees, I can straighten it and, when I walk little distances without a crutch I don't wobble anymore.  The things one can get excited about.

A get well picture from the daughter of a workfriend
I'm down to one crutch now and little distances at home without any.  I have learnt to take it slowly as last weekend overdid it a bit and the knee became swollen and painful again.  One of the most blissful things was finally being able to take a bath last week.  I love my bath, I love relaxing in it and having a soak, but the surgeon had said no immersion in water until the wound is completely healed.  Different surgeons have different guidelines I have learnt, some don't worry about immersion and others do.  But the reading I have done suggests infection is one of the biggest worries with knee replacements, next to DVT which of course can kill you.  So I took the path of caution and stayed out of the water, which made it even more special when, after 3 weeks, I got the all clear.  Re the DVT the precaution is pressure stockings which are a special form of torture, the recommendation is to wear them for six weeks.  I managed for 3, dropping down to only wearing them at night after one week, when I was home from hospital, and so far I have survived. 

Next to having a bath the  most blissful was going to hydrotherapy.  Found the Royal Talbot which is a ten minute drive from here.  Had been relying on the doona stealing weasel to take me there but, just to have an excuse not to look after me for a few days, he developed shingles, on his face, with swollen eyes so he could not see. I decided he was probably not the safest form of transport.  So booked a taxi, which arrived 20 minutes late, but I made it, and thankfully got picked up by my saviour neighbour, otherwise I would probably still be waiting.  If you have aching joints and have not done hydrotherapy then you are missing out.  The pool is warmed, a bit like a warm, but not hot, bath.  The physio assesses you first then gives you tailored exercises depending on which part of the body is the issue. And in the water I can walk, I can step up and down and  I can squat.  Without pain!  The water takes the stress off the joints and enables you to do exercises you would not otherwise be able to do.  It is magical.  And you get to mix with a bunch of oldies who are at different levels of mobility.
No it's not me it's Ari enjoying the bath!
So the good things: 
First the steady improvement, finding movement is easier each day and learning to manage pain - not that I've had a lot but the best lesson I have learnt is that it is better to take something not too strong like Panadol regularly, like 3 or 4 times a day, than strong painkillers when you feel the pain.  The message is avoid the pain, and then somehow the brain learns that there is no pain so in the end the pain decreases, whereas if you don;t take them untilyou feel pain, the brain learns there is pain and gears itself up to it.  (Well that's my scientific explanation anyway)

Second has been how lovely people are.  The doona stealing weasel of course who tried to cater to my every need until the attack of shingles.  His son who came down from Sydney and helped distract him from worrying about me.   Friends who've dropped in to ease the boredom of hanging around the house, neighbours who've helped with shopping particularly while the doona stealing weasel was not able to drive, neighbours who brought in meals and helped to walk the dog.  Em coming to stay for a couple of days, Bec and family visiting and being brave enough to allow the boys to stay here for a few hours and entertain me.  Tyke and Ari helping carry out the washing and bring in firewood. Our gardener who everytime he comes, stacks the firewood inside for us.

Third has been the weather.  I deliberately waited until winter and it has proved to be a brilliant idea.  When it's cold and raining outside you don't mind being stuck inside.  But of course being Melbourne we still get sunshine, particularly in the morning.  It shines through the lviing room windows and I can sit in my old nanna chair and feel the warmth through the glass while I watch the birds and look out on the garden.  Or I can get down to the park and sit in the sun (with several layers of clothing to withstand the icy wind!) while the dog runs around and again thanks to friends who have helped get me and the dog down to the park and then played games with her while we were there.  We can light the fire and enjoy the warmth and comfort that provides, and have a lovely glass of red (once I stopped the morphine) resting on the hearth.

The nanna chair in the sun
Fourth is where we live, it's just around the corner from a small strip shopping centre, so I have been able to hobble up to the little supermarket, to the doctors and to the optometrist, so don't feel quite so trapped.  And we have several coffee places that I have been able to walk to (with crutches) when I want to get out of the house and treat myself to a good coffee. 

So I am bloody lucky, I know that and have learnt to appreciate even more the people and things which help to make my life comfortable and worthwhile.  The downside has been the debate (or lack of it) about asylum seekers and the solution and the inability of the parliament ot find a humane solution.  I must admit to having shifted from being in favour of only on shore processing to looking at other alternatives, given the number of people who have drowned while trying to get here.  I think the answer is a regional solution but that will take time and we can't wait for more boats to sink.  But the coalition and the Greens are so entrenched and while they cry and make impassioned speeches they won't make any concessions or even allow the Government to try a new approach.  Let's hope that the work of the committee will find a workable solution.