Monday, 29 February 2016

Mum singing 'Riding Down from Bangor'

When I arrived at the nursing home this morning I tried to connect with my brother in Texas and was successful on the first go. He showed mum and I one of his Second Life avatars - a black fox - and told us the story of how it had emerged. The story had to do with the brother of an acquaintance of my brother's who had died of cancer This man turned out to be the person behind a Second Life character named Shady Fox - who my brother knew - and so he adopted the black fox out of respect for this man.

My brother has always led a full life online, and he keeps in contact with a wide variety of people there. His network of online acquaitances dates from before the advent of social media per se, of course. Back in those days they had bulletin boards where people congregated to find company and exchange ideas. My brother has been involved with these platforms from the early days of networked computing.

He also at my instigation found a YouTube video of 'Riding Down from Bangor', the rather racy poem I mentioned recently which my mother had been singing. Mum was thoroughly entraced when the two singers started their rendition, leaning right forward in her recliner chair and focusing intently on the iPad's screen in order to catch the words as they emerged. When I had finished the FaceTime call that included my brother I took mum out to the park and we sat on the second bench. But there were no dogs at first. So I got mum to try to sing the song off the top of her head. Here is the video in case you're interested in watching a woman with dementia struggle with a long poem - it is a song strictly but the way she recites it, it sounds more like a poem.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

The scourge of violence with mental illness

I wrote a few days ago about the problems my ex-wife and I are having with our daughter Adelaide, and how Adelaide would go to my ex-wife's purse to take money when she ran out of her allowance. I have been sending money to Adelaide through my ex-wife for about 18 months in order to just do something, just to help with a situation that can otherwise get out of control. I have tried to be supportive in this way but I think that things are now moving out of my control.

Yesterday I received an email from my ex-wife telling me that Adelaide had verbally assaulted her and forced her to give her - Adelaide - money for alcohol. My ex-wife then asked me to send Adelaide's allowance directly to Adelaide in future because she didn't want anything to do with the money any more.

But I think that I will not be sending any more money. I emailed my ex-wife telling her that it was time to get the police involved. The police have come to the house on occasion in the past when Adelaide has become unruly and someone has called them. This time, however, noone called them and so Adelaide has got her way. But it is time now to talk with the doctors, I think, and get them to organise independent accommodation for Adelaide. It is clear to me that she cannot live any more with her mother because she is liable to become violent.

Furthermore, I am disinclined to continue supplying an allowance - as well as travel expenses and treatment costs - to Adelaide. If she is going to use violence then she has to be given a message that violence is not acceptable. I hope that my ex-wife can work through these problems with the doctors and find some suitable accommodation for my daughter. This seems to me to be the only way forward. It is time for Adelaide to live independently, and to see if that is going to work for her.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Singing songs in the park

When I arrived at the nursing home today mum was cleaning her teeth. I waited until she had got out of the bathroom and then I went to the table by the window where the iPad is kept. I used it to call my brother in Texas but he wasn't home, so I turned to mum and asked her if she wanted to go to the park for a while. "That sounds like a good idea," she said. She got up and went to the cupboard where her jacket hangs and got it out, then I helped her to put it on. I got her cap from the drawer and her glasses from the chest of drawers beside the bed.

When we got out to the park it was quite warm but the sun was mainly hidden by clouds. I found a seat at the second bench. Mum was still on the footpath busy collecting a branch with some dead leaves on it, to take back to her room.

We sat down together and I made a video which turned out to be too big to load to YouTube. I have to remember to keep the videos short. But anyway it showed mum singing songs, which she likes to do. One of the old ones she sang today in the park is Chatanooga Choo-Choo. I had been given the suggestion of Blue Moon by my cousin and I passed that along to mum, but when she started singing it she found she could only remember the first line. I gave her the second line and she went along singing for a little while but it was soon clear this would not become one of her favourites. The recall is just not there.

As we were sitting there on the bench I looked down the road and saw someone standing behind a table that had things standing on it, so I guessed it was a flower vendor. I told mum and she was immediately interested, so after a while we stood up and made our way down the street. It turned out it was a youth who is raising money for a rugby and soccer tour of New Zealand. While we were coming up to the table another shopper stopped her car and crossed the road to buy a bunch of roses. I bought a bunch of the long-stemmed ones for $15, and then mum and I made our way back to the nursing home.

Once we were inside I tried calling my brother again and this time he answered. He was doing something with Second Life, which he showed us; he had just changed his avatar to a fox, apparently. He turned the camera around to face his computer screen and the fox scampered in small circles as we watched. I reminded mum of Riding Down from Bangor, which she had sung the last time I was up at the nursing home to see her. She recited the whole thing again from start to finish, and sang it for my brother. I remarked how amazingly well she was able to remember the old songs, even though she could not remember if she had eaten lunch. My brother said that was why the old songs were memorized for ritual purposes. I couldn't disagree. James said he had been up doing work late at night for the past two nights because of a network problem so I let him ring off and go and get some sleep.

Mum then threw away the old dead leaves she had in her flower vase, stuffing them into her small blue plastic garbage bin. The roses had to be put somewhere. When we had finished throwing away the dead sticks and leaves I went out into the hallway and saw a staff member. I motioned to them and they came over. I mentioned to the woman that mum had some roses with thorns that had to be put into the vase in her room and she told me she would try to get someone to come and do that for mum. In the meanwhile, I just put water into the vase and stuffed the whole thick mass of leaves and stems into it.

I left the nursing home soon after that to give myself plenty of time to get home, considering the exit ramp near the Fish Market tends to get crowded near lunchtime on Saturdays. I got through that point in the journey quite quickly, and came back and poured myself a nice cup of cold coffee.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Venturing sentiment in a quest for acceptance

Of late I find myself behaving more mildly. You can possibly see this tendency playing itself out online best, so where once I might have been caustic, aggressive and combative, now I am accommodating, mild and conciliatory. It might have something to do with the wine of course, which I usually start drinking in the late afternoon. I will normally drink for two or three hours before switching to water, most of the time after the evening meal. So this might have something to do with the new placatory me behind the keyboard. But as we all know, the addition of aocohol into an equation does not necessarily lead to conciliation. Quite the opposite can be true, in fact.

The change might also have something to do with the way social media operates. According to their book, which I reviewed back in September, Hal Crawford, Domagoj Filipovic, and Andrew Hunter found that one of the main ways people use social media is to create teams, to harness the power of consensus. So if I am taking a stand on Twitter by passing a rather pointed remark vis-a-vis something that a politician might have said about a particular issue, it is more than likely that I want people to come along with me in doing so, to form a consensus behind me that we can all share. That rather than I want to head butt my neighbour, who might have a completely different view.

I found this happened last night while I was watching the nightly 7.30 show on the ABC. I tweeted: "Problems with Fijiian fruit and veg pickers shows why we need unions. Can't trust employers. #abc730". It was what happened after I put out this message that reassured me. A few people responded and there were seven likes of this tweet and five retweets of it. One or two people answered with their own comments, and most of these were supportive. There was no dissenting view. I took this to be a sign that this foray into the realms of social media had been successful.

How I know that I am being a consensus-builder in cases like these can be measured by how I feel if someone actively disagrees with me. For example, a couple of days ago I put out a rather caustic tweet questioning someone's choice of a name. "Muff Badger?" I tweeted. He responded: "Is this you testing reading and comprehension?" Which caused me to reply: "Clearly." "Then you gave it a go and we are all proud of you trying your best. Participation ribbon for you sir!" he replied. "You are too generous ... or something," I answered, unable to generate anything like the necessary aggression needed to attack this rather humourous close to the exchange.

Gone are the days of alcohol-fueled aggression in cyberspace, at least as far as concerns me personally. You never do well, when you indulge such tendencies. In fact, you are likely to go overboard and lose a lot of followers. I have found that by being positive I am far more successful in attracting people to my feed. But it is more than that. I find that I ask the internet to indulge my sensibilities so that it can give me the things that I need, that I want. What I want is to feel valued and included, and there's nothing more likely to ensure this doesn't occur than to get aggressive all the time. You don't want to come across like a mawkish sop, of course, but there are grades of sentiment that can be ventured in the quest for acceptance.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

A hot day in the park

I took mum for a walk out to the park today when I went up to the nursing home to see her. When I entered her room she was curled up on the bed like a coccoon, dozing. I tried to call my brother in Texas but he didn't answer the FaceTime call on the iPad.

When we came around the corner of the hallway toward the TV room I watched mum to see if she would veer off to plant a kiss on the head of the guy who had told me she was running around with her petticoats hanging out, but she didn't. In the elevator I asked him about this guy and she said she wasn't kissing him any more. "I learned my lesson," she said in summation. I didn't ask her any more questions about him.

It was very hot in the park and we sat in the sun. I made a short video of mum in which I introduced the idea of singing a song but she said she had been thinking of a song but had forgotten it. When we got back inside to her room mum started singing the song, which turned out to be 'Riding Down from Bangor' by Louis Shreve Osborne. It seemed a bit out of place after all the problems mum had been having with the guy whose head she had been kissing, but there you go. Old people are not always predictable, and can have a lot of personality!

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Moving to Sydney: A year on

It might be hard to believe it but it has been just on a year since I relocated to Sydney. So how are things going? I have settled into the apartment comfortably, especially after my flatmate - who moved in a few days after the relocation - moved out in June. I have had my son stay in the spare bedroom for three weeks, and another guest - my mum's old housekeeper, G - stay for a week when she came down to see mum for mum's birthday last year. But the place has become most definitely my home, a refuge to resort to, a place where I can safely rest, and a place where I can get on with the things that matter.

I'm still getting mail addressed to the previous tenants - the people who lived in the apartment before mum and I moved to Sydney from southeast Queensland - and when I get them I always put a note on them and place them in a postbox so they can be sent back to the sender. I am a stickler for form in this area because it's the sort of thing I would like someone else to do for me if I were to move out to another place. There is a postbox just up the street on one of the street corners, so it's not really a difficult thing to do. You just have to make up your mind that that's what you're going to do.

When I order wine from the company that supplied our wine back in southeast Queensland they usually get it delivered without too much difficulty. In some cases I will be home when the courier buzzes on the intercom. In other cases they will leave the boxes inside the foyer and phone me to tell me they have dropped them off. This can happen when they have another delivery to the same building that goes smoothly. If all else fails they can leave the boxes of wine at the local convenience store and drop a note in my mailbox. The convenience store doesn't get any remuneration for this service, it's just something they do as a service for their customers.

And when I order coffee - if getting to the store in Newtown is not possible - Australia Post usually just leaves the package inside the front door. If that cannot be done they take it back to the local Australia Post franchise in Pyrmont and I get a note to pick it up from there.

For medical things I have my dermatologist in Macquarie Street where I visit a couple of times a week. The GP is in an office just up the street near the light rail stop. And the dentist is just around the corner on the main road. I do my grocery shopping at a major outlet down the street past the casino, where there is also a handy pharmacist I can use. If I need something like vitamins I can phone them and they will order it in for me.

Getting onto the motorway for days when I go up to the nursing home to see mum is no problem. Getting off when coming back home can be a bit slow depending on the day. Weekends around lunchtime are the worst time, and at those times the roads around here can be really congested. Everybody loves to go to the Fish Market on the weekend. Usually though I will scoot up and down the motorway to the nursing home with no difficulties, and so I see mum every two or three days as I intended to do when I moved down here from the Coast.

Elections seem to follow me I will say, in closing here. When I moved down it was the #libspill at federal level as Tony Abbott almost lost the party leadership (and government leadership) back in February 2015. Then there was the Queensland win for Labor at around the same time. Now when I am down here in February it is the US party primaries with Donald Trump looking strong at each step in the process as the US electorate selects their presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton is also doing well but she doesn't seem to have the same cachet of her likely presidential rival.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Taking mum to the blood doctor

This is a picture of mum singing a song. The song she is singing in the photo was probably Stormy Weather, the old Lena Horne song, which my brother got playing on his computer and which mum and I could hear through the iPad. Mum loves singing these old songs. My brother also found another song that mum remembered but I forget what it was now.

We had gone back into mum's room after lunch. Unusually I had arrived at the nursing home at around midday this time because mum had an appointment with her haematologist this afternoon. I had earlier booked myself in to eat lunch in the dining room. Lunch was salmon with bok choy and mashed potato. It was very tasty although as usual the portion was too small for me.

Mum and I talked with my brother for about 20 minutes on the iPad, and sang two songs, then we started to get ready to go out. Even though the temperature outside today was in the high-30s mum insisted on wearing a winter jacket over a cardigan. We went out to the front desk and I signed mum out of the building, then we went downstairs to the car. I disassembled mum's walker and put it, folded, into the car's boot. The journey to the doctor's office only takes about 10 minutes. It was about 2pm by this time.

We parked the car in the carpark of the medical facility. It is made up of dozens of doctors' offices in one building, and on occasion it is hard to find parking in the lot but today we had no trouble getting a space for the car. I got the walker out of the boot and put it back together, then with mum I walked slowly up to the front door. Inside the building there is a central atrium with a huge ramp constructed at a slight gradient leading up to the offices on the second floor. We had to go up there. It usually takes mum a while to negotiate the ramp and by the time she makes it to the top she is out of breath, as happened this time too.

In the waiting room we waited for about 10 minutes while the doctor saw another patient. I had forgotten the list of medications mum is currently taking, and that one of the nurses in the nursing home had given to me to show the haematologist, so by the time the doctor was ready I had to scoot outside to go back to the car to retrieve it. When I got back to the doctor's office the door was open and I walked in and closed it, then sat down, handing the plastic folder with the list in it to the doctor.

He said by way of introduction that mum's platelet count was doing as well as he could have imagined it would, when he had started her on the cortisone treatment. We discussed one of the medications that mum is taking. The doctor wanted to see mum's arms so we had to take off her jacket and cardigan, and he expressed surprise that she was wearing so many layers of clothes on such a hot day. I told him that she was always like this, regardless of the weather. I also told him about mum's most recent hospital admission at the beginning of this month, and how after she had returned to the nursing home after the admission she still had had delusions for about a week, and that they had eventually disappeared. He said that the delirium in the hospital and the delusions were due to the severity of the infection.

Regarding the cause of the infection he said it might have been due to the cellulitis in mum's legs. This is a low-grade and (in her case) permanent infection that causes the legs to be red and painful. He pulled down mum's long socks and had a look at her legs. He said they were good socks and I told him a bit about how we had come to buy them through a specialist footwear provider, who had also supplied mum with her oversize shoes. These shoes had become necessary - some may recall - when her feet had swelled up last year.

When the doctor had finished with mum and had dictated a letter to mum's GP he ushered us outside and I paid for the consultation. The receptionist put the Medicare claim back through the cash card straight away. Then we returned to the car down the ramp in the central atrium and drove back to the nursing home. Mum said how the sky was beautiful. I left her to have a nap in her room, because by this time she was completely exhausted. I told her I would be back in a couple of days.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Mental illness is an affliction that affects the whole family

Let me be straight: I love my daughter. I don't know why she has a mental health problem but she does. When she was nine years old I had to leave home and come back to Australia, and that might be the root of the problem. But then again it might not. She might have been always going to get sick. The fact is that there is no way of knowing. And there's no point in trying to apportion blame. All we can do is try to make things better.

In 2014 I went to Japan to be with my family when they had a crisis due to Adelaide's illness. She had been mandatorially admitted to hospital because she had cut herself, and I went there to try to help sort things out. It was too much to just rely on my ex-wife, who had remained in Japan all those years ago, to try and raise the family alone. At that time I talked with my mother and we agreed to help Adelaide financially. I would send a quantity of money occasionally for the purpose of her travel to hospital, for her treatment, and for an allowance.

Since then she has been going to hospital regularly using the money I send, and I am grateful for that. But sometimes things get to be too much for her. She calls me and cries and says that there is not enough money. She cannot afford to get a haircut, and getting a job - her doctor had agreed that she could get a job for one day a week - without a haircut in Japan is very difficult. She wants to go out with friends. Her mother was not giving her enough money. She wanted me to send the money to her directly, rather than to her through her mother. She was not getting along with her mother. Her mother was shouting at her.

It's a terribly complicated situation and with this amount of information alone it's hard to know what to do. My thinking is that she has to get along with her mother. If she cannot do that, then it means she is unwell. But it's hard to say that to someone who is ill, who cannot discern the reality from the fantasy. So I got in touch with her mother, who told me that Adelaide has been spending too much money and had just run out of her allowance. It was the normal time of year for Adelaide to attack her, my ex-wife, she said, but she was used to it. She was used to Adelaide looking to form alliances with people outside of the core pair for the purpose of getting advantage. But she - my ex-wife - has feelings also. She is unsure of what to do. She says she doesn't want to handle the money. Adelaide is liable to go to her purse and take money out of it when her own money runs out.

It is difficult to know what to do but what is certain is that living so far away it is almost impossible to become involved in the detail of the contretemps. So I give preference to my ex-wife's ideas about what to do. I cannot allow Adelaide to get her way and spend money designed to go to her treatment, on other things. I am in a bind. I don't really know what to do so I defer to the status quo. Adelaide's mother must control the money. Adelaide must get used to living together with her mother.

Mental illness is so hard. There are no absolute rules, and the desires of the person living with the disease may actually be grounded in unreliable imaginings. You sometimes need to get reliable information from people who know what is actually happening on the ground, in reality. I find it hard to know what to do but I have no other choice but to depend on Adelaide's mother in the matter of apportioning money. Anything else is too shaky, too fragile. I have to go with the best advice available and unfortunately it is hard to depend on Adelaide herself to give that to me.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Dishes by the sink in the morning

I woke up with the sun today with my back aching as usual. The pain drove me out of bed and into a pair of brown trousers and a cream-coloured shirt. It drove me into the kitchen where I performed the daily rite of making coffee for myself. I booted up the computer and checked what had happened on social media overnight. There were a few things but nothing remarkable. A comment had been ignored, but there was no news there. A tweet I had been mentioned in the night before had been retweeted. Standard stuff really.

I drank coffee while I perused my fortunes online. The coffee was white and hot and I was soon drinking a second cup, but before long I was feeling sleepy again. I made some toast and put Vegemite on it and ate it, then I went back to bed. I had a dream full of anger and retribution and woke up an hour or so later. I got out of bed again and went out and had another cup of coffee and watched the social graph. Who even uses that term to describe what's happening in social media any more?  After doing this for a short period of time it's possible that I went back to bed again but I can't be sure. I think I did however because the next thing I knew I was getting up out of bed and going into the kitchen to make some fried rice.

I chopped up a container of shimeji mushrooms into slim strips and put them on to fry. I broke two eggs into a glass bowl and added milk, then stirred the mixture up with a fork. I took two shallots out of the refrigerator and chopped them into small sections, using some of the green leaves but not all of them; the shallots were a few days old and not all that fresh. I took the mozzarella cheese out of the fridge and carved off a slice, which I then sliced into strips. When the shallots had cooked for a short time with the shimeji I tipped the cooked rice from the blue container into the pan and stirred it around. I ground some sea salt into the concoction that was frying on the stove. When it had all settled I poured the egg-and-milk mixture in and then quickly added the mozzarella strips. I then stirred the meal around. Sometimes I shook the pan to settle everything in its place. Sometimes I stirred it with the wooden spoon. When it was ready I put it on a plate and set the meal on a placemat on the table. I added water to the frying pan and placed it on the bench. Then I got my final cup of coffee ready and sat down to eat.

When I had finished, I went into the bedroom and stripped the bed and put everything in the laundry basket, and took the basket into the kitchen. I stuffed it all into the machine and took the recycling garbage - a wine bottle and a milk bottle - out of the plastic container on top of the washing machine. I poured some washing liquid into the plastic drawer and set the machine to running. I took the recycling garbage out into the hallway - picking up my keys on the way out the door and putting them in my trouser pocket - and went into the garbage room to set them inside the recycling garbage container on the lower shelf. I noticed there was no other garbage there. It must have been early for people on my floor still, because they hadn't yet thrown away their bottles from the previous evening.

In the bedroom again I made the bed with a fresh set of sheets. Then I came out into the living area again and sat down at the keyboard to write a blogpost.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Mum in good form

When I arrived at the nursing home this morning an hour earlier than usual I found mum asleep in her room in the company of F, whose room is a short distance away from mum's room, and who was also asleep. We had a short chat and I sat down on the only unoccupied seat, which was on mum's walker. F was sitting in mum's orange recliner chair and mum was sitting in the beige vinyl chair. Not long after I arrived a staff member came into the room and collected F, taking her back to her room. I said that I wanted to take mum out to the park.

Mum was already wearing her jacket when I arrived - a sign of the waning summer, although in the outside air it is still quite humid - so we only had to get her cap - and one was handily already sitting in the walker's basket - and her sunglasses, to complete the going-out ensemble.

We sat on the second bench at the park and watched the dogs. Because it was a Saturday morning there were a lot of dogs in the park, trotting round the perimeter of the park with their owners. Mum said hello to a few of the dogs and got some smiles from some of the owners. We sat there for a good 45 minutes and I made a video. We also sang a song - Stormy Weather - and were a bit silly with the lyrics, singing nonsense words instead of the real words of the song. Mum was in good form which was great to see.

After we got back inside the nursing home we heard the sound of singing coming from the downstairs dining room so we headed in that direction and found they were having a concert put on by a Korean Presbyterian church, probably one from the local area. After helping mum to sit down on her walker I asked one of the staffers there if they could take mum back upstairs when the concert was finished, so she could have lunch. Then I left.

I wanted to leave in time to avoid the traffic that congregates around the exit from the Western Distributor at the Fish Market. If you leave it too late the traffic is so bad you can easily wait for up to 15 minutes just to get off the motorway. But in my case I drove straight off on the last bit of the green light, without waiting at all. It was better timing. When I got home I ate the pork roll I had bought in Epping on the way back from the nursing home. Then I put on the laundry to wash, and had a nap.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Book Chat, Episode 3

This morning I contacted my friend Grant to do the third episode of Book Chat, our vlog, the last of which we made on the last day of last year. I started a regular Google hangout with Grant in order to get the connection right before going to the Hangout on Air - which is the recorded hangout the video comes from.

It turns out that at this early stage in the proceedings Grant could hear me but I couldn't see or hear him. He managed to fix his camera but the headset he had used last time had gone missing (Grant has 3 children). He went away and a short time later returned with a working headset. We got underway and did the video.

This was the first time we had used a set of written talking points to guide the conversation. We learn new things each time we make one of these videos. Next time we will use a run sheet to tidy up the material at the front and end of each set of discussions.

Books we talk about in this episode of Book Chat are:

  • The Conquerors, Roger Crowley (2015)
  • The Edge of the World, Michael Pye (2015)
  • A Cure for Suicide, Jesse Ball (2015)

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Awkward conduct

When I arrived at the nursing home today mum was sitting near the front desk on the first floor. She was waiting to have her hair cut. I sat down with her to wait and after a while a man came out of the salon and collected her to go inside. I remained waiting on my chair in the hallway. When mum came out with her hair done I went back with her down the hall towards her room past the dining room.

In the TV room she stopped and approached an elderly man in a reclining chair who is often there. She bent over him as he dozed and gave him a kiss on his head. As mum came down the hallway, I said to her, "You know you shouldn't do that any more." "Why?" asked mum. "He said to me once that you were running around with your petticoats hanging out," I said. Mum looked at me with her eyes and I could see the bags under them were coloured darker than the rest of the skin on her face. She looked a bit shocked.

But it was true. He had said these words to me some months beforehand, although I had never told mum about it. I was waiting for the right time to inform her of the news. The man - who I had been introduced to on one occasion as my mother's son - had beckoned me over to his recliner chair with his hand. As I leaned down to hear what he had to say he uttered those words. I was a bit startled, to be frank, and not at all sure how to take the information, and I probably said to him in return something along the lines of, "Ok" before going about my business. But now it seemed the right time to tell mum what he had said.

"I think he's a bit ..." "Randy," offered mum before I could continue. "No," I said, "I was actually going to say 'nasty'." "Yes," she said. "Maybe you shouldn't do that any more," I said to her. "Yes," she said, "I won't."

It's still not clear to me if mum's exertions in the oscular department were welcomed by the man. It seems to me that I remembered once he had beckoned to mum with his hand once in the same way that he had beckoned to me, as she had been walking down the hallway toward the dining room. He may have been aiming for a kiss, or so it was that it seemed to me. But then why the off-colour remark? It would appear on the face of it to be a kind of warning to mum to stay away. Unless he was, in actual fact, a bit of a letch and had just wanted to share his victory over the opposite sex with me. It's hard to know with people.

We'll see how mum goes in her endeavour not to kiss this one particular gentleman any more. She tends to forget things, of course, and so it's highly likely that she will just resume planting kisses on his forehead as she has been doing for some months now. It's difficult to know what she'll do. I do think, though, that my remarks to her this time made something of an impression, to gauge from her reaction to them. We can only hope. Personally, I find the whole 'romance-in-aged-care' thing a bit off.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Getting ready to upgrade my iPhone

After seeing the dermatologist this morning, on the way home I dropped into the store operated by my mobile phone service provider and asked about the kinds of packages they offer for people who want to upgrade their iPhone.

I've had my iPhone 4 since 2010 and it has given me good service but I find that the manufacturer is not upgrading the operating system any more and I expect to find in future there will therefore be more and more applications that are incompatible with my phone. Another shortcoming with the model I own is that the battery life is not that good. I know from anecdotal evidence that more recent models have much greater storage capacity in their batteries.

The woman at the counter gave me a sheet of paper that details what's included in each package, and she wrote the monthly charge on the paper for each package. I asked her to give me prices for the phone with the biggest storage capacity, which is the one with 128GB of storage. I calculated the total cost over the lifetime of the contract - a contract lifetime of 24 months - and then deducted the cost of the same iPhone 6S as priced by Apple, and it came out to a difference that was about the same as what I currently pay the service provider per month. This tells me that the charge for the purchase of the phone from the service provider is realistic.

I plan when I do upgrade the phone to donate the old phone to a friend who lives on a restricted income and has never been able to afford an iPhone, so right there will be another good outcome from the upgrade, as well as it giving me access to a superior device that I can continue to use for the next 5 or 6 years.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

A walk in the park

Here's mum in the nursing home hallway on her way outside to sit in the park. When I had arrived this morning she was asleep on her bed in her clothes and she dozed through most of the FaceTime call to my brother in Texas. She bucked up a little at the end of the conversation when my brother started playing old songs on his computer that we listened to through the iPad. Mum sang along to We'll Meet Again, which is a favourite by Vera Lynn. "She was a Brit," said mum, puckering up her mouth.

Mum was still singing when we were walking down the ramp outside the nursing home. We said hello to the two elderly residents who are usually sitting on the balcony outside their ground-floor rooms. Often they'll have a sulphur-crested cockatoo sitting with them. One appeared there when we were returning from the park, but not on the way out.

We went down the street to the main road so that we could walk around the roadworks that are on-going. In the park we sat on the first bench. I opened up the camera in my phone and asked mum if she minded if I took a video of her. She said it was ok and I said she could sing a song if she liked. She started singing immediately, even before I had started shooting with the camera. It was a made-up song that she was singing along the lines of "I can sing a song if I like, a song I have invented." It was great to see mum in such good spirits, with the delusions completely absent. There was no talk of the blotches on her arms this time, or of car accidents or of being attacked by farmers. It was pure mum, which usually means a bit of nonsense. Making no sense is one of the perks of being 86: you can say or do pretty much whatever you feel like saying or doing.

We sat in the park and mum said hello to a dog as it walked around the perimeter of the fenced enclosure which makes up the main part of the park. Often people walking their dogs will also say hello to mum as she sits there (another perk of being elderly is people are usually pretty comfortable with you). One woman today as she was guiding her dog out of the park said hello and mum returned the greeting. I just nodded, as befitted my role as the more responsible party.

This kind of day when nothing out-of-the-ordinary happens and when everything is calm and orderly, is the exception now, I know, but I still enjoyed it. It is nice to occasionally relax with mum knowing that nothing is going to happen and that she is generally happy and contented. As I say, this kind of day is probably now the exception rather than the rule. I do expect that mum will sooner or later be readmitted to hospital with another infection. Along with that of course will come the residual deficits like delusions and delirium, either in the hospital or in the nursing home when she has returned to familiar surroundings. When things are good and she's just coasting along singing an old song then life seems perfectly normal and good. If only it could be that way all the time.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

How am I doing, then?

The sequence of blogposts that includes the story of my mother's senescence and illnesses started in November 2014 at a time when I was discontented. In those first blogposts I talked about how unhappy I was looking after a mother who was living with dementia but also living in an apartment, and with two people looking after her needs. Now I've been living in Sydney for just on a year, how are things for me? What words can be used to characterise the way I am travelling on life's road? How am I faring?

Well I'm still drinking as much as I ever did in Queensland. I usually start drinking in the late afternoon and go on drinking happily for about two or three hours until dinner is finished. Then I switch to water because by that time my stomach will have started to hurt. If I try to drink for any longer than this I get a tad rigid on the inside. So the boxes of wine are still being ordered from the online retailer who buys from small wineries that produce in volumes that are too small for the major retailers. The quality is better, too, for the price you pay.

Spiritually I am doing ok. I have recently started up the Book Chat Oz website to accommodate the videos and reviews that me and Grant Hansen, my friend, produce. I am keeping a separate Twitter account for Book Chat Oz as well. I also look after the Twitter account for the Sydney Friends of Myall Creek, which is a non-profit venture aimed at increasing knowledge of our nation's history. Then there's the blog, which I have decided this year I want to post to on a daily basis. That's the aim anyway.

I'm still looking after mum by driving up to her nursing home every two or three days. When I am up there on most days I will try to put through a FaceTime call on mum's iPad to my brother in Houston. The three of us have a good chat, normally one punctuated by a fair quantity of laughter. When we have finished talking I will try to get mum up and on her feet for a walk to the park. She likes to sit in the park to watch the dogs. We will normally sit there on a bench for about 20 or 30 minutes before going back inside.

Deep inside myself I am never quite as happy as when I am writing so it is not entirely reliable to ask me at such moments how I am doing. I love writing and so I anyway include it in among the "spiritual" elements of my life, as I did again today as you can see. But deeper down inside there are still moments of dissatisfaction and a lot of that has to do with my back. Because I sit at my desk so much my back has started to give me messages, usually early in the morning. It started out that the pain was just in the left-hand side, and so when I took the complaint to the doctor he thought it might be something to do with my kidneys. But we had tests done to rule that out. Now the prognosis is more muscle pain until the quantum of exercise increases. In recent days the pain has moderated somewhat, but it is still causing me problems. I actually missed an early-morning dermatologist's appointment recently because the pain had made me go back to bed even though it was still there, reminding me of my mortality. I will often just try to sleep through the pain and so achieve that forgetting that only sleep can bestow on a mortal man, but it's always going to wake me up eventually.

I don't think the back pain is making me drink more, but I do think it is adding to my general level of scatterbrainedness. Pain has that effect. But the real reason is somewhere else. I think it has to do with the fact that I am starting to grieve. My mother is still alive but with the continuing infections and regular hospitalisations I can feel the end coming, and I wait for that day when the call to attend the nursing home - a phone call that will come from the nursing staff on duty - will come during the night. That will be the day of reckoning.

In the meantime I shuffle along in my usual way. I write in the mornings. I read books before bedtime. I watch the news programs. I settle myself down to cook when the time comes around each evening to eat a square meal before bedtime (a square meal before bedtime is one of life's necessaries). I allay the occasional fear. I live with my doubts. I strive to be happy. I comfort my friends. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Taking mum to the GP

The nurse when she saw me this morning at the nursing home told me mum had had a bleed from her ear this morning. I went in to see her and not long after I asked how her ear was. She put her finger in and it came out covered in dark blood. I popped down the hallway to see the nurse and she told me she would phone the GP. About 15 minutes later she appeared in mum's room and told me she had made an appointment for mum and I to see the doctor at 3pm.

It was about 11am at this point and I immediately went downstairs to the main desk to ask about getting lunch in the dining room organised for me, and they told me it would be OK. I went back upstairs and then mum got ready to go to the park because it was a nice day for a walk. We had to go around the building works when we got to the street outside because they are still laying rubber pipes for stormwater drainage. We made it to the second bench and sat down for about 20 minutes, then headed back inside for lunch.

It had been a long time since I had had lunch at the nursing home. The troubles with H had meant I had kept away from this particular activity entirely for some months. On the menu was beef with chips and boiled veges, and gravy. Mum had fried and battered fish with chips and veges. We sat with two other residents and had a quiet lunch. When it was finished we headed back to mum's room to wait for the hour to depart for the GP's. We watched the news on TV. I gave myself plenty of time to get to the GP's because it was a location I had never been to before and because of unknown traffic conditions and the work going on outside the nursing home.

It took a bit of fiddling to get onto the main street because of the roadworks ongoing due to the stormwater drainage job, but we were soon at the GP's surgery with 15 minutes to spare. I was glad we had left early and we sat in the waiting room watching a drama on Channel Nine on TV.

The GP arrived back soon after and before long we were in his room. He had some implements ready, including a large syringe and a basin of warm water. He placed a kidney basin under mum's ear and injected several syringe-fuls of warm water into it for a period of about five minutes until the passage was clear and he could see what was happening inside. He said that the bleeding was from the ear drum and suspected an infection, so prescribed some antibiotics. We left soon afterwards and got back to the nursing home, where I relayed the GP's messages to the registered nurses on duty. I also gave them the prescription.

It was a long day and to cap it off there was a major accident on the M2 near Lane Cove Road, which held traffic up for about 10 minutes. After clearing that barrier it was fairly clear through to the Western Distributor, and home.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Redistributive taxation is Socialism

The Left thinks that the government knows better what to do with your money than you do. First it was superannuation deposits that they wanted to tax. Then it was negative gearing that they wanted to take away. Now it's death taxes that some loon on the Left thinks should be reintroduced because the government just wants to spend more money: your money.

This redistributive bent of the Left is exactly equal to Socialism. To the big-brother mentality that says that you are not entitled to the wealth that you have accumulated. To the idea that the government has all the answers, and that what you want is immaterial in the final analysis - even when it comes to your own property.

It has already started, of course. In 2014 the rules for aged care fees changed. Prior to July of that year, fees for aged care were calculated based on income. But old people don't have a lot of income. So they changed the way the calculation of fees worked so that it was now based on income and assets - because old people have a lot of assets, usually. The death-taxes-by-stealth of both sides of government has already started.

I know who I'm voting for in the next federal election. Luckily, the leadership change that we had recently made it easier for me to make up my mind.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Mum "was attacked"

When I went up to the nursing home today I found mum asleep in her recliner chair by the windows. I knocked on the door and she woke up and the first thing she said to me was to ask how I had gone after being attacked.

Mum: "How are you. Were your arms attacked?"
Me: "Was I attacked?"
Mum: "Someone attacked us. Yes, my arms you notice have been somewhat damaged."
Me: "Noone attacked me."
Mum: "Noone attacked you? Hm, just goes to show doesn't it."

Mum had seen that her arms are covered in dark blotches occurring as a result of her blood disease - the myelodysplastic syndrome - and had assumed that she had been attacked. By inference I had obviously been attacked also. It was obvious!

We sat down and soon I dialed up my brother in Houston to have a chat on FaceTime. We talked about his sweater and his work. His dogs came into his room and he moved his camera down to the dog-level so we could see the dogs more clearly. Coffee arrived at mum's room with the staff and the tea wagon and my brother also went out to get himself a cup of coffee. Mum was quite happy chatting away with her two sons and completely forgot about having been attacked. My brother did say that it was a logical inference to make, to assume you had been attacked, if your arms were covered in blotches and if your memory didn't allow you to remember in fact why they were discoloured.

After we had talked with my brother mum and I got up to get ready to go to the park. Mum put on her cap and sunglasses and we walked downstairs and out the front door. We had to go along the footpath a distance rather than crossing the road immediately in front of the nursing home because there are currently workmen laying big, black, rubber pipes in the street. They look to me like drainage pipes but I don't know where they are going to bury them. We'll have to see. We went into the park and stopped at the first bench, and there were several dogs running around the park. Mum was happy to watch the dogs cavort themselves around with their owners on the grass, which had recently been mown. In a little while we went back inside the nursing home.

I took mum upstairs to the first floor where her room is and we stopped at the dining room. I put mum at a table with two other residents. As I was walking away down the hallway I could hear mum explain to the other residents at her table how she had had a car accident. The last thing I heard before getting into the lift was, "I was walking along."

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Is the ABC being fatally dumbed down?

Last night's 4 Corners on the ABC saw Aunty flirt with commercialism in a way that has become more and more common. The program took its normally forensic focus ... to the beach. It was all to look at how sharks have become more of a problem for authorities in recent years. The verdict? It doesn't matter how much effort is made to mitigate shark bites, nothing statistically makes a difference. You're on your own.

But that doesn't change the fact that this story could have been covered as a regular segment in the evening news just as well. Unfortunately what has happened to the ABC in recent times is even more worrying than attacks by great whites at our famous beaches. The station is becoming more and more commercial. Think A Current Affair. Think Bondi Rescue. These are programs that are supposed to be good for kids and adults alike, so that both classes of people can watch them at the same time. (It's good for families ...) But these types of programs are not the reason why people have come to respect brands such as 4 Corners as it has built its reputation over many years. What people have come to expect is in-depth and interesting coverage of topical but little-known issues. Not shark attacks.

The poor form started off even earlier in the evening with the Australian Story program on a pair of sailors who went to sea while only one returned. There were suggestions of cocaine smuggling and foul play. The survivor came on-camera to defend himself from libel. But again it's not the kind of program people watch the ABC to see. This is more of the type of ostensibly "current affairs" but really just sensationalist programming that commercial TV stations put on in order to maximise eyeballs. It's not serious journalism. It's vicarious fluff and has no place with Aunty.

But Aunty has been suffering in many ways of late, and it's all got to do with the pressure brought to bear on the national broadcaster by the government and rival media organisations. The government says that the ABC is "taking sides" and is "on the wrong team". Rivals say Aunty is "benefiting from its public funding" and is "catering to the elites". You hear these slurs from time to time. They never really go away.

It's very troubling when the pressure from the government is so intense that it prevents the ABC from covering certain stories, as happened recently when the broadcaster's technology editor Nick Ross claimed that he had been "gagged" when he wanted to run a story critical of the government. It's likely in this case that the ABC made an agreement with rival media outlets not to run the story and to let others take the scoop. It's not beyond the limits of credibility. There was also yesterday the story of a Liberal Party MP who allegedly misused travel funds that was not covered on the evening news although you would have expected the ABC to do this even a year ago. The rot has well and truly set in.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Mum creates her own reality

When I went up to the nursing home yesterday to see mum she was sitting on her bed holding her pink telephone directory in her hand, her head bowed. When she saw me her face creased up with emotion and she went "Oh" and got up from the bed. She came toward me with her hands outstretched to greet me, almost with tears coming from her eyes, saying "I'm so happy to see you." There had been an accident, she said, and she was worried about me.

I told her I was fine and that there had been no accident but she was firm. Here's some of the conversation that followed:

Mum: "You had an accident too. I was trying to call but I couldn't get through. I'm so relieved to see you."
Me: "You didn't have an accident. You had an infection and went into hospital."
Mum: "Oh did I? I don't know, nobody tells me anything."
Me: "I see."
Mum: "I had visions of you being in road accidents and God knows what. I heard that you had this terrible accident. Or maybe I had the accident."

And later:

Mum: "I had an accident. I did have an accident on a road."
Me: "You thought the doctor was coming?"
Mum: "I understood the doctor was coming in the morning. He was coming to see someone else and would see me as well."

I phoned up my brother in Texas and in the conversation that ensued there was a good quantity of silliness. There's no doubt that with the abatement of the fever and its associated aches and pains mum is in a lot better spirits now than she has been for the most part recently. We talked for a good 30 minutes on the iPad.

Part of the conversation was taken up in trying to find out how mum's father, Harry, had come to become involved in Communism. Mum was trying to think of the name of the bookseller who got Harry involved, and she thought it might be Harry Barker. It's hard to give too much credit to these old memories of hers. At one time mum had told me that Harry had got involved in Communism out of gratitude for the Russians joining WWII against Hitler. She subsequently changed that story, and told me that Harry had considered Socialism to be lived Christianity. The new story of Harry Barker is just another riff on an old theme, but it's amusing for us kids to try to use the internet to unearth the truth. My brother was soon on Google doing searches.

After talking on the iPad mum and I went outside to go to the park to watch the dogs. There were a couple of dogs in the park, and one of the dog owners waved at us as we sat on the park bench in the shade - mum did not make it to the second bench, because of her still-feeble arms, and we settled for sitting on the first bench. We sat there for about 30 minutes then headed back inside to see about lunch. At the lifts on the first floor we bumped into H's daughter, apparently today at the nursing home to see her mother. "I had a car accident," mum replied when she was asked how she was.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Movie review: The Revenant, dir Alejandro G. Iñárritu (2015)

The first thing to say about this movie is that it's very long. I went to see it in the afternoon, and had arranged to meet my friend at the ticket counter at 2.45pm but we didn't emerge from the theatre until 5.50pm. In a sense, this beautifully-shot film is a series of loosely-connected vignettes chronicling the return to civilisation of a trapper in the 1820s, Hugh Glass (Leaonardo Di Caprio). Woven around his story are the stories of other men and women.

The team of trappers Glass is with in the North American wilderness is attacked by a posse of American Indians, and the Europeans return to their boats, abandoning many of the pelts they have made. On the advice of Glass, the survivors leave the boat they are in and set off across-country but Glass is badly mauled by a bear - these scenes are terrible, and are not for the squeamish, and set the tone for violence for the rest of the film - and his mates eventually leave him in the care of two of their number, namely John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and a youth named Bridger (Will Poulter) on the promise of a reward of $100 from the Hudson Bay Company, who the captain (Domhnall Gleeson) works for. This is fine but Fitzgerald is greedy and convinces Bridger to abscond, leaving Glass for dead. Fitzgerald also kills Glass' mixed-race son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).

At the same time as Glass is trying to return to the European town a group of American Indians led by Elk Dog (Duane Howard) has been searching for Elk Dog's daughter Powaqa (Melaw Nakehk'o). Although they have a different goal from Glass his route crosses theirs at multiple points, notably at the end of the movie where the connection finally adds a deep note of irony to the tale. No story about North America in the 19th century can ignore the plight of the American Indians, of course, but this movie is exceptional in its attempt to imbue its representatives with humanity and humour.

This thread in the tale is examplified especially well by the character named Hikuc (Arthur Redcloud). Having escaped from Elk Dog's group in one episode by fleeing in the current of a large and fast-flowing river, Glass gets back to the bank only to come across a stampede of buffalo. He sees a beast being brought down by wolves but then goes to sleep, exhausted. He is woken later by strange sounds and walks to the top of the bank he has been sleeping on to find a man has chased away the wolves and is feeding on the carcass of the dead beast. Glass approaches despite the man's threatening gestures, begging for food. The man throws him a hunk of raw meat and he eats it. In the morning Hikuc tells Glass they will from thenceforward travel together.

Hikuc is a skilled survivor who understands the land he lives on, and is able at one point, during a blizzard, to help cure Glass' wounds by applying some grasses to them. Hikuc ensconces Glass is an enclosure made from branches and sticks and builds a fire to heat rocks, creating a steam bath that Glass sleeps within. He wakes refreshed in the morning but what happens to Hikuc is less uplifting.

It is in the short episodes of the movie like this one that its true art lies. The movie has a disjointed rhythm like a set of disconnected narratives. Often the only thing joining them together are the stunning vistas of nature the filmmakers create with their cameras, balancing them on the themes of a wonderful soundtrack that owes much to Modernist 12-tone music.

While Glass eventually returns to meet again with Fitzgerald - the man he has ostensibly been chasing the whole time - the set-piece action sequences that conspire to create this particular narrative arc are less important than other elements of the movie, notably its earlier vignettes about life among a foreign people in a foreign country. 

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Mum having some delusions

Yesterday I went up to see mum in the nursing home. On arrival I spoke with the nurses at the nurse's station near the elevator and they told me she had got up and had a shower the day before and yesterday as well. I was relieved to hear this as the last time I had seen mum - on Wednesday - she didn't get out of bed at all.

When I got to mum's room the TV was on and she was nodding in her recliner chair. I switched off the TV and went over to talk to her. She seemed much better and was wearing a pair of slacks, a top, and an open shirt over that. She had on short socks, not the especially long ones that I had bought for fitting to her swollen legs. I sat down in the chair next to her and we had a chat. At one point she started saying odd things, and I recorded them in notes on my mobile phone. Here is our conversation:

Mum: "We were attacked. They were scammers."
Me: "Nobody attacked us."
Mum: "Well I'm not going to talk to you if you're not going to listen to me."
A little pause.
Me: "Who attacked us?"
Mum: "There was a farmer."
Me: "You said scammers."
Mum: "A farmer and his wife, yes. They were trying to rook us, take money from us."
Me: "They were trying to take money from us?"
Mum: "They seemed to be, yes. I thought you would be able to tell me all about it."
Me: "I wasn't there."
Mum: "Well where was I? I thought I was with you."

I guess this kind of delusional experience must have made some sort of an impression on her, because normally she cannot remember much after a couple of minutes. Her recall in this case was surprisingly sharp and detailed. She said some other strange things during our hour-long sit-down, but I didn't take notes of everything she said that was unusual. There were other things as well.

I wonder if such delusions are normal after a traumatic event such as a hospital admission. It might be that because of the pain and the infection she has lost some more of her mental capacity. Her brain seems to give up ground in the face of adverse events like these, and there is usually a step-change down, at least initially, when she has had to go to hospital due to an infection.

When I went out to the dining room with mum she was still complaining about pain and had to walk very slowly. But the pain is more localised in just her right knee now; the all-over pain of Wednesday had gone away. She did however also complain of pain in her hands.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Book review: Conquerors, Roger Crowley (2015)

Subtitled How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire, this brilliant account of colonial adventure is a gripping read, for although the Portuguese adventurers were not always blameless in their methods, you find yourself despite all the crimes against humanity they committed rooting hard for them. It's strange. Although for me - whose grandfather grew up in Africa and who came from a family involved in colonial administration - possibly not entirely strange.

The grand adventure was driven from the top. Beginning with Henry the Navigator and continuing through John II and his son Manuel, royal support for the adventurers was essential because ships quickly wore out with worm, disease and battle thinned the ranks of the available adventurers, and organising new fleets took time. In fact you could say that building, equipping and directing ships was the main activity of the royal house of Portugal for over 100 years.

Getting access to markets in India was difficult, hence the violence. As Afonso de Albuquerque - Manuel's foremost Governor of India - found, without force there was no doing business on the continent. Trade up to that point had been controlled by Hindu potentates and Muslim merchants, and they guarded their prerogatives jealously. In order to gain access to supply of spices - mainly spices but in other goods as well - it was usually necessary to bring force to coerce submission among the existing powers. Dislodging the Muslim merchants meant putting pressure on the Hindu rulers, and fighting battles against them.

Albuquerque was an interesting man who attempted to bring new ways of doing things to the colonial project. Instead of the traditional Portuguese method of fighting man-on-man with a two-handed sword, for example, he worked to train troops in the new methods pioneered by the Swiss, who used pikes and muskets in tight formations. He also encouraged miscegenation, probably initially as a way to domesticate and control his troops, and he did it against the advice of the Church. He furthermore tried to bring a more sophisticated notion of office to the colonial project, and to stamp out corruption. But because of his innovations he was not always popular. He was also mortal, as were the kings.

There are other men to focus on in Crowley's book but Albuquerque is without doubt the most extraordinary among those the kings sent out to build an empire in a foreign ocean. His decision to take and keep Goa, for example, helped the Portuguese to maintain a trading station in India for 400 years, although others tried to bring scant forces to bear on different parts of the Indian coastline. Albuquerque also tried to fulfill Manuel's messianic vision of eradicating Muslims from the Middle East and retaking Jerusalem, although he notably failed to do so. After Manuel's death there was no king able to continue the colonial project with the same zeal and things began to fall apart. Eventually the Dutch and the English would take over where the Portuguese left off.

In many ways this is not a pleasant story. Third-world revisionists nowadays will have quite different takes to promote, but Crowley does not obscure what is not useful to the main thrust of his story, and is quite candid in his judgements of these often cruel men. What the story shows is that incredible things are possible even for small groups of men who are organised with single-minded focus on an overarching goal. Given the right people and enough resources they can achieve amazing things, as these adventurers most certainly did.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

My relatives, my neighbours, my friends

Offshore detention for indefinite periods of asylum seekers is the policy of both major political parties in Australia because the majority of the Australian people support a policy that results in stopping the arrival of asylum seekers by boat.

There's no point blaming the politicians for the terrible outcomes that we have seen, including sexual assault of adults and children, due to the continued operation of the detention camps. Your neighbour, your friend, your relative are responsible for this impasse.

And if there are 37 babies being returned to detention in the camps, the question you have to ask is "Why?" Where did these babies come from? Well, we know where babies come from and how they are conceived. But how wise is it to make children at a time when you have no home over your head, even no safe place to go to at night, let alone a passport. How can these beleaguered women bring such trouble on themselves that they make children under these circumstances? Unless it is a deliberate manouevre designed to generate a sense of sympathy in their audience. Their audience: you, the Australian people.

Desperate times, as they say ... But not wise. And not responsible. Such highly irresponsible conduct on the part of asylum seekers - let alone how deserving their case is - cannot be indulged with considerate behaviour.

I find the whole debate terribly depressing. On the one hand I believe that we should be welcoming more asylum seekers in Australia. In fact, I have repeatedly called for an asylum seeker-processing office to be established in Jakarta to facilitate immigration to Australia for those who want to come. On the other hand, I'm clearly in the minority here. Most people do not want to see more immigration. The state of the roads in metropolitan Australia and the cost of housing there are such that sympathy for asylum seekers would have to be relatively low.

So although I would like to see more people coming to Australia - it doesn't matter to me if they come by boat from Indonesia or by Qantas jet from somewhere in Africa - the majority of my countrymen and -women hold different ideas. I have to accept that I am in the minority, and as a result of that decision I do not blame politicians for the plight of asylum seekers in detention in offshore camps. It is the will of the people. My relatives, my neighbours, my friends.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Mum back in the nursing home but still sick

This morning I drove up to the nursing home to see how mum had settled back in after spending a night in the hospital. When I arrived she was still in bed. It soon became obvious that things were not ideal, as she got me to remove the covers from her legs. I put on a thin blanket instead but later she asked me to remove that as well. the covers were "too heavy" but this is just because her legs are very sensitive.

I spoke with the deputy manager who said mum has cellulitis in her legs which makes them liable to infection, and also liable to be sore. Mum went to dinner last night in the dining room but on the way back to her room, the nurse told me, she was taking very small steps. "Like this," the nurse informed me, making little movements with her hands like a shuttle. It's clear that mum is in a significant deal of pain due to her legs.

Her face is slightly flushed and she also has a pain in her shoulder. I wrote yesterday how the doctor in the hospital had had an X-ray of mum's shoulder made, as a result of which they found a plate had been installed in the shoulder at some point in time in the past. The shoulder was still giving mum difficulties today. I gave her a piece of cake to eat and she took it in her right hand but was unable to get that hand to her mouth. She had more luck with her left hand. I also gave her a cup of coffee to drink - after it had cooled down somewhat - and she again had a hard time moving her right hand to lift the cup. We were more successful with the coffee when we both held the cup: mum with two hands.

I didn't mention my concerns to the staff in the nursing home but I wonder if the hospital people didn't move her out of the hospital a bit too early. The quantity of pain she is experiencing, especially in her legs, makes me think she might have profitably stayed in hospital a bit longer.

Because she is not mobile now mum's life has become more complicated. It's a lot harder to do simple things like go to the toilet, for example. To do this now mum needs to have staff to help her. And the remote call button that she normally wears around her neck was found to be broken. I'm not sure how the staff are going to be able to make sure mum gets enough opportunity to voice her needs, so they might just need to drop by her room a bit more frequently then usual, for the moment at least.

Today mum also asked me where she was and I asked her where she thought she was. She said, "In the hospital I suppose." I told her she was in the nursing home. She might not know exactly where she is or be able to vocalise that information reliably but at least in the nursing home she doesn't panic like she did in the hospital during the night she stayed there this time. It might be that that delirium made the hospital staff decide to let her go early this time. Perhaps a bit too early.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Mum back in nursing home but a bit confused

I had some errands to look after today so I wasn't able to get up to the nursing home. In the morning there was the dermatologist to visit. Then I went to the NSW Government service office to renew my driver's license. On the way back home I stopped off in the city to get a haircut. Later on, around lunchtime, I went to the psychiatrist to have a chat about things. It's always restful to talk about how my life is going.

I had a nap in the afternoon then made dinner and put on the laundry to run. After dinner I called the nursing home to find out how mum has been doing today, the first day since she got back there from the hospital yesterday. The staffer who answered the phone said mum was doing alright although she is complaining about pain in her shoulder. Mum had been talking about this pain since the hospital admission, although it's the first time I'd heard about it. While she was in hospital they did an X-ray which showed she had a plate in her shoulder, as well as some arthritis. The plate was news to me. I don't know when it was put in.

The staffer also said that mum was a bit confused, and was asking where her husband was. The staff reoriented mum when she said this and helped her through her period of confusion. I will be going up to the nursing home tomorrow to see how she is doing. If it isn't raining we should be able to get out to the park during the morning.

The hospital admission mum has just had is her first for this year. As I was saying to my psychiatrist, the admissions are becoming more frequent. I don't know when she will have to go back to the hospital, but when she doesn't respond to the nursing home staff they will always call me and ask if they should send her to the hospital. If she doesn't go, of course, she will die. I have to make sure I keep my phone handy at all times.

Monday, 1 February 2016

A bad night in the ward for mum's neighbours

I had to take my car in to the garage for a rego check this morning early and they called me back about 90 minutes later to tell me it was ready to collect. There was no work to do on the car and I only paid a fee for the safety check, which was quite low. When I got the car home I finished the registration process on the internet and put the new rego papers in my wallet, then headed up to the hospital to check up on mum.

When I arrived they were washing her in bed so I stayed outside the curtain in the ward room in a visitor's chair. While I was waiting an older gentleman in a hospital gown came up to me and asked if I were mum's son. I said I was. He then asked me if mum had dementia. "Yes," I told him, "she does." "That makes me think better of her then," he said in his quiet voice. "She kept us up all night," he said. "She was crying out 'Please help me' over and over again." "I see," I said to him. He went away then and the nurse pulled the curtain back. Mum had been making a lot of noise from her bed as the nurses moved her from the bed to her chair. You would have thought they were intentionally hurting her.

I went over to mum and had a look at her. She seemed fine, although her face had a look that seemed a bit absent from reality. She obviously had not taken well to being in the hospital ward overnight, going on what the gentleman in the bed across the room had told me. "How are you feeling? I asked her. "Oh not bad," she said. She complained that she had a pain in her shoulder.

A middle aged, slim woman in nice clothes came over to me and introduced herself. I didn't catch everything she said but it had something to do with mum's overnight delirium. She handed me a green paper form and asked me to fill it in. I asked her if she had a pen and a support so I could write, and she went away. She came back soon with what I had asked for and I sat down and filled in the form. After doing this I went back to mum and asked her if she wanted some coffee, then went out to the kiosk in the building next door to the entranceway and bought two flat whites - one large and one small - and a chocolate bar, a sausage roll and a packaged sandwich. I ate the sausage roll on the outdoor furniture outside the kiosk.

Back in the ward mum was nowhere to be seen so I sat down and drank most of my coffee. The nurse who walked through the ward quickly told me that mum had been taken to have an X-ray taken. After a while the staff brought her back in a wheelchair and sat her back down in the chair next to her bed. I took the coffee and chocolate over to her and asked her if she wanted a sandwich. "No I don't," she told me.

Later the lunch tray arrived for mum but she refused to eat anything. I had a mouthful and tasted the warm lamb mince. "It's good," I told mum. "I don't want any," she said. "I'm not hungry." "You should eat some though, it's good for you," I said. The nurse came a bit later and fed her some of the warm lamb and pasta. It was the same nurse who had given mum her pills. Mum hadn't known what to do with the antibiotic which was put in her mouth, and had chewed it up, releasing a bitter powder into her mouth. "Her meal is coming soon," the nurse said to me apropos the bitter taste of the capsule, which didn't even seem to register on mum's face. But mum didn't want to eat. She just sat leaning back in her chair with her head resting on the top of the chair and her mouth partially open. She looked like she was having a hard time of it and would utter a groaning sound every now and then.

When visiting hours finished I left the ward and headed back down the highway in the car to the apartment and then went straight to bed and had a nap. I was absolutely exhausted by the morning's activities. Later, I called the nursing home because the hospital had phoned me to say that they were sending mum back there today.