Fancy Footwear

I’m a long-term member of the Klutz Klub.

I stub my toes, I cut, prick, mash and burn my fingers, bang my elbows, smack hard objects with outlying parts of my anatomy, and if there’s a head-level item within cooee, I’ll hit my head on it. Show me an innocuous obstacle and I’ll find a way to trip over it. It’s not usually enough to cause serious or lasting damage, but I can proudly boast an unusual number of small scars, I’ve broken most of my toes and several of my fingers, and it’s really just as well I have a hard head.

So, well, the sensation of breaking bones is not new. Everyone knows what it’s like to stub a toe, but to that you add an additional sharp spike of pain, enough to make you nauseous. Yup, that’s a break. This time, it’s my right 5th/pinkie/little toe. Toe meets bedside table at 3am on trip to the bathroom. Toe bends outwards at angle not intended by nature, with some force. Time for a visit to my friends in the X-ray department, followed by 10 days in The Boot.

Stylish, isn’t it? And so lovely to be obliged to wear it in the heat and humidity of the Queensland summer. But with the toe strapped firmly to the one next door and this thinly disguised plank strapped firmly to my foot, I’m actually out of pain for the first time in many hours. Oh, and the tasty pain relief helps too.

With any luck, I might be allowed to take it off just in time to go on holiday…

A dog’s dinner

It’s a great expression, isn’t it?

It’s old fashioned British slang for messy or unfinished, or cobbled together. In this instance, it has an additional meaning.

Regular followers will recognise the fabric of this nice apron. It’s what I used to make Mouse’s warm winter coat, lined with cosy red fleece.

In this case, it’s a more colourful alternative to the efficient but very dull tan cook’s apron I’ve been using for a couple of years. And in point of fact, it’s not messy or unfinished, but it certainly is a bit cobbled together!

I only had the dog-coat remnant, but thought I could probably squeeze an apron out of it. Well, yes, the bottom half and bib top, certainly. But I also needed ties and a loop to go over the head, and a pocket. The ties and loop were achievable by piecing strips together, but that left no rectangular pieces for the pockets. So I did a bit of crazy patchwork! One pocket is hand sized, and the other is phone sized.

All the edges are simple overlocking turned over and stitched down. It’s probably not as durable as the old tan apron, but it’s cheerful and fun, and I shall wear the dog’s dinner to make the dog’s dinner 🙂

And that’s used up the last of that piece of scrap. These remnants are too small for any other use, so I feel no guilt about dropping them in the bin.

Like the dog, I haven’t wasted a scrap!

Fly away, Peter…

…Fly away, Paul.

Does anyone else remember that nursery rhyme? Today, for me, it has two meanings, one happy, one sad.

Fly away, Peter: Today is my father’s funeral. His name was Peter. My mother’s ancestors might have said Alav hashalom, zichrono l’bracha (Peace be upon him, may his memory be a blessing). My father’s ancestors might have said Go forth, Christian soul, on your journey from this life. Whichever words we use, he is gone ahead, into that great mystery from which none return, and he is free. There is still a Pa-shaped hole in my reality, but other things will crowd in over time and distract me from the size and shape of it. And I feel strongly that this rite of passage will reconnect me with everything; I’ve felt unmoored and uncertain and unsettled these past weeks. The support of my family and friends has made an enormous difference. This, for example, really lifted my spirits, and I am so grateful!

Fly away, Paul: The Wagtail family have departed, swiftly and silently. One minute they were there, the tiny nest overflowing with three hulking great teenage babies, the anxious parents hovering and darting in with mouthfuls of whiskery insects. The next, they were all gone. I checked carefully on the ground below the nest for signs of tragedy, and in the nest itself, but it was bare. They have flown! I never got the chance to capture the nestful of babies; Mrs Wagtail was too protective and they were too cautious, ducking down when I went close enough to try for a photo. Hard to believe that tiny little bowl held three babies and their mama at one point, in wind and heat and pouring rain…

One life ends, three more tiny feathery ones begin. It’s fitting.

Not just another day

We all need to mark the good times.

The Christmas tree of north Queensland, the Poinciana (Delonix regia).  Its giant red pompom flowers are seen all over the north of the state at this time of year, like enormous red Christmas tree baubles.

A reason to gather, to celebrate, to be with family if possible, to be grateful. Christmas is as good a time as any, even if you’re not religious. Today, I am gathering later with the Husband’s family, as my own is far, far away. Today I am celebrating the second most important festival of the Christian calendar. And today, I am grateful for so many things, great and small:

We have come (so far) through this pandemic with our health intact, and have lost no-one important to us to the ravages of the disease.

The Husband’s work is secure, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads.

Our household is filled with love, with people who encourage, support and admire each other. Even the furry ones…

The local harvest is in, the farmers’ income is secure for another year, and rain is falling to prepare the earth for planting next year’s crop.

My father’s passing was peaceful and easy, after a rich, varied and interesting 97 years on this earth.

I can still create and make and imagine and conceive ideas. My arthritic hands are holding out. There are many quilts still in my head demanding to be made.

I am grateful for the technology to speak face to face with friends and family everywhere, and to my father two days before he died, that will let me ‘attend’ his funeral virtually.

I am still grateful to be alive in this increasingly uncertain and wobbly world.

Long may it be so.

A very happy Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and above all, healthy New Year to you all.

The end of an era

I’m sorry it has been so silent around here lately.

Today at 11.30am local time, 1.30am UK time, my father died. He was 97 and had been in fragile health for several years.

He had an extraordinary life, seeing the world change from the 1920s of his childhood, through the 1930s and joining the army towards the end of WWII to serve in a tank regiment and land on Sword Beach on D-Day +1. After the war, he continued to serve for a short time in the Education Corps in what later became the state of Israel. Upon demobilising from the army, he went to seek his fortune in Nigeria, working for Shell. He met and married my mother, they moved to Angola, which was still a Portuguese colony at the time, before returning home to England in the late 1950s to settle down and raise his family.

He saw transport go from horse-drawn to supersonic to men living in space. He went from telephones in few homes to one in every pocket. He went from shelves full of encyclopaedias to the sum knowledge of mankind at our fingertips. There will never be another generation like his, spanning such incredible changes in technology, ideas and culture.

He never told me I couldn’t do something because I was female. He was by no means perfect, but he was a man of principle and integrity, of wicked humour and a deep love of music.

Rest in Peace, Pa. You’ve earned it.

Time Flies…

…. when you’re having fun.

I was stunned when this arrived yesterday in my Comments folder. Who knew?  I can’t believe it’s been so long, I’ve had such a lot of fun along the way, have met so many new people in far-flung places, received so much kindness and encouragement, and have made many treasured friends.

And you know what? I’m still on my old free plan. I’ve never felt the need to change how my blog looks, or to add a load of new widgets. I have no intention of monetising or commercialising, and while I welcome new followers with open arms, I don’t feel any urge to aim for SEO, actively attract new followers or sell or endorse anything for payment. Boring? Perhaps, but it suits me.

At some stage I’ll probably run out of data storage space – I do post fairly often, and with photos – and will have to change to a paying plan, but hopefully they won’t force me to change how the blog looks. With luck, all that will change is that I’ll be able to drop the .wordpress part of the blog’s name. I know I’m an old stick-in-the-mud; I don’t like the way they keep changing things ‘to improve your blogging experience’. It doesn’t improve it for me, but I guess it helps and works for others for whom their blog is an income stream or a commercial necessity.

I hope the next 7 years with WordPress will be just as peaceful and enjoyable, and that you’ll all be along with me for the ride.

It’s mostly good

To all of you out there who’ve been so supportive this past week.

I got my MRI results yesterday after 8 days of extremely anxious waiting. It’s mostly good. I have DCIS: precancerous areas that need careful and regular watching because of my previous history, but the bad stuff is not back, nothing is too urgent and I can breathe again. I was offered surgery for peace of mind, but I think I’m probably going to turn it down.

I have to weigh the significant risks of autologous reconstructive surgery against the risk of monitoring and only acting in response to a change of status. I’d rather save the risks for when I need to act, rather than acting before it’s absolutely necessary. DCIS is in itself not particularly dangerous, it sits there quietly just being ‘changed cells’ until one day it tips over into something else and becomes invasive. If we’re watching for it, we’ll see it start to grow and that’s when I’ll pounce! I’ll have to have that surgery one day. Just not yet. And that level of uncertainty is one I can live with, versus the level I’ve been enduring the last 8 days, which was not knowing if what they’d found was already invasive and probably metastatic, in which case my long-term chances were not nearly so good, and much more aggressive treatment would be needed.

I see the surgeon again on Monday to give him my decision, and then it’s 6-monthly MRIs for some time while we see if the thing decides to kick off and start growing.

I can live with that. It’s mostly good.

Do we not bleed?

From Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 1 (with minor adjustment for topicality):

“I am a Man of Colour. Hath not a Man of Colour eyes? Hath not a Man of Colour hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a White Man is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?”

“And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that….”

“If a White Man wrong a Man of Colour, what should his sufferance be by White Man’s example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute…”

We have not deserved the forbearance of our Brothers and Sisters of Colour. Despite our example of centuries of oppression, torture, rape, slavery and theft, they have not returned to us our just deserts. Our arrogant, stiff-necked Christianity has not shown them the example of loving kindness towards our fellow men they have deserved of us, despite our cramming it down the necks of people we have oppressed. What they ask is not mercy, but justice. Mercy is shown by the strong to the weak. Justice is for equals.

I ask forgiveness for my assumptions, my arrogance, my ignorance, my unintended blindness to the suffering of my fellow man. I don’t feel prejudice against any colour and I try not to make assumptions; we are all the same under the skin, but I am ashamed because I have not seen, I have not called out and I have not fought for your rights – because they are just as important as mine

I am a privileged white woman, and I am sorry for it.

Mend it Monday #6

An idea devised by The Snail of Happiness

This is an odd one. First, a little background. I like a windchime, something that makes a melodious noise when the wind rises. I’m not a huge fan of the enormous cathedral chimes that bong away loudly in a minor key, I like a gentle tinkle. The Husband and I went on a delayed honeymoon years ago to the West Indies, Barbados to be precise. It’s where my oldest friend lives, and we had a fabulous time. One of the souvenirs we brought back from our trip (apart from amazing photos and memories) is a windchime. It’s small and pretty; hand-made unglazed ceramic birds interspersed with ‘rustic’ ceramic beads, strung from a ceramic doughnut ring by fishing line. It has a lot of sentimental value for us both.

Over the years, it has suffered the effects of cyclones and the extremes of heat. The fishing line deteriorated and broke. Birds fell and clashed hard, and also broke. I decided enough was enough: time to repair it before I lost any more bits and it became a pointless piece of debris.

First on the list was heavy gauge fishing line, much stronger than the existing stuff and also UV-resistant. Then I took it all apart and laid it out to see what I still had. Over time, I’ve lost the equivalent of two whole strings; there should be 6 and I only had enough birds for 4. So, OK, I’d make 4. They’d still sound pretty. I replaced the rusted hanging ring with a steel curtain ring. That’ll rust over time too, but it’s easy enough to replace.

I started each string with a bird, tied onto the line with a uni-knot. This is easy to form, slips until you need it to lock, and is designed to work with fishing line as well as other forms of string or line.

Loop the line through the hole and hold the two parts together, with a long tail on the looped part.

Double the tail back, and wind it round the doubled part 3-5 times, depending on how strong you need the knot to be.

Pull the tail gently, till the knot starts to form. Slide it down towards the hole without pulling it tight yet.

When it reaches the hole, pull the tail with a pair of pliers (you may not need these for string or nylon cord, but you definitely do for fishing line) until the knot is tight. Clip off the end of the tail.

Between the three birds in each string I threaded a bead, plus an extra one at the top. Each string was then threaded through a hole in the ring, and held tight by another bead on top, knotted down. The strings were finished at the top by threading them all through single beads and knotting off, forming a loop with the tails to hold the curtain ring. Job done. I tested it in the stiffish breeze we have this morning, and everything held.

That’s better.

Lest we forget…

Today is ANZAC* Day

It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”

ANZAC Day 2020 was not like the ANZAC Day that so many of us are used to participating in. There was a Dawn Service at dawn, with wreaths laid by 4 dignitaries, but the service community and the public stayed at home. The public’s observance was not cancelled. It was just different. The millions of people around the country who would normally attend, at 6.00am stood instead on their decks, their balconies, their drives and their front yards, holding a candle to Light Up the Dawn, wearing their own or their loved one’s medals, and Stood To.**  Those who could, bugled the Last Post or piped a bagpipe lament. Millions of red poppies were placed in front lawns, grass verges and footpaths. Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours, we stood in sight of each other, together but apart.

As the Last Post was played during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, we observed the minute of silence to respect and pay tribute to our veterans. Many people took a photo of how they and their neighbours had observed the day, and shared it on the RSL (Returned & Services League) Facebook page using the hashtag #STANDTO. It will be a moving testimony of how much we value and respect the sacrifice of those who served. 

I’m only an ‘honorary’ Aussie, adopted late in life, so I have no Australian forbears who served in WWI to commemorate today. My grandfather did not fight at Gallipoli, where the ANZAC tradition began, but in the killing fields of the Somme. He entered the war as a private, received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant, was wounded and spent the end of the war in a German PoW camp, while his fiancée, my grandmother, believed him dead.

These are my grandfather’s medals, normally proudly displayed, but this morning, I wore them in his memory.

On the right are three medals: ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred‘, which are the nicknames given to three WWI campaign medals: the 1914-15 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The medals were automatically sent out; soldiers did not need to apply, but the recipient needed to have fought in a theatre of war; they were not given for simply turning up. (The medals’ nicknames come from a popular comic strip of the time from the Daily Mirror newspaper. Pip was a dog, Squeak a penguin and Wilfred was a baby rabbit.) On the left, the fourth medal shown is the Military Cross, granted in recognition of “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land“.

My grandfather carried a wounded comrade to safety under heavy enemy fire.

Lest we forget.

*Australia and New Zealand Army Corps

**Stand To‘ is short for Stand-to-Arms, the WWI practice of standing to arms at dawn and dusk in preparation for possible enemy attack under cover of darkness.