Jim, New Zealand, 2017

Monday, September 18, 2023


As you are aware, I was working on Saturday morning. We were very quiet. Pathology was very busy.

I finished just after 12:45 and went out to Alphington, where I met Freyja and Simon in a little cafe called Kissaten. I have driven past it several times and thought how cute it was that a coffee shop was called by the Japanese word for a coffee shop. I had never been in, or even paused to look, although I have once or twice used the fuel station a few doors up.

It's lovely. The menu is Japanese inspired but not exclusively Japanese. We sat out in the courtyard, for the  weather was pleasant and it was relatively warm. Freyja had a ramen bowl, Simon had a katsu tofu sandwich, and I had a chicken katsu curry which was very delicious.

Then we went to Northcote to look at the outside of the flat that they will be moving into at the beginning of October. I am very much looking forward to seeing the inside next time. Underneath the flat is a rather nice grocery and wine shop. I am looking forward to exploring that too.

And then I came home.

On Sunday, Lindsey, Stella and I went back out to the Wallace pub, to see if the food really was as good as it had been three weeks ago. After all, it might have been a fluke. 

It wasn't! The food was just as good. Stella had salmon over risotto. Lindsey and I had the roast pork. It was a lovely day for a drive out into the country, the food was delicious and the people were delightful. I have definitely added it to my list of weekend pubs.

Not lunch related, but I am yet again re-organising the gardens. Not a lot of reorganising out the front. I'm just putting back one of the hexagonal small beds that I took away last spring. I need somewhere to put a small rose bush and some mixed flower seeds. I've cut the grass. I might do it again if it doesn't rain today.

Out the back I'm putting in some new garden beds for more veg seeds. I'm also rescuing the bed along the back fence which has the lemon trees. I have pulled out the blackcurrant and gooseberry bushes. They weren't thriving and I need the space for other things. And I am slowly pulling out all the long grass which has grown over the past year. 

I am hopeful that there may be a bit more time for keeping the garden up together this year. Hopeful, but not optimistic!

Saturday, September 16, 2023


I went and saw my solicitor on Thursday. He didn't seem particularly perturbed by Jim's death certificate. He agreed that the 10 year onset of Alzheimer's dementia was wrong but couldn't see any value in challenging it at this stage.

Apparently, because we bought the house jointly, his share automatically became mine on Jim's death. And Jim didn't have any other assets of sufficient value to be problematic. If the solicitor isn't worried, then I am not going to worry.

He made formally certified copies of the death and marriage certificates. He decided I didn't need a new will unless I wanted to change anything (I don't). He said he would act to transfer the house title to my name, although I want to wait for that until I am clearer what my monthly income will be. All appears to be well.

I was in his office for all of half an hour, and then went to have lunch with Rupert and Hugo, who were delighted to see me. That may have had something to do with the party pies I had with me!

I was working yesterday and I am also working this morning. I stayed in Lindsey and Ian's flat in East Melbourne overnight. I rather enjoyed not having a two hour drive home - although the traffic on and around Hoddle Street was unusually chaotic. No idea why. I had pizza from the pizza shop under my feet and went to bed nice and early.

This was my early morning view, when I got up today:

And here is Brandy, enjoying his early morning view on Thursday:

The weather bods are talking of there being a spring heat wave this week. The forecast is, it must be said, rather pleasant. Until you get to Wednesday, when the temperature in Ballarat is predicted to drop from 22d to 13d! Perhaps I'll actually be able to get into the garden before the weather changes. And maybe I won't put the winter jumpers away just yet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Jim's Party

We held Jim's party at home on Sunday afternoon. There were about 20 of us, which is a nice number for our place. It didn't rain but wasn't particularly warm so not many people went out into the courtyard.

We ate party pies and roast potatoes; cheese and biscuits; vegan delicacies from Smith and Deli, which Freyja and Simon picked up on their way up from Melbourne. We had jelly slices and logs in ponds (it would have been frogs but I couldn't find any small chocolate frogs; we had twirl bites instead.) We had tiny cakes and macarons, biscuits and chocolates. We drank alcoholic and non-alcoholic wines and beer. We drank tea and coffee. We had a good time.

Jim's daughter and son in law came down from Sydney. My siblings all came, apart from the one who is holidaying in Africa who was granted an exemption. Friends came. And many of those who couldn't come because of distance or previous engagements or other reasons nevertheless had roast potatoes and raised a glass in their own locations and time zones. 

A rolling remembrance 😊

We made an afternoon of it. People came from around 12:30 or so and the last people left around 5:30.

Jim would have very much enjoyed it. He did like a good party - apart from an ongoing anxiety that he had, whenever I invited more than half a dozen people or so to come round, that it would pour with rain and there wouldn't be enough room in the house for everyone. This was a ridiculous worry in Tupton where we had a sizeable lounge room, a separate dining room, a kitchen and an enclosed back porch. It isn't particularly likely to be a problem in Mount Helen. Not quite as much space as in Tupton but enough, if you move all the furniture to the side of the rooms. I will grant him that we never have enough chairs for everyone to sit down, but not everyone wants to sit down at the same time unless you are having a sit down meal. And I wouldn't invite 20 people to a sit down meal!

It may not have been your traditional funeral followed by tea and cake but it was a good party. And a good send off. 

I did miss having a working dishwasher on Monday morning though!

Thursday, September 07, 2023

Weekly Round Up

 I was doing ok - until the death certificate arrived last Friday. I picked it up from under the front door when I got back from work, mid-evening.

It wasn't the death certificate itself which was a problem. It was that the facility's doctor (who I have never met) had put the cause of death as Alzheimer's Dementia, but had said that it commenced 10 years ago.

In 2013 we were still in England, Jim was still working, he was driving and operating totally independently. Absolutely no signs of dementia. Not only that, he had had an immigration health assessment in Australia in 2019. If he had had signs of dementia then they would certainly have noticed it (and almost certainly wouldn't have approved his permanent residency). He was first diagnosed in 2021 with probable early Alzheimer's.

None of this would really matter, apart from disturbing my innate desire for accuracy in these things. Except that we bought a house and made new wills in 2020. My immediate thought was that a 10 year diagnosis would probably make probate problematic. Not that I absolutely know this but at that time on a Friday night, following 12 months of battling Centrelink to get the fees for the care home sorted out - it was just all too much. When does it all end, I asked myself. When can I stop?

I had no idea that you can challenge a death certificate, but apparently you can. I have drafted a letter to send to the facility's doctor. But before I send it, I have made an appointment to see my solicitor. I need to see him anyway. I need a few things done and decided I would run all this past him to see what he thinks. Probate is his thing. He should know much better than I do what needs to be done.

So on Saturday Lindsey and I went to the Bridge Mall market, which has moved to a different end of Bridge Street and was rather lovely. We did a bit of shopping. We hit the mushroom farm and the supermarket. We started laying in tempting morsels for Jim's party. On Sunday Julia and Not So Baby Henry came round and took away all the things I had lying on the spare bed. I had been intending to sort through them for things for the Op Shops, things for the recycling bins, things for the bin. But Julia just loaded it all into her car and took it all away. She did leave behind the spare bed's bedding 😂

I have met friend Chris for brunch in Websters, visited Stella, finally got around to slashing the grass in the backyard (need to do that again), weeded part of the patio (need to do more) and randomly bought a small electric saucepan. If you were a university student in Australia in the 1970s and 80s you would recognise it as being very like a Birko. Except it's got a cute picture on it. I thought it would do for small portions of rice or other things.

21st century rendition of a 1970s Birko

I have a Japanese lesson in 20 minutes. I should get ready. I had a lesson on Tuesday morning and put a jumper over my pyjamas. Can't do a Japanese lesson in my dressing gown! It was quite chilly so I put a snuggle blanket over my knees. As the lesson progressed I realised that Brandy was pulling the blanket off my knees and onto my feet. Then he lay down on it. Whiskey joined him. So I now had a blanket and two cats on my feet, which were getting too hot, and no blanket on my knees, which were getting cold. He's not stupid, is that little cat!

Fortunately, a magpie came to bathe in the bird bath outside the front window and they went off to watch it - and I could reclaim my snuggle blanket for my knees,

Brandy has form in these things.
Here he is lying on the clean bedding
I had put out for my bed.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

A busy Tuesday

I do a regular early morning Japanese lesson on Tuesdays. They are Grade 2 level, which should be comfortable for me given the number of years I have been studying Japanese. Mostly I find them a bit challenging. Tuesdays lesson was sufficiently challenging that I considered giving up Japanese and taking up Quantum Physics as being an easier option! I have no recollection of having studied that grammar before and usually I have at least a vague remembrance.

Perhaps I am a bit old to take up Quantum Physics. I'll stick with the Japanese. I dropped back into the baby pool this morning and amused myself revising plain form verbs.

I have found a book in amongst my language books that I bought years and years ago, when we were in Tupton, on Japanese verbs and basic grammar. I remember opening it and thinking " !!!!!!!!!!! " when I first got it. I put it back on the bookshelf and there it loitered. I'm not sure how it manage to get its ticket to move from Tupton to Mount Helen, but here it is. And it has a very useful chart for the various verb endings. It may yet come into its own!

Anyway. Back to Tuesday. After recovering from the Japanese lesson, I did some useful things at home and then met my friend Pat in Oscars in town for lunch. They do a lovely lunch sized chicken parma, which I very much enjoyed. We had a good lunch and a good chat. It was more than time to catch up. I haven't seen her for ages.

I had intended on Tuesday morning either to go and visit Stella or to go out to the crematorium and then do the other after lunch. I had done neither of these things, although I had put a chicken to poach in my slow cooker and chopped up a load of vegetables and done some washing and done the dishes and cleared up the kitchen. But I had not gone out.

I checked the time and thought I ought to go and visit Stella before it got too late. But I was well on the way out to the crematorium. I decided to go there.

I mentioned the other day that I assumed I had driven past the new cemetery and just not noticed it. I was wrong. It is out in a corner of Ballarat that I don't think I have been to before. It's enormous. You couldn't possibly drive past it and not notice. It was all quite an adventure.

I found the office and presented myself with some photo ID to collect Jim's ashes. And then I left. I was hardly there any time. And I drove past Stella's place on my way home so called in to see her after all.

All missions for the day accomplished!

In the absence of the more traditional mantelpiece, Jim's ashes are sitting in a box on one of the dining room dressers. I had thought to bury them in the fruit tree bed, which I have been "building" for months and months now. I must get on and get that done. However, I have discovered that it is Not A Plan to bury human cremations in a garden where you are planning to plant trees and plants.  It is perfectly legal but apparently human cremations have high levels of salt and might kill your trees. They (the cremations, not the trees!) would need to be treated first. I will have to think about this. I do not want to kill the trees that are about to be planted. Nor any vegetable seeds that I might spread between the trees. I can, however, spread ash from the fire in that bed. And my fire stove could do to be emptied. Although perhaps not right now. I have had the fire going this morning and I have no wish to melt another plastic bucket with hot ashes!

Freyja and Simon gave me a large bouquet of Australian native flowers at the weekend. My largest vase was a bit small for them and they were quite scrunched up. I have separated them and now have two vases of flowers.

I don't usually have flowers in the bedroom
I should do it more often

Dining room flowers

So that was my busy Tuesday.  And here we are at Thursday, on the last day of August, ready to drop into September and head towards spring. Mind you, spring has already started to appear. The wattles are in bloom, the mint and the tarragon are starting to reappear and if I don't get a move on it will once again be too late to move the rhubarb. (I think it probably is already too late, but I might risk it anyway. I intended to move it last winter and is still waiting!)

Monday, August 28, 2023

Wallace Hotel

Freyja and Simon were in Ballarat over the weekend and stayed at my place on Saturday night. Freyja was keen to try the Wallace Hotel for Sunday lunch. She had seen good reviews on Happy Cow and thought it was worth a try. So we invited Stella, Lindsey and Ian and trundled out to see what it was like.

Wallace is a small village of about 250 people around  15 or 20 minutes' drive from Mount Helen in rather nice countryside. 

I had rung early on Sunday morning to book a table, expecting to get a voicemail service. Much to my surprise a real person had answered the phone. I was quite shocked - and worried that I might have woken her up. She assured me that she was already awake (it was 8:30 and I had been up for hours) and booked us in. I am sorry to have disturbed her so early, but I am pleased I booked. The dining room was almost full when we got there at 12:30. 

The presence of so many people in an out of the way pub augured well for the quality of the food. And it was absolutely delicious and beautifully presented. The pub has a lovely atmosphere and friendly staff. We will definitely go there again. Plus, as an extra advantage, it has a separate vegan menu and appears to cater for almost all dietary requirements.

I can't say I was expecting to find an old style Melbourne tram
in the beer garden

Sunday roast beef.
There was a mountain of roast potatoes under all that

And a Sunday roast for the vegans
Falafel also with roast potatoes hidden underneath

In other news, Jim had his cremation on Thursday afternoon. I have to go into town tomorrow so will pick up his ashes then. Always assuming I can find the crematorium. I believe it is the new cemetery in Doveton Street. Until last week I was unaware there was a new cemetery in Doveton Street, although I assume I have driven past it and not noticed it.

I can't do any of the paperwork that is waiting, until I get the death certificate. I do now have a form from his personal pension company to fill in to see if I am eligible for a spousal stipend. They want the originals of our marriage certificate and the death certificate. They are not getting the originals. I will ask my solicitor to do formally certified copies of them when I go to arrange probate. Which I can't do until 30 days has passed, assuming I am still alive.  I need to organise a new will, which I'll do when I go in for probate. And then there are banks and other institutions who will need to be told, but I am definitely going to worry about that later.

Right now, I am going to sort out the washing and then take my jug of home made vegetable soup up to Rupert and Hugo's place so they can have a loo stop and a bit of company. Then I will go and visit Stella. And then the day will be more or less done. I have quite a strong sense of "time's wingèd chariot" dashing past although I don't know why. As far as I can tell there is no hurry for anything. Apart from heading up to let Rupert and Hugo out for a wee 😂

Friday, August 25, 2023

Preparing for a Not Funeral

 I went and met the funeral director on Tuesday morning. Their office is in Canadian, so no distance from here. We arranged the most basic funeral possible. Cheap coffin, no frills, bells or whistles. I wasn't very happy with paying an extra $550 for an out of hours pick up. They had collected Jim on Sunday evening and I couldn't see why it couldn't have waited until 09:00 on Monday morning. Oh well. What's done is done and has to be paid for!

I was slightly surprised by the amount it costs to get death certificates. And I was completely stunned by the amount death notices cost in the papers. I hadn't realised that anyone still put death notices in the papers but apparently they do. And to put a very basic, very short notice in the Herald Sun in Melbourne has a starting price of $880. That simply has to be a profit for the paper of around $850. I put a notice on Facebook and Instagram, which reached lots of people right around the world for the grand total of $0.

I would not wish you to think I am mercenary or penny pinching but paying oodles of noodles for unnecessary funeral fripperies seems terribly wasteful to me. Even so, this non-funeral cost a shade under $5500 which does include the crematorium but doesn't include probate. I am not thinking about probate right now. I can't do anything until I get the death certificate and that might take a few weeks, apparently.

I have, however, spoken to Jim's various British pension people. It was much less troublesome than I expected it to be, although I am slightly worried that I haven't had emails from two of the companies even though they said they would send them. If you send important things by the post from the UK they usually take weeks to get here and then the snails eat them unless I get to the letter box very quickly. True snail mail!

None of the pension companies wanted a death certificate or even confirmation in writing. This was also a bit disconcerting. I could have been anyone, although I could answer all their identity questions.

Now I am (slowly) sorting through Jim's clothes and things. There aren't actually all that many things. He didn't have much in his room and anything that was still here found its place over a year ago. Clothes are relatively easy. Again, there wasn't a huge lot, and either I will take possession of things that are still wearable or they can go to the op shop.

Lindsey and I went out yesterday to get a new power cord for my Apple TV. There is one somewhere but I can't find it. Obviously I don't use the Apple TV all that often (and not at all latterly) but it is an effective way of putting photo slideshows on the TV. I have been collecting photos of Jim in a folder on the laptop, ready for his party on September 10th. 

We might have had lunch while we were out. And I bought a new dish rack. The dishwasher has apparently decided that it is now a floor washer instead. This is not very useful when you actually want to wash dishes so I have been washing them by hand. Alas, the existing dish rack was too small even for a light load of dishes. I have put a new dishwasher on my list of things to do/buy but for now it is quite a long way down the bottom

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Getting up and Going Outside

 I woke up yesterday morning - and decided to stay in bed all day. I knew that chaos and mayhem were waiting outside. My bed was warm and snuggly. Why would you get up and go out into the whirlwind when you could stay warm and snuggly in your bed?

Except - I wanted a cup of tea. So, dressing gown and pyjamas and slippers, sitting at the dining table drinking tea. Almost as good at holding the world at bay as staying in bed.

Alas. There were things to be done, and only me to do them. Nothing for it but to have coffee then a shower, dress in clean clothes and head out into the day.

The first thing to do was to find out where Jim was. The nurses had called a funeral director and they had come at around 23:00 to pick him up. But I didn't know which funeral director. We had decided on the local place rather than a national chain, but I didn't know its name. The day nurses weren't sure - and Jim had already been taken off the system (a bit hasty, people!) Fortunately, there was a paper trail and I have now spoken to them.

I have cleared Jim's room (his name was already off his door - they're quick off the mark at the Mount Clear Aged Care Facility!) He didn't have a whole lot of stuff in his room and hardly any clutter but it still took two car trips and his picnic chair is in Stella's room waiting for there to be room in my small car.

I was really quite shocked when the funeral director asked me to come to my appointment today bringing clothes for Jim. Underwear. Nice clothes that hold special memories for me. Really? I don't think so. He hasn't worn underwear for almost two years but has worn pull ups instead. And anyone who thinks I am going to dress him in his best clothes just to have them incinerated has got rocks in their head. Jim and I have long thought that funerals are unnecessarily expensive and wasteful and that was a step far too far. Pyjamas. If you are going to your perpetual rest you need nice, comfy pyjamas. I have set aside a pair of pull ups and a pair of socks, plus his comfiest, snuggliest pyjamas. I would send his dressing gown as well, but I think I have adopted it. It's fairly new, nice and cosy, and hasn't been worn much. Perhaps I'll send a snuggle blanket instead.

There is much more that needs to be done but I don't have a death certificate yet. And, in my head, there's no hurry. I know I usually like to get things done as expeditiously as possible but I think on this occasion I will take my time.

So. No funeral service. Jim wasn't a religious man, so no point in a church service, and he didn't know all that many people in Australia. I do know people and I'm sure they would turn out for a funeral if asked. But if I'm going to summon people to celebrate Jim's life I would sooner do it over champagne, cups of tea, pieces of cake. And roast potatoes. Jim absolutely loved roast potatoes.

So in consultation with Jeanette we have settled upon afternoon tea (I can serve roast potatoes at an afternoon tea, right?) at my place on Sunday 10th September. If you happen to be in the area, please feel free to drop by any time after 2pm. (But please let me know you are coming so there are enough roast potatoes, jelly slices, apple slices and vanilla slices)

I am very pleased that I kept all the information we gathered for Jim's permanent resident visa. I have had to fill in a form for the funeral director which wants lots of details that I might not have known, like his mother's maiden name and dates and places of previous marriages and stuff. Fortunately, the visa application also wanted that information so I had it to hand. Perhaps I should pre-fill out one for me for when the time comes.

Monday, August 21, 2023


 Lindsey and I called in to check up on Stella yesterday morning. She was as stiff and achey as you would expect after a significant fall, but otherwise ok.

Then we went round to check up on Jim, who we found significantly worse than he had been on Saturday. His breathing was heavy and rapid. He was mostly unconscious or sleeping but clearly anxious when he was awake. The nurses said that he was much worse than he had been when they had been in earlier.

It was very clear that he did not have much time. So Lindsey and I settled in for the day, to see what would happen.

Ian brought sandwiches and drinks for us at lunchtime.

Jim was on palliative medication by now so was calm and peaceful and entirely unconscious. Mid-afternoon we went back to my place. Lindsey went home. I pottered around a bit and then went back to Mount Clear in my car.

At about 5:30 I went home and had something to eat, a glass of wine and fed the cats.

I had just had a second glass of wine and put my pyjamas on when the care facility rang to say that Jim had just died. Impeccable timing 😊 (I'm sure he did it on purpose. I had told him I was going home to have food, wine and to put my pyjamas on and he knew full well that I won't drive after taking wine or, indeed, in my pyjamas!)

I got dressed again and called a taxi and went back to Mount Clear. I didn't stay long. Just long enough to visit Jim, send him on his way and talk to the nurses.  I sent messages to people and spoke to Jim's daughter, sister and sister in law.

I know that death generates a lot of paperwork and much activity and general confusion but just for now, I am drinking coffee and considering having a shower and wondering if anyone rang the funeral director (the nurses said they would but I haven't heard from anyone).

Then, fortified with coffee and a shower and clean clothes I will sally forth back to Mount Clear and get started on the Things To Do.  I should make a list, I suppose.

PS I was somewhat surprised to learn that two of my children did not immediately know what I meant when I said that Jim had dropped off his perch. I had assumed this was a widely used expression but they initially thought that I meant he had had a fall.

9th April, 1942 to 20th August, 2023

Sunday, August 20, 2023

An Unexpectedly Chaotic Morning

 Lindsey and I were approaching the mushroom farm yesterday morning when the Aged Care facility rang me. The nurse said that she had noticed that Jim was finding it harder and harder to swallow and hadn't been able to eat and increasingly not to drink.

This was worrying but not necessarily surprising. I had noticed that he was choking sometimes when drinking water, even with a straw. He hadn't had any trouble eating his jelly slices or his apple slices, though :-D

So I said that I would call in later in the day and see what was going on and talk to the nurse. Lindsey said she would come too.

We had been chatting about my menu for today and had made one or two tweaks to my plan. A platter of cheeses, dips, olives, crudités, munchy things, followed by roast lamb, roast potatoes and loads of veg and, as a late entrant, rice pudding for dessert.

We called into the butcher and the bakery in Mount Clear and then headed to the IGA. 

Suddenly our phones and watches began pinging with alerts and messages. It seemed that Stella had fallen and her watch had alerted everyone in her emergency contact list. And they, of course, contacted Lindsey and me.

I rang the Aged Care facility and asked if Stella had actually fallen. Yes, they said in some surprise. We are with her now. But how did you know?

Her watch. Apple Watches are very useful in an emergency.

We abandoned the shopping. I cancelled the Sunday lunch. And we went to inspect both Stella and Jim.

Stella was on the floor in her room when we got there, surrounded by nurses, carers and other people. The nurses sent everyone else away. Stella had fallen while going to her door so someone could take her to the dining room ready for lunch. She was not using her walker!!! She had hit her head, jarred her shoulder and torn a big flap of skin off her arm.

We went, with one of the nurses, to see what was going on with Jim. He didn't look good, although he was awake and more or less alert. We managed to moisten his mouth and get some water in him. He was watching the food channel on his TV. He couldn't really speak but he could smile and he clearly knew who we were.

Lindsey and I split up. She went to the hospital in an ambulance with Stella. I stayed in Jim's room with him. I also had Lindsey's car in the carpark, plus her shopping and my shopping, some of which was perishable.

It was all a bit chaotic..

So I went to my house in Lindsey's car and put my shopping away and talked to the cats. I went to Lindsey's place. Ian and I put her shopping away and I talked to the dogs. Ian took me back to my place and I came back to Mount Clear in my car. Jim was sleeping quite peacefully. So I stayed for a short while and then went home.

Stella, in the meantime, had had an X-ray of her shoulder and hip. No breaks. A surgeon had put her arm back together with glue and steristrips and stuff. She had a CT scan of her brain. No apparent damage. So Ian collected her and Lindsey and everyone returned to their homes. Stella is more or less ok - apart from being in trouble for not using her walker.

I have put the leg of lamb I bought for today into the freezer (thank goodness I had run it down quite a bit recently!). I hadn't bought all of the ingredients for today's lunch but I do have dips, cheese and loads of vegetables. I'm going to have to do lots of eating and freezing. I might have to take some stuff into work on Wednesday. I can think of several people who will help in the eating department.

Lindsey and I will return to Mount Clear this morning to see what is happening with everyone.