Sunset from Hill House, Mount Helen. February 2024

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.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Mostly Eating

You may remember that I was at the surgery on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Lindsey suggested that I stay in the flat on Wednesday night, rather than running up and down the freeway on all three days.

So I did.

Then Freyja said that, as I would be in town, we could go out for dinner. I didn't particularly want to go out. I had been thinking about pizza from the shop downstairs and some wine. But then Freyja said Kinyoubi, which is a Japanese Izakaya in Smith Street. And she reminded me that Thursday was her birthday.

So I gatecrashed her birthday dinner with Simon and joined them at Kinyoubi for dinner. They ordered several small dishes. I had teriyaki salmon - and their gyoza when they were accidentally given pork gyoza rather than vegetarian. A perfect dessert in my view!

Happy birthday, Freyja

I had a nice and slow morning on Thursday. I was only going in to work for a farewell lunch for someone who has worked on reception for many years and with whom I have worked quite closely. I had intended to make vegetarian gyoza for the lunch but had left the makings in the work fridge on Wednesday night. So I bought Japanese biscuits instead. But it didn't matter. Lindsey had provided party pies. We bought fish, chips and potato cakes from the chippy in the shopping centre. Someone brought cheese and biscuits. We had muffins and cakes and the Japanese biscuits. And we had lots of soft drink.

It was a good farewell party

Thank you for all your hard work

Not much eating on Friday. I had made a pasta bolognaise for lunch, which I ate most of, but the doctors had a training session and the visiting physio had brought lots of magnificent sandwiches, so she had those at lunchtime. I had a couple of the leftover sandwiches before heading back to Mount Helen. So not fancy eating but very satisfactory. I am very fond of well made sandwiches, and I am equally fond of curly fettuccine with bolognaise (or, really, any kind of) sauce.

I need to get ingredients for tomorrow's lunch today. Lindsey and I are about to head off to the mushroom farm, the butcher and the bakery. Oh, and the IGA. A busy morning of food shopping, ready for more eating tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023


 I forgot to say. Jim had a letter from the Aged Care Finance Assessment team to say that we do not, after all, owe the $32000 arrears that has been hanging over our heads since last October or so. They do want us to pay an additional $11.50 a day on top of the basic day rate, which I suspect may well be wrong. We have had several letters saying that we only need to pay the basic day rate (and don't forget about the $32000 arrears). If they are right, at least they haven't back dated the $11.50 to July 2022 when he went in. If they are wrong, they'll notice the next time they do an assessment. And I just cannot bring myself to ring them again to query it. After all - what if they reinstate the $32000 arrears?

Back on Deck

I managed to get off the couch and head back to work on Friday. My head felt less as though it had been filled with gluggy porridge. Not firing on all cylinders, but at least firing. A bit!

Lindsey and I went to the Lakeside market on Saturday. It is right by the side of the lake for the winter. I expect it will go back to the Zoo Drive paddock in the spring or early summer but there is a lot to be said for having a market right by the side of a lake. It has a lovely atmosphere. Tim the toastie man isn't doing toasties at the moment, but he is selling some awesome soup. So Lindsey and I armed ourselves with a cup of delicious leek, potato and bacon soup each and went for a wander. I came home with bags of delicious vegetables which I MUST use before buying any more. We went out to the mushroom farm. We visited Stella and then Jim. Stella is rather disgruntled because she has been confined to her room with a cough. She isn't feeling unwell and nearly always has some sort of cough. So she was much aggrieved to be quarantined in case she has RSV (Test results came back yesterday and she does not have RSV and has been released from her room.) Jim has also been confined to his room, though he should have been released on Saturday. He was very sleepy when Lindsey and I called in but woke up enough to eat his cakes and biscuits. Someone has shaved him and trimmed his hair. I hadn't realised quite how pinched his face had become, hidden under the bushy beard.

When I called in again on Sunday he was wearing a long sleeved t-shirt and no jumper. I was quite shocked by how thin he was. The nurses weighed him on Sunday evening, at my request, and he has lost a lot of weight. He is also much less alert than he was before he was put into quarantine - though it is hard to say whether his cognition is actually declining, or whether it is a side effect of being kept in his room. Plus, some of the carers turn his TV to more "manly" channels, which he doesn't watch. When I go in I put the TV back onto the food channels and he starts paying attention again. Also, when he is wandering around the facility he grazes on the fruit, biscuits, cakes and protein drinks which are available to residents. He will certainly have been given meals and snacks over the last week but I wonder how much the absence of  grazing snacks will have contributed to the weight loss. I would provide packets of snacks for him to choose from but he would either eat all of them at once, or forget about them entirely and not eat them at all.

I have a busy week this week. I was in the surgery yesterday to welcome a new member of staff. I am taking Stella to a doctor's appointment shortly. Then I am at work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, although Thursday is to farewell a longstanding staff member on her last day with us and is not a rostered day. Then the Sunday Lunchers are coming on Sunday and somehow I have to find the time to clean the house AND tidy up my long neglected garden, preferably before they come. (The garden won't get properly done by Sunday, although I have weeded and sorted out the three small veg beds out the front, ready for spring/summer planting.)

I have bought new parsley and rainbow silverbeet seedlings that I need to pot on, and I am intending to replace my sage plant with a second thyme plant. I use very little sage, although it is a pretty plant and I may plant it in a garden bed rather than getting rid of it. I do, however, use a lot of thyme and would like a few more plants to keep the supply going. And I am planning to experiment a little with my vegetable seed planting this spring. I'll let you know how the experiments go.

Winter morning light from the front of my place:

Winter dawn from the front of the house:

It was VERY cold. Everything was frozen

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

Working, Roast Potatoes and a Koffff

I was working on both Friday and Saturday last week and decided to stay overnight in the flat, rather than running up and down the highway on both days.

I invited Freyja and Simon to come round for roast potatoes on Friday night.

Freyja invited me to go and pick her up after work. She works at La Trobe University, not far from the surgery. "Meet me in Car Park 8", she said. So off I went. And got sucked into a wilderness of car parking areas, in the dark with no clear idea where I was or how to get to Freyja or how to get out. It was VERY dark. It was very disconcerting. Eventually I found a control point and asked the nice man inside it how to get to Car Park 8. He gave me clear instructions and eventually I found both the car park AND Freyja.

I had no idea how close the University is to the back of the Polaris shopping and apartment complex!

We picked up Simon and went to the flat, where we had roasted lemon and thyme potatoes and green things, plus wine for dinner

There was, of course, gravy as well

I woke up on Saturday with a slight sore throat and a head that felt as though it had been filled with cold porridge. I put it down to having gone to bed later than usual and went to work - where I had to try very hard to concentrate. I also developed a cough. Then I had a text message from Melbourne Pathology for Jim, whose path results come to my phone. Negative for flu and covid but positive for RSV. I had seen him on Thursday and had noted that he had a cough but hadn't paid much attention. By the time I got home, having concentrated very, very hard on the drive back to Ballarat, I was exhausted, had a proper cough, a runny nose, real brain fog and a scratchy throat.

The only time I have left the house since was to make a brief visit yesterday to the Buninyong Foodworks for some milk. I went there only because I foolhardily left at about the time the schools come out and heading into Mount Clear, where I usually go, was likely to take a LONG time. I wore a mask while in the supermarket and ran across one of the very few people that I know in Buninyong - who wasn't sure that it was actually me, until I spoke. I practically never run across people that I know when in either Buninyong or Mount Clear.

I was talking to someone on the phone on Sunday and said that all I really wanted to do was to drink tea and eat cake, except that I didn't have any cake. She pointed out, quite rightly, that I could make cake. I could. I have all the stuff you need for making cake . But I wasn't sure I could really be bothered. Then I remembered that I had apples, from Thursday's Wilson's mystery box, plus blueberries in the freezer, AND a sheet of puff pastry in the fridge that could do to be used up. So I made an apple and blueberry "pot" pie instead of cake. Very frugal and rather delicious. I also have ice cubes of cream in the freezer (I had bought a two litre bottle of cream a little while ago which was significantly reduced for a quick sale and froze it all in ice cube trays and put the cubes in a freezer box. They're perfect when you need a little cream in cooking, or on hot fruit pie!)

Brandy and Whiskey have been pleased that I am at home.
The electric blanket on the couch has been turned on :)