Day 54: 20 June 2017
Wednesday, 20 June 2018 06:44

In her day, my mother was a champion sportswoman. At seventeen, she was state junior fast ice-skating champion. At eighteen, Switzerland’s table tennis champion. Then, at nineteen, she played at Wimbledon. Thus, it was sad to watch as she succumbed to dementia. When I took her car keys away from her, following yet another bingle, she was furious with me. ‘You’re the worst son in the world,’ she said, followed by, ‘After all I’ve done for you’. Her comments hurt, but I knew it was the dementia talking, and not her. After half an hour of being yelled at, I phoned her GP, Dr Lloyd, and asked if he would back me up. ‘Put Beverley on,’ he said. I handed the phone to Mum. ‘Beverley,’ he said, ‘Michael has done what he needed to do. You are NOT to drive.’ ‘Oh,’ replied the now passive patient. ‘If you think so, doctor.’ On the day we took Mum to the aged care facility, a short walk from our home, at eight o’clock we went back to check that she was comfortable for the night, and that all was okay. Mum was sitting in her chair, dressed in her best clothes, handbag by her side. ‘I’m ready to go home,’ she said. I told her that we couldn’t take her home, because during the afternoon we’d emptied her unit in order to sell it, the money needed for the nursing home bond. ‘I don’t care,’ said Mum. ‘You’re to take me home this minute.’ Having won a previous battle by getting external advice, I called Faith, one of Mum’s old school friends. (All of Mum’s friends were from her school days; she didn’t and wouldn’t have any others.) ‘Beverley,’ said Faith, ‘you’re to stay exactly where you are. It’s the best place for you.’ ‘Oh, if you think so, Faith,’ replied my mother. It seemed to do the trick, again, even though I remained the worst son in the world. 'After all I've done for you!'

Day 52: 18 June 2017
Monday, 18 June 2018 09:29

The plan is to use the funds left over from the sale of our one-bedroom, Melbourne apartment, and, after buying a two-bedroom unit here in Hobart, use what’s left over to get a motorhome, and live the grey nomad dream. After giving the grandchildren a kiss goodbye, we will point the vehicle in the direction of idyllic climate, abundant seafood, and beautiful tropical and red-dust surrounds, and GO!. Today’s motorhomes, of which there are thousands roaming Australia’s highway and hinterlands, are understandably appealing. The ideal model will have an easily-accessible, comfy lounge-cum-double bed in the rear, fridge, stove, microwave, separate toilet-shower, as well as air conditioning in the living area as well as in the driving compartment. Appliances work off 12 volt batteries supported by solar panels, or 240 volts when connected to park-supplied powered sites (powered sites at roughly $30 a night). But one can go for days without paying anything. On The Road Publishing P/L each year publishes its Guide to Free Campsites, the current edition of which lists over 1,500 free or nearly free Australia-wide motorhome campsites. Many sites have a ‘dump’ facility for emptying the poo tank. Each listing indicates if there are toilet facilities, fresh water, outdoor fireplaces, if dogs are allowed, if fishing is possible, and any fee (if so, usually $10-20 a night). We’ve already checked-out the two motorhome campsites closest to us here at Kettering. One is the free-to-stay Gordon Foreshore Reserve, 20 kilometres south. The site has enough room for a dozen vehicles, plus disabled toilets and a dump point. The other close-by spot is at Franklin, forty minutes away (maximum three-day stay). The parking bays are next to the Petty Sessions restaurant, smack bang on the water’s edge. The Guide to Free Campsites 2017-18 is just about the best $20 worth I’ve ever spent!

Day 53: 19 June 2017
Tuesday, 19 June 2018 07:22

Today in the Café I made a new friend, and, as one is wont to do, he asked me what I’d done as a career. I’m reluctant to tell people that I worked in fundraising, because they might assume I stood at a street intersection and rattled a tin for the Liberal Party. I certainly wasn’t paid $500 a day to do that! So I just say to people that I worked in school administration. I wasn’t as circumspect when I was younger. On my second day as the new director of development at Methodist Ladies’ College, in Melbourne, in July 1988, I attended an evening meeting of the Parents’ Association. Over coffee, a parent asked me how I got into fundraising. I told her that it probably went back to my time at boarding school, and in particular to having door-knocked with another boy one Sunday, for Red Cross Calling. I was fifteen, Russell was seventeen, and a prefect. Together, we approached a dilapidated house in South Geelong, both of us displaying our Red Cross volunteer badges, money tins in hand. Russell knocked on the door. It opened to just about the ugliest site I’d seen. The man was the size of a small car and wore a heavily stained white singlet, which stopped just above his barrel of a belly. Unshaven, and with something nasty dribbling from his chin, he held a can of Victoria Bitter in his left hand. ‘Yeah,’ he growled at us. ‘What da yous want?’ Giving his tin a shake to indicate there were coins inside, which showed he was an accomplished fundraiser, Russell replied, ‘Your money or your daughter, preferably both!’ I was so embarrassed, so scared, that I bolted from the scene. ‘Yes,’ I confirmed to the MLC parent, ‘that probably was how I got into fundraising.’ It wasn’t, of course. The next morning, the principal called me into his office. He asked if the previous night I’d told a story about ‘trading’ in daughters. I told him he needed to hear the story in context. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘I’ve just had a phone call from a parent saying you should be sacked!’

Day 51: 17 June 2017
Sunday, 17 June 2018 16:20

ABC local radio here in Hobart is… homely. Parochial, but personal. All of the presenters are engaging, but I especially like the Saturday morning host, Chris Wisby. This morning, Chris invited listeners to call in with their favourite flying stories. Caller John told the story of a rude customer in front of him at the airline check-in counter, such that when John got his turn at the desk, he apologised to the agent for the previous man’s rudeness. ‘It’s okay,’ said the agent. ‘He's going to Adelaide; his bags are going to Brisbane!’ Moral of story: check your bag sticker before the conveyor belt whisks it away! Or be nice! My favourite flying story concerns one of the ministers at our church in New York, when we lived there. Mary told us during a sermon how every time she boards a plane, just as she steps from the gangway onto the plane, she makes the sign of a cross on the fuselage, and says to herself, ‘I'll either see Paris, or Jesus’. And… the army officer dressed in full military uniform who, half way through a flight, couldn’t stand one particular child’s bad behaviour any longer. He whispered to the boy, ‘Do you see these medals I’m wearing? They mean I’m allowed to throw one passenger out of the plane!’ Speaking of ABC radio, I love the part on Ian McNamara's Sunday Australia All Over program where he asks listeners to call in and say why they love where they live. I think one measure of how much we love where we live is how we would feel if we were made to move away. The thought recently struck me, and I realised how heart-broken I'd be if we had to leave Kettering-upon-Paradise. And then a wave of selfishness overcame me and I wondered why I'm telling you about this amazing, hitherto unknown oasis. So please don't tell anyone about Kettering in southern Tasmania, where the car ferry to Bruny Island goes. This amazing, resort-like venue is just our little secret, okay?


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