street art and decoration

On my walking (or running when I’m healthy) commuter route to work there have been a few recent additions to the streetscape.

The two sculptures above have been installed by North Sydney Council. Each interesting in its own way. “What do they mean?”, I ask myself. Is that the wrong question? There’s clearly lots of symbolism in the lower one, located in Bradfield Park. The upper one, on the highway roadside near North Sydney Station, looks like a kind of three-dimensional lightning flash. Why?

A little further down the road, Milsons Point Railway Station is being renovated. The railway station is built into the northern abutment of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and in its current form was completed, along with the bridge itself, in the  early 1930s. Chrome plated art deco framings have been added as part of the renovation. I wonder if they were there originally?

And as shown below, there’s a new clock just installed (that’s not the correct time. It’s actually 03:30 but the clock hadn’t been turned on when I took the picture!). Several years ago they put in a fancy digital clock, but in keeping with the heritage emphasis of the current upgrade they have ripped out the digital and gone back to old-fashioned analog, in the traditional railway style.

 As interesting and valuable as these things are, my favourite streetscape decoration in this area is the stand of Gymea Lilies growing just outside the Milsons Point Railway Station entrance. I am always watching to see if any are flowering and to observe the gradual lengthening of the flower spears, wondering whether the flower will bloom before someone snaps off the spike.

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I should be somewhere else

I should be sitting on the toilet expunging the last remnants of faecal matter from my bowel with the assistance of a litre of Moviprep. But in fact, I’m sitting here.

I should be on a Nil By Mouth regimen, but I’m consuming this delightful vegan hot cross bun made by my daughter, daiskmeliadorn. 

Yesterday I had completed 24 hours of “white, low residue diet” (white bread, plain tofu, no fruit peel, no vegetable skins, no leafy greens, etc), and was two hours into a clear fluids only restriction when my phone rang. It was the office of my gastroenterologist, Dr N, advising me that Dr N’s partner had gone into labour earlier than expected and he was going to hold her hand and look into her eyes instead of holding a colonoscope and look into my bowel.

So my colonoscopy + endoscopy has been postponed to a date yet to be fixed. I am momentarily pleased that I can eat such Easter fare without restriction, but of course I am aware that once the rescheduled date is set, I will once again feel that sense of dread deep in my bowels.

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Christ Church St Laurence has been connected with my family for a long time. It was reported that my eccentric great Aunt Bee regularly slept on the church grounds, with the apparent blessing of the rector.

My daughter, daiskmeliadorn, attends Christ Church St Laurence, and on Mothering Sunday she invited her mother – and me – to a Lenten concert they were having; J.S. Bach’s B Minor Mass. Holy cow!! My favourite work by my favourite composer.


[The performers acknowledge applause after J S Bach’s B Minor Mass.
Christ Church St Laurence, Lent 2017]

When I was very young, there was a little girl, a few years younger than me, who lived next door to my grandparents. We encountered little Josie frequently, and when my parents moved into that house about 20 years later, Josie would still appear from time to time. She lived in the Netherlands then, but came home to visit. Now my mother has moved out into a nursing home, Josie’s parents live in a retirement centre, but Josie has come back from the Netherlands and lives in the same house. She’s now a famous soprano – and she sang in the B Minor Mass at Christ Church St Laurence.

There was another connection we didn’t expect too. The person playing the baroque flute  in the St Laurence Baroque Orchestra (beautifully, to my ear anyway) was daiskmeliadorn’s old friend Jess.

And to cap off the connections, we sat in a pew just behind a couple, Phillip & Rosemary, who we used to know quite well when he was rector of St George’s Paddington but who we haven’t seen for at least 10 years. It was great to catch up with them and hear about their four children and ten grandchildren.

The performance wasn’t perfect. There was an instance where the cello started playing at the wrong place in the score and they had to stop and start again. And late in the first part we had a long pause while the conductor disappeared for a few minutes (I’m guessing he needed a ‘comfort break’, but as a prostate cancer sufferer myself, I’m fairly forgiving of people needing to bow to such physiological demands). But somehow these little imperfections made this occasion even more captivating in its context as our family’s celebration of mothering. After all, is it perfect performance we expect from mothers (and others)? As a parent who has made a litany of parenting mistakes over the years, I hope that a spirit of forgiveness might form a large part of any reflection on my role in the world.

I have listened to a recording of Bach’s B Minor Mass many, many times in the early morning ‘Bach time’ that starts my work day, but I had never before experienced a live performance. This occasion, enhanced by the integration of music, friends, and family, will be one I remember as a highlight in my music life.

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Am I foolish?

Well, yes, I am foolish. No argument.

But I’m wondering if I am being particularly foolish about this issue. I sustained three thoracic spine fractures last year, just due to running. A DEXA bone mineral density scan showed that my spine is osteoporotic (Z-score: density is 2.3 standard deviations below average for my age and gender), but my femurs are OK (slightly above average).

Faced with these data, and with on-going thoracic back pain and lots of other health issues to think about, I put running on hold. I declined my GP’s offer of the drug alendronate (Fosamax) [osteonecrosis of the jaw is the last thing I need!] and decided on a drug-free approach instead, through:

  • weight gain (increase body weight by up to 10%)
  • back exercises

to try to increase the spinal bone mineral density. (My gastroenterologist wants to send me to an endocrinologist to manage this condition, but I don’t think I can afford that. )

My thoracic spine pain is still present to some degree, but I’ve been walking 15 km a day for a couple of months now and I feel I’m ready to move on. My body weight is about 6.5% higher, thanks to daiskmeliadorn’s baking and the back exercises seem to be going OK. So this week I have started some very gentle jogging – around 4 km per day. I’m hoping that this activity may even hasten the restoration of the bone mineral density in my spine, as long as it’s gentle enough, and the duration and repetition isn’t too great.

Ideally, I would be holding off from all running until a repeat DEXA scan demonstrates that I’m out of the osteoporotic zone. But I’m too impatient, and perhaps too foolish for that.

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pleasure and pain

The latest choc-walnut sourdough bread baked for me by diskmeliadorn could be her best ever. The flavour is superb and the texture sets a standard by which all sourdough bread should be judged. The crust is just the right thickness and density, and the inner bread is chewy enough to give my muscles a good workout. And therein lies the issue. My left temporomandibular joint is hurting and clunking. Eating this bread is a noisy and sometimes painful experience.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that the greatest joys in life are inevitably associated with the deepest sorrows. If TMJ pain is the price I have to pay for the pleasures offered up by this bread, then I’ll do so gladly.

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colon count

As I count down the days to my colonoscopy, and after reading Anton Enus’s story, another story caught my eye. Leigh Sales tweeted:

The term “journalist” is often misused (opinionistas claiming to be one etc) – this is an actual journalist. [link to obituary: “Fearless to the end: Remembering Margaret Moth“]

The beginning of the obit got me interested straight away:

Simply put, Margaret Moth made an impression.

Given her jet-black hair, thick black eyeliner, black clothes and combat boots (which she often slept in while on assignment), people didn’t always know what to think upon meeting her. She was quirky, the sort who excused herself from a social gathering by saying she had to wash her socks. And she was fearless, the kind of woman who not only kept the camera rolling while under fire, but zoomed in on a soldier who was shooting at her.

Another victim in the colon cancer count (who I am reading about coincidentally, or did Leigh Sales partly tweet the story for that reason?).

Apparently CNN made a documentary about her – I must look at that.  Margaret Moth was a pretty remarkable person, it seems to me. “Fearless to the end” sounds like a descriptor of someone whose life story would contain quite a few valuable lessons for me.

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[cranberry-fig sourdough, made by my daughter, daiskmeliadorn]

I ate this delicious bread for breakfast this morning and enjoyed it enormously, savouring every single mouthful. It yielded a whole variety of wonderful textures and delicious flavours while I read my book about a father-son relationship and drank my first coffee of the day, while sitting in a nice quiet sunny window seat. Overall a fabulous breakfast experience.

In a couple of weeks’ time, however, on Monday 10 April, I will be eating white bread without crusts – with no enjoyment and indeed a certain amount of trepidation. I will be preparing for a date with Dr N on Wednesday 12 April when he will explore as much as he can of the inside of my gastro-intestinal tract. He will make his exploration in two journeys, beginning at each end of the gut. To prepare for this I have 24 hours of ‘low residue diet’ (nothing more exciting than white bread) on the Monday, followed by 18 hours of just clear fluids, then 6 hours of fasting. I then front up at the hospital to have an endoscope and a colonoscope inserted by Dr N. That can’t be much fun for me, can it?

Since my cancer diagnosis a few months ago, I have been attempting to make the most of each day, not knowing how many days there are ahead, and what those future days might hold. So I will continue to enjoy daiskmeliadorn’s bread while I have the chance.

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