Romantic vision, dead

Back in autumn I had a vision, sparked by memories from my childhood. I recalled that my parents used to grow sweet peas and we’d often have a vase of sweet peas in the house during spring. I have have retained a great fondness for them since that time. I had the idea that I would re-create that fond memory and grow a batch of sweet peas myself. I imagined a vase of brightly coloured sweet peas on my mother’s old dining table, which now lives at our place.

I also remembered that my mother used to have a kitchen garden, where she always had a good crop of mint, chives and perhaps parsley. If a recipe called for mint we’d just pick what we needed from the garden, rather than paying $2 for a bunch of mint from the greengrocer and throwing 3/4 of it away.

So I set up a chicken wire trellis and planted the sweet pea seeds, and I bought a nice healthy pot of mint and planted it outside the back door.

I now realise that project was doomed from the start. It’s now well into spring and this is what the thirteen sweet pea seeds have become:

Pathetic, isn’t it? And the once-healthy mint has been eaten and doesn’t look like it will provide enough leaf for my dinner plate for a long time, if ever. I suspect that my mother’s garden productivity was actually due to lots of continuous work, done quietly by my father.

So I ripped out the sweet peas and mint and tore down the chicken wire trellis, so I wouldn’t be constantly reminded of my foolishness.

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The varieties of degeneration

I ran the whole 10 km distance to work on Monday. It felt OK. The knee pain I thought might be osteoarthritis, or could be coming from the medial meniscus, was under control with paracetamol and didn’t seem to be worsened by the run. I’m now regretting that run.

Today I caught the Night Ride bus to the north end of town and walked the remaining distance down to Rat City in the south end of Sydney.

I am now quite convinced that my knee pain is not osteoarthritis (which may benefit from activity, and even pushing through the pain), but is actually a damaged, degenerated meniscus – with an initial period of rest being perhaps the best treatment approach at this stage. My right knee is OK, but the left is quite sore with only a moderate level of use, and is even sore at rest sometimes.

More significantly, on Monday afternoon the slight intermittent heel pain I had felt over the weekend, turned into a consistent troubling pain, which seems to originate from the point of attachment of the fibres of the Achilles tendon. I have had Achilles tendon troubles in the past and I am very wary of doing anything that might exacerbate the condition.

So between  the left knee and the right Achilles I really need to keep my activity to a low level to allow some recovery and (hopefully) healing and pain reduction to occur. I will try keeping up small amounts of gentle walking, but I think I’ll be using the Night Ride bus quite a lot in the next few weeks.

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Going the whole distance

I saw my GP, Dr M, yesterday – for a new annual referral to my cancer doctor and a renewal of the prescription for the drug I hope will prevent a heart attack. As I was leaving, I mentioned that my knees had become quite painful recently, “Osteoarthritis I suppose“. Dr M said that if it is osteoarthritis, I need to try to maintain strength, mobility and activity as long as possible, because prosthetic knee joints will only last about 15 years.

That was an optimistic statement from one perspective. The suggestion is that my cancer and heart disease might hold off long enough for me to wear out a pair of prosthetic knees.

Later that day my knees were very sore, to the point where I felt a little reluctant to walk the dog that evening. I did take him out for his usual walk, however, and when I got home I examined my offending knees. It turned out that each knee had a particular palpable tender spot, and there was a remarkable similarity between left and right. The sore spot was right on the tibio-femoral joint line.

[my painful knees]

Maybe the pain is coming from the medial meniscus or medial collateral ligament? I wondered whether Bruce (the dog) is the cause of this problem. This knee pain has only become significant in the past few weeks since I have begun walking with him. And he does tend to force me to twist my knee as I follow his random meanderings and his strong pull.

So with this causation theory in mind, and Dr M’s warnings ringing in my ears, I dosed myself with lots of paracetamol and decided to make the most of this morning’s dog-free trip to work. For the first time in nearly a year, I ran the whole 10 km to work. Straight lines, no twisting. It felt OK.

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Ultimate breakfast in Ultimo

breakfast in Soma, Ultimo with daiskmeliadorn

Yesterday my daughter, daiskmeliadorn, and I met for brekky in Soma at Ultimo. Today she flies out to embark on a challenging adventure in upstate New York at Binghamton University. She will enrol in a PhD there, so this could be a long absence.

We have enjoyed some wonderful times together over breakfast during the past 15 years, sharing our thoughts and emotions. I’m going to really miss her.

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Preparing for a visitor

We’re getting ready for a special visitor.


That special guest is Bruce, the Staffy of daiskmeliadorn & Sam.

He’ll be staying at our place until daiskmeliadorn and Sam get settled in Binghamton, NY, in a place that can accommodate him. Meanwhile, we’re getting ready to host his visit by installing a (hopefully) Bruce-proof gate. Bruce is a very powerful jumper, and last time he visited he leapt over the gate in a desperate attempt to avoid being left home alone. The new gate is taller (1.8 m, or 6 feet), and doesn’t have spaces between the palings that would allow him to watch people leaving. I ordered it, and last weekend I hung it and fitted a latch. The new gate is covered with the blue tarp at the moment to protect it until it is painted. But that’s not my job!

Bruce-proof gate, we hope

I have also set up an internet-connected BruceCam in the back room where he may be shut up when there’s no one else at home. This will allow us to remotely check on whether he appears comfortable with the situation, although I’m not sure what we’ll do if we see and hear him barking or chewing his bedding. I thought about putting a speaker in his room so we could use our phones to talk to him – but that just might do more harm than good.

It’s a bit like being a new parent, isn’t it? There’s plenty of advice available, but in the end, every case is different and you just have to do the best you can –  knowing that in years to come you’ll realise what a bad job you did.

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Hitting the ground running

She hasn’t even left Australia yet, but already my daughter, daiskmeliadorn, has planned her first running race in Binghamton.

daiskmeliadorn running in SMH Half Marathon 2017

They have a festival to celebrate a kind of sandwich (yes, really! SpiedieFest), and as part of this festival there’s a 5km run in memory of a local woman who died unexpectedly of a heart condition in 1997 at age 25, the Kelly LaBare run on Sunday 06 August. I don’t think FrontRunners have a local group in upstate New York….maybe daiskmeliadorn can start one?

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the sins of the father

Extinctions by Josephine Wilson

“Australian” says the sticker the librarian has applied to this book. I guess Australians want to read about themselves? Maybe the designation is for the benefit of the large number of library users who come from other countries and want to find out more about their new home.

I’m not particularly drawn by an “Australian” sticker – in fact the very best books I’ve read have been written by Canadians about their culture and identity. I borrowed this book after my attention was initially drawn to it by its short-listing for the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

It turned out that I did actually relate very closely to many aspects of this story, including – surprisingly – the “Australian-ness”. There are lots of references to Australian events and culture which I could relate to but non-Australians would surely find to be obscure or even opaque.

I found great empathy with the protagonist, Fred, a recently retired engineering academic who develops a relationship with his neighbour in the retirement centre into which he has just moved. What initially appears to be Fred’s idiosyncratic quirkiness is gradually revealed as a much deeper character flaw which has manifest itself through his roles as teacher, father and husband. He discovers that he has been a “monster” in his relationships – and is still behaving monstrously towards his new neighbour. Is it possible to change? Can Fred restore his broken relationships with his two children?

These issues lead to much introspection by Fred … and by this reader.

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