Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Deep sea diver Jack

Yesterday a life-long friend and I had a counter-lunch at a nearby tavern.

It was good to get together and talk. We shared classes at primary school, high school, technical school and through our 5 year apprenticeships at the State Engineering Works, a large government engineering works at Leighton.

We have kept in contact over the years; I moving into teaching and Jack into deep sea diving on oil rigs etc. Our conversation inevitably ends up talking about how we solved some mechanical problem, or how a part for some machine was handmade. Not too many other people are interested in those conversations, so when we part we are well satisfied that another person has fully understood what we have were able to do or fix.

The tavern meal was excellent, so large that I couldn't finish it.

This is a photo of Joan, Martin and Helen with forced smiles having endured a 2.5 hour wait to get through customs at Bali’s Denpassar airport in the late 1980s

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A counter lunch

Our daughter Helen’s unit is in high demand. One of the prospective buyers who looked at it on the weekend was to make an offer subject to sale of her own house. Helen and James rejected the offer on the grounds that a subject to sale offer/acceptance can drag on if it is difficult to sell for some reason....such as being next door to a bikie club house.

The woman is so keen to buy that she is arranging bridging finance and will make an offer of $340,000. Incredible; seeing that the initial price was $315,000+. East Victoria Park where Helen’s unit is, is a sought after area because of the proximity to pubs, restaurants and entertainment. However, there are quite a few yobbos and near-do-wells roaming the streets as well. If she cannot raise the finance by today, Helen and James will accept the current offer of $329,000.

Today a friend is taking me out to a tavern for a counter lunch, and on Friday I am having a few friends around for a BBQ lunch.
My Joan sometime in the 1970s

Stop Press: The woman who was after bridging finance was unsuccessful and so the previous offer has been accepted and signed up.

On Saturday Helen tried to contact me both on landline and my mobile. She left a message saying she was concerned that I was not answering either phone. As it happened dumbo me left my mobile home and took the cordless house phone with me in the car. Old timers' disease.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Busy busy!

Friday was a busy day for me. I collected my brother Graham at 6.20am and drove him to hospital in Claremont where he had a knock-out shot, an epidural and several injections of cortisone for a chronic back and leg pain. I collected him at around 4pm and it seems that the treatment has worked as he is pain free.

Yesterday Helen’s unit had its first (and last) ‘opening’. The agent rang her to say that there were eight couples at the opening and three were going to make an offer on the advertised price of $315,000+. Some time later she rang again to tell Helen that she had written up an offer of $329,000 from a couple who had the money and weren’t buying ‘subject to sale’ of another property. They are both ‘stoked’, as the younger generation would say and the timing is perfect as they move into their new house on the 14th of April.

Also yesterday I had Helen come with me to select some new spectacle frames. I cannot see well enough without my glasses to decide whether they look OK. The glasses...frames and lenses, are free courtesy of my private health fund.

I am prepping myself for the Rotary sponsored Bowel Scan. It is a test for Faecal Occult Blood. You don’t need to know the details of this procedure, but in preparation I have to abstain from red meat, horseradish,cantaloupe, raw turnips,broccoli,cauliflower,red radishes and parsnip over the five day period. Asprin and vitamin c in high doses are also out. The name for this test is a bit confusing. It is nothing to do with the Occult as we understand it. Check it out here.

It is now early; 6.10am Sunday morning and I am about to check the lotto results to see if I have beaten the other players and won the $20m prize. I reckon that my chances are about 17million to one, but if I do win I am not going to be telling you lot.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A bank statement

Up until our marriage in 1966, I managed my own finances. It wasn’t too complicated back then...just keep the cheque butts up to date and don’t go over your balance. After we got married, Joan took that task on-board and I had little to do with the finances until she left us on February 25th this year. Steep learning curve!

A couple of days ago I received a bank statement and found a rather large transfer of funds into one of Joan’s credit card accounts. I puzzled over what that amount of money was used for. She did purchase another overlocker sometime recently, but I thought it was mid 2010. It worried me so I went to the bank where the money was deposited and asked for their help in tracing it. After a bit of computer work the man said...’Does The Red Herring mean anything to you?’

It was for the cost of Helen and James’ small wedding breakfast at the riverside restaurant, The Red Herring! Mentioning it to other people, it seems that it is quite common to forget such a transfer or payment and panic; at least with my friends. We are now old!

I am off to the Public Trustee next Monday and I hope I have all the documents needed to allow them to process Joan’s Will and transfer shares and her car over to me. I will have to sell one of the cars at least and this is where one loses lots of money. Sad, but it has to be done.

Our son Martin has been given a $2,000 grant by CES to go on a 7 week course for construction scaffolding. I hope he completes it. He is intelligent and should do well. The qualification and several more safety courses etc may get him into the mining industry up North with its high salaries. It may be a turning point in his life. We hope! I’ve included Joan in that wish.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Give Peace a Chance...not likely!

On the 26th of this month our son Martin turns 40. Helen and James suggested that he Join us for a meal at a restaurant. He is busy that evening and has suggested that we combine his birthday celebration with Joan’s birthday on April the 2nd. We think that that is a great idea and will dine at a restaurant that Joan had planned to visit had she been able to manage it. We will be thinking of them both when we get together on the 2nd.

Mr Gaddafi is holding out against the rebels and the combined forces of the western powers. It does look as though he will win unless the westerners go beyond their U.N. mandate and specifically target Gaddafi himself. The participating western nations are trying out their expensive hardware on Gaddafi’s troops and equipment. I guess they need real war conditions to do that. It seems that all wars start on some sort of pretext; this skirmish will no doubt turn into a minor war.
As with Iraq, the initial jubilation at the success of the U.S. will quickly turn to hatred if western forces set foot on the ground.

‘Give Peace a Chance’....not very likely!

The Russian have some conflicting views on Libya. Prime Minister Putin, who is almost ready for another tilt at the Russian Presidency has been heaping scorn on the ‘crusading’ western forces in the air over Libya. But President Medvedev has been very critical of Putin’s description of the so called crusade. See here. Looks like the warm up to the Presidential elections. I’d rather see Putin put out to pasture.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Telemarketing scams

I am still a little lost. I have plenty of things to do and I can keep myself busy, but there are those times when I need to talk with Joan.

Watching television I see things which connect us.... a McDonalds advert about the ‘New Angus Beef Burger’ reminds me of the time we tried one. etc etc.

I am not going to get so lonely that I will seek another partner. I am past that. I have no interest in cohabitation and I should tell you here that I had a radical prostatectomy some eleven years ago and cannot, and do not want to, become intimate with anyone else. So there! I had enough hugs at the funeral to last the rest of my life.

Things will get better...I know several people who live by themselves and manage quite well.

Just lately I have been plagued by phone calls from, I suspect India, suggesting that my ‘Microsoft computer’ has a virus problem.

As it happens I don’t use a ‘Microsoft comuputer’ fact Microsoft don’t make computers. I; I previously would have said ‘we’, use Apple computers and when I tell the caller that I don’t want to buy what they are selling they hang up. I have had nuisance calls from them ever since...calls on our landline and VOiP phone with hangups when I pick up.

They will get tired of it.

I can understand how people, called at dinner time, get abusive and give the caller a serve.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mail from the past

In my search for relevant documents for the Public Trustee, I found a bundle of letters Joan wrote to her father during our time in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s.

The letters reminded me of the difficulties and rewards of teaching and living in PNG at the time. Many of the things, I had almost forgotten about us and our children.

I hope Martin and Helen will take the time to read them as Joan wrote in detail about their early childhood development.

Yesterday I received a card from the Cancer Council of W.A.

Rick is our niece's fiance in the U.S.. That his family would make such a memorial donation to the Cancer Council is incredibly moving. We have met Rick on a couple of occasions and Rick and Katherine were able to attend Helen and James’ wedding.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Of wars and natural disasters

It would seem that the rebels in Libya are going to be beaten. That is a pity (in my opinion) as Gaddafi has such bad dress-sense he should go. Seriously though, all the middle-east kingdoms/dictatorships favour one colour of their citizens. Muslims have a bad case of Catholic/Protestant type conflict. Democracy is not their bag! If the rebels are indeed beaten there will be lots of blood-letting.

I do find it amazing that the Libyan rebels seem to have the middle-east fixation of shooting thousands of rounds of ammunition into the air when they will need it when Gaddafi’s forces close in.

I lose my objectivity and think that the USA should just charge in and knock out Gaddafi’s miltiary. It seems that the French government would like to flex it’s military muscle and once again be a world power and try out their military muscle. Right at the moment I would think that most westeners would agree, but later condemn the United States as an aggressor.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns plague Japan. All they need now is a huge volcanic eruption on Mt Fuji.

During WW2 in Papua New Guinea, the Japanese military occupied the New Britain port of Rabaul. Air strikes by U.S. and Australian bombers saved a couple of bombs for the active volcanoes of the Rabaul caldera hoping for a volcanic stir-up. Unfortunately for the allies the volcanoes remained dormant until the 1990s.
Rabaul town. Photo taken by me in 1961. Rabaul has since been wiped out by volcanic eruptions and the main centre shifted away to Kokopo.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Helen's unit is on the market

I have collected most of the information to present to the Public Trustees for the settlement of Joan’s will. They will advise me of an appointment day and time and I hope everything will go smoothly after that.

Gradually, over the last year, I took over more of the household chores that Joan usually, washing and cleaning etc. Emptying the dishwasher when it was needed was a careful operation trying to make as little noise as possible if Joan was sleeping. I realised this morning that I was still trying to do it without clanging dishes and shutting cupboard doors gently. So, I figured it was time to get real and damn the noise. It felt good!

Helen’s unit is on the market and the real estate site demonstrates the magic of wide-angle photography. Her modest two bedroom apartment looks like a shopping mall. I wonder whether prospective buyers will be disappointed when they come to see it and find that it isn’t as large as depicted.

It can be seen here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Of fangs

Yesterday I had a young Indian man tell me to shut my mouth.

He happened to be the dentist I was being treated by.

This fellow is like greased lightning he did a descale of my teeth and a filling in just under 20 minutes. Mind you, I don’t have anywhere near a full mouth of teeth.

My previous dentist is an ex-student of mine; a lovely young Chinese/Australian gal whose business card gives her the name of The Dental Diva. She sings as she works. Unfortunately I have had to change dentists because she has taken time off work to bring up her young son.

I am starting to feel better about my life without Joan. Many people have given me advice and encouragement to ‘get on with it’.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I am hurting

I am going through a hard time; a time of guilt at how we managed Joan’s last hours.

The Silver Chain nurses told us that Joan’s agitation was ‘terminal anxiety’ and that it was a common occurrence.

In the times that she came out of the deep sleep we had to manage her efforts to get out of bed and we were shown how to administer an anti-anxiety drug to reduce the struggle that she was going through. Each time she ‘came around’ she looked at me and reached out for my hands to get her up and out. She couldn’t speak, but she looked into my eyes pleading for help with arms outstretched. With the medication, and when we held her hands she seemed to give in and lapsed back into sleep.

I don’t know how we could have done this better, but it is haunting me now.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A legal wrangle without a lawyer on side

in September last year, I was involved in a car crash. My vehicle was a 1992 Mazda 929 which I liked very much. It wasn’t worth a lot so I had it insured for just $2,000. The other car involved was a late model Honda Civic and it sustained considerable damage to its front. Both cars were towed away and I made a police report and an insurance company report online that day.

My insurance company wrote my car off and sent me a cheque for the balance of the $2,000 after taking out my $350 excess. I heard no more about the matter until February this year when I was served a General Procedure Claim from the Magistrates Court of Western Australia claiming the amount of $18,536. This came when we were under a lot of stress when my wife’s health was rapidly deteriorating.

I didn’t know whether it was a personal injury claim or vehicle damage claim. I rang the State Third Party Insurance Office and they assured me that if it were a personal injury claim they would have paid it out. My insurer told me that if the other party made a claim against my policy then they would pay it out.

The claim against me was by the driver’s wife who was not in the car and was not the registered owner???

The law firm serving the notice is in Queensland, so I emailed them to find out why his/her insurance firm had not made a claim against mine. Several email exchanges took place and eventually I was told not to worry about the matter as they had contacted my insurer and a cheque had been drawn and when they received it they would stop the court action.

I asked the law clerk with whom I had been corresponding what it was all about. She replied with...

'I reassure you that both parties involved in the incident were fully insured, this is merely a tactic that the insurance companies use to extract payment from each other, by using the right of subrogation in the Insurance Contracts Act. Rest assured it is being dealt with and I will personally ensure that it is finalised and will let you know the minute I receive payment from RAC.'

Payment was received and the Notice of Discontinuance has been made...whew!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

eulogy for Joan

Joan and I met at, and taught together, at Bridgetown High School after I returned from Papua New Guinea, and we married in 1966 transferring to Kwinana High School before taking up posts back in Papua New Guinea in 1970. Helen was born just six weeks before Joan flew to PNG to be with me. Martin was born in Wewak Hospital in 1972. I was manager of two Vocational Centres one in the Sepik District for four years and another two years in the Northern District. Joan taught at Maprik High School and at Popondetta Vocational School.

The Papua New Guinea years were most rewarding and full of adventure. We returned to W.A. in late 1975 and both took up teaching in local high schools. Joan did more study to complete a degree in Home Economics and eventually became head of department at several high schools. In all she completed three university degrees, the final degree being a Masters degree in Education.

For over 25 years she has been involved in fabric and textile arts groups and made many friends. Her sewing room is the typical sewing den...piled high with fabrics and ongoing projects.

She fought bravely for over a year...each different round of chemotherapy failing to improve her condition. Even, the SIRT treatment of injected radiated spheres did no good. The chemotherapy robbed her of one of her loves, that of cooking and creating new dishes. She was unable to eat for most of her treatment. Losing over 30 kilograms, she once quipped...’I’m the biggest loser!’

An avid reader, Joan has books in every room. Two are left with bookmarks, last read in hospital.

Many will miss her dearly...mostly her family.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The last will and testament

The Public Trustees have asked for a long list of ‘Administration Requirements’ to start processing Joan’s will. It is just as well that we gave our wills to the Public Trustee just a few weeks ago. Previously our daughter was the executor and I now see it would have been a very onerous task for her to process Joan's will.

Towards the end, I worried about the lack of knowledge I had about our and Joan’s financial affairs. I hesitated to ask her about her personal share portfolio because I felt it would signal her imminent demise. As it happened I had neither the time nor courage to ask her for details.

Now I am in a bit of a mess sorting through the dozens of files in the filing cabinet trying to find the information demanded. I will get through it and there is no deadline I have to meet.

I am going to be an evangelist telling everyone I know that couples should share knowledge about their financial affairs. I know a few survivors who have had big problems sorting out their partner's estate.

Before Joan left us she had me transfer a not-unsubstantial amount to our daughter and son-in-law to assist in the purchase of a home. That money came from her superannuation fund and no doubt we will pay capital gains tax on the sale of the shares.

Helen already owns her unit and once sold, they will be in a good financial position. The house they have purchased is walking distance from our house and it will be easy for me to visit them by walking or bicycle. They will take possession on April 14th. There are already a few jobs on Dad’s list for the new house.

Our Aladdin's Cave of information. Note the secure password bank on the side where no villain would think of looking.
I give thanks to the literally hundreds of friends who sent cards, personal messages and email messages of condolence to us, as well as the 100 plus people who attended Joan's funeral and wake afterwards. It has given us much comfort.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Eulogy for Joan

Joan’s sister Dorothy wrote the following for Joan’s eulogy.

My sister Joan Lilian was born on the 2nd April 1942 in Wongan Hills District Hospital. She was the first child of Edward and Doris McHugh and was an adored first grandchild for her maternal grandparents, aunts and uncle. She was a curly haired chubby little darling adored by all and much photographed by them all.

I was born in 1943 and then my little brother Ian in 1947. Our mother died when Joan was just seven years old. Dad refused to let the family be separated and so we experienced a succession of housekeepers. Joan quickly learned to be self sufficient and could cook an excellent jaffle. Her favourite was mashed potato and egg cooked until the bread was golden and the egg was still runny. She continued to be a good and inventive cook.

Days on the farm at Wongan Hills were full of fun. Joan's and my first adventure was when we were quite young. Dad was clearing bush some miles from home and he took us to check on the scrub rolling. We were given strict orders not to leave the car. Of course we got out and when we saw a snake Joan decided that we had to head for home. We walked and walked and got home to find that dad and mum were desperately organizing search parties to look for us in the bush. Dad had driven home the usual way but Joan had led us home safely through a back way.

When she learned to read, Joan's world changed. I well remember forfeiting my threepence pocket money to add to hers so that she could buy a little booklet of fairy stories. Her love of fantasy was born. Sewing lessons were a very special occasion for the girls at Wongan Hills Primary School. Believe it or not Joan hated hand sewing and would entertain a cluster of girls, telling stories of knights, dragons and princesses. The teacher seemed happy to ignore us on those afternoons and in return for the stories Joan wove for us we secretly did her sewing for her. She became an avid reader and I well remember stinking hot holidays at the Dandaragan farm when the weekly highlight for Joan was to borrow books from the Moora library. Three nonfiction and one fiction book plus my allocation were devoured each week and sometimes the librarian snuck in a few extra for her. Joan loved to read. She read broadly but her chosen genre was fantasy and in recent months she reread all her favourites.

On the farm we roamed the bush hunting for wildflowers, making a cubby under a wattle tree until Joan discovered a trap door spider's nest. We found fairy circles of mushrooms and even flew our home made flag in a private bush Anzac service. Joan led us on adventures too. I remember our trek across the dry stubble paddocks to the red lake and how she screamed when a little snake wriggled under a seated friend's bent legs across the cracked red mud on the edge of the lake.

Joan excelled at Geraldton High School and developed a determination to succeed. She acted in her first play at high school and was an excellent English student. She went on to the University of Western Australia, playing in many productions at the Dolphin Theatre..

Perhaps her love of textiles had its origins at age thirteen. Pedal pushers were the fashion statement for teenagers at that time. Our father brought us up strictly and disliked females in shorts or trousers. I can remember a very heated exchange between Joan and Dad but Joan made her point and sewed for herself a bright red pair of pedal pushers. After that she made most of her own clothes with Dad's approval or not.

Joan was a very special sister. She will be remembered for her determination in fighting cancer. More importantly she will be remembered for the way she introduced so many students to the joys of cooking and sewing and for her leadership in textiles groups in Western Australia.

Joan had a special place in our family life. We had many a wonderful Sundays and many family parties in the back yard at Canning Highway as well as memorable outings on Kevin's boat “Vile Body”.

Katherine who lives in San Francisco remembers and says “Aunty Joan was an exotic aunt. She thought and did things differently. Her art looked different to my Mum's, her food tasted different and her book selection was full of fantasies. And it was fascinating.

My fondest memories of Aunty Joan include:
- Christmas at Joan and Kevin's house in Bicton and the deliciously different dinners she created in her beautiful old dining room and the wonderful books she gave me every Christmas,
- weekend afternoons sitting on their back patio under the grapevine, watching Mum and Aunty Joan sipping champagne, listening to Dad and Kevin tell dirty jokes while we kids played in the pool with Helen and Martin or played with Defa the dog.
- more recently it has been Aunty Joan's passion and devotion to her crafts and her family.

I am so sad I am not there to say a better goodbye and to be with you all. I will miss Aunty Joan's sense of passion for her craft and hobbies, her creativity and individuality.”

Helen’s flower arrangement for Joan’s funeral service

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Adjusting to life without Joan

Joan’s sister Dorothy is by now in Hawaii. She flew out yesterday afternoon to meet her daughter Katherine’s mother-in-law to be. Katherine’s fiance is a medico recently discharged from the U.S. Military and has a house in Honolulu. He is ‘shouting’ the airfare for Dorothy and she will be there for just over a week.

Joan and I had a loose division of labour for all the tasks in running a household and our lives. I have had to learn a few tricks about paying the bills and even shopping. Something that would make Joan laugh is me paying some bills by cheque. She was the Lock Banker and I rarely paid for things online with the exception of eBay purchases and computer software. I will get there eventually.

Joan’s cat, Amber, was a gift from Dorothy soon after she was diagnosed with the BigC. Amber was supposed to provide some affection when Joan needed it, but unfortunately it attached itself to me and did not often come to Joan. I was determined to give her back to Dorothy, but since Joan left, the cat has become very friendly to me. I think she knows what I was planning. Years ago I owned a Datsun 260z and when it played up I would drive past a wrecker’s yard on the way home from work. I swear it made the Z go better for a few weeks.
Joan and Amber...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Goodbye Joan

Joan’s funeral service was simple but quite wonderful with the eulogy delivered by her sister Dorothy and Joan’s friend, Juliet. Through all the tears, it was wonderful to see so many, friends, colleagues and relatives, including one ex-student from our time at Bridgetown High School in 1965.

The wake was also nice; the house crowded with guests. Helen, Martin and James along with several of Helen’s close friends kept the food served and the drinks poured and there was little left after a few hours.

This morning I am again alone.

My Joan; taken just a few months ago.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A funeral and a wake

Helen and I have been working solidly today in preparation for the wake after Joan’s funeral.

We’ve done well would be proud of us. There is plenty of food and drink and the house has had a good clean-up.

Joan’s sister Dorothy is giving the eulogy; the initial part written by her, talks of the early years of their childhood and the part I wrote is about Joan’s later life, career and wide interests.

Yesterday Dorothy was in hospital to have a kidney stone blasted by a laser tool. She has been quite sick all day, but is getting better. Hope she is well enough to do the job as I am too fragile at the moment to be able to speak of our loss.

I have printed an A3 photograph of Joan taken when I was into B&W photography and it is framed and will be at the service. I also created a slide show of Joan from childhood to the present. It looks good. It will be running continuously at home when we have guests back.

This is Joan taken sometime in the 80s.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I am numb. I find it difficult to comprehend that just over a fortnight ago Joan was still driving her car. It is going to be hard when I start to dispose of her fabrics and equipment. Then there is the clothing and jewellery. I am hoping that friends will want most of her clothing.

She has two books by the West Australian artist, Sean Tan. It is a pity that she wasn’t here to see him get an Academy Award for the animated film of his last book, The Lost Thing. ...See here

Here is the cover.......