Monday, May 30, 2011

Dad's strength

I have recently received news from my sister that Dad is not doing well, and it is suspected that there may some serious health issues in his jaw area - further tests need to be conducted.  The cancer word has been spoken, and we are all playing the waiting game now.

While of course, my first reaction is one of sadness with a hint of hope, time and further medical tests will only help us to know more.  But in contemplating all of this news, I couldn't help but think of Dad as the person I have always known him to be...a person who is strong, perhaps too stubborn at times, with a soft marshmallow centre. Then I started thinking about my memories of him when I was a child. 

He apparently was always someone who looked after his body and his health somewhat, and when I was about 9 years old he built himself a gym in my old converted playroom in the basement, (which had originally been a coal shuttle room for the then coal burning furnace).  He had black inner tube tyres, cut and nailed to a surface to act as the pull springs for strength, he improvised many pieces of gym equipment, and did his workouts in this converted room. 

But before then, as a small child I can remember him doing push-ups with one arm extended, the other at his side, as he lay sideways on the floor.  Sometimes, when we were just relaxing in the lounge room, he would lay on the floor on his back, with his arms and open hands over his head, and I would stand on his hands (I was aged probably about 4) and he would raise his arms straight above his head and balance me on his arms, then let me down gently.  That I realised later, takes great strength!

I have so many stories that I could write about him and my memories of his resolution of spirit, but I will choose to remember that man, aged probably about 37 who lifted me to the heavens and brought me back again.  The man who carried me on his shoulders, and never let anyone or anything hurt me.

This is the same man who carried my body into the doctor's office for treatments after a gymnastics accident when I was 14, as I could not put  pressure on my grossly swollen knee,  This is the man who waited up for me at night when I was on a date, and came to my rescue whenever my car broke down, or I was scared by strange noises when alone at night, or when I got older taught me how to debate with a stubborn individual.  This man is my Dad. 

I just hope this almost 94 year old man has enough stubbornness to tell his body to get over it, and get on with life.....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

More of my reminisces about Venice

I was speaking recently with John (Delizie restaurant) about our booking for High Tea, and once again we started reminiscing about Venice and its beauty. 

Out of curiosity I went Google searching for the hotel we stayed in, and I believe it was the Albergo (Hotel) Bonvecchiati.
Hotel Bonvecchiati
Hotel BonvecchiatiWe were very spoiled by hotel staff. Our room was spacious for Chris, I and Maddie and the bathroom was unique. We just needed to get used to the plumbing! The shower had a curious quirk, and would sometimes run perfectly, and other times while having a shower the pressure would change and we would go from hot to cold to 'what the h*ll!' when we were showering - but the view from our shower window, (which was modestly placed ) was magnificent!   Somehow showering was the least of our issues!
One of the things that impressed me about Venice was not just the architecture, the beauty, the mystique and the atmosphere.  But  -- the people we met. 

Back at the hotel, on my first morning of having breakfast, as I struggled to carry my coffee back to my table, during the smorgasbord offering, a smiling waiter appeared with his tray, and broken English, and offered to carry my coffee for me.  I smiled, thanked him gratefully, and discovered a friend.  Each morning when we appeared for breakfast, he was there as if waiting for us.  He followed me, with his tray, and carried my hot drinks and juice, and once seated, made sure I was happy.  There are so many stories about him, and his wonderful way of showing kindness - all this without any tips, just genuine kindness. But I will get back to that.

The next person I had such a wonderful experience with was an optometrist.  I had broken the arm off my new set of glasses in Florence, and stuck with wearing my old glasses, we went looking for an optician or optometrist to assist me to repair my lenses.  We found her just off the main arena of the Piazza San Marco.  She looked at me, and listened to my story and then said she could help.  She asked us to come back in about 15 minutes, and literally closed her shop while she worked in her back room on my lenses frame.  (I was amazed that she would put so much effort into this task, which involved her complete attention, to the extent that she shut her doors, and locked any potential clients out!) When we returned, she had indeed repaired my glasses and frame, and was ready and open for business again.  I was so relieved, and was willing to pay any amount of money for her services.  She charged me very little money, and just smiled.  I offered to give her more, but she wouldn't take it.  What a blessing she was!

These people kept entering our lives.  It was incredible. But the memory that stands out the most, about these unique people was my 'waiter'.  No matter what we needed done, to having an umbrella repaired, to needing a drink or snack at odd times, to just finally preparing our departure, he was there.  Always smiling, and always helpful.

My last memory of our stay there, was getting into the water taxi at the hotel's 'dock', watching our luggage being lifted into the taxi, and looking back to see 'my waiter' who had walked us out to the dock, standing there waving a cheerful and sad goodbye.  What a sad feeling there was, as he waved and blew a kiss as I smiled and waved goodbye.  What a memory of grace and true gentleness these people gave to me!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Jock and my shopping

Jock has always been a curious border collie and as I have stated before, he is definitely a gentleman's gentleman.  In fact, sometimes he can be quite snobbish, and tilt his head at things. 

Today I went into town to finish birthday shopping for Chris who is celebrating another birthday.  We really celebrate them here!  Balloons, gifts, laughter, and the birthday person gets to choose their activities for the day - the rest of us are his servants....unfortunately, this year, with Maddie at university, I am the sole servant..lucky me!

Anyway, back to Jock....I was struggling with packages in the spitting rain to bring them in from the car to the house, when Jock decided that he had to inspect them. Now when Jock wants to do something he just stands in your way--constantly.  So, in the spitting rain, and with wet ground all around, I opened up the main bag and showed him the surprise for Chris' birthday--he was duly impressed.

But then Strap realised that he should also be informed, so he also stepped in front of my progress, and made me show him.  He just stood and smiled at me. 

By this time I was feeling fairly damp, and my shopping bags were doing a good job to hold it all together, but with the boys blessing, I brought the packages inside, and hid them behind closed doors in the spare room.

I toweled myself off, smiled at the boys who were standing at the back door, both with silly grins on their faces then went upstairs to help Chris unpack the groceries I had asked him to bring him, in order to distract him in my birthday quests. 

What I want to know is how do they know what a birthday is, and how did they know that my packages today would be worth looking at - sometimes they just ignore my shopping trips.  I think Jock must be psychic...only thing I can think of at the moment!

Happy Birthday, Chrisco!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Music and dreaming

As I grew older, my sister had a record player in our bedroom.  It was the sort that could hold a pile of LP's and drop each one gently onto the spinning turntable, when the last one was finished playing.  Pretty great invention, I thought at the time.

Anyway, I would lay on my bed and listen to some of her music - from memory she probably liked all sorts of music, but my most favourite choices were her stacks of Broadway Musicals.  Sometimes, on a quiet night, when I was still quite young, we would go to bed, and I would drift off to sleep with such wonderful songs and music  from Rodgers and Hammerstein or Lerner and Lowe playing softly in the background.

By the time I was about 10, my love for this music had grown immensely.  As I would lay in bed at night, I would imagine scenes where these songs were being sung, and get lost in the 'movie' that was happening in my mind. I loved the music from Flower Drum Song, West Side Story, South Pacific, Irma la Douce, My Fair Lady...I had never seen any of these musicals performed, so I was free to create my own story lines.  It was wonderful!

I remember how excitedly one day I had hopped downstairs to the kitchen to tell my Mum and Dad that I had just written a stage show, and it was a musical.  I was incorporating all of my favourite songs from the LPs I listened to at night, and had an idea of sets and choreography.  I was so excited, and wanted to know how I could start my production.  I was a bit flattened when they told me that it would be almost impossible due to royalty payments and property rights of the composers.  I was disappointed, but never lost the excitement of that day.  The music still made me picture my musical the way it was meant to be performed, and in my imagination it was a brilliant success!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Witches and such

As I stated earlier, I had a very active imagination as a child.  (It still has a mind of its own, and often surprises me with what it creates, and makes my eyes recognise.....) 

As a child, I lived in a two-storey house, and the bedroom I shared with my sister was at the top of the stairs, turn right. My single bed was the closest one to the doorway, and the light from the central hallway, was usually the only light that I would use as I jumped into bed. I say 'jump', because that is what I did every night. I would literally start my jump as I entered the doorway to my bedroom, from the hallway. I would start the small sprint and jump straight into the middle of my bed. My feet were never allowed to touch the floor at night.

You see, there was a witch that lived under my bed, and for some reason, no matter how many times I tried to get my sister, or my parents to see her, and tell her "To Get Lost!", they just could never see her. I realised then, that she was only my witch, and I was going to have to deal with her myself.
She made me dream about her, and sometimes when I had trouble sleeping, I could hear her breathing her dark, smelly breath under my bed, and I would wish that she would disappear. But she never did. She just layed there, waiting....I never knew for sure what she would do to me, I guess I just didn't want to know, but I knew instinctively that it wouldn't be good!

One night in my usual jump mode, I made it onto the bed, and slid under the covers in practically one swift movement.  I was getting good at this!  As I was just starting to get sleepy, and drift off to sleep, my witch did something unusual.  She slid one of her long, scrawny arms up from under my bed, and in the space between my mattress and the headboard, she used her long skinny fingers and touched my neck.  In fact, she did more than just touch, she tried to grab it! 

I was terrified!  I sat straight up with the covers clutched all around me.  If she couldn't see my skin, she couldn't harm me.  I sat like that for a long time.  I kept looking through the hallway reflected light at my bedhead and the space in between it and my mattress.  After I while, I grabbed some of my bedspread and shoved it into that space, so that it would close the gap, and protect me.  After a long time, I finally laid my head down on my pillow again, and I guess I eventually went to sleep.  When I opened my eyes again, it was morning, and my older sister was now in her bed, and the witch was gone.  I was safe for a while longer. 

Bedtimes for me were a tough time - sometimes I still feel the threatening presence of my witch, but as I am now older and bigger, I figure that I would be able to fight her off.  She'll never win.  Witches never do!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

So close to the end...

We are so very close to putting our home on the market, in preparation for our move to Cairns, and yet there seems to be something that just keeps stopping us....just recently, it was a broken water main which was tracked by the plumbers to a leak in the main line underground, emanating from the backyard.  That's going to cost us a pretty penny!  Now we have to have ditches dug, and new main line pipes buried, and additional pipe connections made to all of our sprinkler and taps connections outside.......bother!

I know that I seem to have a strong connection with this house, always have had, but it is as if it won't let me go!  I think I have told you about the previous spirits that lived here, and the children's laughter that was often heard, when I was here .... maybe they are worried that they will be left behind and forgotten about.... even as I write this, it seems a strange thing to say.. but I don't know how else to express what is going on here.

I will always love the time I spent living here, and my memory bank is so full - but it is time to move on -- for all of us.

Keep your fingers crossed that we are able to accomplish this marketing task and the move in the very near future!  It is a wonderful home, but it is time for someone else to also experience the love here, and the knowledge that not only does one love living here, but that the house and land loves back......

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A wonderful night

Today is our wedding anniversary. 12 years!  Our friends can't believe it has been that many years so far---for us it is like we have just begun, and yet it feels like we have always been like this.....we have been through so much together - deaths, raising a little girl and life....

So last night we celebrated and went out to a choice restaurant - Delizie- on the banks of the Fitzroy river, and connected to the Dramatic Arts Theatre and Art Gallery in town.  It was like stepping back into a wonderful night in Venice.  The atmosphere was relaxing and romantic, the service was impeccable, and the food had such original and authentic tastes.  We really loved just being us, there.

File:Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, by Canaletto, 1730. Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge.jpg
Gianni De Luca and John Cornwell are the proprietors of Delizie and we had the pleasure of meeting them again last night.  John heads the front of the restaurant during the meal service, and is the most congenial host and a font of information about their food, their background, and the antiques that they have on display.  Gianni, who we had the rare pleasure of meeting after the meals service, and as the night was drawing to a close told us much loved stories of Venice and the 10 years he spent there.  His stories brought back so many memories of the Piazza San Marco and our trip to Venice.  It was a busy place during the day, with merchants, tourists, normal trade, and pigeons--lots of pigeons!  But at night, it was magical! It was peaceful, and softly lit and often there would be music playing and the feeling of stepping back in time. That was my favourite time of all.
We would walk through the Piazza and listen to the soft music in the background, and I would marvel at the difference that was so obvious from the day's atmosphere. 

So last night at Delizie, we were able to feel a bit transported back to a time of peacefulness, good food, good music, and memories which were so special to all of us. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Winter chills

Last week when our daughter visited it was so warm at times here that she would turn on the air conditioner in her room, just to keep the heat away.  The sun was out every day, (it is still really) but the days were warm and I was in t-shirts and short sleeved lightweight summer gear.

I know it is Autumn here now, but it has suddenly hit with a vengeance.  It is down to 10' C overnight, and I have a heater on in the main family living area.  The rest of the house is very cold at night, and I am suffering a bit.

I think the sudden onset of the cold snap has been too drastic, and of all things my feet are suffering. It is impossible for me to get them warm.  I am beginning to think that this goes back to an incident that happened many years ago, when I was a very young teenager, back in Burlington and was ice-skating in Crapo Park!

My friends and I used to skate on the frozen pond in the park, and laughed and enjoyed the snow and the coloured lights and the cups of hot cocoa in the skate house.  There was usually a large group of us, and as the night would progress we would end up playing 'Crack the Whip' a game on ice where each member of the 'Whip' holds onto the waist of the person in front of them and as the lead skater takes off, the whip, especially if it is a long one, snakes and whips all around the ice.  It was really a lot of fun, and inevitably the whip would break, and bodies would go flying!  By the end of the night we were usually drenched in snow and ice, and looking for a warm room, and the chance to get out of our damp snow gear.

On one particular night, my parents were supposed to pick me up at the park at a set time, and dutifully, I went into the skate house and removed my skates and damp socks and put on another pair of socks before putting on my shoes and then trudged through the pathway and snow to the road where they would be picking me up.

But something happened that night.  They didn't arrive. 

I stood in the dark cold and waited, not sure whether to go back into the skate house, then noticed that even it was shutting for the night, so I had no option.  In those days there were no mobile phones, so no means of contacting my parents.  I just had to wait.  About 3/4 of an hour went by, and my feet were numb from the cold and damp ground.  They were beginning to hurt, and I was getting very worried.  I felt something must have happened as I could not figure out what was taking them so long. 

I debated trying to walk out onto the main road to try to flag a ride to get home, but my feet were so sore, I could barely walk.

Finally they arrived.  I can't remember the excuse, but there probably was one. 

I just got in the back seat of the car, and couldn't stop shivering.  My feet were stinging and burning, and I started to almost cry in pain. 

When I got home, I carefully took off my shoes and socks which involved also taking off the tights and other snow gear I had worn to go skating.  My feet were bright red, and felt on fire.

My mum brought me a large container of lukewarm water, and I soaked them near a heat source, while I sat and shivered in my bathrobe.

Eventually they began to feel somewhat normal again, and I could move my toes.  But the chill had set in, and it took a long time for my body to get warm, and for me to be able to walk that night, without feeling the pain.

To this day, as soon as the weather changes, my feet are my barometer. They become increasingly cold and it is very difficult for me to get them to warm up.

I will be glad when we move to Cairns.  I will never complain about the tropics.  Just want to feel warmth again!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Burlington Liar's Club

I was born in Burlington, Iowa.

I discovered many years later that it was named Burlington because John B. Gray, was the first American to purchase a lot in the early 1833 settlement, and named it for his former home, Burlington, Vermont.  Before that I believe it was referred to as Shoquoquon by the native Sac and Fox Indians.  Shoquoquon referred to the flint hills which were abundant. 

One of my brother in-laws was a "Brit", and also the Dad of my soccer playing nephew who came to visit us recently....anyway, Storey never stopped bugging me about being a Yank and coming from Burlington.  In the entire clan we two were the only fair headed heathen!  He would stand at one end of the family photos with his red hair, and I at the other with my blond hair --the rest were all black or dark brown - made for some unusual photos - but we enjoyed it!

Storey had/has a great sense of humour, and used to call me on my birthday and just hum the American National Anthem and hang up.

Then he discovered the Burlington Liar's Club.  He started sending me newspaper clippings that were popping up in publications. I thought it was a joke, but when investigating a bit further I discovered it was a real Club - what a great idea!

In the States alone there are 23 different cities spread throughout the 50 States named Burlington.  I was amazed.  I haven't yet begun to discover how many Burlingtons there are in the world but the name is growing!

So I investigated a bit further and discovered the Burlington Liar's Club has a web-site.  It is a lot of fun and one of the things that they do annually is run a contest for the best Burlington Liar!

Here is a link:

I thought you might enjoy these!


Flip and our two beautiful grandchildren flew off to their home today, very early this morning.  There were a few tears from us at the airport, but lots of smiles all the same!

It has made me think about some of the things we did this week while they were here, and one of my favourite memories was taking Isaac to our local zoo to see our Chimps, Ocky and Cassie at feeding time (refer to:  My Chimps -

Isaac loved the Chimps and the Koalas and especially loved running!  He kept injecting me with fuel so that I could run as fast as he could.  I told him that I thought I probably needed Super Fuel!  It was a good afternoon, and that night when we got home we were telling Poppy about our adventures with Mummy, and Baby Em and what we had done. 

Then Isaac turned to Poppy and said, "I think Jananna is crazy!"
"No, she's not crazy Isaac,", Poppy replied.  "She's loopy!"
"Loopy!", Isaac squealed!  "Yes, she is!" 
"Jananna, You're loopy!" he yelled as he ran towards me in a cheeky manner...
"All the better to love you with my darlin'", I smiled as I hugged him.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


The other day I was out in the backyard with our daughter Flip and our two beautiful grandchildren as they planted strawberries and mint and begonias with Poppy.  It was a great photo opportunity, and as the kids were kicking the soccer ball to our 2 border collies - Jock and Strap- Strap was busy trying to give more kisses to Emily's poor little face.

I commented on some great photos that I was getting, and was happily snapping away.

Flip then turned to Chris and said "Weren't we going to MOW?" she said spelling out the letters.
"Oh, yeah," Chris replied.

I stopped  taking photos and looked at them quizzically, thinking what were they were going to MOW?  Movies on Web?  Media On Workspace?  What the heck is MOW and what are they going to do with it?

Poppy then said, come on kids - we're going to let Isaac help Poppy drive the 'tractor' (ride on mower).

"Oh!  Mow!  Of course!"

Sometimes I really can be so blonde!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why I love living here

Western Magpie

I went out on the front deck earlier, armed with my usual 'treats' for the birds.  I had only just stepped towards the railing, when - Whoosh!  3 of our young magpies swooped in and sat on the top wooden railing looking at me expectedly.  I had to chuckle - they are anything if not subtle!

I broke off a piece of food and placed it on the railing a short distance away from the magpie on my left....he deftly grabbed it in his beak and flew away to enjoy it.  The next magpie on my right, who was a bit more shy, was hesitant to do anything like that, but I placed the food anyway--to his left.  He just sat and looked at me. 

The 3rd magpie was very timid, and was happy that I was also throwing food over the deck to the lawn below - he/she flew down immediately to start his feast, as did the honey-eaters!

But my little mate still sat on the deck railing looking at me expectantly.  I told him that I would try again, and this time placed the food to his right, and then stepped back 1 step--he almost smiled!  He quickly took the food and flew off.....we all have our eating habits--just have to figure out which one suits each bird!

What I am enjoying is that Magpies as a species are very territorial, and can get very aggressive when it comes to protecting their 'area'.  They have been known to bombdive anyone in 'their area' in order to chase the intruder away.  They will peck and cause harm to any intruders, if they feel they are being threatened- they are very protective of their environment. 

But not these guys--I think that in a very short time, I will be hand-feeding has been fun watching them grow up here....