A Thursday with Gran (BEFORE School starts back.)

A warning dear reader. This is something of a therapy session for me, writing this. It is more for the sake of someday looking back and pondering on the madness of it all. Or just not at all.

Regards, Mr PP.

—-o—-

About mid November last year, Gran’s bowels became problematic for us all as a family. I could be sitting at the computer of an evening once the Little Fellas are in bed and a voice will come from the darkened living room outside the office door.

“I’ve just had another Big Bowel Action.”

That’s exactly how Gran says it. Like its something of a Big League abdominal achievement. Other times she groans and moans at the table or gets up at 3 in the morning. Again. And again. And again. Banging and scraping her walking aid along the doors and walls. There are track marks across the paint at the bottom of the bedroom and bathroom doors. Often I just lay in bed awake until it’s time to get up for work.

There’s been a trip to the Emergency Department and multiple phone calls to the office of Gran’s specialist in Perth. Nothing however to explain anything, or remedy anything. In 2021, it appears that we are witnessing the gradual decline of Gran’s liver.

—-o—-

This morning however, Gran is decidedly cheery when she wheels herself out to the breakfast table.

“Hello boys, all ready for school?”

There are vague, almost bleak looks from both Little Fellas.

“School starts next week Gran.”

“What’s the day today?”

“It’s Thursday. They start back next Monday.” I reply.

Despite this, when Gran returns to her bedroom for her morning insulin injection she proceeds to tell the morning nurse that it’s the first day of school. Then the nurse comes back out to the dining area looking a little bit confused herself.

“No, it’s next week.” I say.

“Oh. OK. That makes sense.”

“Yes.”

When Gran returns to the table fifteen minutes later following her shower she asks when school starts back. 😦

“Next Monday. There is no school today.” I shout from the kitchen sink.

“What day is it today?”

“It’s Thursday today. School starts again next week.”

Later in the day, Gran has a morning visit from a carer. Myself and the Little Fellas are playing Uno Flip at the kitchen table. Grans doing her jigsaw puzzle and telling the carer all sorts of stories and mistruths about what’s been happening recently.

I don’t really listen in to these stories and prefer, if I’m doing housework, to just plug myself into the ipod and switch off. It usually ends up with me getting mad and frustrated by what Gran tells the carers and I just wish she would wear the hearing aids that it took us ten months and several thousand to get sorted for her. She might get the stories straight then.

After the carer leaves I pack up two young boys, two electronic tablets (to keep the boys occupied) and one Gran for her podiatrist appointment. We get Gran inside and sorted and then return to the car where I close my eyes and rest while the boys play electronic games in the back.

There is no rest.

It is noisy, despite the entertainment and I get the sense that Gran’s appointment is probably nearing an end already, so I go in to fetch her.

She’s just leaving the room and I hear the podiatrist “Ok, enjoy the rest of your day.”

“What was that?” Gran asks.

“ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR DAY!”

“Oh, yes. Was that it.” says Gran, as she wheels off in the wrong direction down the corrider. Before I can correct her, the podiatrist calls out. “Other way . . .”

On the way home I ask Gran if she’s going out for afternoon tea today with the carers, to which I get –

“No, better head straight home. My tummies a bit rumbly. I should have gone there I think.”

I can almost sense the boys in the back tense up, hoping that we’ll all get home safe before Grans bowels empty themselves in our clean car.

We make it. More importantly, Gran makes it. We all assist in getting the house un-locked and Gran up to the door and delivered, clear of obstructions to the bathroom.

I prepare Gran one of her scientifically formulated nutrition drinks. The ones that require booking an appointment with a nutritionist and Mrs PP once again sitting through something of an nutritional care plan with some recommended guidelines that Gran not only doesn’t hear – but hasn’t got any intention of even following.

With this scientifically formulated milk drink I give Gran her Anti-Exploding Bowel tablet which she probably didn’t take this morning. It’s an educated guess.

I then go and turn the bathroom fan on – and turn off the tap that Gran has left running. Not just because she can’t hear it running, but she probably can’t see it either.

While Gran is not in her room I take her drink bottle and fill it up with fresh water. Pick her book up off the floor. Pick up the sugar-free lolly wrappers to put in the bin and clear the empty drink glasses.

It’s a guess, but I suspect it’s the sugar-free sweeteners in the lollies that Gran stashes away that is giving us all grief. Plus the Tic-Tacs. Although I find more Tic-Tacs on the floor than I’m sure she is consuming herself.

Respite is Coming.

This year, given Gran is now needing insulin injections administered to her, we have decided to plan some respite breaks for us in advance for the year ahead. Ordinarily, Mrs PP would just phone the community service we use and book whenever they had a bed available.

But things have changed.

Mrs PP kept getting a recorded message from the new service provider and wasn’t able to speak to anyone. Eventually she left a message. A week later she got a call back where she discovered it was no longer possible to call and book. Now she has to make an appointment to talk to a counsellor. This was another three odd days later and was thankfully at least a phone call instead of a physical appointment. Though it still took rearranging the day and missing a few planned events during school holidays so that Mrs PP could take the phone appointment and make the bookings for the dates we decided on.

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Days of Summer

Summer in this part of the world has a particular soundtrack.

There is the click and ticks of the cicadas. The percussive rhythm that gives the heartbeat to the days of summer. There are the intermittent melodies of birds visiting the garden. The embellishments to the audible tapestry . . . infrequent squeals of kids playing in the park, the buzz of a motorcycle climbing up a hilly road, a simple dog bark or the beep of a car horn. A noisy flock of galahs, or lorikeets, or black cockatoos passing overhead.

There are driving surges of trucks accelerating along a road or the more gentle, lower frequency sounds of a street sweeper or the penetrating crashing of waves at the beach in the distance. The early morning swishing of dancing sprinklers at the park or the spraying of garden hoses. The dissident, sweeping woosh of the black easterlies as they slip through the air. Clean and warm and sucking every ounce of moisture out of the garden that they possibly can. And then continuing on and on.

And always. . .

Somewhere in the background. . .

In a passing car, or Gran’s bedroom, or on a spare tv or radio . . .

Is the commentary of the cricket games.

Banana leaves forming in the patio garden are a haven for frogs during the hot weather.

After a brief spell stepping back from the garden it is nearly time to start back into it and take it to the next level. The black easterlies have been strong and persistent. And I’m going to say that in my opinion, they are also early this year.

In retrospect, we’ve had it good the last couple of years. So I guess they are making up for it – and our garden is doing very poorly defending itself. Its also possible that the warm weather will continue for another two, maybe even three months yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

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Christmas Day 2020

It was an early start. With two Little Fellas there was no alternative beginning to the day.

We opened some presents and prepared some food. The Little Fellas were excited to be spending Christmas with their Aunty and Uncle. Aunty has been ‘trapped’ overseas during COVID Lockdowns and was only ‘released’ from a stint in quarantine in Perth a little while ago.

It was an overcast day from start to finish, but barmy and comfortable.

We played down at the park. Welcomed our guests and shared lunch. Played at the park some more. The park was amazing. Buzzing with an array or cultures. After living here for some time it has been observed that generally there is a pretty good majority of folks that probably don’t celebrate Christmas as such, and throng to the park to celebrate the day, the weather, family and friends.

The morning seemed to be families celebrating Christmas, whereas from about early afternoon onwards the vibe changed to a different feel. Just families and friends having a good time and playing games and chatting. Kids in the playground. Music in various spots. Cricket games and basketball and football (soccer). It was an awesome atmosphere. I’ve never really seen it like that before.

Later in the evening a truck drove slowly by with a huge bull in the back advertising the coming Rodeo. It was a little bit surreal to see such a huge bull being driven around town as sort of a showcase on Christmas Day. When we saw the truck pull over into the park we just had to go and check out this weird advertising stunt.

Bruce the Bull, three years of age and a huge beast that filled the back of the truck almost. It really was a bizarre spectacle. I walked back home shaking my head.

We could all sense Gran struggling a bit today. She’s not been quite right recently and spent a few hours up at Emergency ward at the Hospital a couple of days ago. She really struggled right from breakfast, peaked about afternoon and crashed later in the day after polishing off a rather decent sized meal for her standards. She was missing Pa which is totally understandable. She has also been requesting particular things or simply just expecting them to appear without telling anyone – and is then disappointed when it doesn’t come to fruition and is confused and irritated. It’s mainly around food cravings. She’s not really been talking very much either.

Potatoes from the garden put to use in a potato salad for Christmas lunch.

It was a relatively relaxing day spent within our family bubble! I am tired and I’m off to get some rest.

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The Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn – Dec. 21st 2020

This coming Monday the 21st of December 2020 is the Great Conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn.

Given that this is so close to Christmas it is often mistakenly called the Christmas Star.

This event occurs in a regular pattern once every 20 years however what makes this event special is the rare opportunity to see the planets appearing close enough to almost be a single ‘star’. This is brilliant for astronomers as they can observe this event within the same field of view of their telescope. According to what I have read, the planets last appeared this close in 1623.

It is also an event of significance because it’s been close to 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, making for easy observation.

They won’t appear this close again until 2080.

I’d also add that December 21st is also when the Sun’s track across the Australian sky reaches its highest point. It is the day that we have the most daylight hours of any other day in the year. The summer solstice more frequently occurs on 22 December, but can occur between the 21st and 23rd of December.

As always, these things have an equal and opposite effect and so in the Northern Hemisphere it will also be the mark of the Winter Solstice. I have always had a sense, particularly in our Southern Hemisphere Winter Solstice, that the days actually got shorter and darker after the solstice. I have not been mistaken and I have found the explanation at last!

The winter solstice is the shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere but not the day with the latest sunrise and earliest sunset. How is that possible?

The winter solstice doesn’t coincide with the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset. Those actually occur about two weeks before and two weeks after the winter solstice. This is because we are changing our distance from the sun due to our elliptical, not circular, orbit, which changes the speed at which we orbit.

This comes from this webpage from The Conversation.

A few more things to know if you wish to view this event.

The Dyer Observatory which is owned and operated by Vanderbilt University and is located in Brentwood, Tennessee, will have a live streaming of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

You can view the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn Live here.

For those is the US it will be live between 5 – 6pm CST on the 21st of December 2020.

For those viewing in the UK it should be live by 11 pm on the 21st of December.

For us Aussies it will be live on Tuesday the 22nd of December from 10 -11am EST.

Of course, for us West Aussies we’ll get it a little earlier and can watch it eating breakfast at 7am on the 22nd. . . . and if you haven’t worked it out – 9:30 am for SA.

This ABC site has a great slide view of what to be looking for in the evening sky.

And for those that can remember I just had to include this for some reminiscing.

Further Information:

Ideas for the Summer Solstice

Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory

USA Today article

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Plastic in Paradise

This morning we ventured out early to get to Little Beach.

Little Beach is very much an iconic local beach about 35 kms (or just over 20 miles) east of Albany.

We arrived around 5:30 to make sandcastles and enjoy the water. Despite the early conditions it was a bit more choppy than expected in the water, even without much wind.

The Little Fellas enjoyed the surf and the sandcastle making. Mrs PP strolled about checking things out.

What we found disturbing was the tiny fragments of plastic that was being washed up onto the beach. We started collecting just general rubbish and ended up with a decent bucket full of stuff. The beach certainly looked clean enough, but on closer inspection the plastic was everywhere.

It was also found at different parts of the beach depending on where the tide had made its mark. Now to put things into perspective, this is still not a lot of waste. Earlier in the year we visited Viet Nam and the southern beach we visited there was terribly littered.

Viet Nam – not just surface litter, but layered into the sand.

Now the sand in Viet Nam was quite clean in and of itself, however it was showered daily in gifts of refuse that came constantly and overwhelming on the waves of the South China Sea.

This is not occurring to the same extent on our local beaches. Yet what we found this morning was still an eye opener. Instead of collecting sea shells I found myself almost in a mesmeric state, walking the beach and picking out tiny fragments of plastic from amongst seaweed, shells and the drying corpses of fish and sea life.

The orange bottle tops give a good indication of the size of the items found.

Some items were easy to locate. Others blended in well. Twisted bits of white plastic pipe looked like tube worm shells. Chunks of foam were hard to discern from fragments of surf smashed cuttlebone. Knots of bright fishing line and netting resembled bright pieces of seaweed. We could see them all there, right next to each other.

Probably the most intriguing find was the foil wrapper of a potato crisp packet that was actually imbedded into part of the sand dune and was only exposed because the waves had started to erode a part of the dunes away. This packet was clearly deposited in situ over the last couple of decades and was very much intact and able to be read clearly.

A close second was the green glass Coca Cola bottle found by Mrs PP which we’ve not seen on supermarket shelves for a very long time. The top was faded enough to suggest that perhaps it had been floating out at sea a little while!

From the edge of the surf this wrapper was probably 2 metres up and a half a metre under the surface of the soil. The mind boggles.

We returned home and I spread out our beachcombing find to have a closer inspection. Not a bad haul really. Further motivation to reduce our plastic use and consumption.

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