Courtesy of the “VIRUS”!

These images were taken from the window of my car this morning, May 21st 2020. The site is Braye Park Hill. When I was a kid there were frequent treks from 90 Georgetown Road Waratah, up the hill to the lookout. Three sixty degree views for as far as the eye could see. On those occasions when my Missionary Priest Uncle was home on holidays, it would be a race to the top, a race back home, jump in the Holden Special ( CDS992) and straight up to Hexham Oak for “Caramel Malteds” all round.

I love this place. Its managed to earn itself a sort of sleazy reputation in recent years. Such a shame. The view remains magnificent, though much has changed in terms of spread to the West, pollution from BHP towards the East. The aerodrome just a bit before the “gully line” intersection is completely engulfed by whatever the stadium is currently called, but the ocean is the same!

I chose to go there to view the a funeral. My cousin’s husband Gerry died. They lived in Canberra. My cousin Maureen is the daughter of my Mum’s brother Jack (John). He was the first of that generation of Grandma’s and Grand Dad’s children to die. Quite young. Perhaps only a little bit older than I am myself! The rest of them lived for decades! Mum was the last one. She made it to 96!

Maureen and her older sister Anne were part of the “older cousins” when I was a kid. Their Mum, Aunty Vi, was a stunningly interesting person to me. She laughed like a drain, she smoked, her sense of fun was a source of fascination to me. The “clan” would often come together usually around a celebration of another stage of development in the Vocation journeys of four of my siblings. Receptions into religious lives, ordinations, professions etc etc etc. They all turned up to my wedding – Aunty Clare and her husband Uncle Maurice, Uncle Frank and his wife Aunty Cath, Uncle Maurice (the priest), Uncle Kevin and his wife Aunty Thelma, Uncle Jack and wife Aunty Vi, Aunty Kath and her husband Uncle Tom.

The names could cause confusion. Boland was the family name BUT Aunty Clare married a man whose surname was Boland. Having “ Maurice” as his christian name doubled the confusion. Of course the confusion could have been solved if the tendency to call their children by their second name rather than their given name was not a choice Grandma and Grand Dad made! Their first-born Aunty Clare was actually Elizabeth Clare. Their son – Maurice – was actually James Maurice. Their daughter Pat (my Mum) was actually Mary Patricia. Grandma herself was actually Mary Anne but she thought the name sounded too plain so she renamed herself Mary Kathleen. Their first born son, Uncle Frank, Francis Leonard, had his name and gender wrongly recorded when his Grandfather, heavy German accent, was misunderstood by the public servant doing the job and recorded him as Frances Leonora. This was not discovered until he registered to sit the public service entrance exam at a time when females were not allowed to work in the public service!


As I grew older I began to realise how much of a challenge it must have been for the wives of Grandma’s three married sons to find their feet in the “dynasty”! My three “in law Aunties” were a source of endless fascination to me. Uncle Frank’s wife Cath was always referred to, in the “inner circle” of the gene pool, as Cath Jones until one day she said enough and the “Jones” was dropped. Aunty Thelma was a school teacher. Highly intelligent, greatly respected . Probably a bit more clever than the apple of Grandma’s eye , her husband Kevin! Aunty Vi was a hoot. Whenever they were around there was laughter and fun.They were wonderful. Whenever Aunty Vi and Aunty Thel would light up, there would be almost inaudible tut-tut-tutting from the gene pool elders! Aunty Clare smoked too. Usually (in my childhood days) from a long cigarette holder! Just before she was born (end of the 19th century!) Grandma and Grand Dad, a policeman, moved from their home in one of the little terrace houses near Nobbys to Carrington. I remember her telling me how disappointed she was that Carrington rather than Newcastle was recorded as their place of residence. I always wondered if she was a long lost member of some royal family!

The one thing that I remember had them all – in laws and outlaws- fiercely combative without doing physical harm was a card game!

It just seemed the correct place to go to today to watch the live stream of Gerry’s funeral. It surprised me and it still surprises me how connected I felt to the Liturgy. I wrestle with the Institution. For me its in its death throes but I also feel a connection with something still and there is was again today.

Watching from a panoramic back of the church view, in the front row I was stunned for a second to see the back of my Mum’s head. Hair colour. Head shape. Position of the shoulders – all my Mum! It was my cousin Maureen! I had noticed this similarity the last time I saw her and we had laughed about it and there it was again. On the other side of the 20 person gathering there was my cousin Ruth. Tall, regal, beautifully groomed, wonderful silvery white hair, daughter of Elizabeth Clare but of course it was my cousin Mary , daughter of Mary Kathleen, Mum’s younger sister.Maureen’s daughters read – Liz, the image of my memory of her Grandmother, my Aunty Vi. Margaret reminding me of Maree – daughter of the apple of my Uncle Kevin and Aunty Thel! Just astounding!

The technology was a little temperamental at times. The sound dropped out a bit. I did not miss the Priest’s enquiry as to how long Maureen had been married to Gerry and her response, loud, proud, clear and strong was “sixty years and four months.” So reminiscent of a response my Mum would have made even in such heart wrenching circumstances! Such a proclamation of the generations of strong, resilient women of our Boland gene pool, past present and future!

A most beautiful offering of “Amazing Grace” unaccompanied, from a most beautiful young man, Lachlan. Margaret’s son. Facial structure designed for singing. High cheekbones, tall frame, strong stance pitched perfectly for the entire hymn. No mean feat at the best of times, incredible in these circumstances!

Gerry Daley was hardly known to me.I met him probably less than ten times in my life. What a legacy he has provided. What a life! Well lived and so well loved.

“I Love Little Pussy“

It was Mother’s Day Eve, 2020. Excitement hanging in the air almost blotted out the pain of COVID19 lockdown. We were going to “ Zoom” together courtesy of our first born!

The day before we had received a message from south of the border to introduce us to “Mollie” the rescue cat. “She’s a bit old and a bit tubby” said first born son in a group text. “ Her name is Mollie”. How serendipitous I thought. Molly was the pet name my Grand Dad had for my Mum. “ He always called her Molly” my return text gushed at him! “ and old and tubby? It’ll be like me coming to stay at your place!”, chortling as I wrote!

There was a family photo Mollie, son, daughter in law and grandson. A love portrait study of son stroking the cat – sunlight streaming through the window and a somber, reflective “ Mollie sort of does Mona Lisa” moment captured by the photographer.

The day dawned with a group text from south of the border “ the cat got out”. First born daughter offered sage advice “ don’t let her out for at least the first week. A photo of the long legged, athletic grandson running – giving chase as Mollie made her break to freedom!

Time for the Zoom meeting arrived. Text message” have you found her?” “not yet”! And then “ she was in the tree” ! And there she was! Relief bordering on exuberance permeated the house!

And so the Zoom Meeting began. There we all were. Hundreds, more than a thousand miles apart by heart linked by insoluble love! First enquiry: ”How’s Mollie?”

“Well”, he who was eleven pounds thirteen ounces at birth begins “we have to tell you about the cat…..” I can already feel that anybody who has seen pictures of the cat has been wondering . “The cat it not real! Its been the best thirty bucks we’ve spent in the two dollar shop EVA!” SYNCHRONISED exhaling from all the attendees at this particular “meeting”!

“No, seriously Mum, we had to do something about the kookaburra. Someone said they are frightened by cats and so we put this in the window to keep it away!” Not even giving themselves one split second to make any further attempt to convince us they were serious, there was much showing and telling of the “Happy Mothers’ Day” box in which Mollie had been “wrapped”. They hugged and squeezed Mollie to show how her eyes bulged and her tongue stuck out to the accompaniment of howls of outage and gales of laughter!

I felt stupid for having cranked up from my memory bank, a kindergarten song from 1955 “I love little pussy, her coat is so warm and if I don’t hurt her, she’ll do me no harm. We’ll sit by the fire, I’ll give her some food and she’ll love me because I am gentle and good.” That led to a discussion between the cat owner and spouse and my older daughter remarking that they are the last generation who will remember The Benny Hill Show and be able to laugh about it, followed by a disclosure that the Benny Hill Theme music was going to be their (son’s and spouse’s) wedding music!

First born decided it was time for a drink. I had my water bottle and had just taken a massive gulp when I saw her return to the “control panel” with a bottle of champagne. I was mid swallow with the second gulp when she proclaimed “How do you open these things” which shocked me so much ( in her youth she had been referred to as “The Fish” – not because of her swimming ability rather as in “drinks like a fish”) that I guffawed with laughter – inhaling and exhaling at the same time. I began to choke! I could not breathe. I had water coming out of my mouth while trying to get down my throat, it came out of my nose. I was terrified. Family on line and in the room thought it was screamingly funny and at one stage there was a suggestion I may have lost bladder control! I DID NOT!

I couldn’t speak “Oh she gets these coughing fits every now and again…. you know your mother” chirped in Long Lean and Loveable. My whole life flashed before me and strangely enough I felt a sense of relief because I knew I was dying but at least I was not alone in a corridor waiting to be attached to a respirator having been triaged as too old and with significant health issues. I was surrounded by those I love most in the world.

What a way to go. But I didn’t! I am glad! Most of all I am thankful! I had no idea what I was getting into in 1971. My first grand daughter came to see me today. She did not go past the front fence. A friend of mine was waiting for the result of a COVID19 test. I had visited her recently. I was staying away from outsiders till the test results were in. The thing I had been most looking forward to was having a coffee with my first grandchild. I had been very miserable about not being able to do that. But there she was this morning. Flowers and gifts and a discussion across the fence.

Nearly 22 years ago, she was in the arms of my own Mother and it sets me to wondering how wonderful life is. There has been much waxing lyrical about how we are all in this together. I’m not too sure about that I have to say. Cynicism grabbed me round the throat this morning as I watched political commentators go on and on about curves and lock downs and budgets and unemployment and economic collapse and bloody football.

Having been immersed to the point of drowning in laughter, love, story, and silence; those awkward moments that happen when parents and their children and their children’s children, meet each other as adults, face to face and eye to eye. In that meeting I am reminded that this place, this moment, this time is where and when and why I am alive!

Thanks Molly!

A Different April 25

Every morning I am awakened by the glow of sunrise through my bedroom windows. First comes the indescribable colour of the glow. Its not orange. Its not red. Unlike the intense fear instilled by the reds and oranges of the recent bushfire season, the glow is like a call to be. As it intensifies, the branches of the frangipani trees that spread a leafy mantle of shade in the summer and the leaves on the fig trees across the road become silhouetted like Balinese shadow puppets! In summer the westerly wind ensures the windows are closed in defence against the heat.In autumn, windows open, a cool breeze makes me pull the rugs up to my ears to keep me warm!

This morning, I got out of bed realising that I was about to miss the most unique dawn service of my life. Rushing around I grabbed my candle, threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera ready to take the photo I had been planning for days. From the corner of the verandah I was going to capture, for all time, the sight of my candle’s glow against the backdrop of the rising sun’s glow and the awakening greens of the park. That was the plan!

My neighbours were already on their driveway and as I sat down The Rouse was sounded. Beautiful and eerie. Jim next door had his device tuned to the National Dawn Service. I heard the New Zealand Anthem and I sang ( in my squeaky tired morning voice) both verses of the National Anthem. Tears came. The Lone Piper, haunting in its melancholy marked the end of the service. Lone but not alone! I had a sense of being present. Mindfulness!

Waiting for me in my inbox was an email from my older daughter. She is up every morning to greet the dawn! The photo is her homage to the Dawn service on the Driveway. The candle is in one of her favourite possessions and I imagine her thought in using that one was of the young Aussies who spent all that time in Egypt in preparation for the slaughter they faced at Gallipoli. The red on which is rests would have been chosen to represent the sacrifice of thousands of men and women who died and those who live with the memory and injury, mental and physical, of their service. And of course there would be the flag!

In the tradition of generations of her family, she was raised a Catholic. She has spirituality and connection with the sacred that is greater than anything she may have received in her upbringing. It extends far beyond the boundaries of The Institution! She is wonderful.

And while the current affairs programs continue to turn the whole thing into a soppy, sentimental calendar event, bemoaning the fact that the current state of social distancing means we are really missing out on something today, I gained something so unexpected. Not only did I feel connected to my immediate community, I felt connected to and blessed by the gracious gift of the lives of my children and theirs and thankful for it all.

Lest we forget.

The white chrysanthemums

Today our son went to do the shopping. I don’t often purchase flowers for the house but for the last couple of weeks I have been longing for some household blooms, in addition to the three male varieties ( husband, son and pooch) with whom I am spending twenty four seven!

There were no blooms to be found last week. I put in my request again this week.

Son arrived home after venturing out into the danger zone. In an attempt to create a bit of humour, hiding something behind his back he announced “‘shut your eyes, Mum!” Little flutters of excitement began as I played myself into the scene. “Ta dah!” he exclaimed and there before me, crisp, clear, elegantly long stemmed, a bunch of white chrysanthemums!

“They’re chrysanthemums “ I said. “ Did they have others?” “ Yeah, but I recognised the name so I bought them for you.” Parts of my heart , the good, mother love, mother pride, selfless parts, melted in spite of those bits that remained as cold as ice!

He would recognise the name! Every year, as Mothers Day approaches I go on and on and on about how much I loathe, detest and abominate white chrysanthemums! Why? Some years ago I read a book titled “ The White Chrysanthemum”. I wish I still had it. It’s preface described in detail, why the flower is the perfect representation of the joy of being a mother.

In first bloom it is pristine! Beautiful. Tall! Stunning! All it needs is to be plonked into a vase. Any vase! Waterford crystal or plastic from the shit shop. Doesn’t matter which. Make sure there’s plenty of water, place it on a table, shelf, ledge, anywhere doesn’t matter really and set and forget!

And there it will remain, unattended, unnoticed, occasionally commented on for as long as you like! It doesn’t even wilt! The leaves on the stem might yellow a bit. If it’s left long enough a couple of leaves might fall off bringing the arrangement to your attention!

“ Time to do something about those flowers” and that is when the bunch is extracated from the vase and the truth is revealed! The odious water, the hideous, slimy fetid mush that was once the tall, strong, elegant stems, all of which is still connected to the white of those flowers! It almost seems a shame to get rid of them! And then you inhale! Enough said!

But, for now, those chrysanthemums are like glistening white gold to me as they look down from my best (and only) Waterford crystal vase. A reminder of our outside contact gift who is loyal, reliable and so very loved! Thank you, Joe.

I’ll get rid of them before they go beyond the use by date and next time, well, it’ll probably be chrysanthemums again but I won’t mind!!

How not to win friends and influence people!

The title of this post is a reminder to myself. This will not win friends and will not influence people I suspect. Here is my question: “When does our desire to feel good so that we don’t have to worry about other people feeling less than good, while trying to ignore how terribly vulnerable we feel, become a problem?” It seems to me that the Pollyanna view of the world is taking over in an attempt to hide the reality we are in!

For the last couple of nights a current affairs program I watch on a news provider I respect (and there are not many) has finished their show with images of grandchildren sending messages to the Grandparents who they are not able to visit and who are not able to visit them in the current situation. Beautiful children captured by their parents and sent to the television network. A veritable quilt of varieties of grandchildren! Big sisters, little sisters, big brothers, kids who speak for their younger siblings and introduce them with such gorgeousness it melts hearts everywhere. Adorably cute cheeky little kids who refuse to cooperate but perform for the camera anyway! Gorgeous! The show ends with thanks to all those people who have sent the messages in and a promise of even more tomorrow.

I have six grandchildren. I know what its like! I hear the word Grandma and I melt! The sense of honour and giftedness that I feel when I think of each of the six of them is indescribable. Six grandchildren from three of the four of my children. The eldest an adult uni student and essential worker, the youngest turned two last month. The lock down stopped us from being able to celebrate with her. The lock down prevents me from hugging my adult essential worker grand daughter who is confronted by regular abuse from angry, frustrated shoppers as they cannot get their toilet paper. She lives fifteen minutes drive from me but I may not visit her, see her face to face, have a coffee with her, go for a drive with her because of the “stay at home” rule. I do not object to the stay at home rule. Not one bit! I may not travel to her mother, my first born, born when I was 19 and look into her brown eyes, the eyes of her father and his mother, hold her hands and assure her that her first born is managing well!

But for the last two nights, I have been reminded that my grandchildren and I are separated. The thing about being Grandma for me is that each of my children, none of whom asked to be born, and who have children of their own, invite me into the lives of their families. They do not have to. It is not an entitlement for me. I treasure the invitation.

Admittedly, apart from the my oldest grandchild who lives independently, the others live some distance from me and I would not see them every day anyway. BUT I may not cross the border to be with my son and his family and my oldest grandson in another state. I may not drive the two and a half hour journey to be with my older daughter and her children. Nor may I offer my older daughter the reassuring comfort of telling her “I had a coffee with Gabi” nor may I take the risk of a quick trip down the M1 to see my younger daughter and her two young children.

( Explanation for those who wonder why may not and not cannot. Truth is I can do all of the above but under instruction from the government I am not allowed to so I may not. Its called civil obedience! One of the advantages of going to school in the 50’s and 60’s and learning grammar!)

We talk on line. That’s very special but its not the same. I do not look forward to the day when my two year old grand daughter blows me kisses in real life and makes heart shapes out of her hands to tell me she loves me as farewell gestures when saying goodbye face to face. Nor do I want to see her wrap her arms round herself as a hug for greeting Grandma!

I am sure that every Mum or Dad who sends their vision “in landscape please” to the television station is doing so in the strong belief that it will be of comfort to their parents and other family members. But what of those who watch it in the same way as we all look at cute posts on face book of cute babies doing cute things and feel happy because we get a giggle or a warm fuzzy, press “like” or send an emoji and get on with the other stuff we do. Could it be that our kids, other people’s kids are just a commodity to make us feel good whether we know them or not? Are we really entitled to be part of this communication anyway. I think not! Voyeurism?

The segment tonight seemed to be longer than last night and I cried. Admittedly there are lots of things going on in my life at the moment that have put me in a vulnerable place.

I am past that age. You know the one. The one that everyone is being told to take care of. I am not yet seventy but I do have underlying health issues. My husband is even older and has underlying health issues too. I am grateful for the concern that is expressed about us but I know the truth of the situation is that if all the people in the country who fit into the same category were infected by the virus the health system would be stuffed! When I hear “our most vulnerable” out of the mouths of politicians I wish I could believe the words were uttered with the same kind of respect that I as a kid (baby boomer) had for my Grandmothers and my Uncles and Aunties! Respect without agenda! Truth to tell we have lost that in this country.

Truth to tell what was once the age of wisdom is now the age of bleeding nuisance. There are more of us than any other generation before us courtesy of WWII celebrations. We have not ever had to go to war to save the country. The war that did involve our valiant war heroes and took our most wonderful youth was a war of shame that we should never have been involved in anyway! Vietnam . With advances in medical science it looks like we are going to live longer than was ever expected and we are not prepared to go silently into the night!!!! Although the virus might fix that I guess. Now our politicians are immersing themselves in the language of rally round the flag boys ( and girls) as we are reminded, daily , of the war we are in with the virus!

I do not want the last memory of seeing me for my grandchildren to be Grandma on FaceTime! I realise I have no control over that of course. I do not want my grandchildren or my children to be unable to be with me till the end if that is what they want to do. I was not present at the deaths of my parents or my deceased siblings but I do have indelible memories of their last words to me, my last words to them and peace! And I have no regrets. I hope each my grandchildren will come to have her or his own memory of how loved forever they are by Grandma and Grand Dad and remember our stories and tell them. That to me is eternity!

So, the message I am trying to convey is let’s all behave ourselves. Let’s all allow nature to take its course (as my own Grandmother used to say). Let us refuse to listen to the “influencers” who are not the experts. Let’s trust the experts and rely on their judgement. Let us remember that politicians tend to be experts in hearing and responding to the sound of their own voices!

Let us treasure what we have in terms of connection – real physical, worts and all, tangible, face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart connection with our loved ones and each other. Let us realise that connection with our loved ones is more important than connection with social media. Let us refuse to allow what we have there to become a commodity for making the media feel even more important that it already does!

The letter I would like to send!

Dear Mr Prime Minister,

It is 4.16 am on 21/3/2020 and I am unable to go back to sleep. I write when this happens. I am writing to you.

I wrote to you at the time of the bushfires and received a response listing all the fabulous, wonderful, brilliant things you seem to think you did to turn the world right again. I detected a tone of admonishment in your response. Recently you have become very good at admonishment!

The thought that woke me up this morning was a wondering moment. I am wondering how many politicians’ children are still going to school each day. Are your daughters?

My daughter is a teacher. She is a gifted, passionate, wonderful compassionate teacher. I spoke to her last night. One of the things she said really struck home. She explained how she had spent the morning before the start of classes, separating desks, wiping down surfaces, checking the online facilities and then “Mum, you know what? The bloody PENCILS! They share the pencils!” She brought this to the attention of the school executive and was given one box of extra pencils. What do kids do with pencils when they are musing? They chew on the end of them. They put them in their ears. They twist them round in their hair. They have been known to stick them up their noses. They stick them into each other! What did you do? Is it really possible for one person, or two people to oversee what every child in a class of 20, or in some cases many more, is doing every minute?

My daughter and others are providing resources from home to ensure that thing are sanitised. She is protecting herself. She has two dependent children one of whom attends the same primary school.

I am 68. Her childrens’ paternal grandparents are older than my husband and me. We all have conditions that make us more vulnerable than younger people. We are not in a position to care for any of our grandchildren. We cannot visit them. We are not alone of course! Her adult daughter is a student at university and lives away from home.

PLEASE CLOSE THE SCHOOLS!

Now, its not your fault that you and most politicians do not have a clue about how schools and in particular, classrooms function. When you visit them, the staff have usually had notice of your impending arrival. Kids have been prepped for days beforehand. Protocols have been explained. Classrooms tidied up. Special activities and events rehearsed and performed. So you cannot be expected to know of the extra pressure on teachers and support staff as parents drop their kids off before school and express, to the point of tears, their concerns about things in general and their children in particular. The teachers and support staff CANNOT GUARANTEE that their children will not be exposed or, worse yet, become symptomatic. I was a teacher for forty years. I was on executive teams. I retired in 2016. Things have changed I know, but not that much really. I believe that after the call to be a parent there is no greater calling than the call to teach. If our teachers get sick what then? Some of them are getting sick already.

PLEASE CLOSE THE SCHOOLS.

It seems to me that our teachers and support staff are expendable! Relief teachers are a dime a dozen. This is not a statement about their quality of teaching or their professionalism. Schools could not function without them. They just can’t get jobs! Its a “budget” thing! My grandchildren will not be adversely affected for life if they are out of school for however long it takes for us to get ahead of the curve, build the bridge, cushion the impact, keep on running or any other jingoistic platitude you or your team might come up with. In the event of their mother becoming ill or, heaven forbid, dying that impact will be unmeasurable!

PLEASE CLOSE THE SCHOOLS. PLEASE PROTECT OUR TEACHERS AND THE STAFF WHO SUPPORT THEM. IT CANNOT BE BUSINESS AS USUAL WITH OUR MOST PRICELESS RESOURCE – OUR CHILDREN.

I know its one of those Federal/State issues, the out clause that was used during the bushfire crisis, but can we allow it to put at risk our children?

I have had it clearly explained to me that the virus in children is not as bad, unless of course they are chronically ill themselves with life threatening conditions. Can that really be a reason for continuing to expose them to the risk of infection?

Have we become a people so focussed on making sure the budget will balance and our political party will win the next election that we can do this to our children, to our families?

PLEASE CLOSE THE SCHOOLS.

Its a puzzlement!

Four ten a.m. and I am awake and itchy! Its not an outside itch! Its an inside itch that is running rampant from the top of my brain to the bottom of my belly. Its almost as if I have been taken over by some stirring up of nerves and sensitivities and it’s doing my head in!

Trying to be rational, I rationalise. It started with the hottest summer on record. It got its wind with the silly season of December. It took off with the horror, terror, helplessness of the bush fires. The fires became town fires too close to turning into city fires. The breath was sucked out of me by the smoke when the whole world turned orange! Sights and smells coupled with generosity and courage that we have never seen before!

Always there was the good old Aussie Spirit.

The Leader of the country let me and all of us down for too long. Jingoism is his strong suit. Rain came, as rain does when Nature has decided enough is enough. Out went the fires and on came the floods! Soaking rain. Humidity. Mosquitoes and all the while, in the background references to a bug in China!

Holden went up shit creek and our Holden shat itself and we were without it for nearly four weeks!

Husband went to hospital. Into isolation! It’s not the bug from China but no more than two visitors at a time. Wash your hands, put on mask and gown. His kidneys played up in reaction to the antibiotics given to blanket bomb the infection in a place that remains undetermined!

Talk of the virus from China went up a notch. Hand sanitisers get lots of attention in the hospital waiting room. People frown at coughers and sneezers. We start to make a mental note of things we might need to do. A trip to the doctor and a blood test. I am assured that my blood is worth bottling . White and red blood cells are ready to “fight off any virus that might be heading your way”. I think how lovely!

We’re safe! She’ll right mate! Its not going to happen here! We’re in a much better situation than anywhere else in the world because we are Aussies! Aussie Spirit will get us through!

WOOFTA! Left hook, right jab and we are in it up to our necks.

Suddenly I am old. Suddenly I am among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. Young people will get the virus but it won’t knock out their respiratory systems. We don’t have enough intensive care beds to deal with the high point in “the curve”. We have to get ahead of “the curve”! If the virus gets you, its triage for those over the age of – I’m not sure but I think I am much closer to it than I am to 50! If you’ve got a heart condition, diabetes, lung problems get ready to be triaged! If you’re on blood thinners, here comes triage! If you are obese, here comes triage!

Don’t go out. Stay home. Wash your hands. Social Distance. Self Isolation. Don’t shake hands. Don’t touch your face. Sneeze and cough into your elbow. Enjoy the extra money the government is giving you to spend to boost the economy which is going down the toilet quicker than you can say toilet paper!

TOILET PAPER! Good LORD! Has there ever been such on outbreak of sheer madness in relation to toilet paper? Clubs offer packs of it as prizes in the Friday raffle. People come to blows over it. Reefing if from trollies, hurling abuse, getting arrested and the Leader says “we’ll get through this by being Australians….. the wartime spirit will return and bring us together” … bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!

Its madness! This too shall pass of course. I am hoping I am not going to “pass” , the acceptable euphemism for death, with it! There’s not much more for me to do with my life of course. Had a career, banged my head on the glass ceiling enough to nearly, but not quite, break through. I became a parent, a matriarch. Had nearly fifty years of marriage. I really can’t complain should the virus take me out! But I would like to make it as a writer and story teller and live long enough for each of my grandchildren to have his or her own story memory of me to tell to their grandchildren. That’s eternity to me!

And I’d like to go without the worry of the two remaining generations of my family having to worry about toilet paper, or getting to the shops without have to battle through the aisles, or being fearful about what to do with their kids if the schools close but they still have to work, or how to live without a wage for two months of unpaid leave!

I’d like the media to take some responsibility for the fact that its influence is enormous and ensure that it is not adding to the havoc! That’ll be the day!

First world problems I know. Its the world we have created, selfishly. Australia and the good old Aussie Spirit are being tested. So much of the “legend” is proving to be myth!

Wrapped in sadness.

For the last few days I have been thinking that “ the world” or perhaps “my world” needs to just pause. How long? Five minutes, ten minutes? I’m not sure. Just a pause. The world seems to have gone mad and I don’t recognise it!

So many messages! Drought, flood, fire, virus and this latest tragedy of the slaughter of innocence in Brisbane!

Today I attended the funeral of my cardiologist. She was 45, loved wife, beloved mother, brilliant clinician, daughter and sister. Before the funeral I received a photo from my niece. A tiny baby wrapped beside her Dad on the day she was born. I was astounded by the resemblance between Paul, my brother, aged in his 40s and my own son now about the same age. It took my breath away a bit. Motor- neurone disease took him away in 2016 after living with it for nearly 20 years. The same bastard of a disease took Angela away in less than five months.

I hope I never have to be present at the funeral of any of my children. I watched her Mum and Dad. When he arrived at the church, he patted the coffin like a Dad patting a small child , a sort of “ there, there, you’ll be alright” gesture of Dad love. Her Mum was Angela fast forward into grand parenthood! She walked like her, stood like her, gesticulated like her. She greeted her family with bear hugs. And she stood at the head of the coffin, placed her hands on either side , bent over and kissed it twice. Strength. Dignity. Endurance in the midst of what must still be mind shattering disbelief! And then in a gesture of “ you’ve done well” she gave it a double tap and turned into the arms of family.

Angela’s husband and children stoic and shell shocked shattered. Dignified. Her husband spoke truth that hundreds of others would be unable to speak. Raw and honest agony. The “ why” that has no answer. And then he told their story and there was laughter, sage nodding of heads and comforting calm. Her sister, her little sister, spoke acknowledgement of the custodians of Country . Something not included in the traditional Christian rubric. I felt wholeness. Tenderness and gratitude , the admiration of a “ little” sister for her beloved “big sister”!

Her professional medical colleagues told of her incredible ability within the context of her compassion, sensitivity, determination, organisation, grace and balance.

“ Grief is the price we pay for love” from the presider. A message from her Majesty’s Christmas message no less. I wondered if Angela’s reaction to this may have been similar to her reaction to my “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington! I suppose you get that all the time.” “Yes” she said, but not usually from someone YOUR age!’ I never mentioned it again.

My beautiful niece, Sophia , Paul’s daughter, wrote of a conversation with her three year old daughter Tilly

“Although my daughter and Dad will never meet in this life, I have a strong belief they ‘know’ each other…..

This is what she said to me ‘ Grandpa Paul was with me today’

Taken aback I asked ‘ Really? What were you doing?’

‘Drawing together. He was drawing in his wheel barrow’

‘Oh! Do you mean his wheel chair?’

‘Yes. The wheel chair . We were drawing in it. Why was he in a wheelchair?’

‘Because his arms and legs didn’t work.’

‘Why?’

‘Because he had an illness.’

‘Why’

‘We don’t know , darling.’

‘Mmmmm… maybe he ate something.’

‘Maybe.’

‘He’s not sick anymore. He’s fine now’

‘That’s right baby’

‘I want to see him’

‘Me too. He’s not alive anymore darling. But Mummy has him in her heart.’

‘He’s in my heart too. A circle. I miss him’

Sophie writes ‘I don’t want to give the simplistic and abstract narrative of heaven. But I do want her to follow her intuition and know about our energies and essence.

I want her to know the ordinariness and finality of death but not to feel overwhelmed or scared”

Sophia is “living” Paul ! It’s not about heaven for me. It’s about story and presence and listening and telling and awe filled silences and joy filled cacophony. . Spirit and essence – they remain.

Today in sadness and gratitude I paused and in so doing I was once more astounded by the power of lives well lived and well loved and the absolute certainty that those lives never end.

The teaching myth.

I worked as a teacher for more than forty years. I loved my work. I had a good career with hard won opportunity. Our family was financially secure thanks to my salary and each of our children received opportunities to grow academically, emotionally and spiritually. Each of them is an adult making positive contributions to their communities.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles however!

” Those who can do. Those who can’t teach” was and sometimes still is an oft expressed opinion by shock jocks, politicians, and other social commentators. The myth of “back to basics, “It was good enough for me so it’s good enough for them ” was and sometimes still is, a much flaunted criticism when unions might have suggested that conditions needed improvement or rates of pay needed revamping. And then there was the myth of ” all those holidays”!

I retired 2016. My daughter is teacher. It irks me every year to watch her and listen to the amount of extra work, demanded extra commitment, unfair and ignorant criticism and judgement that she as a teacher, endures. She works in Catholic Education, as I did but I know too, that societal expectations in relation to the vocation of teaching being the great panacea for every social challenge in the western world, applies across the general teaching of children spectrum!

In addition to her classroom management she is part of the school’s creative team. This, in is fledgling state when she began at her school, was a school based only CAPA night.  It has now grown into a local town annual juggernaut, involving all schools in her area. There is a team of teachers at the school and her roles include costume making, choreography and one of the choirs. This thrills me no end because I was a music teacher and she resisted singing or belonging to a choir all her life.  Now I get to watch her conduct!

Initially as part of the CAPA team her particular focus, which is also the area of her strength as a teacher, were the “challenging boys” group. Kids who we now recognise as being the spectrum. Kids who cannot deal with changes in routine, changes in teaching styles. We all know at least one of them! Beautiful kids. Kids whose parents love them and are looking for support. Parents whose lives are filled with anxiety about what’s ahead. Yes, like every other parent worth his or her salt, but with so much more to contend with because we live in a world of judgement and societal expectation that  interprets all challenging behaviour as bad behaviour from bad kid because of bad parents. When her group of boys won their dance section in  the local Eisteddfod, heads were turned!

Three days before her scheduled return to work after the Christmas holidays, this year, I had three missed calls from her. We played tag and missed each other all day. Two  days later I connected with her. She had been in hospital on our tag playing day, She had fallen on rocks in the river at the front of her home and had smashed her knee. Relieved that a scan and  x-ray had shown no breakages she was in great pain from severe bruising. Leg wrapped and on crutches, she sounded tired and miserable. I live about 3 hours away from her.

What she dropped into the conversation next made my blood boil.  It took me back to hours, days, weeks of time I spent in addition to face to face teaching for 40 years- from my very first year of teaching as a 22 year old in 1973. She had spent 5 hours on Saturday in her classroom, with her co-worker, a teacher, mother, wife too, setting up the classroom for the new year.

Every time I have been into her classroom, an open learning space for about 60 kids under the care of a teaching team of three and support staff, it is like being smacked over the head with colour, creativity, happiness, organisation and wonder. Desks are work stations. There’s a reading corner. Among  memories, etched into my agony file for the rest of my life , as a member of  the executive team of the school I worked in, is the violent objection from staff when the suggestion was made that the introduction of Dadirri Time be introduced into the daily program . Ten minutes, every day, when all activity stopped and the opportunity was provided for stillness and awareness. I could write  book about that!  Its called Mindfulness now!

There’s a  creative space. When I was teaching in my early years and indeed until much later, if the desks were in a straight row, the teacher’s desk was tidy, the class roll was readily available for checking and chalk dust was all over the ledge during the day (proof of teaching “industry”) and the ledge was spotless at the start of the morning (proof of due diligence!) I got a tick for classroom organisation! I remember the reaction bordering on riotous, when a suggestion was made that we investigate “ new desks” to set up learning hubs when technology had arrived at kids with their own laptops in class.

Kids had books, for which they were individually responsible. Now a days, they have portfolios! Kids had their own lunch or a lunch order neither of which had anything to do with me! Now their lunchboxes are checked. They have fruit breaks. They have water bottles. All great initiatives in the name of self sufficiency and good health but extra on top of extra work, organisation, responsibility for the teachers who get belted around the head (metaphorically) for not sticking to the three Rs!

I have moved into the billabong of retirement. That silted up at both ends of life, literally and metaphorically, where one’s experience, gifts, talents, opinion can be comfortably dismissed, without objection from the keepers of power with one word. “Boomer”. I don’t miss the classroom. But I do miss the interaction with young people. I did not ever cope well with being challenged in the classroom until my own children became old enough and I guess felt safe enough to challenge me. Now I stand back in awe as I watch three of them as parents. My teacher daughter is the mother of three. My son is the father on one. My younger daughter is the mother of two. When I hear them tell me of the challenges they meet as their own children go through school I sometimes feel great angst!

Not every teacher is like my daughter and her friend. At the age of forty eight, she is convinced she has missed her chance for promotion. It is my firm belief, based only on observations and without any empirical evidence, that teaching is no longer seen as a profession, a calling, a vocation. It is rather, a guarantee of great holidays, working 9 to 3, five days a week, getting reasonable pay and something that after a few years gives you the chance to teach overseas, or grab a promotion that gets you out of the classroom.

When young people with stars in their eyes find it’s not quite like that, they walk away.

Of course, there are many magnificent, gifted, talented teachers who, in these days celebrity notoriety are out there and everyone knows them! Thats great! . But be assured for every one of them there are many. many more just like them. My daughter is one of them.

I firmly believe that the greatest calling in life is the call to be a Parent. Equally firmly I believe that after that calling, the next greatest calling is the call to teach.