Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cultured day

P. and I went to Melbourne Uni. staff club at lunchtime for a two-hour workshop on cheese with Will Studd, ably chaired by Dr Heather Benbow from the Arts Faculty assisted by her colleagues. We had nine cheeses and one butter and five glasses of alcohol matched to the wines, plus commentary from the maestro. It was very enjoyable, informative and delicious. In the evening, we joined Frank for a meal at old standby Wasabi in Clarendon Street, then went to the opening concert for the Australian National Academy of Music orchestra featuring Butterworth's 'A Shropshire Lad', Wilfred Lehmann's 'Symphonic Requiem for the Child Victims of War' and a Neilson stunning symphony, no. 4. Solo violin on the Lehmann was the excellent Shane Chen and the guest conductor was Stanley Dodds. It was mostly on a war theme and was a knockout, helped by a thunderstorm in the middle complete with lightning.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sort of normal

Today, P., Frank and I did normal mall shopping at Victoria Gardens, then had brunch at Backstreet Eating (very nice). I also organised visits from St Vincent de Paul and Doncare on Monday to check which things they would take away from Montmorency. It will be interesting to see what they want and what will need to be junked. Nice fish dinner tonight: beer-battered whiting, even if I do say so myself.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Caritas nix

Today, P. and I went out to Montmorency, took a copy of Dad's will to the conveyancing lawyer as requested, then did a bit of work moving books and cleaning out the fridges and pantry. All charities contacted so far have fallen through, probably because they are too stretched. St Vinnies have promised to inspect early next week and take stuff next week. Then we will probably need to pay a rubbish removalist to take the rest. Ho hum.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Work day, no clearing

Nothing much happened on clearing Dad's house today. I contacted DonCare and they said they would ring back. They didn't, at least not yet. I didn't hear from anyone else. However, I did some work on the short stories which was very satisfying. Tonight, P. has made delicious vera bolognese for dinner.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Parade - again

I never win competitions, but this time I did for one I didn't really want. P., Frank and I saw a very good semi-staged production of U.S. musical, 'Parade' at 45downstairs last year. This one, at the Malthouse, was put on by a legal-beagles panto group. It wasn't bad, though vocally and dramatically not nearly as good as the one at 45downstairs. The sound was up way too high, leaching the singers of any subtlety whatever. The audience, of rabbits' friends and relations mostly I suppose, seemed to enjoy it. Anyway, it was free and a good distraction. I can understand why Stephen Sondheim rejected doing this story about a lynching in the Deep South. It is a tough ask for a musical.

More picking and packing

Today, P. and I went to Montmorency and did a small amount of packing and picking up a few things we wanted. I still haven't heard from one of the charities we want to take the very good stuff. If they haven't got in touch by tomorrow morning, I'll try others. It's a slow process, though I'm inclined to get the Junkman and just say, 'Take it away.'

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Lazy Sunday and Monday

After lots of running around during the last couple of weeks, P. and I had a lazy day at home, doing the Sunday crossword. Soto ayam for dinner. Not much else apart from a few phone calls. The same on Monday along with starting a few efforts about clearing the house at Montmorency and notifying more people about Dad's death. I've also got a new job, cleaning up a few (26) short stories in translation from Chinese so I've started on that.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Montmorency again

Today, P. and I went to Montmorency where we met my sister and began our part of the clearing up. Sally and Roger had already done an enormous amount of cleaning and sorting. Julie and I chose what we wanted from the things in the house and now we are ready to divest. Julie is also undertaking the great task of sifting the finances and doing last year's missed tax return. We left around three. On Monday, I'll move on to phase two: getting people to clear the house of rubbish, giveaways and op-shop goodies.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Quiet day

This morning, P. and I did long overdue shopping then had a very quiet day, resting mainly. There were a few administrative things to do about Dad's death but not many, and a few calls to make. We had a fish dinner, with oysters and then garlic scallops.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Richard Avedon

It seems improbable that my Dad died early this morning, followed by a lot of notifications, arrangements etc. The undertaker visited: not a common event here, so far. Tonight, P. and I had another diversion. The Potter Gallery, University of Melbourne, event consisted of a visit to the Richard Avedon, US portrait photographer, exhibition at the Gallery followed by a lecture by the curator (from the National Portrait Gallery) and an American professorial academic via Paris, Abigail Solomon-Godeau. The curator said nothing that wasn't in the captions for the exhibition except for the last three minutes. Professor Hyphen, hiding behind a bush of grey hair, was quite good but couldn't manage her visuals, surely an essential part of the accomplishments of an art history academic. Lots of apologies and returning to the script with 'okay' meaning 'let's get back to it'. Afterwards, we had a passable dinner at Jimmy Watson's, then home for a well-earned rest.

Vale Bob Sims

Dad died at around 3.20am. My sister, Julie, was there. He hasn't had a good time since his operation on 3 February in the middle of the night. However, a bit over two weeks has given an opportunity to say goodbye. He didn't want a funeral but the electronic responses have provided a wonderful substitute for a draughty church with a soporific vicar or a soulless funeral parlour with a misnamed celebrant. If anyone wants to donate to the Diamond Valley Learning Centre with which he and my mother had a long association, please phone them on 9435 9060.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Day at palliative care

My sister, Julie, was there early this morning. I came later and she went to work. The doctors said that Dad was going to die in days, not weeks. Later the nurses said it might be shorter than that. Then they said, somewhat hysterically, that Julie should be called back from work. I said, 'No, Dad has been like this for days.' Sure enough, he was still with us when Julie came back from work. Meanwhile, the nurses had given me a pamphlet about dying. I refrained from telling them I wasn't, at least not just yet. Then they asked about funeral arrangements. Meanwhile, Dad was stopping breathing, then coughing and starting again, as he has for days. No one knows when it is going to happen, but Dad is destined to die shortly. And I wish people would stop telling me how sad it is. My mother, just before she died, said, 'Don't be sad. There's no point in being sad.' Dad says he's had a good life and is ready to go. So stop saying, as the doctors do, 'If the worst should happen.' We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

3-D Dutchman

Tonight was a significant diversion. P., Frank and I went to St Kilda where we had a good, quick meal at Cicciolino's (we were lucky to get in). Then we were off to the Palais to see Victorian Opera's excellent production of Wagner's 'Flying Dutchman'. Initially, I was sceptical about the 3-D but in the third act it really made a difference and heightened the drama and made the whole mad plot work (a bit). The Australian Youth Orchestra played very well indeed, conducted by Richard Mills. American Lori Phillips was outstanding as Senta well supported by the rest of the cast. It was an amazing night at the opera and good to see the old Palais back to its opera presenting past.


As my sister is holding the fort at Wantirna Medical Centre, I am taking the opportunity to rest a bit and do some humdrum tasks such as cancelling Dad's booking at Viewbank Gardens, checking theatre and music tickets and getting a visa for Vietnam. I might also go to the pharmacy at the Health Centre for more pills and do a small amount of shopping (though we can probably hold off till Thursday). There is little change with Dad, though he seems to be sleeping more and being a bit more 'off the air'.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Rubbery figures

Dad had an okay day today and was visited by his brother Ray and his wife Heather, which he seemed to enjoy. However, he is wandering a bit in his head. The last estimate from the doctors late this arvo was from going downhill rapidly and dying in three hours to dying within the next two weeks to survival by a miracle but then needing a high-care nursing home, which he doesn't want. All we can do is wait and see.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Leaving on a jet plane

All is fairly quiet at Wantirna medical whatnot. Dad is eating a bit (a very little bit) more and is more perky and alert. He had a quiet night, but Kit said he tried to get out of bed twice and had to be dissuaded by her and a nurse. Over lunch, I said to him that there were only two ways he was getting out of there: either in a box or getting better and going down the corridor to rehab. He understood perfectly, though I'm not sure how convinced he is that getting better depends on eating and drinking a bit more. He is receiving no medication at present or any assisted breathing. The palliative care doctors at Box Hill Hospital said they've never seen anyone as clear, calm and rational about dying. But he might not be ready for it yet. We've just dropped Kit and Nick at the airport, Jo having taken over at Wantirna. It was very good to catch up with them, albeit in difficult and strained circumstances.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

In the room

Dad is now in Wantirna Palliative Care. Neither we nor the doctors know what is going to happen. He is eating a little and drinking a bit. So all we can do is wait and see. Normal visiting hours are 11am to 8pm. Kit stayed overnight tonight. Nick came home with Peter and I and we had dinner at an Indian in Johnston Street. Most other places were booked out with Valentine's Day couples. Tomorrow, we'll head to Wantirna in the morning before Kit and Nick depart for Sydney in the afternoon.


Dad will be moving some time today to Wantirna Palliative Care. He had a good night according to Nick who was on duty. More advice as it comes.

Go slow

Yesterday, (Friday 13), Dad changed his mind on treatment and decided that it was time to go. There was a long train of medical experts in groups or singly, physio., renal, medical, surgical, palliative, all of whom gave the same message: that the best that could be hoped for, in the unlikely event that Dad recovered, would be high level nursing home care. By the end of the day, the surgical team agreed to provide treatment that Dad asked for, but not anything else. So by the end of the day, he was still receiving oxygen but nothing else. No drip and no antibiotics. He will be moved at some point, probably Monday, to Wantirna Palliative Care which has staff more focused on patient comfort. Nick stayed overnight at the hospital while Kit and I came home for a simple dinner as it was pouring with rain and we didn't want to go out. P. had dinner with Robin's dinner group.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Roamin' in the Haemoglobin

The doctors still seem a bit mystified. They have typed Dad's blood for a potential infusion of haemoglobin and some kidney experts have been to look and gone away to ponder. No one seems to know exactly what is happening. My sister, Julie, is on duty tonight and I will be back in the morning with Kit and Nick, assuming Qantas have done their stuff and brought them from Sydney. (I don't trust anything to do with the leprechaun.) Sorry for the awful joke, but at times like these...

Little changing

Last night, there was very little change in Dad's condition, apart from him taking off his oxygen a few times (it is very uncomfortable, I know). He is more wakeful at night than during the day but is very tired all the time and getting very bored, but does not want to listen to music, radio or watch television. My sister, Julie, has taken over for today and Kit and Nick will arrive from Sydney tomorrow morning. Visiting hours are 8am to 8pm at Box Hill Hospital, though at those times he is mainly sleeping and is not very communicative. We can only wait and see.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Difficult times

Yesterday, Dad's doctor had a meeting with Julie and I. It seems probable that Dad's kidneys are not improving and will fail fairly soon. The options are to suspend treatment, which is only oxygen, a hydrating drip and antibiotics for his infected lungs. This would result in fairly rapid death. Or these treatments could be continued and give a slightly more protracted life but not long. Death from kidney failure is apparently not painful. Dad opted for keeping going with the treatments and asked, typically, whether that decision would cause any trouble for anyone. Though he is sleeping a lot of the time, he seems comfortable. Excepting a miracle, he could last for as little as three days (which I doubt as he is very strong) or up to two weeks, but the doctors cannot really say. One surgeon has said that the kidneys sometimes take up to two weeks to recover, but perhaps he is an optimist. At the moment, Julie and I are taking turn about to stay overnight in case he needs anything.

Monday, February 09, 2015

At Box Hill

Yesterday, there was little change with Dad though he did sleep for much of the day. There were no indications that his kidneys were improving, which is bad news. However, he did eat some soup and drink some tea and juice. Julie, heroically, stayed last night again to look after him.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Hospital capers still

I can't even remember what happened today but here's my best effort. I woke up at the hospital then came home on the tram and bus. After eating breakfast, taking pills and showering at home. I went back with P.(he'd come home last night) and picked up Helen F. from Viewbank to visit Dad, then took her home. Julie went home for a brief refreshment. After that, I went back to the hospital where I sat with Dad (both of us absurdly asleep) when Jo B. appeared. A little while after Julie came back and took over. Then P., Frank and I went to Noel T.'s for an excellent dinner and relax. Phew! Tomorrow, I've got the morning off which might let me collect myself a bit.

Roller Coast Day

Yesterday, P., Frank and I did our normal shopping. I went on to the Box Hill Hospital where Julie and I had a meeting with Dad's surgeon and ICU doctor (one of them). We discussed what treatments were appropriate and which not. Julie went to work and I stayed for an afternoon in which Dad mainly slept, occasionally surfacing with some pithy comment. The nurse said that he probably would be moved to a ward by the end of the day. I left when Julie returned from work. P. and I went into town for a very nice dinner at Chocolate Buddha, then saw Rhonda Burchmore in a tour-de-force in 'Vinyl Viagra', a journey through various singers from Sophie Tucker to Lady Gaga. The band and the dancers were excellent. On emerging, there was a call from my sister, who was still at the hospital to say that the doctors recommended being there for the night. On getting to the hospital, it was fairly clear that Dad was going to survive the night, but Julie and I stayed anyway. When he wakes, he can be very confused (understandably) about where he is and what has happened. I came home this morning for my medications, but will return soon.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Back to Box Hill

Today, P. and I went to Montmorency to check on Dad's house, tidy up a bit and meet the man from Abbey's Auctions who didn't want any of Dad's furniture, as I expected. We then took the enduring power of attorney up to the solicitor for filing and photocopying, then headed to the Box Hill Hospital. Dad's condition is improving, though he is still not 'out of the woods', particularly over a possible chest infection. He, understandably, wants to go home, but, as the nurse said, if he stands up, he'll collapse. He might, though, be put into a normal ward, be taken off oxygen and fed real food in a day or so. His brother, Ray, and his wife Heather, came to visit today as well.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Busy, busy day

First up, I went to the Club (the Royal Melbourne Hospital) to get one of my anti-rejection drugs that I can only get there. The pharmacy department there runs at a glacial pace. It took over an hour and a quarter to fill my prescription, making me late for the rest of the day. Then to Intrepid Travel to see the indomitable Ingrid and pick up our vouchers for our trip. Then home to Peter where I got my birthday presents (a book by David Malouf and a Peter Sculthorpe set of CDs). Then we both went off to the Box Hill Hospital. My sister went off to work and later Sally S. and Jo B. dropped in as well. Dad slept for a good part of the day, which I suppose is good for healing. Then off home again and into the city for a birthday dinner at the Curve Bar outside (very good) then to Paul Capsis in 'Little Bird' an exquisitely played and performed show which unfortunately doesn't rise much above the cliched. It was enjoyable because of the efforts of Capsis and the players to make the proverbial silk purse out of...

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Dad in hospital

Last night, Dad had bowel surgery in the Box Hill Hospital which they believe was successful. He is now sedated and recovering. Julie is at the hospital and I will soon join her. Please do not visit until we are surer about his condition. LATER: Dad is amazingly good after major surgery at 2am this morning, even though he remains a little woozy, he is mainly coherent. He will be in Box Hill Hospital for at least a fortnight, probably. Because they have no beds, he will remain in Intensive Care until they find one even if he no longer needs to be there and they only allow two visitors at a time. I'll keep you posted on developments.

Monday, February 02, 2015


Today was a quietish morning. P. and I had just finished our lunch when I had a call from my sister. Apparently Dad had passed out (briefly) this morning, just as Sally S. arrived. Off in an ambulance to Box Hill Hospital emergency. He's had a battery of tests and more to come.They'll keep him in for a day or two's observation. I'll go back tomorrow to see how he is.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Der Freischutz

After a quiet day, P., Frank and I went to Melbourne Opera presenting von Weber's 'Der Freischutz' which hasn't been performed in Melbourne for 45 years. It was an excellent production with sets reminiscent of German expressionism and very good costumes. The production skirted around the risibility of much of the plot as much as it could. Good performances by the principals and a workmanlike orchestra made it a very worthwhile night, though I'm not too convinced that it deserves frequent revival. There were interesting contrasting reviews. Michael Shmith in the SMH was incredibly condescending, both about the production and the audience (poor things wouldn't have seen it before like I have). In the Oz, Peter Burch was overly enthusiastic with no faults recognised. You wouldn't have thought it was the same show. Neither critic mentioned the rather ragged work by the chorus on occasion. They seemed a bit overwhelmed by the first night, having to sing, act and move at the same time, admittedly difficult but that's their job. As P. said, 'It was a more interesting evening than many at the opera' and that's a good thing.