Archive | May 2016

Know your audience

I am of the age that would enjoy the movie Florence Fletcher Jenkins. And indeed I did. 

Now I know someone who has turned 50 really isn’t in the position to mock age. And I’ve never been one to do so. God knows it sure beats the alternative. But…

As my friend and I entered the cinema, a fellow Florence Fletcher Jenkjns viewer rightly picks the movie we were planning to watch. But surely we are decades younger? Surely it is not so obvious which movie we are here for?

I’ve never been to a movie on a work day. And a 10am session! Put them together. The answer is: session for the elderly. 

Average age, 75. At 50, I was a mere young thing. 

Now surely the cinema knows who comes to morning weekday session. And to the movie being shown? So why show ads on joining the army? Planning on getting people after a second career?

Ah, the ad on superannuation seems more appropriate.

I only made the 10am weekday movie sessions because my DGF (Darling Gardening Friend, as she will henceforth be known) picked the sessions so I hurriedly got ready. Normally I dither around of a morning if I don’t have to go to work. 

Still I was surprised to see the man next to us snoozing before the movie started! Needing a nap at 10am?

Then there were the couple taking though the whole movie. Not in the loud and obnoxious way teens often do, mocking a movie or being show-offs. This was a continually chat. “Who is that?” “What are they doing?” “What does that say on the wall?” “Look. It’s Howard from Big Bang.” “Is his girlfriend with him?”

FFS. Shut up. 

I’ve seen the future. And it isn’t pretty. 

Still, I suddenly realised my posture and firm clasp on my handbag. Yes, I’m turning into my grandmother. 

I’m old!

Back to basics

Right! Let’s not think of what might happen in five years let’s think of right now. 

Actually thinking of now, in terms of health, will help with being active and being able to travel in five years time. 

I’m talking about the ongoing struggle journey to be fit and healthy. 

I have been walking quite regularly but I feel a need to get back to basics on my healthy living quest:

  1. Drink more water. At least 1 litre a day. 
  2. Sleep better. 
  3. Eat more fruit and veg. 
  4. Do regular weight bearing and stretching exercises. 

I’m cheering me on. I can do it for myself. I can do it for my body. I can do it for my fifties. 

Starting with water. I will fill the litre bottle and put it on my desk at work. 


A milestone birthday

I was never big on birthdays. And I never really cared if I got presents or if cards turned up late, or not at all. 

But gee, it was nice being acknowledge all on one day. Phone calls, cards, gifts, messages of good wishes. 

I turned up to work and my office has been decorated. 

A bottle of Bolly, so I can be Ab Fabing as much as I like!

Then flowers turned up at work. From Mr S, of course. 

I recycled the decorations from my office at home. Seen here with my gifts and chocolate cake. (Latter was yummy but the ugliest cake I have ever made. I hacked away burnt bits with a knife – bloody oven is not staying at right temperature which is kinda crucial for baking cakes. It gets too hot and burns them.) And then I tried decorating it when is had a couple of glasses. Still it was fun. And yummy with lashings of whipped cream. 

I had drinks and laughter and chat and music and dancing with my sons, Mr S and one son’s girlfriend. OK, I was the only one dancing. 

Adding the decorations seemed like a good idea after a couple.

Off we went to dinner with family, about 12 all up. The balloons came too.

A complimentary cocktail for the birthday girl? Why yes please. 

Dessert too? Oh, OK. (But I gave that away. I was way too full. Couldn’t even fit in birthday cake when we got home.)

Look what my sons bought me. A bath bomb and bubble bath extravaganza from Lush. That’ll keep me going over winter. 

I don’t feel 50. It’s not that I’m worried or concerned about this movement into the next decade. It’s just that life is going so quickly.  It only seems a couple of years ago that I had little children. 

I am going to try to be a better rememberer of birthdays. Cards and the like for family and friends. And preferably early, not after the date. 

This better not be too funny

The celebration continues. 

My darling gardening friend offered to take me to the movies as a birthday gift. 

What better way to spend a sick day!?!

And truly, yesterday I didn’t cough much at all. Surely I am getting better?

But of course, second day of this lot of sick leave (the third lot in the past four weeks) and my cough returned the morning I agree to sneak out to a movie. Still, my birthday will be celebrated. 

Entering the cinema, I tried to suppress the cough. Who wants a diseased person spluttering through the movie? Definitely not the elderly who are the only day time viewers of Florence Foster Jenkins. With their reduced immunity, me disturbing the movie would be second fiddle to fear of catching my contagion. I might wipe out quite a few local grandparents. 

“This better not be too funny,” I say to my friend. 

And then realise the humour of my statement. I’m in a comedy. One hopes it will be funny; generally top of the criteria of the genre of comedy. (This is up with my judgement that the musical Wicked has too many songs. But it did. And ones no one knows. No one, except Wicked fans. But I digress.)

But see, laughing seems to set me off. And I don’t really want a coughing fit in public. 

Was the movie funny? Yes. 

Worth seeing? Yes, especially if you are nearing or over 50 and into gentle stories. 

Hugh Grant apparently can play a slightly different role than the young stuttering “boy” he always plays. Meryl Streep is, as always, brilliant. And Big Bang’s Howard pulls some wonderful faces, such genuine nervousness. 

The central character apparently doesn’t like sharp things. “Put that in your blog. Just like you,” says my friend. 

“What on earth do you mean?”

OK, not sharp things. But you make similar pronouncements.”


We followed the movie with lunch. I ordered a hot chocolate which I pronounce was way too chocolatey. 

That is not like saying I don’t want a comedy to be too funny or a musical to have fewer songs. OK, maybe it is like my pronouncements. 

But there are logical reasons. The hot chocolate tasted of melted chocolate, not made from drinking chocolate powder. Where did this trend come from? This drinking of melted chocolate with milk.

Strong likes and dislikes is not the only thing I have in commen wih Florence. I sing as well as her too. 

A spot of gardening

My very lovely friend, who knows I am off sick but is willing to keep me company and risk the infection, her argument being that if she was going to get it she would have already caught from me, contacted me on my sick day to offer her services to assist with a spot of gardening, slash weeding.

She knows how overgrown and overwhelming my garden of weeds is. 

How lovely is it of her to offer to help? She could be pottering in her own garden, reading a book, watching episodes of Wentworth.

On her suggestion we took before and after photos. She concentrated on the overgrown grass and weeds and prickly rose vine around my entrance and letter box. (The postie will be pleased.)



She unearthed some very tenacious bulbs sprouting!

I concentrated on the part of the driveway where I park my car. I struggle to get out without brushing clothes against shrubbery and stepping in the dirt. Quite a few prickly things have self-germinated here. Plants which will grow into monsters that will take up too much space for a suburban yard, let alone fit along side a driveway. 



My gardening rescuer also brought som bromeliads which have a new home under the massive tree. 

We filled a green wheelie bin and more. Look at this pile!

But it wasn’t only me who was pleased. A kookaburra came for a feast in the disturbed soil. He found some juicy morsels and then sat on a branch waiting for more worms and grubs to surface. We were so lucky! He didn’t mind us at all as we got up very close. Less than two metres away. What a handsome fellow! And what a coincidence after the previous  post this week about kookaburras!

What a wonderful birthday present from my friend!

Lunch shared is much more enjoyable than lunch alone. We had avocado on toasted multi-grain sourdough. And the obligatory cup of tea, made in a pot of course with loose leaf tea. Drunk from Wedgwood fine bone china. 


Jo, you are right. Gardening is so therapeutic. Sometimes it is hard to know where to start. A little guidance and direction from a friend, and working together, made it even more pleasant. 

Optimistically getting better or soldier on

I am still poorly. 

I’ve been soldiering on because I have so much to do. Who could take several weeks’ sick leave? I would feel a fraud because I don’t actually feel that sick anymore. Well not continuously. 

Four weeks of coughing and spluttering, my work colleagues have been gently, and then not so gently, nagging me to get to a real doctor. (As opposed to medical centre I went to a few weeks ago.) And get there now!

Strangely, while my cough is worse, I was feeling much better. So in the busyness of my work day would forget to phone the doctor until a coughing fit hit me. Rince and repeat. 

Anyway I did phone last week and my brilliant doctor no longer works full time. So it was six days until I could get in. The receptionist said if it was urgent they could fit me in on Friday afternoon. But I didn’t think it warranted that. And I know how my doctor often runs way behind schedule so I could be sitting there for hours and then would face the peak of the horrendous traffic home. My home is on the road north out of Sydney and Fridays are the worst. Surely I wasn’t bad enough to put up with that and to be squeezed in the doctor’s already overbooked schedule? Except the cough just wouldn’t budge. A deep, explosive cough. 

So, when I finally got in my doctor asked if the medical centre took samples to test. Mmm. Nothing so thorough. Just a quick listen and a script. 

Double mmm. She thinks I might have whooping cough. At this stage tests might come back negative. And the original antibiotics would have been useless for my infection. 

So after a lot of testing including that hard breathing one which I always fail even when well (small lung capacity), I walk out with new antibiotics that are more useful for general chest infections and cough syrup with codeine so I finally get some sleep and a medical certificate for another three days off work. 

Imagine the joy with which my work colleagues greeted the news. Yes, they weren’t happy. 

And yes, I returned to work. I had to get stuff done before I took the next two days off. But don’t worry. I am not contagious even if it was whooping cough. Too far in. (Would already have spread germs. Oh dear!.)

Strange if it is whooping cough, because I had a booster last year. 

Anyhoo, cough syrup with codeine is the best. Like a mild sedative. I slept soundly with vastly reduced coughing. Defintiely couldn’t return to work while under its influence. 

A fellow at work asked if I was a man. “Isn’t it men who normally avoid going to the doctor,” he commented. 

OK, OK. Point taken. But it is just I thought I was getting better. And I didn’t want to waste the doctor’s, and my, time. What if when I finally went in, I was healthy? Don’t want to be accused of being a hypochondriac. (Which I am so I don’t need to give further evidence towards that diagnosis.)

A couple of other colleagues asked why I didn’t follow the advice I give to all at work. Which is look after your health – it is more important than work; we will cope without you; and we’d rather you don’t spread your germs. 

OK, OK. Another point taken. I do tend to soldier on a bit too much. That horrid Germanic work ethic. 

So here I am. At home. Resting and restoring my body. 

And you? Do you tend to soldier on? Or think you’re getting better despite evidence and comments by others to the contrary. Or do you take a sickie at the first sign of illness?

I wonder how they cope in Japan because you never see someone coughing in public. 

A year away from home

If we do get the year away we have to think about our house. 

Do we leave our offspring in it? (Can’t see them going anywhere in five years, more’s the pity.)

Implications: they are lazy shits and will not care for things. So they would have to pay for a cleaner, mum being absent. But at least they’re here to “look after” the house and pool. And we don’t have to worry about our possessions. I would make them pay all the utilities which will be a shock to their system, but will be a life lesson to them, and save us money. 

Do we rent out the house?

Implications: we need to declutter our stuff and put things into storage. Huge effort! I could stop buying clothes and shoes and wear them out over the next four and a half years (which I’m doing anyway) but the furniture still needs to go somewhere. And so will our offspring. Lol. We also need to fix up bathrooms, kitchen and extensive yards. But we would earn a huge amount and it would finish off our mortgage, pay the rates and them some. 

Do we get house sitters?

Implications: we don’t need to declutter so much as furniture remains where it is. I could take the same approach and stop buying clothes and shoes and wear them out, opening up wardrobe space. Our offspring will need to move out. We will still need to fix up bathrooms, kitchen and our extensive yards. We’d earn some money. Enough to finish off the mortgage. 

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, not having applied yet, but what do you think? Which one should I choose?

In five years …

Ever thought what you’d like to be doing in five years time?

I have just over two lots of five year blocks until I retire. Put like that, it isn’t very far. 

So I’ve been thinking about retirement options. And what I need to do by then. And what I want to do by then. 

I have three main goals:

  1. Financial = pay off the mortgage by 57.
  2. Home = fix up the house and garden. 
  3. Travel = have regular holidays and biennial overseas trips. 

With out high mortgage repayments and lots of travelling, we don’t have much money for the second goal and we don’t have time, energy or skill. (During holiday breaks we are travelling.)

I’ve done some thinking and contemplation and realise I don’t want to go further in my career. Bureaucracy bores and frustrates me. I do confess my work takes much of my energy and life force, leaving little time or energy on work days for anything but collapsing in a heap. I can’t see myself doing this until pensionable age of 67. 

Even 62 sounds a little undoable. 

Then it struck me. 

We have a scheme called Deferred Salary Scheme. For four years you get 80% of your salary. The remaining 20% is put in a bank account. So it is really forced saving. You can’t access the funds in that account until the fifth year, when you get the whole year off on 80% of your salary! But the other bit is the leave is press proved and with right of return to your position. You can elect to have the funds in a lump sum or in fortnightly payments just like your income. 

As an added bonus, we still accrue long service leave. So in the intervening four years, we can still take extra holidays, as we are doing for our planned 2017 trip to France. Mr S has months and months of LSL on full pay owing to him. Me not as much as I changed employers and took time for the children. 

My plan is to have both Mr S and me apply for the Deferred Salary Scheme at the end of this year for next year. (You can only commence at the start of a calendar/school year.) 

If approved, in the year I turn 55 we will buy a combi van and be grey nomads for most of the year. There’s so much of this country I want to see. And I want to do it while we are still able. 

Some people I have shared my thoughts with have said we won’t want to go back to work. 

Maybe. But maybe it will be the same as every other first week back: I know I have to do it or have no income. And I remind myself of all the wonderful things I get from the money I earn, not least the ability to travel and own a lovely house. 

Besides having a year to travel around, the 80% model will help us get use to living on less income. When we do retire, our income will drop massively. 

If we manage and love the year off so much, maybe we will apply again! 

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree

My regular walk takes me along a track that has bush on one side and trees all around. 

Anyone who has walked through the Aussie bush will know you rarely see animals. Except ants and birds.

Depending on the season and time of day I will see, or more likely hear, different birds. 

On my walks around the bush near me, I have seen and heard several lyrebirds. Their sound is very distinctive. In the two times I actually spotted one, I was led to the bird by the unusual sounds. It imitates all manner of things – mechanical and living. 

Among my favourite is the little finch. Always in a mass pack, they flit so quickly among low shrubs and tall grass. It is their movement I love. And the challenge of spotting one. 

Yesterday Dar said she’d like to hear a kookaburra in the wild. And she wondered if it would become annoying. 

The thing is Aussie birds tend not to sing all day. (In fact some are horrid screechers so singing and chirping are not the right words. Have I told you how much I hate cockatoos?)

I never find kookaburras annoying. They don’t call all the time. Mainly they communicate to other kookaburras of an evening. 

As luck would have it on my walk as the sun was setting today, I came across a group of kookaburras who were winging it home. They called to one another, gathering all together before they disappeared towards the bush. I whipped out my phone and recorded them. You cannot really see them but they flew between trees as the headed off towards the bush. 

So here’s one for you Dar? Enjoy. 

How can this sound not bring a smile to your face? (Don’t stop the video too soon. The horrid screeching towards the end is a cockatoo. Shit things. Noisey and they peck apart housing, fencing and sensor tiles for the blind as well as tip bins over.)

Sunday in the Blue Mountains

Just back from a most gorgeous day. 

A friend picked me up in her convertible and we escaped the haze from the back burning that is taking place across Sydney. 

The air was crisp and sweet and clear. 

We stopped by a couple of antique shops on the way up to a friend’s weekender. 

A house among the trees. And birds. 

On the back verandah for drinks and nibbles, watched by kookaburras who wait any dropped morsels. 

Inside for a fabulous feast of pumpkin soup, mushroom strudel and salad. And then dessert! Oh, dessert. Choices. If only I had room for more than two. I’ll start with Persian orange almond cake. The sticky date with double serve of butterscotch sauce. 

A quick sing through of happy birthday to me, off to watch the hosts feeding the birds, while admiring the bush, especially the mountain devil, flowering at different stages. 

All too soon we had to join the other Sunday drivers on the road back down to Sydney. 

Back to the haze from back burning which you can see, sitting like a brown smudge low on the horizon.