Monday, June 30, 2008

The Cat Who Came In From The Cold

I sometimes refer to our place as being the top of the faraway tree, because you never know what each day will bring.

Last Wednesday night, it brought high winds, low temperatures and a cat.

We have no idea where it came from, but it was defintely relieved to see some caring humans when we opened the door to check it was okay. A lovely big, silvery-grey tabby cat (originally thought to be a desexed female but now thought to be a desexed male: a lot of tail lifting and comparing bits with our highly-insulted resident cats, who provide examples of both!), this affectionate being is happy outside, happy inside and generally unpeturbed that its own human family are not around but this one is!

I put out an alert via email to everyone I know who lives locally or has family here. We made signs which have gone up in local shops and telegraph poles, but there has been no response. Merry and Frodo, at first very resistant to the newcomer's presence, have reached a stage of affected intolerance and there have been some swipes and hisses exchanged, but generally a treaty is in place.

We truly hope this lovely animal will return to her family soon, but we are happy to give shelter until that time.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A pet is for life, not just for Christmas

We all know how easy it is to love a cute puppy. Loving that same dog 16 years later, when she is old and not so cute: that shows you are a true pet owner!

We drove from home to Doncaster to buy the puppy we saw advertised in the paper: a golden retriever/labrador cross. Visions of our new golden dog as a change from black crumbled when we arrived and met the tiny, black bundle who was coming home with us! But to touch, so soft - naming her was easy! She was silky-soft and Silky the Fairy (because little girls are little girls!)

Silky came home and joined the family, including our black labrador/kelpie cross Sasha, who though she might lactate for her new baby, but decided that was too hard, so just mothered her instead! We all lived happily ever after until Sasha died in her sleep one day, aged 12 and Silky became an only-dog.

We moved house in 1997 and Silky happily walked from our old home, around a couple of blocks to our new one, smiling as ever! A few months later, my father bought the house next door to ours and we knocked down the dividing fence, giving Silky the run of two backyards, to her great delight! Two watch dogs for the price of one. There is nothing quite like the deep woof of a black dog in the dark to make bad guys think twice and only we knew she would lick them to death if they climbed the fence!

A few years later, we adopted another lab: this time golden, a boy called Buddy. This was not the most successful integration and after about a year, Buddy moved on, leaving Silky older and wiser. She went from being a mostly outside dog to being a ostly inside dog quite happily! My lifestyle had also changed due to health issues and so I was now full-time at home and Silky proved the perfect companion. She was also an excellent hostess and welcomed visitors, who spent the whole time patting her despite their insistence they wouldn't! Silky was just like that. Anyone little was treated with kid gloves and she allowed babies and toddlers to climb over her body, pull her ears and use her to stand up! She asked only that they slip her a bit of morning tea .. or, if unoffered, would help herself gently!

Life went on, with annual outings to the Frankston Pets Day Out and the Pet and Pony Expo providing new people drawn to pat her! Sh would calmly enjoy the day, taking draughts from water buckets like it was sme sort of wine tasting! One year, she even tried Doga, a canine yoga class, to the great amusement of all. Last year she palyed supermodel and had her portraits taken. She was that kind of dog.

But life catches up with us all, and old age too. The past year or so saw a few health problems and treats like walks at the beach became too hard. She had to content herself with shadowing our house cleaner, watching the world walk past the windows and leading a more passive life. She missed Melissa during her two years in New Zealand, but became adept at the web cam to keep in touch! She even tried motherhood with our two hand-raised magpies, with varying success.

These past few months, the back legs weren't so good anymore and getting off the floor became an effort. Some days going down the back steps was too hard. Increasingly, stumbling and falls became part of life. Other areas at the rear end were also not always controlled and we all knew the time was approaching.

Yesterday was a bad one for Silky and overnight I knew what today had to bring. However, if there is a “good” way for this to happen, then all went well.

I ran our vet and explained, asking if they could come here, which they organised quite simply and is actually only $15 extra – I would urge anyone in the same situation to check this out, as it made an enormous difference. No need to disturb Silky, she was in her own space – and we had the privacy you just don’t get at the surgery. They asked what we wanted to do with her and when I said cremation, they said they can organise that for us. I thought I would have to do this, so another burden lifted.

The two girls – vet and nurse – were so lovely to us all and to Silky. They took it all slowly and with respect. It took ages to get a canula into a vein and there was much joking during this time, with Silky smiling away as it was all just lovely attention to her. Then she just slipped straight away, peacefully and with the girls and I touching her, with Kieran nearby. Then they simply took her into their car and allowed us to grieve.

When Silky returns, we will plant a special place in the garden and place her ashes there. Not a bad end for a little puppy who came home with us aged six weeks and lived a happy and carefree live surrounded by love. Her legacy, for me, is the number of ABA babies and toddlers who loved her and gained dog confidence with her. Quite a few kids learned to stand and walk hanging off this patient dog, who smiled and took it all as love.

The kids are coping well and there is warmth and laughter as well as tears. Ashley has been great and even rang Debbie to let her know, to reduce the shock when she comes to clean tomorrow – she so loved that dog and I am glad they had a few weeks back together.

Poor old Frodo tried to come and investigate almost at the last moment and ended up sitting close by, while Merry was in the other room. The vet said she smelled of angry cat, as her previous patient didn’t appreciate vaccination at all. After, Merry behaved very wary around Silky’s mat for a while – they know these things, cats.

So now we look forward. Not too far forward yet, but we feel happy that there is no more discomfort and loss of dignity for Silky.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

14 up!

Remember being fourteen? Thank goodness you only have to do it once! But what a great age to be.

When you are a 14 year old girl, the most important thing in your life is your friends. Not those vague figures in the background who claim to be your family, but the people who really matter! Usually you spend all day with them at school, every possible minute with them outside school hours and any remaining time tying up the phone line! (Wish we had mobiles and texting and msn and stuff!)

If you are really lucky, these friendships survive adololesent spats (and then she said...) and the inevitable distance that comes when you leave the schoolyard and establish adult lives. If you are really, really lucky, you can treasure these relationships through adult life, like a secret link to your inner teenager. The things these women know! How could you risk not keeping them in your life??

My treasures are Karen, Jackie and Sue. Sue lived across the road from me and we bonded with Karen and Jackie at high school. That was over thirty years ago and just this weekend, we had lunch together. We try to do this at least four times a year, sort of around our birthdays-ish. Although we all live reasonably close by, we have our own networks and family and friends, so this precious touching base keeps the relationship alive.

We are a very special quartet: we all married in our early twenties. Three of our four partners were at school with us and the fourth was in the picture while we were still at school! The amazing part: four intact marriages, facing up toward siver anniversaries over the next couple of years! Various combinations of bridesmaids at four weddings, eight children among three of us (and the trauma of infertilty for one), parental divorce and loss - and sibling angst!

With the legacy of 70s an 80s pop music in the background - shared lust over Leif Garret, the Bay City Rollers and more, fashion faux pas and knowledge of Old Boyfriends, our teen years hug us gently and make us smile as our own babies have reached and survived teenhood! (And the exquisite knowledge we were so much badder than them!)

So, as we nudge middle age, menopause and the next thirty years, raise a glass of blackberry nip and lemonade in memory of growing up disgracefully and surviving!

Monday, June 9, 2008


I have avoided the temptation, but I weakened this week.

I know myself too well and - yes - Facebook is just my kind of addiction! The collector in me just wants to geaher everyone I know in one place! The extrovert wants to say "Look at me!". The social butterfyl asks "What are we doing? Can I play too?" The nostalgic me asks "Are you here, I so want you to be here?". The curious me wants to know "what are you up to right now?"

I so don't need another place on the web to distract me (bright, shiny things!), however what is done, is done!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Destination: Wagga - part two

Sunday was a day of work for Aunty Becky and I. First task I took on was to photograph the large Wilder pedigree chart in sections, to make do until we can get it copied. I then entered the data for the main line into my computer, so had a reference point to work from. This takes my tree back further than before and now goes 15 generations from myself and 16 from my children! Most confusing was great, great grandfather Simon Thomas Wilder, who had made life simple for himself by marrying three women called Sarah! He wasn’t a lazy man though, as between all the Sarahs, he fathered 20 children! One of these was Joshua Frederick Wilder who came to Australia. Like his father, Joshua married three times: two Marys and an Ellen!

After a break for a quick lunch, we cleared the table and Becky opened the small case of photos we hadn’t had time for on Friday and we went through these. So many treasures, including some wonderful old postcards, dating back 100 years or more. One photo Becky moved to put aside as she didn’t know the couple whose wedding photo is was caught my eye: the flowergirl was very familiar: myself, aged about six! The couple were friends of my father and mother and this photo, plus another we also found, were unseen by myself before! Becky gave them to me and I will treasure them. I was also given a few other photos of myself as a baby, my mum and my dad and a wonderful old postcard promoting a lecture for ladies in Bethungra which alluded to teaching them the facts of life … family planning perhaps?

Some treasured china that had belonged to Gran came out of the cabinet for a photo shoot and then it was time for Becky and I to add some new photos to the collection. After spending so much time handling photos from the early days of photography, it was surreal to set up my digital SLR on its mini tripod, set the self timer and snap as many photos as we liked until we got the image we wanted!!!!
All too soon it was time for my esteemed driver Bruce to collect me to go back to the Piper palace for dinner of tacos and an evening watching the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on TV, while checking emails on our lap tops. Another wonderful night’s sleep and then Linda and I hit the Wagga shops for the morning before my train home.

First stop was Spotlight, where a few scrapbooking goodies decided to come home with me and then we visited the newsagents to buy a thank you card for the family in Kincaid St. We then had a glorious time at the second hand bookshop, where I bought Remember Me by Sophie Kinsella which Linda had suggested I read and a copy of The Midwives of Tumbarumba, which Janet and Becky had mentioned the day before! A little more shopping and then back to Linda’s for lunch and to gather my bags.

We parked at the station, confirmed the expected arrival of my train (25 minutes late) and then took a lengthy walk up hill and down dale to the local scrapbook shop. A lovely time hunting and gathering, then back to the station, to be told the train was now 40 minutes behind schedule … then an hour … then 50 mins ….

Eventually the train arrived (the waiting time spent complaining about the drink machine which swiped my money) and then whoosh, I was on my way home!!!!!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Destination: Wagga Wagga - part one

It is Sunday morning and I am back at my aunty’s house for the day. A few minutes to catch up, so I thought I would journal my trip so far!

Friday morning began early, with a taxi at 6am to get me to Frankston station for the train to Southern Cross station (you know, Spencer Street!). Because of track work, the Sydney train was a coach for the first five kms, then transfer over to the train. After an efficient start, it all went pear shaped before were much north of Melbourne, where we came to a standstill, sat for quite some time and it was then announced that there was engine trouble, so we had to go back and turn the train around to use the other engine! So, after an hour and a half, we finally hit Broadmeadows and were out of Melbourne! However, only an hour and a half behind schedule in a six hour trip! The train ride was wonderful: I think I have mentioned I love train travel! I had loaded up the PDA with podcasts to keep me entertained and I had a brand new book about photo organisation to savour! We made good time and finally arrived in Wagga only 40 minutes late!!

My Aunty Becky collected me and we went to her house where talk quickly turned to family history … until were headed to bed after midnight! My thoughts that I am anywhere near finished scrapbooking family photos on this side was revealed as folly when Becky brought out masses of photos I have never laid eyes on in my life! Thankfully, my 76yo aunt is computer savvy and has been scanning away, so a lot of them are on CD and I can copy them.

We were up not so bright and early on Saturday, for Bruce and Linda to collect us for our great adventure. Bruce the Wonder drove us out to Temora, about an hour from Wagga. We managed to fill the time chatting (!) and then arrived in the gorgeous Temora. We got as far as Becky’ sfavourite dress shop, where her eyes galzed over at the sale sign, so she aired her credit card while Bruce, Linda and I took a turn about town and probably tripled the morning’s sales at the Rotary market (was it five or six stalls???). The patchwork shop was a heavenly retreat and I bought some tiny buttons. Then we retrieved Becky and her shopping and headed to the bakery for a lovely lunch.

As you do, after lunch we went to the cemetery and visited family. Our Sinclairs are there, reassuringly watching over a group of infants, so sad.

Then it was time to visit Janet and her brood!

We had a wonderful afternoon! At one point, Becky had to clarify that we had not spent many hours physically together, claiming we behaved as though we had been together since school! She is an honorary Buddy and – bemused at first by the whole bath thing – soon came to the decision we were all wonderful!!! Bruce is also an honorary Buddy: I could have popped him in my suitcase along with the gorgeous kitten Merlot! Janet had to frisk me on the way out, I loves that cat so much!!!! Sarah was a joy and did things with pink icing that no group of first time mums would ever have tolerated!!!! Milly the Naked one entertained us until the boys arrived home and then played hard with them – I was exhausted and envy her energy. Janet is the most patient mum, I take my hat of to her.

We did have to leave, sadly (and without kitten) and got home to Wagga for the most extraordinary, unexpected experience.

Bruce our driver took us up Kincaid St, to wave at Gran’s house as we went by. It was beautifully lit and the first time I had seen it at night, so we pulled over and I jumped out with my camera. A twist of fate slipped the flash ON, rather than OFF as I intended and a couple of paparazzi flashes later, a small Maltese was barking up a storm and a person came to investigate. Oh Lord, they think I am a prowler! I hurriedly explained as Linda came to my side and the lady was so lovely and INVITED US IN! We grabbed Becky from the car and I was shaking as I walked through the gate of memories! And then, we went in the front door and OMG!!!! Never mind the family connection, this house is wonderful! They have restored it so beautifully, Linda and I were oohing and ahhing over the wallpaper! I can’t begin to describe the beauty of it all. This wonderful woman was in the midst of having people over for dinner and they all welcomed us (“there is a man outside near a car: is he with you???”) and she showed us every room (all immaculate … strangers would not find my house in such a state unannounced!). We finally left them to their dinner and went to have ours at the local club, where Bruce shouted us all massive serves of various crumbed chicken delights! Completely over-fed, we waddled out to the car and dropped Becky home and collected my bags.

Back in the lovely Piper Palace, we checked our emails and watched Starsky and Hutch, until I called it a night before ten and headed for bed.

After a wonderful night’s sleep, Bruce gave me pancakes for breaky. Linda and I compared jammies and I admired her slippers, before she and Bruce got ready for church. They dropped me here and we are just starting to load images onto memory sticks! I have taken photos of each section of the poster sized pedigree chart of one family line, back to 1500!!!!!