Living Alone.


Looking up at the stars, I know quite well

That, for all they care, I can go to hell,

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn

With a passion for us we could not return?

If equal affection cannot be,

Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am

Of stars that do not give a damn,

I cannot, now I see them, say

I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,

I should learn to look at an empty sky

And feel its total dark sublime,

Though this might take me a little time.

By W.H. Auden


That was the week that was.

Only nine years. It seems so much longer.


It was a pleasant bike ride to the Waidalice bridge on Tuesday, followed by a more pleasant cruise down the Waidalice river and an exhilarating bumpy ride over the lagoon in somewhat blustery conditions.   It was breezy and overcast when I arrived, so I did not swim right away, but just settled in for a bit, explored, and and read.  Caqalai is a tiny island that one can walk around in about 15 minutes,
though I took a little longer as I stopped constantly to explore. Also
the tide was high, so I was walking in soft sand.  the weather began to improve immediately, and just got better over the next few days. 

I slept in a little bure, on the beach, and had a few good lazy days.
No phone, no radio, no laptop, no TV.  Lights out at ten when the
generator is turned off. 

I spent…

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Mach the Dog

My best ever non-human friend. And a better friend than many humans I’ve known.

Ob. Ch. Rolynj Illusion, CDX, UD. Known as Mach the Dog. He was going for TD when the hip dysplasia made him retire.

Originally, when we got him from the breeder, he was nicknamed Max. But after his first night at home, whining and fretting, I renamed him Mac. Because “Macbeth has murdered sleep” (Shakespearean reference). Later, when he had settled down and I saw how quick he was, I renamed him again. Mach. The speed of sound. He did not find his name changes confusing.

Mach went where I went. Love me, love my dog. He sailed with me on my catamaran and swam with me when I snorkelled. We walked the bush and beaches where dogs were permitted. He went to work with me on days I was out and about.

He was very well trained, something I consider one of my great personal achievements, because when I got him I discovered he had a severe character flaw; his temperament. It took a huge amount of patience and encouragement to overcome his timidity. He became a great swimmer eventually, though the first time I had to throw him into the Tutaekuri river.

I still remember the great breakthrough we had when he overcame his fears to fetch something for me the first time, and the first time he stayed in competition without panicking at the distractions of the judges. There was a special moment when I could see he had finally figured out what it was I wanted from him and he was suddenly enthusiastic about anything I wanted him to do. Pretty soon he was thinking for himself.

I remember the first time I was threatened by a Napier citizen after I had spoken to him about desisting from a nuisance he was committing. The ratepayer became irate. He had scarcely raised his voice and his hand to me when Mach was out of my Landrover and growling and bristling beside me. I was so proud of him at that moment. probably more so than when he finally won an obedience championship, or gained the letters after his name. He was an enthusiastic participant in obedience, utility and tracking trials, but his hips finally prevented him from completing the agility sections.

I left him in the care of friends, to whom I had also rented my house, for the time I was in Solomon Islands, and I was so glad to see him when I returned.

The last two years of his life he was self-appointed guardian of my first daughter and rarely left her alone. He came to find us if she awoke, needed changing, or cried. I had to remonstrate with him for trying to climb into her cot with her. He never needed telling twice. I believe he had more affection for her than for me. She was two and he was only 11 when he passed on 29 years ago.

I’ve had a few dogs since, and I loved them all, but there was none like Mach.


I sit quietly, regarding the empty compartments of the weekly pill organiser.

Time to refill it. It is Saturday again.

These pills, ten and a half taken every morning and five every evening – plus an iron supplement taken every second day (because it causes constipation), keep me going.

Metaphorically – or not – they replace love, family, professional pride, enthusiasm for sport and hobby, pets, wildlife, aquaria and frog ponds. Things that kept me going.

Again. It is empty again.

I look into the compartments, each a morning or an afternoon, and try to recall how it was I filled them. How I took again from them the medicine of each hour, and used it.


The Korean Nurse.

I’ve just been for a biopsy of my kidneys. They leak protein and operate at an efficiency of about 30%. This puts me on the verge of stage 4 chronic kidney disease, CKD. I jokingly remark that they leak so much protein I could make a meringue with my pee.

CKD was diagnosed over six years ago, at which time the specialist seemed content to medicate and get it under control. I hovered in what was classed as stage 3 for years. More recently, however, following a few tests it was decided to find out why my kidneys were failing. This seems to be because I am edging towards stage 4. I show no sign of being diabetic, though I have been advised to behave as if I were since the diagnosis.

Hence the biopsy. I am 67 years old, and living alone in a caravan with literally no one around who can drive me to hospital, pick me up afterwards, and monitor me for 12 hours. This meant I had to stay in overnight for observation.

It all seemed to go well. The procedure was uncomfortable, and felt a little strange under local anaesthetic. The difficult part for me, however, was the obligatory 6 hours lying motionless flat on my back afterwards. It is a position I find uncomfortable. I have always slept on my side since I developed sleep apnoea. had my phone, so I facebooked and took photos of my feet and the ceiling.

I am pretty good at detecting bullshit, and recognising sincerity. My years spent interviewing in the enforcement period of my career, no doubt.  So I can tell when people genuinely care.

The care I received at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital was outstanding. I saw how busy the nurses, orderlies and doctors were, and their unfailing kindness and courtesy, even in the face of querulous complaints such as from the old codger in the bed opposite on the ward. I noted also the significant proportion of immigrant medical staff without whom the system would collapse.

So fuck Pauline Hanson and her ilk.

Late in the evening a nice young Asian nurse came round to my bed, took my blood pressure, checked my puncture site, then plopped down in a chair and told me she had to ask me some questions. She confided she was so exhausted she was glad to sit for a few minutes. The questions ranged from straight details of name, date of birth and country of origin, to medical history and my personal circumstances. Where did I live? Was there anyone to support me? Did I need someone? How did I manage preparing food and performing bodily functions, showering and so forth. Then “Do you know where you are?”

I looked soulfully into her eyes and asked in a confused old man voice ” Is this your house? Are you my mummy?”

I love it when nurses laugh heartily.

We discussed living alone, preparing and eating food. She confessed she lived alone too and survived on instant noodles. I hazarded a guess she was Korean and asked why she was not enjoying the cuisine of her country which I had tried and liked. She said she could not afford the ingredients and anyway, it was too much trouble when one lives alone. It was I then who launched into a lecture on the importance of a healthy diet, with lots of vegetables, concluding with the suggestion that maybe it was I who should refer her to a dietician.

She was clearly enjoying the conversation as much as I, and we chatted on about food, life and work until finally she reluctantly got up to finish off a few duties before the end of her shift. I thanked her and told her she was one of the beautiful people who had made my visit to hospital a pleasant experience. She told me she enjoyed our chat.

I have to confess I have fallen in love with almost every nurse who has lain her gentle hands on me.

Bless them all.

The machine that goes”ping!”


I am a member of a small private Facebook support group of people with mental and physical health problems such as depression, anxiety, disability and chronic pain. It was started when someone on another forum announced he felt suicidal and was subsequently trolled by a few arseholes urging him to do it. He did. His sister posted the news and it was pretty devastating. So we created a safe space where fellow travellers could share their thoughts and their feelings without the risk of being trolled. When we spot someone in need of a friend we invite them in to a place they can speak freely and where everyone else understands something about what they are experiencing.

It is the main reason I stay on Facebook, which I originally joined only to stay in touch with my family. That didn’t work out so well as they now use other media.

It has been a life changing experience for me, because I now talk to people who have far greater problems than I, and who share how they cope (and sometimes don’t), and I get – and sometimes give – support and advice that truly helps us all get through whatever we are experiencing. Sometimes it’s just a place to vent knowing that only understanding people are reading ones post and are offering support while making no judgement.

Yesterday I had whinge on line that I was booked into Caboolture Hospital for a medical procedure that involved anaesthesia, but the hospital would not do it unless I had someone who would drop me off, pick me up, and monitor me for 24 hours afterwards. I have no one nearby who can do that. That meant I might have to go onto an ever lengthening waiting list until there was an overnight bed available that was not required by some patient in more urgent need. They told me frankly it could mean not having the procedure there at all.

One of Ricky Gervais’ lines in the series “Derek” is “A prayer is just a posh whinge, innit”.

My whinge turned out to be a prayer answered. One of my Fb friends lives In the vicinity. She and her husband offered to undertake the task of being my carer. We have never met, though we have conversed on Fb for several years. Nonetheless a virtual stranger has extended a real hand.

How cool is that?