I’m not doing nearly as well as I expected, despite some positive signs. In the pool yesterday, I spotted something someone had dropped in the deep end and dived to retrieve it. Successfully. That may not seem much of an accomplishment but not so long ago I was so buoyant with adiposity that I could not sink no matter how I tried. Though I could float on my back and snooze without fear of drowning, I could not reach the bottom of the pool no matter how hard I tried. Now, I can swim down.

This positive sign perhaps explains why my weight loss graph has plateaued in the last couple of weeks. I’m developing muscle, which is denser than fat. I am still incrementally tightening the drawstring in my waistband, so something positive is happening.

The best time of day is when I am weightless in the pool. I am virtually pain and discomfort free . I feel as fit as I was when I made my marathon swim around Mayor Island over 47 years ago. But climbing out and returning to the gravity of the world leaves me limping and hobbling like the old man I have become. Riding the bicycle is my second pleasure. Seated, so my knees bear no weight, and with my feet positioned properly on the pedals, the discomfort in my knees is minimal, and the ache in the muscles of my calves and thighs is an acceptable sign of effort being rewarded. Climbing off the bike at the end of my journey is a painful return to reality. I have to take care not to fall over. I believe it is time to talk to the doc about new knees, and get onto that waiting list.

My mental buoyancy is better. Despite occasional bouts of loneliness when I am acutely aware that I am far away from my family and closest friends, I am coming to embrace solitude, and the self-awareness that comes with it. I have left so much behind. Lost so much. I am not, and never was, the person I wanted to be. Perhaps I am where I am now because it is where I deserve to be. That is not self-pity, it is self-appraisal.

Part of me wants to return to New Zealand, but why? My family don’t need me. I actually have fewer friends there than I do in Western Australia – and the weather is worse. I’d be financially worse off. Plus there is the inertia that seems to come with old age. I find it difficult to even contemplate moving on from the camp I am in.

One of my neighbours has a sign on his cabin “Der Komandant, Stalag Luft 13”. The old chap has a sense of humour like mine. Despite the title he has given himself, he knows he is a prisoner, like the rest of us.



The Crow was reading poems aloud

From an ancient vellum manuscript

I strained to hear but could not parse,

Because of his strange accent, the words

– Which all sounded like “cragh!” –

I figured he was Irish.

The Difference.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost.

This is my favourite of Frost’s poems.

Semi Colonisation

Back in hospital again, this time for an endoscopy and colonoscopy.  Yep. Both ends.

With the greatest of luck, I was admitted for the nights before and after the procedures.  So the kind offer of my new friends to pick me up and drop me off proved unnecessary.  The hospital staff had decided even the prep would be problematic for me in a caravan.  It turns out they were right.  When you are old enough for a colonoscopy, you’ll know what I mean.  In the meantime retain your blissful ignorance.

It all went well. A couple of polyps removed, budding haemorrhoids identified, and I have diverticula, a common enough condition in which the gut wall gets little pockets. These can be a problem if any food gets trapped in them and cause infection; diverticulitis.

This means I must chew my food well, and eat plenty of fibre. I do.

I don’t have bowel cancer, good news of which I was already quite sure, having been tested twice as part of a study in which I’m participating.

I shall be discussing the results in depth with my GP in a week from now.

After the procedure it transpired that my bed for that night was needed for a patient after all, but instead of letting me go home, they decided I was to be transferred to the private hospital next door. An upgrade in other words. Better food, at least. Not that there was anything wrong with the fare at Caboolture Hospital, the meals at Caboolture private hospital are just a little more upmarket. The surroundings are also a little more posh but the service and kindness the same. Excellent.

After the disappointing (mis)adventure of my left arm, and the surgical cock-up, my faith and admiration for the Australian health system has been fully restored.

And surprise! My kind friend Cindy from WA sent me flowers.

On My Way

The road trip has begun. We have left HC. Dave is flying in a helicopter over the bungle bungles and I have been talking to motorcyclists. The car is heavily laden with the detritus of my life. She is carrying her burden bravely. Tyre pressures @ 40 & 42. Onward Japanese Juggernaut!

Tomorrow I finally get to see lake Argyle by boat and on Thursday the long drive begins with no firm itinerary.

King Brown is Cross

The kids took me to visit the “Jesus Cave” on the bluff out of Balgo.  This is a cave once used by the mission nuns as a place of prayer, hence the name.  Access to the cave is by an aluminium ladder down a manhole-sized opening on the top of the cliffs of the escarpment.  As I climbed out of the troopy and limped down towards the cave entrance, the kids all raced ahead, and then, suddenly came racing back again, screaming.

Sunning itself right by the top of the ladder was a two metre king brown snake.  The biggest I have seen in the flesh.

The King Brown, or Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis) is one of Australia’s top ten deadly venomous snakes.  I have handled a couple before, but none this big.

king Brown
King Brown is Cross

I cursed myself for not having brought my camera.   I had not brought my catching gear either.  One of the boys in particular was totally panicked, and wanted to kill the snake.  I tried to explain that this was not a good idea and that provoking a snake was foolish and more than likely to result in someone being bitten.  I told them that we should just leave it alone and come back another day.  They would not come away with me, and were determined to kill it or chase it away.  I could not have that, so I ordered them all to stay back while I moved the snake away with a couple of sticks.  This put the lad into even more of a panic, and I realised with just a little gratification that he was afraid for my safety even more than I was concerned for his.

I gently lifted the snake with the sticks and started to move it away from the cave entrance. It did not seem too bothered and allowed itself to be carried, then guided away.

But my young friend was still screaming hysterically that the snake would kill me and started shying stones at it.  His aim was not too good, and a couple of the rocks narrowly missed me.  I told him to stop because now he was really putting me in danger, but he was too far gone to listen.  The others joined him, ignoring my orders to stop.  A stone or two hit the snake, and its demeanour changed instantly from passive to aggressive.

I stepped back quicker than my semi-crippled condition would normally allow. The snake followed me as stones continued to rain down on it.  Finally it decided it’d had enough of being pelted, and slid down into the cave entrance, ending our chance to visit the cave that day.

On the way back I tried to explain to the youngsters that they should leave snakes alone and that most people are bitten because they try to kill them, but I could tell they were not convinced.    Irrational fear is just that. Irrational.

One of the girls had filmed the incident on her phone.  I will try to get a copy from her.

The Wet Begins?

Another rainstorm last night.  Short, but quite heavy.  It seems the wet may really be starting early.  November is usually the accepted time.  It was predicted to be early this year.  I am hoping that this Wet Season will at least be more substantial than last year, when it did not really live up to its name.  The plants and wildlife need the rain to get them through the dry.

This part of Australia has been hotter and dryer than average since I came here.

In September, lightning started a bushfire on Ellenbrae Station.   It went out of control and became a huge blaze  across the Kimberley, burning cattle stations and wildlife sanctuaries. Almost two million hectares of land were affected, the last I read.

That is the size of a small European country.

There has been no loss of (human) life and little or no damage to infrastructure. Nonetheless, the fire has not helped the cattle stations or the ecosystem, which usually deals with natural fire in smaller patches at a time.  Being dryer than usual only increases the damage.

Even now, this rain we just had here does not seem to have fallen all over the Kimberley. It was intense, but of relatively short duration and probably does not yet fulfill the promise of “early, heavier than usual rains” that was predicted.

The only downside from my point of view is how the weather can affect travel here.  The Tanami and Duncan roads are closed, which means  that the visiting doctor was unable to come yesterday and discuss the results of my CT scan. It also means that it looks as if I shall not be able to attend the  Youth Mental Health First Aid training course in Halls Creek tomorrow.

On the plus side, I have seen lots of dragons running around my house this morning.  I did not know I had so many. I love those little buggers.