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MARY

 

 

Mary has gone

Although her earthly cloak still lies on the bed

Supplied by the Manly Hospital

She is flying high

Free from earthly worries

Pain and discomfort

Bathed in a heavenly light

She sees and hears as she did as a girl

And sings like an angel

Reaching the highest notes effortlessly

As in the Cambridge choir days

As she belts by on a fast-moving cloud

The wind in her hair

Which has miraculously returned to her

She shouts “Do not mourn for me my friends

I am having a ball”

Mary and I were unlikely friends.  She was a Cambridge Graduate in science and maths.  I left school as soon as I could and could never see any point in algebra, geometry and science – Mary’s favourite subjects.. I just knew I’d never use them, and I was right.

Mary was left brain.  I am so far right I’m nearly off the board.

Mary was short and plump.  I am tall and athletic.

I am a clothesaholic and love to buy my clothes at Carla Zampatti. Mary shopped for her clothes at Target but had the ability to make them look very smart and professional.

Both of us didn’t like housework.  Mary less than me. She was an early feminist and had little interest in food and its preparation she told me. Her cleaners told me that they only ever had to dust out her oven and the top of her stove.

I think that housework is a waste of time and I always have a lot of other things that I prefer to do.  But I do Iove to cook.

Mary and I met when she came to teach me how to use a computer.  Poor Mary!  I was no doubt her worst student.  But we just clicked.

We solidified our relationship when we went to Toastmasters together.  We learnt a lot about each other as we made our way through the various speeches and in the trips back and forward to North Sydney.

Mary worked for me for several years in my real estate business.  She was the best property manager I ever had, never losing a case at the Residential Tenancy Tribunal.  In fact, the Members at the Tribunal seemed to almost confer with her.

I can’t remember ever having a disagreement with her about anything.

Mum and I celebrated our “0” birthdays at the end of March, 2009. Unfortunately Mary, my long time helper and dear friend couldn’t attend due to a sudden onset of ill health. Mary’s life changed dramatically in May of that year -2009 .  She went to her local medical practice with a backache. At first the Doctor thought it was shingles. However, one day she felt so ill she had to be taken to hospital in an ambulance where she was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer.

Markus and I had planned to go camping in the Northern Territory in June but two days before our departure Markus tore his meniscus and had to have an arthroscopy.  Our trip was canned.  However this proved fortuitous because I was able to spend time with Mary who after having one lot of palliative chemotherapy , a relatively new treatment, which helps manage pain and extend life, she decided not to continue because of the side effects.

We enjoyed a very special five months as you will read from the notes in my diary.

“I had to wait until Thursday morning to find out how Mary was placed, pain wise.  When I ring her, she says she has it under control.  I notice she has become frailer and is a little slower as we make our way to the car. However, she is radiantly happy about a drive to Dee Why Beach and lunch at Sea la vie.

The parking fairy is in full attendance. We manage to find a spot right in front of the café which is great because Mary can’t walk too far.  With her disability sticker we can extend the hour limit. We both sit blissfully facing the sea. Mary hasn’t been eating very much but sitting and breathing in the salt air and checking out the extensive menu, her eyes sparkle and her appetite perks up.  She decides on a mushroom and chicken crepe.  Today we are talking about love.  I’m preparing a speech about it.  I ask Mary what feelings she had when she was in love.  She is totally stumped.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have asked her.   I know she has had her ups and downs.

Over our I learnt a lot about Mary.  She grew up on a farm in England which supplied all strawberries to Covent Garden.  She was deeply effected by the War years having to race to the air raid shelter when bombing started and worrying about her father who was driving down to London with the strawberries.. Her passions were teaching and biology.  She spent 20 years in Zimbawe where she was a deputy Principal.

Generous to a fault, never needing the limelight.  Happy to play second fiddle, support act, behind the scenes.

The Open Garden

I heard about an open garden in Roseville on the radio.  It is a slow and painstaking experience to extricate Mary from her small apartment. One that can’t be hurried.

People we encounter seem to sense that Mary is on her final journey. She reminds me of a little Buddha. She no longer wears a wig to cover her bald head. Instead, she sports jaunty hats, vibrantly coloured beanies and caps.

We both absolutely love the garden which turns out to belong to a fellow real estate colleague.

We visit the zoo today. Mary is now in a wheelchair and my friend Vince has come along to help push.  She had been a volunteer at the zoo for many years and as we make our way up and down the paths between the animal enclosures, she is in heaven. She became exultant inside the one where she used to do her watch.

I check with Mary in the morning to see if she is up to going out for lunch or whether she would prefer I make something for her. She is not sure but tells me she still has a fridge freezer with plenty of stuff that we can decide when I arrive.  And just as well because I wouldn’t have had time to cook.  The Editorial the Manly Daily printed on the property I have for sale has resulted in an avalanche of enquiries. I race off to show the property and only make it to Mary’s with a minute to spare.

When I arrive, Mary is dressed ready to go and smiling.  Not too bad today she tells me.  The reaction to Mary’s predicament by other people is amazing. I am concerned that she will somehow be rebuffed or hurt in exhibiting her gentle courage. But my fears are allayed. It is almost as if she has taken on a spiritual quality and her appearance is definitely ethereal which seem to give an awareness to others that she is walking along the last path of her life journey.

She seems to have contracted.  Every time I see her it is as though she is diminishing before my eyes. Her skin is luminous, her bald head either capped or sporting a jaunty cap, her eyes crinkled into a smile. Serenity emanates from her acceptance of what is happening to her. We decide to go down to one of the three cafes between Queenscliff and Manly and after checking the menus out decide on Ash’s because it is the only one which has soup.  Mary now seems to prefer her food in this form rather than its original state. However, instead of the pea and ham soup on offer, she decides on eggs benedict which arrives with at least half a pint of hollandaise sauce on it. She does extremely well for someone without much of an appetite, polishing the lot off.  I am sure the sea breeze blowing on our faces, the view of the ocean, the very pretty, attentive wait staff and being surrounded by other people acts as a stimulant.

Mary appears to be shrinking even more so today.  She doesn’t feel like eating which is not surprising because she is being pumped full of various medications.

She is now spending a few days  in hospital where there is even a machine to get her out of bed.   When I visit her today, she tells me she is undergoing all kinds of procedures.  I shudder to think about them. When she confers with the palliative doctor who is looking after her, it is like one professor talking to another about a patient. She will be coming back home today. I notice people looking at us and think we are an unlikely combination.

The last time we go out, on the way back to her place we stop by the Farmers’ Market in Manly.  Everybody seems to know Mary and acknowledges her.

She doesn’t have the energy to go out anymore, so I cook things for her and bring them over.  She still manages to have a good appetite for someone who never seemed to be that interested in food. She particularly likes my cauliflower cheese.

Her beloved son, who lives in France manages to come over during her last days.  Mary is in seventh heaven.  I make a feast for us which we all eat together.  Nobody would believe that Mary was on her last legs.

Mary retained her sense of humour to the end, managing a chuckle on her last day on earth, when I told her I could talk underwater.

It was indeed a privilege to spend this last period of time with my special friend Mary.  She lived each moment of each day. Being with her was like sharing time with a small child. Every moment was treasured.  Every experience savoured.

Although Mary and I met in the early 90’s, the quality time we spent together during this period will stay with me for the rest of my life. Our relationship reached a new depth.

What a hero Mary was! Always smiling, never complaining despite the terrible procedures she had to endure.

She died on 25th November and even on her last day we discussed the crossword clues and she laughed when I told her I found it difficult to sit quietly and not talk and my friends all know the truth of this.

Just before I left, she put her hand on mine and told me she would be all right.  She died a couple of hours later.

 

 

 

 

A Universal Sadness deep inside my soul

I was walking in Jamieson Park in Narrabeen when the words for A Universal Sadness Deep Inside My Soul came to me.  It was 1973.  I had just escaped from Spain with my son, Alex and was working at Fleets Tennis Shop in the city.  It was a poem to start off with but later on the music came to me and it became a song.

All three verses were written about things which I had actually seen.

I used to go and play in the Badge tennis competition at White City on Saturday afternoons and on the way back was when I used to see all the mostly men in a very bedraggled state, sitting on the steps of empty houses in Paddington, already well underway in the drinks department.

At lunch time I would sometimes walk up to Hyde Park and that was where the old man who wheeled his barrow up and down the streets of town would hang out during the lunch hour. I can still see him in my mind’s eye – his long tattered coat, his rounded shoulders, as he shuffled along pushing his barrow filled with his worldly possessions.

Kings Cross was full of American Soldiers on leave from the Vietnam War in that era, so business was brisk for prostitutes.  They used to stand in their doorways or walk up and down dressed in miniskirts and revealing tops, perched atop very high heels.  Some of them were very young and I could see they were affected by drugs.

                                        

A UNIVERSAL SADNESS DEEP INSIDE MY SOUL

I feel a universal sadness deep inside my soul

For hopes and dreams they must have had

As they sit there in the cold

Their sad and lonely faces

Attached to ragged forms

On steps of empty houses

Drinking booze all night long

 

Chorus

The families they must once have had

And lost along the way

The friends they’ve had all now long gone

And living far away

 

The man who wheels the barrow

Around the streets of town

With all his world tied atop

He goes up the street and down

At night he sleeps in the park

On a bench made of stone

Warmed by the metho in his gut

He’s far away from home

 

Chorus

The family he must once have had

All lost along the way

The friends he’s had all now long gone

And living far away

 

And there’s the working woman

In Kings Cross they’re about

On the streets and in the bars

All night they stand around

They’re young faces show despair

From the death in life they lead

On smack and hash and coke

When it’s love is all they need

 

Chorus again twice

 

 

 

MARKUS’S MAGNIFICENT VEGETABLE BAKE

 

INGREDIENTS FOR VEGETABLE BAKE A LA MARKUS

This dish can be served with meat, fish or chicken or as a vegetarian option or vegan if you leave out the parmesan

PREPARATION:-  1/2 HOUR

COOKING IN OVEN  ½ HOUR

 

TOMATO SAUCE

550 grams baby Roma tomatoes

2 teaspoons Tomato paste

chilli

20 fresh basil leaves

1 cup of chicken stock

½ teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs

1 cup of White wine

 

PASTA

1 ½  cups of barilla pasta

 

VEGETABLES

3 zucchinis chopped into  1 inch pieces.

2 cups of green frozen soya beans

2 cups of peas

 

PREPARATION

  1. Cook pasta
  2. Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large frypan. Fry zucchini until partially cooked/just starting to turn brown.  NOT SOGGY.
  3. Cook tomatoes, basil, garlic, chilli and tomato paste in another pan in one tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Sprinkle with salt
  5. Get one large oven dish and put pasta and zucchinis in it.
  6. Put tomatoes in zucchini frypan with let over olive oil on high heat
  7. Add white wine, herbs and chicken stock and cook to reduce stock until sauce is thickened.
  8. Add peas and soya beans to oven dish and tip tomato mixture over it.
  9. Mix in 80 to 100 grams of parmesan cheese and flatten on top
  • Cover evenly with 150 to 180 grams of parmesan and dob with olive oil.

Cook in oven for ½ an our at 180 degrees.

This vegetable dish keeps well for a couple of days.  To eat the next day add some more parmesan and put in the oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees.

 

 

 

 

 

OH NO – NOT CHOCOLATE!

The saying “Old age is not for the faint-hearted” attributed to Mae West, is a well-known expression which I can relate to very well.  It seems that as one ages bit by bit all the things that one loves get taken away.

My first loss was very early in the piece.  Chocolate!  I had teenage acne. The skin specialist told me that one piece of chocolate, i.e. one small square, which we were doled out each Saturday night after dinner, would give me enough pimples to last for a year.  I have never eaten another piece of chocolate since.

He also advised that I had to remove anything oily, fatty or sugary from my diet.  No fish and chips, golden syrup pudding, lemon meringue pie, etc not to mention butter spread extra thick.  It seemed that everything I liked was on the list of banned foods.

Cigarettes had to go next.  Anyone who has ready my book will know I had my first one when I was 11 behind the Nabaron Tennis Club with Frosty.  When I played on the tour, all the tennis tournaments were sponsored by cigarette companies and their reps used to give us free cigarettes.  We were supposed to give them out but of course we smoked ‘em.  My partner and I even smoked one between the 2nd and 3rd set in the Ladies’ change room at Wimbledon.  However, they were just not a healthy option especially after I suffered an asthma attack during a tennis match.  I did love them.  Especially with a glass of wine. But they had to go.

Tennis was next.  And it was a very sad day when I had to give up it up due to an ongoing back problem.  The last attack had lasted two years with nine out of ten pain every day.  The decision was a no-brainer but very difficult. Tennis was an integral part of my life.  I’d played since I was 7.  As a consequence, I went into mourning for several years.  It took me five years to give away my tennis skirts and ten years my rackets.

I also had to give up dancing which was very disappointing because I’d just started to learn how to dance the Flamenco.  Unfortunately, all that stamping on unsprung wooden floors proved treacherous for my back.  Jogging and squash also got the flick.

Then I got diagnosed with reflux with its inherent list of prohibited foods.  It seems that everything I like is a no no.  No wine, no caffeine, no carbonated drinks, no garlic, no spices, no herbs, no onions, hardly any fruit in fact anything with a PH under 5 – the list goes on.  Once again it seems that everything that I like is on the list.

Next fibromyalgia which has certainly put a hole in my social life et al.  You can read my post “Fibromyalgia – you are not alone” on my Website susanjoyalexander.com.

The I got bitten by a tick and developed the Mammalian Tick Allergy – Alpha-Gal which is prevalent on the Northern Beaches.  Red meat, pork and dairy are now banned from my diet.

So when you see the magnificent meals that Markus manages to turn out you will now appreciate what a tremendous handicap he working is under.

Now I’m stuck at home during lock-down and after an injection for trochanteric bursitis am not allowed to do any exercise for two weeks – even walking.  I am finding this hardest of all.   No walking in Jamieson Park or along the beach.

Woe is me!

 

 

WIMBLEDON CENTRE COURT

On the middle Saturday of the tournament, my brother, John and I are set down to play on the Centre Court against Margaret Court and Marty Reissen.   John is touring in the Davis Cup team managed by Harry Hopman and this is the first tournament we’ve played at the same tournament since Palermo.

 

Although we are the next match on, and have been duly instructed where to wait, I am the only one who is sitting on the hard, board seats in the small room behind the Centre Court.  The other more experienced players and my brother – who no doubt has been counselled by Harry Hopman, – remain in the comfort of the change rooms until the very last moment. Unfortunately this gives me too much time for my already shattered nerves to kick in especially as right above the doorway leading out to the Centre Court are the two crossed swords and underneath the lines from Rudyard Kipling’s poem:-

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same.”

Triumph I can handle easily, I reflect, as I sit there. It is Disaster that is my main concern.

I find it hard to believe that I am about to play on the hallowed Wimbledon turf, the scene of so many long and torrid battles, fought by past champions.  As a young girl, growing up, I’d dreamed of this moment, as I’d lain sprawled on my parents’ bed, sipping hot, sweet tea and listening to the crackly radio broadcasts from Wimbledon in the early hours of the morning.  Now I am here and it is about to happen.

When the others arrive and I stand up to go out on the court, I can’t feel my knees.  They’ve completely gone to jelly. Nor as hard as I try, can I get the butterflies in my stomach to fly in formation. They are running wild.  I make the mistake of looking up at the Centre Court stands, which are full to overflowing with people. They shimmer in the afternoon sun, appearing to rise out of the ground, almost perpendicularly.  I pray fervently, to the God of all tennis players, that I will play my best, not let my partner down, or worst of all make a fool of myself.  I step gingerly forward, wishing fervently that I was a turtle and could just disappear into my shell.

We lose – but only just.  The good part is that as a brother and sister combination – only the third in the history of Wimbledon – we are the crowd favourites and are cheered loudly every time we win a point.  Mum will certainly be very proud and happy as it has always been her dream for John and me to play Mixed Doubles on the Centre Court at Wimbledon