plainly jane

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Jane Fraser

WHEN you don’t see peo­ple all the time you are li­able to get a shock when you catch up with them af­ter a while and no­tice that they are fall­ing apart. I expect peo­ple feel the same when they see me, although my ail­ment isn’t as vis­i­ble as wonky legs. In that area I am OK be­cause I walk ev­ery­where, but I have some­thing I call wa­ter on the brain. I say it’s all the fault of La Nina, who has been mak­ing floods the order of the day. I get no sym­pa­thy, although I com­plain like mad.

My con­di­tion means that sound seems to bounce off hard sur­faces in a very un­pleas­ant way, and for that rea­son I am not at all keen about get­ting into cars. I spoke to The Aus­tralian’s mo­tor­ing edi­tor Phil King and told him I hated the Maserati in par­tic­u­lar as it makes a huge noise — like seven trains all run­ning together along the rail­way lines. He was sym­pa­thetic, say­ing that make’s en­gine was one of the loud­est in the mo­tor­ing world. Not that I have a Maserati and, any­way, now I in­sist on trav­el­ling by shanks’s pony. Well, un­til I get to the train sta­tion.

Although there has been a lot of wa­ter about this year, not so long ago we had six re­ally hot days. I scanned the sky with hope but noth­ing hap­pened, so I found my­self hav­ing to wa­ter the gar­den be­fore it shriv­elled up and died. There was no one at home who could do it for me apart from the dogs, and they are not very ex­pe­ri­enced when it comes to the kind of squirt­ing needed. I found my­self thor­oughly en­joy­ing it ac­tu­ally. There was peace, peace, peace, and I am on the verge of vol­un­teer­ing to do it on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. I liked the sound of the driz­zle of re­fresh­ing wa­ter, echo­ing in the most pleas­ant fash­ion.

I have a good amount of ve­g­ies planted at home — there is al­most noth­ing as de­li­cious as home-grown toma­toes — and I have egg­plant, straw­ber­ries and let­tuce. And snails too, of course, and a plethora of toad­stools. I asked our gar­dener whether th­ese could poi­son us, but he didn’t take my ques­tion very se­ri­ously. I do take the mat­ter to heart, how­ever, be­cause I re­mem­ber read­ing quite re­cently about some women dy­ing in hos­pi­tal thanks to be­ing poi­soned in this way.

That be­ing the case, I de­cided I would visit Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gar­dens to find out a bit more about plants. When I got there it oc­curred to me that I may be go­ing bats. It wouldn’t sur­prise me at all. I hate to say it, but I am quite fond of those mice — or rats — with wings that wheel their way around the trees and prac­ti­cally darken the sky, as there are so many of them.

I know a lot of peo­ple con­sider th­ese bats to be a pest. I am more con­cerned about army worms, which have been a real trial to me. Munch munch munch, they go. Fur­ther­more, I have an al­lergy to worms so can’t walk bare­foot on the lawn in case I tread on one. One day, some time ago, there seemed to be a bit of a re­prieve. I was walk­ing along the street out­side our house and saw what ap­peared to be mil­lions of squig­gles leap­ing up the hill. The worms ap­par­ently had heard the news that there was an even more fer­tile patch of grass in the nearby park. Good rid­dance. But the joy didn’t last long.

At Easter this year I de­cided to fol­low a tra­di­tion my mother en­joyed. She hid cho­co­late eggs in the gar­den, then would race up on the rub­bish tip and wake us chil­dren by shout­ing at the top of her voice, ‘‘ cock-adoo­dle-doo, cock-a-doo­dle-doo’’. The neigh­bours were wo­ken too, but tended to ig­nore her, think­ing, quite un­der­stand­ably, that she was los­ing her mar­bles.

When I did the same fam­ily sort of thing and se­creted chocky eggs about the place — although not crow­ing like my mother — the grand­chil­dren raced about the gar­den to find them. But guess what? The bloody worms had found their way back to our place and the eggs were crawl­ing with the beasts.

I once had a friend who was sick of gar­dens and con­creted the back yard. He said it saved him hours of time. It is a tempt­ing so­lu­tion, but I couldn’t do with­out trees and roses; es­pe­cially the jacaranda tree that has al­ways been my pet. I get quite ex­cited ev­ery spring when the flow­ers start bud­ding, and to cel­e­brate I do a cou­ple of hand­stands on the lawn. When the tree stops flow­er­ing I take my­self shop­ping to buy some­thing colour­ful.

This time I bought my­self a turquoise blazer. It makes the win­ter days bright.

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