Month: May 2014

Kristin Smyth 13/365

I have just got off the iPad and a two hour Skype conversation with Kristin Smyth.

At the end she said that she thought that my blog was a good excuse to have a lovely long chat. ‘Facebook just isn’t enough.’ She also went on to say that nobody could possibly fit this length of conversation into a normal routine, she looked exhausted.

My husband’s family and Kristin’s family are close family friends. Together they share jokes from the past which they have to ruin to explain. The laughter that is emitted between both is old laughter.

Several times during our conversation I see my tonsils in the little rectangular mirror box on the screen, because of the laughing.

We talk about the musical instruments that the children have chosen to learn, we talk at length about Alexei Sayle, we talk about me finding my voice out of a crisis and how something good always comes out of something bad.

She is sitting in the box room in her flat in South London, surrounded by books. I ask if I can take her picture but she says no because of the bed hair. I promise I won’t.

Friends arrive and I shout for the children to come and talk to her. I go and make a tea, sit down with my friends and forget completely that I am meant to be on the ‘phone’. Half an hour later, I jump up and run back to the iPad. Kristin was asking my kids what was the highlight of our trip in a caravan around Europe in 2011.  One said ‘The Somme and all of France’, the other was more hesitant.

‘It could be a place, or a feeling that you remember’ Kristin said with encouragement.

‘I feel pleased that I am never going to have to travel in a caravan with my family again.’

Kristin laughed. I said ‘I’m back and she said ‘I’m just going to go and make myself a cup of tea.’

I sat looking at all the books on her bookcase then decided to take a screenshot without her in it. She suddenly sat down and I managed to get one of tea without her knowing.

We then got on to the best conversation topic that could ever be, travel.

My husband and I travelled surface from London to New Zealand in 1996. We had only known each other for 3 months but I was going to my cousin’s wedding in Auckland, I was going by train, and he decided to come too. Kristin and her partner did a similar trip so we talked about Blinis in Siberia and Mackerel caught and smoked by the Trans-Siberian Railway in Lake Baikal. She and her partner are now planning a trip to Hawaii.

Today, she is going to an Australian Literary Festival in London. The first speaker is Tony Wheeler.

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I ask her if she has seen my bit of news on Facebook today. Last night I tweeted The Wheeler Centre in Melbourne when they put the call out for a topic for discussion. It was for the Emerging Writer’s Festival  with the hashtag #discuss.  And this morning, my words were on a blue plaque hanging on the wall of the Telstra shop in Bourke Street! The Wheeler Centre is named after Tony Wheeler.

‘Small world’, she says.

‘Massive cup’ I say.

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If My Dad were a dog banner ad

Sharon Crafter 12/365

I ask Sharon Crafter, over Facebook, if I can call now. She is on the phone to her Grannie.

‘You still have a Grannie?’

‘She’s my best friend.’

My Grannies never really took to the phone. It was mainly for relaying important messages, they much preferred face to face chat.

I turn to my husband. ‘I am going to break another rule on my blog.The door bells have also stopped ringing so I’m round the corner to Sharon’s house. Do you think it matters that I am bending rules?’

‘It’s your blog’ he sighed.

‘Well face to face communication has to be one step better than phoning as far as human interaction is concerned. And maybe George Clooney might want to be on my blog, in which case he can fly me to Lake Garda for my chat, face to face.’

‘He’s already got a girlfriend.’

 

It is freezing outside. Sharon shouts for me to come in.

If Kellie Desmond is Mrs Tittlemouse, Sharon Crafter is Mrs Tiggywinkle, hanging sheets around the house at 9pm having just got out of the ambulance (it’s her job, she’s not the patient).

Her enormous Golden Retriever, Artie, greets me on his hind legs and the three of us recall when my dogs spent the weekend at theirs. Artie is so pleased to have news of them on my clothes but Sharon says that Harry had regarded Artie suspiciously for the weekend, saying ‘I don’t do 35kg fur balls’ and Sparkler pretended he wasn’t there.

She begins telling me that they went to a birthday party for a Golden Retriever last week. Twenty six Golden Retrievers were there and a Mr Whippy ice-cream van to feed them all.

We spent a very relaxing evening talking. I often thought to myself that if it wasn’t for my blog, I wouldn’t be here laughing. We cover the topics of the clothes for children she is making, her work in the ambulance service, her business, she brings up my Dad, (note I did not bring up my Dad), we talk about quilting, bushfires, burns, horses, people from our shared past as Artie listens in.

She said that someone was mad as cut snakes, she said that ‘water finds its own level,’ she says that if life gives you lemons make a tart. She shows me a picture of a dish of risotto and calamari from a local restaurant and describes it so well I want to go out and order it. She sums it up by saying that risotto is either success or failure and never in between. I like that observation and think she could be talking about herself because she doesn’t do things by halves.

I leave at almost midnight and we both agree that we should make the doorbells ring far more often too.

ImageIf My Dad were a dog banner ad

Kellie Desmond 11/365

Kellie said to me, ‘Well now that we’ve spoken, you might as well write about me tonight, it will save you phoning anyone else.’

‘But you phoned me, and anyway what will I write?’

‘Write about all my awesomeness. Write about what a great friend I am. You know me, just write a tribute. I’ll send you a good photo.’

(I am going to have to make sure that this blog doesn’t turn into 365 obituaries for the living.)

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I saw Kellie for the first time on the 20th November 2004, lunchtime. She was talking to a friend in a loud voice saying that it was her birthday today. I wanted to butt in and say, ‘It was mine yesterday,’ but I didn’t have the nerve. She was hippy and homespun and I was still in my Marks and Spencer’s wardrobe.

Then I saw her again when I dropped off my little one at the kinder. A baby with rosebud lips was attached to her in a sling as she rounded up two boys through the door.

We exchanged ‘hellos’ and I complimented her children on their home painted hats. All her children were very striking and one had Downs Syndrome. I told her that a distant cousin of mine is Damon Hill, the racing car driver, ‘and he is president of the Downs Syndrome Association is the UK.’ She smiled broadly as I spoke. Was she listening to a single word I said? It was as if she knew something that I didn’t.

What she probably knew was that she and I would be like naughty sisters for the next ten years and then ten more.

It is hard to write about someone you are close to, from a distance.

Kellie and I lived in a remote valley, here in rural Victoria, two doors down from each other, which was a mile apart. She and her partner were raising their 4 children and we had 2. We became like the big extended family I had always wanted to have. When I had my last baby, the early months and all the angst around newborns never happened, because of her presence.

We had our own business and she worked tirelessly in that. People say ‘never work with friends or family’ but if they are Kellie, you can!

I simply could not have done it without her.

She’s an Australian Bush Flower practitioner, she takes two items of clothing and makes them into one, she loves everyone and everyone loves her back, she’s a photographer, she wants to change the name Down’s Syndrome to Up or Angel Syndrome, she makes coffee with honey, she knows my house better than I do and I can sit in hers for hours when she’s not there and she won’t mind, I can raid her fridge, she can raid mine, she doesn’t own a bra, she tells me what not to wear, she sees snakes coming, she drinks and sings, she smokes and laughs, she wears her skirts tucked into her knickers, she is Mrs Tittlemouse -ever tidy, she rings everyday, I ring everyday, she believes in me more than anyone else ever has. She’s Kellie Desmond, 1963-the present, she’s my friend.

If My Dad were a dog banner ad

Carolyn O’Connor 10/365

We are so excited to speak to each other, We haven’t spoken since we left the sixth form of Ashby Grammar School, which was a comprehensive school with delusions of grandeur, 28 years ago!

We walked past each other in ‘Boots, the chemist,’ in 2011 but she didn’t stop me because she had expected my hair to be long (I had just had it all cut off) and my friend radar wasn’t working!

She sounds exactly the same. We talk immediately about the good, the bad and the indifferent sides of Facebook. I tell her that when I had the idea to do this blog I googled ‘phoning Facebook friends’ and Google said ‘What? Annabel, you’re completely mad!’

I remember her telling me she was going into nursing all those years ago. One of our other friends was doing it and she thought ‘I might like doing that.’ She is still doing it and is clearly very good at it. She works at Ashby Hospital, right opposite the school as a district nurse. Why do I keep imagining her in one of those 1950’s nursing uniforms with cape and an elegant selection of hats? Maybe the delusions of grandeur made it over the road in my mind.

I am trying to get a handle on ‘manifrestation’ and ‘the universe’ having a hand to play in the timing in some of my blog posts. Out of 365 friends I had selected her this Tuesday evening and  while we were talking, she said that there was a meeting going on to decide the fate of Ashby Hospital. My heart sank. My dad, (there he is again, he won’t go away, ‘Dad, get some sleep’) had campaigned tirelessly to keep the hospital open in the nineties but he knew that this day would one day come. It has all come down to funding. This morning I read that it is to definitely close.

Dad would be irate. He would say that the decision to close doesn’t take into account the community feel of a place or the expertise of the staff or the trust that people hold in them; that can never be replaced and he thought it crucial to patient recovery. Carolyn’s chatty voice would make anyone feel better, for goodness sake. My mum pushed me out in that building in the presence of my Godfather Peter Corkey (don’t worry, he was a doctor), my Dad and Sister Mould (don’t ask)  with, I imagine, very little pain relief. The next day my Mum had asked for an omelette and the nursing assistant brought her fish cutlery to eat the omelette with.

I should have told Carolyn, so I’ll tell her now,  about the night when there was a big march to save the hospital and it ended up in a completely packed Ashby Town Hall. I went next door to The White Hart with my friends as the hall was crammed full. Someone then came into the pub laughing and told us that a man had stood on a table to address the crowd and slowly, gently the table had fallen over and the man fell into about fifty pairs of arms, then he got up onto another table and carried on! I had a feeling I would know that man they were talking about, very well. It is such a shame that no one is able to catch this special place as it falls.

We talk about old friends and what they are up to, some are much nicer, some have stayed the same and some, like Carolyn haven’t changed at all and didn’t need to. She told me she was always shy at school but I said I remembered her more as thoughtful, kind and easygoing. She is pleased to say that her children are the same. I tell her that she was always so reasonable, the voice of common sense in our mad lives.

She admits to being the glass half full person that I always knew she was. She is going to have to maintain that mindset to keep cheerful as she is sent to work in another hospital, a long way from the Grammar School that wasn’t, and this fabulously successful author’s birthplace.

 

The bright young things of the Grammar School Sixth Form

sixth form

 

Trish Goodlet 9/365

And so we turn to the ninth and last child in the good nest of ratlets, Trish, sister of Pete 8/365.

A few weeks ago, she became the inspiration for this blog. It wasn’t her all-Australian curly blonde hair that inspired me, or her beach-ready bikini body, it wasn’t her charm, her empathetic nature, her legendary mother, her hero father or her gorgeous, gravelly voiced adoring partner, no.

It was the fact that recently I called her instead of texting her and she panicked as she answered the phone and said ‘is everything alright?’

We both found that a bit, as Pete would say, ‘unusual.’

‘No one phones anyone anymore, do they?’ I had said.

‘Not unless they want to sell you something or give you bad news’ she replied.

Tonight she is waiting for my call. It is me, it was only ever going to be me, no one ever phones her on her home phone.

‘Annabel’ she says, and the gabbling on begins.

We talk about when we first met, balancing our red-haired babies on our laps by the school swimming pool. I had been under the impression that she went from summer to summer, Apollo Bay to Port Douglas, hopping from one dream to another as she raised her little boys in a love bubble. That’s what it looked like to me.

Actually, she and her partner were working all hours in various jobs for the experience, the fun and adventure of it, making ends meet and living life to the full. Her kids went along for the ride. Actually, her partner was at the helm of his boat in the harbour in Port Douglas when Steve Irwin set sail for the last time. They waved.

Her first son began school in Port Douglas. It wasn’t easy because they were new to town and he was catching the bus alone. On the way home, he had got off the bus a stop too early and walked home leaving Trish in bits at the right stop. She went home and there he was. In his bag she had found a large live crab and had panicked that he must have been bullied on the walk home. After a couple of weeks she saw crabs side-stepping into his bag from the garden.

She and I talk about the menial jobs we did when we were younger. We had both worked in Old People’s homes, she at 15 for work experience, so very young and me at 24 when I thought that my life wasn’t quite bad enough! I told her that I am still haunted by a mistake I made when I put an old lady on the loo at 9pm, clocked off my shift and forgot to mention it to the new nurses. They didn’t find her til 3am when they were checking beds. The old lady had a very, very short memory, of about 3 seconds, so that would have got her through, but I still stress about it twenty-two years later.

Trish and I are glad our Dad’s never qualified for those homes.

Not long ago she shared, on Facebook, the note that her Dad left her when she was moving out of home venturing ‘out of the nest to face the cruel world.’

Trish letter

He tells her to work hard and ‘Go Bayers’ footy team. He says ‘I know you will be a great success and always remain the lovely well adjusted girl you are now.’

We spent a lovely hour talking. We covered the Otways, the hills where we live, and how they shape our children’s development. We talked about the mad keen fishermen in our families and we agreed to get together to drop a line in from their boat, soon. We talked about the joy and pain of living in a small town, the yin and the yang.

We talked about EVERYTHING but I can’t tell you it all. Some of it was secret, some unpublishable and some just too personal, but I will tell you she works hard, she’s a success, she’s lovely, she’s well adjusted and  there are some people in this world who just radiate light, and she is one of them.

 

Here is a picture on Instagram that her family thought was of her. It isn’t, but it might as well be. So here we go, this is not Trish.

not trish!

Pete Goodlet 8/365

It’s my turn to be the excited one when my phone rings and it’s Pete Goodlet; he the eighth child in the enormous and happy Goodlet family based here in Apollo Bay.

I had asked for his landline number, he said he’d called me on mine. The number that flashed up was a mobile and I immediately decided to relax the rules.

He is calling me from his home in Murwillumbah. The area is used for filming the British reality series that I was glad to escape from ‘I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!.’  Murwillumbah was also used as the location for the film Lou (2010) starring John Hurt, who went to the same school as me!

I said that it was really nice to hear his voice, never having spoken to him on any gadget before, and he said he found it ‘unusual’!

I thanked him for being my second man as I had only done one man so far, he sniggered and said ‘men are shy.’ Thankfully Pete is an exception to this rule, or he hides it well.

I tell him that I need to catch up as I’m already behind on my homework. Yesterday I didn’t phone anybody, it was the end of the Dad season, so I can stop talking about him so much now. In May he occupies all our thoughts as he went into the hospice on his birthday, the 17th in 2011, and died eight days later. I had just felt a bit quiet. I’ll call two today.

Pete is a very suitable friend for me to talk to on the day after the Dad season. He lost his Dad two years after I lost mine. His sister, Trish, had asked me to go and sing some hymns to their dad in the hospital after I told her that our family singing around my dad’s bed had made him more peaceful.  I went in clutching Amazing Grace and Ave Maria. There was Pete, with his Dad resting on high pillows in bed, and Trish busily looking after him. I imagine that Jim Goodlet will  be the only man that I will meet on the night he dies. He showed me his watch which he got after hitting a hole in one, and I remember telling him how good-looking his children were, and what great carers they made.

Pete and Trish are the youngest of the nine Goodlet children and they said that their Mum had been so glad she had gone on to have numbers eight and nine because they were both such attentive nurses.

Their dad was a Rat of Tobruk, a member of the famous Australian division who held the Libyan port of Tobruk against the German-Italian army.

Thank goodness he came home to father four of my friends, and five more equally lovely people!

Pete reminds me that his dad died on Easter Saturday, kindly leaving Easter Sunday for Jesus and giving them two days to remember him on, always Easter Saturday and always the date he passed away.

We talk about the project he is working on. He is redesigning the interior and gardens of the Sandpiper Hotel, here in Apollo Bay. It is going to be wonderful. I thank him because I can now mention my mum in my blog finally, because that’s her favourite place to stay when she comes to the Bay. (I have mentioned her once already as she’s my cousin’s daughter’s invisible friend in 3/365.) My Dad has been getting all the glory.

We both remember laughing uproariously last time we saw each other. He mentions ‘controlling moles.’ It’s a phrase I really like and he bans me, rightly, from mentioning any names, but I can write the words.

I have a postcard of one of his paintings of The Owl on the Pussycat on the fridge. I tell him I had wanted my niece to read that poem at our wedding but my mum (here she is again, hello mum,) had thought it was too solemn an occasion for Lear. If only we had all lived in Australia for a bit first, anything goes!
I ask him to look at a children’s picture book of mine, Miranda’s Verandah, his artwork would be ideal. He said he’s just been sitting around waiting for an editor to approach him one of these days.

I learn that Pete has worked in at least eight fields of work, which have been perfect for his aesthetic eye… building, carpentry, tourism, nursing, teaching, hospitality, art, permaculture. And with eight practical and down-to-earth brothers and sisters he has links to every skill in the world.

I saw his sister yesterday and I told her that Pete is my next page. We talked about my blog and asked her what she made of it.

‘You’re just deepening friendships’ she said.

I am.

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On re-reading this, I realise that without thinking, I have put the eighth child, with the eight professions and eight brothers and sisters, on the eighth page.

Clara Scarlet 7/365

Waiting, waiting, waiting to speak to my oldest sister Claire, in Verona, Italy. She is and always will be five years older than me.

We made a 7.45am/11.45pm appointment but she emailed me to say that she can’t find her phone number, it’s a long story and the bar she and her husband go to has a lock-in until 3am in which case she won’t be at home anyway. (She was the studious one who never went out.)

I did begin to wonder whether her life had suddenly taken off when she joined Facebook as Ms Scarlet and sent me a link to see her local Italian rugby team dancing.

 

Four hours later we speak.

Claire is lying prostrate on the lounge floor, waiting for the phone to ring.

She seems very excited as she picks up the receiver and I’m not surprised. This is someone who had the home phone wedged between shoulder and ear to the tune of four hundred pounds a month in the old days, and now she doesn’t even know her own number.

We haven’t spoken for ages. We email and she occasionally looks at Facebook. I persuaded her to join but the only Fb friends she has are my husband, Karen Halsey 5/365 and me.  The rest of the time she is mingling with people with animated expressions who are simply mirroring hers.

She sounds so much like my Dad apart from the Australian inflection. He never had  that and neither do I. She has spent six months here in the lucky country, mainly when she became the personal nurse that my dad always hoped she’d be, for him.

I tell her that it is good that she is in at number 7 because that was the house we grew up in. Also at Sunday School and church over the road, 7 loomed large. It’s my lucky number.

She says that she is living her life the wrong way round. I would see her tutting at the breakfast table in her panda slippers when I dragged myself downstairs in my teens and early twenties and now she’s out all night drinking Prosecco, which I thought was ham, and (shout this bit) she doesn’t seem to know what day it is.

She’s rolling around the Italian countryside in a VW campervan, stumbling on rock concerts in fields, eating wild chicken cooked over a fire and she used to lecture me on settling down.

It is exhausting talking to her so I give her my phone number and I tell her to call me more often. She asks me to read back what I am going to write.

“I think I’ll just share a photo of my notes, everyone will see how pleased I was to talk to you”

Clara notes 2

Jane Buckingham 6/365

I turn to my friend list and select Jane Buckingham. I need an easy evening. I warn her that she is next and, as with everything, she takes it in her stride and gives me 7.30 ’til 8.30.

She answers the phone in an officious manner, because her number is both business and home and, unlike most phones plugged into the wall, it never stops ringing.

‘You didn’t necessarily think it would be me, did you?’

‘No, it could have been anyone?’

‘At this time?’

‘At any time, people ring us at all times of the day and night and then say it’s not urgent!’

Her husband, Craig, runs his own computer servicing company up and down the Great Ocean Road. We met him 10 years ago just after we had all emigrated and he had a recognisable Essex accent and a Tottenham Hotspur tattoo on his leg. He suggested that we should all get together and that I’d get on with his wife. I had imagined her to be tall with big bushy blonde hair and acrylic nails, saying  “‘ere Craig, are you paying for this or what?”

But when she came over for an English night at our house, we opened the door to a vision in white linen, carrying lilies. Her hair was cropped, her shoes were flat and she was so demure she brought out the Essex girl in me (my dad was born in Ilford.)

Jane was born in a flat above the shop that her Mum and Dad ran in Sevenoaks. I didn’t know that until this evening. They moved 10 doors up the road a year later and now her Mum lives 10 doors up from that. Her mum comes to Apollo Bay every year and we all congratulate her for a.surviving the long haul flight and b. the fact that at 80 she still doesn’t have a grey hair on her head. Jane is proving to be of the same stock.

We begin talking about the radio as I was on the ABC 774 today regarding this very blog and then we leap to BBC Radio 4. I ask if she ever listens to R4 to marvel at the eccentric people in the UK, then for some reason our conversation turns to inbreeding and Jane says that living here, that is one less thing for us to worry about.

Jane told me that she liked Richard Stubbs’ question to me about mobiles. And my answer. As far as possible I hope to be talking to people through our landlines so that no one is on the hop. We agree that the cost of mobile conversations and the thriftiness of texting has killed conversation. Of course I will have to call some people via other means but I will try to use Skype, then at least they are sitting down and can’t easily begin running.

Jane’s maiden name is Wond. She is an avid Harry Potter fan so it is perfect that she has that up her sleeve. On marrying Craig she became Buckingham which is also ideal in that I consider her to be the Queen of organisation.

I ask her if one of the reasons that she is so into the Harry Potter books is because they feed into her organisational streak and she is able to solve riddle after riddle by putting this here and that there and she admits to taking notes as she read them!

My organisational skills are lacking and I go to her for tips, she walks into our house and I show her some arranging that I might have attempted in say, the kitchen pantry, and she says ‘baby steps, baby steps’.

We begin reminiscing about the numbers that were in the beginning of the old phone books. 16, that was Dial a disc, directory enquiries, which we both find hard to pronounce now, 192, the speaking clock, (how much did we enjoy hearing that nice lady) and the operator- 100. ‘What was the operator for?’ To check for a fault on the line and to get through to my grandparents in Essex pre 1972ish.

She raised the bar when she mentioned ‘reversing the charge’. Could you? Should you? Maybe it would be better to walk the wet streets all night than to get your parents to pick you up after you had reversed the charges!

She mentions the amount of thought we gave to using someone else’s phone, it just wasn’t the done thing. I went round Australia in 1992, stayed with friends of friends and always called the number that timed my call, prior to calling England. At the end of the call the operator told me how much the argument with my boyfriend had cost plus a load more for the service. I always handed over the cash and starved paying Telstra for that service (I was 62kg when I got home, my boyfriend met me at the airport and we ended it there and then.)

Another reason that we don’t linger on mobiles could be that we are the guinea-pig generation testing the results of putting electromagnetic radiation in the microwave range against our heads. If we are all dead by sixty, the next generation will be able to draw some conclusions from that.

Our hour long call covered our friend Shane becoming the top ploughman in all of Australia (‘did you see that on Facebook?’), the posting on You Tube called ‘Look up’, pumpkins (which featured in an earlier post) and security blankets (which was in the same post as the pumpkins!) I begin to wonder whether for 365 days the same topics will just keep coming round as I share so many friends with friends in the Australian segment of my list.

But I am happy to talk about blankets and pumpkins for as long as I have to, it is just nice to have the lilting tones of a good friend’s voice baby-stepping around my disorganised brain for an hour.

 

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The Victoria sandwich that Jane made for my birthday last year. Another vision in white!

Karen Halsey 5/365

She answers the phone; her voice is exactly the same and it transports me back to the smoke.

I can’t imagine Karen sitting in a room that isn’t thick with itI Not only did all the grown ups in her house smoke, they also never opened any windows. We would head upstairs to her impressive doll collection and I would gaze out of the window at the little girl, Toni, over the road who eventually became my best friend. Both Karen and I could remember Toni’s wardrobe of clothes ‘do you remember her little kilt?’ I asked and she said ‘yes, she always wore it with that thin jumper’ and I knew we were both on the same page. Karen was my sister’s best friend at primary school and I would do what I could to find ways to tag along.

We haven’t spoken since I was 7. The saying goes ‘Show me a child til they are 7 and I will show you the wo/man’ (that’s the girl power version). So Karen knew the hot off the press grown up version of me and then we lost touch when she went to secondary school. She thought I was quiet but I was completely in awe of her, being as she was, the first May Queen.

The first and main thing we talk about is my Dad. He was the doctor in the area and that made his three daughters minor celebrities, a label which we tried to shake off constantly. I mean, your father’s profession really isn’t a choice you make, we just answered the phones and wrote little messages to him about chicken pox.

Karen tells me that she remembers him so clearly driving round the country roads with his classical music blaring out of the open sunroof. I’m suddenly sitting behind him on the back seat, asking if I can put my head out of the roof and then not being able to breathe with the rush of air.

I ask, bravely, whether her parents are still alive and she is pleased to say her mum is, and I’m quite amazed. She said she hasn’t given up the fags and can’t see the point at 84. Her dad died a while back. She said that my Dad was with him at the end. They had been expecting him to die for some time and my dad said ‘let go, just let go’ and he died.

I didn’t know that my dad said those words to his dying patients, but, in the hospice, that is exactly what I had said to him and he died.

I told her where his ashes were buried in Swepstone. ‘If you stand in the circle of stones opposite the church door and face Snarestone, he is at one o’clock (lunch time of course).

She told me of the death of her older sister, Diane, and that was a shock. That’s a problem with Facebook, you only know the facts that have been made public and if you aren’t on the phones anymore, these things can be missed. I might have been awestruck by Karen but I was always still able to say something. With Diane, I would gaze at her feathercut, her yellow platform shoes, her brown mini skirts and I became speechless.

I was pleased to hear news of her brother who was so popular and so naughty at school. (We didn’t mention the stink bomb that was set off during a screening of ‘Around the World in 80 days’ in the school hall and we didn’t mention the Southern Comfort incident either, best left.)

We talk about work and I tell her that my Dog book is coming out in Chinese. I laugh that the local famous Chinese restaurateur of Ashby is on my mind quite a lot and she tells me that he lost his empire in a card game, someone has taken over the restaurant and it’s still good.

Everything is still good. I’m on the phone talking to Karen, I haven’t spoken to her for 40 years and we are both grateful for the eventful and loving past that we shared.

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Sally Cannon 4/365

We have just had the Great Ocean Road Marathon in town. And you know when the race starts, you begin sprinting even though you have told yourself over and over, that this is not a race, well I think that’s what I’ve done with my blog. I’m standing with my hand on my side wondering what on earth I have let myself in for and I begin talking my legs through it. I need to settle into an easy pace, one foot in front of the other, that’s all it is. So tonight I decide to call either Snooky Baronne Patron Byrom who is a dog or Sally Cannon who isn’t. Sally answers the call, Snooky is so hard to catch.

Not very long ago, when I had just aired my idea, Sally was sitting in her apron in the Apollo Bay Bakery bakery (she owns both) with friends and she called me over. ‘Ring me when I need a rest and can’t be bothered’ she said.

I thought that was such a nice thing to say.

‘You know, when you can’t face calling another person from the past, call me.’

‘Oh, my blog’ I said and knew immediately that she would be a good one to set the pace.

She is laughing as she answers the phone and feels that she has done so well, coming in at 4/365.  I thank her for offering her services so early and don’t tell her that there is no rhyme or reason as to who I call or when I call them, however, I’m happy for her to be my fourth favourite person in the world (Adrian must be a bit shocked).

She asks if I have a list of set questions. I would have if I was Sally. She is a radio broadcaster when she isn’t keeping her cool in one of Victoria’s best and busiest bakeries. I ask her ‘Why are we on Facebook together when we see each other every day?’ and try to make it sound like I am reading from a sheet of paper.

She answers ‘I’m not one of those Facebook people who grows a pumpkin, says “look at my pumpkin” and then demonstrates five ways to cook it.’ She says she finds the public people private and the private people public. I don’t know what category I fall into. She loves it that she can connect to those she went to school with, but she doesn’t feel that she has to catch up with them, so my decision to do this blog is a bit weird (I added the last bit).

I remind her that we met after her daughter had left her security blanket, which we’ll call Bebe (because that’s its name) in the café where I was writing a chapter of The Nurse in a Purse . I had picked it up, knowing how important these things are to small children and I said to the waitress that I would find its owner. Six months later I took the mouldy Bebe out of my lap top case, my breath quickened, I popped it in an envelope, did a bit of detective work and gave it to Sally’s friend.

Sally contacted me to say how kind I had been return it, and happily Sophie had a new Bebe now, thank you very much.

I started to talk about my offspring having blankets that had personalities and were referred to as ‘he’ and ‘she’ and that got us onto the subject of pets. Sally related the sorry story of friends coming to blows over a dead pet rat and I tell her that I never found Herbie, my hamster who got away. She asks what we had for dinner that night and suddenly I’m so glad that Facebook didn’t exist in 1975 or that my Mum had a sick sense of humour.

She told me that her family had been intrigued one day to find three dimensional splatterings in the kitchen. It turned out that her Mum had stepped on her goldfish that had previously jumped out of the bowl and it’s guts had shot across the room and up the wall. I wondered whether I could use that as a metaphor for this blog but no. Facebook doesn’t use walls anymore and I wouldn’t like my writing to be described as koi carp entrails.

Sally said that she really liked hearing me on the phone because I sound just like I do in real life and to me we feel like kids whose parents are in another room, sneaking onto the phone.

I said that I like the way that home phones let someone into our homes via your ear holes and she suggests that next year I might write a letter to each of my friends every day, 365. ‘Oh yes’ I laugh.

‘See you tomorrow’ she says and we hang up. I realise that I have been inadvertently taking notes on my ‘Notification of failure to renew dog/cat registration’ letter from the council and I think that Sally would never do a thing like that, but Snooky Barrone Patron Byrom definitely would.

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Sally on the right not demonstrating anything, no.

Sally on the right not demonstrating anything, no.