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2008 Summary  Not a good year for the family.  A year of sad endings, few beginnings.  I feel guilty for wanting to do this, but now I really must start clearing the house of 30 years of accumulated ‘stuff’ – get rid of the bad memory associations.  First to go will be the car!

August 2008  No pictures here.  On August 15th, 2008, my wife Ann – we were married for 39½ years – passed away from infections and other complications caused by breast cancer.  Her condition had been going downhill for years, but had deteriorated rapidly all this year, so that she weighed practically nothing by August.  She had known of her condition for nearly a decade and was brave about it right until the end.  She is sadly missed.

May 2008  photoWhen my new ( replacement ) Piaggio X8 scoot was only a few months old I got a chance to buy a Yamaha TMax, a 500cc sports scooter that I had known about for some time but had never imagined ever being able to afford ( they are expensive! ).  Needless to say, the price ( through Maxitag contacts ) was good, the temptation was great, and Ann really doesn’t care, so I now have two scooters AGAIN.  That has been handy on occasion, but the X8 doesn’t really get much use any more, so I will probably sell it... some time soon.  I need to pull all the 2-way radio stuff off the X8 and fit it to the TMax, since bike-radio is becoming a bit of a hobby.  Caring for Ann is basically a full-time job, though, so the time available for riding is very limited, and most rides are just shopping jaunts.  Using a TMax for that is a bit of an indulgence...

November 2007  I have just bought another new scooter... photo  After all the hassles of insurance companies and red tape, which took months, I finally received a payout for the scooter damaged way back in April.  Regretably, that meant I had to fork out the difference between the assessed market value and a replacement new bike.  Hardly very fair, given that I was just a victim, but insurance companies being what they are... I went and bought a replacement.  Another Piaggio X8, but this one was black.  The pleasant midnight blue color of the old bike simply wasn’t available in this model any more – so it’s now down to Henry Ford-like color choices: Black or Grey ( pretending to be ‘silver’ ).  I will finally be able to get rid of the old Yamaha Majesty and get back to just ONE scooter!

August 2007  Ann has finally relented, seen a doctor about her cancer, and has been admitted to hospital.  A whole range of treatment will now begin, although she has been told that her chances of survival are very slim.  She seems very resigned about it all.  Her case is under the control of ‘Palliative Care’ so that indicates that the ‘official’ diagnosis is poor.  Her cancer is just too far advanced.  At least she will be able to spend most of her time at home, which she likes.  I am now quite a good nurse after a year’s practice, and the hospital is just a 5-minute drive from home.  Also, it’s important for both of us, albeit for different reasons, that she sees that I am her full-time nurse.  She feared that everyone would abandon her because she had tried to hide her condition for so long!  We have all known for at least a couple of years now, anyway, but she was just too stubborn to admit it or to see a doctor until now.  No more angry confrontations about all this, I hope!  The one bright spot is the fact that I will now qualify for a Carer’s Pension, instead of just continuing to burn into our savings.  I also now qualify for a Disability Sticker, so I can unload her wheel-chair from the car at more convenient places.

July 2007  photoCelebrating Christmas in Australia during the height of a blistering summer is a ridiculous tradition.  Winter is the right time to celebrate Christmas or, given the general lack of religious belief, at least a pagan-style midwinter’s festival ( in medieval times, the early Christian church merely overlaid their symbols on the existing Solstice celebrations – a successful re-badging operation to make it appealing to the masses ).  In Australia, “Christmas in July” has been getting steadily more popular over the past couple of decades.  In New Zealand, they call it “UnChristmas”.  So this year, we had our Winter Solstice Feast with Fiona and Chris’ house decked out in traditional greenery, winter-style food and mulled cider wassail.  Alister, for instance, made a cheese fondue which was yummy.  Good fun – even Ann enjoyed it, so we’ll probably do that again next year.  Eric flew up from Sydney, and it’s the last we’ll see of him for a while – he’s off to live in Canada again next month ( it’s amazing what winning an Oscar can do for your career prospects! ).  In the photo, Chris was wearing his paramedic uniform because he was on call, and those bright strips are reflective tape.

July 2007  I have joined the scooter club Maxitag.  Maxitag organizes day-rides, mostly around the north-side of Brisbane, and Ann doesn’t mind me going on them – I am never away from home for more than a few hours.  On my very first ride, though, the head honcho guy, Bob, found that I had website design and maintenance experience, so my fate was sealed!  Bob has been searching for someone to help, here – he has no computer abilities and still tries to use the phone to organise rides, despite having a forum available, so I should be able to make quite a difference.  I want to make all rides more inclusive, rather than just appealing to a close-knit group of riders living on the north-side of Brisbane.

April 2007  gifphotoBingle time!  Just before Easter, a car ran into me.  He was staring straight into the setting sun and simply didn’t see me.  It was a fairly low-speed event, but I was still thrown over the screen to land on the bonnet of the car – which stopped abruptly at that startling sight!  At the scene of the accident, the bike damage didn’t seem too bad, but the repair quote was just a few hundred short of an entire new scooter, so the insurance company wrote it off.  The front wheel was pushed back, bending the ‘crumple-zone’ nose-cone frame and one of the hydraulic suspension forks – follow the line of the handlebar shaft down and you’ll see the degree of bend.  Kinky, eh?  Just as well that I still had the old Yamaha Majesty, so I still had a bike to ride.

March 2007    Eric, working in Sydney at Animal Logic, was the colorist for Happy Feet, the movie that picked up several Oscars this year.  Director George Miller was kind enough to visit Animal Logic for photo opportunities, bringing one of those little golden guys with him.  So this photo is dinky-di – not a PhotoShop mockup as I first suspected!

December 2006  photo   Now that their new house is complete, Alister & Vera played host to the traditional Christmas lunch.
You can always tell when the food is ready by the sound of the bubbly popping – not by the smell.  In mid-summer, who wants hot food?  Cold bubbly is a different matter.
photophoto Erin is old enough to enjoy all the activities – even assembling complicated presents – well, Eric assembled, Erin supervised.  But for Aleron, it was all a bit too much ( love the casual footwork )...
photo  Over Christmas we also caught up with “Constable Leo” ( seen here flanked by Derek, Eric ), who has now finished his police training and was about to take up his first posting in Rockhampton.  Good luck, Leo – you’ll need it!

November 2006  I have just bought a new scooter... photoIt’s a new Piaggio X8-250i, and that is a definite improvement on the ageing Majesty.  I do all our shopping on that ( the car is really used only for shuttling Ann back and forth, now ) and also do some weekend highway cruising.  Very enjoyable.  I am now pretty much a 24/7 Carer for Ann, even though she still refuses to admit that there is anything wrong with her, or to see a doctor about it, so it is nice to get out on the scoot from time to time.

April 2005  photoFiona has had her second baby, Aleron!  Here she is with Erin and Chris at Alderley, all fussing over the newborn.  Aleron just wants to sleep...

June 2004  photoAnn and I squeezed in a trip to New Zealand, which she loves.  I am very glad we did that, as she is now having a bit of trouble coping with ordinary day-to-day tasks.  We started in Christchurch, visiting my sister, where I discovered that my Drivers License was out of date!  I couldn’t hire a car, so we did a lot of bus travelling.  Up to Nelson to see family, then over to Wellington to see an old friend, up to Auckland to meet up with previous neighbors and friends.  Finally up to Whangarei, where this photo was taken.

April 2004  photoAlister married Vera at a trendy civil ceremony in Maleny, outdoors at a Bavarian Restaurant ( Vera was born in Vienna, Austria ) and we all enjoyed the oom-pah and schnapps.  It was good to catch up with Maleny friends, Graham and Jenny, too.
Eric has returned from Canada to sell up all his gear, as he has accepted an offer of a permanent job in Toronto.  No more free Vespa!

May 2003  gif...I have been so impressed with Eric’s little Vespa that I now see automatic scooters as a sensible commuter vehicle.  The only gripe I have is that you need a bigger engine size to stay out of trouble on long rides in heavy traffic, such as the commute that I face daily.  So I have bought a second-hand 250cc Yamaha Majesty.  This also opens the door to highway touring, which is fun.  The increase in power after riding Eric’s little Vespa seems amazing – I could get used to this!  I still ride the Vespa, but now only about once a week to keep it active.

February 2003photo  Eric has accepted an offer to work at a post-production house in Toronto, Canada for a few months to see whether they suit each other.  He bought a scooter some time in 2002, and asked me to “look after” his Vespa while he was away in Canada.  He had discussed buying his scooter with me because the first vehicle I ever owned was a scooter – a Puch RS125, in about 1959, and he knew that I had owned several scooters or bikes over the years... all of them many decades ago, though!  All scooters and bikes had been manual then, and it wasn’t until Eric bought his brand-new Vespa that I experienced riding an automatic scooter, and I was impressed!  I had expected automatic bikes to be completely hopeless, but they’re not!  So, after Eric flew out to Canada, I had the opportunity to test-ride a scooter for commuting purposes.

January 2003  I have sprung a leak!  Part of the impromptu surgical repair work associated with my gall-bladder removal has failed, and I now have what is known as an Incisional Hernia... in other words, a sewn-up repair location has popped open.  It is not very bad at this stage and the medicos don’t want to operate on me so soon after the gall-bladder procedure, so I have to avoid lifting any heavy weights.  Since my angina is also getting steadily worse ( I had a very small heart attack nearly 15 years ago ), that should not be a problem... I just won’t be a very active person from now on.  Bummer!

October 2002  It took 6 months before the government agreed to subsidise hospitals to cover the increased costs of Public Liabilty Insurance, and they started to work through their backlog of surgery cases.  By the time I had my surgery, my condition had worsened a lot.  The op, in late 2002, was supposed to be a ‘keyhole’ procedure but, once they saw the mess inside, they had to revert to traditional Open-Cut Mining.  The operation was successful but a lot of repair work had to be done around the gall bladder, and that led to the next problem...

May 2002  photoAnn’s sister Kate and her husband Ossie, with whom we got on so well during our UK trip a couple of years back, have planned a New Zealand tour.  Ann and I flew over there to meet up with them for the South Island part of their trip.  We hired a station-wagon and all piled into that for the scenic tour experience.  Autumn in the deep south is spectacular, and not unlike Scotland’s North, so we all enjoyed the trip very much.

March 2002  The first direct flow-on effect from the cancer surgery and subsequent radiation treatment:  I turned bright yellow one day and was sent home from work!  I went to a doctor who took one look at me and declared that I had Meningitis, and I had to start immediately on an isolation routine to prevent me infecting other people.  So, for a week prior to having a CAT-scan to ‘confirm’ the diagnosis, I researched Meningitis and started on the bloody awful diet routine.  Then, after the scan showed no sign whatsoever of Meningitis, the doctor concluded that I must have secondary cancer instead.  So I went from being an infectious sick person to being a dead man walking, pending an ultra-sound scan to confirm that diagnosis.  A week later the ultra-sound scan showed no sign of liver damage, so I was referred to the local hospital to see if they could trace the cause of my ‘Homer Simpson’ complexion.  They immediately diagnosed a gall-stone event and scheduled me for gall-bladder removal surgery.  The gall-stones had been caused by the dramatic weight-loss following the cancer treatment, causing my liver to go into overdrive to try and replace lost body tissue.
Except... at precisely that time, hospitals all around the country were arguing with the government about the sudden, dramatically increased cost of all Public Liability Insurance, so all ‘Elective’ surgery has been put on hold.  I don’t know when I will be able to have my surgery.

May 2000    photoWe did our UK trip a year later, as I was just starting to feel ‘normal’ again, and both thoroughly enjoyed it.  We had our 31st Wedding Anniversary in Fort William, on the West Coast of Scotland.  The prospect of this trip was another reason why Ann had decided to keep quiet about her cancer, but I did not know that at the time.  We got on particularly well with Ann’s sister Kate and her husband Ossie, who live in Corpach, near Fort William.

April 1999  This is just to set the record straight ( written years after the events )...  In April 1999 I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on my tongue and had surgery to remove it.  Ann and I had planned to take a trip to the UK in May to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary, so that had to be hurriedly canceled.  The surgery was not really a problem ( although it was the source of my now-annoying lisp! ), nor even the fact that they cut my throat from ear to ear to obtain biopsy samples... all the samples tested clear, so the cancer had not spread.  What mattered was that the medicos recommended radiation treatment of my mouth area as a precaution, and I agreed to that.  However, they started the treatment only a few days after the operation, while my throat still looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie and the scar tissue was still fresh   I wasn’t even back onto solid food at the time.  The radiation ‘cooked’ all that delicate scar tissue so that I could not swallow.  The result was that I had to stay on liquids, dropped an amazing 30kg over a 5-week period, and they had to pull the plug on my radiation treatment.  My throat recovered to a degree but to this day I have trouble swallowing.
Unknown to me, Ann discovered the early signs of breast cancer exactly as I was going through all this drama.  She was very slim, and did not like what she saw me going through.  The thought of her losing a lot of weight worried her, and she also worried that we might not be able to take the planned UK trip, which was important to her.  So she made the decision not to say anything about her condition.  I had further medical problems in the few years following the tongue episode, mostly as a direct result of the huge weight loss, so she felt that she could not bring the subject up.  She admitted this years later, when she could no longer hide it, but it was by then too far advanced to treat.  This also coincided with her passage through menopause, so I dismissed her mood changes as merely a symptom of that – something I should not criticize.

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