You have no idea just how important transport is to the disabled.  It is something we as carers continually think about, and plan for, and worry about, and regularly investigate other options.  Several of my blog posts have been about the wheelchair taxi and how our life was so much more difficult when it went out of service (two years ago this month since we’ve had that facility).  And how pleased we were to find out about the Milford lifter, which we then installed into the car.  And the problems about transferring in and out of the car.  And so on.

Don had his annual appointment with the neurologist this week.  Last year I took him in our car (the Milford lifter).  The year before that we had the wheelchair taxi, just two weeks before it went out of service (the fare was over $300 but not to worry, it’s only once a year, and it was so easy!)

This year I didn’t know how I was going to manage, as it’s been getting more difficult to get him in and out of the car with the lifter all by myself.  In fact I had a complete panic attack last week and realised I just did not want to attempt the trip on my own.  For the record, we live in an outer suburb of Newcastle, and the appointment was in the city centre, 55 km each way and in a busy area with cracked footpaths and tree roots along the pavement.  If I had a problem with the transfer once we got there, I would be completely on my own.

Somebody suggested a local group called Southlakes Carers, which have a bus and apparently part of their charter is to get disabled people to their appointments, take them on outings, generally provide access where there is nothing else.  So it was all arranged, and a warm-hearted driver called Geoff took charge of the whole process. 

Such a relief.

All I had to do was watch!

 

No Trees on the Nullabor

Travelling from coast to coast across the continent means you can claim that most quintessential Australian experience, “I crossed the Nullabor!”  There are even T-shirts and stickers.  When I did my trip to Perth on the Indian-Pacific, we got an announcement some time after breakfast on Monday morning saying, We are now entering the Nullabor Plain, and will be on it for approximately the next seven hours.  (Check it out on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nullarbor_Plain)

This is a snap of the Nullabor out of my train window:

Nullabor desert

the Nullabor desert as seen from the Indian Pacific

No trees, some scrubby mulga, a couple of camels in the distance.

Mid-morning, however, we stopped at Cook, while they did something with the train.  Cook is a fascinating place – it used to have a hospital, school and golf course, now has a population of four – yes, four! – with a little shop that only opens when the Indian-Pacific stops.  Cook closed about 10 years ago when the railway was privatised and they no longer needed a support town.There are still a lot of houses and buildings but you are warned not to go inside any, for safety reasons.

But it doesn’t look like a ghost town.  And have a look at how many trees there are in Cook, bang in the middle of the Nullabor, surrounded by arid desert for hundreds of miles:

The reason is that in 1982, The Year Of The Tree, there was a project where 600 trees were provided to Cook by people from Perth and Adelaide.  There is a plaque explaining:

Greening the town of cook

This resonated greatly with me, because I suddenly remembered that 1982 was the year that Don went in as President of the Rotary Club in Glen Innes, and typically for Don, he wanted to do something really different to mark his presidency.  Because it was The Year Of The Tree, he got the nursery to provide a tree for every person at the inaugural dinner, and they were placed on the table at each place setting.  You know how they come in cylinders.  And so he and the Rotary Club carried out the Greening of Glen Innes that year.  It generated a lot of enthusiasm not just throughout Rotary, but throughout the town.

Anyway, here is the view out of my window a little later:
Nullabor desert again

Hands up everyone who thinks the name “Nullabor” is aboriginal?  Sorry, but it’s from Latin, “nullus” no and “arbor” tree.  (And incidentally, Cook is not named after Captain James Cook the famous explorer who discovered Australia in the first place, but after the Prime Minister of the day in 1917, Joseph Cook.)

And just to emphasise the sameness of that whole day, this is the view late in the afternoon of that Monday before we got to Kalgoorlie:

Unexpected Friendships

Crossing Australia by train on the Indian-Pacific is a very convivial way to travel.  The truth is, you have a very small cramped compartment – and this is even in the “Gold” (first-class) section.  Here is a picture of my compartment:

My home on the train

It’s OK to sit and read a book for a while, or write up a travel diary, but obviously much more interesting to go and spend time in the lounge:

Indian Pacific train ride

And so everybody meets everybody, and by the time we arrived in Perth after almost three days, we were swapping email addresses and promising to send photographs.

I met two women travelling together, Sally and Harriet, both in their early fifties.  Sally was Australian, Harriet was American but has been living in Australia for three years, and I asked how they came to meet up and be travelling together.  I learned that they became pen-friends at the age of twelve, corresponded until their late teens, and then the letters dwindled off, as tends to happen.  Years later, Sally the Australian was going to Canada to visit her daughter who was living there, and decided to visit America and renew the contact with her old pen-friend.  She sent off a letter to the old address, without much hope, realising that Harriet had probably moved long since.  Harriet had indeed moved, but only two doors away in the same street, so she got the letter and they renewed the acquaintance, this time in person for the first time.  And really clicked.  Made a few visits over the next couple of years.

Now, however, Sally has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and is not to live by herself any more.  Her adult family all have their own families and commitments, husband long gone.  So Harriet, saying that she has no commitments or dependants, decided to move to Australia and live with Sally as her carer.  She has been with Sally for three years and is there “for as long as it takes”, in other words she is here for the really long haul.

Can you imagine that?  A penfriend from childhood years, leaving home and country, to go and care for someone who needs her.  Humbling?   Yes.  And inspiring……

Probably I should call this entry “Holidays” or “Breaks”, rather than escapes.  Because I love my husband dearly, and I don’t really have to “escape”.  Maybe “escapades” is nearer to the truth – except I’m not the madcap that that implies.

Last year I sometimes stayed in Sydney overnight – would spend time at the nursing home with Don as usual then leave late in the afternoon, spend the evening with my family in Sydney, and be back in time to be with Don by my usual time the next day, ie not mss a visit with him.  But twice – in August and November – I went away for TWO days to visit my sister, and both times I left the nursing home in tears with the guilt of actually going away and not being there for a day.

And in March this year, I had a lovely break.  I left a notice pinned on Don’s notice board to remind him that I was away for two days, so that he wouldn’t fret if he forgot.  And spent a great couple of days with family in the Blue Mountains and had a wonderful time.

Here is a photo at the actual waterfall of “Wentworth Falls”, which is at the end of the Darwin Walk.  Charles Darwin called in to Australia as you probably know, after he did the world-changing trip to the Galapagos Islands, and he was fascinated at what he discovered while walking in the Blue Mountains along this track.  This year marks the bi-centenary of Darwin’s birth, by the way.

(That’s me on the left, Ruth on the right)

Well, I made a momentous decision to actually go away for a break – a real break, a week’s holiday.  I am going away for one week at the end of June.  On the Indian-Pacific, to Perth, and have arranged to meet up with my Perth cousins who I haven’t seen since I was about 10 (except for one cousin, Ann) and have actually paid for the whole trip and also paid for my return flight home.

It all seems like a dream so far, except that I am starting to get into panic mode and start sweating, when I realise that we are now into May and this is all to take place next month, ie less than 8 weeks away.  How could I even contemplate doing this???

It was all so do-able when it was far in the future and not imminent.  Now, I am aghast that I have planned such a thing.

I haven’t told Don yet.  The trip to Perth on the Indian-Pacific is something that we always talked about doing after we retired.  How can I tell him that I am doing it, and he will be staying in the nursing home??????