05 December 2013

Roland Allen Harvey 1929-2013


On 18 November 2013 my beautiful husband, Roland Allen Harvey, passed away at Noosa Hospital after a brief battle with pneumonia. His physical and mental health had both deteriorated greatly in the past six months, and though we, his family, have very heavy hearts, we know his passing now, while he still knew and loved us all, was a blessing for him. It is less so for us. 

Allen's poor damaged brain has gone to the Queensland Brain Bank at the University of Queensland. We hope in some small way it will help researchers there to learn a bit more about Primary Progressive Aphasia, the debilitating brain deterioration that ultimately robbed him of his mental fluency and physical agility. 

Allen was cremated in Noosa at 8am on Friday, 22 November. At that exact time, his family gathered at The Spit, where the Noosa River flows into the sea, to remember him with a champagne breakfast.


On 15 December friends and family will gather at a lunch in Doonan to share reminiscences of my dear husband's long, productive and very happy life. 

09 June 2013

A memory of friendship

This orchid opened this morning – a beacon of brightness on an otherwise bleak and wet winter day. The annual flowering of this plant always brings to mind John and Gillian Unicomb. They left the orchid behind as a thank-you gift more than ten years ago, after they'd had a holiday in our house during one of our absences overseas.

John and Allen were at high school together. Then both went on to a lifetime of work in the theatre – only working together once in their late 50s when John played an outstanding Willy Loman in a wonderful production of Death of a Salesman, directed by Allen. Gilly and I first met in Hobart in 1971. We were neighbours and had our babies together the next year.

Sadly, John died earlier this year. So the annual flowering of this orchid brings lovely memories of a very dear man – and of the power of friendships.

05 June 2013

My winter garden

Here are just a few corners of my too-big garden - showing some of the plants that brighten my heart on these (relatively) cold winter mornings.

We call this the butterfly bush (with some ornamental ginger on the left). The white flowers only appear for a couple of weeks at this time of the year. For the rest of the year, it's a pretty unimpressive plant. I cut it right back to the base after flowering. Otherwise it would grow too leggy.

Outside Allen's office window is a little group of fishtail palms. There are at least four climbers living on it. The latest to take hold is this philodendron (at least, I think it's a philodendron - the climbing sort, not the tree type). 

My golden penda tree (below) is full of berries. In the warmer months it will be awash with gorgeous yellow blooms. It's a Queensland native, and  I know the birds visit the flowers for nectar, but I haven't yet seen any birds coming for the berries.

That's one of my smaller poinsettias. It puts on a good show every year, when the overhanging frangipani (or plumeria) has lost its leaves.

I have only a small collection of bromeliads - all in pots, so they won't get waterlogged during our summer downpours. I have placed them along a path that leads from the house to the studio. That way anyone staying out there can enjoy them - as can I when I use the studio.

Most of the bromeliads have grown 'pups' over the last season. I guess they're pretty happy in this spot, which faces north (the prime position for any plant), but has a number of large palms and other things providing some shelter on hottest days.

This year I've moved my herbs and a few greens up to the topmost terrace, right outside the living-room. Too often I would forget to pick these before dark - and then have to wander down to the unlit vegetable garden with just a torch to guide the way. So now they're conveniently located just off the front terrace, and well lit by the exterior lights on that side of the house.

Here you see rocket (behind a small border of ornamental plants). Herbs are on the other side of that little gardenia you can just see at the top right of the photo. The boxes have various oriental greens coming along - for stir-fries. A lime tree provides shelter from the hot western sun.

At the far end of this same terrace (below) is one of two teak rocking chairs that my mother loved to sit in during the year she spent with us.

Also in the photo below is a ponytail palm I inherited from Zoe. It needs more TLC than a working mum can provide. And on the plant stand behind the rocker you might catch a glimpse of my largest Christmas cactus. It's just coming into flower. (There are a few more of these amongst the bromeliads in the photo above.)

Finally, on the pergola outside my bedroom window, a delicately blue-coloured thunbergia is colonising part of the roof as well as the pergola. (This is also one of the climbers that's up in the fishtail palm.) Officially this is now a weed, and shouldn't be planted too close to bush areas, as it can get out of control. But here it's well contained by the parking circle on one side and paths on all other sides. I just have to climb up and cut it off the roof now and then, so it doesn't choke up my gutters. The lovely flowers are well worth that trouble.

02 May 2013

Early introduction to Planet Aphasia

Ask me what is the most dazzling theatre experience I have ever had and I will answer without a moment's hesitation that it was the 1993 premiere production of L'homme qui... at the fabulously renovated old Paris theatre, Theatre des Bouffes du Nord.

This stunning drama, inspired by Oliver Sacks' The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, was the work of British director Peter Brook and his renowned troupe of actors, dancers and musicians known as the International Centre for Theatre Research. Brook's multinational company had had a peripatetic existence until the troupe took up residence at this Paris theatre, built in 1876 and renovated in 1974 under the direction of Brook and his partner Micheline Rozan. The theatre, and the unusual way in which it was brought back to life in a way that maintained its aura as a living relic, is worth a story of its own. The Theatre des Bouffes du Nord featured prominently as a location for the classic French thriller, Diva. And if you read French, have a look at the theatre's official website for an overview of its amazing history and restoration.

We arrived early at the theatre that night, as we weren't sure how difficult it would be to find. (We'd been told it was behind the Gare du Nord, one of Paris's larger railway stations.) And we also knew that Brook's policy did not allow numbered or reserved seats. Tickets were all one price; you sat wherever you wanted, or could. It was necessary to arrive early to get a good seat. And so we had at least 15 minutes in which to sit and marvel at the incredible ambiance created by a restoration that had retained as much as possible of the fabric of more than one hundred years of use. Peeling paint on the stage's walls and overhead a giant domed grill of rusted metal contrasted sharply with crisp new seating that appeared as if suspended within the original and untouched perimeter walls.

The play itself, of course, was performed mainly in French. I say 'mainly' because a good deal of what some of Sacks' patients spoke was gibberish, in keeping with their various brain disorders. Allen doesn't speak or understand French. He knew about Sacks' work, as did I, though I don't know if either of us had yet read the book which inspired the production. But not only did Allen feel he understood most of what was going on, we both felt we could almost 'hear' what the afflicted patients were trying to say in their nominally unintelligible ramblings. All of this was due to the magnificence of the acting – there's just no other word that describes it better than 'magnificent'.

At the play's conclusion, the audience sat silent and stunned for what seemed like ages. Then applause and foot-stamping erupted (the built-up seating had a wooden floor, I think). And when the tumult finally died down, many people, like us, remained rooted to their seats. All around I could hear intense conversations in French start up about the play and its contents. It was an electrifying experience – just what good theatre should be, but so rarely is.

Why do I so often now think back to that magical Paris experience? I suppose it's because in some ways I feel I'm now living inside a Sacksian world. How strange it is that the single most inspiring theatrical experience I have ever had should so eerily have prefigured where our lives were destined to end up 20 years later – Allen struggling, mainly in vain, to make himself understood. And his shrinking brain in ever-increasing revolt against his personality and all that he once was, knew and accomplished.

It seems only appropriate to end with a statement about aphasia taken from an April 2 post on Oliver Sacks' blog:
What is aphasia?
Imagine knowing what you want to say, but your brain refuses to let you utter even the simplest word. Or imagine listening to your friends and family and having no idea what their words mean. Sometimes the ability to read or write is affected too.
That, unfortunately, is the world Allen now inhabits – a place a fellow sufferer has called "Planet Aphasia".

01 May 2013

Testing from mobile

Maybe if I can master the technique of posting from my mobile phone I might be able to get back into blogging.

It's way too long since I was on this site. But things have progressed at home - no, progressed is not the right word....regressed maybe? Yes, A's condition is worsening quite quickly and so we both have to put a lot more effort and energy in to get through each day. What little I have left goes into the garden, when I can get out there.

Visits from our own little Baby Bear (BB as we call her) are a beacon in an otherwise dim world.

24 February 2013

Salamanca Market stalwarts

Hobart's Salamanca Market (Tasmania) and Eumundi Markets (Queensland) could probably be credited with the revival of the market culture in Australia.

Both started with fruit and vegetables and some local craft works targeting mainly local or district residents and occasional visitors. But both expanded to become major tourist drawcards, contributing to the revitalisation of their historic precincts in the process.

Salamanca Market recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. For about half that time my sister has been a stall holder there, selling her handmade jewellery. She uses mainly sterling silver, semi-precious stones and freshwater pearls, but in the last few years she has also incorporated some of her original crochet work to make a range of brooches and other accessories featuring fruits and flowers in a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns of her own design.

My sister's can-do partner is the engine supporting the stall's success. Hard-working and always cheerful, he builds, adapts and facilitates all that's needed to to make the operation (and their home, for that matter) run smoothly.

Both are also wonderful salespersons, well informed about all the materials they use in their jewellery and the processes by which these are produced or mined. And most importantly, they really love meeting the people who visit their stall each week. They are always ready for a chat with tourists and make it their business to be a source of useful information about all sorts of island experiences.

Salamanca Market is what market shopping should be like: local artists, artisans, crafts persons and small-scale entrepreneurs making a living doing something they enjoy. Don't miss the market if you ever visit Hobart (http://www.salamanca.com.au/salamanca_market_hours.htm). There are some 300 or so stalls, as well as dozens of small craft shops and boutiques in the neighbouring sandstone warehouses left over from the city's convict-era colonial past.

And be sure to say hello to my sister and her partner in market stall 250.

(Postscript: It's seems more than coincidence that my sister met her partner more than 10 years ago at Eumundi Markets. She was spending a couple of weeks visiting with me and rented a temporary market stall in Eumundi on two consecutive Saturdays. What began as a friendly exchange between neighbouring stallholders has now developed into a lifetime partnership.)

22 February 2013

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

Nothing too unusual to report here on my fourth day of holiday in Tasmania. So how come I'm exhausted? Well let's see. My sister and I did a tour of secondhand shops earlier today - what we call "op shops". She's an expert on the local scene and I was hoping to pick up some tips on how to find the best deals.

In the end I forced myself to pass up a cashmere and wool Perry Cutten 3/4 overcoat ($10) and a camel hair great coat ($40) because... Well, after all, I live in a semi-tropical climate and rarely get to wear even a wool cardigan.

My sister's three rules for op-shopping: (1) you should love the item (not just like it) and find it near-perfect, (2) you should need the item or at least definitely plan to use or wear ear it and (3) the price should be right. Those coats failed to meet the second criterion and one of them was also one size too big (a failure in the first category).

So it was on to lunch at one of North Hobart's many ethnic eateries. Then we visited the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Established in 1818 and covering 13.5 hectares, the gardens include 6500 species of plants, 400 of which are Tasmanian natives.

As always when I've visited these gardens, I was transfixed. We probably walked several kilometres, admiring the sequoia, Chinese elms, alders and one magnificent white mulberry that covered a space as big as the average house block.

Below I'll share a few photos from the gardens, including one taken underneath the mulberry, though it doesn't do the old tree justice. And I'm working exclusively on my iPhone to take these photos, post them to my blog and then view the results. I won't be able to check the quality until I take time to review everything on computer later. So forgive any less-than-perfect-quality shots.

21 February 2013

A Tassie tale

I see I have managed to post from iPhone though I can't manage to place photos anywhere except at the end of each post. So here's the second part of my introduction to my current Tasmanian interlude. I hope you can match the photos to the text.

The entrance to the upstairs unit at my sister's house is via a ramp from ground level to the door, through a green tunnel. On the left is a large Japanese maple, clipped to a make a green wall in summer, but just imagine the riot of colour in autumn. And on the right is one massive clematis vine growing from a patch of garden under the ramp. Its colourful burst would occur in spring.

My sister's house is on a steeply sloping hillside so her garden is a series of terraces. Veggies are planted in sunny strips and spots here and there.

Especially delightful are the plants I remember from my cold-weather gardening days - like fuchsia and roses. And can you see that fat bumblebee on the tall balsam?

Hello Hobart

This is the first post from my iPhone and it's an experiment. I'm in Tasmania, visiting my sister. Here's the view from my bedroom window, with the Derwent River and the Eastern Shore of Hobart on the far side.

We sailed up that river yesterday, headed for the relatively new Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) that has propelled Tasmania to the No. 1 spot on Lonely Planet's list of top international destinations. More on that in another post. First let's see if this posts OK.

About me

My photo
I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.