Rats in the bed

I originally started this blog to raise awareness about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). As many know I developed this condition following Total Knee Replacement (TKR) in 2010. It is of interest to note, that the by and of itself, the TKR was successful and the joint works very well. Why I developed this dreadful condition one can only guess but the literature and the doctors advise that the trauma of the surgery can lead to the development of the condition. I have spoken to people through Facebook who have developed CRPS as a result of a fall or a break or a sprain or simply a bump. One amazing young woman, I met when I was in rehabilitation, developed her condition when a chair was pulled from under her by a classmate playing a prank and she landed heavily on the floor.

I have not written about CRPS for quite a while and your feedback on my sharing of childhood memories has been well received and positive. I thought I would share with you a new symptom of CRPS that has developed much to my displeasure.

One of the interesting (?) things about CRPS is that there is no defined course of the condition. It can affect each person differently and the progress of the condition differs from person to person. In my case I have had a significant spread. CRPS spread from my left leg to my left arm and then to the left torso and side of the face. Then, that not being sufficient, it is in my right foot and arm. Some people do not have a spread and some symptoms don’t appear for some. One thing that is common however is the severe unrelenting pain. The pain score is highest on pain scales and is said to be higher than childbirth or amputation. For some people the pain does not retract. In my case I have days were it is bearable and days which are beyond unbearable. On these days of unbearable pain I am either confined to bed or the lounge. I try to make the best of the days when the pain falls to a manageable level.

One of the things I have experienced from the beginning of this journey is the feeing that ants are crawling on and biting my skin. Formication is the medical term for this sensation. It is one specific form of a sensation known as paresthesia.

At the weekend this particular sensation took a turn for the worse. At 2.00am on Sunday as I lay in the warmth of bed listening to the rain with my companion insomnia I had a new and never before experienced sensation. I leapt from the bed, ripping back the covers looking for the rodent that was biting on my leg. Hb awoke and assured me there was no rat in the bed. He thought I had been dreaming and soon went back to sleep. But that was not the case. The ants have gone and I now have the feeling that a small animal is gnawing on my left leg. Now I have never experienced a rat or any other animal gnaw at any part of my anatomy but what is happening now is like I imagine it would be.

I will phone the GP in the morning and let hm know about this. There is probably not much he will be able to do to diminish the sensation but I like to share the challenge.


My Aunt turns 90

Aunty R is really not my aunty but people of my generation all have people they know who, whilst not a familial aunty, become an “aunty”. Uncle P, her husband and my Dad were first cousins. They were very close, as close, as brothers really, as they were similar in age and when my Dad’s mother died when Dad was only 12 years of age, he spent much time with his cousin’s family and the two became like siblings.

When my Mum and Dad married Dad chose P to be his best man such was their bond. And my Mum and Dad first married they spent much time with Aunty R and Uncle P as they both lived in Merewether at the time. Mum and Dad moved to Hamilton and as did P and R and they lived one street from each other. As Dad and Uncle P aged they began to look like twins rather than cousins such was the resemblance.
In 1927, the year of Aunty R’s birth, King George V was on the throne and Stanley Bruce was the Prime Minister. Jack Lang was the Premier of NSW. The Australian Trade Union Council was formed and Parliament house was opened in Canberra. Charles Kingsford Smith made the first around Australia flight in ten days and five and a half hours. The first trans Atlantic telephone call was made, the Academy Awards were founded, the first talkie film the Jazz Singer was released…..In sport the Harlem Globe trotters played their first game.

Many notable Australians were born in this year, Slim Dusty, Frank Sedgeman, Bart Cummings, Dawn Lake and Clive Churchill. There have been many changes in society. In that time radio in every home, followed by the invention of television firstly B&W and colour, telephones initially fixed landlines and then mobiles, computers and the Internet and with it Social Media have had a major impact. Cars and overseas travel have become the norm. Society values have changed however Aunty R has maintained her strong faith and her strong values while moving with the times and accepting changes in society. Her strength has shown through at many times and in many ways over the years.
My memories of Aunty R are always ones of happiness. As a youngster we would often go to Merewether Baths in the summer months where the two families would spend time catching up as well as swimming and playing on the sand.

As a teenager I recall thinking how “cool” Aunty R was as she had her licence and could get herself around, could take the kids to school and my younger sisters C and R really liked this aspect of going to school with S and C.…..My mum never held her licence, so if Dad was not available, we had to walk everywhere.

Aunty R was always very fashionable and I am sure you would agree that through teenage eyes this was a very important quality in someone. Her hair was always immaculately coiffured and the latest style. Her clothes were fashionable but suitable to the occasion. This quality has not diminished as she has aged. One thing I do remember is that to my eyes Aunty R always wore high heel shoes. I cannot remember seeing her when I was young in “flatties”

I remember thinking as a teenager how wonderful it was for a person “as old as Aunty R” to sill be playing tennis. I would see her going off for a game of tennis in her little short tennis dress and think it was just wonderful and oh so glamourous. Now as I reflected on this it was some 50years ago and she would have been about 35 or 40. Not at all old really but everything is relative when it comes to age and I am a little embarrassed to admit I thought she was really old then…..I guess that is one of her other qualities, Aunty R is ageless, that the tennis must have been magic as she certainly does not look 90 years old.

Aunty R is a good and faithful friend to my Mum, visiting her regularly in the nursing home. She is a loving aunty to myself and my siblings.

Always a smile and a caring word, always interested in what we are doing and how we were going. This has been evident through Primary and Secondary School, always in my career endeavours and keen to know about the progress of my children, grand children and now my great grand child.

Aunty R, I wish you love, laughter, happiness and continued longevity as you enter into your 90th year …..Much love and best wishes.

My First Job

The year was 1966 and the opportunities available to women / girls were much more limited than the present day.

When I first “left” school at the end of Year 10, in the second year of the Wyndham Scheme, I went to work at David Jones at what was then called Kotara Fair. The Human Resources Manager from DJs had attended a careers night at my high school and much to my embarrassment Mum made me ask her about work. She recognised in me even back then an ability to talk to people. She told me that if I wanted a position at the end of the year to come and see her. So I began a short lived sales career.

I thought at the time it was very glamorous as initially I was in the lingerie section. and then it became even more exciting when I was moved to the record department. I remember one day Billy Thorpe came into the store to promote a recently released record. I did not tell my parents that he was coming into the store as I was nervous they might not have let me go to work that day. I had an argument with my parents some months earlier because they would not let me attend a Billy Thorpe concert at the Newcastle Town Hall. Two of my friends were allowed to go and I had even told Mum falsely that a parent would be accompanying us. She was adamant and the answer was a very definite NO. Mum woke me the morning after the concert with the Newcastle Morning Herald in hand to show me the headline that report a riot at the concert and three people were taken to hospital. So I thought it best not to tell her about the celebrity visit in case she was fearful for my safety.

Back then retail was very different – we worked 9 – 5 five days a week and 9 -12 on Saturdays. I cannot remember what the rate of pay was but I seem to remember that I was paid under $20 a week.

At the end of the Christmas holidays the State bursaries were announced and I was awarded a bursary which covered tuition and text books to complete Yrs 11 and 12. So I decided to return to school to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. So I left the glamour and excitement of David Jones.

At the end of Yr 11 I met a young man with whom I knew, even back then, I would spend the rest of my life. (see previous blog). So when the HSC results and scholarships were announced a couple of things impacted on my decision not to take up a scholarship. Firstly I did not think I needed a career as I was going to marry the good looking fitter and turner and have babies. The feminist in me now is a little embarrassed to write these words but that was my thinking at the time. Secondly, my parents were not really in a position to support me financially any longer.

So I left books and study behind albeit temporarily and gained a position as a dental nurse. For a few weeks before this I had a job in Ells one of the big independent booksellers at the time but considered a career in dental nursing much more glamorous.

The First Date

I was discussing with my niece recently the current trend of online dating and dating apps. This caused me to think about how different things were when I had my first date with my husband.

It was 1967 and as a celebration for the successful completion of out Year 11 studies the school I attended held a Cabaret for girls and partners. Now I seem to recall, at the time, it was a pretty big deal. I had been “going out” with a boy for a few weeks and I had asked him to be my partner and he had accepted this invitation. However on the Friday before the Cabaret, he told me he did not want to see me anymore and he would not be accompanying me to the event. I was somewhat upset to say the least and was determined I would not attend on my own. I was to later find out that this particular young man had been involved in some illegal activity and the long arm of the law was about to catch up with him.

Mum had made my dress to wear on the night, shoes had been purchased and the hairdresser booked. In my dramatic teenage angst I announced I just would not be attending. Mum said that I would regret taking that stance and she came up with the idea that my older brother would accompany me. Well as far as I was concerned that was just not going to happen given that would be the height of embarrassment. So I sulked off to the phone booth to ring a coupe of male friends only to find they were already going. Again Mum was adamant I would be going and I was going with my brother. I should say that he was as reluctant as I was about this plan.

The following evening I went with a couple of girlfriends to a dance at the local hall in Tighes Hill. A fellow I had been seeing some months previously was there and he introduced me to a very good looking young man he had been to school with. I had not seen him at the dances before. Anyway he asked me to dance and in my desperation to not be seen at the Cabaret with my brother I asked him almost immediately to be my date for the Monday evening. He responded positively and he fitted the criteria. That is he had a suit, a car to transport me in and was very good looking. We danced and chatted until the dance finished at 11.00 and Dad came to collect my girlfriends and I. So I introduced him to Dad and told him I would see him on Monday evening.

Monday evening arrived and I guess i was a little nervous he might not show up as it had all happened so quickly. I was looking resplendent in orange chiffon with guipure lace and seed pearls at the neckline. Mum had my brother was on stand-by, just in case, but he was not needed. At the appointed time the good looking apprentice fitter and turner arrived and the rest as they say is history. I was 16, he 19. We married 3 years later in 1970.

My husband’s friend married a girl I knew slightly from a neighbouring suburb a few months after us and she and I are now very close and very firm friends.


Today I had the privilege of facilitating the Anzac service at Maroba Aged Care Facility. To be among the residents who can remember the difficulties and tragedies of war was indeed an honour.

Dad served in the 2/13th A.I.F during WW11 and Anzac Day has always been a special day in our family. He like many other returned service men never talked about his war service. I know he was too young to enlist at the outbreak of war and he had a job working on the railways. In his last years I asked him many questions about his life but the war was something that was always off limits. He did tell me however that he wanted to join the Army so he stopped going to work, I think in the hope of losing his job. He told me his boss came to see him and asked why he was not coming to work and when Dad told him he arranged for him to be released from his job so he could enlist. He was at this time still to you to join the A.I.F but did his training and when he turned 18 was able to enlist.

From studying his war records I have been able to discern that he served overseas and was stationed in Borneo and New Guinea. He was sent to Morotai and then to Rabaul. While the records do not give any indication of what it was like for him, from reading historical accounts of attempts to defeat the Japanese, one can only image what he faced and his subsequent reluctance to talk about it.

Each Anzac Day Dad would march with his battalion in the Newcastle Anzac march. I remember as kids we would catch the bus into town with Mum and watch this event, happily waving our flags, as the bands and the returned service men would pass by. As a child I did not realise the significance of this event and it was only as I became older that the true bravery of these men became apparent to me. As the years passed the ranks of those marching thinned, Dad became too unwell to march but he would still participate and travel the route via taxi.

He was a proud member of the Hamilton R.S.L. and there formed many lasting friendships and experienced true mate ship. Dad would have been proud of the tribute paid by his R.S.L mates at his funeral.
Being part of the service at Maroba today caused me to reflect, as I do each ANZAC day of how lucky we are to live in a country where others gave there lives and liberty to defend our shores. As I think about the difficulties across the globe I truly hope that one day we can live in peace, unity and harmony.

Beauty rituals

I saw a post on Facebook earlier in the week that reminded me of hairstyles when I was a kid. I have always had short hair. For whatever reason I have never been able to grow my hair to any length. I am blessed with really thick hair which just gets thicker not longer. Anyway as a a kid Mum would often have a go at cutting our hair particularly our fringes. Now when this happened they were always on a slant and when dad got home he would straighten them up and the fringe would be extremely short and still crooked. These hair cutting events would invariably happen around school photo time and in order to hide the crooked fringe Mum would pin it all back of the forehead and plonk a bow on top. In those days I really wanted to have long hair but sadly that was not to be. Having been reminded about this it got me thinking about other things our mothers did to our hair and the things we did to ourselves in the name of beauty.

There were the curling tongs. These were a similar in shape to the modern day curling tongs but of course were not connected to electricity. Mum would heat them on the flame of the gas stove then when they heated she would apply them to our hair to produce curls. Now having been afflicted with “hair as straight as sticks” it never really worked to give a curl just a frizzy bit on the end. If you happened to move your head during this process then you would have a burn on the place the tongs would contact. And the smell of burning hair would pervade the house for many hours.

Then there was rag curls. This also met with limited success with my straight hair. Mum would spend hours wrapping our hair around pieces of rag before we would go to be and in the morning we were meant to be transformed into a Shirley Temple look alike. My younger sister had long hair (which I always envied) and her hair would have some semblance of curl. Mine on the other hand would just be sticking out at odd angles all over my head.

Kiss curls were fad of my teenage years. I would spend a great deal of time in front of the mirror pinning my hair in bobby pins to achieve a perfect look of kiss curls framing my face. By the time I perfected this technique. kiss curls had gone out of fashion and sweeping bangs were the order of the day. This is something that I could achieve with relative ease, having thick hair and the right cut…

Cilla Black was popular at the time and we all aspire to look like her with sweeping side bangs and a full fringe. Hair rollers were sometimes needed to achieve this look for special occasions when you wanted a more dramatic effect. So you would wind your hair around these massive rollers and stick pins in them and off you would go to bed for a very restless night of trying to get comfortable despite the hardware prodding your scalp. When the rollers came out you would spray your hair with lacquer….a substance that made your hair feel like toffee and could withstand a tropical cyclone. The lacquer came in a clear glass bottle with a pump attached to atomise it. Mothers were great users of rollers for themselves. Many a mother would be seen at the shops on a Saturday morning or at confession on a Saturday afternoon with the hair in rollers covered by a colourful scarf in preparation for a night out or Mass on Sunday morning. The scarves were gaily coloured, often souvenir scarves with greetings from Port Macquarie or Tasmania emblazoned on them.

Home perms were popular as well in my teenage years. Again the job of rolling the hair fell to Mum….end papers would be applied, foul smelling lotion would be applied and then you would wait for some time for it to take effect and the result would be curly until you had to wash it then it transformed into a mass of frizz.
I had a friend in my teenage years who had long blonde hair. She was so lucky as she was able to use a mauve rinse called Magic Silver White to give her locks a mauve tint. Before we would go out on Saturday nights she would iron her hair so it would be straight. Hair Straighteners had not even been thought of back then.

Another friend tells the story of her mother using a solution of sugar and water when she was a little girl to keep her hair in place. This story always gives me a vision of flies and ants following her around as she went about her childhood activities.

It is great times have changed in relation to these beauty routines but we have lost something in that we sometimes miss out on one-on-one mother/daughter bonding that was a part of these rituals.


I don’t like……

I have written a few blogs about my favourite things and things that I like (as well as sharing lots of childhood memories). I thought it might be time to write about some of the things that I don’t like. Not surprisingly many of these things relate to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). My apologies if you find this a little self indulgent.

  1. I do not like having CRPS. It has interfered/intruded into all aspects of my life. Physical, social, psychological and spiritual. Little did I know when I had my knee replacement that pain would be my constant companion.
  2. I do not like the burning, crawling skin which is inherent symptom of CRPS. My skin feels as if it is on fire but, yet can feel cold to the touch. It also has the sensation that spiders are crawling over me and repeatedly biting me. I also don’t like the fact of the water hurting my skin when I take a shower or the fact that certain fabric e.g. denim hurts my skin
  3.  I do not like doctors visits. I guess we all have an expectation that we go to the doctor when we are unwell with an expectation that he/she will be able to provide some form of remediation. This is not the case with CRPS. I have been told “I cant do anymore for you” “we will have to put you in the too hard basket” “I have never had a patient with CRPS so I don’t know much about it.” Then there was the specialist who told me that he did not believe the condition existed and he thought it was just a name the pain specialist had applied to my condition so I had a name to give my pain. Now whilst I agree that all these learned people – men – have a right to these opinions, it is really somewhat difficult to be on the receiving end of these messages.
  4. I cannot stand having insomnia. I have always savoured my ability to sleep unhindered. Before CRPS it was into bed, a few pages of the book and off to sleep for the rest of the night. This has gone out the window since contracting CRPS and sometimes I will go for three or four nights with no sleep at all.
  5. I do not like having to take the amount of medication that has now become necessary. At my last visit with the pain specialist I asked him if I could come of some of these pills and potions as I did not think they were of any benefit. He said that was fine and worked out an appropriate schedule but cautioned that I would know in a few days if they were of any benefit. After four or five days I was aware that I would need to stay on the meds as yes they were helping.
  6. I don’t like that the gait changes that have resulted from CRPS. Most days I walk like I have too much too drink. HB and I were out recently and i literally bumped into a women on two occasions. I apologised and the second time I commented that I had a pain condition which effected my gait and balance. Her response was “Oh I thought you were very drunk.”
  7. I don’t like bare faced dishonesty. Who amongst us have not told a “white” lie to save someone’s feelings but I cannot cope with the lie that is told to grandstand or to highlight one’s importance.
  8. I don’t like not having any energy. Perhaps as a result of point 4 or 5 but I battle with a continual lack of energy to get through the day. This leads often to having to cancel plans as although I may have committed to something I am on occasion not able to meet the commitment.
  9. I do not like boiled cabbage, alcohol (particularly red wine) and oysters.
  10. Finally I do not like watching or reading science fiction.