There are at least five things that I want to talk to my doctor about. At length.
How, first of all, do I tell the tiny pre cancerous growths on my hands and arms from all the other little bruises and freckles and spots and marks? Did she know when she prescribed the Picata gel for them that it cost $150.00? I think I wasted at least half of it.
And the cough persists, it's really no better, but the antibiotic was making me feel sick. And I read on the internet that doctor's should ask if a patient is on statin drugs before they prescribe antibiotic. Why didn't she ask me?!
And my leg hurts. Even with the anti inflammatory and the pain killers, it still hurts. It slows me down, it makes me tired. A year ago, she was content to say it was "ligament damage'. But the last time I saw her, after looking at an X Ray, she says it's my hip, of course, and I may need a hip replacement down the track. When? How will I know? Is it enough pain when I don't want to walk down to the river, or should I be waiting until it just hurts all the time?
I should ask about sleep apnoea, about how hard it is to find the right position at night to actually breathe. This isn't good. She'd have to examine my nasal passages, check my heart rate, lung capacity, chest, ask me questions about my sleep patterns, (at least a half hour discussion in itself!), talk to me about effects, about options for treatment. I can't see how she'd get all this done in less than fifteen minutes.
There are other things that could take even longer.
Sometimes, lying with my left ear pressed into the pillow at night, I can hear my heart, and it seems to be racing, beating really fast, and irregularly.
And sometimes, I can't remember the words for things, really obvious things. I know what they are, but I can't think of the word, try as I might.
And sometimes, I feel anti social. The thought of company makes me want to hide, momentarily. I feel frightened, exposed, I don't want to see anyone. I have to steel myself, make myself. I know I'll be OK, I'll enjoy it - the company - once I start. But can it be normal to have this fearful cringe, this...social phobia? at my age? Should I be on something for it?
A standard, Level B consultation is 10 minutes, and costs $92.00 A Level C consultation is up to 20 minutes, and costs a whopping $175.00 at my doctor's. My doctor does not bulk bill, and I don't know any doctor who does, (except at the walk in clinic, where you wait for 3 hours, and then see a doctor you've never seen before in your life, and will almost certainly never see again.
When she calls me into her surgery, my doctor is already running 35 minutes late, although it's only mid morning. She's lovely, unfailingly polite, friendly, and seemingly interested in me. I could even imagine she is pleased to see me!
Before I can start telling her about any of the things on my list, she asks me about the last thing I saw her about, some months ago, which she has up on her screen. The minutes tick away, I don't want to be talking about this thing, but she persists. Then there's a brief pause, my cue. I launch into one of the things on my list, at random. I feel panicky. Have I chosen the most important thing? She addresses it efficiently - it's the pre cancerous spots - shows me carefully how to recognise them, writes me another script.
She's on the edge of her chair, her whole body points to the door. If I choose one more thing from the list , it will be a Level C consultation and not a Level B. I start to tell her about my leg, but it all seems waffly now, as if I am complaining, or somehow overstepping the mark. She is patient, but not very. There is nothing new to say; she repeats what she has said before.
$175.00, and I'm out on the street. Feeling like I need a friend, not a doctor. Feeling like a good cry might do me more good.
Halloween is big up in the Jabiru, apparently. The two grandchildren, 5 and 3, now staying with us, have lived up in the NT all their lives, and have practised Halloween rituals with their friends every year. They were very enthusiastic about continuing it here. (I did have the curmudgeonly thought that they wouldn't even have known about it if their mother hadn't disclosed the date to them.)
Halloween at Brindabella?! To my knowledge, it has never happened here before, although I have indeed encountered spirits here. I have got up in the grey early dawn, enough light to see the outline of the mountain tops, I've felt the chill in the bathroom, and looking out seen Jack Frost striding across the paddocks with his long spindly white legs. I've seen his breath, long white wisps of it, trailing behind him like aeroplane trails through the valley. I've rushed outside to cover the potatoes and dahlia shoots, but no, he's got there before me, flicking a sparkling frosty net over them. By mid morning, they're black and dead.
And when the Fire came through the Valley, people said it was a monster, out of control, destructive beyond anything anyone had ever seen before. It burned the earth down several inches, the wind was scorching flames that blew trees horizontal before it killed them. It hurled fire balls across the sky. Horses ran terrified into fences, wild animals hid down each others' holes, sheep and cattle ran blind, burning their feet. It was a hellish force, turning everywhere it went to blackened ashes.
And there are spirits in the garden, playing always just out of sight. Often, I half glimpse one. I don't know its shape, or its colour, only its movement, quick, elusive, busy with its spirit business. I stop what I'm doing and look. I can hear birds, and the sound of the river, and the wind, and I think the Brindabella spirits are full of trickery, like the fairies in the Old Country used to be. They imitate familiar sounds, they pretend to be other creatures.
But no witches, no ghouls, no vampires.
Pumpkins are out of season, but there is a big display of specially grown ones at the supermarket, and my daughter buys one. (They are apparently grown for Halloween, and are easier to hollow out, at $6.99 a kilo.) She also buys a witch's hat, masks, purple spiders, and spider lights to decorate the house with.
On the day, the children are very excited. The cousins arrive with their masks. J has a black hood which makes him look like a small member of IS. G has a Spiderman costume, handed down from her brother, which she is extremely pleased with. E wears a green mask under her witch's hat, which gives her face an eerie and disconcerting blankness. They run screaming and chasing each other round the house.
I find myself making a Halloween cake, although where I've got this idea from is a mystery. Perhaps a fairy whispered something in my ear? Instinct tells me it must be a chocolate cake. I'm stumped as to the decoration; however, the children are very confident that dribbled chocolate in the form of a spider's web, with one of the purple spiders lurking in a corner, will fill the bill perfectly.
E thinks the house need more decorations. I am stumped again, but she is very practical. 'I'll just make some spider webs,' she says, 'and stick them on the walls.' She cuts circles out of paper, and fills them in with black texta webs and tiny black spiders, and then sticks them all over the living room. This is a fairly big project, and takes about an hour out of her screaming and running around time.
Then it is time to go trick and treating to our accommodating and hospitable neighbour. I asked her some days ago if it would be alright for us to bring the children round for this, and she was amused and delighted, and asked us all for drinks as well.
The children piled into the back of the ute in their costumes, and a weird and scary sight it was, enough to frighten any local Brindabella spirits still out of doors back into their holes.
E had been somewhat dismayed that we were only going to be visiting ONE neighbour, being used to lots of neighbour bothering in Jabiru. This was soon forgotten when we got there. Our neighbour had provided all sorts of goodies, things I wouldn't have dreamed of. Glow in the dark bracelets! Glittery jewellery! Eyeball chocolates!
A good deal more screaming, and rushing in and out of the house slamming the door happened. Our neighbour opened a bottle of champagne. The sky darkened. The river bubbled and chattered beyond the house. The garden folded down softly, hiding the garden spirits. The dogs waited it out patiently on the verandah. Then the children somehow got their feet muddy, and the mosquitoes started to bite, They were tired and it was over.
They rode back home in the ute, costumes askew or abandoned, watching the last glimmers of light go out in the sky. It was a happy Halloween.