Noosa – from Beach to Light House (almost)…

Image by Graham Miller

The sick are not on the path –

not the dying,

the undiagnosed illness saunters past,

the diseased gene.

The path is for the healthy, or the fat.

The families. Fathers with babies in back packs.

Mothers in slouchy hats.

Out come the SAKATAS –

because toddlers are always hungry when there is no shop nearby.

Fluorescent Nike, Campagnolo cyclist cap.

A family of four each with a different coloured shoe.

Things go on beneath the skin, in the innards.

Under cloth.

Breathable cloth hides ulcers, bruises, marks.

Absorbent dressings soak up fluid, discharge.

Bow legged men.

A dropped credit card found on the path. A collective What to do?


Hospital Corridors

hospital bed

Some people like airports and railway stations and shopping malls and art galleries.

Some people don’t like hospitals.

I do. I love them. All of them. Old ones, new ones, empty ones, full ones.

I see curing, healing, surviving. I see endless helping. When I visit a hospital I see people engaged in the pursuit of other people’s happiness. A selflessness. I know there is pain and death and lingering (inattentive staff and plain human error) but somehow the flip side still pushes through to me. It is what I feel.

In the corridor of Charlie’s art is secured to the wall. No one ponders it. It does its best to draw attention to itself. Large canvases. Orange vinyl chairs sit empty. The spaces are large and often vacant, like everyone is suddenly well. Once, new, the corridors were carpeted with a dark heavy-duty material but eventually that folly was replaced with linoleum roadways and I imagine orderlies pushing beds, two abreast, being able to race. Wide corridors. Being able to make donuts with hospital beds.

The hospital has old parts pretending to be closed. But then someone is seen in an office behind venetians. In the back-end there are old entrances, closed. Salmon brick and baby blue facade. Beside them sits an assortment of chairs, broken or bent and left out to rust or be stolen. No one does, because no one wants a disused hospital chair.

Do I love them because they are always ramped? Made for me. Even the old ones. Masonite ramps, too steep. Covered walkways that still let the weather in.

Once I visited a friend in Royal Perth and on leaving ran into a doctor I knew. He took me through emergency and out onto the roof top where the doctors hung out on their breaks. A few old chairs looked out over the railway line and the roof tops of old buildings. The sun shone there, and in secret, warmed their faces. In white coats they brought their coffee and took in the air. Some probably had a smoke. I felt lucky to have been up there with them. Like kids sneaking behind the bike shed at school.

At Fiona the staff don’t have their own canteen. So instead they eat with the public at the cafes strewn throughout the central courtyard. In their baggy green scrubs and forgotten paper shower caps. It makes life-saving seem so very ordinary, buying cappuccino, between laparotomies.

When I was little my mother took me to nursing homes and hospitals on the weekends visiting various decrepit members of the extended family. It captivated me. I liked to peer into spaces that seemed hidden. I liked the way strange and repugnant smells stung the inside of your nose. Methylated spirits. Why does all hospital food only smell of boiled broccoli? I wanted to know what happened behind the pulled curtain. My mother always went to the flower room to fill a vase and arrange the flowers she brought from her garden. She always knew where to go and get stuff and how to speak to nurses to get things done. Even then I knew this was a skill.


by Graham Miller
by Graham Miller


F Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “List of Troubles” (from his Notebooks)—

List of troubles

  • Heart burn
  • Eczema
  • Piles
  • Flu
  • Night sweats
  • Alcoholism
  • Infected Nose
  • Insomnia
  • Ruined Nerves
  • Chronic Cough
  • Aching teeth
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Falling Hair
  • Cramps in Feet
  • Tingling Feet
  • Constipation
  • Cirocis of the liver
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Depression and Melancholia

This list was from a blog I follow called biblioklept

Behind the Curtain

I am in one those curtained spaces in a doctor’s treatment room area. It is supposed to provide privacy. But it is a weird sort of private. One that presumes our only sense is sight. Like a face hidden from a baby behind closed fingered hands. Peekaboo. Because the willowy curtain does not stop the voices of the nurse and the patient in the next curtained space. Not contained or isolated at all. No secrets. Material, just flimsy wavy material. Bug ridden, no doubt, too.

Beside me a woman and her mother are having the elderly woman’s leg seen to. I need not see her, or the gammy leg, to have a full picture of what has gone on. She has just come out of hospital where she has spent three weeks being treated for cellulitis. I know this before they mention the diagnosis because I have had the condition myself and I can tell from her array of symptoms that this is what she must have had. She talks of the shivers and shakes when her temperature was up, her sense that she was dying, and the residual swollen painful leg that she has now and the reason for her being at the GP’s rooms.

She is telling the nurse that her stay in the hospital was her first since she had her daughter. I am thinking whoop to do. No wonder she knows so little about medicine, about her own body. Nothing has ever gone wrong with it before now. She has never been in hospital? And she is, I am guessing from her voice, in her seventies. I am beginning to be annoyed by her. Jealous I guess. A life lived without disease, without illness or disability and all that that entails. The daughter too seems unknowledgeable about the swelling in her mother’s leg, asking;

Are their fluid tablets she should take for the swelling? Then when asked about allergies to antibiotics the mother says No but adds she is just allergic to Penicillin.

The nurse places a clip that measures oxygen saturation on the woman’s finger and the woman says the nurse must be a technician to use all the equipment. So I am breathing? says swollen leg.

So what can they do about the swelling?

All you can do is elevate your legs as much as possible, the nurse suggests and do these exercises with your feet to keep the circulation going.

Oh the nurse at the hospital suggested those exercises too. And deep breathing. I have been doing them, although I didn’t know what on earth they were for, says the elderly patient.

When I spy them at the reception, the mother white haired and about seventy, the daughter about my age, I look down at the old woman’s bandaged leg to see the swelling. It is not bad. She still has a definable ankle. She can get a shoe on her foot. I do some deep breathing.


Jasper at Home from School

There is giggling coming from the lounge room. He, the home-from-school-boy, is watching Megamind. It is animation so typical of this era. I give him a bowl of strawberries, washed and cut. The strawberries are enormous. Unreally so. They need to be cut in quarters. I remember when strawberries were small and sweet. Popped into your mouth straight from the backyard bush.

I have taken the home-from-school-boy to the doctor to be told it is most likely viral. There is nothing to do but to rest and drink plenty of fluids. Animation has advanced in leaps and bounds but there still remains no cure for a common cold but to stay at home and sip lemon and honey.

When I stayed home from school I watched Play School, even when I was way too old for what else was there? Besides, I still loved Big Ted and wanted to look through the round window. Most of the day I had to stay in bed, out of mother’s way. I have no memory of where she was or what she did as I dozed.  From my bedroom I could hear the going ons in the kitchen; a clatter of pans and washing up, a drone of radio. The Country Hour. She would go to the shops and leave me alone. Most mothers would have done the same. But not these days. Someone might ring the door bell, the child might answer, he might be kidnapped, the house could catch fire.

My mother grew quickly impatient with a sick child. Especially if I vomited. Somehow vomiting, especially when it was all over the bed, left my mother nonplussed and likely to start yelling. My stay-at-home-boy seems a lot less sick than I had to be to be at home. He has complained of a sore throat and he has a temperature, detectable on the battery operated ear Thermoscan. The thermometer became an essential item when Jasper was a baby and headlines of children dying from meningococcal disease seemed common. My mother detected a fever with the back of her hand across my forehead. If you had a temperature you stayed in bed, might not even be allowed out to watch Play School. You didn’t go to the doctor since she knew what to do. Fluids and plenty of rest.


Yesterday was a lost day.

Before bed we watched “28 weeks”, a movie set in London when it is attacked by a zombie virus. In the movie the virulent infection turns the humans into raging, attacking maniacs whose faces are covered in blood as they rip open the eye sockets of their victims. It is “good” sci fi, but I went to bed a little nauseated and thinking of the movie over and over as I fell asleep. Then, I woke with a pressure in my guts. Deep. I had the shakes and shivers. I threw the bed clothes off. I groaned enough to wake Graham. Get the thermometer, I said. Perhaps I had a temperature like when I got cellulitis in my leg. Whenever I am sick I think of that time and how I had failed to notice the blotching of my leg that was the tell tale sign of bacterial infection. But that’s another story. No temperature.

I get Graham to cover the chair with a towel and race to the bathroom. Even though my sensation within my abdomen is incomplete I get the sense that it is the source of my illness. I am leaning forward on the toilet and groaning my death groan; the one I do when I am about to vomit. At times like this I wonder about how I would ever be able to have chemotherapy or the like. I just am the worst at nausea.

There is the sound of someone throwing buckets of water on the bathroom wall behind me. If I had sensation I would know that this is coming from me, but I don’t and it’s the weirdest thing. It is weird, till I realise I have sprayed shit all behind the toilet and down the walls. Weird, till I am attempting to clean up while still feeling vaguely outside myself and blurry. I have taken my glasses off, a good thing. The foulness is muted by poor focus. But the stench. I am yelling Oh My God and asking for towels and garbage bags. Graham is passing things through the door and I am saying Stay Back.

In the hour that follows I am washing down the bathroom and having showers as I ooze uncontrollably. Everything is foul. Jasper wants to know why one of his toy catalogues from the bathroom is in the bin. Because it’s got shit on it, says Graham.

Being vets might help us handle a morning like this I think. We are used to shit. Dogs with parvo; where their guts literally come away from them and spill out in shredded globs of blood. But there seems nothing more foul than human excreta.

I use lots of Radox for Men that Graham brought home from Woolworths by mistake when the check out girl put it in our shopping. I use it several times that day so it will always be a reminder of the day of illness. It is a dark green, like bathing in algae and smells strongly of male deodorant. I go back to bed, lined for safety with towels and ball up. I can’t get comfortable for most of the day. I drift in and out of sleep, groaning, when it seems the only thing that will help. Outside there are men at work on the oval planting trees. I can hear the thud of the shovel on the earth.

I can hear Graham in the kitchen playing his ukulele.

He brings me gastrolyte and an enormous vomit bucket.

Luckily school duty can be left to him. I am a bundle of illness. I think of nothing but my stomach. It takes all my thought. I try laying one way and then the other. Nothing is comfortable. I am cold and then I am hot. I can hear the thump of Jasper’s basket ball in the lounge room when he gets home from school. I can hear him asking Graham to go outside to play. I can hear Graham frying onions. I can smell the bolognese cooking and I hate the smell of it.

I hear them outside calling Murphy, who is not coming, and I think they have not taken treats with them. I hear the front gate swing open and know they have got him inside, contained in the front yard now, and they are probably kicking the footy. The paper barks  being their goal posts. Murphy will be standing at the gate wishing to be out but they cannot be bothered to watch him as well as play their game. I can hear Charlie and Sally from next door. In my musty bedroom I feel the haze of illness here under the sheets with me.

It is not a real day. There is no thought of doing anything but surviving it and getting through. How strange it is that when you are sick it seems difficult or impossible to recall being well. The feeling is so far from you that you cannot capture it. It is like you have been ill for your entirety and will be ill for ever more.

Jasper is very disappointed that I will not be getting up to watch Masterchef. It is proof that I am really sick. It is dark when they get back from piano lessons. I hear them run through the new song, then later Jasper reading Dr Seuss. Still the smell of Bolognese wafts up the hall. I hear them hoop and holler as Lleyton comes good at Wimbledon. Graham makes up the spare bed in Jasper’s room to stay away from me and my cloud of illness. I eat a banana. It is heavenly sweet and I take small mouthfuls. It leaves my mouth furry but I am beginning to feel better.

A dog is barking on the oval outside my window.

I am taking sips of water.

It is a new day. Today I will air the bedroom.