A writer is someone who pays attention to the world. Susan Sontag.

My analyst’s room was a sunroom, separated from her double storey home by a wooden veranda. She lived in a suburban side street, walking distance from the beach. It was surrounded by windows and took in the sun. Cosy even in winter.

At the end of the bed she used as her analytic couch, she placed a vase of flowers, fresh each week. Gerberas on long stalks held up by green florist wire. Shop bought roses and stately bunches of lilies. Whatever was in season. 

I visited this room almost daily for twelve years, apart from during the long breaks over Christmas and Easter and when she took time off mid-year for two weeks at a stretch.

I rarely looked around her room, or at her, too embarrassed by my physical presence to manage the assaults of shame that came upon me, especially during the early years. I never asked to use her toilet which was outside the sunroom in the garden. I could not bear she should see my body move.

We talked about this fear and my decision to visit toilets in the nearby shopping centre rather than use hers, as a throwback to the days when the nuns gave an impression of never eating and of not needing toilets, a sign of virtue. To have a body that visited a toilet was to feel shame. 

It’s hard to see myself as I was then, from the outside.

I scurried like a possum into sessions and looked only in the direction in which I headed. I rarely glanced at Mrs Milanova and dived onto her couch for safety, free from her gaze.

I craved her attention and sensed I had it all the time I was there. I felt her presence and her interest with an intensity I have never known before or since. She gave me all her time and energy.

Thirty years have passed and I view the world through different eyes. Now I dare to look around me and see others, including Mrs Milanova whom I rarely meet these days, but hold in mind. 

This day then is the culmination of what I describe as a bad week.

It began on the Monday with a police person arriving at my door to examine a car I had reported the day before.

This car a 1996 Corolla, had clocked just over 100,000 kilometres but was well past its use by date for energy efficiency and safety, but proved useful when we needed an extra car. So, we kept it parked in a side street near to our house. An embarrassment.

Years before our daughters were grown and first learning to drive, my husband feared we might wind up with a line of wrecks in the side street belonging to our children who could not afford decent cars at the time. 

The only wreck that remains is this once white corolla, now so stained, the police could not detect fingerprints on the outside or inside the window.

Would be thieves had ripped apart the front console in a bid to get the wires fixed to start the car, without success, and so the car remains, an eye sore on the street and one we must deal with soon.

The police knocked at my door, and I answered while mid-way through my bank transaction. I had rung my daughter earlier, the one in whose name the broken-into car remains, to let her know. 

She did not answer, so I left a text telling her about the car.

Minutes later I received a message from someone whom I assumed was this daughter, though in retrospect the sender did not use my daughter’s name, and only said something about having a new number as her old phone was waterlogged.

I made the mistake of texting said number and asking if it was her permanent number. The person purporting to be my daughter, whom I believed was my daughter, messaged back to say it was permanent and ‘she’ was having a hard time getting a couple of bills that needed payment that day.

Foolish me, I messaged back to ask if I could help. Perhaps cover the accounts and she could later reimburse me.

That’d be helpful, my pseudo daughter texted back. I’ll send details.

Then I proceeded to go through the transaction, even as my pseudo daughter asked for $1950.00 in one payment to a strange name with an odd reference number.

The police interrupted at my door before I had a chance to press send. I returned five minutes later, after the police confirmed there was nothing they could do about the car. No CCTV footage and no fingerprints, the incomplete transaction was almost ready to go. The transaction was still in place.

The bank sent a security code then and I named my daughter as remitter.

I pressed send when my account froze. A message popped up from the bank saying there was suspicious activity, and I needed to ring the bank to clarify.

First up, I called my son in law, to ask if his wife’s phone was broken. Not at all, he said, and I knew I’d been scammed.

The rest is history, as in the long phone call to the fraud people at the bank and my sadness at the fact money had left my account. I had been tricked.

The bank person said they’d do their best to recover the money, but it might take thirty days.

As it was, the money was back in my account within three days

The scammers wiped all calls from my phone, but I’m grateful the bank was onto this activity, as much as I felt foolish for falling for the trick of the ‘Hey Mum’ text message. 

The day deteriorated further, or at least the next day. The next day my younger daughter who lives with us had noticed the cat, who has lived with us for twenty years, was poorly.

The cat had been thin and emaciated for some time but always ate well and continued to live a cat-like life of sleep and occasional demands for cuddles. After my daughter noticed the cat move to the garden and curl into a ball to sleep outside in the freezing cold, she reckoned it had gone off to die.

My daughter decided then to take the cat to the vet who agreed it was time to put the cat down, a gentle euthanasia rather than a slow cold death in the garden.

This cat had started its life as a feral, born in the bushes surrounding a car park and rescued from children who threatened its nest, by hitting it with sticks. My elder daughter rescued the cat and four others kitten, including their mother.

All cats were rehomed after visits to a vet for treatment and de-sexing and this one lived with her cat sister here for many years.

Mollie cat died during covid, and the other cat, Nousha (below) hung on till this end.

It was sad but also a relief. Noush was tired of living.

It was also a relief when the money returned to my bank account. It will be a relief when we sort out the damaged car and then hopefully this week will be over.

Just now I spent fifteen minutes in the kitchen with my younger daughter and her boyfriend. My husband was buried in the newspaper but he too participated as we tried to answer the 25 questions on The Age Quiz. 

To my mind we did not do well, getting 16 out of 25 correct, but that’s the way of it. You need to practise such quizzes and over time you improve. Still it was fun pitching our minds together to answer questions like how often the Eiffel tower gets painted. 

Trivia of life but nothing compared to our recent trials which are also trivial compared to the trauma of childhood everywhere and the pain that can lead some people into therapy or analysis. And that first led me up the footpath to Mrs Milanova’s house in 1986.