Crooked fingers

‘What’s your verdict now?’ I’ll ask the pharmacist when I present my arm with its long line of stitches. ‘Is it ready to be uncovered yet, or should I go on with the protective bandages?’

‘Surgeons tend to uncover wounds too early,’ the pharmacist had said to me earlier in the week after the doctor had cut off the cast that held my wrist steady. ‘It might look okay after two or three weeks but underneath the unprotected wound can split open without any warning signs,’

Who wants a wound that splits open when it’s only half way to scar tissue?

As I grow older, it takes longer for skin to heal but I’m not so old that it refuses.

My mother had an ulcer on her leg once that would not stitch together of its own accord. It needed constant care in the form of fresh bandages almost daily before the skin decided it was safe enough to close over.

An ulcer is different from an open wound.

A wrenching open of the skin is not the same as a slow eating away at its surface, which is the way ulcers operate.


I’m not sure about Christmas this year. It’s going to be hot.

The newspapers report the police foiled a terrorist plot near St Paul’s Cathedral in the city, I haven’t read the reports. I can’t bear it, but I suspect it would have been planned for Christmas midnight Mass or later on New Years Eve.

What better way to assault and terrorise people than to attack them in numbers during their festivities, when their eyes and minds are turned elsewhere?

But the police had been on the look out for these seven or so self radicalised young men, hell bent on death and destruction, or so the papers report.

But these days I find myself doubting everything I read in the newspapers.

The fake news or the slant so sloped it’s hard to know where the truth lies.


I have a photo of my mother on my desktop, the one my husband took on her ninetieth birthday. In it she’s dressed in her new birthday dress, the one in fawn colouring with swirls of white brocade etched on top.

She’s wearing her double layer of pearls round her neck and tear drop pearls in her ears and she holds her left arm across her chest and up to her ear as if she’s checking that her earrings are in place.

I can just make out the shape of her distorted thumb, the one the surgeons botched up or left to heal prematurely after her fall in a supermarket car park, or was it from the time a dog rushed in front of the Chemist shop on Centre Dandenong Road in Cheltenham and tripped her up?

Maybe the bones in my mother’s arm fused badly because there was more than one fall that broke her wrist, or maybe it happened through inadequate treatment.

In any case, the doctors could never give her back the elegant shape of her wrist and the bone jutted out from her hand for her entire later life like some warped thing that would not lie straight.

It reminds me of the shape of the bone in my hand shortly after my fall before the doctors in emergency had  a go at straightening it. It too seemed to be pointing sideways across my hand and up into my thumb rather than in the direction of my fingers.

Our hands are so fragile and precious. We take them for granted.

In future, I must take better care and unlike my mother, not fall twice.

The threat within ourselves

Inside the front cover of a paper back copy of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice –faded yellow with its
spine held together by sticky tape – someone has scratched out the first
initial of my older sister’s name and changed it to a younger sister’s
initial.  The book was presumably a
hand-me-down for school.

Underneath my sister’s name, my father has written the words:
‘People who are silly and mad write their names on doors and windows’.
My sister gave me the book recently.  She’s going through a phase where she wants
to rid herself of all negative energy and the words on the front cover of this
book exude just that, at least they do for her. 
For me these words are intriguing and given I do not have many
examples of my father’s handwriting, they’re a treasure.  However much I might disagree with the sentiment
they express. 
When I was little I wondered what these words could mean.  How could it be such a stupid thing to write
your name down on the front of your books? 
Or maybe my father was having a go at those who write their names on
trees and walls and fences, graffiti artists and the like. 
They do more than inscribe their names, but certainly the
mark or tag of a graffiti artist seems to be an important part of their work.
 I still write my name
in the front of my books, mostly as a territorial thing.  I claim this book as my own.  Not that it helps the book to stay in my
possession. I am an inveterate book lender and even though I once tried to keep
a list of all books borrowed out to others so that I might remind the borrowers
in the fullness of time they have my book, I forget to fill in the list.  It’s incomplete and then I forget where I put
So my books with my silly name in the front cover are scattered
all over in other people’s libraries. 
As long as they’re loved, I say. 
I made my annual pilgrimage to the Freud conference
yesterday.  The two main speakers from
Germany spoke about fundamentalism, fanaticism and religion to a large
The topic was daunting, not least because during the
introductions the conference organiser told us that ‘for reasons of security
for this particular conference’ they would lock the doors during sessions and a
body guard would protect the premises at all times. 
She told us this in case we decided to go outside during the
breaks.  She told us this in order to
remind us that should we go outside during one of the breaks we should return
at least ten minutes before the proceedings resume so that we are not locked
Moreover, the conference organiser told us to keep our nametag
on at all times. 
‘If the guard sees you without your nametag, you will be
escorted from the building’.
I call this overkill.
Some said it was necessary. 
Maybe it was.  A duty of care, one
person told me during the break.  Maybe
again it was, but it also created an aura of the enemy, the ‘other’, the one
lurking outside who might at any moment enter with a machine gun or hand
grenade to attack us in our seats or to take us hostage. 
And so we experienced the effects of terrorism first hand, albeit
at a distance.  After all, terrorism is
designed to terrify.
This contrasts with other injunctions from government
spokespeople and the like who say, go about your business as usual and don’t be afraid.  Be alert, but unafraid.
The conference made me more afraid than I might otherwise
have been but even though the threat of terrorism is real and there are good
reasons for all of us to pay attention, the greatest fear I reckon lies in
Our own tendencies to look at life in terms of the black and
the white, insiders and outsiders, clashes of identity.
During the breaks I managed to speak to many people, some old
acquaintances, others new, but always I had the sense – as I so often have at
conferences – that we are ships who pass in the night. 
Some of these people I saw last year at the Freud conference
and I will see them again in a year at the next Freud conference. 
Conferences like this one that happen every year have the
quality of Christmas family get togethers. 
Not everyone in the family comes, but there are enough of us
who get together, along with a few extras, occasional friends or extended family
members, to create a strange tension. 
It reminds me of the energy my sister talks about from the
front cover of her book. 
The pride and prejudice of it all. 
I suspect my father’s words might reflect his own
difficulties in acknowledging his identity. 
He was proud of his name, the same name as that of his father, his
father’s father, his father’s father’s father going back through the
But he could not wear his name with the confidence he might
have liked, given his decimation through war and family trauma, and so he could
not tolerate the idea that his children should wear their own names with pride.  
Especially not his daughters.