09 February 1983

Letter: Darwin at last

Letter from Darwin 9 / 2 / 83

Here we are in Darwin at last. I must admit, its quite a relief for me. We had forgotten just how awful Darwin is - we won't return here again before we really have to. If you have just come in from a desert allocation it would be lovely being back here ... but after Cairns its a real hole. Peter's so annoyed to find that the one-day cricket finals aren't even on television here - something to do with problems with the satellite. And the prices are way up on Cairns, getting toward TI prices. We did a quick shop yesterday, "just a few essentials" (you know what its like when you move into an empty house) for a mere $119, and there's nothing in the cupboards to show for it.

A friend for James

Here on the centre we have a nice little duplex to live in. And in the other half of it are the Elverys with their 2 year old, Nathan, and 8 week old baby Barnabas. Nathan has fiery red hair. He's 8 days younger than James, and about 3 inches taller. I guess, like James, he has spent all his energy growing instead of learning to talk. I've only heard him saying a few non-words, like James does, only of course they are different 'words'. They haven't spent a lot of time together yet, but as far as I can tell they don't communicate at all, just ride around on their trikes ... Nathan, of course, is as desperately lonely as James. We were hoping that the Eckerts with gorgeous Christy-Ann would come here for the birth of their second, but they are going to Alice Springs, I think. The Sandefurs, with little Tarsha, may yet come in for the birth of their second, but they are presently in NZ. If they do, it might be just enough for them to open the crèche again ... hope so. In the meantime we have raided the crèche building for all sorts of wonderful toys!

I think when we rang you James was still in the grips of his mysterious fever. As soon as the long weekend was over we took him to a doctor, who immediately (like us) suspected malaria or something - the fever had settled into a definite cycle after the first few days of erratic fever all day and night. So he had X-rays and blood tests - James was very brave especially seeing he was still feeling so ill, weak from not eating and hardly drinking for days, and obviously in some pain in his glands and joints - we were quite proud of him. Anyway, we returned to the doctor the same day - James didn't have a fever all that day. The test results were not at all conclusive, but it looked like viral pneumonia. The donctor prescribed antibiotics and it seems to have worked, he's gradually getting stronger again. He's suddenly quite a lanky kid. He still won't eat much, but he drinks plenty of milk.

Fokker Friendship

The plane trip here was very pleasant - it was nice to be on a big smooth jet after the fokkers to TI and the rattly old islander to MI. James loved it, he had a seat to himself, they even served him a meal, and they gave him a colouring book and a little packet of coloured pencils. He had his little toy plane with him, hand-sized, and he made it take off and do all the right things. He's still afraid of planes from the outside, which is difficult seeing the centre here is right in the flight path of an international airport. He come screaming inside every time a plane takes off and goes over.

We found out that the Marous never left Townsville after all. As far as we can tell they did in fact intend to ... remembering what dreamers they are. Actually, Uncle Melpal, Magina's brother, died quite suddenly - of cancer as far as we can tell.


Yesterday was Peter's birthday. He spent most of it trying to construct a fence to keep James and Nathan off the road - says he really enjoys a bit if intense physical exertion for a change, but it made him feel really old.


Here I am, sitting on the floor in the 'lotus' position ... having read all these books about 'natural' childbirth - we discovered the local library. I know its rather too late to start this kind of thing, but I'm reasonably fit (although a little overweight) and determined to have a better time than last time. I'm not quite game to have a 'home' birth (though the book almost convinced me) but we've decided (at the risk of being 'too late') to get to the hospital as late as possible rather than risk being put on a drip all night so the doctor can deliver at a convenient time when he arrives in the morning (like they did with James). As far as my weight goes, I'm not losing (they reckon that's a 'no-no') but I have maintained my weight since we've arrived here just by cutting out sugar, full-cream milk (all we could get on MI) and starchy foods. Peter is rather overweight and can't seem to lose it ... he is discovering at last what dieting is like - he who could always just eat and eat without changing weight (he reckons it must go with turning thirty). James is eating again at last - he is so tall and thin (at least until you compare him to Nathan.) James has discovered "mee" (meat) and will devour liver, chicken, and red meat. The embarrassing thing is when he sees a picture of a turtle and says insistently "mee! mee!" ... and we look around furtively hoping there are no conservationists around.

Boys at play

James and Nathan have developed a real love-hate relationship. James is more advanced in talking (such as that is) but Nathan is quicker, stronger, sometimes rather cunning. With the choice of about twenty 'bikes' - trikes, plastic push-a-longs, trolleys, pedal cars - they will always both want the same one. But Nathan will quietly accept one he doesn't 'want', and set off with James in hot pursuit. Then he'll stop and get off to play in the sand-pit or something, James will follow suit ... and quick as a flash Nathan is on James' bike! James usually screams until someone has had enough and says "Alright, Nathan, James had it first ... " whereupon Nathan meekly gives in - only to have the whole pantomime repeated. They are like a couple of bookends in everything they do, can't bear to be apart but can't stand to have each other around. We haven't managed to persuade anyone to get the crèche going again ... so rather than have Peter, Dallas, and I all worn to a frazzle in the course of a morning (Jenny works mornings) I have agreed to run the crèche and at least give the men a bit of peace (and the baby a chance to sleep) with only one of us ;frazzled' by lunch time. I gather the Sandefurs (with little Tarcha) arrived yesterday, so I guess we can run some sort of roster if we can't get any more joy out of the administration. We'd really like James to get used to being with some other adults...

We are really enjoying the swimming pool here - especially James. He is so confident we really have to watch him. He loves jumping in, and we are working hard to train him never to do it without one of us (preferably Peter because he tends to jump on my tum...) ready to catch him. He just needs to see Peter removing his shirt and he'll lift his own and ask "swim?" (actually there's no 'w' when he says it and its all cute and nasally). We still have the little blow-up pool we got him in Townsville with the birthday money J&W sent ... he and Nathan have lots of fun in that too.

The clinic

I had my first visit to the hospital obstetric clinic. Its not as bad as at 'Nepean', I am listed to see a particular doctor rather than whoever happens to be there, and my Doc is very nice - Dr Rajan Richards ... but he has now gone on holiday! Just my luck, eh. Next week I am to see a Dr Lee, after that, who knows? I'm booked for antenatal classes - wonder if I'll finish the course this time (I didn't at Nepean). I'd at least like to make it to the third week when you get a conducted tour of the labour and maternity wards.

Well, now tea is over and Peter is outside putting the finishing touches to the fence that now goes right around the back and front yards of both sides of the duplex. Now the boys can destroy each other in peace without getting run over.