10 July 1984

Letter: Meeting old friends

Letter from Darwin 10 / 7 /84

What a rushed morning I've had, and only a few minutes of peace left now before the kids come home from crèche - its such a precious three hours! I never know quite where to start with the things I want to get done.

Thanks so much for the lovely birthday presents - and the kids are delighted with the cloth picture too which arrived safely with Mary's present. The liquid soap and the lotion are really lovely, and James spent many hours of fun using the two boxes they came in as boats ... and then Alison got them for a bit of brrrm brrrm on the floor ... until they finally fell apart under her careful little fingers.

We nearly sent you a computer portrait of us - have you seen those? They print a computer portrait of a photo onto a tea-towel or t-shirt or whatever. Looks very nice, and they do it on the spot. So we had one done with all four of us on it ... but when we got home we realised that the reason it didn't really look like us was not because of the slightly blobby effect from the computer picture, but because it was all back-to-front - a mirror image. Unfortunately, people are not symmetrical, and it really looked like someone nice (especially the kids) but not US. So we went and got our money back.

I've just had a couple of days on the inside, courtesy of the government. Hospital, I mean ...

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Thursday afternoon

This morning I was so fed up of being pregnant that I thoroughly cleaned the house - gave Peter a bit of a shock, but all it did for me was give me a back ache.

Anyway, the doctors were talking about putting me in hospital for four weeks - and we had made it quite clear that we were not keen! In the end they came down to just two days for tests. So I went in and they pricked my finger four times a day - I pointed out that I'm quite good at pricking my own finger, I don't need to lie in a hospital bed for that.

And then friends here whose son is a diabetic lent me their 'glucometer' ($200 machine that gives you a digital readout of your blood sugar instead of just looking at colours and guessing) so they let me come home. The doctor insisted I see the eye specialist - but eye damage from diabetes only occurs in bad cases after about ten years, a waste of time (and government money), and a nuisance because I had to walk around for a day with my pupils all dilated. And I went in and had an ultrasound - for no particular reason. Its all been a bit of a nuisance and a lot of fuss about nothing. Apart from my present backache from washing floors, I feel fine.

Did I tell you about Alison getting really sick? We went through a really bad patch for a while. I waited for two weeks for my turn to start at the hospital clinic - then got the days all mixed up and missed the day ... Alison got sick ... and I lost my purse (or it was stolen, I really don't know) with about $120 in it.

Alison got sick so quickly, all of a sudden she was just a limp doll lying there with her eyes half closed. The doctor found she had a middle ear infection so treated her for that. But she kept vomiting at first, and then just constant diarrhea ... she got so thin. After about a week she finally 'turned the corner' and started improving - and now she has put on a kilo more than when she first got sick. The first couple of days when she was feeling better she was constantly banging on the fridge saying "door! door!" and she was eating cheese, meat, celery ...

All the field teams are coming in with a rush now. James is so excited with meeting old friends and making new ones he can hardly contain himself. There's quite a little gang of 3-4year olds, and they all get on very well together. The 'TQs' (temporary quarters) where we are living this time are four units joined together, with a shared back verandah ... bit of a madhouse! We are in one end one (with 2 1/2 kids), then there's two single ladies (one with two dogs), then the Eckerts with their two (Christy is 3, and Katy is a month older than Ali), and at the other end the Swartzes with their three (aged 7 years, 4 years and 6 months) and their dog Tigger - who has just as much 'bounce' as his namesake in Winnie-the-Pooh.

Yesterday the three dads got their heads together and brought an old cubby-house from the other side of the campus - the kids who originally owned it are teenagers now. They put it under the trees in front of all four units where it is in sight but almost out of sound. The kids love it - James and Ali had their lunch out there today. James gets on well with Christy, she's a rather over-sensitive sort like him, so they do a lot of talking and play-acting together (something the island kids don't seem to do) and they like to compare babies (Alison and Katy) - "this is my baby and that's your one" etc.

But James isn't really well. I guess the problem is just emotional. Waiting for our new baby, having all these new friends, and a head full of memories of Murray Island that he doesn't really know what to do with. He goes from moments of great glee to sudden gloom and tears for no apparent reason. He won't eat properly, he tires easily but often doesn't sleep well ... looks rather pale and thin too. At crèche the other day he had his first bad asthma attack - up till now its just been night time coughs, but he came home at lunch time really gasping and choking, and flushed and hot. After a while we worked out that one of the ladies had been cleaning out one of the cupboards and the dust would have got to him. We'll have to get him a little "puffer" if he's going to start having attacks like that.

Gotta go, visitors for tea.