OCT 25TH MARGARET DICKSON IN THE NOVEL - A few years ago, having discovered the true identity of my great Grandfather, I wrote a novel about him. I inserted Margaret into a tribute chapter. It was based on the young Margaret I met in 1969, and the circumstances of my GG, well-researched by me. Read on if you dare. 

OCT 23RD    11 p.m. Some photos from this year

OCT 20    12.30 a.m.  Margaret at the Louvre

OCT 18  1.15 a.m. (old habits are hard to break)

OCT 16     2.30 p.m. on a lovely Sunday arvo AT AGE 7

OCT 15    1.00 P.M. (how civilised) MADAM, SIR AND YOU GUYS

OCT 15   00.54 MORE TEAM

OCT 14   00.06 A.M.   THE TEAM

OCT 13 12.02 (oh well) MAG AND THE MACHINE

OCT 12   00.03 a.m. (better still) THE VISION SPLENDID

OCT 11 12.30 a.m. (getting better) "Margaret and authority".

OCT 10 2 a.m. (yes, I know) Here is RANDOM OCTOBER REFLECTIONS

OCT 7 1.30 a.m. (Sat. morning really. Not unusual. Not very smart but not unusual).

I think I will go to the stories page and reminisce. Maybe "The wild woman of Sydney".


OCT 6th midnight

We are OK, and still feeling pleased and grateful that we had such a fine day to farewell Maggie. I was proud of our friends as they sang so beautifully.

SEP 30th midnight

Life resumes, but I will go on writing about Maggie. As I spoke in Church, I had to fight down all the stories that jostled for attention in my brain (and there's not that much room there). Those untold stories are still going round and round, and the doctor says I have to get them out.


SEP 29th noon

It's the day after - the day after Maggie's funeral and my little sister's 65th birthday. Adelaide, Dominic, Natasha and I are all so grateful it went as it did. 

On Monday and Tuesday, Adelaide's friends, Jade and Brooke, did a power of work in transforming Adelaide's quarters, previously a romantic collection of costumes, memories, bric-a-brac and books, into a light, airy and welcoming pad suitable for hosting considerable numbers of friends. Natasha produced her charming friends, Louise and Hannah, who methodically swept through the enormous kitchen area, flushing out "the condiments that time forgot", producing gleaming surfaces where none was suspected and revealing more and more "surfaces, surfaces, surfaces". Lawrie Jacks, Principal Viola of many orchestras, and who has spent so much time in orchestras such as the MSO, the WASO (Perth) and London Symphony Orchestra, mopped out toilets and tiles with great energy.

Pianists Phil Sweeney, Kay Capewell and Judy Hooper prepared their separate offerings, all of which worked so beautifully on the day. Flowers and cards flooded in and on Tuesday I picked up the funeral brochure which I'd sat up till 2.30 designing. In fact, I spent many, many hours wrestling with a combination of unfamiliar software, a Surface Pro 4 and Windows 10, none of which seem to like each other and all of which I hate. 

Father Brendan Reed, Parish Priest of our church, the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories, gave us excellent excellent advice on the service and the readings. Alex Clutterbuck meanwhile prepared a video photographic display, sensitively edited and presented. 

On the day itself, Wednesday the 28th of September , 2016, we were well looked after by Julie, of Sid Peek and Daughter (funeral director) and their driver, politely hustling us from point to point.

The day was beautiful, exactly like the day on August 25th, 1979, when we were married. In fact, they were both 19 degrees. The piano sounded beautiful as we entered the church, played by Phil, who then handed over to Kay to play the Beethoven "Pathetique" slow movement - glorious. The singing of the 3 hymns was so special and made one proud of our friends. Mary Kenneally and Julia gave moving addresses, Mary's poetic and moving, and Julia's a marvellous setting of Mag's early life.

Brendan (Father Reed) gave an unusual and interesting homily. It focussed on the nature of the arts and the artist in relation to the broader community and was warmly received by an appreciative congregation. He was a popular figure at church and later at the house. 

Judy Hooper played an emotional and expressive selection during the photo display. Clair de Lune and Girl with the flaxen hair were her choices in response to Mag's request. Ever the professional, Judy extemporised to make sure the music concluded in perfect sync with the display.

I spoke, and managed well, with lots of warm support coming up from the congregation, at least 300, and probably closer to 400. Phil did a great job on the closing hymn, morphing into the Brahms Intermezzo played by Kay, a most suitable and moving offering.

Back at 8 Royal Crescent there was soon a crowd of at least 200 being looked after by an excellent catering team directed with tact by Hannah. After an hour, the burial party left for Eltham Cemetery where some important paperwork was found to be missing. Adelaide quickly phoned her friend Jeremy Lowen who promptly mailed photoshots of the signatures and sped the paperwork personally to the graveside. 

After that short, sad ceremony we returned to the gathering and enjoyed excellent company, gradually diminishing in number till the small hours of the next morning. During the evening I slipped of to visit my mother, which I believe we both enjoyed.


Margaret recently said to me, "Sometimes, when people ask you to read a book, they are trying to tell you something."

It took several days for me to put two and two together, and as usual, I came up with twenty- two.

For many, many years, Margaret has recommended "Maurice Guest" by Henry Handel (Ethel) Richardson. Since I love the writing of this woman and consider her to be, IMHO, Australia's greatest novelist, I was warmly disposed. For over a year Margaret has been  powerful user of her kindle, and I got one too. I finally read MG and loved it, thought it a Great Novel. I told Margaret what I thought about it, and the wonderful treatment of obsessive love.

In the book, Maurice is an English pianist studying in Leipzig in the 1890s (as did HHR). He is a moderate talent, and the hothouse academic/artistic atmosphere is not only described to perfection, but is a worthy template for similar institutions today.

Maurice is infatuated with Louis Dufrayer, who loves the brilliant violinist/composer Schilsky. When Schilsky abandons Louise, Maurice makes his move, against all advice. At one point a friend tries to explain. The nub of his argument is that beauty is not just a gift, but a talent. 

And thinking about this in very recent times, I asked Margaret, "When you suggested I read MG, were you trying to tell me something?"

She just said, "Possibly," and gave me that sweet smile we give to our children when they think they are being clever.



SEP 26th 11

If you are coming back to the house at 8 Royal Crescent Camberwell, you can park anywhere in the Crescent or Craig Avenue, REGARDLESS OF PARKING RESTRICTION SIGNS (BY ARRANGEMENT WITH COUNCIL).

SEP 25th at 2.20

The funeral director came this morning and  all is well EXCEPT... we can't get into the cemetery till 3, so we will all adjourn to the house around 1 and the Cemetery party will leave about 2.20 while others continue to socialise just as Maggie would have liked.

For those going to the cemetery, it is next door to Montsalvat, just before Eltham. Take Fitzsimons Lane to Eltham Lower, and turn right when it joins Main Road at the big roundabout. Before reaching Eltham you will find Mt. Pleasant Road on your right. This takes you to the cemetery, where we will go to the Lavender Lawn. It's a small cemetery so will not be confusing. The service there will not be a long one.


SEP 24th 9.30p.m.

The priest came today and helped us organise Wednesday - the hymns, the prayers and eulogies. Natasha was secretary. Friends created welcome diversions from our tidy -ups with flowers, food and good cheer. I mowed the back lawn and trimmed some plants. Adelaide's old childhood friend called in, and a schoolmate. They wept briefly and then went on a mad working bee which worked miracles, the frightening sort of miracle where the "after" reveals just how bad "before" must have been. Our lovely neighbours dropped in two lasagnas and a salad. 

The flowers which have faded have been replaced by some mad new Maggie would love it.

I watched the end of the football and loved it. We want the house to be lovely when you all come. I will be working to relegate those last images to a dusty corner of my brain, and to let the real Maggie back in - just as I believe her battered spirit is beginning its own process of recovery. I may be wrong but that's what I believe.

She will be buried in her nicest pink nightie, silver slippers and fluffy rabbit fur cap - her fine street clothes would look ridiculous in her emaciated condition, and would just not seem right. 

The tributes have flowed in a warming stream and are generous and moving, many passionate.

I'll keep updating just for a few days, then I will probably keep writing Maggie stories in the other part of the site, for my own sake as much as anything.

SEP 23rd Noon

Dear friends,

thank for your overwhelming and generous responses. We have had hundreds of messages in all forms, from all over the world, and Margaret has now left her recent world of suffering with the full knowledge of the love and esteem in which she has always been held. It has been most gratifying for her and it brought her much peace. She loved you all.

Yes, Margaret died this morning at 4.45 a.m. I am negotiating the service next week, and I expect it to be on Wednesday or Thursday morning at Our Lady of Victories Church (our local, and known to the parishioners as Clever Mary's). We will drive to Eltham Cemetery where her parents are buried, and she will be interred in the Lavender Lawn in line with the Montsalvat Concert Hall. In due course I shall join her there.

Those who do not go to Eltham are welcome to go to 8 Royal Crescent Camberwell for refreshments and pleasant company. We will have some very nice friends there to look after you. Then the burial party will return to the reception. Iit will be convivial and cheerful.

I will post here as soon as I have firmed up the arrangements.

2.13  UPDATE......Looks like Requiem service at 12 noon at the Church on WEDNESDAY 28th

6 pm update....REQUIEM SERVICE (not Mass) will be at 12 noon on Wednesday 28th as per above.


Margaret was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in Feb 2015, a month after her sister Anna died suddenly from an aneurism at her home in Italy. She had that big operation called a Whipple section on May 8th and recovered brilliantly (many don't). She then had chemo till the end of November, which she also managed with little apparent effect.

We had many dinners, parties and gatherings, making hay while the sun shone. Herbal treatment from Dr. Ken Zhou supported her body against the chemo, and no growth in the tumour was observed. December, January and February passed with no further tumour growth but in March a small blip was noticed on the portal vein - was it a tiny tumour or blood clot? To be sure, she was prescribed a daily injection of Clexane (administered by me) and further chemo. This time, the reaction was intense and from that point her deterioration was quite visible.“

Nevertheless, Margaret drove, shopped, read, taught violin, cooked, argued...all the usual, but with increasing pain and less appetite, till by June the weight loss was clear, and escalating. 

August was a painful month, with a brave face. In September the disease galloped on and she needed much assistance. The last lesson was given by me, with Mag listening through the door and texting instructional sms to me. She cried when she realised she couldn't continue, and said, "I'll miss them."

Last night was just a struggle to stay awake and to keep breathing. The three of us sat with her, and twice she roused herself from what we have to admit was a drugged stupor to give Dom and Adsi each a most beautiful and bright-eyed smile.  I still don't know where the energy and focus came from. I didn't get one, but I know she was so grateful for the web messages I put out, as they have brought her a flood of praise and appreciation from hundreds of people, lovely, warm and talented people. 

We shared the evening, and at 1 I thought Dom needed rest, and at 2, Adelaide, in the little ante-room, rather than nesting on the floor. I watched longer, then curled up on a couple of cushions. I woke suddenly at 4.45 and went to the toilet, checking Margaret'sz hand on the way- warm and relaxed. A minute later, when I checked, I saw the stillness and watched and waited. 

Adelaide had heard a couple of sighs before I went to the bathroom, so it seems she left us around 4.45. We cried and sat and talked, and slept a little before waking Dom who is not only a tower, but a tower of strength. He and his wife Natasha have been feeding us ever so well.

On Wednesday I shall wear the suit that Margaret and I chose on our last shopping expedition. We both knew what we were shopping for.

SEP 22 8.17 pm

What wonderful people these palliative nurses are...whew! The young man who arrived at 11 last night fresh (?) from volleyball, and the lady who came today - so patient, so professional. Margaret croaked something at her, but one has to strain to to catch the words. They were, " I couldn't be more grateful."

There was no quiz today, and only a couple of private laughs. Life goes on around her; no creeping around, just the usual shouting at each other and dropping things. She always loves the smell of bread baking, so I put some on, but Dominic thought it was burning, so turned it off and put it out into the crisp and bracing air, where it turned into a gooey, gluey mess. It reminded me of the day 31 years ago when Dominic came and joined me in the garden saying, "You left the gas on. But it's allright; I blew it out."

We read the messages and she nods and smiles, or doesn't. Then we read them again a bit later. There are so many, from many parts of Australia and the world. They all seem to agree she was beautiful. And it seems she had this wonderful laugh. A dear lady friend who lived in an adjoining room when Margaret and I were "courting", said, "I think I should be jealous, but when I hear Margaret's laugh, it's so infectious that I join in too."

I am looking through old photos too, but have come up against our old problem. For such a beautiful girl, Margaret was rather camera-shy and was a terror to photograph...but we'll manage. When she was in Sydney she was always being offered modelling jobs. In Collins St., two young Frenchmen bowed deeply, 18th century-style as she passed. 

We have managed better photos in more recent times, due to the quality and versatility of the i-phone. We just take a video and select the best stills. Voila! 

Excuse me while I have dinner. Dom and Adsi will hold the fort.

SEP 21 10 pm

i am sitting with mag and she is very low  Dominic and Natasha will return and camp here  it is a big house. Natasha made a lovely meal for 6 and we had a nice time without disturbing her except for taking turns to sit  last night I went out briefly and came back to violin music  Adelaide was trying out instruments and mag advising  she had a pretty good night and we did the paper quiz over what we call breakfast and I read all the lovely messages from all over the world  the web site had 80 visits on day 1 and 156 on day 2 and 181 and still going when I last looked  I am waiting right now for a nurse to arrive we are anxious and dom is coming back to sleep here just in case  I cannot tell you the wonderful effect of the beautiful thoughts so well expressed by so many people

 it has done her spirits the world of good and has done a trenendous job in helping her to prepare to leave  A little secret; MargRet has always had a great fear that no-one would come to her funeral  I first heard it from her when she was 30  She now knows better and has given us all instructions on hair, shoes, suits, choice of music and musicians and catering  Good night all 

Well, not quite. After midnight, and the nurse has been, leaving us a bit more prepared. And nice to type 2-handed instead of left-hand on my phone.

Good night again!

SEP 20th about 6

We have listened to a lot of music since I last wrote, but Mag hasn't heard a lot of it. She has been thinking about who will play for the funeral, and what hymns to have. I am to take my medicine so I don't cough on the day. Wonderful old friends dropped by last night with a nice potted jasmine, the plant that Mag had a love-hate relationship with, as she loved the scent, but hated the Spring_time association with exams. I am summoned from time to time to change the wig for a nice fluffy white bed-cap. Mag has 2 good quality wigs; so good that her pupils and most friends were unaware.

First she picked one to match her hair colour, then got her hairdresser to shape it in Mag's usual fashion. She learned not to bend too near the oven, as there is no growing back when you singe it.

The night caps are rabbit fur and are very chic and charming. 

The Palliative nurse came by at 11 and set Margaret up with a drip, and she is now much more comfortable. Last night I found an email with a lovely attachment from an old colleague of hers, who had admired both Margaret and her playing. It is called (I think) The Prayer (Preghiera in Italian) and is very pretty. He recorded the piece on violin, with piano accompaniment, in a far away land. It was very touching. 

We had some nice laughs this morning, but there is not a lot of energy in them - but it's just nice to see the famous smile.

10 pm, I came in from dropping son Dominic and his wife Natasha home, and peered at Margaret's sleeping face from the foot of the bed...a hand moved, rose and waved lazily in front of a vintage smile - so nice. I read the nice letters, cards and messages; they help a lot. I see that the diary has had 80 visits yesterday and over 120 today. Believe me, it is an enormous help to Margaret, the girl who has always said, "I just know there won't be anyone at my funeral."

Margaret has her phone with her and it's now 1 am. She is concerned that she won't be able to fiddle with the phone and so we have set up her metronome to sound an A440 just by flicking it on with the thumb. That will certainly wake me up.

But I'm not sure this is a good idea.

SEP 19th about 5.  

A cool Spring day, with the heating up and Mag liberally supplied with hot water bottles and drugs various. After 2 failed attempts at making junket, we realised that lactose_free zymilk doesn't work. 2 mouthfuls of the successful product was adequate to her needs, but she is less and less interested in food, not because she wouldn't relish it or can't taste it, but because the consequences of eating are severe.

The Palliative nurse came ... a relief for us both. Wonderful people! Margaret made her wishes clear, and will take up more powerful analgesics tomorrow, being dripped in, rather than tablet form.

We have done the quiz today with Dom, who has called in 3 times, whole Adelaide has played Martha to my Mary.

We had a big laugh today, including Maggie. This was wonderful, as we haven't heard that wonderful sound for too long. I wish I could tell you the brilliant witticism that provoked that response, but I can't recall it. I have a suspicion that it was rather a nasty sniping jibe (from me I'm afraid) about someone or other (but certainly not you dear friend) that was loaded with the poison of truth.

We discussed the sale of the Port of Melbourne and decided to permit it to proceed.

We listened to some jazz from Argentina (stick to the tango, Hermango) and some valzen from Deutschland, but the Entfuhrung aus dem Serail has provided us with our best glimpse of Heaven so far, and the night is yet young.

We have some videos on but don't really watch, but Mag doesn't care "as long as the voices are English". 

Mag also spent some time advising me on funeral details ... who should play, what hymns, reception, food, etc.

As yesterday's palliative nurse remarked, "Margaret strikes me as a determined, strong-minded woman."

She should see her when she's well.

At 12.42 am on Monday Sep 19, Margaret is sleeping yet again, long and heavy sleep, while I sleep nearby. She is very tired, emaciated and pretty sick of it all. She is also aware of the heartfelt good wishes of so many friends and truly appreciates them. She doesn't have the energy to cope with visits or either the pity or horror of friends. It is hard to see how she can survive much longer. A few days ago she said "Turn on the news. It'll make me mad and that will keep me going." Tonight she said, "Just find me some nice jazz", so we are listening to Jazz. Incredible - the best jazz, and broadcast from Russia. We are grateful for our 2 classical stations of course. Palliative nurse is coming tomorrow and I think the morphine is not far away. Night all; I hope to update tomorrow.