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This sequence has the latest at the top, so if you want to read it chronologically, scroll to the bottom and then scroll up.

Saturday 16 August
 
As you will probably be aware, our lovely Robin died early on Sunday morning, 10 August.

We had a small family farewell at the Bendigo Crematorium - no ritual, just sixteen of us sharing grief and love. We decked the coffin with huge sprays of golden wattle from the Newstead garden - to anyone who doesn't know it, imagine mimosa with a mass of glowing dark yellow inflorescences. It is the most spectacular of the local native flowering shrubs, and dominated our garden every winter, evidence that Spring was on its way.

I think we all felt that Robin would have approved.

She also would have approved the next gathering, at Trackside, Kilmore. There was a fine turnout people from Kilmore, Newstead, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide – racing people. publishing people, animal people, party people, her family, my family and of course many who were just wonderful friends. Grandson Sam ran it all with professional skill and sensitivity, and Michael Joshua delivered a very appropriate oration.
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Sunday 10 August
 
Our Robin died in Castlemaine hospital at six o'clock this morning.
 
I arrived a few minutes later, and was told that she slipped away peacefully, as we had hoped.
 
I can't say anything more now, but when I have talked with Michael and others I will let you know about further arrangements. At this moment, suffice to say that there will probably be a family-only funeral at the  Bendigo crematorium followed by a gathering in Robin's honour at Kilmore.
 
Meanwhile, if anybody has a message for this gathering, email it to me and I will ensure that it is appropriately conveyed to the gathering.

Saturday 9 August

I have to give the latest news first. When I visited Robin this evening I found that she had developed a bronchial pneumonia. We are all hoping that she can hang on until her son Michael arrives tomorrow afternoon.

She remains wholly compos mentis. I was reading more of The Girls to her, and she was clearly hearing and understanding it. And she is able to communicate her needs to the nurses.
 
 
 

Friday 8 August

Robin was pleased to see Goulash twice this morning. He called in just ofter breakfast, then went to visit his friend Dudley Cunningham (a very agile and energetic terrier) while I went shopping. When I got back, he took me to visit Robin again. He is now greeted as a long lost friend by many of the hospital staff, and has a seemingly natural understanding of the etiquette of a hospital visit.

Neither he nor Robin said much, but I think both of them enjoyed the visits. I tried Robin on mandarin segments dipped in brandy, and she ate one with apparent pleasure, but then said that she had given up eating.

Chrissie (her son Michael's partner) arrived at lunch time. Michael is somewhere in the Snowy Mountains leading a cross country ski trek, and in theory is in touch by satellite phone, but Chrisse has been unable to raise him. However, he will be back on Sunday.

Incidentally, yesterday I asked Robin what she would like me to read to her, and when I suggested The Girls she said 'Good idea. I haven't read that.' So I read a couple of chapters, and at the end she said 'I wish I had started writing earlier.' But I think she was happy that she had left a string of truly wonderful books as part of her rich legacy to the world.

 

Thursday 7 August 

No good news today, I'm sorry to say. Avram Babovic was called by the hospital when Robin experienced a lot of pain this morning, and has increased the morphine. 

I went in and had a good talk with her. I have now come home with her laundry. As soon as it is dry I will return with it to the hospital.  

Wednesday 6 August

Robin's doctor, Avram Babavic, (Answer: Serbian parents, Australian upbringing, brilliant diagnostician, very communicative and considerate) is not very positive. Happily, Robin's blood pressure is down, so he has been able to reduce the cocktail of pills she has been taking. But her pain is increasing, and he has had to move over from morphine substitutes to the real thing, albeit in very low doses. That's the bad news.

The good news is that I discovered that the Castlemaine Hospital allows dogs as visitors in the Acute Ward, so Goulash came with me today to visit Robin. He behaved very well and attracted the admiration of the staff. Needless to say Robin was very pleased to see him.

When Avram had gone Robin had poached eggs on toast washed down with Pinot Noir, which she declared delicious. It was the first time I had seen her eat hospital food with real enthusiasm.

Tuesday 5 August

 Just back from having dinner with Robin, which meant watching her eat an avocado vinaigrette while I tasted a corner of her vegetable pattie with white sauce, instantly deciding that it was not a gourmet item. Actually, it was not bad, but...

She was pleased to have a bottle of a fine Pinot Noir to supplement (or replace) the hospital vintage. Has it ever occurred to you that it takes a hospital to take the hospital out of hospital-ity?

She is astonishingly cheerful but still desparately weak.  

Monday 4 August. 3.00 pm.

I got the call from Bendigo that Robin had left for Castlemaine five minutes earlier. Grabbed Goulash and arrived at the Castlemaine hospital fifteen minutes later, to find that Robin had just arrived.

She is really glad to be back. It is not that the nurses are any better at nursing, but they sure are better at making a patient feel special. They immediately got a wheel chair for her so that she could go out and talk to Goulash, and it seems that there is every chance that he will be allowed to visit her inside the hospital.

I've talked with them about wheeled walking frames with handbrakes, and it seems they have them available, but she has to pass a driving test first. The OT man will visit her this afternoon and check that she is safe to drive one. Meanwhile they advised me not to mix this request up with the other, which was to supply her own superior shiraz rather than hospital cabernet. We don't want to have her drunk in charge of a walking frame.

Sunday 3 August.

Emily has just send me some of the pix she took just over a fortnight ago, and this one of Robin and Goulash is such a delight that I thought I would share it with you.

I have not yet seen Robin today, but I have spoken to her on the phone, (One of the good things about hospitals these days is that the patients have direct-line phones to the bedside). She sounded OK, but the nurse tells me she was nauseous this morming. They don't know why.

PHOTO

Later (11.30 pm)

It would be silly to be over-optistic, but it seems just possible that the feisty Robin will prove the doctors wrong yet again. When I visited her this afternoon she was looking and sounding better than at any time in the past fortnight.

Ten days ago she seemed to have given up all will to live. Now she is fighting back, and she knows it. Her daughter-in-law Sally reports that she said over the phone that at first she had just wanted to slip quietly away, and actually got to the Pearly Gates, but God told her to bugger off.

More importantly, she has not had another bout of really crippling pain since the one two weeks ago which started it all rolling. She is beginning to eat more, and is keen to learn to walk again, using a walking frame. And we are talking seriously about her coming home. When I left her, she was discussing the rearing of foals with one of the nurses.  

We are hoping that tomorrow she will be back in Castlemaine hospital. 

Saturday 2 August

Robin washed down her evening pills with Yarra Valley Cabernet, which apparently does a better job than mineral water. She was good.

Friday 1 August

For the past ten days Robin has been in Bendigo, having tests which are beyond the resources of Castlemaine hospital. These are now complete, and this morning she had hoped to be taken back to Castlemaine later in the day.

However, it seems that Castlemaine had no bed vacant. Robin suggested to me that she should do a runner, and asked me to get her GPs approval for me to take her home. Sadly, he said it would be a mistake. It might all be fine, he said, but if she suddenly needed special attention, it could be disastrous. So she is stuck in Bendigo for the weekend. 

More avocado vinaigrette for dinner. It must be the ideal diet for those who have lost enthusiasm for food.


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