One-dress wonder, Frocktober ’15

The only way is up

The only way is up

Meanwhile, because so many of my constant and caring friends, colleagues and acquaintances have been asking with touching regularity, “How’s your mum doing?” and because I’m sick of hearing myself blathering on about it, I thought I’d get it over with in one fell swoop.

Plenty have written raw and beautiful and compelling accounts of the process and progress of illness and death – read Donna Reeves’ and Caroline Roessler’s blog Those Blasted Cells for one.

Not me. I’m going to say this now and get it over with (sorry Mum – it’s not your fault, it’s the cancer’s). These past few months have been taking a heavy toll on us and, while many recommend that you should write what you know, what she and I are knowing right now, you wouldn’t want a bar of.

Suffice it to say, Rosalind is not going so well. While she still has the heart of a lioness and the wit of Dottie Parker, her pyjamas are now those of a much, much larger person.

Staring into the hollowed cheeks of mortality at the palliative care unit every day for the past 11 weeks has only served to drive me deeper into the dimpled arms of fantasy – occasionally pornographic (surprise, surprise), but mostly just wearisome and sentimental. In bed, I write turgid eulogies in my head, crying like they’re Sorbent ads, or plan what I’ll plant with Mum’s ashes and where I’ll put the pot.

Rosalind doesn’t want to be scattered into the sea at Bronte, like our friend’s mum, Dawnie, was recently. “Too wet and cold,” she shudders, as though we lived in Blackpool. When I ask where she’s felt most happy and comfortable in her seven years in Australia, she says, “Your place.” Strange, considering that the Silver Fox and I live in a house my friend Robert long ago dubbed Castle Stern.

So that’s that, then – a flowering shrub in the back yard it will be. Or a mother-in-law’s tongue, Rosalind quips, just to put the wind up the Silver Fox.

On the way back to the hospital after her brief day pass at Castle Stern, we drive past a line of stretch-limos parked outside a stretch-Tuscan-inspired mansion. “Forget your house,” she says. “I want my wake to be in one of those. You can perch my ashes on the back seat.” The following week, as we wait at the lights after another Saturday-afternoon reprieve, another stretch-limo sails past. “It’s an omen,” she says, only half joking.

In fact, what is really going through her mind these days I have no idea, now the morphine is playing whatever an 82-year-old’s version of Tame Impala is through her consciousness. She seems remarkably relaxed about things, mostly.

I could do with some of that gear.

To infinity and beyond

To infinity and beyond

But I self-medicate in other ways, occasionally in the bedroom – with or without wine. This newly minted room provides me with all the psychedelia I could possibly require, courtesy the Silver Fox’s penchant for straight and shiny things. Curious, that a man with so little personal vanity (apart from a justified pride in his work) should have such a healthy relationship with mirrored surfaces. But maybe that’s the point. Those mirrors will be the death of me, though, I’ll wager.

Meanwhile, back at Sacred Heart in Darlinghurst, there is a distinct lack of shininess anywhere, apart from Rosalind’s wan, seemingly pre-chewed menu, which glows in the dark, so pallid and unappetising is it – the George Brandis of nourishment. It’s fortunate that cancer takes away your appetite – because heaven help Rosalind if she were actually hungry. I, on the other hand, am eating for both of us (my tried and tested method of adding physical ballast to an increasingly flimsy spirit) – often courtesy of the Dinner Ladies, whose food resembles nothing I ever ate at school that their namesakes dished out. It is very, very good, if not a little pricey.

But money no longer seems to matter that much – or my cholesterol levels. Because in this weird parallel universe I inhabit alongside my mother’s, I, too, am slowly relinquishing control. Ready meals and house cleaners – as necessary to my survival right now as four-hourly morphine hits, iced water and Walkers shortbreads are to hers.

After just two weeks, the highly excitable and ruthlessly efficient Terry and Fancy have insinuated themselves into my domestic routine, taken the Labrador to their hearts (incredulously at first) and afforded me the luxury of returning from the coalface or the hospital on a Friday evening to fur-free floors and the faint scent of orange oil. I’ve never been a fan of someone else cleaning up after me – be it at home or in a hotel room. It’s always seemed lazy and indulgent, and just a little feudal. But what the hell, we live in 2015 Australia, where lazy, indulgent feudalism is the default position – and Terry and Fancy seem happy enough with the arrangement. I imagine they’re earning more than me at the moment anyway.

Which brings me, in no way suavely or seamlessly, to the matter of this year’s month-long Frocktober donation-fest, which starts today, and for which I’ve humiliated myself with some financial success for the past two years, the first by having to drum up drag to be photographed in every day; the second, and only marginally more painful, by dragging out old family photos and taking you all through a walk down my gated memory lane.

LBD - 31 ways

LBD – 31 ways

This year, I’m making it easy on myself by pledging to wear the same dress for the whole month with various accoutrements and in various venues. It is old, cheap and black. The idea of relinquishing responsibility for what to wear for a few weeks is looking pretty good right now. If nothing else, it means I’ll have time to watch The Bachelorette.

So this is how I’m aiming to raise money for Ovarian Cancer Research for the next month. If you approve, and care to follow my Instagram and or Facebook blatherings, I’d be beholden to you if you throw in a coin or two in the coffers, to help raise awareness and funding for a cause a little too close to my aching heart for comfort.

Bless your cotton socks in anticipation, from me and my beautiful Rosalind.

A month of frockdays

The time is ticking swiftly towards October, or Frocktober, as it is skittishly known. Tomorrow, and for the duration of this – so very, very long – month, I am committed to wearing a dress, or some such skirty thing, and to daily document this horror via social media, to raise funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

However, as I remarked last year, this seems a small price to pay for the possible benefits this pathetic struggle with my sartorial demons could bring to further the research into this awful disease. And I raised quite a decent wack last year, to your, um, credit. More than double my target, in fact. So thank you, again.

Most of you will already know I have a personal investment in this particular cause – I am, I admit, nothing if not selfish. My mother, Rosalind Feldman (that’s her above, in 1951, aged 17, wearing one of her sister’s dresses), was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2010, but only after many months of having to endure symptoms that no one had picked up – mostly because ovarian cancer is so bloody hard to diagnose, that by the time it is, the cancer is already doing its evil voodoo that it does so well.

Since that terrifying and dismal day, the good, good folk at St Vincent’s Hospital in Darlinghurst, along with those at the Kinghorn Cancer Centre and Sacred Heart Hospice, have – with not a little help from Rosalind’s sheer bloody-mindedness and no help at all from my peripheral dithering – kept her ticking over for far longer than her straight-shooting oncologist, the magnificent Professor Eva Segelov, would have been prepared to wager. (Fittingly, Eva is something of a fashionista – particularly in the shoe department – and Ros and I always look forward to seeing what foxy little Italian numbers she’ll be wearing at our next appointment.)

So – how best to make you all part with your hard-earned? While I know some among you took pleasure in witnessing my daily posts on Instagram and Facebook last year, I thought I might mix it up a bit in 2014, just to keep things mildly more amusing for you, and altogether more humiliating (and hopefully lucrative) for me and my donation kitty. And, frankly, I haven’t bought that many new clothes to make my Frocktober posts interesting enough for you to cough up more money to see.

So, I will leave the daily glam shots to those who do them best – you can check out everyone’s daily updates at #frocktober and #ocrf on Instagram – and instead, occasionally throw in some unchronological photographic vignettes through the history of my wardrobe, according to my daily whim.

To start, I take you back to where it all began for me here in Sydney.

November 1982 and 26 years old. I was hot off the plane from London with my best friend Jed, via a week in Bali, for a year’s working holiday. I have no idea where any of the clothes I’m wearing came from, but when we got off the plane in Sydney, Jed and I were the only people in monochrome, that’s for sure.

If you’d like to donate, please hit this link and go for your life. And thanks, in anticipation, from the bottom of my sock drawer.