June 23 The rocky road to normal

Just when we are starting to loosen up a fresh spike in CoronaVirus infections puts a holt to loosening restrictions. The poor restaurants were just about to be able to host up to 50 and it has been put on hold again. So hard for these businesses. It confirms my hesitancy. We are able to go back to the gyms too this week, though mine will commence only when the school which hosts our training facility, begins school holidays.

There are no casual roll ins, but bookings of 10 max and super cleaning with 15 mins between sessions. It seems like a lot of hard work after the ease of the Zoom sessions. I am also a bit concerned about the cost now too because I have been doing Pilates as well. That was supposed to be only temporary but I really like it and want to continue. I can’t afford to add too many more costs when dividends are on hold! I even thought of joining the U3A courses for third term but most are not taking new people or have already reached their limits so I feel somewhat frustrated. Activities through the U3A are free once you pay your annual $50 membership but they are well attended and classes fill quickly. You have to be quick! Due to the older age group of participants many activities have been postponed or on zoom but limited to the already enrolled. Lawn bowls was going to resume too which would give me an opportunity to get out but I am not sure if that is still going ahead now either. Uncertainty is the ‘new normal’. That is also an overused phrase along with ‘unprecedented’. Life goes on anyway.

I did have lunch out at the local pub last week which was an interesting experience. A friend from the country had come to visit and he was very amused by all the elbow pressing of lift and traffic light buttons, avoidance of contact and social distancing. There have been no cases of infection in his area of the state so their behaviour has barely changed.

Anyway at the hotel we had to register our contact information and also order through QR code reading of the menu. Even paying was done remotely via credit card. The only contact with staff was when they gave us the menus and brought the food and drink. No hovering or discussions. It seemed weird but fairly efficient. Food was generous and good. My friend had been burnt out during the bush fires and is trying to get planning permissions for a new property. It seems to be taking an inordinate length of time. This issue has been raised in the papers recently. Despite all the new regulations being complied with it still seems to take a long time. The rebuilding of these places should be a boon to their economy which the governments want but they can’t seem to get it happening quickly enough.

The weather has been quite delightful even though cold with many sunny days, beautiful sunsets and clear skies. After one shower there was a massive rainbow. Why do rainbows make you feel happy? They are so beautiful and mythical I suppose as well as unexpected.

Irene, Bill and I took a walk up the Darebin trail from Kew. It is along the Yarra river, billabongs and the Darebin Creek. The trail has undergone some improvements and was so delightful to walk. Lots of dog walkers too which challenged Alf to behave (sometimes successfully sometimes not).At times you felt completely in the bush and and away from the city.

We picnicked in a dog off leash area which led down a mysterious path to the river. Here we had to clamber over rocks and tree roots to regain the main path. Alf was feeling so uncertain of the terrain he managed to wriggle out of his walking harness! This left him free to bound up the rocks, oblivious of the two other pooches nearby. Irene was somewhat challenged too as her boots slipped on the damp clay bank. Once on the main path we continued almost to Bell Street but turned back due to me having a conversation appointment at 4pm with Suzanne my Swiss French friend. The return seemed so much quicker as it always does.

I stopped for coffee at Irene’s because the cafes had all closed by 2.30 pm. With all the schools back the traffic around her place was bedlam by the time I left. Irene and Bill live in an area surrounded by three private schools so the parents are always dropping off and picking up kids. It adds so much traffic congestion. I think personal drop offs should be banned and all kids needing lifts should use private buses or public transport. It has to be better environmentally though with the virus I guess they have an excuse. Anyway I had to take back streets and diversions just to get out of the area and home in time for my online conversation. Suzanne said it is the same in Switzerland.

I was pleased to add a longer walk to my Virtual Camino mission. Gary and I have passed Burgos and received two more postcards. We have completed 43% of the walk (334kms). We have passed through Azofora which I remember as a small town with a new Albergue. It had a splash pool for us to dip our feet and many other pilgrims were in swimsuits ready for a plunge. Lyn and I were the almost last to leave the following morning ( only three sets of boots left on the boot rack) and we were leaving at about 6.30 am! The warm weather encourages walkers to start early.

Azofora Albergue courtyard

Last Saturday I minded Ziggy while his parents shopped for furniture. He is mad on Soccer again and the local high school had nets on the goals and an open gate to the oval. I was the goalie and he kept wanting me to dive for the ball! I haven’t had two hours of constant soccer since well before the lockdown and I was tiring when another family arrived. Their dog was Ziggy! With a bit of encouragement I got the 6 year old daughter to play with Ziggy for a while which gave me some respite. Ziggy is quite nimble with the ball but I managed to block a few kicks. My arms felt it the next day! Ziggy had managed to get quite a bit of information about the girl. Name, age, school etc. I was impressed with his social competence.

Ziggy about to launch a kick.

Most of the time is pretty mundane. Fixing the range hood was an awkward task with me clambering up backwards onto the stovetop to re-attach a metal light protector that had fallen down inside the cover. I couldn’t quite work out where it belonged until I was atop the stove. I have become quite useful with my tool box over the last ten years. It always seems such a nuisance to ask for help for small things you can probably do yourself. My other project is a woven basket kit I bought early in the pandemic to help support craftspeople from the Eltham Design market. I finally got the courage to start it and feel quite good about my efforts. It’s purpose is to hide the dog paraphernalia and key’s tidily on the sideboard.

Range hood with reattached metal light protector. Have I got the courage to dismantle cover for cleaning?
My woven basket project

Yesterday I decided the bedspread smelt a bit doggy so into the wash it went. Alf is like Ziggy. You tuck him into his basket at night but find him in your bed at 3 am in the morning! I have given up worrying about it. Never have I let a dog take so many liberties but this little guy just worms his way in. Even at the vet(another $270 this week to deal with his ear infection and worming tablets!) another owner tells me how cute he is; What a pretty dog. Alf plays the part by wagging his tale and smiling a doggy smile every time someone looks at him.

So another two weeks of life has passed without too much drama or change. Am I happy? Mental health is another big concern at the moment yet I don’t feel much has changed for me. I am content, not bored or restless. Having brunch with the family and seeing Nick and a few friends is satisfying. All is good.

June 6 Restrictions easing further.

I still have mixed feelings about the easing of restrictions. I have been to dinner at a friends home which was delightful. A delicious meal but not formal. We enjoyed lots of laughs and even resorted to Irene’s diary to check facts about our shared holidays. That action opened many fond memories to revisit. I have had a visitor to the apartment for a coffee. That was a spontaneous invitation which motivated me to do a hurried tidy up. The place gets a bit scraggly with Alf’s toys spread around, too many books on the table and washing drying on the clothes rack. I am not a clean freak but I try to maintain some standards. Clean bathrooms and kitchen plus I have a strange obsession with keeping the dirty clothes basket empty. That is a hangover from when I had twin babies. I felt like I had chaos under control if the basket was empty! When I had 120 nappies a week on top of baby clothes it seemed essential and I have never recovered. Dust might be whirling on the cork floor but an empty basket was supreme.

It was delightful to just have a coffee and a long talk with a friend. Chris has never visited me before. We are friends from the gym and have shared a few post coffees before but this was not limited by the day ahead. I do crave company and good conversation.

So, eager but not frantic to get out into the world is how I assess myself. Crossing the road is getting tricky again and there are fewer people in the parks. I have missed the regular calls from my sons that I enjoyed during the tighter restrictions. They are back working more. The good news is Jonathan has been restated into his design and production job which balances Clare having her hours cut to three days. Helping them settle into the new house was tiring but enjoyable. Ziggy is back at school and happy to be there. He is thrilled to have two friends in his new street too. Shifting Jonathan mobilised me to finally set up the futon base that I have had stored in the cage, photograph it and put it onto Melbourne marketplace. I sold it very quickly and delivered it the next day. I was scared they might get cold feet!

Assembled and disassembled in the garage.

The 31st May would have been my husband’s 71st birthday. my brother-in-law Gary organised a tribute video for the Saturday family Zoom catch up. Jonathan and Clare joined that event and also announced to everyone that they are expecting another child. The boys and I along with Clare and Ziggy, cousin Jacina and partner Andrew as well as their Uncle Robert met at the Melbourne Cemetery the next morning to pay our respects to Peter and also their mother Jean. A visit is always bitter sweet. We remember lovingly and joyously but simultaneously mourn what Peter has missed over these last 11 years. Nick reflected on how much he would love to be able to have a mature conversation with his father.

Prior to this visit I had been thinking a lot about Peter and one morning when I walked the dog up our usual street to the park I felt like I had walked through a cloud of freesia perfume. I looked everywhere in the gardens for evidence of these flowers but found none. I thought I would smell them when I returned the same way but I didn’t. I decided I had had a visitation from his spirit. So often I am so busy and mentally distracted that I don’t think I make space for these sorts of communications. Sceptics can scoff but I had some very intense and strange experiences early after Peter died that I choose to see as messages of comfort and this was another. It might be nearly 11 years since he died but he is very much present in our thoughts and hearts.

The wool I mistakenly ordered from the UK instead of Australia, finally arrived. My enthusiasm for craft has waned slightly now that freedom beckons and I am hoping the deepening of winter will spur me on again. I have crocheted three scarves and now think some finger less mittens might be good to try.

We (my old hiking team) took a hike in the Sherbrooke forest for a few hours which was so delightful. Muddy underfoot and hilly too but a sunny, sparkling day. We were all a bit shocked when we arrived at the carpark to see nearly every space taken, but fortunately our path was not crowded until we headed home and then it was reasonably spaced.

Gary has started doing a virtual Camino (MYVIRTUALMISSION App) and asked me to join him. I was not so keen as it cost $34 and I had completed the real thing in 2012. Then I felt my activity enthusiasm wane a little as the colder, greyer days commenced and I decided to join his team. This just means I can walk my 10,000 steps with a purpose most days but it isn’t all up to me. Gary rides as well as walks where I am just a walker. To complete the 800kms will take us about 11 weeks. It is more challenging to get the distances because we have other demands upon us. When I walked it in reality, Lyn and I averaged 25-27kms for 33 days. Our job was to walk. It was one of the best experiences of my life. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t comfortable at times but it stretched me as a person, it liberated me from many fears and gave me the quiet to reflect on my life and future without Peter.

The first postcard

That walk really energised me and lifted my spirits. But the next day I had CoVid 19 brain when I was about to take Alf for a walk in my Ugg Boots!

Here has my brain gone?

I finished the week in a conference call with the ALIA committee for the accreditation of the South Pacific TAFE. I felt buoyed by my interaction. It was on point and useful so I am not losing my marbles after all.

I have also treated myself to some painting time which was entirely absorbing. Water colours are so challenging and I don’t do them enough. Another easing of restrictions means we can get back to our life drawing classes in mid June. I booked Anna and I in immediately. No dropping in anymore but booked places. The gym will be the same. That will be a bit difficult to adjust to and times will be limited so probably as intense as the Zoom sessions!

It has a feeling of winding up again which I suspect I am ambivalent about. The MTC contacted me to finalise action over tickets for cancelled shows, Palace cinemas are surveying us about returning to the cinemas, I have embarked on some major dental work that I had put off to travel instead and now I will spend the money in my mouth! There is a busyness in the air. I look forward to speaking with people but I don’t want to get overly engaged with activities.

Finally being blasted into the wider world with the appalling death of George Floyd and the subsequent re-ignition of the Black Lives Matter campaign, a supercilious Trump waving a bible, the video of an indigenous youth being brutally arrested in Sydney, and the blasting of an archaeologically significant Indigenous heritage site by Rio Tinto have cut through the sense of togetherness and revealed the reality of intrenched racism and inequality. The world has listened but will we act appropriately to move forward together? To be equal means facing down white privilege, sharing equally all our resources and really hearing the other point of view. There is hope but it is sobering that the world has been here many times before.

Restrictions easing, May 25, 2020

I am experiencing quite a lot of mixed emotions about the easing of restrictions. It has been just so lovely to see my grand child and my sons and daughter-in-law and even have lunch with some good friends!

On the other hand there is a slight anxiety about mingling with crowds and from what I can see people are not quite so careful about social distancing once they are around the shops or the take away food shop and young people can’t seem to help themselves. They just seem to naturally congregate in groups(at least outside).

Also, the whole idea of winding up our lives again is somewhat confronting. I don’t think I want too! One of my sons has said he doesn’t really want to go back to the way it was. I think a lot of people will be reluctant to get back to the ‘old’ normal. How long we take to return to full employment, working in offices, bustling city streets, theatre performances and cinemas will impact on people’s views on their lives and the world they want to live in. Politics is already starting to slip backwards. I hope all the amazing positive things that have made us warmer and more connected during this time are not just whisked away.

Some of the lovely elements have been the time shared with my son Nick. We have spent time together in the studio with Ziggy; but also out walking together instead of over a hasty meal after work. It has been such a joy to share time as two independent adults, not just mother and son. I had that relationship with my mother too, not only mother daughter but also as adult friends. It is such a gift.

In the studio
Pretending to talk to a client who has commissioned the art work!

Ziggy has blossomed into a real little artist with his drawings over this period. His choice of colour is good and he works very hard at realising his characters on the paper. He has a vivid imagination and makes up all sorts of stories, albeit heavily influenced by his reading and the movies he watches. His uninhibited drawing makes me so envious.

I am still so constrained with my own art. It is so hard to let go of self judgement as an adult. Still I continue and have finally finished a piece I started last year. I am pleased with it and feel it has benefited by being out of sight for awhile. Fresh eyes helped me see how I could ‘lift’ it and make it more alive.


I have finally gone to a physiotherapist to address a niggle in my groin and upper thigh that has plagued me for a couple of years. He has made a huge improvement already and it barely bothers me now. The disappointing news was that I have some arthritis in the hip. I was appalled! In all honesty it should not be a surprise after all the long walks with backpacks over the last 15 years, but really? How dare my body betray me this way! I am still not convinced the arthritis is the cause of the niggle but attribute it to over tight muscles. I have been going to the gym regularly for years to maintain flexibility and strength and over CoVid I have been doing 5 days a week at least as well as walking the dog. Perhaps I need to mix it up more. I realise that I am a little addicted to the routine. I feel guilty if I miss a session! That feeling should be ridiculous at my age. The truth is I am so afraid of getting feeble both mentally and physically. All the research points to being physically active as a deterrent to dementia and the source of a long and healthy life. Dying isn’t what frightens me but living a compromised life does. Off with these morbid thoughts! What will be will be. We don’t know what the future will bring as CoVid 19 has shown, so taking one day at a time and dealing with that day’s challenges is enough.

Hazel, my niece, who came for three months to mind Alfie is nearing the end of her course, two and a half years later! Soon she will be moving on to share her grandmother’s flat with some friends. It will be nice to have the unit to myself again but I will miss her also. She is a gentle, sweet young woman and we have got on very well. Alfie will have to get used to being on his own a little more again. He is very insistent that he wants to be near you all the time. He will only put up with you working at the table for so long before he wants to sit on my lap. He is such a pest I usually move to the couch where he can curl up beside me happily snoring!

The other day I was over helping Jonathan shift into their new home and Alfie was left on his own. When I returned the bag of plastics destined for the red bin recycling was strewn across the floor. No other damage but a protest none the less. I have since gone to buy a swag of new dog toys to challenge him. It is a bit like being in the Zoo where they have enrichment programs for the animals!

The scamp makes a protest!

Last week was also the first lunch with friends for weeks. It was so exciting but we were all very careful about not hugging(seemed so odd) and either Namasted or bumped elbows. It was an absolute talk fest and just so very nice to see people and share a meal in person! Zoom has been a useful tool and for those distant relatives a great boon to communication but it isn’t the same as a person to person experience.

The Saturday Zoom with extended family which has been going for several weeks now ( driven by my energetic brother-in-law Gary in Sydney), has been a fabulous innovation that has connected brothers cousins and friends across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. We have seen more of each other over these sessions than we have over the last few years! It shows how technology really can be a positive tool.

Tomorrow I embark on my first bushwalk for months. Another restriction removed in Victoria which allows a group of ten to walk with social distance but as a group. It is supposed to be sunny too. The weather has been very changeable and wet so this chance is not to be missed. Other states were able to lift these restrictions sooner but our Premier has been very cautious and waited for the rate of infections to drop to single digits in Victoria. We are all hoping that there is no second wave of pandemic like in the Spanish Flu.

The rate of infection in other countries remains high with the US leading the way in both infections and deaths so Australia’s borders will be effectively closed for some time yet. My travelling is restricted to conversing with Suzanne in Switzerland twice a week. Once in English and once in French. Hopefully my French will take a leap forward!

Life as we knew it begins to resume slowly and we will adjust once again. Football is restarting, local sports are also recommending and the kids are going back to school. A huge sigh of relief tinged with anxiety has been heard. Hygiene is in, hugging is out. A new normal begins.

May begins, lockdown continues

The week started in the usual routine now but more and more discussion emerged about easing restrictions and transitioning to a more normal life. I have noticed a few more cars on the road. People are still hanging out in the park but the teenage groups are a little closer. The virus has certainly been contained and although Victoria has had a cluster flair at an abattoir, overall it is looking good.

Parents with children are finding it tough to home school and work from home as well, so there is a push to get kids back to school. I hope there will be a new appreciation and respect for teachers after this. It is challenging to keep the children focused and enthusiastic and parents have had a reality check. I remember some joke when the shutdown started that said something like, ‘Now parents will realise that it is not the teacher who is the problem!’ I am sure that hasn’t really been the case for most of the kids but parents will understand it is not such an easy job after all. A lot of parents have also enjoyed quality time with their children too and I think many families will have found a new closeness.

I have had a couple of Zoom book club meetings. (I am in two book clubs). Despite feeling quite comfortable with the process I still managed to fluff the beginning of one session. I was quite tired and pressed the incorrect START which meant I had two sessions at once! What a dill I felt. It was sorted quite quickly but a nuisance. I had wanted a smooth start this time as I have taken a monthly subscription out to avoid the frustration of the 45 minute limitation with free subscriptions. The downside to unlimited was we didn’t quite know when to stop! Both sessions were successful though I do find them more tiring than real life meetings. It must have something to do with the brain having to function differently and the uncomfortable sensation of seeing yourself on screen at the same time. What ever the reason, I have decided virtual meetings are more tiring. Great to do nonetheless.

I also had two work sessions on Zoom. I participate in two committees related to ALIA, The Australian Library and Information Association, that are concerned with accrediting Library Technician courses at TAFES and also library education standards for graduates. Both of these meetings were interesting and stimulating though once again they are tiring. At one stage I forgot to mute my microphone and my dog jumped onto my lap creating a disturbance heard by everyone. Embarrassing!

The next face to face was with a French Swiss friend, Suzanne, I met in May 2018 when I was walking the Chemin St Jacques in France from Le Puy to Cahors. We walked together on and off for a few days and felt a connection. She is a widow too and was walking the first part of her Camino from Le Puy to Cahors. Later that year Suzanne returned to Cahors and continued on to Bayonne, completing the second stage of her Camino. Her English was quite limited but we managed. She has just finished an English course and wanted to practice with an English speaker. I volunteered, forgetting about the time difference of 8 hours. Suzanne has to start at 8 am in the morning her time which is my 4 pm. Maybe less than optimum for brain sharpness! Alternatively Suzanne will speak French with me on another day. It was good fun and her English has come on so well, though I doubt my French will be at such a good level. Having to concentrate for an hour was again very tiring!

I am beginning to think this tiredness that I feel frequently( and quite a few people have commented upon too), is something akin to when I stopped studying after completing my degree. During the study period I had pushed myself hard as well as at the same time bearing twins and managing (mostly) as a new Mum. After I stopped I felt exhausted and it took me nearly 12 months to recover from the Adrenalin overload I had been experiencing in order to keep everything going. We have all come to a relative stop and the energy we use unconsciously to manage all the activities has dissipated. We have relaxed. I am usually a very energetic person but I have felt quite tired over these few weeks. I am well, exercising and eating properly. I am not drinking extra alcohol. I am sleeping well but I still feel that holiday sense of not wanting to rush. A few of my friends have said they quite like the slower pace( and they are not all oldies either!)

The big blow was the banks announcement that they are not paying dividends this quarter. Ouch! They contribute significantly to my cash flow so I will need to be very careful of my spending. Mind you this came after I bought a new IPad! My old one was almost out of space so that every time there was an update I had to delete practically all my apps and do a clean out of memory etc. I had had it for several years but I am very conscious of not being wasteful at the moment. Even my old tshirts that are not good enough for the op shop are being turned into a rag rug. I don’t want to be contributing extra to land fill if I can avoid it. Having fewer distractions has allowed me to try a few new crafts.

I have also bought a raffia bowl kit from a local online design market. I loved the look of the end product and have been looking for a bowl with a lid to hide the dog walking paraphernalia on the bench. At the moment the stuff sits in a salad bowl! Hopefully I will achieve the desired outcome. Great expectations are not always realised!

The second Sunday in May is Mother’s Day and my sons delivered handsomely. Nick, the single one, came for lunch and we took a long walk together around the area with Alfie. It was just so nice to have unhurried time to just talk and be together. He also got handy and fixed my handle on the pantry door! My other son Jonathan, who is the father of my grandson Ziggy, had his wife to spoil first, then we had a long Zoom session (easy with just them) followed by a gourmet dinner they sent to me. Again it was quality time together that really counted.

The dinner was slow roasted lamb, roast potatoes and gravy with brocollini and salad and Foccaccia, then Tiramasu for dessert. It was all so delicious and such a treat. I rarely get take-away and obviously haven’t gone out for dinner anywhere for weeks, so it was just such a nice gift. I love them all so much and they are fantastic to me.

I feel like we have had much better communication over this time than we usually do and it has been a real bonus. The weather has been getting colder and wetter but there have also been some magic days and afternoons which have made it so pleasant to walk.

Friday afternoon at the park.
Sunday on Gardiner’s Creek path

April 29, another week down!

What is the saying- Pride comes before a fall? Well I boasted about my flourishing balcony garden and the very next day when I went to pick some basil, horrors of horrors it had been chomped and decimated by voracious green caterpillars!

I try not to kill things but my inner Buddhist evaporated and I picked as many as I could see and squashed them vigorously! They are superbly camouflaged so I had to check the plant twice before I succeeded in removing them all. My basil is a sad shadow of its former glory and in social isolation now like me! Who would have thought that 6 floors up I would still have pests in the garden.

An exciting development( this is how desperate I have become,) is the completion of the sky train overpass across Toorak Road. No more railway crossing bells dinging, and traffic backed up because the train now goes over the road. It looks like a toy train from a train set. It seems to be quieter now ( well at the least we have no more dinging bells!) and I get a great view from my balcony which is how the toy train feeling started. I was going to rush down and go for a ride until I realised I am meant to stay home unless going to work! It can wait. I just wish the Tooronga road crossing had also been removed too. It cause such a bottle neck as well.

I have been irritated by a sore knee lately so I decided to stop the gym sessions and focus on Pilates. There is less knee action. Well I have completed two advanced classes this week and my thighs were so sore I couldn’t sleep until I took a nurafen last night. Using different muscles and an intense zoom session really reminded me every exercise regime has different demands! I enjoyed it and my knee didn’t hurt but oh! the thighs!

This week we commemorated Anzac Day in our own homes. There was a national broadcast from Canberra and people stood in their driveways to watch the sun come up. There were candles and flags draped over fences and balconies. It was a very different feel without the parades of veterans and armed forces, and yet I think it was still very respectful and less about the WAR and more about remembering those who lost their lives. Sometimes quiet events still have impact.

I finally got around to playing with the water colours. They are another medium that I really enjoyed but since moving to Acrylics I have lost my touch. Still using means improving and I expect I will get better. I had a conversation with a friend on Face time and showed them my very average effort. My friend identified the poplar tree( good) but her husband asked what was the cucumber in the corner? I had to laugh, because I had meant it to be a clump of trees but it just morphed into a big green patch. I have to hold back and let the paint dry! It was a disappointing outcome but it was also a learning exercise. It is the process which matters. I initially wanted to do something quite abstract but I struggle to let go of details!

Alfie has been endlessly entertaining and engaging during this social restrictions and I am very grateful for his company. He is a great excuse to go for a walk and also his devotion is very heartwarming. He barks at all the animals on TV and then when I don’t play games he lies with his head on his squeeze bone staring at me and talking to me with little growls.

I made a dash to Ziggy with some new books in a series about dragons that his Mum and Dad have become hooked on reading to him. It was so weird. I stand at the bottom of the steps and talk to them and exchange items by leaving them on the stairs but Ziggy came down and gave me a hug around the waist. That meant so much. He is writing little stories and illustrating them. They are very amusing. With Jonathan drawing characters for Uncle Gary’s s website and Ziggy writing, the family is getting quite literary. Gary has published a book for families dealing with obesity and has now started a website to complement the book.

That is it for this week. Life goes on, CoVid19 is being contained in Australia and New Zealand due to our governments’ strong action and hopefully a more normal life is not too far away.

Keep your distance, wash your hands and stay safe.

Which week is this?

I have lost track of how long we have been in lockdown and in all honesty I am feeling like a slowly winding down clock. Our world is a few walking kilometres east, west, north and south of the apartment. Fortunately there are lots of parks and it is amazing how I get a sense of joy when I take the dog for a walk in the sometimes, golden sunny afternoon and I see people(!), kids and parents playing ball games, or scooting along on scooters and bikes or just walking their dogs like I am. I am not alone in this world.

I have been busy being domestic. I have made pots of cumquat jam, preserved the olives picked from the trees in the park, baked a couple of cakes and cooked some pretty good meals. I have finished another scarf, though it is again somewhat longer than I expected. Still it is cosy and useful. Joy of joy, I have discovered a cumquat tree in the park! I will be able to make more jam. These gorgeous pots of golden jam give me such pleasure and a sense of achievement. I will have to give some to my neighbours though because there is not much pantry space in my apartment.

I am getting better at selfies too! On the odd occasion that Hazel is up before 4pm ( She works all night and sleeps all day) we have had a game of scrabble. I love to play the game and have no pretensions to being clever at it. It is just fun. My darling Mum loved it too and we played daily before she passed away. Getting Hazel to play was a coup and even better, she enjoyed it.

I am still doing the Zoom gym sessions and actually think I might be getting fitter. Today I wasn’t quite as shattered as usual. My balcony garden is flourishing with herbs and flowers. Because I am actually here to feed and water, the plants are rewarding me.

When I look across to the city, Autumn is evident in the red and yellow tops of the trees. When I first moved here the changing of the seasons through the colours of the trees was a novelty. In Warrandyte, where all was native grey/blue/green the autumn colours were less apparent. It still gives me pleasure to see the seasonal colours and their marking of the year passing.

What a strange year it is. How long we stay in this lockdown is the main topic of conversation and with the governments’ seeming to be getting the upper hand on the virus, hopefully we will see some lessening of the enforced isolation. I have been proud of how Australia has been so proactive in combatting the spread. We will suffer financially but we have not seen the thousands infected and hundreds dying that has afflicted so many other countries. Some have said it is all an overreaction by government, but when you look at the figures this is not such a simple story. I am intrigued by the fact that while many recover the number listed as recovering is never equal to the infected and those who die. There is a huge gap between infection and recovery of people who remain sick for quite a long time.

Keep well, keep washing hands and physical distancing.

Week 2 getting a routine.

The week was not so frantic though I managed gym classes on Zoom and Pilates. They seem way more intense than my usual gym class and that is because there are none of the usual chit chat and walking back for a drink between exercises! It is full on for the 45 mins. After each class I am just bathed in perspiration and in all honesty I feel more energised too.

Alfie is getting used to me crowding out the lounge and he isn’t sitting on the mat chewing a toy or underfoot. We are all getting used to the indoor routine. One thing I have noticed is my body seems more upright again-no sagging in the middle. I haven’t lost any weight but I seem to look more toned. I have also taken to pacing around when on the phone to avoid sitting too much. There is still a lot of phone.

It is nice to have so much connection but that too is easing a little so I am not continually being distracted. The amount of social media, FB, Instagram, WhatsApp, as well as Zoom and Houseparty has been interesting. I have found myself spending so much more time on them that I am getting quite tired. It isn’t restful. So I am resolved to just check 30 mins in the morning and 30 mins in the afternoon. The day just disappears when you are on these all the time.

I have been walking around the local streets and because it is so familiar you start to really notice details. I love the way some people show their support for others. One front fence had these posters and tulle bows while others have teddy bears for kids to notice.

A sad thing for all the kids and parents is the closure of the playgrounds in the parks. Some people argue that if child care centres are open parks should be also, but I see the logic behind this. Child Care Centres can control who is there and the cleaning but parks are publicly open to everyone without any controls so of course the equipment is more likely to be contaminated. There are still lots of people out walking but now we are limited to groups of two and maintaining social distance as well. Even our lifts are restricted to two people at a time. I am getting callouses on my elbows from pressing buttons with them! I have had to actively massage cream into my poor elbows. Who would have thought? All our furniture in the lobby has been roped off too. No sitting allowed.

The restrictions are working here even though some people still flout the rules. The police are actually checking and issuing fines so we are really in a socially controlled state. We are compliant in the most part but now articles are appearing about how we must be vigilant to the loss of liberty due to new rules/laws. There must be action to repeal once the pandemic is over. I don’t think we would continue to accept these restrictions for very long once the pandemic has passed but we also can’t be complacent about the new laws. It will be a different world after this time and I hope we won’t forget some of the lessons learned.

I finished my scarf and then reworked it as it hadn’t quite turned out as I had hoped the first time. The second attempt has been much better and it is remarkably cosy. Now I am inspired to do some more and have sent off for more wool to make scarves for friends. Busy hands make for a happy heart and a sense of achievement. I picked olives from a tree in the park and I am now preserving them too. Quite domestic. All things I had no time for before our lockdown. I really should get into the cupboards and book cases but… The motivation just isn’t there yet.

The days are marked by our meals and I have got more engaged in cooking again. I did some Chinese braised 5 spice belly pork which was super delicious. I made a huge mess with the crisping of the skin initially but in the end all was good. Then I have cooked a cake with Hazel. That was fun. Hazel isn’t an experienced cook so it was a learning curve for her and we made a Jewish Honey cake. Smells awesome and tastes great with the spices and honey.

I have tried to get back to drawing or painting without a lot of success. The days go so fast. I feel inhibited about going to the studio even though I would be on my own. There is a very strong message about staying home unless absolutely necessary. My Spanish vocab. is improving and I have moved up a level in my French which is satisfying. Reading has slowed a little because of the other distractions plus the topics where pretty heavy for this time. No Friend but the Mountains was an arduous read. It is about being detained on Manus Island. Those off shore detention centres will be Australia’s shame in years to come. We must close them down. They treat people so harshly. It is psychological torture. No wonder so many have mental health issues.

There is so much concern about the Australian population’s mental health during this lockdown and we have the comforts of home, Internet, free communication, ample food and medical care! Those poor people are not on any agendas now but could very easily be stricken with the Corona Virus too and probably die.

I have been happy to see my son Jonathan finding some work and promoting his cartooning skills. He has done such great caricatures of his son Ziggy and his twin brother Nick. He has had the time to brush up his skills and started promoting them on Instagram. So there have been some advantages in being locked down. Nick too is working on his collages and venturing into bigger canvases.

While this is a trying time for everyone it has slowed us down and allowed us to find other ways to nurture our souls. Stay safe and inside.

1 week down many more to go

Well it is Monday of week two and our lives have shrunk so much and yet not. I had such a busy week with learning to run Zoom sessions, multiple Coronavirus jokes and songs and news about new restrictions almost every day. Then the kids invited me to Houseparty App which was their video group chat of choice. Another learning curve.

I managed three gym sessions in the park which was a lot of fun and hard work. It was so pleasant exercising outside. I experienced an online Pilates class which was also great, except for the dog wanting to lick my face!

Two virtual cocktail hours was a great way for us all to catch up. I even dressed up and really made cocktails. A potent mix of Peach liqueur and vodka with a dash of lemon juice over ice.

The next event was a virtual dance class on Friday night for an hour. Now that was a workout, and hilarious. My body rolls were not as liquid as I would like but nonetheless ( I convinced Hazel, my niece to join in), we managed to get the routine almost down pat if not entirely in time. We laughed so much I am sure it released heaps of endorphins!

The cupboards finally got a look in. I needed some red wine so after buying six bottles I sorted the wine cupboard. Then the handle fell off the pullout pantry. It had got too heavy and despite reducing the weight by shifting groceries to other cupboards, the handle still came off. Exasperated i have improvised with a belt until I can get to Bunnings hardware or a good handyman!

Everyday I have walked the dog longer and longer distances and it has been quite delightful to see so many families out in the park or on bikes. There were still groups of mostly young people not practicing social distancing and as a consequence the councils have closed the beaches and reduced the number allowed in groups from 10 down to two.

That was the end of the park gym and now we will be doing virtual classes instead. People over 70 have been urged to stay home and those over 60 to reduce their interactions and stay home as much as possible also.

We are allowed to go for a walk in twos and I have seen so many people out on the streets it is really rather nice. The suburbs are alive with people working from home and taking the kids out. No shopping centre trawling just home games and the park!

I think some people might find it hard to get back to the old style of life if this goes on for months. One thing I notice is that while we are all a bit anxious, people still smile and chuckle as you do the Coronavirus shuffle to keep your distance on footpaths.

The weather is beautifully autumnal and I have noticed the trees are starting to change colour. The annual invasion of Corellas is happening and they are wheeling and screeching overhead in large flocks. This afternoon they were in extreme distress for some reason. I eventually realized there was a bird of prey ( falcon, hawk or larger I could not discern), circling above the flock.

I decided to wash Alfie as he was very doggy smelling. If he is in the bed he has to stay clean and there are no trips to the groomers any time soon. He is not impressed but he does feel so lovely afterwards that I will do it more regularly from now on.

A further Zoom training session on Sunday left me feeling quite tired. Added to that was the effort to finish with the book on life in prison on Manus island (No friend but the Mountains by Behrouz Boochani, beautiful but haunting writing) and the series Stateless, also about Refugees, I suddenly felt very tired and unsettled. I couldn’t sleep last night.

I took Alf on a 8 km walk and started to think how last week was like the first week of a Camiño. All excitement and new experiences, the unknown unfolding day by day, no routine but just managing what comes everyday. At the end of the first week you suddenly realize what you are in for and doubt creeps into consciousness. Can I do this? The end seems a long way off. You feel tired. Then you have a glass of wine, a chat with someone and a good night’s sleep. One day at a time is all you need to be concerned about.

Life during CoVid 19

Okay, so all my plans for travel this year have gone to hell. Fortunately I was refunded my China trip because Bunnik’s pulled the tours themselves. I have to say they operated so professionally and I would highly recommend them in the future. Their tours were well balanced with organised and free time. China will have to wait for another time.

Next came Africa. It is still in the mix but who knows where we will all be in August. Will we be still struggling with the virus or maybe we will have come out the other side. It is too soon to call. However even if the pandemic has passed our savings and the dollar have taken a hit with the fall of the economy and it may be all a bit too expensive. My savings may be going to help my sons who have both been affected by the slow down of work and had their hours cut. It all seems pretty grim.

Then there was the long walk along the Ruta de laine in Spain from Alicante to Burgos. Spain is a hot spot for the virus and while it too may be over the worst by September, it is all looking pretty much like a no go this year. I will be disappointed but life has other priorities when the world is in meltdown. One of those is looking out for each other, family, friends and neighbours. A couple of friends have had serious illnesses diagnosed and that really shows what is important. It is heartwarming to see so many people being thoughtful about others. Sure there has been panic hoarding and some displays of appalling behaviour, but there has also been some surprising initiatives to balance this. Humans aren’t all selfish. We are all in this together and we are working together.

Another upside is that I have been in more regular contact with so many people via Facebook, Whats App and I have even started to run my book club via Zoom group conferencing. With the relative success of that experiment I have opted for a virtual happy hour with friends using Zoom. We had planned a dinner but our government has requested people ( particularly we older Aussies) to keep a safe distance from each other and to stop socialising pretty well everywhere. We are not yet quite as locked down as the UK but it will probably happen.

The economy is in free fall, the restaurants and cafes have shut down overnight and unless they can survive on takeaway and home delivery they are out of business for the foreseeable future. Lots of people are working from home. About 20,000 people became unemployed overnight in Melbourne alone. There will be heaps more like my sons who have jobs but such reduced hours that they are almost unemployed. It is a scary state of affairs.

Everyone is in shock. I have started to refocus on activities to do at home and have been upping the Spanish studies as well as French. I have taken up crochet after probably 20 years! I am making a cowl scarf out of gorgeous Alpaca. I have got the skein in a mess but still able to crochet. All those little tips I used to know are coming back. It is something I can do in front of television while I am bingeing on Scandi Noir or French and Spanish films!

Alpaca wool for scarf

I have been walking the dog and when I meet my dog owner friends at the park we all stand about 3 metres apart. Our dogs are still sniffing tails and noses so we probably should be extra vigilant about washing our hands after patting everyone’s pets too. I have been still able to go to an outdoor gym class with gloves and appropriate distances between us but that may come to an end if the UK is anything to go by. I have already signed up for on line Pilates with a former teacher and can also follow my gym instructor through an app and possibly Zoom as well.

It will be such a novelty to hug someone after all this. My grandson is off limits too. Virtual chats the way to go there. Fortunately while the shelves of supermarkets are lean it isn‘t for lack of produce but lack of delivery. I was kind of hoping I might have to ration food. It would probably result in a few less kilos over the period rather than an increase due to reduced activity!

Through all this I had a bit of a melt down and it came to me – this is another Camino. The lessons I learned on those walks were to take every day as it came, just be in the moment and put one foot after another. I don’t always remember to practice this lesson but when ever I hit a rough spot it comes back to me. Bam!

And a lesson from when I was a stressed mum with twin babies. This time will pass. Breathe deep for calm, look at the sky or something beautiful, take a break from listening to all the news and talk, sleep well and wash your hands.

Alcohol is the great deterrent to germs so I am hoping a daily dose of Champagne will work just as well on the inside! It will certainly lift my spirits anyway. That is all for the moment.