9 th August Stage 4 Lockdown

When the stage four lockdown was announced I felt genuine alarm and shock. Then I felt anger, anger towards the people who misbehaved in quarantine, anger towards the State Government that quite obviously stuffed up there, but then I calmed down. Human behaviour is so stupid sometimes, so short sighted and filled with the sense of being the exception. Those people who were fraternising in the hotels probably didn’t think they were sick so it all seemed a bit of overkill! The Government, both State and Federal, are dealing with completely new circumstances imperfectly at times. Hindsight is a great thing.

What we have learned from this virus is the fact that it is not predictable like the flu. You feel crappy with the flu quite quickly and we know about flu. The CoVid 19 is a sneaky virus. You don’t feel sick but you are spreading the virus every time you breathe. You might be lucky and get no symptoms, but your friend gets sick like the flu and his friend gets really sick and needs a hospital. The only sure thing is that the older you are the more vulnerable you are. Yet this past week two people in their early thirties died. This is Russian roulette virus with our health. As time passes we learn more and more about the ongoing impact of this virus. There is mounting evidence of damage to hearts, lungs and kidneys, to relapses or extended recovery times. Like all illnesses in the past like TB, Measles, Polio the knowledge grew as the disease spread and eventually management regimes became well known and evidence based. Vaccines were developed, extent of immunity recognised in survivors. We are not there yet and may never be but until it becomes a known and understood disease we need to treat it with respect and practice prevention until that time happens.

This crisis shows up the weak spots in government policy, in the social contract we all have, and in ourselves. Those anti-maskers or anti-curfew and anti-restrictions individuals are putting themselves above every other person in our society. It is not their right to infect others because they think a mask infringes their liberty or go about as they choose, spreading a silent killer. If they don’t want to be part of the only solution we have at the moment, then they need to remove themselves from society to a place where they don’t pose a danger to anyone else. With rights come responsibilities too! They aren’t going to knock back medical care if they need it I am sure.

What is of greater concern is the rise in emergency admissions for mental health issues. This is a disturbing reflection on our society. Are we less resilient than other generations or more willing to admit our mental fragility? There is an enormous emphasis and finally government support, for mental health at this time. Even my distant friends and family ( those in other states) are ringing to check on my mental health. I am touched and appreciative of that concern as I am alone with only my dog Alfie. Even Alf seems to be a bit depressed. He certainly isn’t as playful as he was and sleeps more. He is getting older though at twelve, but he is still lively on our walks and likes to mix it with the dogs.

Anyway as the week evolved life really didn’t change that much except for shorter walks. Limited to 1 hour and a 5 kilometre radius I have finally succumbed to podcasts while I walk and I have listened to some amazing discussions and interviews. I have been a walker who prefers to be in the present, aware of the bird song, fragrant flowers, sun shining through the trees but the same streets are wearing thin so the podcasts have begun. One particularly fascinating one was the ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler https://www.abccommercial.com/contentsales/program/conversations-podcast about the origins of fairytales.

I was surprised to learn that Cinderella originated in China and the story was even more grim. Cinderella used to talk to a golden fish that she believed was the spirit of her mother. Her stepmother was so mean that she killed the fish and fed it to Cinderella who was horrified when she realised the truth. An old man told Cinderella that the bones of the fish were magic and it was by wishing on the bones that she went to the ball in golden slippers and met the prince. When the prince came with the slipper, the step sisters cut off their toes and their heels to fit into the shoes, but the doves called out ‘ter wit ter woo there is blood in the shoe!’ The small foot fetish of China is related to this story. As the story came to Europe it was modified to fit each culture reflecting what was precious and these modifications have ensured the survival of the fairytales. What has also changed is the goryness or horror of the fairytales. As societies have improved, human lives have become healthier, less fraught and more secure, so to fairytales have become less gruesome. The symbolism of the characters and actions has taken on different meanings through time. Highly recommended listening!

I decided to get back to the Zoom gym in earnest now that Nick was out of danger. That was a bit painful! You lose condition so quickly. I had sore arm pits from push ups and stiff buttocks from lunges etc. I also decided I needed a bit more of a lift and found a free Latin dance class online. Nothing like a bit of Cha Cha and Salsa to bring a smile to your face. I am not as lithe as I used to be and the feet don’t move so fast but I couldn’t help but smile at my efforts. Great medicine.

I then became energised to do my tax return and trade in my old IPad. Things I had been putting off for ages. I had managed to sell two bolts of fabric to a friend just before lock down so I was inspired to assess the rest of the fabric that Jonathan had been going to dump when he was shifting house because he didn’t have enough time to deal with them. I rescued the rolls because it seemed such a waste but had not got around to doing anything with them either. They are an ongoing project but I did find some lovely merino and tshirt fabric which I intend to use myself.

Bolts of fabric

I sent off to Lincraft for some beginner patterns which have arrived. Now I will reacquaint myself with the sewing machine. If nothing else in this period of CoVid I have brushed up on many old skills, some more successfully than others I have to admit. I recalled how accomplished our mothers were with sewing , knitting, cooking, preserving, nursing, child care, craft activities, gardening and everything else they did both in and out of the house. I doubt I will give up travelling and hiking for those domestic pursuits whenever we are able to resume them but I appreciate the sense of satisfaction they give.

My brother in law, Gary, cousin Anthea and I embarked on a new virtual mission. This time we are crossing the US on Route 66. They are cycling but I am walking and using the conversion chart to convert activities like the Zoom circuit training, vigorous house work and Pilates to kilometres as my team contribution. It is a motivator for sure. My housework earned me 5kms. No wonder I was tired!

It has been a bit hard walking because the weather has been freezing with snow in unexpected places in the state. Wilson’s Prom is a fabulous beach and hiking destination but I have never seen snow there. However with the skies so grey it looked as if it was going to snow in Melbourne, it was not a surprise that snow fell there.

As it was the first week of the month I ran the two book club meetings on Zoom and it was great to see everybody and discuss our books. I had only read one The Shepherd’s Life: a tale of the Lakes District by James Rebanks. It was particularly interesting to me for two reasons. The first was that I had walked through the area when I walked the Coast to Coast in 2018 and the author’s love and commitment to this way of life and country. He expressed feelings similar the those expressed by Australian First People about their connection to country. I learned a lot about sheep farming and the accumulation of lived knowledge over time. Fascinating and a great favourite for all. Book club is an innocuous way of learning about fellow members. Several revealed that they had farm connections or actually farmed at some time of their lives. This information was a surprise as there had been no earlier prompts for revealing this before.

With Zoom in mind my other friends decided to have a Zoom Dinner on Friday night. Again it was wonderful to see everyone and discuss our various dinners and families. While my daughter in law will be glad to see the end of zoom meetings it certainly is a life saver for those of us living alone. I followed up with a FaceTime with Ziggy my grandchild. He was playing monopoly with his parents. He was able to show me his coriander plant that he and I had planted from seed together. He is so proud of himself and I am relieved the plant hasn’t died! It is important to nourish this interest in nature especially in this weird time.

As a carer I was able to take Nick to the Physiotherapist for his rehab session. I am ever grateful that he is making such a good recovery. I am thankful his drama has happened in CoVid because he isn’t missing out on anything and the quieter pace of life has allowed recovery and his creativity to flourish. In contrast my art is like a ship wallowing at the jetty. I keep prioritising craft over art. My apartment doesn’t quite have the space for large painting efforts and I have let my drawing lapse too. I am such a butterfly!

Nick’s Cotton Rug Design

My last achievement was a batch of Oat date biscuits. I will have to freeze some because I just can’t eat 40 before they get stale without getting fat!

The first week of the extreme lockdown started with distress and at the end was showing some progress. I am chugging along like the little red train who kept saying he could. Just keeping going and looking for the small pleasures, being grateful for what IS good in my life and buying cheap Aldi wine till the tax return comes in!

27th July A week of worry

What a hellish time we have been through. The last post we were hugging Nick before his operation. He went into theatre on the 23rd at 12.30 pm and a text came from the hospital at 5.30 pm to say he was in recovery. That was it! I expected a call from a doctor but nothing. I decided not to ring as my previous experiences have all been very non-committal while the patient is in recovery. The usual, ‘Patient still sleeping, surgery went well , the Doctor will be in touch,’ so I left it till the next morning.

I rang early but got an answering machine. I rang again about 30 mins after and got a nurse who was able to tell me Nick was awake and talking and fine and the Doctor was trying to ring me. Well I had been carrying my phone, afraid to put it down in case I missed a call, so I knew no one had tried to call. But she led me to believe they were going to ring me so I waited patiently but increasingly getting annoyed. A text from Nick which just said he was in a lot of pain and couldn’t take texts, was strangely reassuring, though made me more anxious and annoyed not to have some feedback from the doctors. I waited till later and finally rang again and got another nurse who sounded surprised that no one had rung. The actual surgeon was in another surgery and when I said it was now 24 hrs without any feedback the nurse promptly called the neurology doctors. Dr. Louis rang me back in half an hour and finally I received the feedback I needed. I expressed my displeasure and he was contrite that I had not been notified. Even though I was next of kin, because Nick was of sound mind and able to make decisions for himself, I was irrelevant. The main thing is that he has had a successful surgery.

I am not complaining about his care. I just would have liked a more prompt response to put his family at ease. I had been fielding queries from concerned family for days and while it made me feel supported it was also a strain trying to keep all my family and friends informed. Trying to keep my own anxieties under control was exhausting. Like all mothers our children are so precious, and despite them being adults now you still fear for them.

Anyway he had the whole AVM removed and a further Angiogram the day after the surgery confirmed that all was gone. He has had a piece of his skull removed and replaced with screws which he said he saw on the angiogram. His scar is quite impressive and only dressed by a thin strip of bandage. Nick has got a sore head but otherwise physically he is making a good recovery. His foot, hand and shoulder are all more responsive and he has exercises to follow for rehab. By Saturday he was allowed to go home! I was quite shocked but Nick was thrilled. He had hit the wall over hospital food and his new room mate was very unpleasant and invasive. Nick was very relieved when he woke up and felt like himself. He had been afraid his personality might change.

I had had a similar fear though I had not voiced it to anybody. I had also been concerned about the impact on his physical abilities, but the Surgeon was skilled and the outcome was all we hoped. A good recovery. He still has another surgery to face in about six weeks to remove the other AVM at the back of his head. At least we are prepared this time.

When I returned him to his home, Georgia and Josh his flat mates, had put up a welcome home sign in his room. His first stop was the balcony to soak up the sun in his ‘lizard’ chair. He was so relieved to be outside. He kept comparing it to being in prison for a long time and how weird it seemed to be in the world again.

During this trying time we have had the compulsory masks enacted, restricted movements again and so the park has become even more important as my unwind space with Alfie. Here I can socialise at a distance and enjoy the fun of happy dogs. Half the dogs are CoVid purchases, that is they are all about 5 months old! All shapes and sizes of joyful puppies and all sorts of mixes of oodles. Though a new addition was Taco the chihuahua, a spunky little guy who retreated to his owners legs for shelter when the bigger dogs got too boisterous.

Amongst all the flurry of Nick’s drama I did take a break at the Auburn Lawn Bowls Club. Katrina had encouraged me to join before the lockdown and so I have only played a few practice bowls. It was a welcome change of pace, though I did play really badly because my attention was so scattered. Towards the end of play it started to rain and a rainbow appeared. I took it as a good sign.

Walking has been my major activity this last couple of weeks. I couldn’t concentrate on any gym or felt too tired from stress and sleepless nights to face the early Zoom sessions, yet I have managed to clock up quite a few kilometres and today Gary, my brother-in-law and I have finally finished our Virtual Camino.

A fun way to keep motivated.

A great outcome from a challenging time. I have often called on my Camino experience to keep me balanced through this period. One day at a time. Some days are shitty and some days are great but you just keep moving forward and try not to dwell on the bad. Every day is a fresh start. And today I learned it doesn’t take long in the microwave to cook a face mask! I had decided to sterilise it by microwaving but I left it for too long and I actually charred the corner. What a dill I am. I am now making some new ones.

22 July Operation day

We have had a tense and exhausting week since last I wrote. Nick has been so cold in his room they eventually gave him a pyjama top and another blanket. He is struggling to sleep, as most people do in hospitals. The bed is too narrow, the sheets tangle because he can’t move properly, the room is cold but he is coping. Every now and again the anxiety gets the better of him but he eventually finds his balance and continues on taking every day at time. Waiting is so hard.

With the second wave of CoVid 19 sweeping Victoria and coming from community transmission this time, the hospitals have gone into lockdown and no visitors are allowed except for palliative care or patients who need their carer. It is very hard on everyone and despite the ability to communicate via phones it isn’t quite as reassuring as being there in person. We have face timed and texted continually but that in itself is exhausting. We have some group chats that are great but so many wonderful people contribute it is like a mad party where you just can’t keep up with everyone. However it is the best we can do under the circumstances and it just lifts your spirits to have this support.

On the Friday the Doctor had THE conversation with Nick. The MRI revealed another AVM at the back of his head as well and so they will attend to the first AVM on Wednesday by opening his skull from the top of his head and remove the clots and deal with the AVM. Then the skull piece will be screwed back into place. Nick was very relieved that it was not on his forehead and that the operation was not like a can opener! He does have a vivid imagination. He was disappointed to know there was another and that he would have to go back after recovery to have that attended to also. He was quite down. The family rallied around and that evening on the chat they posted lots of photos of our family trip to Hong Kong 11 years ago.

On that trip Jonathan, Nick and their cousin Martin explored the nightlife of Hong Kong extensively. There were lots of photos of their hijinks which brought back great memories and lifted his spirits. There were photos of their Dad Peter having a great time too. I had a moment of fear when I thought I just can’t lose Nick too. We were all so happy on that holiday but Peter died six months later. I brushed that fear away as completely ridiculous. Nick is in good health overall and as the week has progressed his limbs have recovered some of their strength and control. The Doctor had explained as they do that there was a chance of complications but the odds were low, 5-10%. He has the best surgeon and is in the best hospital, getting great care.

Getting through the next four days seemed interminable and occasionally Nick got restless and impatient. It seems like he has been in for a month but it is only 10 days. On Sunday a new patient arrived into his room. The young man was extremely disoriented and told Nick he had been dead for two years! Nick was spooked and thought he had come out of surgery. He started to imagine he would be the same but of course this young man has something different which is not related to surgery but epilepsy or some other disturbance.

Nick wanted to see us before he had surgery but with the restrictions we could not visit. I felt his anxiety was rising and requested a visit to ease his mind. The hospital allowed Nick to come outside and meet us in a little garden in front of the hospital. We were so thrilled to see him and had brought his favourite Chinese custard buns which he devoured. He showed us his walking and hand movements have improved significantly. He felt so good to be outside in the world but also it seemed strange. He forgot to bring his washing so we will need to drop off more knickers! It put all our minds at ease to see him and gave him strength to face the operation.

Ziggy came too and was treated to some of the lolly snakes that a friend had sent Nick. He showed off his now higgledy, piggledy teeth with glee. He is losing teeth quite dramatically now and Nick was worried he is going to need braces. Jonathan and Nick talked business and appraised a new beanie they are thinking of adding to their Common-Dust clothing range. It seemed like a normal time. Nick bemoaned his thick beard which he loathes and wanted to shave his head. He looked tired and a bit pale but still with the magic smile. There was the usual banter between the three of them and then it was time to leave. Despite social distancing requirements we all hugged him hard.

He has been given sleeping tablets the last couple of nights and has felt better as a result. This morning he rang to say he was probably going into surgery about 10 ish. I received a text from the hospital at12.30 pm that he was going into theatre then. Now we wait and pray all will be well.

July 14 Can this year get worse?

Friday the tenth was a fun evening with Janine and our amazingly delicious meal from Attica, helped along by my new cocktail, French 75. We decided that the food was too good to miss any bit so we actually ate from all the takeaway containers. What couldn’t be scraped up was left for Alfie to lick clean! While portions were not large they were sufficient. If I ate those portions all the time I would never have to worry about creeping kilos.We had a very late night of talking and a slow start to Saturday. I took Janine home and then the day disappeared.

Sunday was also a slow start but soon became a crazy day. My son Nick called asking to be taken to the emergency department of a hospital. I had been face timing some friends and was full of giggles which abruptly disappeared with that call. When I arrived to collect him and he told me his symptoms I rushed to the nearest hospital. The Epworth in Richmond. Fortunately after the CoVid checks we were seen quickly. Nick was assessed and then taken for a CT scan. He was scared, I was scared. He had woken with a head ache and then had weakness in his left arm and leg. He had called the Doctor Online and they had consulted a GP who then told him to go to hospital immediately. I thought he had had a stroke. When the doctor at the ED came to tell me it was serious I was really shaken. Tears welled and I just felt so scared.

The staff were fantastic but The Epworth is a private hospital and Nick only has basic hospital cover aimed at accidents, not neurological issues. He was diagnosed with an AVM, arteriovenous malformation, a lesion on the brain which had bled. My life just seemed to go into slow motion from then. As it turned out the neurological specialist works at the Public Alfred Hospital as well and so it was arranged for Nick to be transferred across.

I left to go home and feed the dog as well as collect some essentials for Nick like toothbrush, toothpaste, spare knickers and some socks. I returned just as he was leaving in the ambulance so followed him to the Alfred. I had to register my details in case of CoVid and then to wait while they got him settled and eventually into a room. His movement on the left side had been impacted and his thinking was slow. His heart was racing because he was so anxious.

Everyone was so kind and helpful, but not really knowing what was going to happen next is very hard and stressful. Eventually I had to leave and so spent a sleepless night worrying in case he deteriorated.

Next day I returned and a physiotherapist came by to assess his physical abilities. His left leg was a bit stronger but the foot was still heavy and only partially responsive, his left arm was able to stay up better but the hand kept going into a grip which he found hard to release. He could manage the stairs quite well and balance while standing but he is weak on his left side. He was exhausted from the shock and lack of sleep. In my haste Sunday night I had not grabbed toothpaste for him at all, but tinea cream! Yuk! We had a bit of a laugh and I felt glad he knew the difference.

In the morning he had had a brain angiagraph to map the blood vessels which he found very uncomfortable and required him to lie flat for nearly four hours afterwards. He had fasted since midnight before and couldn’t eat till nearly 3.00pm. He certainly didn’t complain about cold food! Then it was wait, wait but no doctor came and because of the CoVid situation I had to leave. Actually they only allow one visitor for one hour per day and I had stayed for three hours keeping him company and waiting for the doctor, completely oblivious to the rule. Poor Jonathan came and was turned away. Jonathan came the next day which eased his mind a little about Nick. Being twins they have always been so close and Jonathan is almost as stressed as Nick. He still hadn’t had the MRI they wanted him to have so we were all frustrated. By Wednesday no visitors are allowed but he has had the MRI. They had thought he might go home before he went into surgery but that option is out of the question because they have told him it is too risky. He could have another bleed and they would not be able to do anything.

He is restless and anxious but today they are having a meeting to talk in detail about the planned surgery. They need to immobilise the AVM to stop further bleeding and it seems like they will operate next Wednesday. That seems such a long time to wait. In the meantime he is coping and we are all tense and anxious.

All the family are concerned and shocked. It is probably something he has had since birth and just grown with him. I think Jonathan should be checked too after we have got through this with Nick.

Life is a roller coaster. You tend to think such things happen to other people but here we are dealing with a serious random health issue.

Last week I lamented I didn’t win some of, or all of the $80,000,000 Powerball and now all I want is a son alive and restored to his former self. A reality check extraordinaire.

7 July marvellous Melbourne not so marvellous!

We were just getting a bit too comfortable with that stealthy virus and now it has taken off like one of our famous bushfires, ratcheting up the numbers to double digits. The Victorian government has come down hard, fast and serious on 12 suburbs and in particular some high rise apartments. They dropped the ball on the hotel quarantine which leaked infection into the community and now we have significant community transmission again. This time I think they reacted strongly, but communicating with the hundreds of people in the high rise to explain their sudden isolation has been less than impressive. Speed overtook community consultation. I live in a high rise apartment and I understand how important the control of infection needs to be and also how hard it is to communicate with everyone simultaneously. We are in for a rocky road for a long time.

I read on the BBC web page that Spain tested 60,000 to measure how many have immunity. Only 5% were showing antibodies and nowhere near the herd immunity requirement of 70%. Also the North West of the country is now starting to show infection surges. This virus is such a mystery. The fact that people can be asymptomatic but contagious is such a concern and they still may not have developed antibodies either.

Well, since I started this post the whole metropolitan area has been sent back to lockdown and Victoria is now an isolated state. All borders closed. Aagh!! I am not surprised that this has occurred. When restrictions were eased it seemed that people just thought the danger was over. People relaxed the social distancing too much or didn’t take the threat seriously. Hospital admissions have gone up and that is really the measure. Hopefully we will get it back under control in the next six weeks that we are in lockdown. It is the businesses that are going to suffer the most again. So tough.

My sons are back working and my daughter-in-law is back working full time so even though we have lockdown I will need to help out with my grandson who now has an extra week at home and may be back being home schooled, (not something he or his parents want!).

I have been sharing Ziggy with his other grand parents over the school holidays. I have had to up my soccer( football) skills as he is a keen player who fancies himself as the next Renaldo. He has always been well coordinated and kicks hard and straight. He kept wanting me to dive for the ball when I was goalie! I had a sore elbow from deflecting balls. Fortunately another kid turned up who I encouraged to play for a while so I gained some respite. Two hours of leaping and kicking and running was a bit tiring for a Grandma! The other activity has been the pool. For a brief time our pool was open and we were able to get in quite a bit if swimming before the new lockdown. Ziggy likes to pretend he is surfing and grandma is the surfboard! I get to do a lot of swimming underwater which is good for my lungs. He is also swimming quite well and a few regular days swimming would boost his abilities. Fortunately he loves to draw also and so I manage to get some quiet time to recover from all this activity. He is great company and like all kids is switched on and a sponge!

I have managed a couple of restaurant outings. What a treat! To have a meal cooked for me has been quite wonderful and to have company with whom to share the experience was such a pleasure. I was blasé about restaurants before the lockdown sent me to the kitchen and now I really appreciate the pleasure of not knowing what is on the menu!

Restaurants who had just reopened to have 20 people had limited selections but everything was so imaginative and beautifully presented. Staff were so thrilled to be working again that the atmosphere was jubilant. Now they will all be back to home delivery and takeaway.

The Modern Australian Restaurant in Prahran with friends

After these two events I decided to try the at home menu of the famous Melbourne restaurant Attica. My friend Janine had missed the traditional birthday celebration lunch we share and with the new freedoms it seemed a good time to try what is usually a very expensive experience. I organised delivery to my home and Janine was coming to stay the night. The sudden lockdown threatened our evening but none the less the meal is going ahead and Janine is still coming.

I have had a sewing blitz and hemmed some trousers, remodelled a top, and started to consider quilting a long unfinished quilt. Time ran out when I was called for Grandma duties once again. I started the actual gym but that only lasted two weeks and it is back to Zoom sessions again. There have been two book club Zoom sessions too which were both interesting and challenging discussions. One book was The Yield by Tara June Winch and Island of Sea Women by Lisa Lee. Both were engrossing reads.

One good thing was a refund of two thirds of my multi-trip travel insurance. I have been so lucky. My China trip was fully refunded, the Africa trip was refunded less 10% and the Spanish trip I had delayed making bookings because I felt uneasy, so nothing lost. The plane fares are in dispute but we are likely to get a two year credit and they were pretty cheap. I would still like to have a refund but a credit will suffice if it is all we can get.

The refunds have gone some small way to ameliorate the cost of my dental expenses. Most of my travel money has gone into my mouth for work I had been postponing. There may not be lots to smile about, but when I do, I have now a great mouthful of teeth! Other expenses have been the cost of Alfie’s medication for his ear infections. It was quite a challenge on my own to outwit him so I could syringe the liquid into his ears. Fortunately he is very food focused and I could often do it while he ate, but he started to get wary after a few days. He would look very Suspiciously between me and his dinner when I put it down so I had to vary my attempts or he would escape under the dining table.

My final joy this week was a haircut. My mop was desperately in need of a trim and I have decided to keep most of the length now it has grown over the initially lockdown. Nothing like a trip to the hairdresser to make you feel great.

Small things have taken on a lot more importance in our lives. My neighbours have decided to remain at their beach home for the rest of the year and maybe permanently. I was sad because even though we live next door and do not see each other very frequently we have a great relationship and enjoy each other’s’ company. We could always call on each other if needed. CoVid is responsible for so much turmoil!

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.

Spring

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.