8 th January Sunny Southport

I have been happily staying with Tim and Donna since I returned. All has been easy. The sun has been shining and I have been feeling relaxed with early morning swims and walks and of course some shopping. My excuse is that I am helping the economy and I could not resist a bargain that will fill a hole in my wardrobe.

The weather has turned cool and wet and I am glad I put in my hoodie!I am relishing being on the balcony watching all the activity on the Broadwater. It is endlessly fascinating. I have seen a group of dragon boats and outriggers practicing. I met a woman once who was a breast cancer survivor and she rowed in a dragon boat competitively as a form of empowerment. She was impressive. They conjure up a dramatic image of power and speed. Then there are the jet skis that zoom around, a bit like marauding mosquitoes! They are always doing donuts and and zig zags. When the weather was good the yacht squadron was out and sailing into the open water off Main beach, their spinnakers bright against the sky and water.

Other times it is luxury yachts gliding out through the breakwater, all glamorous and sleek or humble fishing boats laden with nets and lines. Closer to shore are parasailing and wind surfers. The water is rarely empty or still unless the weather turns grey and wet like today.

On the foreshore they are having a Craft beer and jazz festival. The sound check yesterday was very clear from the balcony so we may get some cheap entertainment. The festival is promoting 260 craft beers!The lockdown of Brisbane will be a blow to the event I am sure .

CoVid safe Queensland has taken a hit with a quarantine hotel cleaner identified with the virulent strain from the UK. Consequently Greater Brisbane, Ipswich, Redland Bay and Logan are all going into a 3 day lockdown. My visit from Sunday is now off and I probably won’t get up there at all. It is disappointing and I hope not a cause for Victoria to ban the state like NSW. It would be funny if having fled from NSW to ensure a return to Victoria, the ban moved to Qld and I will be stuck here instead while the ban on NSW is lifted. It is a lottery really.

Anyway I am still enjoying the freedom of being somewhere different and being with my family. This water view is soul healing that is for sure.

With bad weather setting in today I have taken out some watercolour pens and will try this medium. I will probably make a mess but have a lot of fun in the process.

Everyday brings something new. The shock of the American Capital being under siege has sent concerned ripples around the world. CoVid mutating to an even more virulent strain is causing border lockdowns, extra testing sites and uncertainty. 2021 is supposed to be better but still there is turbulence and chaos. Did we really believe that things would be miraculously improved from New Years Day? I return to my mantra – Day by day!

5 th January Southport Queensland

I arrived in Ballina, the town where Flat Rock Tent park is situated, with the disturbing knowledge that the Victorian border had closed to New South Wales while I was crossing the border. My family had warned me but I was determined to go and now I will be stuck indefinitely unless I can return to Queensland. The Victorian government had given a 48 hour window to return to the state. This was a deadline I could not make.

Irene had already checked flights out of Ballina so the only options were to apply for a border pass back into Queensland immediately in case Queensland also shut its borders, or stay indefinitely. The last option was quite appealing to me after being locked down in Melbourne! Irene and Bill could not pack up their large tent in less than a day and the drive is more than 16 hours non-stop, so they would in all likelihood still not make the cut-off time of 11.59 on the 1st of January. All flights from Ballina were booked out too. They were staying and they would just move to an apartment when life in a tent got too much.

I wanted to stay as much as I wanted to be free to return to Victoria in a couple of weeks. What to do? I decided to be sensible. I didn’t want to be cut off from my grand children and family again for possibly months so I applied for a border pass to return to Southport, Qld. In reality, as good an option in terms of beach holidays as Flat Rock. Thank goodness for the internet. I applied on line and was told it would take about three days to get the pass. Okay that meant at least a few days with Bill and Irene. I would view this as a side trip instead.

It is funny how our minds work when faced with these dilemmas. My logical thinking said go back because the indefinite time could really be months depending on the success of the governments in suppressing the Virus and the politics of border closures. Your family needs you and you have a dog and commitments in Melbourne. On the other hand I would not be stranded in a foreign country paying hotel fees just interstate with friends in a roomy tent by the ocean. It isn’t as if I haven’t been away for long times before, but this is unplanned unlike the other trips. Also interactions with the family have only just resumed normality. I would be missing time with Ziggy and Marlo which I will never recover. The children grow up so quickly. The mental gymnastics were quite ridiculous. I am retired and I can stay as Bill and Irene are but I knew I would return. I am famous for my flexibility yet I am a planner too. My spontaneity is rarely whimsical, I am a Capricorn after all!

We went off to dinner at the Thai restaurant in Lennox Head with some other friends from camping and had a very quiet New Years Eve Celebration-back at the tent by 10.30pm. The restaurant was buzzing but not a lot of social distancing happening. We were outside and the staff were run off their feet. On returning to the campsite we decided that erecting my tent was pointless because I would only be staying a couple of nights so I slept in the antechamber of Irene and Bill’s Taj Mahal tent. The air mattress fitted perfectly into a corner.

I slept soundly despite my deflating air mattress and woke to the best sound in the world. Rolling surf, a dawn bird choir of kookaburras, whip birds, frogs and various other bird cheeps and trills and the unmistakeable scurrying of bush turkeys. This was what I had wanted so badly – nature around and close. It feeds the soul.

In the morning I discovered my border pass had arrived by email. What efficiency-under promise and over delivery. Now I could enjoy my three days here which I did. I was able to experience all my camping thrills in three days. Catching some waves on Bill’s boogie board, shopping with Irene at our favourite shops in Lennox, followed by fish and chips on the foreshore and conversations with some young Argentinians from Sydney. Then the inevitable summer storm drenching our neighbours but only producing a good water spout off Bill’s masterful tarp over the Taj Mahal. The wind changed and the surf was rough and the bluebottles blew in. Bill and Irene were stung but I fortunately avoided that mishap. It was then time to leave and catch the early bus from Ballina back to Southport. At my window in the bus was what I thought was a dead Dragonfly. How beautiful they are with their gossamer wings and iridescent bodies. As we drove along I realised it was not dead but half frozen, so by the time we got to Byron Bay I had captured it and was able to release it into the warm outside where it flew off quickly. I felt I had done my good deed for the day. Dragonflies symbolise change and transformation, good luck and living life to the fullest. Maybe this will be a lucky year after all.

I left my smaller tent with Bill and Irene so if they want to make some quick excursions they can use that tent.

Back in Southport I met up with Donna and we had a small shopping expedition to Pacific Fair. I wore my mask the whole time ( one of the few doing so) while I wrestled with the call to get CoVid tested. I had been in Victoria on the 21st December which was the date when cases of CoVid were identified. Even though I had been here for 9 days already and was symptom free the Qld government was calling for everyone to get tested. I went the next day and once again was impressed by the efficiency, and pleasantness of staff. It was an hour and a half waiting during which time we were given information about the process and CoVid itself , along with bottles of water, and we were able to log our personal contact information by QR code so when we reached the top of the line to get temperature tested the information was on the computer. Then it was show your Medicare card, followed by questioning by a nurse and then about five minutes later the actual test. Uncomfortable for 30 seconds and I was free. It was 2pm. Again the results were promised within 72 hours at the latest but arrived the next morning at 4.40 am by text! Brilliant. Now I am free to go out and about and visit Brisbane with a clear conscience. Holiday happening again!

If I had any lingering thoughts about staying at Flat Rock, a photo on Instagram of Ziggy and Marlo laughing together was the clincher. If I have learnt nothing else in 2020 it is how precious our friends and family are. I loved my visit with Bill and Irene and in normal times I would be there still. It just isn’t normal anymore or not yet at least.

The most precious grand children.

31st December Ending 2020

It is just about 6.00 am the sun is shining and I have been awake since 5 am. The sun rises very early in Queensland! yesterday was grey and humid with a massive tropical storm. From my bedroom window I can see rain over the mountains on the horizon. I have decided after careful deliberation and research to go to Ballina to camp at Flat Rock by the sea. I was hesitant because of the CoVid outbreak in Sydney which was growing and spreading beyond the north shores and Greater Sydney. The complications of needing a border pass to return or find ourselves in a hotspot which would require quarantine on return was ever present in my mind. Added to the variables is the fairly wet weather that has been forecast for the area of which yesterday’s storm was just the beginning.

Leaving the relative safety of the Gold Coast and the comfort of an apartment, for a tent by the sea needed a lot of thinking. The family here think I am a bit nuts but I will take the bus to Ballina this afternoon and remain flexible. What was the old saying? Alert but not alarmed. I had my first surf yesterday-delicious. The northerly wind had blown in the stingers but not where I was so I am seeing that as a good omen. I relish the lazy time by the sea and ever the optimist, hope all remains safe.

It has been great to see my family and in all honesty I probably should stay longer, but after the year of lockdown I want to be out in the open, free to swim in warm water and breathe in the sea air for a piece.

NSW has been touted as the gold standard of contact tracing and containment yet not as restrictive as Victoria so I will trust they are on top of it and carry on with the expectation that I can return to Victoria without a problem when my holiday ends.

I will be arriving quite late at 6 pm and we have a New Year Dinner at the Thai restaurant in Lennox head at 8.00 pm so it will have to be a quick tent installation so I have somewhere to sleep tonight. I am quite excited by the prospect of the bus trip. It is something I might do overseas where having a car is less usual for me. It is different and very inexpensive although much slower. An adventurous way to end the year! My brother usually very kindly drives me to Flat Rock, but with the complications of border passes and consequent traffic delays it was not something to be considered this year.

Happy New Year to everyone and let’s hope it is both Happy and Healthy and Prosperous in 2021!

28th December Freedom and travel

So much has happened since I last wrote, Christmas in particular and the ability to travel interstate. Once Victoria had 45 days of no new infections the borders were opened and we were able to travel interstate and socialise more extensively. Masks are only mandatory for supermarkets and shopping or large gatherings inside. It has been a fairly constant whirl of activity. The gyms have reopened. The new freedom to fraternise has highlighted how much energy we expend socialising. It has been quite tiring. I was not party fit! The few Christmas functions I have attended have been delightful though I think I had subconsciously begun to think we would not be having Christmas! I was not prepared and I didn’t get the Christmas cards sent to many people or Christmas presents sorted till quite late. All these things I could have done quite easily during lockdown. Another aspect that reveals the survival mode of living day by day during lockdown.

Over this period my sister-in-law lost her mother after a sudden decline in health. It was an intense time as she and her family kept vigil until she passed. They were fortunate that the restrictions had lifted and they could visit with her until the end, and have a funeral with all the family attending. It was a thoughtful warm service-though no singing. The funeral company employed a professional singer who had a beautiful voice which made up for the lack of communal singing. Choirs and group singing is still not allowed. The funeral was held in the same church in which Peter and I were married. I was somewhat overwhelmed with memories of that time and felt very teary. When my children were young I would visit my sister-in-laws mother occasionally. She was a true Italian Nona. Warm and welcoming and always offering food and hospitality. Her English was broken but was never a barrier to conversation or her generosity to our family. A truly gracious woman.

Ziggy finished school so that motivated me to finish the Christmas shopping and tidy the dining table. My table was buried under a mass of wrapping paper, cards and ribbons reflecting the sudden turmoil of activity in my life! Ziggy came for a day and this year I had bought a gingerbread house kit as an activity. Last year I had cooked from scratch but used treacle instead of golden syrup and though the house was smothered in icing etc it looked burnt! Ziggy promptly ate the chimney for this year’s house and proclaimed it as ‘good’!

We had four goes at trying to get it to stay upright until I hit on the idea of tying the roof on with ribbon and declaring we should go for a swim so it would have time to set. All aspects of that decision worked. We had a fun time in the pool with Ziggy playing surfer on my back while I played the surfboard ( mostly underwater!) He likes to muck about rather than swim lengths ( didn’t we all as 8 year olds?) but that involves a lot of breath holding while he sits on the bottom of the pool or swims through my legs or doing great splashes. I cannot for the life of me sit on the pool floor. Too much fat that floats I suspect! Still both our lungs got a good work out and I finally convinced him to swim a lap of the pool properly. He has always been a fish at heart. Grandma can still earn some kudos for somersaults in the water which he cannot master yet. It was such fun and the gingerbread house was finally set when we returned! In the end we managed a better job than last year with fewer lollies and improved presentation. All that drawing with icing sure requires practice to get a slick finish. Amazing what imperfections a bit of dusted icing sugar covers!

I have played a few lawn bowls tournaments since restrictions eased and surprised myself how keen I am. When I had to cancel out of a game due to childminding commitments I was actually disappointed! The members of the club are very friendly and encouraging and I am starting to feel at home.

The bowling club had a Christmas party that I attended and at which I won the raffle hamper. I haven’t won anything of note for years so I was thrilled. It was an interesting hamper with lots of gourmet goodies and a Ukulele of all things. I once played guitar(poorly) so I am hoping I can do better with this. I think every year needs a challenge, perhaps this will be it for 2021? I have a cousin who plays in a group so maybe I can find a group to play with too. They are quite popular now I think.

Christmas arrived in a rush and I was charged with bringing salad and the ham and prawns. In the meantime I had finally booked to fly to Queensland to visit my brothers and cousins as well as join friends at our annual Flat Rock Beach camp in Northern New South Wales. BUT, in Sydney there was a significant out break of CoVid again which was escalating. The borders were closing with quarantine periods imposed on people returning from Sydney. Flights were being cancelled, Christmas interstate was thrown into turmoil. I was in two minds whether to go north or not. Returning holidaymakers who had been compromised were expected to quarantine for two weeks at their own expense. Our new freedoms were under siege. Tourism that had unsteadily started to recover was once again in turmoil.

New South Wales were working overtime and seemed to be successful in containing the spread within Sydney so in the end I packed my bags and tent and took the plunge. Christmas morning was a flurry of food and bags. I had to get a supermarket trolley to cart it all down to the car. ( The advantage of living above Coles) It is on these occasions I wish I had some one with me to help. Poor Alfie was giving me the ‘ you aren’t going to leave me look’ as I piled the suitcase on the lower level of the trolley and the food on the top.

The Sydney CoVid cluster had caused a flurry of flight rescheduling to avoid going into Sydney and I had elected to fly at the end of Christmas Day rather than Boxing day which is always horribly frantic at the airport. I collected Nick on the way to Clare’s parents where we were to spend Christmas brunch / lunch. Ziggy was super excited with his presents from Mum and Dad-new Nike shoes and top so was not too keen to eat properly till all the presents were handed out! Clare’s Mum Regina is an excellent cook who loves to present her food at close to restaurant standard so we were in for a fabulous feast. We were not disappointed. I insisted on a family Christmas photo this year to mark Marlo’s first Christmas and the beginning of a new tradition. The Leong family always had an official Christmas photo and had sent some from years past. Nick saw one in which he was about 6 and commented that I looked so old! I was the same age he is now, 37! I did have to laugh. We always think our parents look older than us at the same age. I am sure I thought the same of my own mother. Fashion and hairstyles have a lot to do with it I think.

Mufaro, Clare’s brother took the photo so we haven’t got everyone in it.

Marlo the baby was passed around like a little parcel so we all got a cuddle. He was very good. Ziggy was extremely happy and thankful for his presents and finally ate something substantial. The children were actually so well behaved that we all had a fairly relaxed time. It was a lovely Christmas get together. Allie ( Clare’s Dad) was making a super delicious Chocolate tart but had not realised it needed to sit for 24 hours so we had Regina’s homemade Raspberry ice cream. Probably a good alternative because we were all so full anyway. It was stupendously delicious.

Nick took me to the airport afterwards and eventually I boarded a very full flight direct to Brisbane. We were all handed face masks and hand sanitizer and were offered fresh ones if we wanted more during the flight. Arriving was a bit of a shock because we were greeted by police who checked our identity and questioned us on where we had been and if we had been in contact with any CoVid people or places. Once completed it was down to collect the bag and wait for Tim to pick me up. That experience certainly brought home the reality of border control within Australia. Even the campsite and restaurants at Ballina are doing the same thing.

The next morning I woke to the glorious view of the Southport Broadwater stretching to the north and the ocean to the east. All deep blue water, golden sand and bobbing boats. It is one of the most interesting views you can get. There is always activity on the Broadwater with boats, jet skis and trawlers coming and going, while the parkland abutting the water is green and lush and full of people walking and playing. Best of all it is warm and sunny! I am on holiday.

6 December Life in CoVid normal

It has been some time since I sat down to write the blog. Quite a few things have changed over the last 6 weeks. With the loosening of restrictions people have abandoned the parks and headed to restaurants and bars, albeit socially distanced and suitably face covered. I have returned to face to face life drawing classes though even the models are masked. Naked but for their faces. Picture that!

Victoria has achieved an amazing goal of suppressing the virus. For all the criticisms aimed at the premier and the false steps and failures he has in his words, ‘stayed the course’, steadfastly refusing to ease up before his goal of reducing the virus to zero and we are now benefitting from it. A burst out in South Australia showed how easily and quickly the virus can explode out of control but they jumped on it quickly and seem to have it well controlled again. Furthermore the pariah state of Victoria has had no deaths or new infections for 36 days and Victorians are free to travel interstate again. We have achieved something only a few other countries have done and that is control the infections. Everyone is so happy but also a bit wary. No one wants to go backwards and we have got so used to wearing masks it seemed strange to be without one. They have become a bit of a security blanket! It is jolly sweaty wearing them when it is hot, so being free to go without while walking outside is a relief. Wearing them amongst crowds is still advisable and feels right still. But now I have to remember to put sunscreen on and lipstick again! Vanity emerges from behind the safety of the face mask.

When the first week restrictions were lifted I had two lunch dates, both in outdoor areas. It was such a pleasure to be with a couple of friends over a meal again.

After this lunch I had a chance to get my haircut. First time in 6 months! What I hadn’t factored in because I am not used to traffic anymore was the business of cars and pedestrians that have swarmed the streets since the easing of restrictions. One benefit of CoVid was the lack of traffic! It is becoming a distant nostalgic memory.

I received my medal for completing our virtual team walk of Route 66 from Chicago to LA with Gary and Anthea. It is about 3,000 odd kilometres and I discovered a lot of history about the Route in the process. Those activities certainly kept me motivated during this year of weirdness.

After the relaxing of restrictions Ziggy came to stay and we had a session at Bounce, the trampoline place near me. It was his first time for months and he was tentative after such a long time. I was surprised because he had been so confident with jumping and somersaulting both into the crash bags and on the trampolines before. He also didn’t show the stamina he usually has which is a reflection of the restricted exercise he has endured this year. He was always such an active child. Hopefully he will recover that confidence and stamina soon. Even the kids returning to swimming lessons with enthusiasm were suddenly tentative when faced with the huge pool. All these subtle aspects that have been impacted which we haven’t been really conscious of are being exposed now like diggings at an archeological site.

When we were able to start travelling around the state again I booked a few days at Torquay on the coast. My former neighbours in the apartments had decamped to their Jan Juc beach house early in the CoVid lockdown and as time went on had decided to stay. They have since rented their apartment and it would be an opportunity to catch up because Jan Juc is a small village near to Torquay. With all the development now you could almost say it’s a suburb. I felt a bit out of practice driving on the freeway and hitting the country roads. After almost a year of walking most places it was a recalibration of my thinking and traffic alertness that you take for granted when you drive all the time. It never fails to amaze me how quickly humans can change and adapt to new circumstances. The feeling of excitement and freedom tinged with a little anxiety about venturing out was interesting.

On the way down I visited Janine’s mum at Leopold to catch up finally with Janine’s daughter and her baby Taavi ( who live in Sydney). Due to the isolation imposed by CoVid Janine had not seen him since January when he was born and the rest of her family had not met him at all. It was a happy time with her niece also presenting her new daughter to the family as well. The separation of families at these significant moments has been extremely difficult for everyone. The joy of reconciliations when the borders were opened was on all the Television news programs. In our pre-Covid lives so much was taken for granted and now hopefully we won’t lose that appreciation for some time. We will eventually get complacent but I sometimes wonder whether there will be a generation ( like those in the depression of the 30s) who will remember and always reference this time in their lives.

I travelled alone on this little adventure. It had been originally something I was going to do with Janine but in the end that didn’t work out and I just thought I would go alone. I have become used to it. Nick took Alfie for the couple of days so I could sleep in and vary my activities as I pleased. It was restful and fun exploring the town and its beaches. I spent money to assist the economy! I know most people would not remark on such a thing but I was impressed by the number and availability of public toilets in Torquay! I realised that with the huge influx of holiday makers that usually descend on this very attractive place the council has seen these amenities as essential and all that I used were well appointed, clean and conveniently but discreetly everywhere. There is nothing worse than having to search high and low for a toilet when the need arises. The Melbourne councils could consider improving the frequency of such amenities along the Yarra river walking trails!

It was so very lovely to be beside the sea and feel the sand underfoot. An early morning beach walk accompanied by carolling magpies was a highlight. I am too much the tropical flower to venture into the ocean for a swim here and duly noted most people were in wetsuits at this time of the year! Most Victorians are a hearty lot but I prefer the warmer waters of NSW and Queensland for surfing. A bit of a sook I guess. Despite the variable temperature it was wonderfully refreshing to be out of the city and close to wild nature.

Another freedom has been the commencement of lawn bowling competition at last. I am having to come to terms with the commitment I made earlier in the year to play pennant. With little training we are now in teams and playing most weeks so my time is being divided amongst quite a few activities again. I am enjoying the competition and play some some good bowls and a lot of rubbish ones! Still it is engrossing, very different and very social so I am making new friends and having some fun. Fortunately the club though keen, is not super competitive. The ethos is more about enjoying the experience which suits me. Don’t get me wrong. I am competitive and love to win but it is more for the enjoyment and social aspects I play. Still, I was pretty chuffed to be in the winning team of our division in our first competition! One aspect that surprised me was the release of tension I had not realised I was holding. Laughing and light hearted chit chat is remarkably healing and relaxing. No teeth clenching sleep after that day!

My first Christmas get together lunch was out at Kangaroo ground with the group from Warrandyte. We used to be called the Wild women because we had an adventurous girls weekend away every year- hot air ballooning, camel riding, swimming with dolphins, hiking. That was before grand children started to take up our time and then we started downsizing out of Warrandyte. Now only one actually still lives in Warrandyte and we maintain our connection but sadly no longer are we very wild. We have been friends for 30 years! We still know how to have a good time and lunch was delightful though chilly because we were outside under a marquis. That was so the restaurant could accommodate us in a CoVid safe way!

After visiting my husband’s grave for the first time in months I swung by North Melbourne to visit Ziggy and Marlo. I was delighted to pass them on the street on the way to the park. I quickly parked my car and then joined them. Jonathan had Marlo on his chest with a light blanket over him to keep him asleep. He looked so funny with these little legs hanging out below like a stuffed doll. Ziggy was full of beans and is always very demonstrative now when he sees me. (Another CoVid bonus!) There were some school friends of Ziggy at the park so he was happily occupied and active while I got a chance to talk with his Dad. On the way home we got caught in the rain and I fished out a carry bag to protect Marlo while Ziggy pulled his Tshirt over his head! I had jambed the Zipper of my rain jacket so I couldn’t extract myself to give it to Ziggy or cover Marlo. It was cold but we soon reached my car and I fished out an umbrella for Jonathan ( he didn’t want to sit and wake Marlo!) while I drove Ziggy the couple of blocks home. It was a happy circumstance that I came upon them. Clare had been having a sleep so I don’t think she would have heard me or wanted to be woken if I had gone straight to their home!

I finished the day by bingeing on a TV series until 2.45 am. I wasn’t tired and just kept watching until all episodes were played. I haven’t done that very often and strangely, less while everything was locked down, than now when I have more social things to occupy myself. I feel that I am breaking out of routines I have established during lockdown just to shake me up. How contrary is that? I think perhaps this is evaluation time. Weighing up what worked positively and what needs to be reviewed. As always time will tell!

24 th October The day before the release?

Janine and I celebrated the arrival of Marlo with a special dinner from Attica again. It was such a merry night we talked for about six hours nonstop, no doubt helped along by the delicious cocktails I had ordered. We were so enthusiastic we didn’t even take any photos of the food! We enjoyed it immensely again and could send a photo to the parents testifying to’ wetting the baby’s’ head in style’! Not used to really late nights and socialising anymore.Ha Ha!

I have had an almost lazy week. I have felt tired. I have still attended my Zoom gym sessions which energised me for a while. My Polio eradication challenge is nearing its end and I have upped the kilometres walked every day so that I will meet my goal of 120 kms in October. The Route 66 virtual challenge is also nearing its end as well. The extra walking feels good but is probably the cause of the tiredness. Hopefully many Covid restrictions will also be ending. The heaviness of people’s frustrations has contributed to my tiredness.

As a result I have done little of consequence this week. Not even art. I just felt I needed to let a few things slide and go slow. I have noticed all the groups picnicking in the park and wondered why I am not organising such gatherings myself? I used to be so eager for company. All this tramping the streets, listening to podcasts in French (part of my immersion program), or interesting interviews and book reviews has not made me feel lonely. On the contrary I feel at peace and comfortable in my own company.

I was always a purist when walking and declined the distraction of headphones to better appreciate my surroundings. However walking the same streets every day eventually required some extra diversions. I have found they have not prevented me from being aware of the fragrance of roses and jasmine or other unidentifiable but sweet aromas drifting over fences; nor observing that rise bushes are laden with blooms and trees are losing their blossoms and becoming fully dressed in bright green leaves. Birds are singing and swooping. It is Spring and I feel uncharacteristically content in my solitude.

The dentist repaired my broken tooth but I still need a mouth guard and the cheap one I have been using is not comfortable to sleep in so I decided to get the custom fit one after all from the dentist. I am sure I will sleep better and feel more rested. Instead of travelling this year I have had the journey of renovating my teeth!

I have had some lovely Zoom session catch ups with friends but they are not all the time and I have started to feel like life has a rhythm similar to how I lived when my husband was alive. We had quiet times together and regular but not necessarily weekly, social interactions. We each had time for our personal interests and enjoyed our social life but we weren’t frantic. We had the benefit of a deep loving relationship with each other and our children that filled all the spaces in our life. This quieter life resulted from his declining health, yet it had a richness and warmth that was like a much loved and well worn coat. After he died I felt adrift and filled my life with work and activities. I travelled for extended times. I gained a lot of confidence, made new friends, I socialised a lot and found a new happy. I was never shy and still can talk under water if given a chance but I am not craving company as I once did. It has only taken 11 years, three and a half Caminos, and CoVid to find that peace again. A bit of a slow learner!

As my life evolves I appreciate the lessons I didn’t even know I had learned doing those long walks. Someone asked me how I was going and I surprised myself by stating almost emphatically that I was fine, but really tired of people whinging about the restrictions. The end of tight restrictions are coming and I think we need to look forward and focus now on how we are going to manage life with CoVid bubbling around. We do not want the resurgence that is occurring in Europe and the UK. But I digress. I have come to enjoy my quieter life, my less stimulated environment. There seems more room for nature. I appreciate not rushing. I am not busy in my head all the time. It is not unlike – you guessed it- doing a Camino!

13 th October Still in lockdown

I have been plodding along quite well and feel emotionally calm but I seem to be kidding myself. I am chronically teeth clenching such that I suspect I have caused a crack. One tooth seems too sensitive. Damn, now I will need another crown I suppose. Kaching$$$! I have finally worked out a good time to meditate daily. Straight after my zoom gym works really well and I am making good progress, yet the teeth clenching is not decreasing. I am frustrated by that. I honestly don’t feel depressed or miserable.

Especially now my new grandson has been born. He was not due for another 10 days but on Friday 9 th Clare, my daughter-in-law went into labour and everything escalated so quickly that they were not far from delivering at home! Fortunately they live close to the hospital and got there in time. They arrived at 11.30 am and Marlo Reggie was born at 12.37pm. He was 2.812 kg and 50 cm and healthy despite being born still encased in en caul, in the amniotic sac. Clare’s waters had not broken. I looked it up and it is quite rare but safe. We were all so excited and thrilled. Poor Ziggy had seen his mum having some contractions and was anxious, but he was soon elated at the birth of a little brother. Clare is a superwoman according to Jonathan, my son. He said she barely broke a sweat! It was all so fast. Fortunately after being monitored hourly she and Marlo returned home on Saturday morning. Barely 24 hours in hospital.

As we had all begun to think it might be a girl the parents were somewhat distracted and had not settled on a name. So for 24 hours he was just No 2 son or baby! When Ziggy returned from staying overnight with his other grandparents he took one look at him and the shortlist of names and pronounced him Marlo Reggie! Reggie honours Clare’s mother who is Regina. I love the name. He has more hair than Ziggy had and we will wait and see if it is curly too. When you hold a newborn you are so shocked at how small they are. He seems, is, so tiny and light. I was desperate to see him but with CoVid restrictions I couldn’t just race over. I was so envious of Nick who had to drop by to collect Jonathan’s car and gear for a photo shoot, and was able to meet his new nephew. I decided to give them some space first. I occupied myself with cooking for the family and then headed over on Monday.

Ziggy had finally returned to school and despite butterflies in the morning, he had had a great day. He was jubilant but tired. Clare had walked down to collect him from school. I delivered choc chip biscuits, chicken and veggie soup and Sticky chicken stir fry with Gai Lan as well as a basket of goodies for Clare and a Turkish delight treat for Jonathan. I got to hold the little man and marvel at what a miracle babies are.

First hold of Marlo

The news is that restrictions are going to be eased despite our not meeting the original guidelines. Expanding the restriction zones at least and who you can visit would make life more bearable for many. I had my first twinge of envy on Sunday when I walked the dog and saw so many people in small groups having picnics. I felt I was missing out.

Picnics in the park

Fingers crossed that we can socialise more freely outside and with family members. It would ease the pressure which I think will explode to non-compliance if the Government doesn’t ease up.

Last week I was the chief supervisor for the year 12 GAT ( General Assessmet Test) at Bialik. I have worked as an assistant supervisor for exams there before but this was a big step up. It is so official and the security and integrity of the exam is paramount. With 147 students it was quite arduous. I was exhausted at the end. You don’t get paid brilliantly and so it is a community service of sorts because the exams require independent people without any likely year 12 student or teaching connections. I have met a bunch of lovely people in the process and feel like I am contributing to the community.

My walk for Polio is progressing and I have almost made my target in donations with 75 kms to go. I had a walk along the river with Katrina and her dog Bella the other day. She showed me a new path which I discovered had the most beautiful gracious period homes. I think I will try to walk the route from home and back. It will be about 12kms so that is a good chunk. Polio is something we don’t think about much. When I reflected on the people I knew who had had it and how lucky we were protected by vaccines in the 60s, I realise how easy it is to take these illnesses for granted. CoVid has highlighted our complacency. We may have to learn to live with it and it’s consequences for many years before a vaccine is found. Polio was a scourge in society up until the early 60s. My aunt contracted it in the 20s, and a Scottish friend in the 50s. That is 30 years alone. We have been so lucky in developed countries and there are still a few places where wild polio exists. Until it is eradicated there is a chance for it to re-establish. The organisation of Rotary is committed to funding eradication programs and that is what I am walking for.

https://www.rotarywalkwithus.org/fundraisers/kathrynleong/walk-with-ushttps://www.rotarywalkwithus.org/fundraisers/kathrynleong/walk-with-us

10 th September

The announcement by the Premier of an extension to our lockdown has released a barrage of complaints. I am not happy either but I was not surprised. The numbers have not come down nearly low enough to just open freely. Certainly some sectors are more affected than others but isolating health care workers and aged care homes in some sort of bubble means isolating all the people who work there and either their families as well or isolating them from their families. Not really practical when you really look at it properly.

I think, tough as it is for so many businesses, if we stick with it and hold the line we will get the numbers down to manageable control. It has always seemed that Victoria’s track and trace system didn’t seem to be as good but also I have been told many of the tests have to go interstate, which seems bizarre. The large companies who process the test are in Sydney. Mind you that is also how Australia Post is dealing with our parcels too. They are being sorted in NSW or Qld because of the reduced staffing in Victoria. Despite the difficulty I still think it is the best way. Some nuanced decisions for country areas where they are CoVid free seems fair, but last time that happened people from Melbourne took the virus into the country towns because they wanted to go somewhere with less restrictions. So selfish. Everyone wants to go to the beach or for hike or a restaurant but they have been doing that in England, France and Spain and their infections, and hospitalisations are rising again in the thousands.

In the scheme of our lives it is not that long. It would be a hell of a lot easier if people, the media and politicians stopped banging on and making doomsday predictions every day. Yes the economy is a disaster; businesses, small in particular, are teetering on collapse, mental health is being strained, but whinging and whining and carping without any positive or constructive alternatives is not helpful. It is depressing not uplifting. It scorches the flower of hope.

The governments have had plenty of time by now to come up with some new ways of helping businesses. What about helping small businesses to go online? Even before the pandemic, the economy was tanking. Retail was in trouble. jobs were scarce, especially for the young. What jobs there were, were often contract or only casual. That is the flexible economy that has no safe guards for workers or as it turns out, for business too. Many big companies have still made such huge profits they are daring to pay bonuses to executives. So they get huge payouts and the cleaners, hospital workers, care workers, the delivery drivers, the food producers and manufacturers who have kept us fed and safe and the basics going, have no sick leave and mostly casual or pseudo contract work.

If you want to protest the situation we are in then take a good look at the society we have created. We need balance back. Respect for ALL workers. Decent conditions and more permanent jobs or permanent part-time jobs. The scurrilous Commonwealth employment figures that count a person employed when they only have a couple of hours work a week is not honest or honourable.

The world is in a mess. Climate, working conditions, violence in the home, racism, conflict with China, concern about America, the list goes on and it can be overwhelming. Humans have been here before though and despite everything, we adapted, innovated and changed to survive. If we think of others not just ourselves, offer respect instead of demanding to be respected, we thrive. Freedom has its price like every thing. To be bold and change the way our institutions function would be a good start to improving things I think.

A sign on the seat in the park

I didn’t mean to go on a rant but the negativity of people has weighed on me this week. However I have added novelty to my life by embarking on a new type of fitness program called BodyArt. It is tough but wholistic and a great workout. It is a bit of a mash up of Pilates, Tai chi, dance, Yin and Yang principles. I have also been active in the Art group too and completed my Modigliani style portrait. I am getting fond of the pastels again. The others in the group have created some lovely images.

I also retrieved Alfie from his holiday with Nick and was suitably impressed by his enthusiasm at seeing me. In the end he basically jumped into my arms. He knows where the treats come from!

Anna and I have finished our virtual holiday in Africa but continue our imaginary conversation. She is in quarantine in Melbourne and I am about to walk through CoVid Spain. It was interesting to see what measures the Spanish are doing to contain their new wave. They have a curfew on bars from 1 am in the morning and no one can enter after 12 midnight. Bear in mind that most restaurants and bars don’t open till 9 pm at the earliest. Numbers are restricted to 10. A bit of a concern for walking is that the regions have their own restrictions and can refuse to allow people to continue or move from town to town if they think it is too risky. So we are not the only country with restrictions.

I have signed up for a course on Surrealism through the National Gallery of Victoria. It is an art movement I have not really understood so I think this will be enlightening. There is work to be done too so it should be a bit of a challenge.

I have run two book club sessions which involved wide ranging discussions and even some discussion about the books we had read!

After completing the training for the Chief supervisor of the GAT (which was quite dull, but impressive with the lengths that are taken to ensure the security of the papers), I had to receive and check the material yesterday. I spent a couple of hours with the mind draining task of sticking labels on place cards and student work books! Those place names got a little less square on the card as the task wore on!

During the last two weeks a couple of friends have had health crisis and caused much concern. That really puts a perspective on everything, as Nick’s close call did earlier. I am relieved to know they are both on the mend. Finding themselves in hospital at the same time but in different places was unexpected.

I started playing Scrabble against the IPad as another distraction and it brings back memories of my Mum. In the last few months of her life when I was with her we played daily games until she could no longer sustain her concentration. She was a great player and we had endless tussles with much joking and laughter. it is an activity that gives me a good feeling.

We have started to get warm days and some beautiful sunsets. My obsession with the skyline continues.

So life continues. The sun rises, the sun sets and in between is a patchwork of activities and conversations and Alfie wanting my biscuits! Life isn’t that bad.

23rd August Three weeks into hard lockdown.

Here I am finally getting back to the blog. Who would have thought I would be so busy? It has been a little like the beginning of the first lockdown with people connecting more often by text, phone, zoom and email. Add the social media of Facebook and Instagram and the day can disappear and it is time to walk the dog!

I have been sticking with the Zoom gym and Pilates and I am still plugging away at French and Spanish online. Not a lot of variety I have to admit so eventually I hit the wall. I woke up one morning and just thought I may as well stay in bed. It was a grey day and I was totally uninspired. Even the dog had crawled back under the sheets and was snoring! However I thought better of it and forced myself out of bed and into my gym gear. I struggled with the session but worked up a good sweat and did feel better for the effort.

Me second last row, second from the right.

It reminded me of the day on the Camino when you wake up and think,’ What the hell am I doing? I am sick of that blessed backpack! ‘ Then you set off and walk and take it easier, with an extra coffee stop perhaps and a shorter day and you feel fine and you know you don’t want to quit but you were just tired. The next day you set off without a second thought, strong in your commitment again. Talking of Caminos I received the badge from my virtual Camino in the mail. It is so heavy and quite impressive.

Too heavy to wear on a real Camino!

I think the high number of infections make you feel a bit frustrated and it seems that we are never going to get it under control again. The news is full of CoVid, Europe is having renewed surges, while America just keeps having more and more. Our numbers are beginning to decline but they are going down so slowly. We can’t just keep ourselves and life locked down forever. I think that feeling is CoVid fatigue and it seems like a lot of people are feeling very tired. However, like the Camino, we just have to pick ourselves up and keep on the path.

We had a bit of a wake up when the building manager informed us that a resident in my building had tested positive and that they were self isolating. He told us the lobby and lifts etc had been disinfected and certainly the place gleams! Still it was a reminder to stay vigilant and I am back to pressing buttons with elbows etc. Wearing a mask has become second nature now. It has its pluses. During the particularly cold snap we have experienced lately I haven’t had a cold nose or chin or cold air induced asthma!

I have been doing much more reading and have actually returned to my art practice. I completed a male nude from the Hawthorn Artist Society which was acceptable. I painted a deciduous tree festooned with plastic bags that I saw on the banks of the Gardiner Creek. It struck me as an ironic comment on the world. Still life? Acrylic on Canvas. And last night I participated in a life drawing class run by the National Portrait Gallery which was via Zoom( of course!) but subscribed to by about 800 people from all over Australia and some from overseas. It was a challenge. Usually I go once a week to a life drawing class at the Hawthorn Artist Society. In those sessions the model is much closer and even though we do quick sketches to start this seemed quicker. It required a lot of concentration and I was actually really tired afterwards.

I have been taking photos on my walks and on one day I captured a Cockatoo and a magpie fighting for the top of the tree. I was thrilled with my action shot. In fact I have been quite motivated to capture the different light during the day or action at the local park and my endlessly changing view of the city skyline.

My friend Anna and I were supposed to be in Africa from the 14 th of August. We are deeply disappointed but we are having a virtual trip anyway. Anna started it by sending me a text saying , ‘ I have ordered the driver to take us to the airport, meet downstairs at 6. Don’t forget your passport! ‘

I responded, ‘Great! I am just throwing the last few things into my backpack. See you downstairs.”

The next day she sent another text,’ I am so sick of this plane flight. I can’t wait to get out, anywhere!’

I responded, ‘You obviously didn’t take advantage of the free champagne, I am having a party in my row!’

And so it has gone for over a week now. We have been sending texts everyday following our itinerary. I have added photos from the internet which I pretend are my photos of where we have been or what we have seen. We have even invented other people on the tour. There is an obnoxious American called Donald, a young guy with a broken heart, a Woman with issues, ( all Anna’s creations). I have invented a Spanish couple who are good fun and a witty Glaswegian called Cam, who I can barely understand. I still grabbed him for our half day canoe ride down the Orange River. We are now in the Namibian desert!

We have about 11 days to go! It has been interesting doing the research for the conversation and Anna is very imaginative. I have to work hard to keep up.

It was my sons’ birthday on the 17th and because we are in lockdown there was no coming together. I baked a cake anyway and we had a Zoom catchup (of course!) where we sang happy birthday and I blew out the candle. I then cut a few slices to keep and decided to take the rest to Nick who lives fairly close to me (only a fraction out of my 5kilometre radius). Because he shares with two others I thought they could deal with a huge cake better than me. The cake was an Italain torte, layered with strawberries and custard. I halved the recipe but still it was four layers and quite large.

The cake – custard is the boys favourite.

Nick was going to take Alfie too but he had developed an infection at the site where he had been injected with dye for the angiograph and was not able to walk so well. He visited the doctor later in the week and received antibiotics so was soon on the mend. This week Alfie has gone for a holiday. My place seems so quiet without him, though it is much easier to type without him draped over my lap!

Ziggy now has his own email/iCloud account and has started to FaceTime me. He is way more engaged than if I have asked him to talk to me when I have rung Jonathan. It has been absolutely delightful having these informal spontaneous chats. I videoed a story and sent it to him at his suggestion. I would rather read a story live but we will try all methods to see which we like best.

I spent an afternoon checking my computer’s compatibility for the program Webex. I need it in order to do some training for my newly acquired position of Chief Supervisor of the General Assessment Test for VCE students at Bialik, a high school nearby. The date for the GAT has been shifted so many times they had run out of available supervisors, so I have been promoted. The sad thing was I actually discovered my computer is too old and that I probably need to consider updating. The good news is that I can do the training on my iPad just as well after all. Even more tragic, I actually enjoyed doing all the exploration off operating systems and update issues. Who would have thought?! Usually that sort of stuff is life sucking for me, but I am so desperate for mental stimulation it was interesting. That is what a CoVid lock down does to you!