4 th April Easter Weekend

So it is Easter and chocolate abounds, time on the couch is making me round! Crummy poetry not a patch on Paul Kelly whose show I had the pleasure of attending on Monday a week ago. What an interesting man. He talked perhaps more than I expected rather than performed poetry or sang, but I still found him inspiring. I came away with a new perspective on poetry and a desire to read more. It was a fun evening sitting in the forecourt of the Malthouse theatre ( very glad of my warm coat!) with Jane D and some strangers with whom we chatted amiably. Poor Wendy had bought the tickets but due to work pressures could not attend and so we were the lucky recipients of her tickets.

Prior to this event I had a delightful couple of days catching up with my friend Pam at her Strathbogie Farm. She and her husband had bought this property about 10 years ago and slowly planted trees and gardens, built sheds while they lived in a caravan when they visited. Eventually they built a simple but welcoming homestead style home and acquired two alpacas. Despite a mix up in dates we eventually got away together and spent the two days walking and talking nonstop. We had not seen each other for more than two years! There was a lot to cover. She has acquired a new groodle puppy Scout, who I adored and the whole thing was just wonderful. I so miss the quiet of the bush, though really it isn’t quiet because there are so many birds and sounds of nature like swishing tree branches, bleating sheep and wind through the grass. They are such calming sounds and in tune with your body. While Pam took the Scout for a walk I found a huge granite boulder in the sun and just sat watching the butterflies and soaking up the sun in a peaceful meditation.

I admire Pam and her husband Brian having the courage to create a new life in the country. They haven’t fully shifted there yet but will when Brian retires in two years. They will flip their lives to live mainly in Strathbogie and have a small place in Melbourne for visiting friends and family. They are younger than me and share this dream of a tree change. They are realistic about farming and its difficulties and they will not have to make a living from the farm. It is a lifestyle choice for retirement. I see a lot of work ahead but also a sense of achievement for them both and continuous learning which challenges and rewards.

One of the things about retirement is finding a meaningful purpose to your life. Sometimes just pleasing yourself can seem selfish and even pointless. Most of us have responsibilities with grandchildren or volunteering or a desire to learn new skills which give purpose to our lives. Otherwise you can feel you are just filling in time waiting for the end. ( I was quite surprised when an older friend in her mid 70s made this remark about a crowd of people at a concert!) Finding the joy in living is so important in our later life and challenges which are meaningful, like a tree change,certainly offer that opportunity.

I certainly had a lot of fun with Scout and I was intrigued by the Alpacas and thoroughly enjoyed feeding them and allowing them to sniff me from head to foot. When Pam returned from taking Scout for her walk, even though she was leashed and nowhere near the Alpacas, the older alpaca made this strange scary call through her nose as warning. They are great watch animals! Pam and Brian keep them separate from the sheep agisted in the paddocks because they round the sheep up in a protective circle all the time! They also have very clean toilet habits and only defecate in a couple of spots in the paddock which makes collecting their manure for compost very efficient!

I took this video for my Swiss French friend to hear the sound of the Australian countryside. I forgot about the munching of the Alpacas!

When I returned to Melbourne I was quickly into the swing of city life again with a bowls semi-final. The club’s level in the ‘ bowls league’ was depending on our scores. I felt pretty nervous about the whole thing initially. I arrived at the wrong club in Elsternwick at first but had been warned about this possibility so quickly realised and relocated to the correct club. The Elsternwick Club. This was the most serious competition I had attended so far. There was even a check of the bowls labels! It was a tense game and we had supporters cheering when we rolled well. A completely new experience for me. The Elsternwick team were very accomplished players so eventually they got the better of us but it was a battle every end. They were great to compete against and really friendly. In the end the competition between clubs was a draw and we had to go back out and play until there was a clear winner. It was decided on two points! That was the end of our season and I realised how much I have come to enjoy the game and the new people I was meeting. There is a break before the winter pennant comp. begins so I have some time to really focus on improving my consistency.

The grand Elsternwick Club

I decided to get a few friends to go to the Comedy Festival. I have started to go every year to a few gigs, increasing more every year as I get to know the comedians and also try new people. It is so much fun and I get to visit different quirky places in Melbourne that I have never been to before. It is usually very cheap too compared to mainstream theatre so you can go to several without spending a fortune. I have become a little ruthless about group planning now. I send out the suggestion and whoever responds within 48 hours is in and I book. It has meant a mix of companions which is also good. I have learned that if you wait for everyone you end up missing out!

Our first show was ‘ A bookish comedy’, which was held at the Storyville just off Lonsdale street. It was a hoot of a night and the comedians really appreciated our responsiveness! A compliment came from one young comedian who said it was the grey heads in the crowd who actually got the joke! Some of the comedy focused on books that had been read, so Jane, Janine and I from a book club where very vocal. We had a ball and finished the night with noodles in the QV quadrangle.

I have another four shows to attend yet so I am really looking forward to them and feel that I am contributing to helping Melbourne and it’s artists get back to the vibrant city it was before CoVid hit. The next is Aarti Vincent at the Club Voltaire in North Melbourne. Another place to which I have never been. It is an adventure finding these places in your home town!

The Storyville bar with its Alice in Wonderland down the hole theme.

So with Easter being fairly quiet, as in no trips or hikes, I have been to the movies with my Art buddy Anna to see the Courier. A very good movie set in the 60s about the missile standoff in Cuba. It was very suspenseful. I booked Yum Cha for Sunday with my sons and Ziggy, who was full of excitement about his Easter egg bounty and being caught by Clare in the wee hours of Sunday trying to see the Easter Bunny! The timing wasn’t quite convenient for Clare and Marlo to join us which was disappointing, but with the end of daylight saving they were conscious of not disturbing Marlo’s sleep patterns too much. Jonathan had good news he has got the Design/Production job he applied for and starts on Tuesday after Easter. A great weight has been lifted.

Nick was disappointed to learn the radio therapy had had no effect on his AVM and so he will have monitoring. He is remaining positive and has decided to live life to the fullest and focus on continuing to collaborate with his new art friend to produce some interesting work. I was disturbed because it is a time-bomb in his head but I don’t want to add to his stress by expressing my anxieties. At this stage we can’t do anything else but keep living to the best of our ability until a treatment is found.

Every day is a bonus. Look at Carla Zampatti, she woke up to a normal day, went to the Opera and happened to fall hard coming out. The next thing she was in hospital never regaining consciousness and died a week later. Life is unpredictable so we need to treasure what is here and now and not waste energy on worrying about the future or bemoaning the past.

16th March I am woman, hear me roar.

Yesterday’s was the Women’s March4Justice held in every capital city and many provincial cities and towns around Australia. Here in Melbourne it was held in the Treasury Gardens and was attended by about 10,000 people, predominantly women, but also men. They came in black with face masks and represented all ages from young to old. It was inspiring to see the number but also damning that we are still fighting for equality and respect. The Prime minister Scott Morrison declined to address the Canberra crowd but stated in parliament, “ this is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place. Not far from here, such marches, even now are being met with bullets, but not here in this country.” (The Age, ‘Morrison pushed to act as ‘winds of change howl’,’15th March, p4.)

What a patronising statement. I hope his wife Jenny gave him an earful but I have my doubts. This man hears nothing and he is the father of daughters. Shame on him. The violence against women continues unabated and the language around this implies that women are to blame. The report Respect@Work by the Human Rights Commission was damning about Australia’s record on sexual harassment in the workplace. Once a world leader in the field we are now way behind. This report has sat gathering dust for 12 months without any response from the government. https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/sex-discrimination/publications/respectwork-sexual-harassment-national-inquiry-report-2020 The prime minister wonders what the fuss is about! One of the best comments I heard all week was an English female MP who suggested men have a curfew! The discussion is always about women protecting themselves but not ever about men behaving better! Enough is enough was the message on many placards and women and their allies will no longer go quietly. At the rally Helen Reddy’s feminist anthem ‘I am woman, hear me roar ‘ was invoked and the crowd roared. Now we want to keep that momentum moving with action and real change. Watch out ScoMo, women vote!

Afterwards along with Janine and her sister Mardi, and a passionate Irish woman named Carolyn who we met at the rally, we debriefed over coffee. It was invigorating having the discussions and trying to figure out how we can make an impact too. I at least have had discussions with everyone I have come across since. This is everyone’s issue.

Before all this exploded life was full of LIFE again. Post lockdown and no community transmission of CoVid has liberated us to enjoy some of the culture for which Melbourne is famous. I went to the Triennial at the NGV with my friend Irene. We saw some amazing and thought provoking art. It inspired me to get painting again and also to make a few more visits to the gallery to see some of the classical art. Many of the triennial pieces were juxtaposed with classic art or had superimposed video works for modern interpretations. These contrasts invoked a deeper curiosity about some of the work.

This was a big day because I returned to the city the same night to attend a real live performance at the Melbourne Theatre Company of the play Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes. It was a #me to theme. Very topical and very well presented.

I had responded to the advertising and bought a ticket very early but I didn’t quite register the month of the show. When I arrived on a Tuesday in February I was surprised to see the theatre closed. On examining my ticket I realised I was a month too early. The advantage of going alone was nobody got to see my red face! I just turned around and went home. It had been my first train ride for awhile too! Sometimes I am just too enthusiastic.

The lifting of restrictions also meant we could take our planned trip to Dinner Plain in the high country. I had booked a lodge for five friends and myself so we could do some bushwalking. We were all so excited to be getting out of the city into some bush. I am very fond of Dinner Plain which is a small mountain village outside the National park and near Mt Hotham. The homes are somewhat controlled in their design so they blend into the environment. It is pretty quiet but the hotel has a couple of spas out the back in the open which we used after our walks. It was so indulgent but worth the relaxing effects on our rusty walking legs. We had planned three dinners in and one out at the hotel to celebrate Bill’s imminent birthday. Everyone cooked delicious meals with a rather strong emphasis on pulses. Consequently some of our walks became very fast jaunts between trees! It was totally delightful to be in such fresh air and the quiet was also soothing. The weather was sunny but the breezes were very cool and on one of the walks my hands were white with cold until I walked for a good half hour. I hadn’t taken a warm enough jacket for maintaining body heat while lunching. The grass on some of the paths was over my head or in my mouth. We were conscious of being alert for snakes because one of the workers at the village had remarked that there had been more snakes around this year. Perhaps another response to fewer humans in the environment during CoVid! I was glad of my gaters after I heard that.

On our return bowls got busy and I played in a few comps culminating in a tournament. This is when bowlers from everywhere play random teams at our club for prize money. It was a fun but tiring day. We started well but as the day wore on and the competition got stronger we could only claim the satisfaction of providing enough competition to stymie a complete walkover. I am competitive while playing and realise I need to practice more to improve. Still we met some delightful people and had a fun day despite the persistent rain.

Katrina ( my team mate) playing against the women champs and the guys from Chadstone who were very eager and serious about the prize money.

Lastly we have had some family catch ups and I have been going across town to watch Ziggy play soccer. A week flies past before you know it.

Little Marlo is now 5 months old. Nick is having tests to see how he has recovered from the Arteriovenous Malformation treatment, Jonathan and Clare are looking at houses to buy. We are starting to plan a walk in Western Australia and hope we can do it. Easter and school holidays are approaching. My garden is flourishing after my battle with caterpillars last year and I am bursting with delight over my perpetual spinach. Small things are still appreciated but now we have to engage with the big issues again. It is a struggle sometimes but change requires steady persistence. We have to keep trying.

18 th February Free again

I was quite devastated by the sudden lockdown we had last week and felt quite disoriented. I was surprised by how emotional I felt about it. We had planned a family lunch on the Saturday which of course had to be postponed. Ziggy couldn’t stay over and my trip to Dinner Plain with friends was potentially off. I felt so sad and sorry for the restaurants and shops who had been planning Valentine day and Chinese New Year celebrations.

Such a sudden shut down seemed so much harder. I felt confident that the outbreak would be controlled but … doubt was also there. Finally some serious talk of quarantine facilities being constructed like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, and like all states had in the distant past. Considering it is twelve months since this pandemic started, it seems a no brainer that this would have been a good solution to securing quarantine ages ago. The review into the first massive failure of hotel quarantine highlighted staff movements being an issue, along with staff training yet we still see breaches, albeit quickly contained. Quarantining people in a big city seems totally illogical. Too much movement too many people too many opportunities for escape. I know we are continually learning but being nimble is not good enough when we come to a halt every time there is a breech. It succeeded this time but at what cost to the economy?

We had begun to feel pretty normal again but it is a reminder that lucky as we are, the virus is still lurking around. I can see it now, a quarantine complex built and opened just as the pandemic passes! That seems to be government’s usual way of responding to emergencies. Complacency will undermine all our hard won freedoms. Such quarantine camps could be used to bring back overseas students sooner and when the pandemic is passed they could operate as specialised induction camps to Australia or training camps for groups. They don’t have to be white elephants until the next pandemic.

During the lockdown I went on a TV binge and finally finished the series Spiral and started Bridgeton. I had that empty feeling you get when you finish a good book or great series. It has become such a part of your life that you need to adjust to its absence. I also reconfirmed my belief that sitting up till all hours watching TV is not great for your mental health. I just got tired and unsettled. I couldn’t focus on anything. I didn’t even read because I kept falling asleep!

I was still doing the gym and walking the dog but I felt weird. I have reverted to my old habits of early gym, dog walking, breakfast, French practice and then reading or going to the studio to paint. I have to remind myself sometimes that just being alive takes time. Washing cleaning, cooking, going to the physio or the blood bank, planning holidays, catching up with friends. Life is busy and full and being engaged with interests and other people IS life.

So we end this week with our plans intact. Family lunch, Ziggy staying over, packing for Dinner Plain and hiking in the mountains. All is well with the world again.

January 20th 2021 Back in Melbourne

My summer holiday has ended and I am back in Melbourne. The weather is cool though sunny, and I need to readjust to the changeable weather and pick up my responsibilities again. Alfie has returned and so my walking routines are being reestablished.

I found waking at 6 am this morning a bit depressing because the sun was only just rising. In Queensland waking to bright sunlight at that time just made me feel great. We do have the gorgeous gloaming as compensation and I have been walking later instead.

I feel rather disoriented somehow. Slipping back into routines isn’t that easy and maybe I just don’t want to. Post holiday blues? I have gone to the gym only once so far though I have been nursing an annoying twinge in my thigh and modified my activities accordingly. Eventually I decided to visit the physio which seems to be helping. I have special exercises to complete which will loosen the muscles and while I need to do them it seems difficult fitting them in every day.

I caught up with Janine and Jane for coffee which was a lovely welcome back and as usual we just didn’t have enough time to talk! Then it was time with Ziggy. I had Friday and Saturday till lunch with Ziggy. We swam in the pool downstairs and played in the park and did creative activities. He found Jonathan’s memory book from school in the book case and after browsing the years, his question about why there were no brown children in the class photos was so telling of how our world has changed. His school is very multicultural with all ethnicities and colours.

He was a delight to have and is back to sleeping in the spare room again. When he told me he wanted to make pancakes for breakfast for my birthday present I expected to be asked where all the ingredients would be found. But no; he knew where everything was in my kitchen, even the flour and the measuring cups. He only asked me how to turn on the gas stove. I was very impressed with the results and we ate them all! He is a very competent chef in the kitchen at 8 years old and I was so proud. He is very observant- like most kids he is a sponge! A great credit to his parents and their enthusiasm for cooking, and patience in the kitchen!

My beautiful Daughter-in-law Clare, Marlo and Ziggy.

Saturday morning was more swimming and dog walking then we went for lunch with his parents and Marlo and uncle Chico (Nick). He was so pleased to see Marlo and so confident in handling him. It is very endearing to see how he is forming a very loving and gentle relationship with Marlo. Marlo is also very aware of his brother even at only 3 months. I missed him very much when he returned home. Actually I think the source of my post holiday blues is getting used to being on my own again. I have got used to having company all the time.

I had a successful night at Life drawing which left me feeling a real sense of improvement and progress in my ability. Having barely lifted a pencil since before Christmas I felt pleased with my efforts. The group is very supportive and they could see my progress too.

Today is Australia Day/ Invasion Day depending on your thoughts about the matter. It annoys me that we cannot settle on a different date because in reality, today was the establishment of New South Wales not Australia. We did not become a united country until Federation anyway so the 26th as Australia Day is really a misnomer. Even America doesn’t consider the arrival of the Mayflower as the commencement of the country, so why people cling to this date as impossible to shift bemuses me. There was an excellent opinion piece by historian Jonathan King about solving the problem. He suggests shifting the day to May 9, the opening of Federal Parliament by King George which was when we really became one country instead of a group of colonies. His article can be found here: https://www.smh.com.au/national/simple-solution-to-solve-australia-day-controversy-20210124-p56whw.html

Another article about Australia Day or Days is this one: https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/voices/culture/article/2018/01/23/many-different-dates-weve-celebrated-australia-day

It has only become rusted on since the bicentennial! As a child growing up I don’t really remember any great fuss about Australia Day which is evidenced by the different days celebrated, most Australians weren’t too particular either. I think that a day which symbolises invasion and European superiority is no longer appropriate. If Australia stands for being an inclusive nation then it is time to acknowledge the past damage inflicted by colonisation and find a day that really stands for all Australians. It is time for a change. The selection of four women as representing Australians of the Year, Senior Australian of the year, Young Australian of the year and Local Hero shows we can change and move with the times. The topics that they were representing were quite controversial, a survivor of child abuse, an indigenous educator, menstruation support for girls around the world, and a community worker in domestic violence. Voices being heard at last.

I have been bingeing on the French police series Spiral. It is very gritty and the protagonists are very human-so different from the American shows. The justice system is very different and ethical issues are very present so it has got me hooked. No slick clothes, personality differences, not too many niceties and I am improving my French( hopefully). The trouble with bingeing is it seems to make me unsettled. I guess I am too used to routine! Sitting up till 3.00 am because I was indulging my curiosity for the next and the next episode just threw me out. I still couldn’t sleep in which I think is actually a good thing, but I was tired!

Tomorrow I will be playing in a lawn bowls competition and that will be fun. It takes time to get your head around all the different aspects of your life when you come back from a holiday. Appointments and meetings all have to be scheduled which is a bit daunting really. Finding a speeding fine in the mail didn’t help either! A few kms over the limit driving to the airport seemed so unfair when there was no one on the road. But the limit is the limit even if it really makes me boil.

I slowed right down and now I have to wind up again. In fact I don’t think I have shaken off the CoVid Slow yet either. HaHa!

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!