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.


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!

9 th August Stage 4 Lockdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolts of fabric

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nick’s Cotton Rug Design

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

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

27th July A week of worry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A fun way to keep motivated.

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

22 July Operation day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 14 Can this year get worse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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