Within minutes of publishing my last post the phone rang. It was my mate David in New Zealand. Concerned about my mental wellbeing. A call I really appreciated.
Not that I’m any more depressed than usual. I have developed a philosophy of off-handed acceptance in the vein of “shit happens”. I’m not going to worry about anything over which I have no control. I’m certainly not going to worry about unconfirmed possibilities.
When shit happens I remind myself that it doesn’t matter. In fact, “it doesn’t matter” has pretty much become my mantra whenever something happens that I cannot do anything about. Quite a lot falls into that category. It’s part of growing old.
Dave’s call reminds me I have a mate. That matters.
I have a new kidney specialist. The North Lakes clinic have transferred my file to Caboolture. Last week I peed and bled for the pathology lab, and this morning I discussed the lab results with the specialist at Caboolture Hospital in a telephone consultation.
He tells me he is pleased with the lab report. I have maintained my 37% kidney function in the face of adversity and adiposity. My results were good despite that I have regained a little of the weight I lost. This is since the pool was closed for the COVID crisis. Exercise has been rather problematic as walking for any worthwhile time is not a feasible option.
I was heartened to learn the pool should be reopening in about three weeks. It is not only the best place for me to get active, but also my most important social activity, because I don’t frequent pubs and clubs. Lately my depression has become noticeable again. Too much time alone. Perhaps a little too much introspection.
Life has been quiet since lockdown. I watch a lot of Netflix, and read, though I am finding that my eyes get tired if I read a lot. My marathon book days are done. it is frustrating. Now the weather has deteriorated, and deters me from taking out the boat.
On the plus side, I have had time to tidy up and organise my caravan and get rid of more stuff I don’t need. I have completely killed the collector bug and the sentimental attachments I once had to material things, even the valuable collectibles. I’m not sure if that is due to depression or a late development of sense.
At the risk of being considered crepidarian: There is no doubt this COVID19 pandemic is just as scary as WHO said it could be. We are seeing now that the countries with the lowest infection and mortality curves are the ones with the best, and quickest lockdown response. Go New Zealand.
Now that testing is becoming more prevalent, and more reliable, many countries are finding evidence there is a significant proportion of asymptomatic infectious carriers among the apparently healthy population. These are not all being numbered among confirmed cases.
In our current world, this is about as apocalyptic as it gets.
I’m sure they said the same thing during the great flu pandemic of 1918 when about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected and the number of deaths worldwide was estimated to be at least 50 million.
The population of the world is exponentially greater now. So is the risk.
Late last year I deleted, or thought I deleted, my Facebook page. With that act, I cut myself off from over 90% of my daily social interaction. I had not realised at the time how significant this was.
I kept my Eric TDuck page, and my blogs, but they do not involve any conversations with others. That’s just me talking. I really don’t think many are listening. There is very little feedback, or indeed much indication that anyone reads my blog. Most of the ‘likes’ I get are from self interested bloggers pushing a product and farming followers.
It was not until a visit from my best and oldest friend, followed pretty quickly by the Coronavirus issue, that I realised how much my sanity depended on social interaction. Chatting, joking and exchanging views. And it was appalling to realise how much of the social interaction in my life was now virtual, with friends scattered across several countries, and very few physically nearby. That is, less than a week’s drive away.
Social distancing as a result of COVID19 did not change my life one iota.
If I plotted the location of all the friends with whom I stay in touch on a map of the world using blue dots for all those I have at some time actually met and interacted with, and green for those I’ve met through Facebook and never seen in person, by far the greatest number would be green, and the greatest concentration of blue would be around the great southern area of Western Australia. How did that happen?
Even so, it was through Facebook and Messenger that I had stayed in contact with most of these friends. I speak on the phone to only a few. I don’t write letters, and only a few emails. So. By deleting my Facebook page I had cut myself off from almost all of my friends, as well as the sexist, racist, fascist, ignorant twats who had driven me to despair.
The old nose and face conundrum.
I was surprised when, after following a news link which led to a Facebook post, I was offered the chance to log in as Eric TDuck (expected) or as myself (not expected).
So I got my page back. It seems I hadn’t deleted it. And with the return to sharing my thoughts, jokes, photos and political opinions came immediate conviviality and good wishes plus a little bit of the sanity I hadn’t realised I was losing.
Some of the coffee bars are open, with reduced hours, for take-away service only. Even baristas need to make a living.
Customers stand around outside the shop sociably spacing themselves in accordance with the regulations as they await their order. Some stay to sip and chat.
People who, in the past, would not have conversed with each other as they sat drinking their coffee and eating a croissant, now seek something to talk about. They seem fed up with being alone with their spouses and their thoughts. Assuming they have spouses, that is. The demographic is one in which the odds of that are probably 50/50.
The police have been busy enforcing the social distancing requirements quite strictly, it seems. As everyone stands well apart, they repeat the tales hey’ve heard, or read, such as of foolish people picnicking at a picnic table in a park somewhere who picked up a $1,300 fine for returning to the table after being told to disburse by the cops. There’s always someone. I wondered if they were fined as a bunch, or each. No one knew. I suspect the latter. This is Queensland.
What I find interesting is that I’ve had more friendly chats with strangers since the lockdown than I had in the previous six months. All at a respectful distance.
I thought of a cool social game to play with my neighbours. Chatting with a small accidental gathering on the road outside the caravan yesterday, I suggested we should all get our barbecues out, cook up something fun and then play musical barbecues, wandering from one to the other with a plate, to share the food. Then we could all return to a chair outside our own homes, sit, eat, drink a beer or wine, and chat.
It seems I’m the only one in this corner who has a barbecue. so much for that idea.
My new RAC membership card arrived in the mail on Friday. I have been upgraded to Gold status, having been a member for twenty five years. That is including my New Zealand AA membership of course. It would actually be forty five years had I not let my AA membership lapse for a year when I was in Solomon Islands.
It reminded me that I failed my first drivers test only a few days after my fifteenth birthday. Fifty three years ago. I remember that Ted Saunders, the Henderson traffic cop, asked me who had taught me. I told him my Dad. He said to tell my dad to teach me how to park. I learned later that he failed every kid on their first try.
A few weeks later I passed and for three hundred dollars bought my first car. A Morris Oxford, made only a year or two after I was born. Column change, dipswitch on the floor, as solid as a tank, and probably just as dangerous if it could have got up to any speed.
I remember we had a standard joke coming up the hill from Piha beach where the thirty mile per hour sign was placed. everyone yelled “thirty! Speed up!”
She could barely do twenty up that hill in second gear, and inevitably boiled over at the top.
Even so, with a roof rack loaded with surfboards, we rode that old girl everywhere from the Bay of Islands in the north, to Coromandel and Tauranga in the south and East, to Raglan and Muriwai in the West. often we would drive to Hamilton merely to have the best burger ever from one of the Uncle’s franchise burger bars, better than all the rest. Or to Coromandel for the best ever fish and chips, or to Hikurangi for the best ever pies.
And in Mission Bay one could obtain the best ever pizza from Mimmo’s. Fungi, Quatro Stagione, Marinara, Margherita, All authentic. I’ve never since had a pizza to compare. Better still, one could buy a half bottle of red wine from the shop next door and take it with the pizza across the road to eat and drink by the fountain. Magic memories. Our lives were based on beaches and food.
The Morris had a cracked head. After an attempt to have it welded, and a day spent just doing a valve grind, and continual problems of overheating, I eventually got rid of it. I never again had a car that smelled like old leather and exhaust fumes. Ah the nostrilalgia.
I can’t find a picture of her.
My second car was a beach buggy. Probably the most fun vehicle ever until the Landcruiser. Certainly better than the two Land Rovers that followed. We had discovered SCUBA diving by then. All our previous surfing trips were replaced by dive trips. Often to the same areas. In those days a three hour drive was a long way. I hadn’t discovered Australia yet.
I am not Samuel Pepys. My blog is nowhere near as interesting as his was. I am not John Aubrey. I have dropped a few names, and could drop a few more, but I’ve never really got into it as he did.
There are days, when I wonder if my blog will survive somewhere to be electronically excavated at some far distant future time and be considered as a vivid picture of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries. The Pepys or Aubrey of my generation.
Then I realise, no. It won’t. Even if I print it all out, it will be tossed out by my executor.
In any case, millions of people are blogging. So many are they, there aren’t enough readers to go round. Certainly not enough who like my posts. That is hardly surprising. All the adventure is gone from my life. This lock down has accentuated just how different my life has become.
These days I cannot leave home except for the purpose of obtaining food and supplies (but not toilet paper, ‘cos there isn’t any) or for medical reasons. This is because of the COVID19 pandemic. Whereas before it was because I’m a lazy bugger.
I wonder if taking the boat out is essential for exercise, or perhaps for gathering food.
But seriously, I miss my swimming. As soon as these cuts heal I shall swim in the sea, as long as the pool is not open. As walking becomes more of a strain, I’m exercising less and must watch my diet even more than ever.
I’m due for another slice on my shoulder next Tuesday. It will be bigger than the last one, and I can’t believe how big that was. I can’t see it, but I can feel it. It is wider than my hand with my fingers splayed. I did catch a glimpse of it in the mirror when I had a shower. It’s pretty awesome. I’m half hoping to get another on my chest so I can tell people I was run through with a cutlass.
Another ten days to heal and I should be able to swim and go fishing. And catch some of those mangrove crabs. It’s a solitary pursuit and won’t infringe any social distancing laws.
My morning coffee omens have not been good lately. I see a dragon devouring everything I hold dear in one cup, and in another, an asteroid spiralling in to destroy the world . Consistent coffee. Literal and metaphorical Armageddon. In the midst of a pandemic.
It’s rather fortunate that we Capricorn’s don’t really believe in that sort of thing, though this optimism is counteracted by the guilt that makes us ex-Catholics secretly believe we deserve every bad thing that happens to us.
We talk about melanoma and avoid the C word. When I was first diagnosed, my GP advised me to let my family know that I have joined the 66% of Australians who have, or shall have, skin cancer. They are, he said, genetically predisposed to have it too. Hopefully not the ones with melanin. I do so hope that.
I’m a cancer patient. A few of my friends, but not one of my family except my Dad, have asked how I’m dealing with that. Well enough, I thought, thanks for asking.
Until now. I’m beginning to have reservations. The latest melanomas are deeper, and spreading faster. Therefore the cutting is deeper and wider. For the first time today I had internal stitches. My frigate bird lost half a wing. The two we biopsied on my back will be excised next Friday. The biopsy results were not good. They will be the biggest yet.
So far, Mehdi has done the cutting and stitching of two melanomas at a time in half an hour give or take. Today took longer. The next two will take at least an hour.
Considering this latest batch of seven were not even detectable three months ago, even by the sharp-eyed and very careful Mehdi, I have to consider the future implications.
I stayed with my friend Jeff for the last months of his life, because he did not want to go into a hospice, nor burden his mother with the supervision of his death. He had a cancer which metastasised and became terminal. I don’t want to go through what he went through, nor inflict it on anyone else, particularly anyone I love.
So I must use the C word.
I need a plan.
I’m rambling. It’s the Jameson’s. And the Guinness. I’ll have a Dubliner in coffee to follow. Finishing off Alcoholic Leftovers from St Patrick’s Day.
Because my arm hurts. Because it’s there, and increases the effect of the meds. And I don’t have to be anywhere tomorrow.
I have to have a plan. For when the outlook is dire.
Yeah. I’ll probably delete this post when I sober up. It is hard to keep the vow I made to tell it like it is.
I have just been tending my little window box herb garden. It is not in a window, but hanging suspended behind my trellis where it won’t get too much Queensland sun. All the seeds I planted have sprouted. So satisfying.
Listening to one of my very retro songs on one of my very retro Spotify playlists. Desmond Dekker. Israelites. I was transported back to one of the more enjoyable and satisfying of the many jobs I’d had before I turned twenty five and finally started on the path to what became my career in public health.
That song was being pounded on the radio. We heard it maybe three or four times in a day as we worked in the Yates Nursery located in Te Papapa, Onehunga. It was a holiday job. I drove to work in my old Morris Oxford with a nine foot Atlas Woods surfboard on the roof rack. It was a long commute from Henderson.
I liked that job most of all the employment I’d had until then. If I’d had any realistic goals at all at the time, I might have chosen to become a nurseryman. I loved working with seedlings and shade houses, pots and potting mix.
It would be years before desperation and a spot of serendipity led me to the wondrous opportunity to be paid while I studied and trained to become a health inspector. By that time, I was almost twenty five, and I’d calculated i had worked at twenty three jobs including holiday employment. I’m going to list them all. This may take some time. I’m not sure I can get the timeline right.
It all makes sense to me now. Just staring into my coffee, I see it all clearly.
The Worm and the Salmon of Knowledge. Knowledge is not Wisdom.
My dog and my cat. Love and Loyalty are all.
Yin and Yang. There is a Tension and a Balance between Down and Up, Movement and Stillness, Entropy and Enthalpy, Chaos and Order, Cruelty and Kindness, Anger and Generosity, Pain and Cheerfulness, Sorrow and Laughter.
Here in a galaxy of crema and cocoa I see the Ornstein-Zernike relation of life.