Lockdown Diary

Time.

As the Lockdown continues and as the seriousness of the pandemic begins to filter through to all but the thickest, I’ve had time to reflect. This is not the apocalyptic pandemic predicted in popular fiction by any means. No hordes of brain-sucking zombies, no piles of dead in the city streets, no flesh melting from bones of living corpses. Just a sniffle, Fever, a cough and respiratory distress – slow death gasping for air – and health systems struggling for resources and infrastructure. Plus a lot of people apparently unaffected except by the social restrictions being imposed. Especially the closing of the pubs and clubs. The social hubs of this part of Australia. It rankles with many. After all, it is only…..

I’ve heard the word “only” too many times. It’s only the old, the weak and sick. It’s only two percent of the population. It’s not. It’s the old, the weak and sick. It’s two percent of the population. Or more. It is sickness and death. That’s never only. I believe we haven’t yet seen the worst. It’s only a matter of time.

Rant over. Had to get that off my chest.

What I intended this post to be about was how I’m not spending my time. As I had thought, being under lockdown is little different from my ordinary days of retirement: a week or so spent not doing the laundry until a lack of clean underwear made it unavoidable; a week spent not tidying up in the caravan until I can’t even prepare a sandwich without knocking down a pile of containers and utensils that should have been put away in cupboards and drawers. At least I keep surfaces clean and dishes done. I have to. Apart from my public health training reasons, there are ants here.

But there is a difference. Now I can’t go to the pool, or even to the the beach, I’m not getting enough exercise. I walk about thirty minutes or so twice a day, I can’t go far. As far as the pharmacy or the butcher is about all I can manage. I’ve taken to strolling around the camp at around two thirty or so in the morning. It’s cool and quiet then. I nap more during the day. I eat at odd hours. I drink more.

My daily schedule is completely awry. I may have breakfast at three in the morning after a stroll and a shower, because I was sleepless and restless. I’d then return to bed at five and sleep until eleven. Read, watch Netflix, nap again. Eat at three pm and perhaps again at eight. I’m still trying to keep to under 7,000 kJ a day, but without getting enough exercise, I’m not winning the waistline war. A slight increase in the consumption of alcoholic beverages doesn’t help.

On the plus side, the leg pain from the spondylosis is virtually a zero out of ten. Nothing more than a twinge now and then. My knees are still grating and wobbly but I’m actually getting round again without support. I can climb in and out of the Landcruiser with ease. If only it had been like this when Dave was here. This would be a great time to get out in the boat. If he could pull the starter cord for me.

I’ve pulled the stitches in my back. It was inevitable. I live alone. I found that lifting even a mug of coffee hurts. I still have to lift and carry. Shopping, laundry, rubbish bags. My left arm can’t lift more than a kilo or so above my waist, even if I could be ambidextrous, so the right arm still has to do all the work.

The newest cut got a slight infection after a stitch pulled, but I’m keeping it clean and using antiseptic cream. Clearly Mehdi was right when he quoted the stats; the scar gets only 30% of the skin’s original strength back in three weeks, and 80% after three months.

I’m not wearing a watch these days. The reason is embarrassing. Both my watches are powered by movement. The old Certina dive watch from 1977 still runs well, but stores kinetic energy in a spring to make it run. My thirteen year old Seiko Arctura stores it in a capacitor battery.

Both stop at random times because I’m not moving enough to keep them running.

As a result I lose track of the time. It doesn’t matter, because my time is completely mine anyway. I just have to remember when my next medical appointment is. My phone does that for me. Because I rely on that, I even lose track of days. Or rather dates. My pillbox tells me what day of the week it is.

So I missed my Dad’s 89th birthday. It’s in my calendar, but not with a reminder. Mea culpa. I apologised over the phone the other day, but again; Sorry Dad! Congratulations on being such a venerable age and still having a driver’s licence.

A Matter of Time

Social Intercourse in the Time of Social Distance

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.

Gold Card

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.

Gimme a head with hair…
Long, beautiful hair…

Dear Diary

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.

These are the thoughts that flit through my mind as I lay on my bunk, listening to my Celtic playlist on Spotify, bored with Netflix.

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.

Optimistic bald person expecting disaster.

Lockdown

From The Guardian

Queensland has announced a state of emergency, and along with enforcing the two-person limit, residents are now only allowed to leave their home for one of eight essential reasons. These are:

  • Obtaining food or other essential goods or services
  • Obtaining medical treatment or other healthcare services
  • Engaging in physical exercise, either alone or in the company of no more than one other person; or in the company of a family group who ordinarily live in the same household
  • Performing work on behalf of an employer that is engaged in essential business, activity or undertaking, and the work to be performed is of a nature that cannot reasonably be performed from the person’s principal place of residence
  • Visiting a terminally ill relative or to attend a funeral
  • Providing assistance, care or support to an immediate member of the person’s family
  • Attending any court of Australia or to comply with or give effect to orders of the court
  • Attending a childcare facility, school, university or other educational institution, to the extent care or instruction cannot reasonably be obtained in the person’s principal place of residence

A full list can be found here.

Queensland now restricts gatherings of more than two people. This applies in public areas but exempts members of the same household.

This means if someone leaves their house for an essential reason, such as exercise, they can be joined by only one other person or the members of their household.

On Thursday the Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said that inside a person’s home they were allowed to have all the members of the household and two guests.Advertisement

Palaszczuk said this amendment is intended to help families who may not all live in the same home to stay connected. She also clarified that those who live alone are allowed to have one or two social guests.

Queensland police officers will be able to issue on-the-spot fines of $1,334.50 for individuals and $6,672.50 for corporations, who breach these laws. The maximum penalties available through the courts will be 10 times those amounts.

From 3 April, Queensland borders will be closed to everyone except residents and essential workers, including freight carriers and emergency workers. This includes erecting barriers in the Gold Coast suburb of Coolangatta, which straddles both Queensland and NSW.

There are some exemptions for those who regularly cross the Queensland-NSW border for work.

Twelve Monkeys

It’s happening.

Good for NZ.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:

Many people consider the things government does for them to be social progress but they regard the things government does for others as socialism.

Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (19 Mar 1891-1974) 

Drunken Boat

The wind was whipping shingle through the windows in the town

A hail of stones across the roof, the slates came raining down

A blade of light upon the spit came sweeping through the roar

With me head inside a barrel and me leg screwed in the floor

Mother pack me bags because I’m off to foreign parts

Don’t ask me where I’m going ’cause I’m sure it’s off the charts

I’ll pin your likeness on the wall right by my sleeping head

I’ll send you cards and letters so you’ll know that I’m not dead

By this time in a week I should be far away from home

Trailing fingers through the phospor or asleep in flowers of foam

From Macao to Acapulco from Havana to Seville

We’ll see monoliths and bridges and the Christ up on the hill

An aria with the Russians at the piano in the bar

With ice floes through the window we raised glasses to the Czar

We squared off on a dockside with a couple a hundred Finns

We dallied in the ‘dilly and we soaked ourselves in gin

Now the only deck that I’d want to walk

Are the stalks of corn beneath my feet

And the only sea I want to sail

Is the darkened pond in the scented dusk

Where a kid grow’s full of sadness

Let’s all go drifting out into the evening sun

We sailed through constellations and were rutted by the storm

I crumpled under cudgel blows and finally came ashore

I spent the next two years or more just staring at the wall

We went to sea to see the world and what d’you ,think we saw?

If we turned the table upside down and sailed around the bed

Clamped knives between our teeth and tied bandannas round our heads

With the wainscot our horizon and the ceiling as the sky

You’d not expect that anyone would go and fuckin’ die

Now the only deck that I’d want to walk

Are the stalks of corn beneath my feet

And the only sea I want to sail

Is the darkened pond in the scented dusk

Where a kid grow’s full of sadness

Let us all go drifting out into the evening sun

At nights we passed the bottle round and drank to our lost friends

We lay alone upon our bunks and prayed that this would end

A wall of moving shadows with rows of swinging keys

We dreamed that whole Leviathans lay rotting in the weeds

There’s a sound that comes from miles away if you lean your head to hear

A ship’s bell rings on board a wreck when the air is still and clear

And up above that means another angel’s got his wings

But all below it signifies is a ship’s gone in the drink

Now the only deck that I’d want to walk

Are the stalks of corn beneath my feet

And the only sea I want to sail

Is the darkened pond in the scented dusk

Where a kid grow’s full of sadness

Let us all go drifting out into the evening sun

James Thirkhill Fearnley.

Stuff

This morning I awoke at three, with the slightest of red wine hangovers. Damn. That wine was almost $7.50 a bottle. I thought it was worth investing that much to get the good stuff. The remaining half bottle can go into cooking. I drank a half litre of mineral water to rehydrate.

The night was warm. I was hot and sticky. Since I had to wander down to the ablution block anyway, I took a towel with me and enjoyed a cold shower. I didn’t want to wear my sweaty nightclothes after getting clean, so I walked back to the camp with my towel wrapped around my waist. This gave me some pride, because not too long ago, that towel would not reach around my waist, let alone overlap enough to be worn.

Back in the cabin, I sorted through the pile of clean laundry, which I still had not folded and put away, for something to wear. I can see my home, and my life, is a shambles. I decided today would be a day for the Doing of Things and the beginning of a New Attitude.

Today, Things must be Done. The Doing of Things must be undertaken with alacrity and determination. It is time to tidy up the physical aspects of my life and put new rules into effect.

  • If it does not have a suitable permanent place, it must go.
  • It must be stored away when not being used
  • If it does not serve a useful or essential function, or bring me joy, it must go.
  • If it makes me sad, it must go.
  • If it is not being used, and is not a necessary contingency item such as a tool or tow rope, it must go.
  • if it might come in handy some day, but I can’t specify under which reasonably likely circumstances, it must go
  • Before anything new comes in, something must go
  • I live alone. If it is a duplicate, and surplus to requirements, it must go. Exception: two spare sets of cutlery, crockery, glasses. In case any of my few remaining friends turn up.

Rubbish shall go in the bin. Items that may be of use to someone shall go to either the Dogs charity shop, or the Hospice charity shop. I reject the Sallies because of their medieval attitude towards gays, and the Vinnies because they are pawns of the greatest criminal organisation in the world, that has the resources and power to end world hunger, poverty and overpopulation in a heartbeat. But won’t.

Having made that decision, I went back to bed and slept until ten. After coffee and brunch, I shall get started.

Morning

At four in the morning the sky is already lightening here in southeast Queensland. Daylight savings is not observed here. Today, sunrise was at four forty five. By five, the flashing bars on the solar controller announce that the panels are already receiving enough light to charge the battery.

The dawn chorus of about seven species of bird is already subsiding as the dawn chorus of coughing old men begins, followed very soon by the shuffling of slippers, the slapping of flip-flops and the tapping of walking sticks as those of the elderly residents in the camp who do not have facilities in our caravans begin our morning peregrinations to the ablution block. The dawn chorus of morning greetings begins.

The morning coffee has already kicked in, but the analgesics have not yet reached full effect. This first walk of the morning is the one I dislike most. I step carefully over the speed bump across the road outside the cabin where Gaz lives. I almost tripped on it once, because I don’t always lift my feet high enough. That is becoming less of a problem since I started pedalling.

On his veranda rail is a sign that says “Office of Der Kommandant, Stalag 13”. On the wall of his cabin is a newly arrived sign reading “ No Money, No Fags, No Grog. Go Home”. On the back of the mobility scooter parked in front is the sign “FARTY”. Gaz is probably the most cheerful resident in the park, and possibly the one with the least reason to be cheerful. I remind myself of this every time I pass his home, and smile.

We were discussing knees a while back. They are a popular subject here, like the weather, the high temperatures, and the irascible park manager.

“I got new knees” Gaz told me. “Didn’t do me any good at all”. Then cheerfully adds “The vets association are giving me a new scooter next year. I’ll give you this one”.

In the ablution block the cistern over the men’s urinal is filling and flushing every forty five seconds. Wasting water. I can see it has a new stainless steel braided hose fitted. Someone had made a repair recently. It used to flush manually by pulling a string to depress the lever. Now an automatic flusher must have been fitted, probably because most of the old codgers who use the urinal don’t bother to flush.

The handle of the stop cock had been removed, so I could not adjust it. I made a mental note to call the office later, and tell them about it.

And that is my entire plan for the day. I still can’t swim for a few more days. Even now at five o’clock the temperature is already twenty five degrees. I doubt I’ll be riding in the sun today. I shall have to ride in the evening, if it cools down. Yesterday it didn’t. I sat in front of a fan all day and binge watched season eight of Game of Thrones.

Today will be a book day. I think it’s time to revisit Earthsea. No. It’s Saturday. Time to change the sheets and do the laundry. Then I’ll be a free man for the remainder of the day.

At least I can start showering again.

Shattered and Soothed

Driving to Woodford this morning I had just crossed the M1 and started down the d’Aguilar highway when, under the Pettigrew St. bridge a sound like a gunshot startled me from my cruise mode reverie. A truck was passing in the opposite direction at the time, but I have a suspicion the missile came from above. Not that I could do much about it.

I completed my mission, left another little piece of myself behind, and returned to Bribie without stopping at Beefy’s.

Direct Hit.

A call to the RAC and a new windscreen was arranged. Such good service. While I was talking to them I changed my address and clarified that I did not need to transfer my membership or insurance to RACQ even if my drivers licence is changed to Queensland. So that’s one thing off my mind.

As I talked to the RAC man in Perth I felt calmer. I enjoyed the beauty of my basil bush, which I grew from a piece of a bunch of basil from the supermarket. My parsley died off but I see it is coming back now the pot is in a better position. The chives thrive. The rosemary cuttings survive. The pepper and tomato seeds I planted are struggling valiantly.

I’m going to hunt for a bay tree next.