Self-Isolation

I self-isolated first.

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.

Environmental Health in the Kimberley

From ABC Radio National. An Aboriginal led initiative is what is needed. Reading this in 2020 is almost like reading my exit report after my EH position was defunded in 2017 after which the Shire transferred me to youth work. With the same problems.

Sorry about the formatting. My iPad WordPress app is contrary.

rom https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/healthreport/environmental-health-in-the-kimberley/11779592

Environmental health in the Kimberley

On Health Report with Dr Norman Swan

A study in the Kimberley in Western Australia has found that the environment in Aboriginal communities explains a high percentage of hospital admissions and many millions of dollars in costs.

These same environmental factors increase the incidence and severity of over 40 diseases and are likely to explain a proportion of the gap in life expectancy and wellness between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians.

The study was driven by Nirrumbuk, the Kimberley’s Aboriginal owned environmental health enterprise.

Guests:

Ray Christophers
CEO, Nirrumbuk Environmental Health & Services

Chicky Clements

Field Support Officer, Nirrumbuk Environmental Health & Services

Host:

Dr Norman Swan

Producer:

James Bullen

Transcript:

Further Information

Spare a Thought

Spare a thought for my friends in Katanning, who are on a watch and wait, as fires burn all around. The water bombers are flying constantly. Everyone is packed and ready, but in which direction can they flee?

Photo sent by Jennifer Dowling.

Buoyancy

I’m not doing nearly as well as I expected, despite some positive signs. In the pool yesterday, I spotted something someone had dropped in the deep end and dived to retrieve it. Successfully. That may not seem much of an accomplishment but not so long ago I was so buoyant with adiposity that I could not sink no matter how I tried. Though I could float on my back and snooze without fear of drowning, I could not reach the bottom of the pool no matter how hard I tried. Now, I can swim down.

This positive sign perhaps explains why my weight loss graph has plateaued in the last couple of weeks. I’m developing muscle, which is denser than fat. I am still incrementally tightening the drawstring in my waistband, so something positive is happening.

The best time of day is when I am weightless in the pool. I am virtually pain and discomfort free . I feel as fit as I was when I made my marathon swim around Mayor Island over 47 years ago. But climbing out and returning to the gravity of the world leaves me limping and hobbling like the old man I have become. Riding the bicycle is my second pleasure. Seated, so my knees bear no weight, and with my feet positioned properly on the pedals, the discomfort in my knees is minimal, and the ache in the muscles of my calves and thighs is an acceptable sign of effort being rewarded. Climbing off the bike at the end of my journey is a painful return to reality. I have to take care not to fall over. I believe it is time to talk to the doc about new knees, and get onto that waiting list.

My mental buoyancy is better. Despite occasional bouts of loneliness when I am acutely aware that I am far away from my family and closest friends, I am coming to embrace solitude, and the self-awareness that comes with it. I have left so much behind. Lost so much. I am not, and never was, the person I wanted to be. Perhaps I am where I am now because it is where I deserve to be. That is not self-pity, it is self-appraisal.

Part of me wants to return to New Zealand, but why? My family don’t need me. I actually have fewer friends there than I do in Western Australia – and the weather is worse. I’d be financially worse off. Plus there is the inertia that seems to come with old age. I find it difficult to even contemplate moving on from the camp I am in.

One of my neighbours has a sign on his cabin “Der Komandant, Stalag Luft 13”. The old chap has a sense of humour like mine. Despite the title he has given himself, he knows he is a prisoner, like the rest of us.

Cragh

The Crow was reading poems aloud

From an ancient vellum manuscript

I strained to hear but could not parse,

Because of his strange accent, the words

– Which all sounded like “cragh!” –

I figured he was Irish.

The Difference.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost.

This is my favourite of Frost’s poems.

Semi Colonisation

Back in hospital again, this time for an endoscopy and colonoscopy.  Yep. Both ends.

With the greatest of luck, I was admitted for the nights before and after the procedures.  So the kind offer of my new friends to pick me up and drop me off proved unnecessary.  The hospital staff had decided even the prep would be problematic for me in a caravan.  It turns out they were right.  When you are old enough for a colonoscopy, you’ll know what I mean.  In the meantime retain your blissful ignorance.

It all went well. A couple of polyps removed, budding haemorrhoids identified, and I have diverticula, a common enough condition in which the gut wall gets little pockets. These can be a problem if any food gets trapped in them and cause infection; diverticulitis.

This means I must chew my food well, and eat plenty of fibre. I do.

I don’t have bowel cancer, good news of which I was already quite sure, having been tested twice as part of a study in which I’m participating.

I shall be discussing the results in depth with my GP in a week from now.

After the procedure it transpired that my bed for that night was needed for a patient after all, but instead of letting me go home, they decided I was to be transferred to the private hospital next door. An upgrade in other words. Better food, at least. Not that there was anything wrong with the fare at Caboolture Hospital, the meals at Caboolture private hospital are just a little more upmarket. The surroundings are also a little more posh but the service and kindness the same. Excellent.

After the disappointing (mis)adventure of my left arm, and the surgical cock-up, my faith and admiration for the Australian health system has been fully restored.

And surprise! My kind friend Cindy from WA sent me flowers.

On My Way

The road trip has begun. We have left HC. Dave is flying in a helicopter over the bungle bungles and I have been talking to motorcyclists. The car is heavily laden with the detritus of my life. She is carrying her burden bravely. Tyre pressures @ 40 & 42. Onward Japanese Juggernaut!

Tomorrow I finally get to see lake Argyle by boat and on Thursday the long drive begins with no firm itinerary.

King Brown is Cross

The kids took me to visit the “Jesus Cave” on the bluff out of Balgo.  This is a cave once used by the mission nuns as a place of prayer, hence the name.  Access to the cave is by an aluminium ladder down a manhole-sized opening on the top of the cliffs of the escarpment.  As I climbed out of the troopy and limped down towards the cave entrance, the kids all raced ahead, and then, suddenly came racing back again, screaming.

Sunning itself right by the top of the ladder was a two metre king brown snake.  The biggest I have seen in the flesh.

The King Brown, or Mulga snake (Pseudechis australis) is one of Australia’s top ten deadly venomous snakes.  I have handled a couple before, but none this big.

king Brown
King Brown is Cross

I cursed myself for not having brought my camera.   I had not brought my catching gear either.  One of the boys in particular was totally panicked, and wanted to kill the snake.  I tried to explain that this was not a good idea and that provoking a snake was foolish and more than likely to result in someone being bitten.  I told them that we should just leave it alone and come back another day.  They would not come away with me, and were determined to kill it or chase it away.  I could not have that, so I ordered them all to stay back while I moved the snake away with a couple of sticks.  This put the lad into even more of a panic, and I realised with just a little gratification that he was afraid for my safety even more than I was concerned for his.

I gently lifted the snake with the sticks and started to move it away from the cave entrance. It did not seem too bothered and allowed itself to be carried, then guided away.

But my young friend was still screaming hysterically that the snake would kill me and started shying stones at it.  His aim was not too good, and a couple of the rocks narrowly missed me.  I told him to stop because now he was really putting me in danger, but he was too far gone to listen.  The others joined him, ignoring my orders to stop.  A stone or two hit the snake, and its demeanour changed instantly from passive to aggressive.

I stepped back quicker than my semi-crippled condition would normally allow. The snake followed me as stones continued to rain down on it.  Finally it decided it’d had enough of being pelted, and slid down into the cave entrance, ending our chance to visit the cave that day.

On the way back I tried to explain to the youngsters that they should leave snakes alone and that most people are bitten because they try to kill them, but I could tell they were not convinced.    Irrational fear is just that. Irrational.

One of the girls had filmed the incident on her phone.  I will try to get a copy from her.