Tag Archives: pandemic

Once Upon A Virus…

Millions are following what the coronavirus is doing, how different countries and individuals are responding and it’s sort of like a huge social and cultural experiment which jumped out of a movie set. So, I’m quite interested in checking out what’s going on out there, especially as I’m staying home and there’s not much to say about that once I’m done commenting on the kids doing school from home. So, I wanted to share this clip I came across on Facebook and it’s also been reported on the news here in Australia.

Any thoughts?

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Great Divide…Grandparents & our Little People During Lock Down.

 

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.”

– Aldous Huxley

There are so many ways our communities are being hit hard by the coronavirus. While the massive loss of life and the incredible suffering experienced by those hardest hit by the virus, along with those who’ve lost work and are facing financial ruin, there’s also that massive impact on relationships due to enforced social isolation. For many, their greatest struggle is being cut off from the people they love more than life itself….their grandchildren.

Papa Bert 95

Celebrating my grandfather’s 95th birthday. It was the last time we saw him and he passed away a month or so later.

While searching for a photo of my grandparents’ home in Ipswich for my travel series, I came across a string of photos of my kids with my late grandfather, which vividly capture the intimacy of their relationship, and how they really helped my grandfather come out of his shell and sparkle in ways that were truly miraculous.

With the elderly being at the highest risk of catching the virus and having the worst possible outcome, and kids being a good potential source of transmission; physical contact has been put on hold. Stopped. We’ve all been told in no uncertain terms to “stay home”.

Jonathon teaching Papa Bert to read

However, as much as it’s for grandparents’ own good in terms of their physical health, being kept away from their grandchildren and the love, joy and energy they bring, is also having a potentially damaging impact on their mental and cognitive health.  No doubt families are very concerned about the risk of regression. Whether the door between remembering and forgetting will shut during this time of social isolation is over and stay shut. That there will be no turning back.

Amelia Papa Bert Wheelchair

I get that.Yet, with no alternative, we can only hope that nursing homes are finding ways of keeping these connections alive when it’s difficult for families.

When my grandmother went into the nursing home, the staff worked with her and my aunt to make a special memory book. There was nothing wrong with her memory, but she’d had a series of crippling mini strokes and had lost the capacity to speak (which was utterly cruel when she was already immobile and spent hours connecting with family via the phone.) This book traced from when she was born and her parents and siblings right through school, getting married, family life, work and grandchildren. From a practical point of view, the book was a brilliant memory jogger, and it also enabled staff to connect with her in a personal way when family weren’t around. They could get to know her. These days, however, this book is a precious time capsule…her life story.

This is something families could put together at home and drop off for their loved ones. I’m sure it would help. Clearly name everybody in the photos and use large print. Keep it simple. Add drawings from the kids etc. Make it special.

Jonathon laptop papa bert

Meanwhile, I also want to share a very special visit our family had with my grandfather, Papa Bert. This was early in 2007 and not long after Christmas when we gave our then three year old son a Fisher Price laptop for Christmas. It was a very simple device and the mouse was actually designed to look like a mouse. That’s quite important for the story because when our son was teaching Papa Bert how to use his laptop, he told hi to put his hand on the mouse, and he did following the instructions to a T. This was the very same man who’d rejected the high-tech electric typewriter he’d received for his 80th birthday and stubbornly persisted with his manual typewriter which must’ve come from the ark. This bright, animated computer user, was also a far cry from the man who slept through Santa’s visit to the nursing home and wasn’t even responding much to family members any more. However, his blue-eyes were sparkling and you can see the connection between my 93 year old grandfather and my three year old son as clear as day.

I don’t want us to forget that ever!!!

Papa Bert & Jonathon 2004

Papa Bert meeting our son for the first time at his 90th birthday party. Hard to believe there was 90 years between them.

The middle-people can often get in the way of the very old and the very young, but there is so much love and the benefits to their well-being go far beyond words.

Please keep holding onto that and finding ways of connecting through these extraordinary times and don’t let go.

cupcake box Pymble

The remains of the cupcakes we sent my parents. Mum sent this photo back with the box positioned in front of some photos of us. 

I also need to consider my own parents in all of this. They’re now in their mid-70’s and considered “elderly”, although they’re in denial and it doesn’t make much sense to me either. Not that I’m one to throw stones. I’m  grappling to get my head around 40 and last year I turned 50 and it’s getting harder and harder to keep treating these milestone birthdays as another 21st!! We did manage to leave a box of home-made cupcakes on their doorstep through the week, when Geoff was down in Sydney for work. They did us all a world of good. Mum rang up sounding much more animated and that physical expression of love meant a lot.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to connect with our teenage daughter. I’m hoping the chocolate caramel slice might work. She’s been spending lock down in her room chatting with friends, and taking the dogs for an extended daily walk. That said, I am getting a lot of writing done. So, there’s a lot to be said for independence.

Zac at the beach

Of course, the absolute winners of this coronacrisis in our family are the dogs. They not only have four ball and stick throwers at home, they’ve also been going for extended walks. They’re grinning from ear to ear just as long as it’s not their turn to be left behind!!!

Are you currently cut off from your grandchildren? Or, perhaps your kids are being separated from their grandparents? How are you keeping in touch? I’m thinking of you and would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th April, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week you’re in luck. I can offer you a lusciously fresh, Orange Buttercream Cupcake with raspberries on top. My husband dropped off a box of three to my parents and brother in Sydney on his way to work this morning. In keeping with social distancing regulations, he simply left the box on their doorstep, knocked on the door and was off. Mum had a lovely surprise. My Dad doesn’t like icing so his was plain, which looked like he was missing out alongside the rest. Dad was pleased I remembered, although Mum said she could’ve cut the top off. I warned her all that icing could have made her sick. It’s very rich.

cupcake box Pymble

Mum sent us this photo of the cupcakes we dropped off. As you can see, two of them had evaporated soon after delivery.

I’m pleased we got in touch. I haven’t seen them for a couple of months. We had to cancel a get-together for our kids’ birthdays because we had colds, not knowing what was to come. I should’ve pushed a bit harder and got something organized. However, you know how it is. You always think you have forever. Who could’ve predicted this was just around the corner?

I obviously don’t know how the coronavirus is impacting on you, your family and friends and community. However, I would love to hear from you and come together around this online cafe and share our experiences. I live at Umina Beach, just North of Sydney, Australia. The whole country is close to being at home. Most state borders have closed and in Western Australia, they’ve even set up regional zones for containing movement. This is really good, and it’s making life a lot easier for people who are at high risk of not only catching the virus, but also having a dire outcome. This, unfortunately, includes me but for once, I’m not alone. Most of the country is in the same boat and people are rising to the challenge.

At this point in Australia, the impacts have largely been economic and around 1 million people have lost their jobs. The government has responded by increasing welfare payments, but it’s hit some people very hard and losing your job is always painful. Fortunately, Geoff works in IT for a university and so far, so good. He’s an essential worker. He lost his job back in the GFC, so we went through this back then and know that pain and hope you and yours have managed to avoid it.

While still on the subject of Coronavirus, I also wanted to share something I posted earlier tonight….Every Home Is Now A Stage. As you may be aware, musicians and performers around the world have been posting free performances online with a view of lifting our collective spirits and so I decided to put a selection of these together to share with you. There are contributions from Jimmy Barnes, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the National Gallery and I had to include a clip of feeding a baby koala at Taronga Zoo, which made my heart sing.

KLM

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking part in the annual Blogging From A to Z  April Challenge. My theme this year is “Places I’ve Been”, which has a travel and photographic feel to it with a bit of introspection and philosophy thrown in. The alphabetical aspect to this challenge always makes it interesting, because there are always some letters where you have a plethora of options and it’s really hard to boil it down to one. Then, there are other letters where you really have to struggle to come up with anything and the results can feel quite random. I chose this theme, due to the current travel restrictions and I wanted to spread some joy. It’s also been very therapeutic to revisit these places myself and to realize that despite illness and parenthood, I am still a traveller.

Here’s are my posts for week 1:

Amsterdam

Berlin

Canberra

Devonport, Tasmania.

Have you been to any of these places? Or, perhaps you’ve lived there? I’d love to read any reflections in the comments below.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

We hope you and yours stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share from the Bunker.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How do you like my photo this week? I was looking for a cafe scene but couldn’t resist the pink flamingo. I hope it lifts your spirits at this challenging time.

Well, I guess I ought to ask you if you’ve managed to get out of your pyjamas today, and do you actually have enough changed of PJs to get you through the working week in social isolation at home? Fortunately, i have been somewhat prepared. Thanks to my health issues where I can spend long stretches sick at home, I’ve indulged in a few pairs of Peter Alexander Pyjamas so I can feel creatively colourful while bunkered in at home. Today’s pair is covered in colourful tea cups, which is very appropriate and quite a coincidence for our weekend coffee share.

So, how are you? What is the state of play with the Coronavirus where you live? I live just North of Sydney, Australia. Australia has 4093 cases of coronavirus and here in NSW we have the most with 1,918 cases. I had hoped it had mostly stayed in Sydney, but local cases are starting to increase to 90 cases. Most of these have apparently come from overseas. These infections largely focus on the cruise ships and in particular, the Ruby Princess which has now been re-cast as a vile super-spreader of the virus with almost 2,700 passengers disembarking in Sydney without health checks, despite passengers showing symptoms. It was an absolute debacle and quite culpable under the circumstances. Around 130 passengers are known to have contracted the virus. However, as usual those responsible are passing the buck, the ship’s still parked in Sydney Harbour with 1700 crew members on board. Three crew members were taken off the ship to hospital today. Needless to say, that ship will be going through a major re-branding exercise after this. It’s currently perceived as the plague ship. 

Before I move on from the Coronavirus, I wanted to share a link with you  through to Australian aid worker and Mr Compassion Australian himself, Tim Costello, who talks about the social impact and how to respond the the level of community grief. Here’s the link.

family zoom

The Family

Well, during the last week, our home has become and office, school, hospital, ball and stick throwing centre for dogs and in about 30 minutes, the kitchen will be metamorphosing into a dance studio right during dinner time, which is going to be interesting. While it’s all very well to be flexible and adaptable, it’s also a lot to process and it’s not easy to juggle with so many balls in the air. Our son is in year 11 at the pointy end of his education, so we’re at least trying to get that right, but right now it’s very tempting to just let all those balls crash down to earth and let them smash like raw eggs on the pavement. As long as we don’t get the virus, especially me with my acute lung issues, the rest doesn’t matter. We’ll get to it when the cloud has lifted.

Meanwhile, my WWI research continues and I wanted to share something absolutely horrific that I only just came across. Perhaps, you have already heard about the British soldiers who were executed for desertion and other causes during WWI. However, for me it only rang a very faint bell and it was only when I heard about the case of Private Jack Sweeney that the full of horror of this practice was revealed. Jack Sweeney was born in Emu Bay Tasmania and later moved to Lietinna near Scottsdale in the North-East where my husband and his mother’s family were born and bred. So, this story wasn’t about some stranger. It was about somebody who lived alongside Geoff’s two Great Uncles who served in France…Ralph French who was killed in Action in 1918 and Len Brooker who returned home. However, because he was working in New Zealand when war broke out, he enlisted with the New Zealand Army, which made a big difference to his future on two fronts. Firstly, the New Zealand government concurred with the British government and allowed deserters to be court-marshalled and shot. Secondly, it took Jack away from his Tasmanian social and family network where he could well have found greater support for the ravages of war he experienced, including shell shock. I was horrified to find out that this could happen and so silently and swept almost under the carpet. Yes, indeed There’s been a cover-up and I was quite shocked the New Zealand which is generally known for it’s compassion and progressive policy-making could be so barbaric and take such a different road to the Australian government. It’s probably the most gut-wrenching stories I’ve come across in the 9 months I’ve been doing this research and that says something. By the way, I should also add that Jack had a daughter, Doris who was about 11 years old who was left with her dad and in 1925 his father committed suicide after telling family “I’m a broken-hearted man”. As you would expect, this is a story I’m pursuing further.

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This dog is a good lookalike for  our Lady, but I left our dogs at home to keep my walk simple and uncomplicated. 

Not much else has been going on. I’ve been on two walks along the local beach. Even this simple, ordinary activity had been impacted by the virus. I’m an uber-social extrovert so the whole idea of avoiding people in case they’d been infected by the plague, felt very unnatural. If anyone looked like coming near me, and I’m talking 4-6 metres away, I flinched like I’d developed some kind of allergy to people. Dogs don’t catch the virus, but their fur is just like any other surface so patting dogs down there was also off limits, although I could still photograph them from a safe distance. I also happened to witness a rather nasty dog fight involving 3 dogs and it took about 5 people to separate them, and then there was a clash between the owners. That’s not exceptional at the beach, but with concerns about social distancing and my own vulnerability to the virus, I felt like shouting out to them to step back. Of course, I didn’t. Instead, I tried to remain invisible. This was not the time to play the hero.

Rowena Victory

I will leave you with an uplifting photo of myself at the beach a few years ago looking triumphant. Something to focus on during these difficult times.

How are things going where you live? I hope and pray you and yours are okay and are able to steer clear of this horrible blight. If you are struggling, please share with me in the comments. A trouble shared, is a problem halved.

Lastly, are you taking up the A-Z April Blogging Challenge? I’m intending to do it, but had trouble signing up yesterday, which I need to look into. If so, what is your theme? Mine will be something along the lines of Australians serving in France during WWI with some kind of twist. I have a gazillion stories to inspire me, even if time’s rapidly evaporating.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to come and join us for a virtual coffee.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Tough Questions About Self-Isolation.

There’s no doubt that here in Australia we’re poised on the edge of a precipice. It’s now a question of how long the corona-crisis will last, and how we can best protect ourselves and our communities.When it comes to this, the anticipated duration makes quite a difference, because you prepare for a marathon in quite a different way than a sprint. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for a marathon. So, perhaps isolation in its severest form, is something only to be pursued when there is no choice.

The message has been very clear that social distancing is the obvious response to the Coronavirus. Moreover, it’s a no-brainer for people like me with rotten lungs and compromised immunity. However, what that self-isolation entails is somewhat semantic and more a matter of isolating from people. In other words, you don’t necessarily need to stay locked up in your box at home to be isolated. You could be on a boat. Walk well away from people or go and camp out in the bush. Indeed, I saw quite a few different ways of being outside yet self-isolating while I was down at the beach.

 

So, although I’m largely self-isolated at home, the main reason I decided to go for a walk along the beach was to exercise my lungs and try to build up some strength and resilience. My lungs are quite weak at the moment just from my regular lung condition, but they do improve with exercise which clears them out a bit (even though it makes me cough like a trooper). After all, I need to be in the very best health I can muster in case I catch this thing and being under the weather beforehand, I’m playing a losing battle.

Fortunately, our local beach, especially late in the day, is relatively unoccupied. This is quite a contrast to Sydney’s Bondi Beach which was packed on Friday and Saturday with idiot Australians just begging to catch the damn thing. Indeed, as you may have heard, Bondi Beach was shut down on Saturday as a preventative measure. If people aren’t going to think, then law enforcement needs to do the thinking for them.

DSC_8987

Even parts of our beach were looking over-populated. I walked the other direction which was sparsely occupied. 

At our beach today, there were still a few people down between the flags. So, I drove down to a more remote access point where I could stay within my protective bubble of space. No patting dogs or talking to dog walkers and thank goodness I only saw one friend a few metres away who well understood that I could only wave and keep moving. This was all very out of character for me, because I’m usually an absolute social butterfly given half a chance. I had to hide myself away.

DSC_8989

Idyllic and away from the crowds.

I was pleased I went, and immediately felt the psychological benefits. While being locked away inside much of the last couple of weeks has felt okay when I’m there, I felt so liberated to be at the beach again and out of the house.  Indeed, basking in the sunshine, inhaling the sea air and watching the ocean, I felt a surprising sense of exhilaration and well-being. A certainty that this was good for me and to keep looking for safe ways of getting outside, especially at the moment. We live a bit outside of Sydney and while this provides no certainties, it does provide more secluded exit points.

At the same time, I understand that leaving the house at all, goes against the strictest interpretation of advice.  However, if you’re only in self-imposed isolation, there’s no reason why you can’t go bush. You just need to hope you don’t start a movement.  After all, it’s people and public places which are the problem, not the trees.

Of course, once the virus spreads further, I will be bunkered down like a soldier in their trench, except I won’t be throwing any missiles, pineapple bombs or other incendaries over at the enemy. I certainly won’t be hopping over my trench pursuing it with my rifle and bayonet drawn either (been doing too much WWI research). Rather, my strategy is focused on withdrawal and getting myself as fit as possible by eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg, taking my vitamins and getting what exercise I can.

Family photo

Family photo taken 18 months ago.

Unfortunately, my greatest threat is my family. While my husband is now working from home, my son has been home with a cold and our daughter is still going to school and seeing a few trusted friends. She has been self-isolating from the family for some time. So, unless whatever she has can escape under her door like some bubonic slime, we’ll be safe. I’m sure if you have teens you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anyway, as you might have read in my previous post, that’s why we bought a caravan so we can isolate within our family.

I don’t know what the way forward will look like, but for the time being it looks like we need to pull together by staying apart.

How are you and your communities getting on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes and blessings for protection,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 16th March, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I thought you might like to be a bit adventurous and and a bit of the mug cake our daughter has made. She found the recipe on Tik Tok (a Chinese video-sharing social networking service). However, from my point of view, it seems to be home to the weird, wonderful and everything teen. Accordingly, Facebook is for old fogeys or “parents” like me. Well, anyway, getting back to this recipe, it’s hardly Masterchef. Indeed, you chop up Oreos, add milk. Mix. Cook in the microwave and hey presto watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat, you have instant cake. I made mug cake years ago with the kids. So, it’s not as though I have anything against making cake in a mug when a seriously uncontrollable craving hits, but at least my cake was made from real ingredients. You know the stuff. Or, maybe you don’t. However, it had an egg, oil, flour, sugar, cocoa and real chocolate bits. So, while it might’ve been fast, it wasn’t fake and I had made it from scratch.

Now that you’re snuggled up in your chair with your mug cake and your choice of beverage, let me ask you about your week? How are you?

For many, if not all of us, the coronavirus is making it’s presence felt. We live about an hour North of Sydney, which puts us a little out of the way. However, my husband commutes to work at Macquarie University in Sydney during the week. As luck would have it, some of the first cases of Corona Virus here in Australia were at the university’s child care centre and the nursing home next door. Then, there was a case at a nearby boys’ school where one of our close friends from Church up here works.  Considering that I am at a higher risk of both catching the virus and having a more serious outcome, alarms bells went off. Not panic. I am trying to isolate myself as little as possible at the moment, especially as this might go on for several months, so I don’t want to prolong the agony unnecessarily. At the same time, I’m lucky that I love research and writing and don’t mind being at home, aside from missing my friends and having  people contact which is so important to me. That said, I am also quite prepared to isolate for a few months to save my life, but hopefully it won’t come to that.

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By the way, when I was in the opportunity shop today, I found this grumpy-looking Minion in prison stripes which looked like he was in quarantine for the coronavirus. So, I just had to set him free, bring him home and have a bit of fun. Here’s to: The Cranky Minion in Corona Quarantine..

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Attack of the killer toilet paper. 

Over the weekend, my husband and I binge-watched an American crime drama series, The Bridge. You might’ve already seen it considering it came out in 2013, but it was the first time I’ve seen it and it really drew me in. That’s a real shame considering it only ran for two seasons. However, we’ve still got the second season to go. I’m not much of a TV watcher so getting me hooked, says something for the series if it was short-lived. There were some scenes depicting some very raw emotion in a way I haven’t seen before. It certainly wasn’t your usual American TV crime show, although since it was based on the Swedish series that make a lot of sense.

My research into my Great Great Uncle’s WWI service in France is progressing well. I finally found his battalion’s diary online. I knew it was there somewhere, as I’d seen these online years ago, but I hadn’t been able to find it on the Australian War Memorial site. I don’t know who set up their web site, but it isn’t very user-friendly and let’s just say you need to know where it is to find it. Now, that I have, it’s naturally given me a much better idea of his pathway through the war and where he served. This should have been so much easier, but I don’t regret the 6 months of research I’ve put in trying to get to this point. I realized that I actually knew very little about what happened in the war and I’ve learned so much. Not only about history, but also about how people get through severe adversity and contrary to all the shooting up and blowing up we see in war movies, there was also a lot of compassion out there on the battle field. People sticking their own necks out in a very literal way to save a mate. Lastly, just so you don’t get the idea that these guys were all work and no play, they did manage to get away on furlough and see something of the world, especially London and Paris.

Anyway, that’s about all at our end and I’m starting to nod off.

So I hope you all stay health and out of harm’s way.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

The Cranky Minion in Corona Quarantine…

Minions are beyond my usual scope. However, today I rescued this character from “quarantine” at the local opportunity shop and brought him home where he took over my chair and our toilet paper supplies. Don’t you think this face absolutely captures the dark side of the Coronavirus? He’s even wearing prison garb.

How is where you are living being impacted by the coronavirus? Is it affecting you personally?

It’s something we’re taking seriously at our place. I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomysitis and a complication of this is Institial Lung Disease. I have fibrosis in my lungs and my lung scans read like the contents of a vacuum cleaner. My health varies quite significantly and I can be pretty well and seemingly almost “normal”, to being very unwell and needing hospitalisation, which we’ve avoided before but won’t be under the current situation.

The difficult thing for all of us, but particularly those of us in a high risk category, is when to self-isolate. How long will it last? If I will be needing to isolate for a long period of time, I’d rather not isolate too soon. After all, there’s a slight risk of exposure atm where we live. It isn’t a dire necessity. However, I’m pretty sure it’s coming.

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So, in the meantime, I’ve thrown a bit of humour at the situation. Had a laugh. Been creative.  After all, what’s the alternative? Getting grumpy and wiping out your opponents at the supermarket? It’s hard to be positive under these circumstances, especially when your life or income are imminently at stake. However, isolation in 2020 is not as painful as it used to be. We only need to jump onto our computers to connect all around the world, or even locally if we’re in enforced isolation. It might not be the same as face-to-face and as an extrovert who loves being with people and misses my friends, I feel it. However, it is something I’ve been doing for around 4 weeks or so each flu season and it hasn’t killed me yet. On the other hand, a bout of pneumonia came very close and it took a long time to get back on my feet and that could also account for the fibrosis in my lungs.

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Most importantly, doesn’t let it get on top of you, and if you’re finding it getting too much, please speak to someone. A trouble shared, is a problem halved.

Best wishes,

Rowena