Tag Archives: Spanish Flu

Weekend Coffee Share – Happy New Year!

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share & Happy New Year!

That said, I think it’s a bit early to declare 2021 a Happy New Year just yet. However, perhaps if we speak positive words over the coming year, it might just come to pass. Not that 2020 was a particularly “bad” year for us. However, we have had some absolute shockers in the past, so it had some pretty stiff competition. Also, Australia has largely managed to contain covid, and we haven’t experienced the terrible suffering and numbers of deaths seen overseas. However, that’s also because we’ve been cautious and established tight preventative measures often at a voluntary level. We’ve seen what the virus has done overseas and we don’t want to catch it. I particularly don’t want to catch it due to my severe pre-existing medical conditions. That’s just logical and if I have to delay some gratification for a bit, such is life. I’ll do it. I won’t complain and I’ll make the best of it. Indeed, that’s what I’ve done and my WWI research is powering along, and we’ve also made great headway with renovating our loungeroom and clearing alot of stuff out of the house.

The renovated loungeroom.

So, we start 2021 with new beginnings. We’re opening up our home, and inviting people over instead of locking the doors and barring the windows and hoping no one ever dares to pop in and knock on the door. We had my parents over for Christmas Day, and with covid restrictions down to 5 visitors, we had four friends over for dinner and after midnight, there was a change of the guard and our daughter had two friends stay the night. She hasn’t brought these friends over before so this was a big step forward. We’d rather she brings her friends here rather than hanging out locally. I’m sure I don’t need to explain that to anyone out there.

Trying on glasses at Specsavers wearing masks…our brave new world.

Another new beginning for 2021, is that I’ve gone back to extensive journal writing. My journaling has taken on different forms throughout the years. Traditionally, I’ve just used a free form notebook. However, for awhile there, I’ve gone to printed diaries with a day to a page, and on other years, a week to an opening. I use my diary writing as a mixture of recording what happened as well as exploring how I feel about things, and it seems quite a lot of storytelling. For awhile there, I’ve been fine with just doing my online blogging and haven’t felt a need for a private space. However, that changed towards the end of last year, when I started becoming more aware that there was stuff I just wanted to share with myself. I didn’t want someone else’s response , opinion or suggestions. I just wanted to sit with myself in this still pond of thought and just be, although being a writer, of course, that involved shedding lots of words, letting the emotions flow. These days, I don’t feel the need to share these feelings publicly or even to one soul. I’m quite happy to let life bounce along on the outside and leave it be. Besides, other people generally don’t have the time to listen to the whole story, especially when the story takes days to tell. You’d be needing to have toilet breaks, nap and meal breaks or a supply of ultra-strong, intravenous coffee.

Anyway, as it turns out, even I don’t have time to listen to myself. I’ve been writing in my new journal for hours some days, and providing pages and pages of back story going back 20 years to when we first bought the house, and why our renovation plans were so badly scuttled. Life is complicated. Complicated isn’t quick. Well, that’s unless you go for the bullet journal approach, which could be rather brutal when things aren’t going in your favour and you’ve travelled down snake after snake without landing on any ladders.

There’s also another reason I’ve been reflective lately. My great aunt, Louise, passed away on New Year’s Day. She was such a wonderful woman, and I regretted not keeping in touch more. I regret not having the self-confidence to just ring up and say hello. I have no trouble talking to strangers and yet feel nervous calling people I know. Silly, isn’t it!!

My grandmother second from the right with her siblings at the Glasshouse Mountains, Queensland around 1940.

Anyway, her death triggered a search through the old photo albums, and by the end of the night, I was feeling quite upset. I won’t use the word depressed, because what I was experiencing was grief. Not only that my aunt had died, but how that whole generation had now passed away, and along with them a way of life and big sprawling families with lots of cousins and connections. I was particularly close to my grandparents, and I missed them all over again too. That’s not to say that looking up the photos was a mistake or a bad thing to do. It just acknowledges that I’m human, not a robot. When we love someone, it’s natural to grieve. It’s naturally to think of the bigger family picture they were part of and miss that too. It’s also a reminder to make the most of the living and stay connected, particularly at the moment when we’re much more disconnected during covid.

1919 Spanish Flu Outbreak, Sydney.

Meanwhile, I’d like to encourage you to check out my previous post. I found a letter to the editor from 1919 talking about lifestyle restrictions in Sydney during the 1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic. It was a great piece, and way too relevant to us now.

Well, that’s enough from me.

Wishing you best wishes for 2021!

Rowena

Positive Thinking Be Damned – An Aussie Voice From the Spanish Flu Pandemic 1919.

I wonder how many people have taken on a project throughout Covid… Something to give them an enhanced sense of purpose and hope when everything around us is at best weird and completely unrecognizable (even your nearest and dearest behind the cursed mask), or for those who are losing precious loved ones one after another, there’s tragedy and grief.

Three out of the four of us trying on glasses at Specsavers last week when part of Sydney was under lockdown and we were playing it safe.

I’d got stuck into my project before covid. That’s because I was already in iso at home literally struggling to breathe during the Australian bushfire crisis. I have 50% lung capacity and was confined to our loungeroom or bed with the air-conditioning on. On bad days, I couldn’t leave these rooms. It was absolutely terrifying, and seriously life-threatening. Yet, at the same time, I was quite safe in my hidey-hole.

This is when doing some background research on family members who’d served in France during WWI really took off, turning into multiple projects of epic proportions. It is only a short jump from WWI to the 1919 Spanish Flu Epidemic. Indeed, tonight while I was researching some Australian war artists, I came across a rather impassioned letter to the editor of Smith’s Weekly talking about all the trials and tribulations they’d been through what with the drought, followed by the war and then the Spanish Flu. They go on to describe living conditions and restrictions at the time, and I thought it made for pretty good reading, and decided to share it with you.

By the way, before you read it, it might help you to understand the Australian context by reading a verse of Dorothea MacKellar’s famous poem, My Country, which eulogizes the trails and tribulations of living in Australia, and provides a background to the letter:

“I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains

Of ragged mountain ranges

Of droughts and flooding rains”

-Dorothea MacKeller, My Country.

AUSTRALIA’S TROBLES

Australia is a land of troubles! First, a thrice-barrelled drought squats down on our Sunny Land and burns her up like cinder. Then, Noah-like floods of varying horse-power and dampness smites your essential industries, pastoral, agricultural, etc,, one where they feel it. Then we have the war and its toll of precious life. Then, for a change, we are visited by the Spanish visitation. People walk around gagged and masked as if they belonged to the Secret Council of Ten or the Clutching Hand Gang. The Tax Collector then takes it into his head to camp on our front doorsteps. To escape him, we jump on a passing tram and go into town. “Please don’t sneeze!” “Please don’t cough!” “Please don’t spit!” “Please don’t cross your legs!” “Please don’t blow your nose in the car; do it outside!” “Please don’t spread yourself out. You don’t own the tram. Squeeze up and make room for others!”

These are a few of the “Please don’t” “By orders” we encounter. In despair, we seek the theatre. Alas! “Closed till further notice on account of influenza epidemic!” stares at us with baleful eyes. Then, horror of horrors, we have the politician! Our last trouble as usual, is the worst of all! What Australia has done to be inflicted with the political pests and poltroons that infest our fair land. Heaven alone knows! O.B.U. and Bolshevik orators, bulb-eyed editors, clerical hum-bugs, business profiteers, wobbly poetic Post-misses, and catch-as-catch-can Premiers and State Governors form a formidable list enough to drive a man into the bush for the rest of his days. Truly, Australia is a land of trials and troubles. Anybody any remedy for all these ills?

— H.

Smith’s Weekly (Sydney, NSW : 1919 – 1950), Saturday 26 April 1919, page 9

You have to have a bit of sympathy for poor H. these days now, don’t you?! Mind you, from where I sit, H. was living it up by getting out and about. I haven’t caught a train since February last year when I caught up with a friend in Sydney, and we went out for dinner. I’m so pleased we did. That meal’s now starting to look like the Last Supper!

Not that I feel like I’m missing out most of the time. That’s the good thing about being into history. You know it goes round in cycles like the lands at the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree. The landscape keeps changing, and you just need to wait for something else, and hopefully better, to come along.

Meanwhile, climate change is starting to make it back on the news. I would tend to call this unprecedented, but I am not even a speck of dust when it comes to the length of breadth of history which spans infinity. I really don’t know.

Anyway, its good food for thought. Any comments?

I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS You can read more about the impact of the Spanish Flu Epidemic on Sydney here: https://home.dictionaryofsydney.org/ah-chew-sniffle-sniffle-the-pneumonic-influenza-pandemic-of-1919/