Legends from our own lunchtimes

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Becoming Industrious.
Saturday 2nd- Australia - 6783 cases 901 Active - 266 per million population


Desperation takes one down all sorts of tracks to get to one's destination, and in truth with a little over a week left for the miraculous production of Matt's cabinet it was time for a re-think.

This is a cupboard that's going to spend it's life being peppered by errant darts after all, so trying for a piano finish is quite possibly not a sensible approach which is why my original thought was to attempt one of those trendy pre-distressed finished vintage effects, using cheap ply and multiple coats of paint.  The reality of that is that it's harder to achieve something believable than it looks and time was no longer on my side.  

A bit of a shuffle through my slow-moving stock shelf turned up enough engineered ply flooring offcuts to cobble up some door skins and a backing, so I assembled the bits and took the rest of the morning off while the glue dried, ostensibly to consider what my next move may be.

As it turns out, fiddling with some of my old industry photographs turned into a happy distraction, to the extent that by the time I'd exactly matched the blue of the acid tanks with that of the sky to my complete satisfaction, I'd not really made progress on the actual task in hand and had one day fewer left to complete it. 

I'd made a nice print though.
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Work almost begins.
Friday 1st May- Australia - 6766 cases 934 Active - 265 per million population



I have a list.

Every time I look at it my mind goes blank and  "COVID 19 CLOSED" flashes before my eyes and I retreat to not doing whatever it was I wasn't doing before I got the urge to not do something else.   

The trouble is that Matt's birthday is a week and a bit away, and  right there on the top of the list it says "Dartboard Cabinet for Matt".  If I don't make a start on his present soon there may very well be some explaining to do at management level.  

In order to avoid that particular confrontation I began to sort through that pile of timber I'd brought out last week, only to discover that many of the pieces I'd thought might make a nice cabinet were too short on one end and therefore unusable.

Plan B involved (shudder) buying some plywood to use in the carcass, and with the virus now receding to the point where we have just two cases active in our region, we thought it safe enough to risk a late evening visit to the large building supply company nearby.  After two months absence it came as a shock to discover that its shelves, while not entirely bare were greatly depleted of stock, and in the case of the few items on my list, entirely depleted.  This appears to be as a result of difficulties in the supply chain, particularly with imported products which according to the nice man in the red shirt are not likely to be resolved before tomorrow.

Clearly it was time for a new plan, perhaps a good sleep will help.
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Us and Them.
Thursday 30th April - Australia - 6752 cases 946 Active - 265 per million population



As the first wave of the virus infection continues to subside, restrictions on our movement have been announced.

From the coming weekend we'll be allowed to move up to fifty kilometres from our home, and meet someone else in a park.   Perhaps we are reading too much into it, or perhaps it's one of those perverse traits of human nature bubbling to the surface once again, but for now that recently discovered need among the community to "exercise" has evaporated, at least on our beach.  

Of course they may have been supervising their kids struggling with online lessons, or they  might have just had better things to do than to go out in weather which has taken a turn for the different, making conditions less pleasant in the great outdoors than it has been of late.  It was so bad out there that that one of us even wore a light jumper round her waist "in case".  Perhaps they were washing their dogs, or doing their hair, or stuck on hold making their claims with a Government agency.

Whatever the reason for this turn of events, we wandered smug in the knowledge that we were not such fair weather sailors, that we were there for the long haul, this was our turf and we were going to keep on doing what we do come hell or high water.  It would take more than a slightly grey sky or a splash of bureaucracy to keep us away.  It's all about self-discipline and determination and making time to do these things.

Had we known that his would be our last beach walk for some time too, for reasons equally various and valid as the accusations we were flinging at the absent throng, perhaps we might have cut them some slack.
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Monday, May 11, 2020

Naturally disappointing.
Wednesday 29th April - Australia - 6746 cases 990 Active - 265 per million population


My parents had a pot plant in their little bush house that had spotted leaves and always looked as though the old bloke had been painting and had forgotten to cover it beforehand.  Somewhere along the line I came to be its custodian, which if you are a potted plant, given our usually peripatetic lifestyle is not necessarily a sign that you will live long and prosper.  My usual solution to this dilemma is to rid the poor thing of its pot, stick it in the ground to fend for itself and more or less forgot about it.

This works to varying degrees it must be said, but the little Spotted Dracena (Dracaena surculosa if you insist) was nothing if not a survivor, and has sat there presumably happily for a few years, not doing too much at all until a month or two ago, when it produced an entirely new stem.  This was followed this week by a cluster of flower buds on another stem.  Yesterday evening one of them emerged and I grabbed my camera to have a practice for the spectacle that would come today when another dozen or so would join their solitary mate.

"Disappointment" does not describe the feeling one has when one rises on the morrow morn excited and intent on photographing nature in all its wonder, to find that some other miscreant part of that natural wonder had risen earlier and chomped off the head of every bud.

Yesterday's photo will therefore have to suffice.  However, if you squint at it, and poke yourself in the eye ten or twelve times with a pencil, you may see enough duplicates of the solitary flower to gain a fair impression of how the thing in full bloom may have appeared, and at the same time, will feel some of my pain. 

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What's done is done.
Tuesday 28th April - Australia - 6731 cases 1021 Active - 264 per million population



That little pattern book that has spent thirteen years travelling the world with us, and when it was closed  today for perhaps the last time, so did a particularly colourful chapter of our life.  Twenty-four colours to be exact now knitted into six little jumpers and six little funny hats that match, each with a story to tell.

For someone who lays no claim to being "a knitter" but who likes things "just so", the first five-and-a-half weren't that easy, and perhaps to illustrate just how far things have come in that respect, the last bit of this one was only unpicked once.  The book was not written in French but in the beginning at least it may as well have been, and it's true that the occasional words muttered during the process might have been French but almost certainly weren't.   

The words spoken in the wool shops as we tracked down supplies over the years often were (French) although in the early years it could have been Mongolian for all we knew, but we always managed through a combination of giggles and hand signals and the enthusiasm of all around us to find a colour that looked as though it would suit whichever baby was at the time growing more rapidly than the jumper.

This one went quite well comparatively no doubt aided by an absence of rushing for trains or waiting in airports during its construction, and went off today with Great-Grandma's buttons attached, in a post bag optimistically marked "Priority".  We are somewhat confident that even given the struggles of our presently overloaded mail system, that a hundred kilometres or so should not be a stretch, and that she won't have outgrown it by the time it arrives. 
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Time and Millie wait for no man.
Monday 27th April - Australia - 6720 cases 1051 Active - 264 per million population



A week ago she sprung "the old surprise them with a tooth" trick on us, and now as if to rub salt into our wound she's grown another one!

And while I was thinking of something clever to say about that, two weeks went by and she learned to roll over to get things, and can even say "mum" if we use a bit of imagination.

I have made notes of course, which when there's not much going on get to be quite comprehensive, so the next few days of posts will be happily backdated, because no one will ever know.
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Thursday, April 30, 2020

There's an app for that.
Sunday 26th April - Australia - 6711 cases 1089 Active - 263 per million population



For now it would appear that our nation has avoided the tsunami.   Barely a month ago, we were standing on the high ground staring out to sea, wary, concerned, perhaps just a little bit frightened that a great invisible wave filled with virus was about to engulf us.

Now we happily wander on the rocks at low tide in the rosy glow of sunset (socially distanced of course) in the knowledge that as a nation we've either been lucky, or clever or perhaps a bit of both, but there's also no doubt that we won't know how successful we have been in suppressing this pandemic for many months or perhaps years yet to come.  The eyes of the world are on us too, watching with interest to see if winter will bring renewed viral havoc when our normal flu season arrives.  It's a puzzling thing this winter flu business.

The results are so encouraging that tentatively, a week from now we will be allowed to move up to fifty kilometres from our homes, and if we were not of the age we are, perhaps mix with another family occasionally.  Since we would have to travel more than double the allowable distance to see the nearest of our mob, and we are the age we are, the relaxation is moot.  In any case, we have tech.

We had a family gathering this afternoon as it happened.  It was something of a reenactment of the "Brady Bunch "introduction with four families across seven screens (well no self respecting ten year old is going to share), and it was a bit of fun, albeit a bit hard for the blokes to disappear for a quiet yak when the girls started talking girl stuff as would happen in a "proper" gathering.  We've got a new app for tracking each other too, or actually its for the government to track us if we happen to be near someone who has the app and develops symptoms of the disease.   

It's a curious thing when the government hands out a tracking app to watch the hue and cry on social media.   People who are happy to tell the world what they are doing and with whom, nonchalantly paying for things on their entirely trackable eftpos cards and digital loyalty apps, oblivious to the certainty that their whereabouts would not be too hard to discover even from the data in the photos they've uploaded, have suddenly become security conscious!

The way we see it is that big brother already knows our phone number and our whereabouts, so if our whereabouts during recent times are going to be discovered by some other unwelcome entity, it would be nice if they didn't include a spell in Intensive Care.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

We're going to have a lemon!.
Saturday 25th April - Australia - 6692 cases 1255 Active - 262 per million population



A week or six or quite possibly more ago, when I was actually paying quite a lot of attention to my tools and timber scraps quite possibly to the detriment of bits of the garden rather than the converse, which is the case at the moment, I lashed out in a fit of pre-viral fever, and bought a lemon tree at considerable expense. 

Whether because of some kind of addictive behaviour, or guilt, or whether it's just sensible to visit to one's personal den of iniquity under cloak of darkness is not a question to be answered here, but I do like to undertake my shopping in the giant hardware store when no one else is around.  Therefore when I arrived home laden with my lemon tree along with various interesting smelling chemicals, nails, string and sandpaper it was far too late to begin digging holes in the back yard without raising serious concerns from neighbours.   

The lemon was carefully placed in the spot that would be its final resting place, and forgotten by a mind clogged with wood dust and consumed at the time with thoughts of mitre joints and router grooves.

At the time we were enjoying what we thought was the last gasp of summer.  Sadly it turned out that the gasp wasn't that of summer, but of the forgotten and completely neglected lemon tree which had gone into survival mode in its heat absorbing black pot, dropping two thirds of its foliage and desperately doing all that it could to avoid turning up its toes entirely. After a good deal of remedial care, it was planted and has been cosseted ever since at the expense of all other projects.   

It's responded by growing, and flowering, and our little bees are loving it.

It may be too early to make an announcement, after all it's early days and anything can go wrong, but … we think we're going to have a lemon!
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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Making our own fun.
Friday 24th April - Australia - 6671 cases 1460 Active - 262 per million population



Much is being made at the moment of "making one's own fun", of how dressing up in silly costumes to wheel the bin to the front footpath can relieve the boredom of life in quasi-lockdown.  

Readers of this blog with sharp eyes and long memories will know that wearing silly hats is not at all a new phenomenon, that spending one's formative years  (before the middle of the last century) on a small island where "shopping" was meeting the ship carrying the monthly mail-ordered supplies, meant that one's own fun was the only kind of fun to be had.

When I was young, Barbecues for instance, weren't just a means of charring sausages, they were an event.  A huge event.

Enough food and drink to feed a family at least four times the size of ours would be prepared, the fire would be lit early, to allow sufficient time for the cooking plate to be evenly heated, and we'd all be dressed in our going-out clothes before marching into the back yard to sit around on a bit of concrete that was actually the lid of the septic tank. We'd even take paper serviettes as they were known before they were called napkins.

My father and I would also have to don silly outfits, chefs caps and aprons with slogans like "What's Cooking?" on them. I'm not sure what my parents were thinking to subject me to the dual embarrassment of watching my father dressed like that while being similarly attired, but it did have something of a lasting impact on my sartorial habits.

My siblings, being just enough years younger than I to have avoided the need to don funny hats while eating outdoors, have no doubt made their way through life with substantially fewer emotional scars as well.

Have your fun by all means.  When you next with wheelie bin in tow, waddle down to the kerb, why not do it dressed as a teddy bear wearing a tutu?  Just remember if you do, that there is a risk that more than sixty years from now someone will stumble across the photo and in instant they will quite possibly understand the exact point at which their gene pool went awry.

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The world's shortest road trip.
Thursday 23rd April - Australia - 6661 cases 1653 Active - 261 per million population



Hoarding has been in the news a lot lately, for all the wrong reasons.   All those people with mountains of toilet paper they can't jump over should feel suitably ashamed, and I truly hope they their finger pokes through it when they use it.  

It should be noted that there is a fine line between hoarding and being prepared, and it is with that in mind that I started to sift through some of my stash today.  The fact that timber is an expensive commodity would be good enough reason to argue that my little collection was worth having, but I also happen to get quite a lot of pleasure knowing that there's a piece of Deb and Charlie's pergola in the stool downstairs, that bits of the house that used to be across the road live on in our living room chest, and that the desk I sit at as I type this was made from part of the carport at our last house.  Every piece of timber in my little storage shed has a story to tell about where it's been and where we've been with it.

With a great list of projects on the cusp of commencement, today was the day I thought I'd pull some stuff out of the racks and see if by squinting at it, I could determine what will become of it.  It was quite nice to reacquaint myself with among other things, our waterbed frame from when we lived in Tweed Heads (1979), a bit of left over window from our place in Tugun (1989) some demolition timber from Manly (1992) and bits of our neighbour's piano (2007).  There are also some pergola pieces and a verandah post or two from the last millenium, and in a day or two, or a week or three if all goes to a plan not yet drawn, they'll all be pieces of another kind of jigsaw puzzle.

I had to make room for them on the floor of the garage in the place where the car has staked out its space, so I asked my beloved if she'd like to come for a drive.  She declined, sadly, presumably because in a trip distance of eight metres she would barely be asleep before we reached our destination.   I will ask her again on the return journey, who knows, my luck may change.
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Friday, April 24, 2020

My Oath of Solitude.
Wednesday 22nd April - Australia - 6647 cases 1541 Active - 261 per million population



There's a meme doing the rounds of social media that I quite like.  It features a picture of a ferocious looking viking chap and is accompanied by the following words:

"I can't go out because of the virus", sounds weak whiny and boring, whereas:

"I've sworn an oath of solitude until the pestilence is purged from our lands!" 

sounds more valiant and heroic and people might even think you are carrying a sword.

I've adopted the latter of course, it's much more in keeping with my personality I think, but then I went and ruined it by spending the afternoon taking photos of flowers.
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A Beautiful Set of Numbers.
Tuesday 21st April - Australia - 6645 cases 1889 Active - 261 per million population



Paul Keating was arguably one of Australia's most colourful and effective Prime Ministers.  He is responsible for quite possibly more memorable expressions than Oscar Wilde and Groucho Marx combined.

One of those was that's "A beautiful set of numbers" which he coined in 1990 in reference to the 1989 December quarter accounts for the country, but what is generally forgotten is that those numbers were something of a last hurrah as Australia dropped into a miserable two-year recession.

Well our current Covid-19 infection rate and morbidity rate for that matter could only be described as "A beautiful set of numbers" at the moment, and there's no doubt that there will be significant economic pain to come as a result of achieving them thus far, but one hopes that the confidence being displayed in them by the community at large, sneaking out for longer periods, still apart but edging ever closer together as "exercise" morphs into "peering at the horizon", is not a portent of a similar crash of a less humane kind just around the corner.
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Tool Time .
Monday 20th April - Australia - 6619 cases 2306 Active - 259 per million population



My Uncle and Aunt gave me a set of socket spanners for my twenty-first birthday.  It was a good quality set, Australian made in the days before China had been invented, when cheap stuff came from Japan.  It came with a lifetime warranty, and was a revelation for one used to making do with ill fitting spanners that slipped and stripped nuts and skinned knuckles.  Those spanners and I have rebuilt car engines and fixed outboard motors and adjusted garage doors, and I shamefully admit that the ratchet head might even have whacked an odd bolt into place over the years when I was too lazy, or in latter times too sore and stiff to reach for a hammer.   

We were involved in a hefty car accident at one point which resulted in sockets and other bits being sprayed in all directions across a city intersection, but we searched amid inner city traffic and recovered them all.  A bit of panel beating was all that was required to return the case to a reasonable semblance of its former self although the little cracks in the moulded packing live on almost half a century later.

All of which is a long winded way of getting to the unavoidable bit:  Auntie Dawn left us today at the end of a lengthy spell on this planet.  We were mostly on the outer fringes of each other's lives yet close in that intangible way that Aunties and Uncles and nephews who take a genuine interest in each other's goings-on are.  Our families had shared holidays when we were growing up, we'd even moved in with them a couple of times when our family was temporarily displaced.  As a student I  would do my washing at their place, and she'd admonish me for the way I hung it out.  "They'll never dry" she'd exclaim, but they always did.

As life moved on our paths crossed less frequently, but that sparkle was always there when they did, and it's fair to say that just as I have ever since I received their precious gift, I'll think of them both every time I pull out that socket set until the warranty on it too, finally expires.

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I might start a project.
Sunday 19th April - Australia - 6606 cases 2306 Active - 259 per million population



We were feeling energetic enough at the beginning of the day, ready to get stuck in to that list of projects that were going to be completed until we stumbled across a calendar and realised it was Sunday and that it had been a while since we'd had a day off. 

Well it had been a while since one of us had had a day off anyway, the other is still in significant procrastination mode, going through his hourly routine of checking his list in the hope that he could conjure up an excuse to search YouTube for another slew of "ideas", and waste sufficient time in doing so that by the time a sufficiently brilliant idea emerges to incorporate in whatever project he's thinking might be the next to attack, it'll be too late to start. 

Outside, the world seemed to be entirely of two minds as to what to do with itself as well.   The weather was calm and brilliant, yet breathless and dull at the same time, as though the bloke in charge of the levers was on a coffee break and had left the place in neutral while he settled down for the rest of the day to read a good book.  

What a great idea!
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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Feeding time at the zoo.
Saturday 18th April - Australia - 6560 cases 2359 Active - 257 per million population



Sharing an online meal with one's grandchildren is every bit as pleasurable as sharing with one's mates, albeit somewhat messier for those on the other side of the camera, and with a somewhat more stilted conversation.

It's not that our Millie isn't smart, of course she is, but being not yet halfway to her first birthday, she is dependent more on telepathy for communication than on actual language skills.  We watch enthralled as each spoon goes in and her mouth opens for more and we sip happily our coffee as she does, because her lunch time and ours are a long way out of sync.  We chat idly with her Mum as she tries to master the art of eating "solids".   

If she could conjure up some typing skills she would probably write to a politician or launch some sort of class action in our Advertising Tribunal, because the actual connection between "solid food" as it is mispresented to herself, and anything vaguely resembling something that is actually "solid" is tenuous indeed, but from what we can observe she seems to do her best not to complain.

A short time after our meeting this morning, her Mum noticed what would have been a "clink" had the spoon she was feeding her with not been plastic, and on inspection discovered a tooth.   This it seems is going to be Millie's way.  Not for her is that "old announce the imminent arrival of a first tooth by bawling for hours on end in the middle of the night" trick, she'd rather give them the pleasure of finding it for themselves.

Besides, she has bigger fish to fry.  Has anyone seen the iPad?
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Spots before our eyes.
Friday 17th April - Australia - 6523 cases 2639 Active - 256 per million population



Almost two weeks ago in a moment of complete weakness I volunteered to spend twenty minutes or so working on a bit of online tidying for an organisation with which I am affiliated.  "Twenty minutes" it turns out is tech-speak for "the rest of your natural life, or until your retinas burn out and you start seeing spots in all of your waking and sleeping hours." Clearly it was time for a break in some sunlight.

The other of us seemed to be emerging from her work cocoon as well so we figured (and this should surprise no one), that there could be no better way of clearing the cobwebs from our brains than to take a long walk along the beach in complete social isolation apart from perhaps a thousand or so others with exactly the same intent.  

It must be said that unlike the crowds from just a week ago, everyone was taking great care to keep a safe distance, constantly moving, mostly not stopping.  

It seemed to us that far above this mass of shuffling humanity, someone has been hoarding clouds along with their toilet paper, until there was not a one left in the sky.  

We weren't the only ones coming out of our cocoons, in fact if we'd been able to count them they would have outnumbered us by a large margin.    Those black specks in the sky of this photo are not dirt on the lens, nor were they symptoms of too much screen time.

Thousands of butterflies joined us, romping at an admirably safe distance, constantly moving, none of them stopping to chat, running from we not what or to we know not where, but running madly anyway in a frenetic dash that combined with the brilliance of the day to tire us just by watching.   

So we wandered home for a snooze.
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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Let's do Lunch .
Thursday 16th April - Australia - 6468 cases 2658 Active - 254 per million population




Our day began as many do, with one of us up far too early, quietly entertaining herself until the other rose an or so hour later, crashing down the hallway as is his wont, bouncing off alternative walls like a one legged sailor impersonating a toffee apple, all the while reaching out for one the drug that he knows will connect his inner ear to the rest of his brain.

Coffee.

A quick check of the diary told us that we were staying in today, and a quick check of the list of things to do told us that there wasn't anything in urgent need of attention, or if there was it would still be urgent tomorrow, so we set about phoning our mates in an effort to keep them from doing anything important as well.  

"Let's do lunch" they said, so we broke off our call and had a quick shower and tidy up, while, in parallel universes barely 80 kilometres apart we ordered fish and chips from our respective sanitised, no-contact, fish shops, returning home simultaneously to tables set with condiments and beverages of choice.

Our first meal prepared by someone else in more than a month was splendid, the company superb, and when it was over we had just enough time to sneak in a snooze.

Another perfect day in paradise isolation. 

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Why we live where we live.
Wednesday 15th April - Australia - 6440 cases 2779 Active - 253 per million population


When Gail-over-the-back, (we call her that because that's her name and it's where she lives), stuck her nose over the fence and suggested we catch up for morning tea on their driveway, checking our calendar didn't take very long at all.  Our whole day had been blanked out as it happens so it was easy to turn up with our chairs, food and coffee and stay in their garden shade, conversing for hours longer than we intended, all the while maintaining a very safe three or four metres separation.

Yesterday marked the first month of our splendid non-isolation and we think we've pretty much got into the swing of pacing ourselves.  Three weeks ago we thought we'd give this isolation lark a go for a month.  Two weeks ago it looked more as though it was going to be four.  Now it's pretty clear that if we are out and about again much before October we'll be either lucky or on our way to a wedding or a funeral, so there's no sense in working through our list of things to do too quickly.  

On the other hand, we are getting a bit tired of our possums stripping the vege patch bare each night, and when I mentioned to another neighbour that I might risk a cautious trip to the hardware store to construct a means of intervention,  his expression changed to one of concern, and it wasn't concern for the possums.  He immediately offering to go on my behalf.   He's a surgeon based at our public hospital, what in today's lingo is a "front line worker", and clearly is of the view that the risk of going out at all is greater than it appears to be from the bare numbers.

We'll take that as a reminder not to drop our guard, and we'll keep putting the sheet over the parsley each night.
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Friday, April 17, 2020

Ups and Downs.
Tuesday 14th April - Australia - 6359 cases 2843 Active - 250 per million population



One of us is not exactly enamoured with the concept of Easter presents.  The historical morphing of a Pagan commemoration into inarguably the one that is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, does not need further exploitation, although perhaps the slightest commercialisation of that event if it involves Hot Cross Buns and anything made of chocolate, be they egg shaped or not can be forgiven, in his view.

The other usually seems to go entirely mad in an apparent effort to ensure that the Easter message is entirely blurred in our grandchildren's eyes by plying them with edible things (that would be far better served in the custody of their Grandfather), fluffy little chickens, and usually something she's slaved for days or weeks to make.

This year, the quilted "Snakes and Ladders" games turned out to be a bit more complex than she'd intended and completion was sufficiently overtime that by the time they receive them, any slender connection with Easter will be forgotten.  There'll still be many days of "locked-in" school holidays for them to be enjoyed though, so everyone in this game wins.


"Snakes and Ladders" seems to be an appropriate metaphor for all things Covid 19 in Australia at the moment.   We appear to have landed on a ladder and be screaming towards the conclusion of the game, but it's not as simple as it appears.  The real danger lies in the weeks ahead, and it will be easy for us to be distracted by commentators whose purpose in life is to do just that, perhaps lulling us into a moment of carelessness, tempting us to stand on the snakes head as it were, sending us swiftly back to the start of the game.    

Whose turn is it to throw the dice? 
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You can take the playground out of the park, but...
Monday 13th April - Australia - 6344 cases 2898 Active - 249 per million population

Playgrounds are closed, and while some of the plastic "keep away" tape might be hanging in the breeze, it's nice to see that people seem to be getting the message. 

The crowds seem to have stayed away for the entire weekend, from the more public places at least.

The atmosphere in the great outdoors is notably subdued which may be a result of our Government's loss of patience with the minority who aren't playing by the spirit of the rules, or it may just be that a large percentage of the population have suddenly realised that this thing may just turn out to be serious. 

There's a distinct surge of camaraderie in our neighbourhood though, not that it was ever lacking in that particular commodity.  Walking around here is a perilous thing at the best of times for those with a particular place to go and a time to get there, as one has to run something of a social gauntlet.   

Now it's worse.  We are allowed two guests on our property, providing strict distancing rules are complied with, and on the face of it one would think that would be an end to idle neighbourhood chatter, but if one did, one would be wrong.

Chairs have been set in driveways so that passers-by can sit and chat to householders perched on their first floor balconies, retaining walls serve a useful barrier so that conversations can go on with participants on separate tiers of lawn, even a set of garden stairs has been pressed into service as a two person amphitheatre facing a pair of chairs further down the path.

We may have to leave for our evening walk some time around lunchtime if we are going to be home for tea.  


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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Easter Sunday.
Sunday 12th April - Australia - 6313 cases 2916 Active - 248 per million population


One has to wonder at how it came to be that our Journal entry for this day came to be written four days later.

Every now and then, and we can't be sure whether it's a physical or psychological thing, the flu vaccine seems to slow us down for a day or two, or at least that's my excuse.  On the one hand, Easter projects were well underway albeit accompanied by that familiar sound of deadlines rushing by. The sewing machine, up from its usual domain took a spot on the kitchen bench where it could watch tele in those idle moments while its operator was pinning or cutting or perhaps having a snooze.

Today was day two and though neither of us was unwell particularly, one of us charged into her day firing on most cylinders most of the time, while the other was content to sit and make endless lists of things he might do when the urge o'ertook him.  

It didn't.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Deathly Silence.
Saturday 9th April - Australia - 6292 cases - 247 per million population



For the first time in forty-six years the "Ma and Pa Bendall Surfing Contest", the second longest running in the country, or is that the world(?) has been cancelled, and if we thought the crowds were a bit sparse yesterday, they had disappeared altogether today.  

Anyone who describes themselves as a "caravan park half-full" kind of guy could have been called out as a fibber today.    On the second biggest weekend of the year, in caravan parks all over the country not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  Even a few days ago, they were admittedly significantly less than half empty as a few hangers-on and permanent dwellers hunkered down for a long spell of having nowhere to go and noone to go there with.

As we wandered past the empty slabs we were reminded of some of the huge war cemeteries we have visited in recent times, and wondered what lay beneath them; the Ghosts of Good Times Past perhaps?  

With that cheery thought we retired to our own little bunker, where, armed variously with books, secateurs, sewing machine and television set, we quietly whiled away our day.
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Old principles.
Friday 8th April - Australia - 6152 cases - 241 per million population



We wandered around our ghost town early this morning and had a strange case of deja vu.   It was like Good Friday used to be in our youth, before seven day trading and twenty-four hour entertainment became an intrinsic part of life.  

Not a soul was to be seen except for the odd customer at the bakery, sneaking in then quickly out, laden with hot cross buns.

The government's publicity, stern warnings, locks on public parking areas, and perhaps the prospect of a $1,300 fine for being caught out on non-essential business seems to be making a difference at last.   The State government is said to have raised more than half a million dollars in fines to miscreants ignoring its directives in the past week alone.  Given the scale of the income being generated one wonders if by the time it is over, the cost of the shutdown will be entirely reimbursed by the sections of the public intent on flaunting the rules.

We drove the car for the first time in weeks, on an "essential" run to get our flu jabs.  Our doctor, a champion of organisation, had opened her practice today, the quietest of Public Holidays for that sole purpose, and had for us all to enter her surgery in pairs, (the maximum number allowed in a gathering)  at carefully orchestrated times to avoid any waiting nor any meeting of each other on the way in or out.    

As we entered the Doctor's surgery two by two, we had to wonder about ancient principals of self-isolation, how everything old is new again.  Was this not analogous to entering some sort of modern Arc,  built to shelter us from the rampant viruses that are the new great flood?   

We'll send you a postcard from Mount Ararat.
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Sunday, April 12, 2020

Protecting our turf.
Thursday 7th April - Australia - 6104 cases - 239 per million population



The sign seems selfish in the extreme, but the "let's go to the beach to exercise" phenomenon is truly starting to become a bit bizarre.  

There are so many people visiting our beaches that social distancing is impossible on many of the access ways.  To date we've stayed away on weekends, but the crowds have continued to build through the week, and many in our neighbourhood have been concerned that access to "our" beaches will be closed to all as a result.   With the Easter long weekend about to start, the government has once again taken decisive action, announcing the closure of all beachfront parking areas from tonight and again warning us all to restrict our "exercise" outings to our local areas, which suits us of course, but not "them".

One hopes that this sudden surge of beach-love continues into the future when the businesses that are presently closed will need a jolt of patronage to overcome the loss of holiday trade on which they rely to get them through the quiet times. 

More importantly perhaps, one hopes that this nasty bit of "us and them" is soon forgotten and when its over we don't continue to think that because some of us happen to be fortunate enough (or smart enough) to live in close proximity to the beach, that we own it.
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Saturday, April 11, 2020

Missing them.
Wednesday 8th April - Australia - 6031 cases - 236 per million population



The handcraft corner if calling it that is not doing it a great disservice, has been going gangbusters to get the sixth jumper of its kind done and dusted, before Millie outgrows it and we have a repeat of the near debacle which was Jude's.  How clearly those memories of an atmosphere in our little boat so thick with angst one could carve it, while pattern adjustments failed to work time after time.

We are in a much bigger space now and there's a television rattling away in front of the knitting, so it's a bit hard for someone at the other end of the house to know if the rude words are the bad guys or the knitter, but she's exuding serenity, so one presumes it's going well enough.

On the other hand, the process has brought such vivid memories of our times with the grandkids that we are missing them even more than we usually do.   How we'd love to be helping the bigger boys dig their new pond, or tugging on Miss Nine's funny rabbit ears.   We'd had a long weekend looking after the little boys just a month ago while their parents were interstate attending the marriage of a friend, so are finding it even more difficult not be with them and their sister who is growing in our absence as though she's been dipped in organic fertilizer.

It's nice to know that the feelings are mutual though.  Yesterday Mr Four asked his Mum if they could go away to another "Wetting" so we could come down and look after them again.   There was a bit of "wetting" around here it must be said, just the slightest bit in the corner of our eyes when we heard that.

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Tuesday, April 07, 2020

It's a conspiracy!
Tuesday 7th April - Australia - 5895 cases - 231 per million population




I'm starting to believe those conspiracy theories doing the rounds; the one's that spruik that this whole government response to the virus thingy is a contrived scam.

No, I haven't lost my marbles entirely, I know the disease is real, the illness terrifying, the front-line carers brave and extraordinary human beings.  I also know that the dictionary says that "Isolation" is the state of being alone or away from others, the act of keeping apart from others.  

I know too that when the government says "stay home" except to shop for food or to exercise (then go straight home), that our national character is such that we'll take that as a challenge.  We'll all be looking for loopholes.

Therefore today, Tuesday, mid afternoon, mid week, when "our" beach should have been deserted it was shuddering under the weight of every man and his dog and probably his neighbour's dog as well, "exercising" just to prove a point.   

Midway along that beach today the penny dropped. What if this was a deliberate ploy?  It's obvious isn't it?  They're having a lend of us.  They WANT us to go out.  By the end of this isolation thing, we'll be the most underfed, over-exercised nation on earth.   

The Bronzed Aussie is coming back!
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Monday, April 06, 2020

In the swing of things.
Monday 6th April - Australia - 5795 cases - 227 per million population



A few weeks ago, quite early in the morning in relative terms, it was quite cool.   It wasn't chilly, but it was cool enough for one to reach for one's long pants for a time.  While one of us was snug and smug in her fluffy new birthday dressing gown the other stood staring into his empty wardrobe as it slowly dawned that with two exceptions every item of clothing that he owned that even remotely covered his knees was neatly if inconveniently zipped away in a bag, on the boat, in Belgium.

With all hope of flying north for the winter abandoned this year, the prospect of enduring a winter with temperatures below twenty degrees while clad only in board shorts is not one to relish.   Naturally heading off to a department store was out of the question too.  However he is fairly well versed in the ways of the world, and quickly found a pair of jeans of exactly the right size online, at a bargain price with free shipping.   They arrived today, no fuss, no dramas, problem solved, happy days, roll on winter.

The other of us on the other hand is a borderline technophobe, but none the less bravely sat at a screen, assembling our first ever grocery order "on the line" as she once described it.  The ordering part went very smoothly as one would expect from a system that has been simplified to the point where all one needs to do is to click on a photo icon of the item one desires apparently.  Job done, we settled back to wait for our next three weeks worth of groceries to arrive on our doorstop.

This they mostly they did, also today as it happens.

There were a couple of substitutions, and one or two things were out of stock (still) but it was the single tomato that adorned our bench that is already etched in our memory of good times had by all.  Were she the Ancient Mariner this would be the albatross hanging around her neck.  It appears that during the ordering process the tomato icon was clicked, but the boxes marked "number" and "kilograms" beside it were not.  As we now know, artificial intelligence has not yet progressed to the mind reading stage, with the result that a single lonely tomato arrived gift wrapped in green plastic.

We've never really liked Bruschetta anyway.
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Sunday, April 05, 2020

You shall have a fishy when the boat comes in.
Sunday 5th April - Australia - 5681 cases - 223 per million population


We had a blow-out in a clothes line overnight.  

One of the lines simply broke, launching a fish into the jasmine, necessitating a running repair, which I have put on the list and will get around to doing when I have time.  No, wait…..   I'll do it later.

I have come to the realisation that when I made mention the other day of repairs to rocks hanging from our clothes line and now a fallen fish, that this discussion may not be entirely in keeping with the context of  "clothes line" in many people's minds. 

For they among us who we have not yet had the opportunity to welcome to the place we call "DickyWorld" a  further explanation of how we came to be in the rock-drying business might prove to be a pleasant distraction in these times of globally enforced "nothing better to do anyway," besides perhaps fixing their clothes lines.

Here then is a tale of practical problem solving, repurposing (because that's the "now" way of saying "using") some left over wood and scrounged materials and adding a bit of cheer to our drying area to boot.


No one likes a saggy line, at least no-one round here does.  

Well perhaps one of us doesn't mind it all that much because as she quite fairly observes from time to time; she's the one that has to reach it mostly.  The prospect of leaving the hanging out to the other of us, the one who can reach easily but actually almost garrottes himself every time he walks past, would never do.  If we could find a way to keep the lines tensioned when not in use yet accessible and easy to reach for pegging stuff on, everyone would be happy.

This was a problem which occupied much of our thinking time for a considerable period and actually while travelling across several continents as it happens.  

Initially we thought a weight attached to the end of each line and a pulley to reduce friction would provide the obvious solution.  It could be simple and elegant and in evoking that "seaside context" if we pinched a couple of stones from the beach to act as the weights it could all be done and dusted one evening.   

Note:  While removing anything from a beach may appear on the face of it to be environmental exploitation or even vandalism, we have assuaged our guilt by adjusting our wills to ensure that on our eventual demise all will be returned whence they came.


"Done and dusted in one evening" - that was the plan.

A few trans-continental flights later (now those were the days!) and after a bit more jetlag and a few more cups of extra strong coffee, a light bulb moment occurred: If we were to set up a lever on the end of each line to give a bit of mechanical advantage much less weight would be required and therefore we could use smaller stones.  

As a bonus we probably had enough left over verandah floor boards tucked away to make the levers and undoubtedly there were old pulleys lying around somewhere in a box marked "pulleys for future clothes-line tensioner" that we could use.

Construction drawings were hastily prepared, somewhere over Greenland as it happens,  perhaps not in the sort of detail that those using those new fangled drawing computers would find useful, but adequate for the job in hand.



All that remained was to gather up the necessary timber offcuts and remove all the bits that didn't smell vaguely of fish.


Things went swimmingly for a while until one of us, the one who was actually home and making the mess, found that the verandah doors had been inadvertently left open, and about a thousand cubic metres of terribly fine wood dust had filtered its way through the house.  

Admittedly this did put a bit of a dampener on progress, for almost an entire afternoon but the formerly white outdoor setting probably needed a good deep clean anyway, and with one of us visiting the Big Smoke the other had that time to himself to think about what he might do differently next time.

Then the timber ran out.  

Of course I checked before I started and of course there was enough then, but when it came time to cut the final piece it turned out to be half the length of all the others.  

Only a little daunted and wondering what I'd find within it, I started anyway and kept plugging on with grinder, chisels and saw until to my shock I found Nemo, or what was left of him after the drought.  


All that remained was to find the pulley, assemble the contraption, and balance it all on a bit of aluminium angle. After a bit of fine tuning to each line, finely balancing stone size, lever length and cantilever against the required tension of the line we had the makings of a very satisfactory line tensioning system.   

In practice all of those mile-high doodles had worked to perfection.  The line is easy to pull down for use,  yet it is just weighted enough so that wet clothes on the line cause it to sag.   

In the year or so since its been complete it's weathered nicely, the jasmine on the fence has grown into it a little, and apart from the previously mentioned problem of the stones simply dissolving in the rain, and exploding fish, we've been delighted with our little school of once were Mackeral.






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Saturday, April 04, 2020

One advantage of being tall
Friday 3rd April - Australia - 5550 cases - 218 per million population

On a day when the most exciting thing that happened in our household was a toss up between backing the car out of the garage to wash it, or driving it back in again, in the interests of education to my fellow would-be photographers, I thought I would re-post this, an educational piece I first uploaded to this very blog in October 2008:-

Being the eldest in our brood, it’s not surprising that I was the tallest child for the entire time that I was growing up. It’s a matter of history now, that I was actually also the tallest because that’s just how it turned out to be. In looking back through all those old photographs it’s astonishing how many times I was actually too tall for the camera.

For reasons that don’t seem particularly clear, but may well have been related to the quality of hair cut my mother used to provide, there’s often, if not mostly, a goodly chunk of yours truly cropped out of any photo which featured more than one person including myself.

Where most children have a complete photographic record of their changing facial features, my legacy seems to be a chronology of what surely were the least attractive knees in primary school.

I had a brother in law once, who came from a country which is often the brunt of stereotypical jokes about people whose perception are apparently quite different from our mainstream. Without wishing to cast aspersions on any nationality, a lot of the attendees at his mother's seventieth birthday party had names like Seamus, Paddy, Patrick and Sinead and it was one of their kin who had the duty in that time well before digital photography, to record the event on film.

All seven rolls of film were duly processed after the event, and to the complete horror of all, each and every one of the one hundred and sixty-eight borderless glossy photographs featured at least one headless person.

The initial reaction from the photographer was an outpouring of pure anger, in an accent that could only be described as something of a heavy brogue:

“I TOLD you we should have got someone taller to take the photographs!”
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Friday, April 03, 2020

So much to do, so few lifetimes to do it in.
Friday 3rd April - Australia - 5350cases - 210 per million population




It's a bit hard not to notice that the world is in a bit of turmoil, and impossible not to notice why.  If one can be over-informed on a topic perhaps we have made it.  I really didn't know we had so many experts in molecular biology and epidemiology in our suburbs.  We are well beyond the "need to know" tipping point, but at the same time perhaps if the flood of even close to correct information can drown out the misinformers, the conspiracy theorists and their ilk, it is worth putting up with the short term pain. 

There's another more hilarious flood though on social media channels.   The "content creators" have been flat out getting stuff to air each day, thousands of them, all with titles like "Things to make when locked in - Day 5".  I am not sure that any of them understand that this may not be a two-week phenomenon, and look forward to seeing what day 157 will bring. 

We, being all seeing and all knowing, would be surprised if we are out of this situation before September or later.  We will have time we think, to cross a few little projects off the list, but at the same time there's no sense knocking ourselves out in the process.  We don't want to wear ourselves out prematurely after all.

After three weeks of very satisfactory rest, we're starting to wonder if pacing ourselves hasn't turned into procrastination.  The fact that we've started on a few other apparently more exciting projects, such posting  "ten photos in ten days taken in our bathroom" might just be a sign that we may as well throw away the old list and start a new one.  We're not quite sure what's happening in our brains, perhaps we have actually retired.

One of our daughters reminded us today as we were discussing this (via telephone), that she once thought she'd be much better at doing housework if she had time.   Now she's beginning to think it wasn't time that was the problem after all.
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Thursday, April 02, 2020

Social (Bee) Isolation.
Thursday 2nd April - Australia - 5137 cases - 201 per million population



Late last year, we "rescued" a slightly misguided hive of tiny Tetragonula hockingsi (a species of Australian native stingless bee which measures about four millimetres in length) which had happily set up  home below ground in what appeared to be a vacant ant nest, digging out as much as was possible, as the first big storm of summer was inundating their abode,

We put them in a nice new hive and gave them a splendid spot in our backyard where they have lived happily ever since alongside our other hives, apart from the odd skirmish with intruders, or as has been the case over the last few days - the angry spectacle that is a mating swarm.   

Every now and then when the old queen is on her last legs, one of the new "virgin queens" is appointed as pretender to the throne.  All of the males (the drones) who have until that time contentedly lived a wastrel's life, enjoying the largess of the court, are unceremoniously booted out of the hive to await her ladyship's pleasure.  They are forced into what these days we'd call social isolation.  

Homeless and alone, except for the other five hundred or so blokes who are all trying to pull the same chick, they spend their days in an agitated swarm around the hive and its environs and their nights huddled together on any nearby branch, trying surviving as best they can until the new dawn.

When she emerges, young and fresh to offer herself to the bloke that can catch her, there can be only one winner, and it's not going to be one of the drones, but they chase her anyway until the strongest and fittest of them has his wicked way with her and she returns home, presumably flushed as she realises that everyone in the family knows what she's been up to. The blokes meanwhile, all of them, face a short, bleak but entirely predictable future, huddling each night in successively fewer numbers, flying more lethargically each day in the futile hope that she'll be back, but she's made no promises, has had her fling and she's already in there putting her stamp on their next generation.  

While those who value even the most microscopic of life forms may be disheartened at this tale, it's not all bad. We can all rest content in the knowledge that one of them died happy!
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Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The Pest Man.
Wednesday 1st April - Australia - 4868 cases - 191 per million population



Anyone who lives in our part of the world and says they don't have the occasional giant cockroach fly in, is either delusional or fibbing.  After an American friend of ours had lived here for some time he reckoned they should be officially designated as our state bird.

As a rule we prefer to use organic means of control, usually by belting them with a rubber flip flop, although this chap met his end more organically than most, by having a kilo of coffee beans dropped on him from a great height.  Clearly intent on ignoring social distancing regulations, he crept out from his warm hiding spot under the fridge at exactly the time I was removing the bag of coffee from the freezer.  "Bombs Away" I called, but he either failed to hear the warning or with that arrogance that cockroaches seem to have, truly believed that I'd miss.

Ironically perhaps, this occurred about twenty minutes before "the Pest Man" came for his annual inspection and a spray with something somewhat less organic than a bag of coffee beans, but no less deadly to unwelcome insects.  

His visit turned out to be a bit less than comfortable for us all given the extent to which we have been separating ourselves from the outside world, but he noted our nervousness and kindly made a great show of assuring us that we were safe, donning fresh nitrile gloves, glasses and a clean respirator before setting about his task, ensuring that we opened doors as required to minimise him touching interior surfaces.  Even his invoice will be sent electronically for online payment to avoid any risk of virus transmission.  

After his departure we took great care to sanitise all surfaces his gloved hands had touched of course, we remained curious as to whether pest control was actually an "essential service" but never the less were congratulating ourselves on finding a bloke who was so sympathetic to the constraints we imposed when the penny dropped: 

When was the last time we'd seen a Pest Man spraying deadly poison without wearing protective respirator gloves and glasses?
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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

One of us has developed symptoms.
Tuesday 31 March - Australia - 4557 cases - 179 per million population



It's definitely not the virus we are sheltering from that has her in its clutches, but a no less dangerous longer term addiction that has caused her to work feverishly all day and into the night.   

After sewing a gazillion quilts (and sails, which are after all just a quilt with bigger blocks) over the years, and even our boat covers one of us announced not so long ago that she was going to direct her creative energy in other directions.   She explained that she'd done enough, that there were other roads less trod on which she would like to travel.

Yet the symptoms of her disease remained, mostly invisible but lurking somewhere within.  It is a matter of record that what seemed like much of the writer's last day out before being confined in voluntary isolation was spent standing outside a fabric shop, waiting, while within she did whatever it is one does for hours in a fabric shop only to emerge empty handed.  Shortly after that she began shuffling through her boxes of what is the fabric hoarder's equivalent of timber offcuts, laying out bits, standing back, looking with that familiar tilt of the head, eyes squinted to better gauge the position of colour tones in the pattern, and it was clear that some sort of relapse was well underway.  

"I think I'll make a quilt as a farewell gift" she announced.  "But they are leaving the day after tomorrow" the other replied, his words falling on entirely deaf ears, she was already a woman on a mission, barely looking up, stopping only to feed us both once or twice, not even to make the bed, for crying out loud!

By the time we waved our choking farewells to Chris and Phil this afternoon (from a safe distance), they had a new throw rug for their van to remind them of our decade in close proximity, and we had a house that was doing a fair imitation of a bomb site.  They'll only be a few hundred kilometres away so it's not as if we are losing them for ever.  No doubt the urge to visit one another will arise from time to time just like the urge to make just one more quilt.

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