PERSONAL REFLECTIONS POST-COVID LOCKDOWN

With Victoria at zero cases for over 30 days now, Australia with zero cases excluding international travel and an odd outbreak, being out of lockdown and free to travel outside Melbourne, we drove to NSW to experience a change of scenery…and to put money into the bushfire-hit towns.  Before we left, I reflected on what I had gained from the (8 month) covid period, what I had missed and how I wanted to live my life as a result of this traumatic period.

Covid Positives

8 months sounds long…but WW2 lasted 6 years…and that followed the Depression, which didn’t really end till the war arrived some 10 years later.  We’ve had it easy.  And, with a large house, our own garden, beautiful suburbs, family close by, good technology, good health, lots of friends and interests, we had it much easier than most.  Also, attacking life, being positive, helps to see that there were many positives from this period, for me at least.  They include:

  1. Improving My Tech Use and Using It.

Spotify, Netflix, Stan, iView, Facetime, Zoom, apps, Google and YouTube have made so many possibilities available.  I now use Spotify for my morning exercise routine and  Netflix, Stan and iView for streaming series.  Not radical, but a big change for my life.  Facetime, Zoom, Whatsapp and Google Meet have enabled friend and organisation conversations more than before, with Facetime by far the best for me and Zoom great for multi-member conversations.

I’m not a big app user, but Trickster for bridge with friends and croquis café for life drawing have offered new opportunities for enjoying these activities.

Overall, these elements of technology, plus my willingness to engage in new options, have made significant positive changes to the patterns of my life, and I want them to continue.

2. A Slower Pace of Life

Our lives were ‘busy’.  We liked it that way.  But covid slowed us down, showed us what we valued and what we didn’t. 

Observing nature in our home, in our area, has provided much greater joy than previously (we loved it, but didn’t have the time to appreciate it).  Seeing each day, week, month, season unfold, observing and enjoying the changes, has given us as much joy as if we were travelling to new and different landscapes.

Taking time to cook and prepare food instead of just rushing a meal to get to another event or activity has meant we’ve enjoyed food even more than if we were eating out.  We haven’t had the people to converse with over meals, but we’ve enjoyed reflecting ourselves on the flows of the days and weeks.

Walking – critical for daily exercise – enabled us to enjoy others’ local gardens and parks.  Cycling – which I took up again last year for the Great Vic Bike Ride – has become a regular weekly activity.  It provides a different experience from walking, but you still appreciate the small details.  Who’d have thought I’d be a bike rider at 70…

FOMO’s departure is also positive.  In fact, so few people are doing anything interesting or different, that the reverse is true – FONH.  Fear of Nothing Happening.  Mostly conversations have been around covid, covid and covid.  Enough.  The climate emergency is more important.

3. Buying Less

Never a great shopper, I haven’t missed the lack of retail.  In fact, I’ve enjoyed it!  I don’t even miss the coffees that seem so critical to everyone else’s life.  I don’t want much retail to return…except Bunnings, Gazman and a few others.

Covid Negatives

  1. No Travel to Different Landscapes

Nice though it has been to stay at home, I have missed travel.  The travel I like is to walks and views in landscapes, not to cities or man-made building.  We jumped in June when we opened up prematurely and had 2 lovely weeks in the country.  We have returned from a similar week at NSW beaches.  I can handle being limited to travel within Australia.  I don’t ‘need’ to travel internationally any more (I’ve been lucky already).  But I do feel a ‘need’ to travel somewhere to see and experience different landscapes.

2, No Experience of Live Sport

I’ve enjoyed watching lots of live sport on TV, especially on our new large TV.  But I do miss going to games – basketball, football, tennis, athletics, golf and more.  There’s something different about being there.

3. No Brainwork

Strictly, this is an age issue, not a covid issue.  But the lack of organisation operations, the lack of focus on virtually any social or political issue unrelated to covid has been a real downer for me.  I can’t just sit and enjoy life, friends and family.  To me, there’s much more to life than acceptance and bread and circuses.  I need brainwork.

4. No Arts Experiences

Pre-covid, we had a full life of arts experiences – movies, theatres, music, writing, festivals, galleries and more.  Most arts organisations seemed either reactive or lacking the skills to provide online offerings.  Exceptions were the UK’s National Theatre Live, an Australian comedy stream and odd other events, notably (for me) Sydney Dance Company.  I’ve had mixed feelings about this.  I haven’t missed many ‘average’ events, but I’ve really missed those events which led to challenging and thoughtful discussions about the event – the performance, the acting, the playing, the writing, the idea, the innovation.  In a slower life, I still crave some art, but I don’t want as much as before.  I plan to choose more carefully…but that’s difficult when you have to buy before review or for a one-off event.  I know what I missed.  I know who reached out to me.  I’ll choose with more care.

Now…

I plan a slower life, carrying forward the new positive activities and skills.  This requires dropping other events.  I’ve found myself carefully thinking now, ‘Do I want to do this and why?’  The crunch will come when I have to say ‘No’ to ‘normal’ pre-covid activities or events.  We’ll see!

STREET LIBRARIES: DO THEY WORK?

 

My community street library has been operating successfully for around 3 months now.  Here’s what I’ve learned about how to make them work.

1.Consider your motivation and how large you want the library to be.

I started my library, partly to share books I thought were excellent, but didn’t want to keep just sitting on my shelf, and partly as a way to recycle our many children’s books which are no longer needed. 

I didn’t give size much thought.  I had a friend who liked building in wood, but you can order a wide range of ready-made ones.  Mine is quite small (holds about 15 books) and doesn’t really take large (A4 type) books, which children’s books often are.  Mine only has one shelf.  I’d chose a larger one if I did it again, for flexibility, possibly even with two shelves.

2. Start the library with your own books.

You will certainly have many books around that you don’t really need, so that’s a very good place to start.  But be prepared for them to disappear, never seen again.  This is not a ‘return’ library necessarily!

3. People seem to like light entertainment adult books more than good literature or reality.

Many of my books failed to move!  Award-winning authors such as Christos Tsialkos and Bryce Courtenay, biographies, business books and my own authored books didn’t move.  Children’s books weren’t replaced (a size issue?).

4. The library needs to be monitored for slow movers.

Each day I look at the selection and it changes every day, though I never observe anyone taking or depositing books!  I estimate the books change over completely (including my removals) within 2-3 weeks.  But, in a small library, slow movers clog the shelf and limit attractiveness.  So I remove slow movers back inside and replace them with others.  I want people to see significant new selections on offer each week. 

5. Rotating books between street libraries seems to work.

I’ve found three other street libraries close by.  Now, I take my slow movers to them and take what I think my library users will like.  It seems to work both ways, as I find my books gone from the other libraries when next I visit.

6. I find few books I want to read personally!

It wasn’t my purpose to find new books for myself…and I haven’t!  I’ve tried a few and read a couple.  I’m excited when I do find one I like, but I’m more excited that the library seems to be genuinely serving a community need.

7. Regrets?

Apart from the small physical size and the ego hurt that people don’t like my choices of books, my only regret is I never hear from anyone that they like it, or chat with anyone about the books they’ve chosen.  But the turnover makes it clear that there is a regular clientele.  Books come and go.  That makes me happy.

THE ENIGMA OF BODIES

Why are we so scared of bodies, of our own skin?

Perceptions of Bodies at Different Ages

A child has no fear or shame for its body.  We laugh at their natural nakedness.  And they are happily naked…until they are told something that makes them embarrassed – usually about their genitals or urinating.  Suddenly, they fear being seen in certain states or places.

A young person goes to the beach and takes most of their clothes off to publicly bathe in the warmth of the sun.  A boy goes topless without thinking, stripping to his one piece shorts.  But woe betide he should wear only his boxer shorts or, worse still, his speedo undies.  A girl covers her breasts and usually wears a two-piece swimming costume.  Woe betide she should wear her underwear instead, even though it might cover more skin.  Often skimpier is better for girls, whereas boys prefer long-legged ‘shorts’, rather like basketball uniforms.  Go figure.

Adults are expected to wear ‘decent’ clothing in public, though individual views of ‘decent’ vary greatly by age, religion, sex, fashion and the weather.  Yet, if we are about to have sex, mostly we want to rip our clothes off as quickly as we can.

But having sex in public open space is strongly discouraged and can even be illegal.  We get embarrassed to see people passionately kissing, let alone actually having consensual sex.  Yet sex is one of the greatest joys of life and it’s not dangerous!

I Like Bodies

I like bodies.  I like them unclothed, though, even being a life drawer  (meaning drawing people without clothes), it’s often a bit contextually embarrassing when seeing a real naked body. We aren’t sure where to look…because we are somehow ashamed or embarrassed by genitalia, bums or breasts. 

But bodies are us!  We come in all shapes and sizes.  If we were more accustomed to seeing naked bodies – like Swedes are with mixed saunas (always naked) or Germans (very matter of fact, rational) – we might worry about them – and our own body – much less. 

Life drawing models are themselves enigmatic about their bodies.  Happily naked during a pose, they rapidly cover up till the next pose.  Why?  We’ve seen everything they have.  They weren’t embarrassed then.  Is it the asymmetrical nature of the class – we have clothes and they don’t? 

Notably, when people do naked art gallery views, naked swimming, naked yoga, naked camping, the embarrassment about bodies disappears very rapidly.  The body just ‘is’. I love drawings or photos of naked people.  Yet, while we happily stare, admire and praise them in an ‘art’ gallery, seeing them being drawn, we seem to retreat to embarrassment.

From my limited experience, swimming naked is a much more sensual experience than normal swimming.  Sunbathing and exercising naked are similar.  When we walked naked from the Swedish sauna to cool off in the sea past some public people, it was initially embarrassing but, as our hosts weren’t embarrassed, why should we be…so we weren’t.

So What’s the Problem?

‘We’ are the problem. People. In general.  People who react inappropriately – smirking, frowning, turning away.   People who are themselves embarrassed.  People who make fun of the unclothed, whether because the naked are perceived to be beautiful or ugly, young or old.  And once it’s happened to you, you don’t want to repeat the experience.  So you put clothes on.

What To Do?

First, we should try to treat bodies as ordinary, normal, regardless of their actual shape, age or sex.  We all have one!  A naked body is no different from a clothed one.  No need to stare, to ridicule, or even to admire (though this is harder to ignore – such a beautiful sight)

Second, we should try to encourage nakedness in society.  It breaks down barriers.  Allow people to experiment with nakedness, become more comfortable with it.  Evidence suggests people become more confident about their own body and enjoy the activity more when they are naked!  Encourage naked exercise sessions, swimming, yoga, art gallery, theatre, whatever, at least in closed sessions.   

Third, remove naked actions (eg streakers, stripping) from being legal offences.  Take the shock element out of it and it will vanish! 

How much better that we have too much nakedness, too much of our own bodies, and much less war, guns and violence.  Make love, not war.

COVID CONTRADICTIONS IN MELBOURNE: I’M ANGRY

I’m angry and frustrated.  After 8 weeks of hard lockdown, which followed 4 weeks of significant lockdown, finally – yesterday – restrictions were ‘eased’.  But so limited are the changes, and so full of contradictions, with another 3 weeks before anything else happens, it’s very depressing.

The ‘Easing’ of Restrictions

So, with average case numbers down to around 15 a day, a 14 day average of 25 (against a target range of 30-50), very few community transmissions, here are the generous ‘easing’s:

  • No curfew (no justification was ever given for this anyway)
  • Up to 5 people from 2 families can gather outside  (previously 3)
  • Childcare to resume without permits (previously only certain ‘essential’ people)
  • Personal training for groups of up to two participants
  • Garden maintenance services
  • Outdoor swimming in pools
  • In-home childminding allowed for all
  • Dentists can resume non-urgent work (previously urgent only)

All within an unchanged 5km distance from home, and an unchanged 2 hours outside for exercise.

The Current Situation

Almost all daily cases are related to existing clusters.  Most of these cases relate to aged care homes and/or health workers.  We are rarely given the specific information of how many unknown community transmission cases occur, even though this is the main target for future easing.  Yesterday, there was only 1 – yes, only 1 – community transmission case.  There were apparently 31 over the last 14 days (the next target is less than 5 for a 14-day period…).

Most postcodes have zero cases.  Only a few council areas have more than 10 active cases.  In any country or area of the world (except possibly New Zealand, Taiwan and a few others with small populations), Melbourne would be a shining star.  Yet we continue to be treated as if we are criminals, with heavy fines for violations of the rules.

Contradictions in the ‘Easing’

  • If swimming is allowed, why not outdoor sports, such as tennis, golf and cricket (where players are rarely near each other at all)?
  • Why can’t we drive to larger outdoor parks and gardens for exercise?
  • If physios and dentists are operating, why isn’t hairdressing allowed?
  • Why can’t large, well ventilated retail stores, such as Bunnings, Target, Kmart which have good covid track records, open?
  • If builders and maintenance workers can go, why can’t people travel to holiday houses for maintenance (the fridge hasn’t been opened for 6 months…), if they observed the same rules there?
  • Why can’t cyclists cycle further than 5 kms from home (that’s about 15 mins or less for a reasonable cyclist)?

I’m sure there are lots more contradictions you can think of.  There have been lots with every set of new rules, which seem to change every few days.

What is the Government’s Aim Now?

In the first wave, the aim was to ensure the hospital system wasn’t overwhelmed, though this was rarely made explicit.  In the second wave, due to slow decisionmaking, covid almost got away from us.  Fear that this might happen again seems to be driving the current extremely cautious policy ‘easings’, though no one seems too sure what the ‘policy’ is. 

Implicitly it seems the real policy aim is to reach zero cases, as the rest of Australia has reached (more or less, excluding international travel quarantine cases).  If that is the aim, why not state it?  Why state ‘less than 5 community transmissions in a 14 day period’ (and why that level (scientifically speaking)?

Why Am I Angry?

I’m angry for lots of reasons.  Angry, because the government was too slow in getting control of the second wave.  Angry more, because it refused to admit it did anything wrong, and seemed unwilling to learn from its mistakes.  Angry, because the hard lockdown rules have been left in place too long (decisonmaking too slow again).  Angry, because for all the stated stakeholder consultations, the government doesn’t seem to be listening to those who are most affected.  And angry because, when the ‘easing’ has finally arrived, it’s so minimal for most people, it again fails to offer the hope and motivation that could so easily have been offered (decisionmaking too slow yet again!).

Hopefully, we the people will save ourselves.  We’ll act better and get better results and eventually force ‘our’ government to reward us.  But for now, it’s back to Netflix, Zoom and gardening.

THE SOUNDS OF CORONAVIRUS

The Sounds of Coronavirus

Silence.

 

Birds singing

Wings flapping

Magpies warbling

Parrots chattering

 

Silence.

 

Walking people talking

A single car approaching

Children cycling, playing

Neighbours talking, laughing

 

Silence.

 

Zoomers calling

Netflix playing

Facetime showing

Youtube watching

 

Silence.

 

Windy trees whispering

Proud roosters crowing

Happy dogs barking

Handy men sawing

 

Silence.

 

 

 

DEAR ALLAN

You’re an important part of my body, controlling aspects of my airflow.  You used to be so nice, Allan.  You didn’t make a noise when you weren’t wanted.  You could hold the air and then just let it out slowly, noiselessly, in privacy, when I was alone, on my instruction. But about five years ago, you started unexpectedly exploding at the most inopportune times.  Frankly, Allan, we can’t go on this way.
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CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTRALIA: DO THE FACTS JUSTIFY THE ACTIONS?

We are all very concerned about the spread of CV, the overall risk to us and the chance of personally dying.   Information from the Department of Health’s reporting (health.gov.au – coronavirus current statistics), as opposed to the media and pictures you get, show that the real story is significantly different from people’s fears.  Do the facts justify the current set of actions?  What should be/should have been done?Read More »

The BENEFITS of Coronavirus (No. 2)

Two weeks in self-isolation now, it’s interesting to reflect on the BENEFITS we’re getting from CV (why has no one else abbreviated it to this yet…?).

Written at the start of self-isolation, my previous blog (‘The BENEFITS of Coronavirus’) written at the start outlined several benefits – reduction in global carbon emissions, technology innovation, re-discovering old skills, undertaking new skills, completing projects you had been putting off.  Here are some more benefits that have emerged after two weeks of personal experiences.Read More »