To Engage or Not to Engage …

The last six months have been, not to put a fine point to it, extremely strange. And things are still not looking to get too much better. Each morning as my online news notifications arrive and I click on the various items, (yet, I no longer read printed news … sadly), I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or just bury my head in the sand. Although the latter is very tempting.

We will pass right by the bushfires, although they are still heavily impacting our local area, and the luck Australia has had with the Covid-19 pandemic, and go to two things that are currently causing much debate; Black Lives Matter and Economic recovery.

When the posts began after the death of George Floyd, I remember my first FB comment was to suggest we should also look at Australia because we had a terrible record with deaths in custody. Four days later that issue flared up here as a result of the US demonstrations. And rightly so. It’s time we forgot about the colour of skin, whether people move about with the same agility or need assistance, their age or religion, or whether they have the same inherent skills or not either mentally or physically … They Are People and they deserve an equal share of everything; respect, access to education, health and a fair go by those in power like police and, dare I say it, politicians and governments.

I believe myself to be unbiased. I have very close friends and family who could be put in the categories above but I simply don’t see it that way. They are friends and family, people I care about and I hate it when they tell me they are being bullied, or held back or not listened to because of some perceived negative characteristic. I read the stories of FB about ordinary Americans suddenly thinking to ask a person of colour what it is like for them and finding they are horrified at what they hear. It is good this is happening yet it is 2020 – I remember the Black Panthers and hearing Martin Luther King and the LA riots in the 70’s and 80’s and here we are again after nearly half a century. Are we able to do something about it now? And here, in Australia with our First Nation people? Death in Custody Royal Commission is more than 30 years ago too. It Is TIME!

And then the next thing I’m reading in the news here in Australia is that the Federal and State governments are working to get the economy going again. But the Federal government is giving money to those who already have it. WTF!!! Instead of building public housing for the underprivilaged, insuring they get access to education and child care so they CAN find jobs and keep them and thus pay tax to the government – no they give money to those who are already extending and who are earning over $70,000 per annum. Really??? What about public building project that enhance the nation, getting the TAFE systems going again properly, working to get this country going on renewables which, it is estimated, will create nearly 300,000 jobs – Nah! we will give money to the gas and coal industries and kill the planet some more.

I’m sure you are getting a sense of my frustration. And if you are reading this, I don’t think I’m Robinson Crusoe either.

I have written emails to Members of both State and Federal Parliaments to see if they will listen to reason, and as soon as possible, I will be back standing on street corners with a placard asking for Climate Action.

Here we have, due to the pandemic, a once is a livetime opportunity to change things and do it right, and the duds in charge are going back to their old ways.

I’m still waiting for the revolution and a leader. And I have a deep suspicion, one, or maybe both, are on the way. I can only hope (as I don’t pray).

So, to answer my question in the heading to this tirade – I will engage. Not to do so, despite the overload of frustration and anger, would be against all my principles. I will not stick my head in the sand and delete the daily news emails. I will do what I can because otherwise how could I call myself a caring human.

Reflections on Hope

Here it is, Sunday 31 May 2020. The last six months have been testing for everyone, worldwide. Most years in this lucky country of Australia where most of us are free from war and famine, I have friends or acquaintances noting around the start of a new year what short of year it has been – good or bad. Last New Year several of my friends said that 2019 was their “annis horribilis.” Looking back on the last six months I feel safe to say 2020 is going to be that way for most of us and to varying degrees. Too many friends and acquaintances have lost homes and livelihoods.

Emotionally, I suspect most of us have been on a bit of a roller coaster – some on steeper curves and swirls than others. I, like many, have had to get on top of Zoom and then help out friends after a writer friend of mine gave me a start (thanks Laura!). Also, again I’m lucky because, being retired, being home everyday was not unusual. What I missed most were my grand-kids, hugs and face to face time with friends.

Technology certainly made this lockdown easier. Facetime and Zoom were useful and the mobile phone calls were much more than usual. But there is nothing like seeing people you care about in the flesh, shaking their hand, hugging. That physical presence and touching was something I missed more than anything.

Personally, between the events in the USA where racism is being stoked by it’s leader and people dying of Covid-19 because of political indifference, Europe where things started out a bit late, now in the less well-off countries where there is little people can do to avoid the epidemic, I’ve had to stop reading each news item. Even here in Australia, where we have an opportunity to make a real change and lead the way in world events on climate and economic change that is desperately required, we have a government that is still in the grip of the coal and big business lobby. Yet they managed the Covid-19 with quick response and some success. They are able, just not willing if it is not in their interest.

I watched a move with Ethan Hawk called “First Reformed,” in which he plays a pastor who is confronted by the precarious state of the Earth when ministering to a parishioner. His reactions to that and to facing his own mortality, made me think. The concerns outlined in the script are those that are increasingly with us today – pollution of the seas, death and extinction of many species and deadly weather events. And this was made in 2017. Now we add pandemic to the list.

It is true to say that I have been on the verge of depression. The feeling that there are these huge issues that MUST be addressed and yet here I am, along with many, many others, knowing this needs to be done and seeing those who CAN do something, so focused on their own wealth and well-being instead.

I can understand when people opt out. It’s too hard. I’m only one person and I don’t make an iota of difference. Then you see the African Americans rioting for rights they should have had all along, which were given and are now being ignored and taken away. They’ve lived as second class citizens in their own country for hundreds of years. It’s too much to have the white President egging on hate. No wonder they are taking to the streets. They have been left no choice if they are to survive.

So maybe we, the silent majority in Australia, should take to the streets – join in peaceful protest now that we can congregate even in small numbers. But who will organise this? Do I have the energy left to do it? Probably not, to my eternal disappointment. I endlessly hope that is someone out there with the energy, like Greta Thunberg, will get up and start a movement here in Oz. I will go out and stand on street corners, in front of council or parliament buildings with signs and protest. I will subscribe to civil disobedience and take the consequences. But I have no idea of how to begin setting this up nor do I have the personality and drive to make it a success. I know my limitations unfortunately.

I remember the Vietnam protests in the 70’s and how successful the moratorium was. It was spearheaded by Jim Cairns, a charismatic politician of the left, as well as high profile journalists and musicians across Australia. We need another to rally behind so we can again lead the way in climate action, environmental protection and human rights.

I believe the “silent majority” in Australia are waiting for a real leader. But there is no-one brave enough or committed enough to put their head above the parapet, to take a stand that the average Australian can rally behind.

After six months of disasters with more in our future, with extinction of species in Australia reaching beyond crisis point, with the Great Barrier Reef dying, with a severe economic downturn and depression in our very near future, our current processes and so-called leaders are incapable of doing the right thing. They make photo ops to make themselves look good then pander the the coal and gas lobby.

I hope beyond hope, that there is someone out there who is willing, and more importantly, able, to stand up and be seen: to lead in the Earth’s time of need here in Australia. The Climate Council and Emergency Leaders for Bushfire Response are working hard to achieve a positive result. There are people out there. But we don’t have a focal point … yet.

It’s a Strange World

Last year my husband and I were lucky enough to spend several months travelling Australia. Although many places, nearly all should I say, were drought stricken, the small towns we stopped at all through Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland were still making a go of things. Australian’s always seem to find somthing to be positive about.

For example, in Boomi, NSW, about 728 kms north west of Sydney, just below the Queensland border was as dry as the proverbial camel’s backside. Yet it has the most delightful artesian spa. Many travellers stop for several days at a time to partake of the hot springs, taking at least one dinner at the pub and enjoying lots of chats in the spa. The community of Boomi own and run the spa and it keeps the town on the map and viable even during the driest of droughts.

We also trekked to Streaky Bay on the western side of the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. After a delightful week fishing and catching up with family, we returned via Port Augusta. There we were camped next to a couple from Dortmund in Germany who had just completed the trip from Darwin via Uluru and Kings Canyon. We chatted as everyone does and the following day we went on our way.

Ten days later, in the Clare Valley wine region of South Australia, in a delightful town of Auburn, we again came across our German tourists. This time we got to know eachother better. They advised they would be back in 2020 and coming up the east coast of Australia. They would drop in. Great we replied.

And you guessed it, they arrived the day before lockdown. It was already clear that things were taking a turn for the worst with Covid-19 outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne. Our guests now had nowhere to go as campsites were closed and they, initially headed for Cairns, could not take their camper further.

So, what for everyone else was a bit of a shock and horror, here we were, with guests who had no idea when or even if, they could get back to Germany.

As the first week eventuated and things got tighter and tighter, yet we were still able to walk along our local beach, over local headlands and get takeaway coffee’s from the Boatshed (exercise of course). They had to go to Canberra to the German embassy, (which turned out to be closed when we got there) so we took the scenic route via Larry’s Mountain road and Araluen. As we were technically a family living in one house, we thought it legit.

We all remained well but the pressure to get back to Germany began to increase during the second week for our guests. The Australian Govenrment wasn’t having anything to do with repatriation flights and it took the German Government a while to get things organised. There were thousands of German tourists all over Australia and New Zealand. Eventually our guests got away very early last Monday (6 April 2020) and arrived back in Dortmund, very tired and jet lagged, some 40 hours later. Their flight hand no entertainment, no coffee or tea and only minimal rations. Luckily they packed a bag with goodies before they left.

So, we have been so busy during the first two weeks of lockdown, we’ve hardly noticed it. Not out much except to get excercise, yet still being able to show off our lovely coastline with exercise walks in the sun and wind.

As soon as we were again alone, hubby and I began the erection of the new shed, the replacement for the one we lost in the fires. Three days of manhandling sheets of thin metal and luckily, excellent instructions, and we got it up. Hubby spent the next two days putting in screws and making it watertight. Now he is out there hooking up the new water tank (another fire loss).

I think our house is like many others in this odd and troublesome time; getting all the long outstanding jobs done and dusted. I even had a short story published in a local online newspaper. https://www.beagleweekly.com.au/post/the-beagle-covid-19-lockdown-writing-competition-christmas-comes-but-once-a-year

For our little household, now just the two of us and our two old rough coated Jack Russell/Iris Terrier crosses, Jack and Russell, it is very quiet. Our German friends advised they are fine with no nasty symptoms now they are home in Germany. They are also in lockdown there but can find forrest walks that are nearly deserted to maintain their exercise regime. We maintain our Pilates, do odd jobs, housework and I am writing more than ever.

There is a bright side to being kept in lockdown. We just have to look for it. I feel for all those parents who are having to keep kids entertained without parks, outside friends and entertainment venues.

For any of you who might read this, I hope you are all finding ways to get through this strange time. It is clear our world won’t be the same one we left on New Year’s Eve 2019. The drought, the fires, now Covid-19 and possibly a depression after all this and 2020 is ‘Annis Horriblis’ for every single one of us.

Stay well.

Diseases/Epidemics – Then and Now

It’s official, the world has turned upside down.

I’m a baby boomer. Over my lifetime I have often pondered how lucky I’ve been. History has always facinated me and I tend to look back at previous era’s and identify the living conditions – some good but more often less than I’ve become used to – city fires always a threat, plagues and simple colds that could kill. I’ve seen articles by an academic suggesting Shakespear wrote King Lear while self-isolating from the plague. There was cholera and disentry from water and food contamination and tetanus etc etc. Most of these are unknown by 1st world countries like Australia during my lifetime.

As a child in Europe I survived chicken pox, whooping cough, both types of measled before the age of five. When I arrived in Australia I was unlucky enough to catch viral meningitis. My Dad managed to save me by lugging huge ice block from the factory three streets away and chipping them in the bath tub. Then he would carry me into it and keep my temperature down. It took three days. I survived with no brain damage (although some might dispute that *chuckle*)

In a mere sixty years, better science and health care, antibiotics and, most importantly, vaccinations, could and have kept children safe from many of those diseases. Colds and other upper respiratory infections are common and we live with them. Influenza is around but with vaccinations is generally of mild concern only.

We have been lucky. Up until now.

It is significant how much we feel protected in that, even this morning, people were still socialising – kids swimming and adults having coffee. Most managed a bit of distance but not the 1.5 – 2 meters recommended. The shop provided hand sanitiser and I noted excellent cleanliness. Still, with no cases locally identified yet, I think it is a false safety. I stayed the required distance, smiled and used the sanitiser. I felt a bit out of place doing that.

But all this talk of keeping safe set off a few memories from childhood; things long burried. As an only child I had several friends in the street I played with often. Everytime any one of us got sick, I clearly remember my mother keeping me at home and making time to play with me. In hindsight, most kids were also kept home as these illnesses spread like wildfire. Mum, who worked and had to take leave, kept me entertained while I was infectious, until I was free of symptoms. I learned basic knitting and crochet skills by the age of five and could play a mean game of 7’s – a canasta type of card game.

We didn’t have television but we did listen to the radio. Otherwise it was what you could manufacture for fun yourself. Building blocks, dolls, reading and story telling all were exciting things to do. I was allowed to help cook (peel potato’s and carrots), help wring the washing (no machines then). I had my own broom and dust pan and would help Mum clean. Can’t imagine now why I found that so much fun, but I did.

And I remember seeing several childhood friends who’d died from various diseases. Everyone, including children, went to a viewing before the funeral. Death was part of life. It stood me in good stead all these years.

It’s so different now. I understood at an early age that life was fleeting. I worry at how my grandchildren are going to cope as they rarely have anything to do with death – it’s kept from them for it might frighten them. They suffer from glue ear and have to have grommets put in under anesthetic but they don’t see friends die from illness – most have been vaccinated. Of course, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. It’s just different. But I don’t know how they will cope. All I can say is that children understand more than parents think they will. The truth is always best. Kids worry if they feel they’re being lied to but if you give them the facts – even 3-4 year olds will understand.

So the world has turned. A nasty virus is on it’s way to very many of us. Most of us will survive – some of us won’t.

Despite all the above, I count myself lucky to have lived for so many years in peace and safety. That I have a wonderful family who now have to come to terms with this virus and all it entails is saddening.

And then I get a telephone call from my daughter, an email from close friends and a request for a Skype chat from another friend. We can stay in contact so much better now. Isolation is only physical – unlike when I was small because it meant no contact whatsoever for Mum and me – with the exception of Dad of course. And they had already been throught the illnesses and had immunity.

Despite everything, I’m still feeling lucky. Even though the world has gone a little crazy.

PHOTO FROM: https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3101/3093761613_26eed9eacf_z.jpg?zz=1

“May You Live In Interesting Times”

When life takes a turn for the difficult, I’ve often heard people say, “I must have been cursed.” Of course, modern society doesn’t really believe in curses unless it is a verbal spray of nasty language. That said, I recall my mother often saying that the old curse, “May you live in interesting times,” did seem to have some validity.

Everyone can see that on the surface this might be a nice thing to say to someone. We deem ‘interesting’ as a good thing. Yet this curse intends anything but ‘nice.’ And so, I currently believe we are living through those ‘interesting times.’

I started this blog bemoaning the bushfires and what had happened to our little corner of the world. Then I watched as floods wreaked havoc to places around New South Wales. We’d already spent years in drought, on water restrictions and now various places had an over-abundance of water.

Add to that, we are now having to come to terms with Covid-19 and what that means. And I am not alone in thinking it’s only the beginning of a much worse situation. Yet, speaking to friends, aquaintances and just people around in the shops when looking at empty toilet paper shelves, there seems to still be a modicum of hope.

Each day I read the online news from feeds I’m pretty sure will give me the up to date correct facts (these can be hard to find). I’ve stopped watching television news. The tiny sounds bites give sensationalism and little to none of what you need to know. Don’t even mention politicians.

Our area of the South Coast of NSW, the Eurobodalla Shire, has suffered economic downturn due to the fires. Just as people and tourists were coming back we are asked to self-isolate. We have the highest percentage of people over 60 in NSW, the lowest ratio of children at school and 48% of what’s left in the workforce are casual workers. This new threat is going to hit hard.

The thing I’ve noticed so far is that everyone is talking about the craziness of the toilet paper debacle but few are actually thinking about the impact on themselves. I think we are all trying NOT to think about if the virus hits any of us over 60’s. The pared down Health System that successive Liberal governments have managed is in no shape to deal with us if things get bad. There are simply not enough ventilators so triage is going to be the young first.

It’s starting to feel like times in my youth when I still lived in the after-math of war-torn Europe – no real health services, rationing, limited travel – sound familiar? At least the 50’s and 60’s in Australia taught me that you don’t need luxurious toilet paper nor ready made foods. As someone mentioned in a meme recently, Mr Murdoch and his press provide plenty of reserves for the former – just cut into little squares – and Australia has plenty of fresh food to replace the latter. One can always start a garden.

Unfortunately, no-one can quickly up-scale the health systems. Nor, with the current government, does it look like they will help those most in need – those on government pensions/job start. Also those with no jobs or those who work several part-time jobs will find it difficult as they are likely to be the first to be let go. Big business doesn’t care and small business can’t survive keeping on employees when there is no work.

Oh where is the social welfare system when it’s really needed. Oh yeah, sold off to private industry and dismantled *head slap*.

On a brighter note as I sign off, at least relatives and friends are staying positive. We will have to just battle on for ourselves and again become the “Little Aussie Battlers” – no matter our country of origin.

May interesting times please become less interesting and more predictable – I for one don’t mind a bit of chaos, but this is just a little too much thanks :-(.

PHOTO FROM: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/mcRCjYy08_s/maxresdefault

Ruminations on ‘The Ides of March’

At school, despite the fact that I often failed the exams, I loved learning Latin. A history buff even then, I delighted in Roman history which I was luckily quite good at and made up for in grades. I love the Ides of March. The Ides is the 15th of March, May, July and October in the Roman calendar – for the other months it was actually the 13th of the month. It’s an interesting date because it is know as the day Caesar was murdered in the Roman Senate. Then, as now, March is a month of festivals in Rome – during the Imperial period Rome hosted religious festivals during March.

In terms of the Ides of March this year, we have had to live through serious bush fires that were followed by floods and now we have the spread of Covid-19. The news this weekend has been full of politicians et al with travel restrictions and health warnings.

Anyone who has had a Christian upbrining will recognise the portents of the biblical apocalypse. You could be forgiven for looking at things currently happening in a very dark and pessimistic way. Yet, over the past 100 years the human race has survived many nasty times periods – two world wars, flu pandemics, the cold war (nuclear destruction) ebola virus, SARs etc. etc. So I’m convinced that we are not about to go up in flames as a race or even as a planet – at least nor for a while yet. Unless of course there is a comet I’m not aware of but let’s not buy trouble.

Still, here we are at the Ides of March and we have all these things that are roiling around making people afraid and stressed. In an effort to learn as much as I can I look to scientific research of which there is much creditable information available on the internet. What I have found are many calm voices out there who say that Covid-19 is a virus that will likely affect many of us. But unless we have immune issues, lung or heart problems, especially if we are elderly with those issues, we will likely survive it.

It makes me wonder about the factor that the media play in the worry and panic Covid-19 has engendered. The whole toilet paper debacle in Australia for example. The media have a social contract to provide information to the public. But I worry about the veracity of information provided by much of the world media. The 24 hour news cycle needs constant hype to keep it going and what better to work into a frenzy than a new and infectious virus.

I’m not saying that we should sit back and do nothing. Follow the advice and wash hands, sneeze and cough responsibly and isolate if necessary. However, it seems many have the virus with few or very mild symptoms – and it’s becoming clear that children between 0-9 may not be badly affected – there seems to have been no recorded deaths from the virus in that age group. And for those who are diagnosed (i.e. tested) there are many out here that have it but don’t know and will not know because symptoms can be quite mild. They are only different to the flu or common cold in that they start with a sore throat and a cough and fever (most often).

I do find the whole news hype not only annoying but misleading. Many, but not all, of the newspapers and television news seem to provide snippets with dire warnings that do nothing to provide the truth. They focus on the places where things seems to be worse without putting it into context of population profiles. They extrapolate this to put out the worst possible scenario.

So, like I suspect many people, I sit at my computer and find reputable science articles that provide a calm and reassuring explanation. Yes, I might get Covid-19 and I may be unwell. Yes, there are currently no vaccine nor drugs (anti-virals or otherwise) to treat it. But the virus has been sequenced (in Australia first), and organisations both academic/research and private are working toward finding a treatment.

It will not be the end of the world. We will be sad if we are one of the few who are badly affected by this virus, or we have a relative or friend who is. But the annual flu round is also coming and is hayfever and the common cold. And the last of these has no treatment either.

So for this Ides of March, I choose to be calm, take useful precautions and thank my lucky stars I’m living in 2020 and not 100BCE where there were no treatments for the horrible plagues that afflicted the world – ones much, much worse than Covid-19.

As a side note, last Friday was the 13th of March – what we think of as a Black Friday these days. Now I’m not really superstitious but I often remark that I really must be a witch because I always seem to have good luck on any Friday 13th. I have no problem when black cats cross my path either (chuckley quietly). This Friday was no exception. Several pieces of good new from insurance companies and repairs on our scorched house made it a great day.

So may calm and peace reward you with a strong immunce system.

When Writers Get Together

Like many writers/authors, I am a member of a writing group – the Eurobodalla Fellowship of Australian Writers. There are two groups; one meets during the day and the other at night. The two groups have similar ideals but work toward them in different ways.

Our evening group is made up of a different demographic due to the fact that people who work are able to come. We have teachers, a doctor, a psychologist, a psychiatric nurse, a retired IT manager and trance medium/health advocate and property owners. It makes for very interesting discussions.

Our meeting last night started out as any other, with critiques of short stories or chapters of books that were sent to participants a fortnight before the meeting. But instead of the agenda topics that were to be discussed after, and, as many local groups have found, the bushfires became a topic because one story focussed on survival when faced with difficult health issues.

Over the course of the hour and a half that followed, we heard stories from parents with children watching as the fires decended while they stood helpless on a beach, listened to those with damage to property and those with asthma who spent weeks simply trying to breath. Others who found that not having any way out was scary, tales from those with family and close friends working on the firefront and the feelings of survivors guilt.

Yet as the evening wore on, funny stories began to emerge and we let go of the sadness and giggled and laughed. It was very healthy really.

As a result the group decided to put together a novella with bushfire tales – ones with optimistic outlooks despite the fear and destruction. Bushfires and Vegemite Sandwiches will come together over the next few months under the Secret Society of Words Publishing banner. It is intended to be both cathartic and a record of experiences during the “lost summer.”

Today it is raining – good solid rain. As the picture above shows, two moths after the devastation, at least the bush is beginning to come back. Birds are squablling over territory and some bugs are around. But it will take a long time for the wildlife to reestablish. The rain and regrowth will help.

Bushfire Grief

This morning I’m going to join members of Extinction Rebellion and the Climate Choir at Rosedale for a Grief Ceremony. This is where so many homes were lost. We will sing and respectfully work together to accept our grief and the sadness caused by these horrible fires.

Personally, there is a deep anger at governments in our country who ignored warnings that began as early as the 1970’s and were strongly repeated in the 1990’s and again early this century. They are still sticking their heads in the proverbial sand.

But one can’t live with anger without it destroying. So I am going to this Grief Ceremony. And I will continue to agitate locally and, where possible in capital centres, for action.

I began working for the environment in the early 1990’s when I became aware of the problem. It has been an up and down journey with some political parties making a good go at trying to achieve carbon reduction but mostly, with conservative governments backing big business and ignoring it.

So I must let the anger go. I must focus on what I can do. I have grandchildren who will look back and blame us for sitting on our hands and letting this happen. I don’t want to be part of the problem but part of the solution.

Welcome

Welcome to my website and blog. Although I’m not a daily blogger I have a lot of interests beside my writing. For example, I’m very interested in getting governments at all levels to declare a climate emergency.

The past three months have been an expected wake up call for what is happening with our climate. Personally affected by the bushfires, with acquaintances who have lost everything, and despite the fact that I’ve been trying to fight for the environment since the early 1990’s, we find we have to fight to get anything done.

While this is very important on a national and global scale, for me personally it is getting back to normal so I can focus on my writing again. As such, with the insurance companies having come to the party, thank goodness, I have edited my manuscript and am looking for an agent. I understand that this is going to be difficult but, like all writers, I live in hope and learn from rejection.

I hope that you will come and join me here, make comments and just hang out.

Update: April 2020. I wrote this prior to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Normal is still not happening and won’t for a while. It seems the enviroment, our world, is having a say about the way we are treating it – we need to listen. There are many possibilities coming from the state of this world at the moment – both in health, politically and environmentally. Let’s all hope we, individuals and governments, can learn the lesson.