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.

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.