Isolation days 17 & 18

This post covers Sunday 5th & Monday 6th April. I wrote the part covering 5th April on the day, but didn’t post it. I didn’t want to discard it, so I am doing effectively a double post in one.

Day 17

For most of my devoted readership, today marks the end of daylight saving. I find this is a day that always gives me a little lift; the morning have been so dark for weeks. I was up early this morning and adjusted the clocks. In previous years, this seemed to take quite a while, and required consulting the instruction manuals for several appliances. There are still four clocks which need to be reset manually:

  1. the  one in the microwave;
  2. the one in the convection oven immediately below it;
  3. the alarm clock in the second bedroom; and
  4. the LED travel clock in the master bedroom.

The time display in the kitchen speaker resets itself automatically, as do the internal clocks in our phones, tablets, and laptop, and the all-important one in the Blu-Ray recorder. (I always do a dummy recording just to check that this has reset itself to the correct time; otherwise all the programs I have set up to record, don’t.)

Remember the old clock radios? I found them either too noisy or too bright. I had one in the 70s which had a drop-leaf time display; I used to lie there waiting for each minute to tick over. The newer ones with an LED display were silent, but they would light up the room. The best alarm for me is the one that is part of my fitness tracker. (This doesn’t ring, but vibrates.)

I have read a few things recently about the value of having a daily routine in isolation. Someone who practices this is the American author Vivian Gornick, who is 85 and walks “two or three” miles a day. She describes her daily routine in the NYR Daily:

I work in the morning, walk in the early afternoon, read for four hours in the late afternoon, make a little supper, watch television for two or three hours, go to bed. The part of that schedule that sustains me is the four hours of reading. Then the world disappears, my distraction evaporates, I am wholly at peace, and end up feeling something necessary for survival: refreshed.

(Apologies for cross posting. NB: the link above points to the main NYR Daily site. The information in the quote  was contained in their weekly newsletter, for which one can register from the New York Review of Books site. This registration is free. The good NYR Daily even seems to make its archives freely available in full text, even to hoi polloi like me. .)

I envy Vivian the time she sets aside to read. I am a bit short on p-books that I feel up to reading, but the e-books from our local library are not a bad substitute. Too much screen time, though, is definitely a bad thing for my sleep.

We have evolved a sort of routine. The mornings are a good time to put a load or two of washing on, giving it a chance to get dry over the day. We are both more energetic at this time of day, so it makes sense also to schedule a walk after breakfast. (I recommend this, even when you mightn’t feel like it.) When we return it is time for a bit more to eat and a coffee. After this, I often do some writing, or play some music. After lunch we might watch a show, recorded or streamed, or read for a bit. I tend to get sleepy around two-ish; unfortunately, this seldom translates into much actual sleep. Either way, I get a bit of a second wind in the late afternoon, and this can be an opportunity to do a couple of small tasks before cooking dinner. (My exercise class on Tuesdays and Thursdays are my the only regular appointments; fortunately these occur on the morning of each day.)

I saw the other day that Bruce Dawe had died. It is not every Australian poet whose passing makes it into the newspapers. That his was so noted says something about the accessibility of his work, the exposure this received through being featured in school syllabi, and the sheer length of his career. I haven’t read much of him, but I liked the obituary in The Conversation ; this mentioned the blending of the lyrical with the colloquial, together with its bravery, wit, and sensitivity. It also spoke of his commitment to

 poetry’s place as a voice for, about, and from life as it’s lived by the most desperate and the most ordinary of us.

Five of what turned out to be his early poems are reproduced in The Penguin Book of Australian Verse, published in 1972. By this time Dawe was in his early forties, less than half way along his allotted span. The poems that get a guernsey in that collection include “Life Cycle”, about the Victorian Football League, as it was then, and the hereditary aspect of supporting a football team in Melbourne. (Dawe was born in Fitzroy.)  I remember going to a reading in Sydney in the 1970s, which featured him and Les Murray. The poem he read was “Drifters”, one from his first published collection. It appears below.

One day soon he’ll tell her it’s time to start packing

and the kids will yell ‘Truly?’ and get wildly excited for no reason

and the brown kelpie pup will start dashing about, tripping everyone up

and she’ll go out to the vegetable patch and pick all the green tomatoes from the vines

and notice how the oldest girl is close to tears because she was happy here,

and how the youngest girl is beaming because she wasn’t.

And the first thing she’ll put on the trailer will be the bottling-set she never unpacked from Grovedale,

and when the loaded ute bumps down the drive past the blackberry canes with their last shrivelled fruit,

she won’t even ask why they’re leaving this time, or where they’re headed for

she’ll only remember how, when they came here

she held out her hands, bright with berries,

the first of the season, and said:

‘Make a wish, Tom, make a wish.’

[I took this text from Yahoo! Answers . I looked at a few online versions; most of them make a dog’s breakfast of the line breaks. I hope this example preserves his intentions; I don’t have a hard copy version to check.]

Day 18

Incredibly, it is a fortnight since our last expedition to the Dandenongs. The motive for this expedition was the same, that is, quitting the premises for the morning in order to give our cleaning lady an open go. I also wanted to give the GT a run on the open road. A trip to the mountains fulfilled both objectives.

Before we set off on this hike, we walked up to Wattle Park, then set off on our drive. (As Dad would have said — on our way!) The route was the reverse of that which we took last time, i.e. we headed along Canterbury Road, and turned off toward Mount Dandenong. We had intended to stop at Olinda, but I turned off slightly short of that: my bad, but it didn’t matter. There was a cafe wherever we ended up, and my beloved hopped out and got us a couple of coffees. We consumed these in the car, then returned via Burwood Highway, enjoying its 70 and 80 kilometres an hour stretches. 

While in durance vile, it occurred to me that to memorise the phonetic alphabet would be a useful thing to do. (I am forever having to spell out my family name.) According to Wikipedia, NATO’s is the most widely accepted phonetic alphabet. It has other names as well: “It is officially the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, and also commonly known as the ICAO phonetic alphabet, with a variation officially known as the ITU phonetic alphabet and figure code.” Oskar Kilo! I had come across this alphabet ages ago, when a shift librarian at the RMIT Business Library. We were required to carry a walkie-talkie, and sign on and off at the beginning and end of each night shift.

Even longer ago, Dad told me a slightly schoolboy-humour anecdote about Sir Vivian Fuchs’ radio call sign. This gentleman participated in many expeditions, including a series of British explorations of Antarctica in the 1960s. It was at this time that he visited Australia. According to Dad, his radio call sign then was “Romeo Fox Juliet” — ideally rendered in an American accent. (Maybe “Fox” for the letter “F” was one of the variants mentioned above. Nowadays it would be “Foxtrot” — but don’t let me spoil the story.) 

Journalists and/or subeditors were naturally also alive to the comic possibilities of Sir Vivian’s family name. For many years we had a book of newspaper misprints, featuring a couple of headlines which exploited these possibilities: “DR FUCHS OFF!” and “DR FUCHS OFF AGAIN!”. I suspect many more people remember these headlines than they do Sir Vivian’s exploits. The latter must have agreed with him — he only pegged out in 1999.


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