Isolation day 26

  • Better night’s sleep, thank goodness. Only 6 hours 11 minutes, but 1 hour 11 of deep sleep; relatively quite good.
  • We went for a walk this morning. I had been thinking about an alt route to the one we usually do. This worked very well, and was also longer than usual. (I have done 9,300-odd steps, about 6.7 kilometres.) On our way back we bought a couple of takeaway coffees on our way home, from a local cafe next to a little park, where we sat and drank them. The sun even came out, in rather mingy Melbourne fashion.
  • When we got back I made salmon patties for lunch. My beloved was hungry, and didn’t want to wait for those, so heated up some leftovers from the freezer. This filled her up, so she didn’t want any lunch. I had a couple of the patties with some burrito and a piece of toast left over from breakfast.
  • After lunch I listened to most of an MSO concert on ABC Classic. This was one which the orchestra played to an empty Hamer Hall; apparently over two thousand people registered to listen to it, greater than the capacity of the hall. The program was a work by Deborah Cheetham, the Schelomo rhapsody for cello and orchestra by Bloch, and Scheherezade. The Rimsky was very well done, with a fine concertmaster solo from Dale Barltrop, the MSO co-concertmaster. Gee, they are a good orchestra; all stood down for the duration, poor things. (You can stream this concert from the ABC Classic web site for a few weeks.)
  • After the third movement of the Rimsky I wondered if my subwoofer was working correctly. I had bought my speaker set (Dali Ikon 2, Mk. 2) from the Brotherhood store in Camberwell Junction about four years ago. They had come with no manuals, of course, but I subsequently found one online for the subbie, and printed it out. It was this that I consulted this afternoon. The manual had such a miniscule illustration of the control panel that I had to get out my big magnifying glass to read it. Of course this panel is tucked away at the back of the speaker, so the direction in which the knobs turned was reversed from the illustration. I think I improved the set-up.
  • Meanwhile my beloved was doing some work at her workstation. After that she went to meet a friend at the park at the end of our street.
  • It was quite a sunny morning, so I optimistically changed over our towels, washed the old set, and hung them out on the clothesline. They didn’t dry notably; it was really quite still, and the sun became very elusive. So I dragged the towels back inside and chucked them in the dryer. At least they are all dry now.
  • I have left my beloved watching The Little Drummer Girl for the second time on SBS On Demand. We have had quite a retro German wallow with that and Deutschland. Looking forward to a new Mystery Road on ABC TV tomorrow night.

Isolation day 25

It’s been a lot of fun for me to be writing all this stuff. Doing the more regular posts seems to have shaken a few things loose in the literary brain. However, apart from a few poems, I’m not getting much other writing done, and I need to put in more time here.

Now that we are more used to how the days are going to go, as well, things are more routine. So from now on, until the end of the isolation, I will put these updates in point form.

  • Yesterday I played one of the Super Audio CDs from the Mariss Jansons set with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra — the 5th Symphony of Mahler. I really enjoyed this reading. The SACD recording has a noticeably wider dynamic range over a regular CD — the bass drum has a real thump. All the wind solos are amazingly well balanced against the orchestra — a Janssons specialty. The famous Adagietto begins with a Mozartian delicacy, but he gets the fiddles to really dig in for the middle theme — quite thrilling.
  • My sleep was pretty crook again. My little device measured the total shuteye at 6 hours 20 minutes, which is not bad. The shortfall, as ever, is the deep sleep — only 46 minutes.
  • My beloved did another solid stint at her workstation — about four hours this morning and a few after lunch. Her work is going to be moving its catalogue and other files to another server, so there is some tidying-up to do in these files  beforehand.
  • While she did that I listened to the radio — there was a Wagner program on 3MBS-FM. This inspired me to haul out our Solti Ring Cycle set and get out the discs which explain the leitmotifs, the short musical motifs which depict characters, concepts and places in The Ring. This is a great time to play through these discs and get an overview of how these devices stitch the cycle together.
  • My main morning activity was cleaning off the boot prints our gardener had left behind on the pavers in the courtyard, following his visit on Wednesday. I did this by first flooding the area with water, giving the marks a gentle scrub with a detergent solution, then doing a final rinse. (These kinds of marks on concrete pavers can become hard to shift, if not gotten onto fairly soon.)
  • We ventured out a while after that to get some groceries and meat. Things were pretty quiet in Middle Camberwell and Maling Road. My beloved did the actual getting as usual. (No doubt people think I am being a total MCP when I stay in the car.) I was reading No friend but the mountains, when there was a thump against the rear bumper bar. I was supposed to be keeping an eye out for her return, but had become engrossed in the book — my bad! (Coincidentally, Behrouz Boochani was describing queuing up for the dining room at the Manus Prison.)
  • Lunch was some brown rice and a burrito bowl. I had made the rice a few days ago and frozen a few portions; the burrito I made yesterday. Basically a vegetable casserole, this had broccoli, celery, tomato, red onion, garlic, red kidney beans, and smoked paprika. (Like most such things  it reheats well, and the ingredients are very flexible. Whatever you use, it is a good way to get one’s veges.) It is meant to be served with avocado and a squeeze of lime juice — I only had the latter. I cooked it in the multi-cooker, so there was only one pot to wash.
  • I thought of some lines for a poem and scribbled these down. I’ll post this when I get a PhD in fiddling around to make the line indents do what I want!
  • I was going to go for a walk with my beloved, but she wanted to finish something off at her workstation. So I went by myself. The weather is quite mild, about 17 degrees, with a nice fresh breeze. I have racked up nearly 6,000 steps, about 4.3 kilometres.
  • It’s wine o’clock!

 

Isolation day 24

I keep meaning to share this gem of science, and forgetting, so I am going to lead with it. The eternal conversation about the superior side on which to hang a toilet roll has definitively been settled. University tests show that having the roll hanging down on the side away from the wall — the “away side” — is the way to go. (This conclusion was reported in Lifehacker; the institution in this case is the University of Colorado. However these findings were published, if they were, they are referred to in the Lifehacker piece only as a “study”. The conclusion does not seem based on empirical evidence — although I might have that the wrong way around.)

Anyway, what was the reasoning behind this recommendation? If the roll is hung on the wall side, there is a greater possibility, when someone tears off a section of the roll, that the hand thus occupied could brush the wall. If that hand is contaminated, bacteria could transfer to the wall. Once there, they could transfer to any hands which brush the wall in future. Seems reasonable! Of course, washing one’s hands after using the toilet — for 20 seconds, as as we all do— would presumably remove any such contamination. However, to avoid a hazard in the first place is usually a good idea. 

This was a day on which a lot of unconnected things happened. One which I was looking forward to was the first ever Zoom meeting of my regular coffee get-together. A couple of people had trouble connecting, particularly for sound. As the person who had blithely suggested we transfer to the digital realm, I felt as if I’d bitten off way more than I could chew. In spite of calling the people affected, nothing I suggested seemed to work. However, the problems resolved themselves. People seemed to enjoy chatting and catching up. Meetings using the free version of Zoom are only supposed to go for forty minutes, but they kindly gave us unlimited time. (No doubt they hope to encourage us to shell out for the full-strength version.) Anyway, the get-together continued for over an hour. As the person who had set up the meeting, it was within my power to bring it to an end. After I finally did so, feeling like a party pooper, a message showed up promising the same largesse if we scheduled the next meeting NOW. I obediently did so.

Coincidentally we also had our gardener over to get rid of of some ivy and clear the gutters. (Social distancing was maintained at all times, and the usual coffee break was foregone.) His arrival preceded the group chat, and overlapped with it. When he had finished, however, I slipped away from the camera for a few minutes to bid him farewell. (I gave him also a packet of muesli bars with which to fuel the rest of his day.) The courtyard now looks presentable, and a hoya plant which had been disappearing from view has at least a fighting chance.)

Interspersed with this was a ring on the doorbell. My Basic Box of groceries, ordered after some humming and haa-ing, had arrived from Woolies. (Actually it was packaged in two boxes — but who’s counting?) This was a decent assortment of pantry staples — pasta, pasta sauce, tinned fruit and fish, a box of oats, jar of jam, and so on. (There were some nice chocolate wafers as well.) The Basic selection will handily supplement the fruit and vegetables we bought this afternoon, and the more specialised groceries that we will get tomorrow.

Throughout all this excitement my beloved kept working away in the meals area. Last night I had the idea that, if she turned her workstation (our dining table) around 180 degrees, she would be warmer on two counts — first, for being closer to the heating vent, and second, without having a glass door at her back. The new location will incidentally have the advantage of a better view, looking through the said glass door onto the courtyard. I was getting ready to carry out this project this morning, when she told me she had already done it — you go, girl! She kept her head down until a break for lunch, followed by a bath and a quick trip in the car to Ashburton for fruit and veges.

On our way back from that modest outing, we had a moment of a kind that only occurs between people who know each other well. We were chatting about my previous trips to Ashburton. On these occasions it was my habit also to browse around some op shops, then go for a coffee and a bun. I acknowledged these last indulgences had been perhaps too frequent for the sake of my silhouette. The discussion then turned to a couple of shirts I had ordered online from a well-known Melbourne gentlemen’s outfitter — during their Easter sale, of course! My beloved observed sensibly that, if I had not ordered the Extra Large size in these garments, I could exchange them for bigger ones. When I had recovered my composure, I was able to assure her that XL had been the size selected.

Isolation day 23

Spoiler alert — some of this post is based on an email. We are all recyclers now!

I have always found Easter a tricky time, somehow. We always used to get to Easter Saturday and think “Okay, so what happens now?”. It’s still challenging, but for new reasons.

Yesterday started out perfectly, with an Easter egg from my beloved. It deteriorated, however, after a couple of culinary implosions. I baked a couple of loaves, from a recipe I have used many times, but they both sagged in the middle. Had we not been watching Deutschland 83 at the time, I might have given them the extra five minutes they probably needed. The rotten things wouldn’t even slice properly. I struck back by putting one loaf in the fridge, to slice up the next morning when it was a bit stale. (This actually worked well; I must remember it for saggy loaves in future.) The second loaf I put in the freezer.

Later, I was cooking lamb shanks for dinner in the pressure cooker. These shanks were about the biggest I had ever seen, and I couldn’t fit them all in the cooker. (I had to reserve one, which I cooked in the wall oven the next day.) At the end of the cooking time, when I opened the pressure cooker vent, a hideous amount of white fatty stuff spewed out. This sprayed all over the tiles, the toaster, kettle and so forth. The cooker must have been a bit full, and the shanks were pretty fatty, so this eruption was fairly undesirable! When I made my toast this morning, the corner was still faintly redolent of lamb shank. I left the top of the cooker soaking in a detergent solution so that the pressure valve wouldn’t be gummed shut.

What made it even worse was that I had cleaned up that very corner of the kitchen a few hours before, after using the pressure cooker to do a batch of chickpeas. (That earlier emission was only steam, but there was rather a lot of it, and it condensed on the benchtop, in the top of the cooker itself.) Over the last few weeks I have been using the cooker as a kind of Swiss Army knife in the kitchen. As well as chick peas and shanks, I use if for rice, various soups, steaming vegetables, and so on. I see I will have to resort to the stovetop and convection oven a bit more.

This morning started out better, scoring a goal in the IT support stakes. Along with her laptop and proper keyboard, my beloved had brought home a huge monitor from work weeks ago. After some experimentation I was able to hook this behemoth up to the laptop. This rig now takes up most of the dining table. I even connected her laptop to our printer, through our wifi. She did a morning’s work, then had a lamb shank, potatoes, and greens. (Yep, the one that wouldn’t fit in last night.) I took the meat off one of last night’s shanks and put it in some vegie soup that I had made a day or so ago. (Yep, in the pressure cooker.)

We watched an episode of Escape to the Chateau while we had that. (The show turned out to be one we had seen before — Channel 9 is putting them to air in seemingly random order.) The day turned out lovely and sunny, but I just felt more and more out of it. My sleep has been disturbed for — a week? two? I really can’t remember. Anyway, my beloved went back to work while I went and slept, only for about 45 minutes. This little sleep was really refreshing, though, and I felt much more positive.

In this vein, I stumbled across a short video on The Guardian by a psychologist, Lea Waters, about how to encourage positive thoughts and feelings. Finding this was fortuitous (and fortunate, in that I was feeling particularly lousy). Anyway, I recommend it. Some of the things she talks about:

  • giving yourself a break from the information overload about the pandemic;
  • making a playlist of songs that have positive emotions or lyrics (OK, I didn’t do this);
  • thinking about times when you were happy (apparently the brain is not good at distinguishing between past and present, and you might fool it into being happy now);
  • looking for things in your situation for which to be grateful; and
  • talking to the people with whom you are in isolation about things that you are enjoying reading, listening to, or doing. 

If this all sounds a bit happy-clappy to you, well, go on enjoying being a misery guts! It’s a free country. I can say, though, that I felt better when I did some of the things mentioned above. A walk with my beloved down to the park was a help, too. I am grateful that I have her to go for a walk with, and told her. And the day stayed sunny. 

All of this emotional stuff is stirring things up creatively, a bit, though. I wrote a poem yesterday that I am still fiddling with. (It’s about trams — I should call it Saved by the bell.) And on my way home I made a note of a couple of lines that came to me, that I expanded and scratched around with when I got home. Yep, I remembered to take the notebook on our walk. Tomorrow will be another sunny day; there will be sheets to wash and a Zoom exercise class. Talk about the universe in a grain of sand!

 

Isolation diary day 22

Ay, caramba! I won’t say “how time flies, when you’re having fun”. It has been fun, in part. Making plans, and exploring how something new will work, is always more interesting than just doing it, day in, day out. Everyone’s probably more in the latter phase now. Certain things are just a bit easier, like getting food (even loo paper, apparently). Is that because suppliers, like supermarkets, have regulated their businesses to help more people get more of the stuff they came for? Or is it because we’re more savvy about how these new arrangements work? Probably both. Notably, things that were never in short supply, like fuel (as far I know) never made the news. The reports about empty shelves in the supermarkets made “panic buying” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We were running a bit low on some stuff ourselves, so did a second food shop this morning, getting some stuff also from the pharmacist. I rode shotgun, as usual, while my beloved did the hard yakka. I had a nice time sitting in the car having a coffee that I had taken with me, listening to ABC Classic, and buying some stuff from the Melbourne Museum shop. (25% off, BTW — ends tomorrow! Yes, that is a plug.) We got home, put the comestibles away, had some lunch, and watched another ep of Deutschland 83. (These links will point to a useful service I found called JustWatch, which is a free database of what movie or TV show is showing on which streaming service or free-to-air channel.) Afterwards we read the paper, and listened to the lunchtime program on 3MBS-FM. 

My beloved felt like some exercise, so we got togged up for an expedition. (Herself put on her vintage sheepskin coat, beanies, scarves and gloves, I reached for my puffer and the other bits.) It was quite refreshing, actually — cold, but not freezing. My puffer has a hood, but I had fortunately thought to grab a brolly for my beloved. (It got well used, with some quite lengthy showers.) After a few circuits of Wattle Park oval, we thankfully headed for home refreshed, energised, and invigorated. Cocooning is great, as long as you can get out and stretch your legs occasionally — within the rules, of course! 7,500 steps again.

We watched the last episode of Stateless a few nights ago. This series dramatised some of the stories behind the perilous journeys undertaken by asylum seekers, and the conditions under which they are detained in Australia. (See the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre policy statement on community based processing.) The involvement of actors like Cate Blanchett,  Yvonne Strahovski, Asher Keddie, Marta Dusseldorp, and Dominic West indicates that this is a serious dramatic enterprise. It was very well done. The stories are compelling.

Yet it was something we initially had to brace ourselves to watch. For me this is because we know that the policies and practices shown in this series, and which are widely supported by the Australian electorate, are plainly inhumane. Neither of the major political parties in Australia dares to even try to humanise how asylum seekers are treated, for fear of being described as being “soft on border control” by its evil twin. Yet to apply for asylum in Australia is a right enshrined in international treaties such as the International Declaration on Human Rights and the International Declaration on Refugees. We have been signatories to these monuments of international law for decades.  

After watching this show, I hauled out my library copy of No friend but the mountains, by the Iranian author and detainee Behrouz Boochani. I had started this before, but abandoned it at the beginning of our self-isolation. (It was borrowed for our book group, the meetings of which are suspended for the duration.) Watching Stateless gave the book a context, however, that made it impossible for me to overlook it any longer. Like the TV series, it was something about which I realised I had a bad conscience. No friend but the mountains was the recipient of a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award last year, winning the Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction. Even if it were not a good book, though, the circumstances in which the manuscript was created (as a series of text messages on the author’s mobile phone) claim our attention. Boochani wrote it this way for fear it would be confiscated. Prisoners in concentration camps and the like have used clandestine measures to write books in wartime. (Is this really happening in Australia? In peace?) The result is something that takes some getting used to, but has tremendous urgency and authenticity. I don’t think I have read a book like it, and intend to finish it this time. 

Isolation day 21

Yes, past the three week mark today.

It was a bit of a weird day, but good. I know readers find our routine as fascinating as we do, so you will remember that we normally go for a walk after breakfast — particularly if the sun is out. This morning was unusual in that my beloved wanted instead to do some weights, then some gardening. So we both did an exercise program, then some weeding and pruning in the front garden. I thought I might get the towels dry, so while we were so occupied, I put a couple of loads of washing on. Of course the change came through early,  as soon as I’d hung everything out. So I had to haul the towels back in and put them in the dryer — something we rarely use. (I generally just put them on clothes racks, which are positioned over heating vents.) 

After lunch my beloved passed out for a few hours, and I played Act 1 of Parsifal. This is obviously a suitable choice for Easter — the Good Friday music in Act 3 is one of the most beautiful passages in the opera, and indeed in Wagner overall. We had seen a concert performance of this opera a couple of years ago in Sydney, with the incomparable Jonas Kaufmann in the title role. I’m so glad we went to see him. Around that time he announced his intention to not travel so far from his base in Germany. Of course, for the foreseeable future, I won’t be travelling anywhere, so I may not get to see him again. This was one of the best opera performances I have seen. The SMH critic, Peter MacCallum, gave it 11 out of 10. (Kudos, BTW, to my former music teacher for arranging the tickets.)

Parsifal is of course Wagner’s final opera, and one that I recommend for anyone for whom the Ring Cycle is just too drawn out. Someone observed about Parsifal that it is an opera about religion, rather than a religious opera. I think that is true. It examines Christian values such as compassion and redemption, but in a rather detached way. More importantly, the music is luminous, exquisitely beautiful, and scored with great transparency. I played a wonderful recording made at the Salzburg Festival in 2013, conducted by Christian Thielemann. (This is made more poignant for me by the death a few years later of the lead, the South African heldentenor Johan Botha.) 

When my beloved surfaced, she had a late lunch, and we watched Fake or Fortune. It was time then for a drink, the ABC news, and another Deutschland 83. During the last of these the wifi started slowing down occasionally, although only for a few seconds. This was the first time I noticed this happening since we had switched over to NBN about six weeks ago. Last week the laptop in the study disconnected a few times from the wifi. After reading some Telstra discussion list messages, I went to the settings for the NBN modem router and switched off the band steering. (This allows the modem to switch between 2.4 and 5 GHz speeds. The latter is obviously faster, but can be problematic for devices further away from the modem.) I switched the setting back on again, in the hope that this will reduce these slowdowns. No doubt, with everyone staying put for Easter, everyone is streaming Stan, Netflix, and so on all at once.

Isolation day 20

Well, I had an expedition all by myself this morning! And I got to dress up in adult clothes — proper trousers, my black RMs, and a jacket! The purpose of this outing, officer, was to see my GP in Camberwell Junction. I usually allow half-an-hour for this trip, which I find this leaves time to find a parking spot, and walk to the practice. This morning I was there in ten minutes, with more than twenty minutes to go until the appointment time.

At the risk of repeating myself, as a high risk category patient, I had been instructed to wait in my car until called into the surgery. While doing so I had time to pair my mobile phone to the GT’s audio system. I get very few calls in the car, so going through these steps hadn’t been high on my to-do list (which was why I’d left it until this morning). Incidentally, using a phone while driving has been found a significant driver distraction, even using hands-free. Apparently it adds a hazard factor equivalent to drink-driving. I reasoned, though, that having the mobile paired up would at least allow me to quickly reject a call by pressing the red phone icon on the dashboard. 

I was duly called and entered the surgery. I had been expecting to see a crowded waiting room full of people sneezing and hacking in all directions. There was no-one in there at all. The reception staff were all gowned up, with those transparent shields around their faces. I saw my GP, obtained most of my prescriptions, and got a flu shot as well. This was a pleasant surprise — we had been told the practice had none in stock. (This was not quite correct: they had no freebies for over 65s, but they did have some for which they were charging a small sum.) They were definitely out of the pneumonia vaccine, though, free or otherwise, and I was added to the existing queue for that.

I headed home, where I had a coffee and the rest of my breakfast. Then my beloved and I headed out to get a rather intimidating list of groceries. I waited in the car like the last time, but used the time to make a phone call and send an email, then listened to ABC Classic for a while. My beloved appeared steering the trolley; I assisted with transferring the contents thereof to the car, then took the trolley back. (Loo paper seems to have returned to the shelves, incidentally.)

It is remarkable how the previously mundane act of food shopping has come to require so much of her and my energy. This is a surprisingly complex phenomenon: when I look at it closely, I can see three factors behind it. The first is that I can’t do the food shopping myself, as I used to. I therefore need to involve my beloved in these outings as well; this means in turn that the shopping expeditions need to be fitted around her work. The second is that doing the regular food shop is a concrete task that can, for a while, restore normality. The pandemic has become such an attention sink, and has brought so many changes to so many people’s lives, everyone is getting change fatigue. So it is a relief to focus on something familiar and mundane. The process needs to be done a bit differently for a time, but we still get to fill the cupboard and fridge at the end of it. There is an atavistic reassurance in knowing that, for the next few days at least, we have food and drink. The third may not be a factor for households where no-one was in the paid workforce. For us, however, there is just a bigger volume of food involved now. We are now preparing and consuming three meals a day at home, seven days a week. More meals means more food, more prepping, and more cleaning up. As I posted previously, the dishwasher fills up, and the compost bin needs emptying, just about each day

Anyway, when we got home, I made some lunch. While we had that we watched another episode of Deutschland 83 on Stan. We had somehow missed watching this on SBS free to air; there is now a second series, Deutschland 85. Deutschland 83 is well worth catching up on. The episodes are beautifully filmed and art directed; the East German households are chock full of chunky ceramics, patterned wallpaper, busy light fittings, velvet couches, mid-century wall units, and so on. Performances and scripts are all strong. Afterwards we went for a walk up to and around the park, in the lovely sun. With all these outings I racked up over 7,500 steps for the day, around 5.5 kilometres.

Theoretically next week is my last of isolation. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, if it lasted for longer than that. We are somewhat getting the hang of it now.

Isolation day 19

The last couple of days have been busy in terms of interaction. On Monday we a virtual drinks session via Zoom with our niece. This went well, apart from a slight mishap involving their son and a chair leg. This was quickly resolved off camera, however, and the meeting resumed afterwards. Yesterday morning I also had a teleconsult with my psychiatrist (I needed a renewed authority to be supplied with my ADD medication). This was followed in about half an hour by another Zoom meeting.

The latter, my second Zoom get-together, was a group exercise session delivered by my exercise physiologist Lauren. She dispensed both workout instructions and technical support with her usual aplomb. There were five aging participants — as Shakespeare would say, her subjects we — although that is usually under fair control. All applied ourselves to the physical and technological challenges. The session was quite a lift, as was the opportunity to chat briefly to my oncology exercise buddies. I used to go to a Thursday morning class in RL, but am intending to keep up the Tuesday morning meetings as well from now. If any such opportunities come your way, my advice is — get set up, and give them a go! Forgive the cliché, but we are all social animals. I find these virtual contacts make a fair-size hole in the quarantine wall. 

Having grown perhaps overconfident after this experience, I suggested to my ex-RMIT buddies that the face-to-face coffee morning we used to have each month in 3D could be transferred to Zoom. My email turned into a bit of a magnum opus — writing a procedure again, after five years. They were undeterred by my prolixity, though, and many were interested to explore a virtual meeting further. So I set one up this morning, crossed my fingers, and sent them out the meeting invitation. (My earlier instructions were probably superfluous, given that the recipients are all capable retired library folk. But they allow me an occasional bit of mansplaining.) 

My beloved and I have just been for our walk, in which we racked up nearly 4 kilometres. (Incidental exercise over the rest of the day will get me easily past that mark.) We took our usual route up to Wattle Park, which like most such includes an oval. The last time or so that we we did this walk, we counted the steps around the circumference of the oval. A circuit takes 600-odd steps, equating to 0.46 of a kilometre;  two times around obviously gets you pretty close to a kilometre.

The reason for all these calculations is that my beloved wants to maintain and step up (sorry) her aerobic exercise. I do a circuit of the oval with her, then either do some stretches or just read my messages, while she does a second circuit for a bit of HIIT. For those new to this, High Intensity Interval Training has been around for a few years. It involves alternating moderate speed exercise with short bursts of going flat out. This is supposed to be very time efficient, i.e. one can achieve a bigger training effect with this type of exercise than with the same amount of time at a constant speed. (There is quite a research base behind this claim, apparently.) While I was participating in the ACU research study a few months ago, I started each session with about 20 minutes of HIIT cardio. Since then I have lost a bit of condition, but I intend in future to accompany my beloved on this second circuit. (She leaves me in the dust at present — not that it’s a competition — OK, it is.)

Off to my GP tomorrow for some prescription renewals. I had hoped to have a flu and pneumonia shot while at the practice, but they have none. I rang a nearby pharmacist, but it was the same story there. Apparently the vaccine is in short supply — everyone is waiting on deliveries. The GP practice has me on a wait list.

 

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.

 

Isolation day 16

Another bad sleep overnight — I am really stuck in that groove, for the time being anyway. At least being awake at odd times gives me ideas about writing. While I am sitting up I can write them down without disturbing my beloved. I woke up a bit before six, as I was in the habit of doing when bringing her in a coffee on her work mornings. (That time, when she actually left home to go to work, already seems ages ago.) Instead of getting up, I went back to sleep for a bit, and had some strange dreams. In one, I was passing through some kind of customs barrier, and being interviewed by a female official. I was carrying my orchid, which she admired. So I broke a bit off it to give her.

I was glad to hear my beloved moving around a bit later on. By the time we had made breakfast, it was time to fetch The Age (it was one of the days on which it is delivered).  I took the precaution of putting on rubber gloves before walking down the driveway, in case the newspaper had been packed and/or delivered by someone with coronavirus. It was there, but only in one part — usually there are two. I reasoned, however, that this was due to the strange circumstances in which we all find ourselves. This turned out to be correct; all the expected parts were there, except for the travel section, which is suspended for the duration. 

After breakfast I called one of my brothers, to whom I hadn’t spoken for a while. Everything was fine with him: indeed, his life was much the same in most respects. After that I went for a walk, during which I heard most of the Dvorak 8th Symphony on ABC Classic. We then mounted a joint expedition to get fish and chips for lunch. I was to sit in the car as usual while my beloved fetched the food. She started feeling quite hungry on our way there, however, so I drove home while she ate a potato cake. We watched the latest episode of The Capture, recorded on our Blu-ray player, while we had our modest repast.

(This was actually the first take-away meal we’ve had since beginning isolation. Fish and chips always leaves me feeling extremely full, even though I take most of the batter off the fish. What they call “grilled” fish is actually fried, which just dries it out, using no less oil than you get with “fried” fish. We only ever get chips for one. A few months ago an intrepid reporter in The Age ordered this at several fish-and-chipperies to see how large a portion of chips each one gave. Unsurprisingly, the results varied considerably between establishments. I don’t think he or The Age will get a Walkley for that!) 

We had quite a bit of rain in the afternoon, so I was glad to have gotten my walk in earlier that morning. One of the pharmacy chains is offering not only delivery of prescriptions, but also flu shots. I thought about getting one of the Woolworths basic boxes, or whatever they are called, but we are actually quite well stocked with what they contain — even toilet paper. At least these services are being offered to people in our circumstances so that they can get some of what they need. Amen! What a dull day.