A few weeks ago Tim started a street photography challenge and is posting his images in his blog.
As he was heading out this morning he asked if I’d like to join him today. Street photography is not really my thing, but I thought ‘why not’.
This week’s task was “to produce nine images that break the ‘rules’ of photography but still work… that might mean breaking rules of composition, rules about not ‘chopping off’ limbs or heads, shooting with a straight horizon, and so on”. [I just took that straight from Tim’s blog!]
Here are my nine images. To see the full image, you’ll need to click on it.
One thing that intrigues me is that we went to the same places yet took quite different shots. I like that.
My castle experience ended much as it had begun – a 5 hour bus trip in which I sat quietly watching the countryside and distinctive architecture of the buildings flash past. On the return journey I reflected on what I’d just experienced and knew that I’d be mulling over it for some time to come.
Here is some of the Polish countryside that flashed past as we made our way back to Berlin.
It was an early night for me, then a trip into Berlin the next morning. I headed to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, to learn more about the wall that divided a city overnight. I admit to not knowing a lot about it before my trip to the museum – but it’s so full of stories, artefacts, information, and photographs that I now know a whole lot more.
Filled with information, I wandered outside, into the light rain, and watched as people lined up to have their photo taken at Checkpoint Charlie. I then made my way to one of the last remaining remnants of the Berlin Wall … it was much more confronting than I had imagined it would be.
For those of you who, like me, don’t know much of the history …
The Berlin Wall was a guarded concrete barrier that divided Berlin from 1961 to 1989. It encircled West Berlin, separating it from East German territory. Construction of the wall was commenced by the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany) on 13 August 1961. The Wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany, including East Berlin. It included guard towers placed along large concrete walls, accompanied by a wide area (later known as the “death strip”) that contained anti-vehicle trenches, beds of nails and other defenses. (Wikipedia)
I discovered that the hotel in which I was staying had been part of East Berlin and that’s why the stop and go figures on the traffic lights were so distinctive. You can read more about their development here.
From Berlin I made my way to Leipzig for an overnight stay. I was there less than 24 hours – it was really just a stopping off point for my trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
In the limited time I had, I managed to climb to the top of the tallest building in Leipzig – the Panorama Tower. When I say ‘climb’, I mean I took the lift and then walked up two flights of stairs to get to the very top. I was surprised to find that the ‘top’ was outside!
Back on solid ground and not having to worry about the little kids sitting on the edge of the building, I wondered past the Opera House, through Market Square, past the old Town Hall – the foundation stone was laid in 1556 – and had a look around the farmers market. It was a lovely evening, but once the rain started I ducked into a jazz bar for dinner.
The lift in my hotel was interesting, although the sound of running water wasn’t something I really wanted to hear after a long afternoon/evening of wandering around the city!
A good night’s sleep, and then series of train trips – from Leipzig to Nuremberg (Nurnberg), then to Ansbach, then to Steinach bei Rothenburg ob der Tauber and from there to my final destination in Germany: Rothenburg ob der Tauber. I had learnt to take screen shots of the trains and walking directions from my first experience in Berlin and it’s interesting going through my phone now and reminding myself of my journey. Each train was smaller but all were clean and comfortable.
I had found Rothenburg by doing a Google search for old cities in Germany. I’m so pleased I did. I’ll write about it in my next post, but here’s just a taste of the city and its surrounds.
In April 2021, which seems like years ago, I went to Tumut in NSW. My youngest son and his two children were visiting my mother and as I hadn’t seen them for over a year, I thought I’d make the five hour drive north.
I thought I’d be back in Tumut within a month – Mum’s birthday is in June and I thought I’d at least go up to sing her a tuneless but enthusiastic happy birthday.
Alas, it was not to be. 2021, in case your memory doesn’t stretch back that far, was in a time we still considered to be ‘during the pandemic’. In 2022, with COVID deaths higher than they’ve been since the start of the pandemic – a seeming-decade ago in 2020 – we are considered to be living in ‘post-COVID’ times.
2021 was not a good year. We still had active COVID mitigation strategies in place – lockdown being one of them. I can’t remember all the lockdowns, but lockdown was one reason I couldn’t return to Tumut. There were, of course, others.
As we are now living in ‘post-pandemic’ times, travel is unrestricted. I had planned to head to Tasmania in late April, a place I hadn’t visited since early January 2021, but a car crash put paid to that plan. No one was hurt in said crash, apart from the car, but it meant no Tassie trip for me just yet 😦
While Tim has finished his treatment, been jabbed with the COVID vaccine for the 4th time, and had his flu shot, he is still not sufficiently recovered to travel long distances. I, however, felt it was safe for me to leave the state.
Yes, dear reader, I got out.
Mothers Day was as good a time as any for me to head five and a half hours north to see my mother. And my sister and brother, and uncle, and niece, and great neice and nephews.
I stayed in Tumba with my sister because Tumba is a town where things happen. The Snowy Valleys Sculpture Trail is one of those happening things.
Saturday morning was cold. Icily cold. The thermometer inched towards 8C during the day, and then, having hit it, rapidly fell to near zero. You can imagine how cold it was as we headed out the door around 10am, rugged up beautifully. Deb made sure her gloves matched her beanie, channelling the spirit of our grandmother, who used to do the same in the 1950s and 60s (but never with a beanie). Nan would have been very proud of her.
Our first stop was at Forage (rhymes with porridge) for a hot chocolate and a wander around the market.
Mum arrived, the hood of her coat giving the impression she was off to the Arctic, and we wandered down to the creek which was looking decidedly autumnal, to engage with the sculptures.
Mum ditched Deb and I to have lunch with some of Deb’s friends, so I attended a workshop facilitated by Japanese sculptor Keizo Ushio who uses the mobius strip extensively in his sculptures. We made mobius strips with paper and then attempted to carve a bagel – I’d love to see how he does it using stone. You can see Keizo’s sculpture at Tooma if you’re in the area (we didn’t get down there, but I’m very keen to see it).
Sculptor Phil Spelman then led a tour of the Tumba sculptures and we learnt a lot along the way.
Together we are strong is a work gifted by the Denmark-based Denmark, New Zealand and Australian Friendship Society.
Jennifer Cochrane works with cubes. They fascinate her. Picture a cube rolling and you’ll see the movement and energy in this work.
Marcus Tatton is a New Zealander living in Tasmania, where chimneys dot the landscape. When a house burns down, they are generally the only thing that remain standing. This has inspired Marcus’s work.
I think this is one of my favourites. This is a piece of granite which is second only to diamonds in terms of its hardness. Takahiro Hirato, a Japanese sculptor, has hand carved and polished this arrowhead. It’s a truly gorgeous piece. The arrowhead sits on a basalt plinth.
This work by Phil Spelman certainly generated lots of discussion. It’s an abstract work with as many interpretations as people on the tour with us. Some see an ant, others see a bike, I see someone praying … that’s the beauty of abstract work. It doesn’t have to have just one meaning.
There are other sculptures in the area and I’m hoping to get to see them all eventually.
Off to Tumut on Sunday afternoon for a fabulous Mothers Day lunch with my brother and his family. There was so much food they came back for dinner. I must add they they provided all the food … Mum and I just had to turn up!
Later in the afternoon I caught the end of this beautiful sunset.
Monday morning and a quick visit from some kangaroos before I headed home.
It was great to catch up with family again after such a terrible year … let’s hope I can get back there within the next one.
Week 33 … I counted. I wrote my first ‘diary of a distancer‘ post on Saturday March 28, and it was subtitled ‘Week 3’.
Thirty weeks later we’re still distancing. Not as extremely as we were even a week ago – our bubble has extended from 5kms to 25 glorious, mind-blowing, spine-tingling, breath-taking kilometres and if you think I’m exaggerating that just means you haven’t lived through a Melbourne lockdown – but it’s as far afield as we can go.
And it’s glorious.
Yesterday was a public holiday. It would have been grandfinal eve public holiday, but given the grandfinal is being played in Queensland this year, it was changed to a ‘Thank You’ day. It came at just the right time for me. I was in desparate need of a day off.
It was a relatively warm day – more muggy than warm if I’m being precise, but I’ll take muggy over cold any day – and we decided to make the most of it.
We organised with Alison to head to Warrandyte – a suburb 23kms north-east of here which is leafy, has a river running through it, cafes you can line up outside of, lots of public amenities (for those game – or desperate – enough) and walking tracks that meander along the river for miles.
I said that so casually, you possibly didn’t notice, so I’ll repeat myself. “We organised with Alison to head to Warrandyte …”. We hadn’t organised with anyone to meet up and do anything for some time and while the concept wasn’t new, it was so far back in the depths of our minds that we had to fossick around back there for some time to work out what that actually meant. In practice.
It meant – not necessarily in this order – making decisions about what time to meet, what time to leave, how to get there, what to wear on our bodies, what to wear on our feet, which mask to wear, how many bottles of hand sanitiser to take, what to wear … I know I said that already but when you’re used to wearing nothing but trackies and hoodies, deciding what to wear is a big deal. For those of you who haven’t yet emerged from lockdown, don’t under-estimate how anxiety-inducing this can be.
I found a little room attached to our bedroom – I have a feeling it’s called a wardrobe but as I hadn’t used it in many months, I wasn’t quite sure that was its name although the more I said it, the more it sounded familiar. I took dresses, a thing I hadn’t worn in a very long time, from this wardrobe, tried them on, discarding one after the other until I found one that suited my purpose (to not accentuate the new bits of me that had been created by being locked down) and then decided I needed something else in case the breeze was cool in Warrandyte.
I had a vague recollection of something called a cardigan but I couldn’t easily bring it to mind nor visualise where it might be in the house. Eventually, I remembered that the white thing with handles in the corner of the bedroom is a chest of drawers that holds clothes and one of those clothes might be a cardigan. It was.
Dress on, cardigan on … I was ready.
Nope. Shoes. Slippers and trainers have been my only footwear companions for the duration and again it was more of a struggle than you might imagine to think of what shoes I owned and where they might be after all this time.
Dress on, cardigan on, shoes on … I was ready.
Nope. Mask. We have a cloth bag hanging from the loungeroom door with an assortment of washable masks, plus boxes of medical-looking masks next to the box of medical-looking gloves on the buffet in the hallway. Which one to choose? There’s lots to consider: how long you’ll be wearing it, whether you’ll be meeting anyone hence how much talking you’re likely to do hence how big it needs to be, whether you’ll be getting a cuppa and lunch hence how easily it can be taken off and put back on, how much driving you’ll be doing and if the roads are familiar (ha) hence how fogged-up it’s likely to get hence whether to use tape or not.
Dress on, cardigan on, shoes on, mask on … I was ready.
Nope. Handbag. Keys. Wallet. Hand sanitiser. Spare mask. All the things you forget you need because it’s been so long since you’ve been out, hence needed them.
When you’ve only been allowed to go 5kms from home and for only four reasons (to buy food, to seek or give medical care, for education purposes, for work purposes – work from home where possible) can you imagine what it’s like to drive for 23kms?
Exhausting. Why are there other cars? Why are they driving so close to me? Why are they honking me? I’m doing 25kms an hour, isn’t that fast enough?
And exhilarating. I’m moving at 25kms an hour!! The needle creeps up. And up. I’m doing 110kms an hour. SHARON! WE’RE IN A 60 ZONE.
Ah. Yes. Speed limits are a thing.
We went to Warrandyte yesterday. Just because we could. And so did half the population of Melbourne, and their dogs.
It was warm. The sun shone on us as we sat in the main street at the bus stop eating our lunch (no eating inside at the moment – plus, how weird is that? To sit inside with loads of other people, all eating at the same time? Nope, not ready for that yet). We sat and ate and talked with Alison. Not about anything, just talked. And it was glorious.
People wore their masks. They queued up outside cafes in orderly and socially distanced ways, they used the hand sanitiser at the doors of the cafes, they chatted about anything but the situation we’ve been living through, and at other times just sat together. They walked their dogs and watched their children play in the playground and at the edges of the river, they kayakked, ate icecream, forgot that strolling on the road wasn’t a thing you do when there are zillions of cars around, and they smiled.
We’re so close now we can smell it. And it smells good. We still might not be keen to go to the cinema in droves, or hop on a plane anytime soon to share our air with hundreds of others, and we might be wary of catching public transport or of walking into crowded shopping centres (none of which we can do just yet anyway) … but we can get together with others, we can feel a sense of freedom at the edges of our being, we can connect in ways we wouldn’t have been able to before with those who went through this too. There’s a sense of unstated knowing. It’s not something we have to talk about, we just know.
We were out yesterday for four hours. All in one go. Four hours!
It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure. By the end of the four hours it was mostly exhausting.
One day, sometime soon, it might even feel normal.
COVID-normal, but that’ll be normal enough for me.
It is now Saturday July 4, 2020. Week 17 of my diary of a distancer posts, although I didn’t write entries for weeks 11-16.
They were tough weeks and I felt there was nothing much to communicate. Life rolled on for me; work was work; birthdays were celebrated – at a distance. Well, at a distance from me. Not being able to travel to Tasmania for the three June birthdays was tough, as was not being able to travel to NSW for my mother’s birthday.
I admit to falling into a hole I’m only now climbing out of.
It was tough in other ways too. Protests were held around the world – people protesting about being locked-in, others protesting about police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, still others protesting about racial inequality more broadly. Dissent and civil disobedience followed … and arguments flew from all sides.
One argument went this way:
Other arguments went in very different directions but I refuse to give them any space by repeating them here.
So things have been happening in some parts of the globe that affect other parts. We are, after all, living on the one planet and the ripple effects of our actions and our beliefs don’t stop at our national – or state – borders.
It’s a bit like our bodies – something happens in one area which then impacts other areas and as the ripples move around and across and through your body it feels like it’s never going to end. That there’s always going to be pain. One area subsides just for another area to flare up. The physical starts to play with the mental and the emotional and back again. And it’s ongoing and thus distressing.
Just like the current situation with coronavirus. It goes quiet, and then flares up in another hotel room/suburb/region/country. There’s no end in sight. It’s ongoing and that adds to the distress.
After a period of relative quiet, COVID-19 has re-emerged in Victoria, and so Victorians are now not welcome in other states. Except if you’re part of an AFL team. Then you can go to Queensland to ensure the season continues, but ordinary Victorians cannot enter unless they’re willing to be fined or sentenced to gaol time.
Such is life. Money talks. Sport is important, it would seem, for national well-being.
Not so The Arts it would seem. The Arts, as a sector, has been hit particularly hard by the lockdown. But there’s no other state to go to as a way of surviving – unless we’re talking a state of unemployment or sheer determined survival. Many people have turned to TV and movies for solace in this time yet many of them deny the importance of the arts to the economic or social or cultural or intellectual fabric of our society.
In many cases, the arts gives us the means to survive as well. I’m don’t mean in terms of financial support, but I mean in terms of an outlet for our creativity, for communicating, for seeing differently, for noticing, for making connections between ideas and perspectives and views and beliefs and values and thoughts and actions. And more.
And an outlet for connection with others.
Without an outlet for creative expression some of us may not have survived as well as we have through this on-going, never-ending (it seems) saga of COVID-19. While personal ‘creative expression’ might not have much to do with The Arts, I for one acknowledge the essential role the arts plays in my life.
I listen to music. I read books. I view works others have painted or photographed or sculpted or designed. I watch movies that started with an idea and grew over time, involving many (many) others in their production. People who have made artistic choices about sounds and movements and locations and backgrounds and lighting and music and no music and points of view and camera angles.
I watch and listen to others performing – dance, music, singing – and I am in awe of their determination and talent and desire for creative expression.
All of the people who make things, who produce things, design, craft and tinker and even those who, like me, play at the edges of creative endeavour … The Arts is there as a means and a reason to survive. They add something to the lives of those who spectate. They add much more to those of us who engage. They enrich us in ways simple spectating cannot do.
We are not a family of artists it has to be said, but many of us do like the creative outlet photography provides, and so I was thrilled that 15 family members contributed to our latest photography challenge: Ordinary Objects.
Our first challenge was the Alphabet of Isolation.
Our second was Images by the Dozen – a project in which we took images of the numbers 1-12 without using the actual numbers.
The Ordinary Objects project required us to photograph 10 ordinary objects:
Something you eat
Something you eat with
Something you cook with
Something you see with
Something you put on your feet
Something you wash with
Something you wear
Something you drink from
Something you find in the garden
Something (not someone) you love
Fifteen family members, ranging in age from 4-81 and across four generations, contributed. We live across four states of Australia with one family member in the UK. As with our other projects we’d get together on a Sunday night and share our images. Yet another magazine to add to our collections as a physical memento of our creative decisions and expression.
Our next project is Variations on a Theme. Six images, all of the same theme/idea of each individual’s choice, but with variations.
My theme is abandonment. It’s meant I’ve taken photos of a type I wouldn’t normally take – I’m usually quite conceptual, but this time I wanted to try something different and so have expanded my photographic range slightly.
Here’s one of the first images I took for this project. Mind you, I’ve since adandoned this image as I went in a slightly different direction … but that’s the way it goes!
Another image we drove miles to shoot, was also one I reluctantly abandoned as the church didn’t feel abandoned enough. I particularly love the Australian feel of this scene, with the gorgeous gum trees surrounding the church.
We finalise our Variations on a Theme project next week and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone’s come up with.
Connections through creativity.
What’s kept you connected with others through these anything-but-ordinary times?
Well, not entirely. The day still happened, and I did stuff … but I didn’t write a blog post.
It was one of those beautiful autumn days we sometimes get in Melbourne: icy start but eventually warm enough to get the washing dry, a tiny waft of breeze to help the leaves spiral from the trees, and a no-cloud day which made it perfect for a late afternoon walk around the neighbourhood.
And no writing.
The week for me has felt a bit like those old cartoon backgrounds that keep repeating as the character runs across the screen. A window pops up every now and then, and then you notice the same door re-appearing and the pot plant on a stand.
The illusion of movement without any real progress.
Numbers of people out for picnics or gathering inside others’ homes.
Numbers of people wondering what life will be like when the lockdown is over … when we’re able to visit family interstate, to head out to a favourite cafe or pub, or return to our workplaces.
Some workplaces have indicated that working from home will be an option after this – possibly forever. I sincerely hope mine will be one of them. It’ll feel strange to go back to a windowless cold office now and chat face-to-face with colleagues. I can’t think why I’d want to do that or why it’s a better way of working than how I’m working at the moment.
Working from home suits me. I don’t have little children or pets to distract me, although I get my share of phone calls from my daughters asking about high and low modality words and about phonemes and graphemes. It’s not the same though as a two-year old seeking my attention as soon as I start a meeting, or a dog running around and around the couch while I’m working.
Jimmy, formally of Giggle and Hoot fame, has been keeping me entertained this week with his spot-on observations of life with little children, particularly in this era of working from home. This video applies just as much to parents working from home when their Zoom meetings start.
Sarah Cooper has also been keeping many of us entertained with her lip syncing of US President, Donald Trump’s press conferences. She doesn’t edit the audio – just does a great job of lip syncing to it. The little flourishes she adds make her videos even more entertaining.
What’s been keeping you entertained this week?
One thing that’s kept me busy – not sure how entertained I’ve been, but I’ve certainly been busy with it – is creating the magazine for our numbers project. Ten of us are engaged in a photography project – to take 12 photos of 1-12 without including the actual numbers.
The favourite image I’ve taken is my number 4:
I’d had a different idea in mind initially, so we shot that and then we started playing around with the idea. The afternoon light was beautiful and when Tim held the strawberry out in front of him, it hit the strawberry and the ends of the fork’s tines nicely. I like that – when you play with ideas and one of them works. It worked that Tim was wearing a dark hoodie too – made for a great backdrop.
Through doing this project and the alphabet one, we’ve come to an even stronger realisation of how different we are as photographers. Tim has a wonderful eye for detail. He can wander around and see things that I’d never notice in a lifetime.
I, on the other hand, plan all my shots, storyboard them and then play around with the original idea as I shoot. He’s more of an observer and documenter and I’m more conceptual in my approach. Neither is better or worse – except when I try to document what I see. That always turns out worse!
Although, having said that, two magazines I created a few weeks ago turned up this week. One is Country Shops of Victoria and Tasmania and the other is of bus stops. I am so thrilled with them. They don’t sound terribly interesting I know, but I get a little frizz of pleasure everytime I look at them. It was my attempt at documenting and I think it turned out okay.
I’m now keen to do more.
Again, a week in which connections and creativity featured heavily … and the other stuff just kept repeating in the background.
As I write, it’s May 9 2020. Many parts of the world are slowly emerging from restrictions due to the spread of coronavirus. Restrictions are beginning to ease in parts of Australia too.
Some people are concerned about this, others are cautiously optimistic that life will return to ‘normal’ soon, and others are pressuring governments to ease restrictions more quickly.
We might all ‘be in this together’ but we’re certainly not in the same boat. The same storm perhaps, but not the same boat. Everyone’s experience of lockdown/self-isolation – call it what you will – is different.
It’s alarming and distressing to read that instances of domestic violence have increased, as have calls to helplines such as LifeLine.
Through the week, I read a tragic story of a 12 year old boy in the US who hung himself in his wardrobe in mid-April. His father blames coronavirus. His view was that as his son wasn’t able to go to school or meet up with his friends, he had nowhere to put his energy (particularly his negative energy) and so took this very drastic step, perhaps, his father said, not fully realising the finality of his action.
There are other situations, just as tragic.
For some, then, this period is particularly difficult. They’re in the storm but in small boats, or boats with one oar, or boats that don’t have a lot of supplies. They’re tossed around by the waves and the wind and can find no safe anchor.
We can’t imagine that our own experience of this time is the same as others.
I’ll own that statement. I don’t imagine that my experience of this time is the same as others.
It’s why connections are so important to me. It’s important to me to stay connected – to others, to ideas, to creative pursuits, to routine, to family, to physical and mental health.
For some, unexpected connections have made this period of time less unsettling than it might otherwise have been.
ABC News Breakfast shared a story on their Facebook page of a man in Wagga, NSW who is drawing a crowd during his trombone practice. What a delight – a time for people to come together – to sit and listen, to tap their feet, to wander into the sunshine, to reminisce. Connecting the past with now, connecting memories to others, connecting sound and emotion.
There are examples of this sort of connection between people happening all around the world. If we can, we should seek them out as they can bring pockets of light into what otherwise might be a dark time.
I’ve also been struck by the connections some people are making as they seek to make some sense of this time. Poet Lorin Clarke writes from the perspective of dust motes as they watch humans spending more time at home. It’s clever, this way of seeing things from another perspective and making connections across people’s experiences. And then putting images and music and a very particular kind of voice to this, adds to that sense of connection across more than ideas – across aesthetics and art forms too.
And then there are those who can sum up experiences many of us will recognise, in seemingly simple ways. My friend Taimi, shared this on her Facebook page earlier and I laughed out loud (I won’t tell you which particular image made me laugh the most).
Graphics like this can connect us to others – even unknown others – as they allow us to know we’re not the only ones putting the dishwasher on more often or rarely using the car.
We spent a few hours one night through the week listening to Wes Tank rapping Dr Seuss books over Dr Dre beats. Connections again – between words and sounds and beats and voice and cleverness and creativity and silliness and more. See if you can do it!
And then there’s connections to things I didn’t know I was missing. An email arrived just the other day, and I glanced through it disinterestedly until I saw the words ‘Slow TV’. My attention was immediately caught.
A car company filmed a driver driving through the NSW countryside for four hours. It almost made me cry!
There’s a world out there that I haven’t connected with for weeks … months. There are hills and trees and bumpy roads and grassy verges and sky … all that sky. There are horizons that go beyond the back fence, two metres from my back door. There are sheep and road signs and beautiful music to accompany me on this journey of what might be described as nothingness, but which I describe as bliss. Absolute bliss.
Connection to country. Who knew it was something I missed?
And, of course, as always, there’s connection to family. To Mum, and my sister Deb, and my daughters Rochelle (and on weekends her husband Michael) and Emma, and their kids, and Alison, and to my daughter-in-law Kaz (and even more grandkids), and my cousins Cassandra and Jenny (and often their kids), and sometimes to my nieces Sarah and Eliza and sometimes their kids too. We exercise together every day (those of us who can make it), then chat – or listen to all the kids saying hello to each other.
It’s a fabulous connection – four generations and multiple arms of family coming together as often as we can to keep physically and mentally healthy. As has been emphasised as we’ve exercised more and more, exercise is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel, and exercising with family feels good!
And on the back of that connection, we also connect creatively. We’ve completed our Images of Isolation project and are into our Images by the Dozen project. We’re all to take 12 images – representing the numbers 1 to 12 without actually having numbers as a feature of the image. It helps keep our brains busy, our eyes seeing differently and our connections strong.
These are just some of the connections I’ve made this week. What connections have you made?
You know, when I started writing these ‘diary of a distancer’ posts, I never imagined I’d still be writing them seven weeks later. I actually had no idea how long I’d be writing them for, and no expectations or otherwise about the length of time we’d be in lockdown, but seven weeks is a while, isn’t it?
How are you coping? Are you starting to feel a bit of cabin fever? Or have you been getting out and about, pretty much as normal and so haven’t really noticed?
I’m not getting out and about anywhere near as much as usual, and there are days where I really feel it. Yesterday, for instance. I had to go to Camberwell to get my flu shot and it was such a lovely afternoon that I was very tempted to head off up the highway. It was one of those rare blue-sky Melbourne autumn days, there wasn’t too much traffic and I had the day off (yes, another one). But no matter how tempting it was, I headed home, although I did take the long way round.
I’m surprised I’m not dealing with cabin fever. I usually dislike spending holidays at home – something I’ll be doing all next week. I was supposed to be going to New Zealand on Sunday – this year was my year for travel – but of course that’s not happening and as I can’t cancel my leave, I’m have to spend it at home. Strangely, I don’t actually mind the idea.
My week trundled along as the week before had – except I managed to work for four days this week, unlike the 1.5 days the week before. More Accounting exams to review. I now know what a journal entry is – it’s not, I learnt, an entry you make in a journal of the diary variety, but has to do with debits and credits. I’ve looked up information about the role of a board of directors, more governance than I knew existed, and I’ve read lots and lots of exam questions about liabilities and assets, and debits and credits. It hasn’t grown any more interesting I have to say.
We had two birthdays to celebrate this week. Both on Thursday. It had always amazed me that in a family as large as ours there weren’t any shared birthdays, but that changed last year when Byron, my youngest grandchild, was born on Tim’s birthday. Byron had had some cake with icing when we spoke to him, and it’s fair to say that as a child who hadn’t had much sugar before, he was super-charged on it!
Tim had no sugar and so wasn’t quite as wild, but was excited at the prospect of eating fancy restaurant food for his birthday. He’d discovered some weeks ago, that Attica was still cooking, and better still, were delivering. Luckily for us, we live in their delivery area. What a fabulous meal! Seemingly simple, but completely delicious. We’re also fans of the way Attica has embraced the enormous changes they’ve had to face, in light of the pandemic. They haven’t focused solely on their own business, but have considered those who haven’t been formally included in the ‘all’ of ‘we’re all in this together’. They have a soup project that’s helping feed newly unemployed hospitality workers who are on temporary visas.
While some ‘leaders’ are making inane and dangerous ‘suggestions’ for tackling COVID-19, others are taking matters into their own hands and doing something worthwhile and real and kind. We’d much rather support people like that.
We’ve been stepping up the exercise this week. We’ve still mostly been doing the 10-minute seniors workout with The Body Coach, but we’ve been tacking a cooldown to the end. The cooldown is harder than the seniors workout, but we all acknowledge we’re getting stronger and feeling good for it. It’s been lovely to have Rochelle, my eldest daughter, join us again this week and of course the bonus of seeing lots of the Tassie grandkids. Kaz, one of my daughters-in-law, also joined us when she could, and today Rochelle’s husband Michael joined in too. As did Mum, Tim, Deb, Rochelle, Kaz, and cousin Jen.
Yesterday I changed things up a bit. We started the 20-minnute Ultimate Beginner’s Low Impact Workout and did that again today, plus the cooldown today. Even Michael had a sweat up by the time he finished, although he went a fair bit harder than us ‘beginners’. Mum was thrilled that she could plank for the full 30 seconds!
On Wednesday in my personal training session, I asked Tom when my workouts were going to get easier. He didn’t sugar coat it. ‘They’re not’, he said, ‘because as you get stronger, I just make it harder. You lift more weight, do more reps, or do exercises in a different order’. On Friday he was true to his word. It was tough, and apparently I complained. A lot. But I still did 60 seconds of bicycle crunches, had a 10 second rest to catch my breath, did another 60 seconds, another quick breath catcher, then a final 60 seconds.
I was way too out of breath to do any complaining after that.
I wonder if that was deliberate?
I’m having a hard time moving today … but I’m putting that down the after-effects of the flu shot.
We finish our Alphabet of Isolation project this week. Last Sunday night we had quite a chaotic sharing of images among the eight or nine of us involved in the project. Now that we’ve ironed out some of the technological challenges, I reckon we’ll be in a better position tomorrow night to share the second half of our alphabets. We’re going to create a Blurb magazine with all the images, and it’ll be a great reminder of our time in isolation.
Here’s my D-M.
I returned to a previous post yesterday, just for comparison. Three weeks ago, on Friday April 3, there had been 1,098,006 cases of COVID-19 and 59,141 deaths.
On Friday April 24, there were 2,828,826 cases and 197,099 deaths.
I’ve found that now the numbers are that high it’s even more hard to compute, but also more difficult to think of each of those 197,099 deaths as individual people. To see the number of new deaths for Italy and Spain now, I catch myself thinking ‘oh, it’s only 497 today’. When did 497 new deaths ever mean ‘only’? It’s so easy to become immune to what the numbers actually represent.
While we don’t know when this is all going to end, we do know that many people are still suffering in a range of ways. The best thing we can do is stay home and stay safe.
Week 6! Six weeks of self-exile from the world. Not that it’s been strictly necessary to stay as at home as I’ve stayed, but with no real reason to go out, it hasn’t seemed to make any sense just to go out for the sake of it.
Six weeks of working from home – which I’ll look to turn into forever weeks of working from home on the other side of lockdown.
This week has been the best yet, mostly because it was a short work week. I had Tuesday off (thanks university enterprise agreement), and then on Thursday lunchtime, after one and a half days of work, I decided to take leave for the rest of the day and the next day too. Yes, I managed a day and a half of work before needing more time off.
Can I retire yet???
Over the Easter long weekend, we engaged in a photography challenge – Images in the time of Coronavirus: An alphabet of isolation. Photos from around the house and yard (if you’re lucky enough to have one) – one image for each letter of the alphabet. Deb and Grant decided to join in, and we had a sharing session on Sunday night of the first three images (not necessarily in alphabetical order, although as Tim and I had shot the alphabet by then, we shared our A, B & C).
Mum joined us for the sharing session, became inspired and has decided to join us. I’ve had a sneak peek at some of her shots and her list, and she’s going great guns. I’m looking forward to seeing more.
Emma, my youngest daughter, mentioned through the week that she’s running out of things to do, so I invited her to join in. She’s made a very strong start.
Jada, one of my grand-daughters, is also keen to join in, and I’m looking forward to seeing her shots.
Hopefully various other family members will jump on board too. It’s always great to see what people come up with and how they think and see the world.
Deb reckons my photos are very artistic – I don’t think she said ‘too’ artistic but she said ‘artistic’ in a way that momentarily made me think she saw this as a competition. Not that she’s competitive, my sister (ha!!!), but she does like to win the sibling war!
Here’s my A, B & C. I’ll reveal more next week.
Talking of the extended family … we’ve been doing exercises (Mum, Deb and I) at 6pm every night for a few weeks now. We put on a Joe Wicks workout for seniors and follow along as best we can. Alison and Emma often join us as well.
Because of not working over Easter, I was able to do exercise at 10am as we do on the weekends. That proved to be a popular time and so we’ve regularly worked out with my cousins Cassandra and Jen, my friend Michelle, who joins us on non-work days, and this week my eldest daughter Rochelle joined in, as did my niece Sarah.
It’s become the highlight of my day. It’s chaotic – lots of kids wanting to say hello to various older relatives and to each other – but we huff and puff and get the workout done, then settle in for a chat.
This week we’ve been doing flexibility and mobility work with ‘The Strength Temple’. It’s been fabulous and I can feel myself improving each day.
This week I also added another personal training session with Tom, my PT. That means at 7:30 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I sign into Google Hangouts and there’s Tom, ready to get me working hard for 30 minutes. The Turkish Get-ups are the hardest, but on Friday morning I kind of managed to do it with the 15kg weight rather than the 10kg one I’d been using till then. I don’t do it properly mind you, but the sitting on the floor and getting up again is a big enough effort for me these days. It takes ages to get on the floor and then get up again! Doing that and lifting a 10 or 15 kg weight at the same time is huge and everytime I lift the 10kg weight above my head, I feel like I’ve won a prize. While I can get the 10kg weight above my head, I’m not even going to try to get the 15kg one up there!
I also do squats with the 15kg weight in a backpack strapped to my back and a 10kg weight clutched to my chest.
If I’m not getting stronger there’s something very wrong with me.
On the days I don’t have a PT session at 7:30am I tune into Facebook Live for X-Train on Tuesdays with Alex – which just about kill me – and on Thursdays I do a beginners’ HIIT workout.
This morning I joined Tim on his daily 6.8km bike ride … with its seven hills. The first three are the absolute worst, but once they’re done the rest of the ride is good – some nice downhills to counter the ups. It was nice to be outside and have some fresh air on my face and sunshine on my back.
So, an exercise session at 7:30, flexibility and mobility at 10, and then as Alison’s been working and hasn’t been able to make the 10am session, we’ve been doing another one at 5, which Tim joins in on too.
On Wednesday night I also did a physio rehab session with Rob, my physio. One of the tougher exercises I do there is a scapular pushup – on a bench, rather than on the ground as this guy is doing, but it still makes me sweat!!
It feels like a lot of exercise! It’s certainly more than I was doing before isolation and I’m hoping like mad it counters the gingernut biscuits I’ve been having with my after dinner cuppa.
Lots of exercise, daily catch-ups with family, photography … with a smidgin of work thrown in this week.
This coming week is going to be tough. Five days at work … how ever will I cope?
This coming week is birthday week for two of my favourite people. Byron, my youngest grandson, turns one on Thursday, the same day Tim celebrates his birthday. No candlelit dinner out at a fancy restaurant, but we might just have a candlelit fancy restaurant dinner at home.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite moments from this week. This is a song for the times, particularly for those of us trying to work out how best to do online teaching and learning … by Makeshift Macaroni on TikTok.
I stopped listening to Enya some time ago, without making a conscious decision to do so. I guess I just didn’t need her anymore. Her music had seen me through a few challenging and difficult months, but I’m through them now and so no longer need the calming effect she had on me.
I woke up on Monday morning two weeks ago and immediately felt a different sort of energy in my body. It was a really interesting experience; I just knew that something had changed. My breast was still discoloured and peeling but the fatigue I’d been experiencing was gone. Just like that.
Then it was Easter and I had 10 days off work, travelled to Tumbarumba to visit family, then came home and faffed around home for the rest of the week. It was fabulous. Lots of time spent taking photos and deciding which ones to include in my developing portfolio; lots of time talking photography with Tim, discovering, then almost obsessively watching, Sean Tucker’s videos on YouTube; seeking out others’ work to draw inspiration from; doubting my own capacity as a photographer then coming across an image that causes me to catch my breath and think that maybe I am okay at this, then doubting myself again.
I went back to work on Monday and just about every colleague I ran into said how well I was looking. Many of them also commented on how fabulous my hair was looking, with one woman telling me I looked 400 years younger! All because I was wearing it down, rather than tied up to keep it off my face. There’s less grey when it’s down!
So spending time with Tim, my mother, sister, brother, uncle, neice, nephew and great neice over Easter, spending time at home in the week after Easter, realising I don’t need to listen to Enya anymore, and being complimented on how good I’m looking has meant the last two weeks have been great.
Much, much greater though is the fact that I’m a grandmother again. Yes, grandson number 9 (aka Byron) is now 9 days old and I’m heading north at the end of the week to introduce myself to him. I’m feeling as excited as I did when my first grandson was born just over 20 years ago (and just in case you didn’t know me then, that’s VERY excited).
Tim and I had been talking just days before about how we have so many grandchildren, yet there are no double ups with birthdays. That is, until now. Byron was born on Tim’s birthday, making it an extra special day! At least I think that’s the way Tim’s viewing it.
The year so far has been difficult and challenging and confronting, but I feel like I’ve reached the end of the tunnel and I’m happy to announce that the light at the end of it isn’t the headlight of an oncoming train!
I’ve learnt to listen to my body, to rest when I needed to, to exercise when I can and not push myself too hard, to not be too bothered about what I eat, to give myself a break and know that if I didn’t get to something one day, I’d get to it another day. I’ve learnt to not feel guilty about taking the time I needed to get well, to let my body and mind recover from the trauma of surgery and treatment, and the fears and uncertainties that come with a cancer diagnosis.
And I’ve had reinforced for me how fortunate I am to be surrounded by incredibly generous family and friends who have done all they could to support me.
I am indeed blessed.
All I need to do now is sort out the pain in my chest caused by the scar tissue. Any ideas for how to do that?
Here are some of the photos I’ve been taking over the last few weeks … most of them are a long way out of my comfort zone, photographically speaking, but I’m enjoying the challenge.