Posted in Life

Diary of a distancer: Week 53

One year and one week ago I started working from home.

It was new then. Novel. Needed. We were unsure how long the situation would last. Time slowed down and then sped up; March dragged, while it seemed we raced through April. Then the year tumbled into some sort of mud pool … there were moments of clarity, and then in the middle of the year the situation became dire. Life changed.

I started my working from home days with my computer on a trestle table in Mum’s/Deb’s/Emma’s room. It stayed that way for 12 months, before I decided I needed a proper set-up. It means I now have a proper desk, with space for my monitors, somewhere to hang my headphones, a place for my morning cuppa, a different place for my water bottle, and a place for photos of my grandkids. I also have a bookcase behind me which has been expertly styled by the very stylish Alison. She happened to pop in on the day the bookcase arrived and was gracious enough to lend her considerable talent to elegantly arranging the items I dragged out of cupboards for her to approve (or not, as the case may be). It provides a carefully curated background to my meetings and more importantly provides me with a beautiful place to work.

My office is now neat, stylish, and slowly filling up with indoor plants. I have a heater, music available, a printer should I require it and a window – a door no less, to the outside world. There’s a huge tree out there and on stormy days, I sit here watching the branches being flung about like countries in the time of corona.

An email drops into my inbox. My workpace announces it is a ‘located’ workplace. After a year of being told we would be able to continue to work from home should we choose, we now have a new term to add to our list of new terms we’ve collected in the previous 12 months, and are being encouraged to return to campus … to add to its vibrancy. I sit and think for a nanosecond and decide that sitting in a cold office with no natural light, no view of a tree being thrashed around in the wind, no music swirling around me, is not for me. I’m quite comfortably located where I am. I’ll let others, those who have been working from their bedrooms or dining room tables, wrangling children and dogs and cats during Zoom meetings, make up the 75% allowed back into workplaces.

Life has changed since this time last year when a number of state premiers announced statewide lockdowns would commence on Monday March 23. The Prime Minister then announced a national lockdown. Toilet paper became scarcer than hen’s teeth; pasta and flour were also hard to come by.

It seems, though, that it’s changed for some more than others – often depending on location. I was fortunate enough to go to Tasmania over the summer. I spent a month there, something I wouldn’t have thought possible in the depths of last year’s winter. It was fabulous to be in a place where the fear of COVID was kept in a small place in the back of my mind. Social distancing was a thing people paid attention to, checking-in to cafes was part of the experience, and hand sanitiser was readily available in all shops … but, these are part of what has been termed ‘COVID-normal’. There was a time when we didn’t have to go through security at airports – and it’s now normal. Some of these new behaviours might also become ‘normal’ and we won’t think twice about taking a mask with us wherever we go.

Although, that depends where you are. When I was in Tasmania over the summer, I didn’t think about taking a mask anywhere. As of today, March 14, 2021, Tasmania has remained COVID-free for 92 days. There was a ‘blip’ in December 2020, when four new cases were reported in Tasmania (from a family returning on a repatriation flight) but if you take those cases out of the equation, it really hasn’t had an outbreak since May last year. That’s really quite remarkable in a world overrun it seems by COVID.

Source: ABC News

Life has changed. The ebb and flow of 2020 saw various members of the family exercising together and then not. It saw some of us involved in photography projects and then not. It saw visits to family in other states planned and then cancelled. It saw low points and lower. It saw the spead of misinformation, daily press conferences by Daniel Andrews and a tide of people expressing disappointment, disgust, distress at much of the reporting emerging from those pressers. It saw less – less going out, less contact with others, less exploration – and for us, less television watching, less reading, less …

In my first blog post in the time of COVID, I wrote

It seems we’re in this for the long haul – a few months rather than days. Perhaps even longer. I’m sure we’ll work out how to live in this disrupted world, but it might take a while.

Has your world continued to be disrupted, and if so, have you worked out how to live in it?

I’m not entirely sure I have.

Posted in Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 33

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.

Ready.

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.

Princes Pier – showing us how to do responsible distancing
Posted in Life, Melbourne, Writing

Diary of a distancer: Week – not sure

Do weeks exist any more? Do months or seasons for that matter? Days do, I’m sure of that. They start, often grey here in Melbourne, and finish, just as grey. One day follows another in a regularity of routine. There’s the morning presser if I’m not in a meeting – tuning in to hear the latest from Premier Dan Andrews and CHO Prof. Brett Sutton – or CHOttie as some people have taken to calling him.

There’s lots of talk about the mental health challenges of this time of lockdown. Reading the comments during the pressers is very bad for my mental health. As is listening to many of the journalists’ questions. You’d think I’d stop doing it, but I can’t seem to help myself. I’ve even started writing my own comments. It’s not a healthy place to be, yet, there I am, tuning in like a moth unable to stop flying into the light.

Two days a week there’s my 30-minute exercise routine – the one designed by my physio to help keep arthritis at bay, to help keep my bones strong by strengthening my muscles, to help strengthen the muscles around my knees so they stop hurting, to help me develop shoulders that look like they have muscles in them. (That last one is just for my own vanity!)

I have a tendency to work through the exercises too quickly – I am my mother’s daughter it seems, at least in this regard. Last week I was given information (read ‘stern talking to’) about not allowing time for recovery in between each exercise and that being bad for my body. I have to make the workout last for 30 minutes at a minimum. I was getting it done in 20.

It was a lovely (cool but not windy) morning on Thursday. I do some of my exercises outside as I need a strong anchor point and we don’t have any inside. It was suggested that doorknobs would be sufficient, but all of ours fall off with regular monotony, so I knew not to use them. One of the trees in our courtyard/backyard is about the sturdiest anchor point we have so I tie the orange powerband around that and do rows and supported squats, and I wrap the blue theraband around it and do L Pullaparts. (No questions about the L part of that – I have no idea).

In between each rep (I use the shortened form to suggest I can speak ‘exercise’) I have to rest – for a minute. Thirty seconds at the very least.

Thursday morning, cool, not windy, I head outside armed with my exercise bands. I look around the neglected garden and decide it could do with some weeding. I get busy: 10 powerband rows – 1 minute of weeding; 10 supported squats – 1 minute of weeding. 10 L Pullaparts (they’re for my shoulders) – oh, there’s a great photo just waiting to be taken! I rush inside and grab my camera. Whoops, my rest break seeps into multiple minutes. Ten more powerband rows, more weeding.

The garden is looking much better! Who knew exercise was so good for the garden?!

I check my watch – 34 minutes. Yes! Go me. Rob, my physio, laughs fit to burst when I tell him about the weeding. He says he’ll buy me a deck chair so I can properly rest between reps in the future.

Breakfast. Porridge. Tea. I’ve taken to making tea in a teapot since I’ve been fulltime at home.

Shower – although that depends on the time – so most often not.

The commute to work takes ten seconds. Up the stairs, and into my office. I know it’s my office because it has my name on the door.

Tim has already plugged my heater in, opened the curtains and turned on the lamps. Between 10:30 & 11am he’ll pop in with a cup of tea.

I’ve taken to scheduling in a lunch/brain break each day – an hour where I eat, then read education-related Tweets and articles and learn stuff. It kinda makes up for the negativity of the comments section in the morning’s presser.

Home time – no afternoon traffic to contend with, no rain on the windscreen, no avoiding flying debris from the wind whipping through the trees. No road rage, no horns honking, no slamming on the brakes to avoid the car in front that stopped suddenly to avoid the car in front that stopped abruptly …

The commute is now calm and peaceful – a mere 15 stairs and I’m ‘home’. I don’t even need to get the front door key out. Actually, I’m not even sure where my front door key is any more. Or my car key for that matter.

When it’s not physio-exercise day and when it’s not windy, we often use our exercise hour to walk around the neighbourhood. We’ve found laneways we didn’t know existed – not the hip kind of laneways in the city; these ones don’t have graffiti-covered walls and cafes serving single origin machiato soy almond truffl-infused cold ‘brew’. These ones have cobble stones to not twist your ankle on, and high fences with little doors built in, and sometimes on the non-windy days the sounds of families playing tennis.

Little doors make me curious

And then it’s Saturday. I know it’s Saturday because of the street corners. They’re abuzz in ways streets corners in my part of Melbourne had never been before this year.

People, with slight morning tremors, gather on street corners now. They stand, mostly silent, a good arm’s length or two apart, straggling across the road in some instances, masked faces staring intently at the hole in the wall.

New friendships have formed in this new, regular routine called Saturday-morning-waiting-for-my-fix-in-the-time-of-COVID. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of engagements and marriage proposals resulting from these now-regular gatherings. Each Saturday morning as we ride by, the crowds are bigger, the masks a little further down faces, a little less distance between each slightly tremoring body. More kids on bikes, more dogs on leashes, more conversation, more bike bells dinging frantically as we weave our way through them.

It’s Melbourne. They’re waiting for their coffee.

And now it’s Sunday. Father’s Day. Roadmap day. What time’s the presser? It’s the question on everyone’s lips. 12pm says the authority that is the Twitter account: What time is Dan’s presser. An account that keeps us up-to-date so we know when to tune in.

Will I tune in today?

Probably … I want to know what’s ahead. But I’ll do my very best to avoid the negativity and ignorance that is the comments section.

Stay safe.

A flower to brighten your day

Posted in Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 17

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.

Or something.

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.

Luke McGregor – Australian comedian – made an argument for the role of the arts in national well-being on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering last week.

We don’t need the arts to survive … but they give us a reason to‘ – Luke McGregor

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.

Click the image for more information about why The Arts matter

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.

Cover design: Tim Moss

Our second was Images by the Dozen – a project in which we took images of the numbers 1-12 without using the actual numbers.

I designed this cover

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.

I designed this cover too

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!

Abandoned as the urban sprawl creeps closer

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.

I was after something that looked a little more abandoned

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?