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 Family, Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 10

I missed yesterday.

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.

Walking late in the day

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.

The numbers keep going up, and not just of COVID-19 cases. Numbers of people calling for lockdown restrictions to be eased, numbers of people not social distancing in supermarkets and department stores.

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:

Four(k)

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.

Stay safe out there …

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 9

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).

If our things could talk

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? 

Posted in Life, Photography, Writing

Diary of a distancer: Week 6

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.

A is for Apple

B is for books

C is for chocolate

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.

Enjoy.