from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: The Dog Year Calculator

April 8, 2021

Roy the Cairn Terrier

We have an aged, blind dog. Roy is 12.5 years old. He is a Cairn terrier about 12 kg in weight. All these factors are important in working out his life expectancy. How long will he be with us?

Once upon a time, we multiplied a dog’s age by 7 which would make him about 87 years old in our years. But many Cairns reach16 or 17 years of age – or 112+ human years. Some say, for smaller dogs you multiply by 5, so Roy would be 67.5 years. I think that is closer. Apart from glaucoma, Roy is a fit, dog: no arthritis, no diabetes, no cancer. I found a schedule online which measure life expectancy by dog weight. Roy is between small and medium and on this basis would be 66.5 years. Another method is more complex: That’s the natural logarithm method. Take the log of the dog’s real age, multiplied by 16, add 31 to the total. I used this method of calculation: Roy’s natural log is 2.53 … x16 and add 31; this makes him 71.5 years old. Roy is my age.

However, he now has a morbidity – for a dog – he is blind. So, what do I subtract from this life expectancy to get another estimate?

For us too, there is the question of life expectancy. How to work out the progress of our lives during Covid-19? Quite apart from having to spend 14 months dodging Covid-19, we have had to keep going mentally. And in the process of managing this hiatus in our lives we dabble even more with the question, not of how old we are, but how long we still have. Because that limited time just got gobbled up in an unexpected way. Many have suffered more than we have in Australia, but the hiatus is world-wide. Even if we are OK, others in the family are not. Our Zoom meetings reveal this changed universe.

And in the passage of this time, I believe that I have used up more of my remaining life than 14 months. That is, I have aged more than 14 months. The sense I once had of my age has been disturbed. Why? It’s as if the parameters of my life have changed. Maybe I have less control, maybe I have spent too much time reading about ways of death or near-death experiences of Covid-19 sufferers. I have purchased an oximeter, recommended medicines and vitamins and a stock of basic foodstuffs – all for Covid-19 survival. We are on the cusp of old age and the media’s concentration on the ‘elderly’, on ‘morbidity’, on ‘shielding’, revolves around a discussion of the odds of our survival.

So, what do I multiply the 14 months by to get my true age? 2x? 3x? Some days it feels like this. Normal was a long time ago. Old age and its mental and physical restriction were not yet upon us. Now they beckon.

In May 2020, The Washington Post published an article on this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/aging-in-place-many-of-us-feel-way-older-than-we-did-eight-weeks-ago/2020/05/06/cb7efdf0-8b13-11ea-ac8a-fe9b8088e101_story.html

‘We are not only sheltering in place but aging in place.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has exhausted us. Time feels heavy and draining. Tuesday was a week. April seemed an eternity. Grief, anxiety, tedium, loss of control, restriction of movement, none of them rejuvenating, are part of our regimen.’

And the NBC.

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/covid-19-turned-active-retirees-elderly-people-overnight-made-us-ncna1243790

‘Looking at ourselves during virtual cocktail hours with friends on Zoom, we now notice our wrinkles, the flesh hanging on our necks and the double chins on display when the camera is pointing up, the grey and even white roots exposed, the shaggy beards and fuzzy eyebrows — and we look someplace else on the screen. That isn’t ourselves we are seeing but a version of ourselves the virus has revealed, a version we thought we had rejected but secretly fear is really who we are.’

Today, I met with 3 friends – all published writers and poets. All of an age. And they agreed with this premise. The time of Covid-19 has prematurely aged us. One said she feels worn out by writing and will not take on any major task as she now has the sense of being unable to finish it. And then there was her comment that Donald Trump had made it worse. The stress of his Presidency, his denial of the severity of Covid-19 and refusal to lead, and then the anxiety of the ending of his term made her anxious. And this anxiety has not lifted.

When we took our dog, Roy, to Gavin, the vet specialist in ophthalmology, we expressed concern about how Roy would adapt now he is blind. Gavin said dogs were different to us. Roy would not look back and mourn the loss of his eyesight, nor would he anticipate a future where he would be unable to see. Gavin believed that blind dogs – those not in pain – make the most of the lot they are dealt. If he is well cared for, he will not be suffering with the weight of the knowledge of his blindness.

It is we humans who bear the psychological strain of loss, of looking back, comparing our Covid-19-altered lives to what might have been and looking ahead anxiously.

‘Days’

What are days for?

Days are where we live.

They come, they wake us

Time and time over.

They are to be happy in:

Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question

Brings the priest and the doctor

In their long coats

Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Worse things happen at Sea.

April 1, 2021

One way people once got to Australia

‘Easter is good to go’ says Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on the news from Queensland. Did anyone tell her that it will come and pass, whatever, without her being able to stop it? What she really announced is that the 3-day sharp lockdown in Greater Brisbane is not being extended and Easter gatherings and celebrations can continue with many conditions. After an amazing 35,000 tests only one new community case was recorded in Queensland yesterday (and 9 new cases in hotel quarantine).

However, as with many Covid-19 outbreaks this will not have been in time for thousands. Many people have already cancelled their Queensland holidays: their hotels, their restaurant bookings and other entertainment. And because the outbreak, which was connected to staff members of Brisbane’s Princess Alexander Hospital, spread, there have been flow-ons into northern NSW. In all, there are 100 ‘exposure’ sites. These infected people certainly get around.

One of the 18 infected people travelled from Brisbane 165 kms south over the border into NSW, to Byron Bay, and attended a hen’s party and infected at least one person there. Byron Bay only has a population of around 10,000 people but it is a major holiday destination with, perhaps, the best all-year weather in Australia (Sorry – only when there aren’t floods).

And so, the famous Byron Bay Bluesfest Festival has had to be cancelled. Scheduled for April 1-4 they had expected 15,000 people to attend each day – and 100,000 over the whole show. Byron Bay would have welcomed a few days of musical celebration after the floods that devastated the area only 2 weeks ago – and the internet remains full of heartbreaking images of destroyed cars and homes, drowned and drowning animals from northern NSW.

This is the second year in a row Bluesfest has had to cancel at short notice. However, they are to reschedule and have asked ticket holders to hang on to their tickets. Bluesfest has been going since 1990 and has had outstanding performers. They have an excellent Spotify playlist called ‘Bluesfest 2021 playlist‘. Enjoy the sound of the Aussie Blues!

There are prices to pay for these years of Covid-19 and losing a holiday or being unable to go to a blues festival is nothing in the light of the suffering across the world. Australia is stumbling forward: half open, mostly safe, but still complaining. Australians love to complain and our ABC radio is full of complaints. It’s a reason not to listen to the news. When you are of an age, you don’t want to hear people complaining all the time. A long time ago, my father, born in 1911, would to say to us when we complained, ‘Worse things happen at sea’. I am not sure what that was about but I think he meant that the world is full of unexpected disasters beyond our control. Accept that and deal with it. He came from a generation of stalwart and resourceful people.

We, on the other hand, had a festival last weekend and it was not disrupted by rain nor by Covid-19. Indofest is an annual Adelaide festival. ‘Indofest-Adelaide is a vibrant community festival celebrating all things Indonesian.’ Covid-19 rules called for many adaptations: only 2,000 people were allowed to attend – registering was required – entry and exit areas were separated – many Covid Marshalls stood around in yellow jackets and sanitizer bottles were displayed on every table.

Indofest 2021 was a joyous occasion: families camped, shared meals and listened to music on the grass of Pinky Flat, also called Tarntanya Wama, beside our Torrens Lake in the centre of Adelaide. Once upon a time this was where the local Aboriginal people camped.

https://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/226

Adelaide, a tribe of natives on the banks of the river Torrens by Alexander Schramm1850 (National Gallery of Australia. Canberra).

I was very aware of this as I listened to the gamelan percussion ensemble playing: all of us new immigrants enjoying this land together. A ‘welcome to country’ had been performed during the opening ceremony by local Kaurna people.

Looking back and forward – this country desperately needs immigrants as our population ages and declines in number. (2020 growth1.18%. average age 37.9yrs).

For sure, the Lucky Country needs more people. I listened to a representative of our Dept. of Home Affairs make a speech to Indofest attendees about how Australia welcomes immigrants. She went on to discuss the importance of social cohesion, our shared history, Australian values and the English test for citizenship.

For this article I had a look at Australia’s immigration website for applicants for permanent visa – not refugees. It is not for the fainthearted nor for those whose English is not their primary language. Apparently 70% give up on attempts at immigration. The wait is long and BTW you cannot get married while you are waiting. Oh – you must be under 45 years of age.

So, if you want to come to the lucky country, the way is long and the entry gates are narrow …

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: We forgot to be Afraid.

2019-2020 Australian ‘Black Summer’

26 March, 2021.

The disasters keep coming. We keep telling ourselves in Australia that we are the lucky country. Covid-19 has not devastated our country; the numbers of dead are low – 909 with under 30,000 confirmed cases. Our lives have been little affected when compared with others. And vaccinations are now underway.

Yet Australia remains a country of extremes. At the beginning of 2020 we suffered the worst bushfire season in living memory. That summer is now called the ‘Black Summer’. Over 18 million hectares were burnt, almost 10,000 homes lost, and 479 died (including smoke inhalation). The toll on our wildlife is hard to comprehend. Billions of creatures died. In terms of cost the fires are estimated to have cost Australia 103 billion AUD. This is our ‘costliest natural disaster to date’ (Wikipedia). No one can count the cost of the CO2 emissions.

No sooner had the fires abated than Covid-19 arrived.

And now we have another disaster: floods. This is the result of the La Niña (little girl) weather pattern. Until recently this was OK – cooler summers and more rainfall, nothing extraordinary. And then a week ago, a weather system came down the east coast, settled and intensified – from Sydney up to Queensland.

A severe weather warning was put out for the entire NSW coast. Dams could not contain the inflows and rivers overflowed onto floodplains that for over 100 years had been thought to be flood-free. (Some 134,000 people had settled on these flood plains over the decades.) The rain came with high winds and high tides along the coast. The Defence Force were called out to help evacuate thousands of people. Animals were swept into the swollen rivers. Some farmers lost their entire dairy herds to the flood. Facebook was used to post images of rescued horses and cattle as well as dead animals washed up on beaches. One iconic video showed an intact house floating down the Manning river near Taree: the owners were due to get married that day.

The quantity of rain is hard to comprehend. Rivers rose up to 16 metres.

Rainfall totals in excess of 400 mm were reported along the coastal areas and Central Tablelands in New South Wales, and a number of locations in Queensland’s central and south-east coast districts. Locations in the Hunter and Mid North Coast districts in New South Wales received over 600 mm of rainfall, including the highest weekly total of 991 mm at Bellwood in the Mid North Coast, which has exceeded the long-term autumn rainfall average less than one month into the season.’

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainfall/

Our annual rainfall for Adelaide is an average of 520mm and Sydney is 920mm a year.

The Australian insurance council has declared a ‘catastrophe’ for NSW as over 11,00 claims have been filed. However, I heard that many people could not afford the expensive flood insurance.

And now for the mouse plague. The generous La Niña rains allowed grain farmers to have a bumper year. And with this came an explosion in mice numbers in inland NSW and Queensland and the plague is moving south. Female mice can breed every 6 weeks and can give birth to 50 pups a year. The images are confronting: mice streaming across the fields at night in their tens of thousands. People are trapping 500 mice a night. Hay reserves held in barns are being destroyed. Locals describe the swarming mice as being in ‘biblical proportions’.

ABC image

Images from our ABC are confronting. The ABC reports that hospital patients have been bitten by the rodents. Those of us who dislike the idea of ONE mouse in the house would freak out!

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-18/mice-plague-nsw-worsens-and–affecting-crops/13255486

Apparently, mouse control is an expensive business and winter crops are threatened.

Meanwhile, I have been reading a couple of books that have darkened my view of the world. The first is the Booker prize winner, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. (Why has McCarthy not been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?)  I first read The Road soon after it was published in 2006 and I remember I spent a month affected by its story. His vision of the post-apocalyptical world is devastating to say the least. I re-read it this month to give a presentation to my reading group. And the re-read is worth doing as I was prepared for the horror and could appreciate the beauty of the relationship between the man and his son. And what poetry is in his language! But still, it is a depiction of the end of times and the loss of civilisation. How thin a veneer is our behaviour in this society?

2006 wake-up call

The other book is Plague by Wendy Orent (2004 Free Press). Orent covers the 1,500 years of plagues across our world and wrote of the dangers that lay in wait for us (prescient!). Her presentation of historical accounts of plagues is mind-blowing. This is history that was not taught to us. How slow it was for humans to realise that the fleas on rats were the vectors of the plague. Alexandre Yersin in 1894 and Jean-Paul Simon in 1898 made the breakthroughs. It was not until 1947 and streptomycin that a cure was available. For centuries people believed miasmas (bad or night air) caused the plague. All this is not long ago and we might have made medical advances but it seems that we quickly became complacent.

We forgot to be afraid.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: my Name is Gulpilil …

March 20, 2021

The Adelaide Festival finished a week ago and our Fringe Festival finishes tomorrow, after 31 days of events.

Tickets to the main festival are not cheap often AU $40-150 a show. This year the main Festival shows have been more modest, with fewer international performers – for obvious reasons. However, in spite of this, the Fringe Festival has been nothing short of amazing. They had over 300 venues and 1,200 shows and the prices are very modest, around $20-30 a show. The shows are often short and the audience, with appropriate social distancing, very small. The Fringe Festival is not-for-profit and the performers are often young and suitably enthusiastic. These are not major productions but robust and entertaining and, because they do not require a big setup, they are often set in interesting venues such as the Botanic Gardens, small restaurants, the Museum and in the dedicated venue called the Garden of Unearthly Delights. The East End of Adelaide is the centre of the Fringe Festival and the streets and cafes located in that area are overflowing every night. The Fringe is very much a young person’s festival: risqué, experimental and challenging.

I’m embarrassed to say we did not attend any Fringe events. I am resolved that next year I will make an effort. I did attend another main Festival event: a single show at Festival Hall: My Name is Gulpilil. David Gulpilil, only 67 years old, is very frail with lung cancer. This was a retrospective of his life and his extraordinary film career.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Gulpilil

The show was a sell-out. David himself was helped on stage for a few minutes and was able to say a few words: that this was the story about his life. I have seen many of his films. David has a remarkable acting ability. Quite exceptional: the merest movement of his eyes or body is captivating. Charismatic.

But it is a sad story as well. In 1969, aged 15, he was plucked from his tribal family in Northern Australia as the filmakers wanted an Aboriginal boy who could dance, sing and hunt. The film was Walkabout and it became a sensation. This catapulted David out of his childhood home into the heady world of international stardom. The rest is history. He is perhaps the best-known Australian actor. His career has spanned 47 years and in every role he has been impressive. Sadly, his life has been blighted by alcohol and drugs. A lifetime struggle.

After David had left the stage, he spoke to us through the film and commented on his current situation. He can barely walk to his postbox from his front door.

During the opening credits we saw the old man walking away from us down a dirt road, flanked by empty fields. Beyond him, also walking away from us, on the other side of the road, was a single emu – a strange bird, stepping slowly and carefully with its huge feet, in no hurry. (BTW David can do a traditional emu dance – it’s on YouTube). Then David stopped, paused, turned around and walked back towards the camera: just like the emu, slowly without concern, content. David did not look back, but beyond him, the emu stopped, turned round and walked towards us. It was uncanny.

I believe we go to festivals for moments like that: unexpected, unexplainable and memorable.

‘A man who loved his land and his culture and took it to the world.’ – this is how he wants to be remembered.

David Gulpili  “We are all one blood. No matter where we are from, we are all one blood, the same“.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: just me and the sea.

Many Australians would describe the Yorke Peninsula (YP) of South Australia as a barren place, especially if you arrive from our rainforested coast of Queensland or from the northern beaches of NSW.

just another sunset

And I would have to agree. If you drive down the YP at the end of summer, when the wheat and barley fields lie fallow, covered in dry stubble, the grey flocks of sheep huddling together in the open or immobile under a few remaining trees, it is not enticing. Most of the remaining native vegetation seems to have survived along the roadsides and in the Innes National Park at the foot of the peninsula. The YP is often called the ‘Ill-shaped’ leg – rather like Italy, the YP is in the shape of a bumpy foot.

The Yorke Peninsula, South Australia

The YP has predominately limestone, alkaline soils with calcareous loams and calcrete. The early settlers said that the land ‘grew rocks’ because as fast as they cleared paddocks by hand, more white lumps appeared. There are only shallow hills and the wind is notorious – a great place for wind farms. 150 years ago, the smoke from the burning of the mallee eucalyptus and allocasurina forest blanketed Adelaide for months on end. And after that came the dust: the topsoil blowing away before farmers learnt not to plough the stubble after harvest.  

But farmers have learnt how to manage the land, finding it was perfect for barley, wheat and canola.  

So much for the history of the YP. There are a few places where you can catch a glimpse of what it once was. It’s strange how humans only start to realise what they have lost when it almost too late: the wombats are virtually gone; the echidna is rare and emus and kangaroos are seldom seen unless you are in a National Park.

But the coastline of the YP is relatively undisturbed. The beaches are long, with deep white sand and aquamarine seas: hardly a soul in sight. Go there for the sea, the beaches, if nothing else.

I have lived next to the sea, more or less, since moving to Zanzibar at the age of 8. Zanzibar, Durban, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide. All different seas. It is one of life’s perfect pleasures. Sixteen months ago, not long before Covid-19 blighted our world, we sold our beachside holiday home on the YP, and for all of 2020 I have missed being there. I knew the phases of the moon: the tides, the way the winds dropped at low tide and when to hurry inside during the 40-degree spells. I paddled my bright yellow Hobbie kayak over the shallow reefs and seagrass, fishing for squid and blue-swimmer crabs. Sometimes pods of dolphins followed me.

This last week we travelled down the YP to a friend’s remote property located on the peninsula’s wild southern instep. Much of her 400 acres is dune scrubland, too sandy to farm, and so it has been left alone. Her property flanks about 3-4 kms of beach on the Gulf of St Vincent. This is a beach where it is rare to see another soul.

On the beach you always discover something – each day, something different: perhaps the desiccated skeleton of a leafy sea-dragon, or a perfect abalone shell. Bleached lumps of sea grass face the sea. They will be taken by the winter storms. In one cove I came across four endangered hooded dotterels, running back and forth as they foraged on the edge of the waves. I found a great green twist of rope that had come ashore, probably from a commercial fishing vessel. I always take a bag to the beach to gather rubbish left on the line of the high tide. But this day, all I gathered was a milk carton and one plastic bottle. A few years ago, we came across a beached mountain of fishing rope, over four metres long and two metres high. Perhaps it had been discarded by a deep-sea trawler. The council came and managed to remove it.

There is some good news on the YP in terms of conservation. Our state government is constructing a feral-proof fence across the narrowest section of the YP. They hope to remove foxes, cats and other ferals from the lands west of the fence to allow native fauna some protection.

At least 27 Australian mammal species are believed to have disappeared from the peninsula due to feral predators and the clearing of vegetation. While kangaroos and emus can still be seen around the area, many native species will never return without assistance.’

https://www.wwf.org.au/news/news/2019/predator-control-fence-brings-hope-for-australia-s-most-threatened-species#gs.vgh1oa

My friend’s house had no electricity, only gas for the stove and small solar panels for pumps. So, no TV and the mobile phones died. It’s very relaxing without news. You get used to it: we played bridge, cleared scrub from around the house, completed a difficult jigsaw, read books, birdwatched, walked the beach and shared long dinners and bottles of rather good Australian shiraz. What more could you ask for?

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Breakfast with Papers …

March 1, 2021.

Looking across the River Torrens north to the Adelaide Oval

Today, I attended ‘Breakfast with Papers’, a program of free hour-long live interviews that continues for two weeks during the Adelaide Festival. Mostly socially distanced.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/events/breakfast-with-papers/

The only problem, is that it begins at 8 am and at the moment dawn is 7am. It’s a tall order for a retired person to get into town by 8 am – and in a reasonable state. I managed that this morning and was richly rewarded with a very interesting discussion between three authors and journalist. The discussion centred around the issue of aged care in Australia and the Royal Commission that has tendered its final report to the government.

https://agedcare.royalcommission.gov.au/

Australia has an ageing population and, without counting immigration, has a declining population. The government must now consider taking on board the 148 wider-ranging recommendations that are contained in this commission, and this is while the level of public funds being thrown at the age care sector is considerable. (2017–18, the Australian Government spent over $18 billion on aged care). This afternoon, our government announced that another 452 million aud will be spent in this sector. They are printing lots of money.

In two years of hearings, the Commission was presented with countless confronting cases of abuse and neglect in aged care facilities. Something radical had to be done to improve the services provided.

On top of this, there are a hundred thousand people on the waiting list for a package for their age care needs. The top package is valued at 52,000 aud.

I then went to the first session of the day of our Adelaide Writers’ Festival.

https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/writers-week/writers-week-schedule/

We finished the 2020 Festival just before the first lockdown of last year. So, we are delighted that the 2021 Festival is open.

There are two sessions, running concurrently, from 9.30 till 6.15pm, every hour and a quarter. They take place under East and West ‘tents’ – really shades slung under the many trees of the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden.

https://adelaidecityexplorer.com.au/items/show/94

The first session was an interview with Louise Milligan, an investigative reporter for the ABC TV program Four Corners, on the subject of her book, ‘Witness’, an investigation into the brutal cost of seeking justice for victims – mainly of sexual abuse. There is a problem with our system for complainants of sexual crimes. Louise explained how harrowing it is for victims to ask for justice from our system, how the victims are belittled and suffer long term damage psychologically from the process. Many victims suicide. There are lifelong consequences of these crimes.

https://theconversation.com/review-louise-milligans-witness-is-a-devastating-critique-of-the-criminal-trial-process-148334

This is all very pertinent, as the issue of reporting and dealing with alleged sexual crimes by members of our government and their employees is in the news.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-26/pm-senators-afp-told-historical-rape-allegation-cabinet-minister/13197248

I will write something about the next interview in another post.

I had a wonderful day, and when I return from 5 days down the Yorke Peninsula, I shall drag myself up early, into town, for more ‘Breakfast with Papers’ before our Festival ends.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Festival Time …

Elder Park, Adelaide – better than Mars

February 20, 2021

Well, we have cancelled our trip to Victoria. We decided it was too risky with the threat of Premier Andrews suddenly slapping another sharp lockdown over the whole state. South Australia has not yet lifted the quarantine requirement for those returning from greater Melbourne. And – if we went – all venues still have strict rules of numbers and masks wearing. So instead, we will have a short local holiday on the Yorke Peninsula.

a Martian Landscape from NASA – streaming via the BBC

Yesterday I enjoyed a busy, interesting day. I woke up to watch the BBC’s live streaming the landing of the Mars Perseverance Rover. NASA talked about the ‘7 minutes of terror’ as they waited for the landing. The entry, descent and landing phase (EDL) was to take 7 minutes and much could go wrong. Nothing did, and the rocket powered sky crane landed the Rover in the chosen spot in the Jezero Crater. I saw the first images of the Mars terrain sent by the Rover. It looked like our desolate Australian Outback: a curving horizon, some nondescript rocks, pebbles and dust overlaid by the shadow-shape of Rover’s robotic arm. Surely, this was a pretty all-round bloody amazing effort! Not sure anyone would want to move to Mars though! I do wonder about the wisdom of the plan to bring back microbial fossilized rocks from the planet, even if that will only take place in a decade or so.

While the East coast of Australia is being pelted with rain, our three-day heat wave ended yesterday with the arrival of a relatively cool change. Last night was the opening of our Adelaide Fringe Festival (900 events at 392 venues). Our Fringe Festival, Main Adelaide Festival and Writers’ Week will go ahead in controlled circumstances over 3 weeks. There are fewer international artists, many shows are on for a single night and we have to wear masks for all inside shows. Many events have been moved outside.

The Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide

We attended the preview of A German Life, a play by Christopher Hampton starring Robyn Nevin. The single actor show was first presented at The Bridge Theatre in London in April 2019. Robyn Nevin acts as Brunhilde Pomsel, (1911-2017) (yes, she lived to be 106). Brunhilde lived an extraordinary life and Robyn Nevin took 90 minutes to recount some of it. (Brunhilde was depicted at the end of her life, living in a nursing home.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brunhilde_Pomsel

Brunhilde Pomsel is most famous for the interviews she gave telling of her years working in the office of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister for Propaganda, where, for example, she massaged down number of German dead and increased the numbers of German women raped by the Russian army. During the show, short video clips of various events in Germany were beamed onto the stage. (eg. Goebbels making his 1943 Sportpalast Speech, or Total War speech – which event Brunhilde attended.) To the end of her life, Brunhilde maintained that she was not guilty of complicity, that she did nothing wrong, that she did not know of the genocide of the Jews.

Looking north from the Playhouse to the Adelaide Oval

The director Neil Armfield developed the play during 2020. He spoke in the notes about how much he was aware during that year of the fragility of democracies …’more and more this play seems to be as much about our contemporary world as it is about Hitler’s Germany … in one of Brunhilde’s last interviews she said, “Hitler was elected democratically, and bit by bit he got his own way. Of course, that could always repeat itself with Trump, or Erdogan …”’

It was somewhat shattering to emerge from the confronting expose of Brunhilde’s life into Adelaide’s mild summer evening. My generation all have stories of the Second World War. My father was born in 1911, the same year as Brunhilde. We are the children of those that fought and or suffered in some way from that war. For us, in terms of war and national strife, life has been kind but when I watched on January 6 the madness of Trump’s enraged followers as they attacked the Capitol, I realised that the veneer in our democracies is indeed skin-deep.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: the case of the nebuliser – illegal or not?

Johannes Leak – from the Weekend Australian 13 February, 2021

February 13, 2021.

I need to write this blog because in years to come I will read it and be amazed at the twists and turns of the politics of Covid-19. (After all it brought down the President of the United States).

So, here in Australia, 7 million Victorians are starting a ‘gold-standard’ 5-day total lockdown – till Wednesday, Feb 17. All borders are closed to Victoria except the NSW border.

Here are the facts as we know it. A returning Australian family (husband, wife and 3 mth year old baby) arrived into Melbourne on Feb 2 and went into quarantine in the airport Holiday Inn. The father is an asthmatic and became breathless with his condition. As required, he was tested before departure for Australia and when he arrived (negative). He says (insists) that he asked, and was told he could use his nebuliser to inhale the necessary Ventolin (Feb 3-4). Unbeknown to him nebulisers are NOT allowed because they create aerosols. The father was now positive, as was his wife, and through use of the nebuliser he passed the infection on to a worker in the hotel and another quarantined traveller who then left the hotel.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-11/how-a-nebuliser-produces-droplets-covid-19-can-hitch-a-ride-on/13140554

The spread was on.

Over 1,000 close contacts are now in isolation. But the authorities were in catch up (some sort of unexplained bureaucratic mix up). Before the contact tracers could get their act together (some confusion resulted in a delay), a ‘close contact’ had done a long shift at a café in Melbourne Airport and tested positive. Now they say over 1,000 ‘close’ contacts are in isolation and the Holiday Inn ‘cluster’ has grown to 14.

Today 20,000 tests were done in Victoria. 3,500 passengers passed through Melbourne Airport during the time the café worker was there and, unknown to her, infected. Now all states are ramping up testing. All other states face the possibility of having infected arrivals from Melbourne.

This sudden crack down in the huge city of Melbourne is particularly devastating. They had enduring a 112-day lockdown last year. They were just getting going. This weekend is:

  • Chinese New Year
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Aussie Open in Melbourne (will continue – all matches are now without spectators). All ticket holders will be refunded.

Victorian cafes and restaurants said they had stocked up were fully booked. One restaurant owner said he would lose $40,000 as a result.

Daniel Andrews, ‘the seasoned Labor leader, unparalleled in his mastery of political spin, is again using the classic tactic of deflection to steer attention away from what appears to be yet another failure of quarantine protocol and inadequate processes by Victorian officials.’ (the Weekend Australian, 13 Feb. Simon Benson).

Andrews says he has to bring in this severe lockdown as the virus that has arrived is the new UK strain which he called ‘virulent’ and is 70% more infectious. But those facts are in doubt. Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett says that the UK strain is indeed more infectious (the original Wuhan strain – an infected person would pass on the infection to 11 percent of their close contacts – a person infected with the new UK strain would pass on the infections to 14.7 percent of their close contacts.) It is (only) 34% more infectious than the original strain.

Catherine Bennett says, when there are a very few cases, as in Melbourne, spread can be contained by contact tracing, testing and limited suppression strategies. This TOTAL lockdown that Andrews has brought in for infections in four households seems unnecessary. Catherine was quoted as saying, ’We could have put suppression in place to help prevent super-spreader events without closing down every business and putting the state into a full lockdown.’

Unless, of course, your political career depends on your NOT having another break-out on your watch.

Oh, BTW, we are booked to travel to the (miserable) state of Victoria for a 10-day holiday in 10 days time. This time I am not packing till the car is about to start. It’s not looking likely that we will go – none of us wants to be in quarantine on return. We had better start looking for somewhere to go in our own backyard, which after all is rather pleasant.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Herding Cats … or … It’s Coming your Way.

Rottnest Island off Fremantle, Perth, West Australia. Wouldn’t you come here just to stay in this Quarantine Village?

February 8, 2021

This week our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, hosted a ‘National Cabinet’ meeting. This is his extra-political Covid-19 group, an ‘intergovernmental decision-making forum’ including the State and Territory Premiers and Chief Ministers. It is apparent that this is a challenging business for the Prime Minister and one where decisions in a time of pandemic are important to get right – for our country and for his political future. Eleven months have passed since this group was formed and the various state leaders are getting more and more techy and determined in their self-opiniated ways of dealing with Covid-19. (5 Labor, 3 Liberal politicians) . For the PM it must be like herding eight feral cats through a narrow door.

Obviously, Prime Minister Scott Morrison would like the gathering of premiers and ministers to discuss the issues relating to the pandemic in a reasonable, if not rational way. Everyone, of course, says they are following the science of medical advice. The trouble is there are various medical advisors and interpretations.

The issue of quarantining returning Australians from overseas (and various other travellers) is one that divides and stresses our states’ leaders. The press calls these differences, ‘deep rifts’. The Labour Premier of Queensland, Annastacia Palaszczuk, and the ultra-cautious West Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, would like the federal government to be more proactive in the face of the new more contagious strains of Covid 19. Everyone loves to have someone to blame.

The numbers of travellers are small. Over 210,000 international travellers have gone into hotel quarantine in Australia. 1.4% have returned a positive Covid test. 82 hotel staff involved in the quarantine process became infected. At the moment, just over 6,000 Australians (and tennis players!) are arriving per week directly into the various major cities. The states are responsible for their own quarantine systems and have thus reacted in different ways. Recently, Western Australia had a severe five-day lockdown after a single worker in the Sheraton Hotel contracted the virus – perhaps through airflow. He had a second job as an Uber or rideshare driver. Victoria and NSW recently each had single quarantine workers infected and those states used ‘hotspot’ strategy, finding out where the individual had travelled while infected.

The sporadic infections in quarantine continue. There is the story of how one quarantined family opened the door of their hotel room to gather in their meal, deposited in the corridor, and managed to infect the family across the hallway. So now we are becoming aware that the virus is far more airborne than previously thought. It is likely to travel through air conditioning systems in large establishments like quarantine hotels.

So the question is: should quarantining decisions be delegated to states? Are hotels suitable quarantine facilities? It appears that hotels have multiple gaps in their infection prevention systems. For example, corridors need separate ventilations systems; quarantine workers should not have second jobs and should wear masks even in corridors (perhaps double masks as they are recommending overseas).

So now our federal government is in process of investigating whether to organise remote quarantine stations outside of our major cities – more like refugee villages. Perhaps in Toowoomba outside of Brisbane or remote islands. Thus, our cities would be protected and we can lessen the impact on our lives in 2021-2022-2023. The support staff and health staff would be isolated in these camps as well. The Prime Minister compares this idea to fly-in fly-out remote mining camps where you stay for two weeks at a time. Rottnest Island has aleady been used for Vasco da Gama cruise passengers in March last year. Remember that Australia is a country of a few major cities and lots of space. (16 out of 25 million live in the 6 major cities).

Hardly a mining camp! Rottnest Island off Fremantle, WA

I think that all countries should take note. This is probably the way of the future. Can you imagine the situation when most people are vaccinated, but, with international travel, people arrive from across the world and require quarantine? We will have sporadic outbreaks for years to come. Maybe new strains will be arriving having bred in the countries that could not get access to enough vaccine. Maybe the virus will become less deadly, maybe our vaccines can be adapted fast enough and given out fast enough to dampen down the world threat. Reading about how wealthy countries are hoarding vaccine supplies and how third world countries are struggling to get access, I am not optimistic.

My daughter in Seattle was told by a friend working in childcare that they were advised that this situation may continue for years to come. Up to 2025. We could be living in a world of social distancing, sporadic outbreaks, new strains with strange numbering systems, reduced local and international travel and concern about all sorts of flu-like symptoms.

Our PM is now talking about vaccination rollout starting at the end of this month. Bearing in mind that the AstraZeneca vaccine is now in question.

‘On Monday morning South African authorities said they would suspend use of the AstraZeneca shot after clinical data showed it gave minimal protection against B.1.351, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 which contains several mutations that cut the ability of antibodies to neutralise the virus. (Sydney Morning Herald – Monday 8 Feb, 2021).

‘Know your virus variants

Three mutant varieties of COVID-19, first spotted in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, are more resistant to vaccines than the original strain.

The British B.1.1.7 variant was first seen in September.

  • There is some evidence, although not concrete, that the new variant may be slightly more deadly.
  • At this stage, evidence suggests the variant slightly reduces the effect of vaccine-generated antibodies but not enough to pose major problems.
  • The variant has several mutations that seem to make it significantly more transmissible. It has rapidly spread through the United Kingdom and is now emerging across the world.

South Africa’s B.1.351 is also known as N501Y.V2.
It was first spotted in South Africa in October last year.  

  • It concerns scientists because it has picked up a large number of different mutations. 
  • These mutations may make it more transmissible. It is not known if they make it more deadly. 
  • Human data suggests, but does not prove, these mutations allow the virus to reinfect people who have natural immunity to COVID-19. 
  • Early data suggests the variant’s mutations cut the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, by varying amounts depending on the vaccine.

Less is known about the  P.1 variant first spotted in Brazil.

  • It bears similar mutations to the South African variant, which scientists suspect may give it the ability to evade antibodies.’

(Sydney Morning Herald – Monday 8 Feb, 2021).

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: A Portal into another World.

February 1, 2021.

Our Christmas present from Seattle USA, from my daughter and family there, arrived late. Australia is having problems with shipments from across the world: books from Amazon, Aldi’s Chinese specials, cars, furniture and all those nick-knacks in the 2-dollars shops. Amongst the presents was a PORTAL, the latest device from Facebook, a counter to Amazon’s Alexa’s Echo.

My Kitchen Portal reviewing our bird watching by the seashore

I like the word, ‘portal’. It has currency in the computer world but as a child, I devoured The Lion, the Witch & Wardrobe, the Narnia books, by C.S. Lewis. What a marvellous story. The part where Lucy, playing hide-and-seek, is hiding in the cupboard amongst the winter coats and suddenly feels a cold draft behind her captivated me, as it did so many of my generation. (Do kids still read? Sorry!! – do kids read the Narnia series?). Now THAT was a portal, a magic portal into a world of good and evil, of temptation, suffering and fortitude. I suppose not much different to the world we find ourselves in – without a portal to escape away from.

This Christmas-gift-Portal, a communication device, with its wide 10-inch screen, now sits on our kitchen counter between the set of knives and a more distant toaster – sadly, it won’t teleport me to Seattle or to Capetown.

It is about the size of an horizontal iPad with built-in Alexa and video calling using Messenger and Whatsapp. I know Facebook is unpopular in many circles but this device is amazing. Maybe I cannot see the ‘cons’ yet. The 13-megapixel wide-angle camera (114 degrees) follows you in the room so your caller has a sense of place and activity. It makes a Zoom call look boring. With the Portal you can add people to your call using Whatsapp. I am not sure how many people can be in a family or conference call. With our family spread across the world this is a delight! Other Apps can be added – we direct Spotify through the stereo speakers and back woofer.

When I am alone in the kitchen the Portal streams my photos from Whatsapp and Facebook in a random manner. And it becomes a portal into my past life. I am seeing images from our travels 8 years ago.

In a way seeing these happy images is disturbing because I realise that as time passes in our world, locked down with Covid-19, there will less ability for us to do what we used to do relatively easily. Will we be able to take up our cancelled holidays with alacrity? If this world-wide travel shutdown continues this year, as it appears it might, that will be 2 years taken off our lives when we might have seen our families and taken journeys to distant places.

Our planned April 2020 trip to Indonesia to sail on Seatrek Bali’s beautiful phinisi, the Ombak Putih, to remote islands will not take place in April 2021 although our booking was transferred. April 2022? Will we be fit enough to go? Will the company be still in business? Our challenge this week is, once more, to open up the files on insurance policies and see if we can take the claim further now that travelling this April 2021 is out of the question.

Seatrek Balli has 2 phinisi that sail through the Indonesian islands

We have flight credits for Indonesia’s Garuda Airlines, Qantas, Jetstar and Air New Zealand. All have use-by dates. At the moment, we can plan a local intra-Australian trip – book flights and accommodation – but might find that it is cancelled due to the on-again, off-again border closures. One person wrote in the weekend papers that he had had 3 trips to Queensland aborted due to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk closing borders.

Another example – yesterday, the Western Australia Premier – on a few hours’ notice has shut down the whole of Perth and SW Regions for 5 days because a single case of the more virulent virus has escaped from a quarantine hotel into the community. What about people there on holiday or planning a holiday in the short term? It must be beyond frustrating for the travel industry.

The virus is rampant is many parts of the world and the incidents of new variants bubbling up in such places makes me think that we are not going to be on top of Covid-19 for some time. We all looked to vaccines to be our way back to ‘normal’ life and luckily many vaccines are proving effective. BUT – how to vaccinate the world? The challenges and obstacles are considerable – the cost seems to be only one of the issues – hoarding by richer countries – corruption in many countries – lower effectiveness of some of the vaccines which have not been tested by the west (Sputnik) – slower production. And of course, there are the rabid anti-vaxxers – mostly in the USA courtesy of Past-President Trump. While all this is going on, won’t the virus be mutating? Of course, it will be. Normally, viruses become less deadly. Will Covid-19 follow this ‘rule’? The good news is that this virus apparently mutates slowly.

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02544-6

I am thinking that our new Portal will remain our window into our past, revealing the open, free lives we led only a year ago.

I must not complain. It can become a habit! Yesterday, I took our three-quarter blind Cairn-terrier, Roy dog to the local park for a late-afternoon very slow walk; he sniffed his way from tree to tree. Cricket (in traditional whites) was in progress on the Kensington Gardens Oval and families were packing up their picnics while children screamed around the playground. And while I was admiring the huge lemon-scented gums along the creek, I managed to record a family of laughing kookaburras singing their iconic ‘song’ of chortles and gurgles. Here they are. (PS. Did you notice the blue skies?).

The laughing Kookaburras