from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: who told whom, what, when?

May 28. OR – Please, read your emails.

South Australians have been rather pleased with their daily Covid-19 report. ZERO new cases today. In the last month we have had 2 cases. However, the last case on 26 May has caused a minor media storm.

Apparently, a woman arrived from the UK into Melbourne and went into quarantine – as all arrivals have to. However, after 7 days she was allowed to fly to South Australia. The story was that she was given exemption for ‘compelling family reasons’ and made an emergency dash to be at the bedside of her dying parent. When she arrived into Adelaide she was tested and found to be positive for Covid-19. Now all the woman’s contacts on the plane etc have to isolate.

At first our Chief Public Health Officer, Nicola Spurrier, said she had not been told the details of the woman’s arrival by the Victorian authorities (blaming them). A short time later Spurrier had to apologise saying that they had received the email but had not read it!

‘We really need to review our processes.’ She said that it was ‘easy to overlook an email’ and that such failures were not only a problem in our state but were a ‘national issue’.

‘I’m running a response to a pandemic. I don’t have time to feel embarrassed,’ Spurrier added. I liked that neat comment but after all, this failure might result in deaths.

This comes against the background that there is a developing irritation between states in Australia as to who has kept their borders closed and why. Victoria State has the most new cases (10 overnight) and no one wants to bring in more community spread – little as it is.

It appears that a failure to read emails and check on critical procedures is a common failing at the moment and causing considerable harm. The cruise ship, the Ruby Princess was allowed to dock in Sydney Harbour on 19 March. Somehow checks between the ship, NSW health and harbour authorities failed to make certain that the ship was free of infection. 2,700 passengers disembarked without being checked and they spread the virus around: 22 died, 100’s were infected. There is now a criminal investigation into the matter.

This story of failure continues. In West Australia (WA) a live-export ship, the Al Kuwait, from the UAE was allowed to dock at Fremantle with the intention of taking on board 56,000 live sheep destined for the Middle East. This is a terrible trade and has resulted in sheep dying in large numbers due to heat stress and conditions in these floating hell holes. Furthermore, the humane treatment of the sheep on arrival in the Middle East is not easy to manage (understatement).

Now they have found that 6 crew members are infected with Covid-19 on the Al Kuwait. The WA Premier went into attack mode, arguing with the Federal Minister of Agriculture as to who was told what, when.

The issue gets more complicated, as these livestock carriers are not legally allowed to leave Australia after May 31. This is because the ship would arrive in the Middle East during the summer and previous cases have resulted in distressing images of sheep dying from heat stress being shown in Australia. And it takes really ghastly images for any change in this business to take place.

So – money talks – our Federal minister of Agriculture, David Littleproud, (lovely name that!) has said that an exemption might be granted by the ‘independent’ regulator so that the ship can sail with a June departure date. Littleproud also said the shipment – all that meat – is worth 12 million AUD. So, for money, the sheep with suffer the heat. Meat is important after all.

In these 3 cases it was a failure of processes, standards and checks that are in place and meant to be protecting us.

These are the failures we know about. I fear that they will not be the last.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: time to have another drink … or three

May 23. In South Australia we are opening up: restaurants and pubs are once more open for business – but only for seated customers and with a limit of 10 people inside and 10 outside. What these businesses appear to be doing is limiting your stay to an hour so they can serve more customers. At first our state government said restaurants could open – but not serve alcohol. There was a backlash and mockery about this ‘no alcohol’ idea so it was quickly scrapped. NO ALCOHOL – how ridiculous to suggest this!

Australians love their alcohol and the authorities apparently felt that patrons might ‘forget’ about social distancing. One is aware that these venues need to be viable and the profit made on alcoholic drinks is significant compared to a cuppachino.

As the shutdown got underway 2 months ago, the jokes about alcohol proliferated across social media. Basically, the theme was: we are all drinking more than normal and that’s OK because life is tough and we NEED our alcohol to survive.

No question a glass or two of Barossa Shiraz is a pleasure with a good home cooked meal. It’s a question of excess and the behaviour that goes with it.

In South Africa they closed the bottle shops – not deemed the source of ‘essential’ purchases during the shutdown. Some bottle shops were attacked and looted by mobs. Online purchases went ahead. I think the ban was in part an attempt to reduce domestic violence. All violence. Car accidents, stabbings and shootings declined. Trauma cases presented at hospital declined by two thirds.

‘It’s not all been bad. One of the benefits of the alcohol ban has been that the reduction in drinking probably led to a quarter, or 9,000, fewer trauma cases in hospital wards every week, according to Charles Parry, a researcher at the South Africa Medical Research Council.’

Think of that! 9,000 fewer trauma cases in South African hospitals!

Coming back to South Australia, what has been startling on the local evening news is the number of horrific road accidents involving drivers who are found to be way over the regulation .05 blood alcohol level. One woman was 7 times over the limit and had 2 young children in the back of her vehicle. I am surprised she could even crawl to her car. And all this is at a time when there are far fewer cars on the road.

Our police have not been road testing for alcohol or drugs due to the fear of covid-19 transmission. Our absolute number of road deaths is relatively low, but so many of the dead and injured are younger people. It’s not so much us retired people, locked down at home, who are out driving under the influence.

From our government fact sheet on ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN ROAD CRASHES IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA. June 2019.  ‘Overall, 36% of drivers and motorcycles riders killed test positive to either drugs or alcohol or a combination of both for the 5 year period 2014-2018. This means over a third of vehicle operators killed each year are driving with an illegal BAC and/or drugs in their system.’

Alcohol is such a strong theme for Australians when they want to express that they are having fun. It’s often portrayed as a ‘blockey’ thing – those beers (‘stubbies’ or ‘frosties) at the ‘barbie’ on Saturday ‘arvo’. Mateship stems from such times.

I was thinking of this theme of our indulgence in alcohol when we collected the papers this morning. The local Advertiser is a typical tabloid with catchy headlines and little worth reading. It did not disappoint!

The Advertiser, South Australia. May 23, 2020

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: it’s the environment, stupid …

Adelaide: from the hills to the sea

May 18. What has been noticeable in our community over the last 2 months is the emphasis people place on our environment – on the pleasure of walking and the freedom to get outside without restriction. In South Australia we have been allowed to walk: walk with a partner, walk the dog, throughout our severest lockdown, even when, at first, no one quite knew what was in store for us. On social media these activities featured prominently. People commented on the things they noticed and photographed: the sunsets; the animals and plants; the teddy bears they found perched in trees, hanging on front gates or looking out of windows.

People went to the beach, maintained social distancing, and spoke about how special it was to go there. Suddenly, the normal became appreciated. Did we miss going shopping? Not really. Did we miss travelling? Maybe – but what we missed was family more than the act of seeing new places.

Walking, or getting out of our houses, the freedom to move around became the number one thing we wanted to do – we took pictures, posted on Instagram and told others about it. Walking is therapeutic, no question. At 3 in the morning you can feel anxious about the way forward … but once you walk out into the forest, the bush, the park, those thoughts are blunted. This effect is not rocket science.

What we should now realise is that we must preserve our parks and wilder places in our cities and our urban fringe. Whenever I flew into Los Angeles, our Air New Zealand flight circling to land, I was amazed by how little green space there was visible in the city. Where were the great parks? The city appeared to be a crosshatching of buildings under a mist of pollution. Contrast Los Angeles with my Adelaide. (Not fair really: 18 million residents in greater LA compared to 1 million in Adelaide.)

downtown Los Angeles from Griffiths Observatory
Harbor12 / CC BY-SA (

Adelaide is a small city, a young city in European terms. It was planned with great foresight by Colonel William Light in 1837. The main city grid is based on a Roman ‘castrum’ with a central public open space, 4 smaller ones in each quarter sector and the whole square surrounded by a 500-metre wide band of parkland. Town Planners love it, study it. This city works and the plan has stood the test of time. The encircling public parkland is a joy to residents and fiercely defended when various state governments have tried to invade it with what they regard as essential, ‘progressive’ development.

1839. Plan of the City of Adelaide, Australia by Colonel William Light

Add to our environment a slow meandering river, the River Torrens, which runs west out of our Hills, right through the city to the sea. It is flanked by a 30 km ribbon of parks and bike ways. The Torrens is a thin, seasonal river lined with ancient River Red Gums. And when you reach the sea, there is a 70km coastal park path along the seafront from North Haven to Sellicks Beach. Indeed, this is a city that is a happy place for bike riders.

People are wondering how Covid-19 will change our societies. Could we perhaps build a better world? Or is that pie in the sky? It is apparent that, for some time, there won’t be funds in our government’s budget to be generous with such plans. But on a small scale we could start thinking of things to do.

Could there be a change of emphasis driven by the community, a community now more aware of the precious nature of our public spaces?

New Zealand, led by their PM, Jacinda Ardern, plans to do things differently with a ‘Well Being Budget’. This is like a breath of fresh air.

“Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the plan to the country’s parliament – with billions released for mental health services, child poverty and measures to tackle family violence.

“Success is about making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” he said.

Could we not lobby our councils to: offer maps for walking and bike riding; provide a listing of street trees; grant conservation protection for older stands of trees; proactively advise residents on trees to plant; halt building plans that cover the full block? Our council already offers cheap sessions of yoga and exercise for older people. They could also offer supervised walks by environmentalists to educate about the bushland that we have within the council area. Get inventive.

Schoolkids could get involved in planting trees along waterways and cleaning them regularly – perhaps to ‘own’ a section of the river. We could lobby to reduce the speed levels on urban roads and add more dedicated bike path ways. More people will be working from home. Make the home area more community friendly.

We don’t have enough community gardens. In Seattle people seldom have front fences and use their sidewalks as planting space for herbs and vegetables. We don’t do that in Adelaide and our tree filled urban back yards are disappearing under the onslaught of huge double homes on old single blocks.

What other ideas are out there?

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: a pattern of days – a second retirement

14 May. We both retired. 18 years ago. I found retirement was a process of adaptation. There were at least two years of adjustment as we settled into working out what to do. And we did get going, we got the message that this was a gift – time – valuable FREE time. So we… moved house; studied; travelled; planted trees; travelled some more with our local museum; bought a holiday home at the seaside; got a dog; planted more trees from our own seed; I wrote a short biography of my grandmother as requested by my 90-year-old father when he emigrated from South Africa to Chester, UK ; I wrote a longer biography of my father published after his death at the age of 97, and I wrote two novels about Africa.

And now, it’s as if a second retirement is before us, with a further consideration of what we should do. However, there are fewer options and in the background is the possibility of being stricken with Covid-19. Times have changed. We constantly hear that our age group bears the highest risk for hospitalisation and death. Especially so if you have a ‘comorbidity’. (Comorbidity is a word I have never used before. It ‘refers to the presence of more than one disorder in the same person’. I am assuming that old age is now regarded as a disorder, a ‘morbidity’.)

In Adelaide, South Australia, we have not been as constrained as many other major cities but still the flow of disturbing news has been a constant since early March … that’s two months for us to adapt to a second retirement from our first retirement.

And how has our life changed? For a start, each day is much the same as the previous day. Small, hardly noteworthy differences: driving to walk the dog in the park and fetch the mail; sometimes a big supermarket shop in the early morning … etc.

So, most of the time is spent in the house or our garden. And somehow the day goes by very fast. We have ordered three vegetarian meals a week from a service called HelloFresh. The box is delivered to the door on Monday and consists of the ingredients for the meals plus a comprehensive guide to the process of cooking. This is entertainment as much as anything else, for these are meals I would not normally cook: roasted sweet potato risotto … pesto, roast pumpkin and fetta risoni …

My husband complains about the lack of MEAT. Since I am verging on becoming a vegetarian, this is not what I want to hear. During the week, there are 4 other dinners that can feature meat. The trouble is that the meals from HelloFresh are generous and we have leftovers. There is a definite greater interest in food and home cooking during this new retirement. We used to eat out 2-3 times a week.

The phone: we are spending more time talking on our mobiles (we don’t have a landline). We catch up with family and friends and since two daughters live in the USA, another daughter lives in Sydney and a son settled in South Africa, these calls go on throughout the day.

The computer is a huge resource and gobbler of time: for emails; Zoom meetings of my writing group and my husband’s geology club; for bridge games and lessons; for watching movies on ‘demand’. We are indeed lucky to have such a marvellous array of entertainment.

the Serengeti National Park

Every night, on YouTube, I watch the ‘Serengeti Show Live’ show for 30 odd minutes where Carel Verhoef and Sally Grierson show us their camp in the Serengeti and take us on a game drive. In 2018, we spent a week with their company, Great Migration Camps, on the shores of the Mara River. Watching these episodes, I can immerse myself in the landscape of Africa. And soon Serengeti Show Live will take us up Mt Kilimanjaro and then to Zanzibar. (Once upon a time in Africa, I lived in the shadow of Mt Kilimanjaro and then moved to live in Zanzibar).

I belong to the Adelaide Lyceum Club, a women’s club that was begun in London in 1903. (‘Clubs for women interested in arts, sciences, social concerns and the pursuit of lifelong learning’). We gather in interest groups called ‘circles’ and one of the circles I joined was the film circle. Our members have joined the Zoom brigade and meet to discuss certain films which are available online. Our SBS on Demand and ABC iView channels provide hundreds of films and TV shows free. Quite distracting in fact.

Don’t forget the dog! Roy, aged 11 has his own program, more insistent now that we are around almost 24/7. He wakes at dawn at 6.45am and goes out to check if any koalas or kangaroos are around. Whether they are or not, he wakes the neighbourhood with a morning bark. I am growing accustomed (as winter comes for us) to spend more reading in bed before a short program of yoga. This laziness delays breakfast as well as Roy’s walk up the long drive or in the local park.

Home maintenance and gardening fill in the holes in the day. April and May are planting months in South Australia as the rains arrive. I have paid more attention to edible plants this year – there’s nothing quite like picking your own herbs, lettuce and spinach for an evening meal. I have given up on actively growing potatoes but remnants are doing well. We have planted 20 trees that will give joy one day. I am reading City of Trees by Sonia Cunningham, a series of absorbing essays about our urban landscapes and how we are losing forests. Sonia Cunningham was a speaker at our Adelaide Festival’s Writers’ Week in March this year.

So, our new retirement is OK; we have lots to do, lots to entertain us. Soon we will be able to travel within the borders of South Australia and in July they might open up to other states … and one day maybe New Zealand will be included.

Second retirement is not so bad, so far.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: the plot thickens

May 10. I see that I have been attending to writing this diary for 6 weeks. During that time our understanding of this Covid-19 virus has grown but it remains a confused field of knowledge. Now, science is mixed up with powerful political and economic forces. There was fear at first. Now anger and frustration are depicted nightly on our TV news reports – previously mainly from overseas. But now it appears in Australia.

The latest mob in full cry Downunder are the Mad Hatters themselves – a contagion of conspiracy theorists. Ignorance personified.

Tonight, I watched as police tried to manage a mob of around 100 people in Melbourne protesting against the continued lockdown in the State of Victoria, which is not stepping down to the lower level as some other states. None of the protesters wore masks or maintained distance from one another. The (masked) police tried to keep control. Several protesters were arrested.  

Placards read, ‘Fight for your freedom and rights’ and people chanted, ‘Arrest Bill Gates’. The SBS report read, ‘A group of conspiracy theorists have been arrested after defying lockdown laws and holding a rally against vaccinations and 5G at Victoria’s state parliament.’

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, was called up to respond to this, saying the claim that 5G is connected to coronavirus is “nonsense”.

What is it in people that they hang onto believing such crazy, weird stuff? Including the following – but not comprehensive:

  1. Bill Gates started the virus helped by the Chinese so he could make money out of the vaccine … and he wants to de-populate the world.
  2. The ‘plandemic video’ postulates that ‘the virus must have been released from a laboratory environment and could not possibly be naturally-occurring; that using masks and gloves actually makes people more sick; and that closing beaches is “insanity” because of “healing microbes” in the water.’ (BBC commentary).
  3. The virus is no more deadly than the flu …  the numbers thrown around are all fake and mostly are generated by computer algorithms.
  4. COVID-19 is turning out to be huge hoax perpetrated by media
  5.  … the anti-vaxxers in full cry.
  6. Etc…

I was impressed that The Atlantic magazine published an article advising you how to reply politely to those contacts / friends of yours who push the ‘plandemic’ video. I think I needed this advice in order to remain calm and not to disturb the tea party!

“Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. `I don’t quite understand you,’ she said, as politely as she could. (chapter 7. Alice in Wonderland).

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: walking the dog and the leaving of Africa

Roy the Cairn terrier

May 8. Here in Adelaide walking our dog is a necessity and a daily enjoyment. Roy is an 11-year-old pedigree Cairn terrier. Mind you, his ears never managed to stand up, but he is a fine, much admired dog and knows his rights regarding walks after breakfast. We proceed on a regular route at about half normal walking pace as he is most interested in examining every bush, every gum tree for evidence of previous visitors. He is a determined dog and there is no rushing him.

During this time of Covid-19 life-change, many people are walking their dogs and perhaps even more slowly than normal. Dogs can go off-lead in our park. Regular dog-walkers greet one another at the prescribed distance. I know their dogs, but not their owner’s names. Roy, however, loves people and expects pats, but I notice that many won’t even touch him. Can a dog’s fur be infected? I suppose it’s a possibility.

Today, while watching Roy having an unscheduled swim in the muddy creek, I started taking photos of some vivid gum tree blossoms, and I got talking to a tall man walking his overweight King Charles spaniel. He commented on my accent and it turned out that he was an Afrikaner, originally from Pretoria in South Africa. We spoke for almost an hour. Like us, he left South Africa in the mid-1980’s. I am in the middle of a novel about the political situation in South Africa in 1985 and it was strange talking to an Afrikaner about those fraught times.

My new acquaintance is a doctor and we exchanged stories. As a young medic, newly qualified, he was conscripted into the South Afircan Defence force and spent 6 months in Angola during the infamous border wars. He remembered the beauty of the palm trees on the border; of how he treated a 17-year-old soldier whose damaged spine meant he would never walk again; of how lucky he was not to be sent into the townships to shoot at black school kids protesting . He said that when he visted Durban wearing his army uniform some white people spat at him believing him to be a supporter of the Apartheid regime.

This man looked at the towering eucalyptus trees around us and said he struggled to relate to the bush of Australia: what he remembered and loved was the bushveld of his homeland. He told me he was of Dutch origin, distantly related to the famous Doris Lessing by marriage.

How strange life is: you can leave a country and over thirty years later meet a dog walker and be taken back to those days. South Africa in the mid-1980 seemed headed for decades of violence, if not civil war. It was the time we decided to leave. Leaving your country is never easy. You are always a creature of two realities. No one in your new homeland really understands your background: the ‘shadows’ behind you as someone once said. Yet here I was talking to an Afrikaner and he understood.

You should realise that in those days we foolishly regarded all Afrikaners as being on the ‘other’ side, enforcing Apartheid.

Life sometimes gifts you such snippets of time –  to look back, to share the world you came from and see it in a different light.

All while walking Roy, the dog.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: cute and clever they came …

beware the curise ships …

May 5. Soon after the virus arrived and we were in isolation, jokes and memes flooded the internet. Whatsapp, Instagram, Youtube, email and Facebook, all carried these humourous and charming commentaries on our situation. Then the home singing and entertainment videos started. No sooner had you received one, than you found people to send it on to – to keep us lighthearted. We needed to be light-hearted and amused and to feel that others were contacting us to share this emotion. Many, too many, images and videos addressed the need to have another drink to keep you going in the circumstances. We were promised that ‘the whole world will dance again’; shown cute animals apparently freed of the presence of humans and shown clips of Trump being stupid (not difficult). All this interspersed with advice on how to survive, how to bake bread at home, how to sew your own face mask and how to mix your own hand sanitizer.

Through it all the official news from our TV and newspapers keeps us informed on the real numbers. It’s a numbers game, it appears. Numbers positive, numbers in hospital, numbers dead.

The most endearing message of our times arrived this week. It’s a video purportedly from sometime in the future when Covid-19 is a distant memory: a period of history almost forgotten. A father lies in bed reading stories to his young child and the sleepy kid asks for the story about the VIRUS. The father then tells his child how this virus effected the world in terrible ways BUT we all learnt a lesson and the world became a better place: kinder, less acquisitive. It’s called ‘The Great Realisation’, by British artist and poet ‘Probably Tomfoolery’. 

A world of waste and wonder. But then in 2020 … the people dusted off their instincts and …the earth began to breathe … remembered how to smile … good news was in the making … we all preferred the world we found to the one we left behind. Old habit became extinct … made way for the new. Why did it take a virus to bring the people back together? … who knows if you dream hard enough, some of them may come true.’

The internet is ecstatic … 2.9 million views on Youtube and growing. We feel this touching video is the way we might go, living in our first world countries we can especially appreciate a warm glow of hope.

But what do you think will emerge from this period of Covid-19? What is the reality of the direction the world is heading?

I am going to think of the possible outcomes (don’t you love the word ‘outcome’), positive and negative, before my next post.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: what to do? Plant trees …

May 2. Have you watched the controversial, free, Youtube movie, Planet of the Humans with Jeff Gibbs, produced by Michael Moore? This 1 hr 40-minute film was obviously made before the arrival of Covid-19. If the pandemic has made you worried, wondering if you are approaching a state of depression, this film will take you there.

Jeff Gibbs is not a human-induced-climate-change denier. This must be said at the beginning. What he does do is look at the story behind the production of some ‘green’ energy:  solar, wind and biomass fuel. And what he finds may surprise you. The reaction from the environmental lobby has been quick to point the many errors in the film with regard to wind and solar but admit the commentary about the burning of biomass is accurate. What Gibbs also says is that overpopulation is the ‘elephant’ in the room: too many humans consuming the world’s finite resources.

We must all admit it is the western world’s wealthy that are the heaviest consumers. And so it goes.

Trump’s administration has extended the USA’s controls on what can be taught to women world-wide by cutting all funding to any NGO that still offers counselling on abortion:

… under Trump, the net has been thrown wider and pulled tighter than ever. Sexual health organisations have said women will die as a consequence, as they pursue dangerous DIY solutions or “back street” abortions instead.

In March (2019), the US extended the gag, stating that any organisation counselling women on abortion and using funds from elsewhere – even from its own government or a donor in another country – will no longer be eligible for any US funding. The diktat applies to all global health organisations. HIV and children’s charities must sign up to the pledge, alongside those running sexual and reproductive health clinics.”

Coming back to the biomass discussion … after seeing forests being cut down for fuel, Gibbs spoke about how animal fats can be turned into biomass – and there was a brief, almost subliminal, clip showing a whole cow being put through a giant mincer. I could not believe what I had just seen. Shocked is an understatement. It appeared that the cow was alive. I know that animals often are not killed by the bolt in abattoirs and so enter the processing stage still alive.

Some time ago, I read, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (highly recommended) and at one stage Foer says that if abattoirs had glass walls, we humans would NOT allow what goes on there to continue.

Two days ago, I read that Tyson Foods, the mega-producer of meat in the USA (yes, the one that recently lobbied Trump to declare meat production factories as essential facilities) is producing biofuels from ‘beef tallow, pork lard, chicken fat, and cooking grease’ – and no doubt getting subsidies for doing this.

A few days ago, citing his authority under the Defense Production Act, Trump declared in an executive order that “it is important that processors of beef, pork, and poultry (‘meat and poultry’) in the food supply chain continue operating and fulfilling orders to ensure a continued supply of protein for Americans.”

So, they must remain open (and Trump said he would seek to shield the meat plants from legal liabilities …)

After all, Americans must have their meat, and the left-over animal bits and pieces will become bio-fuels for us to feel good about green energy.

Something is wrong in the world if it has come to this.

So, try and forget about Covid-19, about Trump and his bunch of crazies, get out and plant a tree or two.

We have had glorious rain – over 3 days about 3 inches fell (about 75ml). The best Autumn rains for years. So, we drove into the hills above Adelaide to buy some native plant tubestock for our bushland. We were not alone; the place was packed.

Belair State Flora Nursery, South Australia

We bought 20 plants: eremophila, banksias, eucalypts, allocasurinas and acacias. Gardening in South Australia is not a simple matter, as it was in my old home town, Durban, South Africa, where gardens blossomed with little care. Our plants have to be tough to survive dry hot summers and droughts. We are the driest state in the driest continent in the world.

I struggled with getting my head around the native plants in South Australia. Did you know that there are 900 species of eucalypts in Australia? They exist in every corner of this complex country. AND they hybridise and they look similar to the untrained eye. Many plants we have bought, planted and cared for over the years have died, but enough have survived to make a difference to our property.

The soil on our land is alkaline, part of the 700-million-year-old Adelaide Geosyncline complex that once was undersea. The land is bent, crushed and winkled: the soil formed before the first land plants, around the time of snowball earth when multi-cellar algae and bacteria developed. Think about it. It makes our current woes a minor blip in life.

So, it is not too late, nor are we too old, to plant a tree and maybe become vegetarian.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: boredom? Or is it fear?

April 27. I can find things to do, but I am like a grasshopper, unable to settle. Before this virus dominated our lives, I felt time stretched out in such a way there was mental space for me to … to plan … to write another novel … to read serious books … basically, to concentrate. Now I struggle. My mind has shallowed, lost the will to believe in the possibility of normal.

The uncertainty is getting to me – every day we receive unsettling news. One moment the experts say you will get immunity after recovering from Covid-19. Now, they are not sure. Specialists are reporting that the virus is acting in strange ways not registered before – causing unexpected blood clotting behaviour, for example. We read about past pandemics and mutations and realise how vulnerable we are – and how foolish we have been as a species in our factory farming and consumption of wild animals.

And the USA, which is our western world’s mightiest power and democracy is attacking the WHO, stopping payments, and undermining them in other ways. All this in an attempt to distract from Trump’s mistakes. We spend our time ridiculing the most powerful man in the world, but it’s more a time to weep than laugh. How have we come to this? We are living on slippery sand at the end of our lives.

So, who do we trust? Our politicians are severely scrutinised as we assess them for mistakes. World-wide, faith in politicians is at an all-time low.  Currently, in Australia, there is a fierce debate about whether children should return to school this week. Our South Australian Premier says ‘Yes,’ – with care – taking advice from SA Chief Public Health Officer, Professor Nicola Spurrier.

But the Australian Education Union, SA president, Lara Golding, muddied the waters, saying that their safety was “not considered as important …(teachers) are told that they are essential workers but don’t have the equipment, training or support to manage a health crisis.” It’s a question of who is most vulnerable and it’s a tricky question. We have not had any new cases in South Australia for 5 days but I read this issue as being more of a power wrangle between a Labor Union and a Liberal Premier. No wonder we are confused about the greater good and who to trust.

Many are saying: trust the science. Sure, but across the world there is some confusion of science as well – do we need masks if we have no symptoms? Yes? No? What is the best treatment for severe cases? Ventilate or not? What drugs are recommended for severe cases? Why is it taking so long to assess hydroxychloroquine?

No wonder my sleep pattern is disturbed. Dreams are strange and vivid.

“Present fears are less than horrible imaginings” …. Macbeth

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: lest we forget…

Leonard Leader Brereton 1896-1917
Wilfred Reginald Smithyman 1921-1942

‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.’

Today is Anzac Day in Australia. We are not a very religious country but you could argue that this day, 25 April, is close to a sacred day for all Australians. This was the day in 1915 that the ANZACs landed in Gallipoli Cove for the disastrous invasion of the Dardanelles. The campaign, which lasted till January 1916, had no effect on the war either way. There were 8,159 ANZAC deaths and over 26,000 casualties. It is remembered for the dogged determination and heroism shown, not for the ultimate campaign failure.  ‘Lest we forget’ is the major call of this day. All wars in which the ANZACS fought are commemorated.

Normally this is a huge day for celebration, the taking out of family medals, the dawn services followed by crowded parades, formal speeches and the laying of wreathes to remember the fallen. It is noteworthy that every city and tiny town in Australia has a memorial to the war dead – to the war that was meant to end all wars. Australia suffered a huge number of deaths in the First WW relative to its population.

‘When you go home, tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’
(John Maxwell Edmonds)

My family did not fight as Australians but we bear the stories of young men killed senselessly in war. My great-uncle, Leonard Brereton, was a 21-year-old engineer with the 5th Bedfordshire Regiment and was shot and killed by a Turkish sniper in April 1917 in the Second Battle of Gaza. He is buried in Cairo.
My uncle, Wilfred Reginald Smithyman, also 21 years old, was a pilot in the Royal Air Force’s Fighter Command, flying Typhoon planes. He was killed in the wasteful and failed Dieppe Raid in August 1942. He is buried in Abbeville, France.

This Anzac Day, 105 years since the Gallipoli landing, was like no other. It has been called the “People’s Anzac Day” as thousands rose before dawn to stand on their driveways holding candles and poppies: old men and women dressed in uniforms with polished medals, young kids bearing their family medals and holding faded photographs of those who served and those who died. There was a drive-by honouring a 98-year-old veteran sitting on the kerbside. There was music and poetry too: from backyard buglers and people in the street speaking the famous lines, ‘We will remember them’.

One old veteran, standing tall in the early light, was asked what his thoughts were. He said, ‘sadness and reflection’.

There are no glories in war, only the sadness of those left to mourn through the generations. And I feel that this year, with the overhanging threat of a pandemic, Australians have devised humble memorials to the senseless loss of their young men and women that are more poignant than the marching crowds and noisy bands.

‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.’ (Laurence Binyon.)