from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: O if we but knew what we do …

Anne Chappel, author of two novels about Africa: Zanzibar Uhuru & Shadow of the Hyena

December 31.

Update. Our Australian state borders are closing once more. The fight continues as countries try to stop this virus killing more people. There are numbers I have read in the media, from the UK, from the USA, from South Africa that tell a story of more infections than ever before, of more deaths per day. Numbers.

And every one of those infected people facing possible death holds a personal story. My daughter in Seattle said her friend’s father, aged 80+, is dying of Covid-19 but won’t go to ICU because he refuses to leave his wife. How many children in South Africa cannot find a hospital place for their infected father or mother because there are no beds available? No oxygen, no remdesivir, no comfort in their final hours.

Back to Sydney, NSW. It appears that the virus has spread into greater Sydney. There is now a ‘Cronulla’ cluster and various more cases where the connections to known cases is unclear. Yet still Premier Gladys Berejiklian has not mandated masks (Victoria has) and continues to stand by her decision to allow the New Year’s cricket test (Australia vs India) to go ahead at the Sydney Cricket ground. Up to 20,000 spectators will be allowed (50% capacity). This seems reckless. You only have to look back to Europe and the February 19 soccer match in Bergamo, Italy, between Altlanta and Valancia. This is now regarded as a ‘super-spreader’ event.

True, our numbers are low. 10 more cases today in NSW and 3 in Victoria (after 2 months of no community spread). But, by now, we all know that it only takes a few infected people to explode the virus into the community.

World News. The problem with world news is that its seldom happy, seldom uplifting. We wake up for the 6.30 or 7am news. For months it has not been a good start to the day. Too efficient, our ABC find every bad event around the world. Maybe that is the nature of this pandemic year; maybe, being anxious, we home in on bad news that confirms our night-time fears.

Behind all this news of the virus, the environmental news is likewise miserable. Are the harvesters and destroyers of our wild animals and wild places getting bolder under cover of the pandemic? It is likely.

Before I was a bird-watcher in South Africa, I was interested in native orchids and trees. Durban, semi-tropical with a rich soil, had many remnant native forest reserves as well as magnificent old street trees.

I have this distinct memory from some time in the 1960s, of being driven around Durban North by an estate agent when we were looking to buy our first home. We drove into a street of flowering erythrina trees (the coral tree).

My estate agent said, ‘Erythrina crista-galli’.

‘WHAT? Say that again?’ I said, for I had never heard the scientific name of a tree said out aloud. It was beautiful, like a three-word poem.

I didn’t buy a house, I learnt the name of a tree.

I was hooked, mesmerised. At some stage, we collected the brown bean-like seeds of this tree and my young daughter planted them outside her bedroom window. Very quickly one took and grew big enough to hold a bird table, big enough to develop its own generous cascades of red blooms.

My life-long interest in trees had begun. The street trees of Durban are a year-round spectacle, a demonstration of the fecundity of immigrants: avenues of Latin America’s jacarandas, of Madagascar’s flamboyant, Delonix regia, of India’s golden shower, Cassia fistula, of the dark and solid Natal mahogany, Trichilia emetica which housed the roosting flocks of feral Indian Myna birds.

When you are a birdwatcher you appreciate trees and the rest: the wild places. Hence, when we retired in South Australia, almost 20 years ago, we bought a larger property on the city edge with lots of bush and we set about removing feral olive trees and planting native trees and bushes.

The bird life we now have is nothing short of delightful. We are an oasis on the hillside.

Superb blue wren, New Holland honeyeater

We were helped by an organisation in South Australia called Trees for Life. They supply appropriate native seeds, the wherewithal to plant them and the advice of how to care for them. In such a manner you can easily raise 60, 120 seedlings in one season for your own property. A gift for the future.

https://treesforlife.org.au/

Ancient eucalypts near Adelaide, Australia, surviving drought and fire.

Maybe as you get older you become more determined – and fierce – in your views. I get most unhappy when I hear about the clearing of old-growth forests. Australia is guilty – big time – forests are still being cleared in Queensland and in other states. Our record is not good at all. The land cleared in Queensland is for agriculture – mostly for beef production. The (cruel) live export trade remains strong.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-10-08/deforestation-land-clearing-australia-state-by-state/12535438

This week the news contained a non-virus story but still upsetting. Ancient, remnant trees in NE Namibia, in the semi-desert lands near the Okavango, are being cut down and exported to China. An investigation shows criminal elements in conjunction with Namibian elite are destroying in wholesale fashion these valuable ancient, African rosewood, Zambezi teak, and Kiaat trees.

https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/chinese-companies-and-namibian-elites-make-millions-illegally-logging-the-last-rosewoods#:~:text=Namibia%20is%20a%20signatory%20to,red%2Dwood%20furniture%20in%20Asia.

Humans come and go, each of us takes from the world, from the environment. Huge trees are survivors, bearing the marks of their efforts. To harvest 700-year-old trees from marginal communities is criminal.

I wish you all a Happy New Year. I am sorry, it is hardly likely to be so.

There is always poetry. Here is a poignant one to finish the year.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44390/binsey-poplars

Binsey Poplars by G.M.Hopkins

felled 1879

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled, 
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun, 
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
               Not spared, not one
                That dandled a sandalled
         Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow & river & wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

  O if we but knew what we do
         When we delve or hew —
     Hack and rack the growing green!
          Since country is so tender
     To touch, her being só slender,
     That, like this sleek and seeing ball
     But a prick will make no eye at all,
     Where we, even where we mean
                 To mend her we end her,
            When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
  Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
     Strokes of havoc unselve
           The sweet especial scene,
     Rural scene, a rural scene,
     Sweet especial rural scene.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Justinian’s Flea and the Spanish Flu…

December 27. UPDATE. So Christmas is over and we are still (holiday-less) in Adelaide while the virus bubbles away in Sydney, NSW. The numbers testing positive are low – yesterday 7, today 5 more positive cases have been diagnosed in the ‘Avalon’ Cluster that now stands at 130. NSW Health have conducted over 4 million tests. The Northern Beaches area of Sydney has gone back into lockdown. Our famous New Year’s Eve Sydney fireworks will go ahead in a shortened 7-minute form, but no public will be allowed on the foreshore lining the harbour. (Often a million people gather). Chief Health Officer, Kerry Chant, said that people are testing positive 11-12 days after infection so she justified the requirement stipulating 14 days of isolation after contact with an infected person. Serological testing is showing that the majority of cases are connected to the Avalon outbreak.

Obviously, we remain vulnerable to infection outbreaks with any international arrivals. All arrivals into Australia are significantly down but still enough people are arriving for it to be a challenge for quarantine management at ports of entry. In November 2020, just under 30,000 people arrived from overseas, divided almost equally between Australian citizens and others. (Compare with a year ago: November 2019, 746,080 Australian citizens arrived and 978,440 non-Australians arrived).

One year of Australian citizen arrivals
One year of non-citizen arrivals

Tonight, it was announced that the new strain of the virus, B117, from the UK, which is shutting international borders has been detected in six travellers arriving into Australia from the UK: two are in South Australia. These individuals are all in hotel quarantine. Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, says Australia will not be banning flights from the UK.

I note that our neighbour, Indonesia, is requiring all international arrivals to have a negative Covid-19 (PCR) test done within two days before arrival. Hotel quarantine is also required. But no international tourists are allowed into Indonesia. Australian immigration do not require arrivals to show recent test results but there is media discussion asking, why not?

All the recent news and discussions about the virus shows how we are all learning more and more: how it is highly infectious; how better to treat people; how poorer countries are suffering and their death rates are under-reported, how we need to worry about the rise of mutations. We are all learning the language of epidemiologists and vaccine research. Experts abound!

Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen

I am reading Justinian’s Flea by William Rosen, (Plague, Empire and the Birth of Europe) a history more about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire under Emperor Justinian (527-565CE) than the pandemic. While only part of the book is about this bubonic plague there are many parallels to reflect on.

‘During these times, there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated.’ (Quoted by William Rosen in Justinian’s Flea by historian, Procopius of Caesarea.)

The medical treatment of the 6th Century was ‘weighted towards spells, folk remedies and charms’ including saint’s relics and magic amulets‘ (page 212). Application of cold and hot water was suggested. The only possible respite seemed to have been in the use of the opium poppy juice!  Procopius of Caesarea blamed the plague on Emperor Justinian. Other Christian leaders blamed the plague on peoples’ wickedness. Millions died: between 20 and 50% of the population over the 200 years as the waves of infection criss-crossed Europe and Middle-eastern empires.

Nowadays, we too have magic treatments and strange advice: Trump’s internal UV light treatment, alternative medications (Chloroquine), garlic, drinking water every 15 minutes to wash the virus into the stomach; saline nasal washes and avoiding 5G networks.

The Plague of Justinian arrived in 542 CE with the ubiquitious rats on the grain shipments from Egypt and thence through the Mediterranean shipping lanes to ports and onward along the Roman roads (in carts bearing grain with the hidden black rats carrying the fleas) into the interior. The main plague was zoonotic so depended on the movement of Rattus rattus.

At first, our Covid-19 pandemic spread through air travellers – so much faster than Justinian’s plague.

William Rosen argues that Justinian’s plague changed history: it weakened the waring empires of the Romans and the Persians (the Sassanid Empire). Justinian was unable to extend his initial reconquest successes in Italy. The way was open for the rise of the Islamic people led at first by the righteous caliphs.

And so with us. It is arguable that both the USA, UK and hence the EU have been weakened by recent events coupled with popularist leaders in the UK and USA. It has hastened the rise of China to world economic significance and power. But on the other hand, without Covid-19, Trump might have been re-elected. His and his administration’s mishandling of the pandemic was enough in the forefront of citizens’ concerns to persuade those vacillating voters to cast a vote for Biden.

The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was an H1N1 virus originating in birds, probably in North America. My father, Mervyn Smithyman, (1911-2008) loved to tell stories of his childhood in Nyasaland (Malawi) where the family moved after the First World War. But before that, my grandfather was with the South African Army in German East Africa fighting General von Lettow-Vorbeck’s forces and he did not return until late 2019. My grandmother stayed in Wepener in the Orange Free State with her 7 young children.

My father was 8 years old when the Spanish Flu swept through Southern Africa. He and Harold, his elder brother, had vivid memories of those days.

Harold. ‘At the end of the war, before Dad got back, the Spanish Influenza arrived. I was a Wolf Cub and we had to go round to the Market Square where they had clothes boiling in a huge cauldron. These charity workers had a big billycan to take from door from door and people went in and cleaned out and I waited outside. I wore a little packet of garlic round my neck and then Mum said, ‘No! I had to stop!’ I was then sent away to get away from the infection.’

My Father. ‘One by one the rest of the family got sick except Mum and me. Then she got sick and I can remember she was telling me how to go the kitchen to get soup. People came to the door to help but she said that she would not accept charity. Mum told me from her sick bed how to get to the kitchen to get the soup.’

‘That was all fine for a little while and then I said, “Mum I have a headache!”’

‘Now she had to get up, otherwise there was no way we were going to survive. But she got up. She could not stand so she crawled to the kitchen. I remember she gave us some soup to bring back. Every one of us survived the influenza. The carts were passing the door with the corpses of hundreds of people.’

We are not at the end of the Covid-19 story. 2021 will be a long year as we wait for vaccination and desperately hope that a nastier strain of the virus does not develop and catch us before it is dampened down into the furthest little corners of the world. But I fear that we will all harbour a new anxiety about our world.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Did you see the Christmas Star?

December 22.

and an UPDATE on Christmas travels.

We are still in Adelaide. Sadly, we cancelled our booking to fly to Sydney as the situation got more complex. The cluster hot-spot in Sydney’s ‘Northern Beaches’ became more problematic as it was ascertained that infected people had visited locations across Greater Sydney and even the Central Coast. All other Australian states and territories began tightening the rules for arrivals from the hot-spots, Greater Sydney and from NSW. There was a rush of people leaving NSW. Flights full. At the very least, we would have had to quarantine on our return to South Australia. Most likely that quarantine would be allowed to take place in our own home but we might have been sent to a medi-hotel.

As of today, South Australia has not made our border with NSW a ‘hard’ border as other states have done. What we also feared was that the border would be firmly closed and we would be stuck in NSW for an indeterminate period of time. Once the announcment is made, you get very little time to rush home – most often 12 hours.

Our granddaughter was hoping to travel from Canberra (ACT) to NSW to join the family for Christmas, but she is now unable to do so.

The situation is complex and changes every day. It is hard to keep up with the various directions and the language used. ‘High community transition zone’. What does that mean in regard to new rules? Our South Australian state police were confused a day ago: they incorrectly turned back some arrivals from NSW at the road borders and told others they had to go into quarantine – when it was not mandatory until the midnight deadline, six hours later. Compensation is being sought.

Stars and Rainbows.

Last night, we waited for sunset hoping that the horizon-wide clouds would clear. They did! At about 8.15pm (sunset is now 8.29pm as it’s the summer solstice time) we could clearly see the bright star in the south-west. With our binoculars Jupitar and Saturn were distinctive. Jupiter was larger but we could not pick out its moons through our bird-watching binoculars (10×42). Out came our birding spotoscope which has a magnification of 20x and is stabilised on its tripod. Then we could see 3 of the 4 of Jupiter’s bigger moons in a line. One was surprisingly far away from Jupiter – probably the beautiful Ganymede. I read today that Ganymede is the largest but not the brightest and is bigger than Mercury. Jupiter has 79 moons – that have been discovered so far.

from the internet
taken in South Australia by photographer, Sandy Horne- see the fourth moon

Saturn looked squashed and perhaps that was due to its rings.

I remember that the bushmen of southern Africa had such amazing eyesight that they could see Jupiter’s moons without any aid.

After another 20 minutes, as the sky darkened, the stars were even more outstanding. However, my camera could not handle the lack of light and all I got were hazy pinpricks. We shall try again tonight.

Many are excited about this planetary ‘Great Conjunction’– the best night-time conjunction sighting in 800 years. It is astonishing that in the 17C Johannes Kepler calculated how planetary orbits worked and found there was a triple conjunction (including Mars) in 7BCE. Could that have been the star that the wise men followed to Bethlehem? Who knows, but it’s a lovely idea.

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/the-great-conjunction-of-jupiter-and-saturn

double rainbow over Adelaide

This morning, after the overnight rain, and our sighting of the Christmas Star, a double rainbow hung over Adelaide. One rainbow end seemed to position itself at the bottom of our hill. We think a rainbow is a fortuitous sign. Is it a godly promise that he/she will inflict no more total-world natural destruction –  by floods or any other way?

However, instead of a world-encompassing deluge or fire, we have a pandemic and there is little sign of it ending.

But these were positive signs in the heavens and morning skies. My husband said he remembered a negro spiritual about the rainbow sign given to Noah. So, we found the song.

God Gave Noah the Rainbow Sign sung here by the Carter Family.

(James Baldwin used a line from the lyrics for the title of his 1963 book of essays: The Fire Next Time).

‘God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time
Hide me over, Rock of Ages, cleft for me.’

Corruption and violence have not gone away. Maybe what we are enduring across the world really is the ‘fire next time’.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: has the horse bolted?

The weekend Australian December 19-20

Tomorrow at 9.55am, we should have been aboard an early flight to Sydney with luggage filled with Christmas presents and our beach clothes for our 9 nights at the coast north of Sydney.

Today, we postponed our departure for two days. Sydney is partly in crisis over an outbreak of Covid-19 on the ‘Northern Beaches’, an area along the coast north of the harbour from Bondi to Palm Beach – 21 beaches and their suburbs extending a long way inland. This area has been declared a ‘hotspot’ by all other states and territories.

Once more it is partly a case of poor management. You would have thought that councils, states and governments would learn from one another, would have their antennae alert to the mistakes and successes of other jurisdictions, other countries. Not so. Premier Daniel Andrews of Victoria state made a few blatant well chronicled mistakes but he did not stand down. Now it’s the Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian’s turn to admit they have made another mistake (not an acknowledged mistake – they are merely changing their ways. A major error was the handling of the docking and disembarkation of the passengers from the cruise ship, ‘Ruby Princess’ in March).

Until now, crews from international flights have been required to self-isolate either in hotels or private homes for 14 days or until they left on their next flight. More than one hundred international flights have been arriving into Sydney Airport per week. This comes as there has been great pressure on the Australian government to facilitate the repatriation of Australians ‘stuck’ overseas.

Often its not what they did, but what they did not do. Crew members have been seen wandering around Sydney. From next Tuesday, airline crew will be taken to two designated hotels near the airport and the hotels will be monitored by the police. Don’t move out of your hotel room! No more taking in the sights of our marvellous harbour city!

What was the source of this outbreak, this new cluster?

They don’t know. However, a Sydney Ground Transport bus driver who transports international flight crews tested positive this week but he is not regarded as the source of the new outbreak.

Could the source be one of those airline crews who has since returned overseas? This is possible. NSW Health are doing extensive genomic testing and announced that they believe that the strain is from the USA. But ‘patient zero’ has not been located.

We cannot stay isolated from the rest of the world for ever but it is apparent that a sprinkling of international passengers are carrying the virus and it does not take much of a slip up in the process of their quarantine for an outbreak to occur.

What is obvious is that our tracing abilities of contacts have improved no end. Every few hours various locations and transportation routes are announced on the NSW Covid-19 site to alert the public to the fact that a positive case was there at the time indicated. In an attempt to restrict the spread to the Northern Beaches, all residents have been asked to stay at home as much as possible for 3 days. QR codes have been used in NSW since November 22. There are hour long queues at the new testing sites across Sydney. So there is hope with such improved processes.

I told my daughter in Seattle, USA, about the outbreak.

‘How many cases?’ she said.

’28,’ I said.

’28!!’ she laughed. ‘Overnight in Washington State we have had almost 900 new cases.’

(Population of greater Sydney is 5.3 million, Washington State, USA, is 7.6 million)

So, we must put our outbreak into perspective. However, we have all learnt this year that it takes only one busy, undetected, infected person in a city for the virus to totally escape. Our Australian state premiers and our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, have learnt that its necessary to overreact to outbreaks. We don’t want to get complacent when vaccines are just over the horizon.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Books that sustain us OR keep us exploring.

Richard Flanagan’s lastest novel

December 14. The year is almost past. We have survived so far. For those who love books, the reading life has been an activity that has helped us get through the worst times. The Economist magazine agrees. In their business section of the edition, ‘The World in 2021’ I was pleased to see an article, ‘Books bounce Back’. Book buying – print and digital has increased. We cannot be sure that books have been read, but they have been bought!

‘The year 2020 is on track to be one of the best for print books in America since 2004.’

eBooks and audio book sales have recorded double digit growth and print books sales increased by 7%. 2021 is also forecast to be another positive year for book sellers. And it’s not just Amazon that has benefitted: a newish online bookseller which routes sales to independent bookstores is doing well.  

https://bookshop.org/

I often wish I had kept a running list of the books that I read each year. Because I forget. Maybe that is why I don’t like to give away the books that fill our bookcases.

I usually have at least a couple of books on the go. The mind can do that! At the moment I am reading The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, (due out in the UK in January 2021) a fascinating, dark, imaginative novel by Richard Flanagan, (he of the Booker Prize, Winner 2014 with the Narrow Road to the Deep North).

Interesting title. Some of you, unlike me, will be ultra-aware and recognise it as a quote from a poem by English poet, John Clare (1793-1864). Ignorant, that I am, I did not know about John Clare until David Vincent (also a writer in this group of bloggers) introduced me to him. It’s a very sad, very beautiful poem written when Clare was bereft of love and hope (as some are during these times).

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43948/i-am

‘Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest.

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is a strange novel for strange times. It is set in Tasmania during the 2019 summer where 3 siblings gather around the bedside of their dying mother while Australia burns. Ignore the darkness and read it. It will take you away to wonder at many things: of hope in the face of disaster, of our threatened natural world, of vanishing wildlife, of the nature of kindness and of family dynamics around a dying parent.

‘Is translating experience into words any achievement at all? Or is it just the cause of all our unhappiness?’ (Flanagan) All writers might ask this. What is there left to write in this new world?

I too am a writer: attempting through imagination translated into words to create a believable story. I feel what Flanagan has done is to take us into the Covid-19 future of an unravelling world. He uses magical realism and the disturbing ‘vanishings’ of The Living Sea to place us in that world.

It is worth listening to the excellent podcast of Richard Flanagan talking to Richard Fiedler (another author and an excellent interviewer) on ABC’s Conversations. Even if you don’t see yourself getting this book, do listen to this podcast. Amongst other things, It will take you away to a distant lighthouse island; to the idea of Tasmania being a Jewish safe zone during the 2nd WW; to the dying rainforest of the SW of Tasmania, to the politics of denial.

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/richard-flanagan-living-sea-of-waking-dreams/12715504

How lucky we are as readers to have such resources at our fingertips.

This part-poem from Mervyn Peake comes from one of his Gormenghast books (Titus Groan). The poem may not be about books, instead it is about loneliness, imagination and exploring ideas. And, of course, it keeps us exploring and paying attention to things that are vanishing.

https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/linger-now-with-me-thou-beauty/

Will thou come with me, and linger?
And discourse with me of those
Secret things the mystic finger
Points to, but will not disclose?
When I’m all alone, my glory
Always fades, because I find
Being lonely drives the splendour
Of my vision from my mind.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Let’s Dance…

December 13.

My friend, Ingrid, lives in a retirement village outside Durban, South Africa. a few months ago, she had had enough of doing do very little so she and a few friends decided to put a video together with some help from a couple of techno-capable younsters with a drone. They persuade many residents to leave their lonely units and started teaching them a dance routine.  They would meet on certain days in different locations/villages. She said it was wonderful seeing the reaction from many who had never met their neighbours before or had not left their units for months due to their strict lockdown regulations.  Hence all of the scenes were in the open air with the participants wearing masks.

So, there are little ways to change the world and make it a better place during these difficult days! Enjoy!

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: travel time – off to the Yorke Peninsula

Black Point shack resisting the sea

December 10.‘Where are you going for Christmas?’ my friends are asking. Australian families are on the move once more. Tentatively. Within Australia.

During this year, our 8 states and territories have acted rather like different countries. Their premiers have had their year in the limelight as each one has dictated the terms of who will enter their state and what quarantine they will undergo. These restrictions should have come from uniform federal health advice but it is pretty obvious that local decision had a lot to do with a dose of aggrandisement and the proximity of elections. In all cases where the premiers have been tough and declared that they are but protecting the (especially precious) residents of their own states, their popularity has soared.

West Australia (WA), in particular, has been most reluctant to open its borders. Even one case of Covid-19 in another state, causes an immediate banning of interstate travel to WA. Premier McGowan would only open the WA border to NSW after 30 (yes, THIRTY) days of no new cases.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-07/wa-set-to-reopen-to-travellers-from-nsw-and-victoria-at-midnight/12956210

AND, if South Australia (SA) remains Covid-19 free for 28 days, we will be allowed into WA without having to go into quarantine for 14 days – and that will take us to midnight on Christmas Eve. Thus, all those SA people who have families in WA cannot plan to be together at Christmas. It does seem rather absurd.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-10/sa-travellers-into-wa-wont-be-able-to-reunite-for-xmas/12970370

Meanwhile intra-state travel and travel to states that are open (Queensland in particular) is booming. AirBnb is flat out, rates are up, December and January are almost booked out for holiday accommodation.

So, with my birthday coming up, before the schools broke up, we booked a 4-night getaway on the beach at Black Point on the Yorke Peninsula (YP). The Peninsula is foot-shaped and Black Point is almost due west of Adelaide on the eastern shore of the peninsula. We have to travel north for an hour and then south along the coast for another hour. The YP consists of flat, almost completely cleared farming land that is planted with barley, wheat, canola and lentils. In summer after the harvest, it is depressingly brown and dusty. Along the coast little towns are tucked into protected bays. Almost all have slowly collapsing jetties that once shipped grain to Adelaide.

Last November, we sold our own beach ‘shack’ at Port Julia on the YP. All Australians call their holiday homes by the sea, ‘shacks’ even if the building is brick with 5 bedrooms! We were missing our regular visits to the coast and Black Point is well known for its beautiful 3km scoop of beach, north-facing, with its back to the prevailing wind.

Basic beach shacks and rough boat sheds were built there long ago and some remain right on the beach front. But with the passing of time and the rising of the seas, planning regulations have resulted in the replacement houses being constructed about 30 meters further back on the sand dunes. So now some of the crumbling corrugated iron and board shacks remain almost on the high tide line and new huge million-dollar houses are rising further back.

our beach rental

We rented an old but renovated shack on the beach. (It did not have an outside ‘dunny’!). The verandah was on the spring high-tide line and at night the sound of the sea kept we wondering where I was.

It was lovely! Just to watch the changing face of the sea and sky from our shack was enough. I fished from my kayak for crabs (too small at the moment) and squid (more success there). We celebrated with a good bottle of champagne and grilled crayfish – bought in Adelaide (the price of crayfish is down because China has halted our exports saying our seafood is contaminated).

a birthday treat

Our children across the world phoned using Whatsapp – from Seattle, Indianapolis, Sydney and Cape Town. Life is pretty good at the moment. No complaints.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: steps towards normal – with a QR Code.

December 2.

warnings are getting more graphic!

You will be happy to hear that the news from South Australia is good.

Australians love to use the word, ‘good’.

‘How are you?’

‘I am good!’

We seem to be escaping from the recent predictions of community spread. There has been a flurry of testing since November 18 when it was feared that we were in for a significant outbreak and a severe lockdown was imposed and as quickly lifted.

But new measures are now in place: we have a process of checking in with your smart phone whenever you enter a public place or club – it’s Called ‘COVID SAfe Check-In’ and this allows our SA Health to follow up on contacts with more efficiency. (The SA capitalised in ‘SAfe’ is for South Australia). You read the QR code using your smart phone camera and up pops a table where you enter your details. I think this is the way forward for the next year – or so.

The problem is many people of a certain age do not have a smart phone or find it difficult to work this technology. I foresee long queues of people waiting outside venues as they struggled to adapt. But it can be done and it should be done without too much grumbling.

This week I went to our Adelaide Central Market for the first time this year. Our central market is a joy to all Adelaideans. It is located right in the centre of the city with easy cheap parking above the trading halls. It promotes itself as one of the largest undercover fresh produce markets in the southern hemisphere.

strawberries, mangoes, apricots and peaches are IN

It was opened in 1870 and locals like nothing better than to shop on a Saturday morning and have a breakfast there as well. There are 70 traders. Perhaps in London terms this is not large but it is perfect for our little city. The range of fruit, small goods, cheeses, flowers, cakes and pastries, seafood, spice shops, and quirky trendy outlets makes for a shopping spree. There is even an exotic food shop called Something Wild, selling exotic meats such as camel, emu, feral goat, crocodile and kangaroo as well as native greens.

https://www.broadsheet.com.au/adelaide/shops/something-wild

I was on a mission. Having had some time to clear out one of those cupboards filled with ‘things-we-don’t-use’ and ‘things-we-will-never-use’, I took a bag of old camera bits and pieces (Nikon, Tamron, Minolta) to the camera shop in the market. (In spite of mild protest from my husband). They don’t want digital cameras for resale, only the old analog SLRs for students learning photography. I am happy that my once precious cameras might be used once more. Better than the bin.

Locals getting their morning coffee fix

Then, lightened physically and mentally, I enjoyed breakfast in the market, watched masked police collecting their cappuccinos, and admired the wonderful spread of goodies on offer.

I felt old times might be returning.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: A visit to the dentist – is this the new normal?

24 November

Turned into a beauty

We have had it easy in South Australia. No question. Masks are not mandatory and even spraying with hand sanitiser at the entrance to every shop is not well observed. Our relative infection rate and death rate are less than a 30th of the USA’s. Life here is almost normal. Almost – except when you go to the dentist.

Yesterday, I went to my dentist’s surgery for a check-up and clean. In doing so, I realised that they are taking Covid-19 very seriously. This is the process I went through.

First, there were multiple warnings on the door as to the numbers allowed in and asking you to go away if your health was compromised in any way.

Once inside, I approached Reception where three staff were seated behind a continuous plexiglass barrier. I was first directed to sign in – not digitally I must say. Then I was asked to read through a lengthy list of venues: four full close-typed pages.

‘Please let us know,’ the receptionist said, ‘if you have been to any of these places.’

The list was a comprehensive listing of all sorts of venues (listed next to a time) that were of concern to our contact tracers as a result of the recent ‘Parafield Cluster’ outbreak. The list revealed the wandering life of a very busy extended family: several primary and high schools, a major hospital, early learning centres, lots of buses (routes and times listed), bus stations, hotels, pubs, many shopping centres, many supermarkets, doctors’ surgeries, cafes, chemists, swimming pools etc. Over 50 places.

I could answer, ‘No’ because they all showed that the wandering infected people had been north of the city and luckily, I had not taken a bus in the last two weeks.

Once I told the receptionist I was not a suspect connected to these many places, (I can now understand why so many thousands are currently in quarantine,) my temperature was taken with one of those hand-held gun things.

I was now prepared for my be-masked hygienist. With her there was yet another protocol before the procedure could start –  I had to rinse twice with some anti-septic, counting to 30 each time.

On the drive home I marvelled at how well-behaved we are in Australia. Few complain, few protest. It appears that the Victorian people in our neighbouring state, have already forgiven Premier Daniel Andrews and his government for their ‘cock-up’ months ago.

Sun, blue and purple: summer

Most important news is that our streets have exploded in a riot of jacaranda blossom and the sidewalks are festooned with fallen flowers. They always remind me of Durban, South Africa, and the annual exam season (flowering in November – year-end examination time in South Africa: ‘purple panic’ in Queensland).

There was a story at our Natal university in Durban that if you stood under a jacaranda tree, gazing upward, and caught a blossom as it fell, you would pass your exams! It seemed to be counter-productive advice. I did not try it.

The jacarandas in Adelaide seem especially magnificent this year. Maybe we are now more observant, more sensitive to the world around us.

There has to be something positive that comes out of all this.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Oops! Sorry, it wasn’t a pizza box!

Our Premier, Steven Marshall looking for explanations

November 22. Well that was a mistake. Our severe lockdown lasted a mere three days. It was announced on Wednesday and by Friday there was a major backtrack.

This weekend the newspapers are full of analysis, recriminations and quite a lot of finger-pointing. What went wrong?

On Monday, our creative writing group had returned from the Flinders Ranges to hear about the ominous virus ooutbreak in our northern suburbs called the ‘Parafield’ cluster. It all seem to be under control until Wednesday when with little notice we were put into severe lockdown.

We were told that this was definitely a more virulent strain of the virus. The only hope for our state was to shutdown at short notice. There was a sense of panic in the community: hour long queues developed outside supermarkets. There was a flurry of emails cancelling appointments, weddings, funerals, travel plans; closing clubs, restaurants etc … think ALL activity outside your home. Borders were closed and incoming flights diverted.

Only one person from each household was to be allowed out once a day to shop. Dogs were not allowed to be exercised.However, people were quite innovative. I noticed walkers with backpacks on the way to shops, sometimes with a large dog in tow which they tied up outside. (For the first time I wore a mask to the supermarket. I found it mildly unpleasant.)

Then on Friday the news came out that the lockdown was unnecessary. There had been a mistake. What went wrong? I suppose we are all in a learning curve and the state government and medical authorities are as well.

Authorities believed that the virus was being transferred into the community on pizza boxes! It seems silly to say this now. But do you remember all that discussion months ago about how the virus could survive on different surfaces?

Contact tracers had interviewed an infected man who said that he had bought a pizza and from a pizza take-away business where another infected person was working. That’s how he had caught the infection. Our authorities jumped to the conclusion that this young man had been infected by merely handling a takeaway pizza. If this was true, then all the people who had collected pizzas during this period needed to be quarantined. Authorities went into overdrive contacting everyone who had been to that pizza parlour. Over 4,000 people were put into quarantine. (I wonder if they all bought pizzas – if so that was one very popular pizza restaurant!)

However, after checking they found out that this individual had lied. He was in fact working shifts at the pizza parlour and had been infected by a colleague working there. Apparently, this makes all the difference. No infected pizza boxes. No hundreds of customers potentially infected.

Our premier Steven Marshall reacted quickly. On Friday he announced the error and declared that on Saturday night the severe lockdown would end. People were allowed out to exercise and take their dogs out walking once more. We are still under restrictions but bearable. We ourselves are going out to lunch at friends shortly – 10 people are allowed to gather. We will be only 8. Outings next week are back on the calendar.

Now people are looking for someone to blame. Why did the authorities not double check when the concept of pizza box transmission seemed a little unlikely?

Why did the young teenager lie? Was he in fact paid cash over-the-counter? That’s avoiding tax. Was he a temporary resident? Perhaps a student struggling? Whatever the story, the poor youngster is in trouble. Apparently, he is being interviewed by the police but it appears there is no real sanction for lie telling. Even the current US president gets away with it daily – on a mighty scale. Why shouldn’t the teenager occasionally protect himself? And perhaps he was frightened and did not realise the enormity of his lie.

Either way, our state has had a shock, emotionally and financially, but we are on the better side of the event: no rampant community transmission.

And most critical, we have no Donald Trump look-alike spinning nonsense to undermine our democracy.