from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: a Black Swan in the Botanic Gardens

August 5. Today, we walked in the Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens in the hills to the east of Adelaide. It was one of our coldest days with the daytime temperature hovering around 3°. But the sun was out and that was enough to make it pleasure.

an early flower

The Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, established in 1857, is a 97 ha area covering native forest as well as sections of European trees and flowers such as rhododendrons, azaleas and daffodils. We were a few weeks early for the spring flowering. It is interesting how the English immigrants wanted to replicate their beautiful home gardens in this new continent. In the nearby suburb of Stirling, if you bought built a new house you were required to plant deciduous European trees such as maple, ash and oak in order to create an autumn show. Adelaide gardens are filled with roses and huge camelia bushes.

the blackbuttt forest

The English also brought their birds because they thought the local birds did not sing well enough or that birds they were familiar with would solve an agriculture problem. Blackbirds, song thrushes, skylarks and goldfinches were introduced. Most of the species died out or are now only found in limited areas. They were not able to adapt to the hardness of the Australian climate. Blackbirds have survived in urban Adelaide gardens: one sings in our valley.

The most catastrophic decision was the introduction of the common starling to Australia in the mid-1800s. The idea was that it would feed on local insect pests. Instead, starlings have attacked fruit crops and have caused significant problems for livestock and poultry farmers. In western South Australia people are employed to shoot starlings to try and stop them migrating to Western Australia. If you spot a starling in West Australia you are required to report it and authorities will destroy the bird as soon as possible.

Since we are birdwatchers, we spent some time in the botanic gardens looking for birds. It is noticeable that most of the bird species were found in the native forest on the fringes of the rhododendron-filled valleys. I noticed that the huge blackbutt eucalypts had old burn marks on their trunks. In 1983, the devastating Ash Wednesday fire destroyed more than half of the botanic garden. Eucalypts grow back, English shrubs do not.

social distancing – Australian style

We had the garden almost to ourselves, although there were many warnings about the necessity of social distancing. It was not an issue. We got lost and could not find another soul to ask for directions.

On one of the smaller lakes a single black swan was half asleep amongst the lily pads. And I thought: Yes, that is appropriate. After all, we are living through a ‘Black Swan’ event: a rare event, with a severe and widespread impact, unexpected, but obvious in hindsight. The Black Swan event reveals our frailty.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Waiting for the golden wattle

the golden wattle

Aug 1. Spring has not arrived. Of course. We are still in deep winter – whatever ‘winter’ is in South Australia, but there are tentative indications that it’s not far away. One of the natural events we watch for is the first flowering of the golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha . The golden wattle is Australia’s national floral emblem and is common around Adelaide. When the small tree flowers, it is covered in a profusion of bright golden bubbles. The valley next to us turns into a sea of gold.

Yesterday, I noticed the first wattle tree flowering.

We have not had any rain for a month which is not good news. This is the time of the year that we count every mil. There is a theory that the pattern of rainfall has moved south 200 kms in South Australia which means, over time, we will get less rain. Our next rain is predicted for 5th August. We are planning a trip north to the Flinders Ranges (500kms north of Adelaide) in three weeks’ time and the news is that the Flinders Ranges are experiencing a serious drought. It has barely rained for four years.

Friends of ours have just returned from a camel trek in the Northern Flinders. For two weeks they walked through remote country, sleeping in the open in ‘swags’ (a sort of cross between a small tent and a sleeping bag). All the food, water etc was carried by the camels. My friends said that you had to learn to be careful of not being kicked. Camels can kick forwards and backward! They said there was barely any sign of animal (or bird) life. Bones of kangaroos lay everywhere. Very depressing.

http://www.flindersandbeyondcamels.com.au/

I noted that the 14-day weather forecast predicts a day or so of rain (60% chance of 15ml) in the Flinders Ranges.  This would make all the difference.

an eastern beared dragon

Another hint of spring crossed our driveway in front of my car: an eastern beared dragon (Pogona barbata). The dragon is a kind of large lizard with an intimidating beard which it puffs out when threatened. This lizard was obviously taking advantage of the abnormally warm weather to have a quick feed. Not a good sign as sometimes the brown snakes will come out in mid-winter.

It is strange how much time we spend looking at the weather now: more so than before Covid-19. Perhaps, this is because we are spending time outside walking and enjoying the environment whatever the weather, with or without beared dragons.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: This Sewing Life

27 July. Yesterday, my husband asked me to do an alteration on two pairs of slacks that he had recently bought. They were designed for someone well over 6 foot tall, so they needed to be shortened. We could get this done down the road for $20 a pair. However, reluctantly, I realised that I was perfectly capable of doing this small alteration.

the 50-year-old Bernina

So, I took out my 50-year-old Bernina sewing machine, my 21st birthday present. (I am told they don’t make Berninas like this anymore.) It took one me one hour to do the alteration. Not without complaining to myself. I have to acknowledge that times have changed: we do not expect to do sewing at home any more, certainly not darning nor mending. To make the point, I noticed this week that my local needlework and sewing shop has  a ‘For Lease’ sign on the dirty windows.

Out of Fashion …

Many years ago, when I was at boarding school, we had a class called ‘Sewing’ where we made things: dresses, skirts and shirts and the best of our work was submitted to the Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg, Natal. Sometimes when your laundry came back, there was a note that required you to go and do mending. It might be for a pair of socks or for an unravelling hem.

A Vogue Paper Pattern (50 years old)

My mother made all my clothes: at first on a treadle Singer sewing machine. Later, when we lived in towns that had electricity, she acquired an electric Singer machine. The sewing patterns were bought in the UK to last the next term of our Africa posting. The London department stores had banks of massive books displaying the current fashions trends: Butterick, McCalls, Simplicity and Vogue. My mother bought the required lengths of material to match the patterns.  She loved pouring over the latest fashions. There she felt she could keep in touch with the ‘outside’ world.

I was 17 before I was given my first store-bought dress. I remember it as a real indulgence. The problem was, as a teenager, I did not always appreciate my mother’s ideas of what I should be wearing, especially if the pattern and material had been bought in the UK two years previous.

our stinkwood spinning wheel – 70 years old

I have an older family story about sewing. During the Second World War, the women left behind gathered to sew and knit for the troops. My grandmother, living in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, organised a group of women doing such work. She was awarded a stinkwood spinning wheel for her sterling efforts. The spinning wheel must have been a practical item because it used to have threads of blue wool within its bobbins.

The spinning wheel travelled with our family from Natal, to Tanganyika, to Zanzibar and now to Australia. It is no longer an object of use, but a reminder of the skills once needed and appreciated in the household.

from Anne in Adelaide: the long Trail of Memory.

July 24. Yesterday, I was contacted by a gentleman from Muscat, Oman. He is my age and says he is planning to write his family story and would appreciate some help. His family originally came from Yemen but spent many years in Zanzibar including the period of the 1964 revolution. In those days, people travelled with the monsoon to and from the Gulf States and Eastern Africa.

The 72-year-old is wanting help to fill in gaps of his father’s time in Zanzibar. He has appealed to me to answer specific questions about the period 1963 to 1964. Most importantly, he wants to know more about what happened during the Zanzibar Revolution.

This revolution caused a diaspora of surviving Zanzibaris. Although it was punishable by death, anyone who could leave, did so. Nowadays, you will find Zanzibaris settled in London, Toronto, Muscat and Adelaide, for example.

Following the end of the Cold War, when Zanzibar relaxed their one-party state by holding multi-party elections, (1995) people begin to return. After all, this was where they spent their childhoods, where their grandparents were buried. Half hidden throughout Stone Town, Zanzibar, there are private cemeteries. Most of the private houses had been nationalised without compensation by the revolutionary junta. However, nowadays, whenever a picture of Stone Town’s streets is posted on Facebook, people remember whose house it was and whose little shop or duka was below. The streets of your hometown are never forgotten.

And it is in honour of one’s parents to try to recall their world, the history they lived through, the challenges they faced.

The British, in recalling their history, might not remember the Zanzibar Revolution, or if they do so, would like to forget it. It is a mere blip in the history of Africa, a fallout of the Cold War. After all, the resulting genocide is a small one: maybe 5-10,000 people in a population of 300,000. (It is listed in Wikipedia’s list of historical genocides).

The point is, the British bear considerable responsibility: the British Colonial Office had ran the country since 1890 and had organised every detail of the series of elections leading to independence or ‘Uhuru’. There’s no other way to say it. A month and two days after the pomp and ceremony of the 10th December 1963 Independence Celebrations attended by Prince Phillip, the new government was overthrown.

A sprinkling of British officials had remained in the government administration, security and police – including my father. When the rebels attacked the police stations, a desperate appeal for help was made to the British Government (through Aden) but they refused, ‘declined’ to send in troops. They said that Zanzibar was now an independent nation. They had first asked if any white people were being attacked.

However, a British Navy ship promptly arrived and moored offshore in view of the city but did nothing except take off the English people. The revolutionary leader, John Okello, had told his mobs not to touch any Europeans. Instead, Okello directed his mobs to slaughter the Zanzibari Arabs.

(Two weeks later, on 28th January, 1964, there was an army mutiny against President Nyerere’s government in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika, and Nyerere appealed to the British for help – the British promptly sent in their paratroopers and quelled the insurrection.)

I realise that the gentleman who contacted me will eventually come down to asking me about this question of why the British did not help. It’s over 50 years since these events, yet still the question comes.

I cannot help thinking what the effects of the massive devastation of countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria must be: what personal stories of loss will be told and passed down from generation to generation.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: what makes a ‘good’ day?

South African Rusks

July 19. I have had a good day. Maybe, we each have to define in our terms what a good day entails.

Some simple things. We stayed at home all day – with no committments and no energy to rush out. It was chilly and misty at first so I made a wood fire to take the edge off the cold . Later, we took our slow-walking, one-eyed dog for a walk up the road. The birds were out by then: little red-browed finches, the Adelaide rosellas, the wattlebirds busy making nests. Sometimes, we count the number of species that we see on our walk. Usually, it is not much short of 10.

Then, after a little prompting plea from my husband, I did some cooking: I made rusks. These are South African biscuits that are first cooked in a block, like a cake, then cut up and returned to the oven to dry for eight hours. They are delicious: the tradition is to dunk one (or two) in your early morning coffee – at the risk of crumbs falling into your coffee. I have been experimenting with the recipe – adding all sorts of nuts and raisins. Today, the result was spectacular. (I recommend you try the following recipe from Drizzel and Dip. All day the house smelt marvellous.

My son, David, phoned from Cape Town to tell us about their two-week-old baby girl. She has now been named. It took a little while for them to make that decision. Her name is Chloe Anne … it is charming and most popular in that both grannies are “Annes”. Both grannies have an ‘E’ at the end of Anne as well. Good choice. Chloe is a very pretty little thing. I cannot remember babies being so cute. Or so tiny.

Mid-afternoon, after a little prompting, our grandson in Seattle phoned. It is Frost’s 19th birthday (and yes, he is named after the poet). I remember him well as a cute baby and that does not seem very long ago!!

Late afternoon, I took Roy for another walk: this time through our bush. I noticed that the spring native flowers are starting to appear. It has taken many years for the native understory to re-establish itself after we cut out the feral olive trees. On the way home I harvested some of our spinach, parsley and coriander.

Dinner this evening was another success. Two in one day! And here I must be honest – I’m NOT a good cook. Honest friends will confirm that! I made a mushroom risotto and included the spinach and parsley from the garden. I love mushrooms and having grown up in Zanzibar, I love rice. Even creamy Arborio rice.

Perhaps another one of the reasons why I feel happier today is that I have not listened to the news much, nor read any online papers like the Washington Post. It is frustrating to continually read depressing news when there’s nothing you can do about it.

It is enough to bake some biscuits, take a one-eyed dog for a walk and to hear from your family.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: A down-under political story of our time…

July 15. Let me tell you a story. It’s a story of our time: of quarantine, of pride coming before a fall, of stupidity and of obfuscation. It’s a story also of political intrigue. This is all alleged, of course. Hopefully, in time, all will be revealed (but not if some politicians can stop it). Here it is.

All overseas passengers have to go into quarantine for 14 days upon entry into Australia. This is done at the port of their arrival and they are allocated accommodation in certain designated hotels.

Recently, Australia started accepting more international travellers. They were arriving into Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. In most cases, there has not been a problem. In most states, the police have been involved in making sure that the rules are observed by patrolling the hotels. In Victoria, the government initially requested assistance from the police but within a few hours changed their minds and cancelled the request.

Instead, it is alledged, a Victorian minister decided to give contracts, without tender, to 3 security firms using private contractors. It is alleged that the minister in charge had some sort of ‘relationship’ or knowledge of the industry. Very soon it became apparent that the security guards were not doing their jobs. They were not trained. Some said they had had 3 minutes training. Taxpayers were often charged for ‘ghost’ shifts.

A review of the security guard industry revealed: ‘lowly paid (workers), regularly lacked English-language skills, and are often so poorly trained they do not perform the basic functions of their job’.

https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/security-industry-review-exposes-little-training-sham-contracting-20200704-p5590f.html

What we do know is that within a very short time a cluster of COVID-19 cases popped up related to those supposedly quarantine individuals. The guards got infected and took the virus home to their multi-generational households.

Journalists started investigating and found out that the security guards were ineffective. An understatement. It is alleged that they let the passengers go shopping, go out for meals (using Ubers) and go into one another’s rooms. Most salacious of all there is the allegation that some of the guards had intimate relations with those quarantined. I am not sure where lack of training overlaps with lack of common sense. Anyway, by the time action was taken, it was too late. The cat was out of the bag, so to speak. Community infection was rife. From having almost no active cases, Victoria jumped to 70 and then almost 300 per day.

Then on July 13, the Age newspaper released the information from leaked emails showing that the government was aware of the problem within 24 hours of the launch of the quarantine program: ‘Top bureaucrats warned senior health officials at the beginning of the Andrews government’s botched hotel quarantine scheme that security guards were ill-equipped for the work and demanded police be called in to take control. Needless to say, nothing was done.

Oh, another thing. The Victorian State government used the numbers of these private contractors (1,300) to bolster their ‘Working for Victoria’ program of getting people (in theory unemployed) back into jobs …EXCEPT these contactors already had jobs – “The office of the responsible minister, Martin Pakula, confirmed on Wednesday that any worker employed in a government-funded job as a result of the pandemic could be classified as being placed under the Working for Victoria scheme.”

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/working-for-victoria-quarantine-hotel-guards-pumped-up-job-scheme-numbers-20200708-p55aa3.html

Now, Victoria has gone into crisis mode: total lockdown in many suburbs around Melbourne. In particular, some high-rises have positive cases. Tonight’s news is that there are 108 cases in 32 residential care homes. The defence force has been called in to help.

Not long ago, Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, had made a fly-away comment that he wondered why Victorians would want to visit South Australia when they could stay in Victoria. Well, Victorians began to leave as fast as they could: to escape Victoria before the borders were closed. Yesterday, four young stowaways were discovered on a Victorian freight train trying to escape into South Australia.

On July 2nd, Daniel Andrews announced a judicial inquiry into this mess up, which he called a “public health bushfire”. (We are very aware of the dangers of bushfires this year…). Those who are sceptical will say this is a perfect way to refuse to discuss the failures until the report is tabled in September – maybe it will be forgotten by then – perhaps overwhelmed by further acts of stupidity. Meanwhile, no one will take responsibility, except the Premier, who is looking very rattled.

What we all know is that this virus does not observe closed borders and it’s extremely virulent. Now it is making its way into New South Wales. So far, we in South Australia, have not had any new cases, but watch this space.

Last comment: Daniel Andrews is the bright-spark Premier who has decided to sign a Belt and Road agreement with China against all advice from the Federal Government and against all common sense!

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/andrew-flags-fresh-bri-deal-vows-to-stay-the-course-on-china-ties-20200609-p550y2.html

South African School kids protesting during Apartheid

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Our Escape to the cinema to see – Escape from Pretoria.

Mail & Guardian, South African newspaper during apartheid years

July 12. Last night we went to the cinema. It felt like a special treat; I cannot recall the last time. And it was an occasion, more than we had realised. Newly introduced rules in our state allow a larger audience. Our tickets had to be bought online, with specific seats allocated such that there were empty seats either side of us. Sanitizer bottles had been placed at the entrance. The Palace Nova cinemas made an event of last night: they premiered two locally produced films and invited our Premier, Steven Marshall, and our Adelaide Mayor. We listened to speeches, an interview with one of the actors and a videoed message from Francis Annan, the director.

The film was Escape from Pretoria, filmed in our historic Adelaide Gaol, in local streets (converted to ‘Cape Town’) and briefly in the countryside of South Australia. It is based on real events that took place in 1978-9 in apartheid South Africa. The star actor is the bespectacled Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. Daniel portrayed Tim Jenkins and most of the film takes place in the gaol.

Tim is the cousin of a good friend of mine and we met him during the filming of Escape from Pretoria and he showed us a copy of the wooden keys that he made in the prison workshop and, with two other prisoners, used to escape the high security prison in Pretoria. It is a fascinating story; unfortunately, Tim’s eponymous book is unavailable but the film is out there.

You can watch Tim Jenkins talking about his work for the ANC in this YouTube program: The Vula Connection. One of the speakers is Ronnie Kasrils, whom South Africans will recognise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29vrvKsKXPI

Back to the film. The events portrayed took place 42 years ago when it seemed apartheid would be impossible to dislodge. After meeting with the ANC in London, Tim and his friend, Stephen Lee, set about making small contraptions, called parcel bombs, (they never hurt anyone) that distributed leaflets in various Cape Town and Johannesburg streets. The leaflets promoted the ideas of the then-banned ANC. The two men continued this activism for two years before their arrest. They were found guilty of terrorism and sentenced to 12 and 8 years respectively.

Although you know from the title that they suceeded in escaping, the film is an impressive display of determination and ingenuity. To make the wooden keys from observation of the keyholes and the guard’s keyrings, from trial and error while under surveillance, is beyond impressive. Eventually, over 18 months, they made keys for every gate, storage cupboard and locker they could find. There were 10 doors between them and freedom and they had to negotiate past the night-time guard.

I found it interesting to see how they portrayed Tim Jenkin’s cell. Totally bare at first, but as time went on it became a personalised space: drawings, books, family photos.

There were two little jarring aspects to the movie. Firstly, the South African accent is hard to copy unless you are a Trevor Noah, and some attempts were curiously odd. Secondly, Pretoria is famous for its jacaranda trees, so is Adelaide. There was a lack of sense of place in the film, but maybe that is only seen by an ex-South African.

It was a treat to see a movie on the big screen. A treat to forget about Covid-19 threatening the world outside. Escape from Pretoria is a thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking film about a time when we lived in South Africa: about a society dominated by a racist regime, about fortitude in the face of oppression. How easy it is for a society to travel down that same racist path and how few are brave enough to stand up against it. That we should never forget.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: the distractions of podcasts

July 6. Today I was wandering around with various tasks on my list. Roy, my Cairn Terrier, came with me. He is going to have a rather horrible operation tomorrow: his right eye is to be removed due to glaucoma and a very high, irreversible, pressure. A step we do not take lightly. So we gave him a good day: not left alone, walks, treats and games.

While doing this, I listened to three podcasts. There is such a wealth at our fingertips in the libraries of podcasts. Free.

The first, titled The Good Fight, was with Anne Applebaum, historian and author of, ‘Twilight of Democracy: the Failure of Politics and the Parting of Friends’. The interview was broadcast 2 years ago but remains very interesting. …’Yascha Mounk talks to Anne Applebaum about how authoritarians take power, the threat of social media, and the first six months of Trump’s presidency.’

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/the-good-fight/id1198765424?i=1000390639180

Food for thought….

The second podcast of the day, hinted at by David Vincent in one of his posts on this site, is Better Known … ‘Each week, a guest makes a series of recommendations of things which they think should be better known. Our recommendations include interesting people, places, objects, stories, experiences and ideas which our guest feels haven’t had the exposure that they deserve.

These episodes are short – around 30 minutes – and most entertaining. I managed to listen to 2 of them (there are 127 episodes available).

The important one is dated 6 July, 2020. Ivan Wise interviewed David Vincent, asking him to talk about 6 things – places, people, ideas, things … that are of particular value interest to him. I won’t disclose the 6 things that David spoke about but I enjoyed his choices. It is rather pleasant not to have to listen to news about Covid-19 or the daily announcements of Trump’s nastiness.

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/david-vincent/id1302791677?i=1000482720099

And these distracted me from worrying about our little old dog.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: shoelaces and koalas

I tie the shoelaces on my walking boots as my father taught to me. He said it was his way in the Second WW: when you were in a ‘tight spot’ you did not want to find your boot laces suddenly flapping around. My father was an officer of the King’s African Rifles (KAR) facing Mussolini’s Italians in the remote highlands of Somalia.

KAR troops 1945

You have to double the last loop of the bow into itself so you have a tight double knot. No flapping.

A tennis partner once showed me an alternative way, even more complex. She was from Eastern European and said her method was used by the Russian army. After you have done the normal bow, you thread the two loose ends and the bow loops back under the tight cross hatching of the shoe lace. Takes time to do this, but it’s firm: no tripping on the battlefield.

in Belair National Park, Adelaide, Australia

Today, in mild sunny weather, we went walking in Belair National Park in advance of the arrival of a cold front. There were no Italians stalking us, nor Russians gathering in the eucalypt forest. (However, we do hear that the Chinese are busy attacking our strategic assets). I wanted a first glimpse of spring flowering and native orchids. How glad I am to live in these times: a peace for us built on the wars of the 20th Century.  

Belair National Park is South Australia’s first National Park – dedicated in 1891. It’s big: over 8 square kms and is only 25 minutes from our little city. The history of the park is the story of our state: an early demand for the rearing of stock, the harvesting of hay, the hewing of wood before the realisation that the remaining native forest should be conserved.

The State Flora nursery is located within its boundaries and we regularly buy native plant stock for our property from them. Today we purchased 10 tube stock of Eucalyptus porosa, the native gum tree that is found on our property and is a popular food source for koalas. My husband had read an article saying that the koala is threatened, perhaps even ‘critically endangered’.

https://www.savethekoala.com/about-koalas/koala-endangered-or-not

Our response is to plant 10 more trees for them. There is no shortage of koalas on our property but the trees are looking thin.

Give me at home among the gum trees

We came home to find a small koala sleeping in the large gum, not three metres from the edge of our terrace. It was a good day: I remembered my father’s advice and the koalas will be happy at our home.

And on that note, to amuse you about the strange bush ways of us Australians, and to brighten your day, please enjoy: “Give me a home among the gum trees,” sung by the original singer / co-writer of the song, Bob Brown.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: older

June 30.

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their son
g*,

I have aged beyond the normal passage of time during these last 4 months. Way beyond.  No question in my mind. I did not preface that statement with, ‘I feel I have aged …’. I find it hard to work out exactly why this is so. After all, living in South Australia we have been extremely fortunate. Our busy lives have been curtailed, but not drastically. There was an early panic evident in the rush to hoard food supplies and we learnt the Australians were particularly active in stocking up their larders. During those early days, the dread for me related to the fact that we did not know how bad the virus would be for us, what nature it would take. Stories abounded. The collapse in our stock market in February emphasised the approaching storm: health and wealth threatened!

But the issue has more to do with the nature of our lives as retired people. Maybe before 2020 we were living in a fool’s paradise, ignoring old age and the waning of our abilities. But now we are labelled as a group as vulnerable, many with ‘comorbidities‘ The percentages are widely discussed – an ultra-high death rate is assured for our age group. A retired friend was told by his doctor son that he must be serious about isolation because if he ended up in hospital it was unlikely that a ventilator would be assigned to him. Triage would be in operation.

So, the story is out: we are at the end of our lives and nothing new, nothing amazing, nothing significant remains for us. Together, my husband and I had planned travel to Indonesia – an interesting bird-watching trip through remote islands and I had organised a visit to Seattle to see our daughter and to travel with her to Yellowstone National Park. We have always been travellers and being able to pursue our hobbies of birding and photography in new places has enriched our lives. In December 2019, we felt that we still had the energy and enthusiasm to do this. I am not so sure anymore.

But my premature aging cannot be just this! It has more to do with optimism, or the lack thereof. I looked up the synonyms for ‘optimism’. They are: hope, confidence, sanguinity, buoyancy, cheerfulness. And those words hit home. I don’t think they describe my world at the moment. It’s closing down. Being so in touch with the persistent bad news, watching the numbers, does not make me happier. Maybe the way forward is to deliberately NOT immerse myself in the news. Ignore it all.

‘Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
’ as Dylan Thomas wrote.

That’s a bit dramatic for me and my angst.

I came across this article from the HBR. ‘That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.’

https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief?fbclid=IwAR2D8HMqDiAvBpfX_ksJNUZUZbwxzr1Fs-XJViFbMNpOzVI-jih2LVRp1w4

Is this the word for this sense? Grief? Perhaps that is closer to my aging idea. Grief – looking backwards at my life and at the confusion of our present times. And maybe I just have to deal with this. I have never been a person with depressive tendencies. If you survive boarding school you develop a certain resilience! And I can look to my father’s example, how he conducted himself in his old age: never sorry for himself, never without kindness, always interested in the world, always generous.

When he died, my father left a letter for my brother and me; it contained this poem. An ancient Sanskrit poem.

‘Look to this day
for it is life
the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
the realities and truths of existence:
the joy of growth
the splendour of action
the glory of power.
For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived
makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.’

A gift. Surely, that is enough.

*WB. Yeats, Sailing to Byzantium