From Megan in Brisbane: From “I have a dream” to “I can’t breathe”

6 June

   “I have a dream that one day my four little children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Martin Luther King, Jr, 1963).
These are probably the most quoted words from  Martin Luther King’s speech and, after reading Brenda’s post on the recent happening in America, they came back to me as I, along with so many thousands of people across the world, try to process the diabolical nature of the event we have witnessed.

I will quote more of MLK because his famous speech was such a beacon of hope and in the tough times of discrimination in South Africa, I used it year after year to draw a parallel to encourage  my students to  believe that “one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed : ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’”. And
 “We refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt”.

And so, we come to the moment, 57 years on, when we watch with horror as the precious breath of life, the gift of life, is extinguished from a fellow human being in a most inhumane way.

 “I can’t breathe “.

I’m sure many people gasped in deep despair at the look in the officer’s eyes as he held George Floyd pinned to the ground – heartless, without a flicker of feeling, without any glimmer of acknowledgement of the obvious outcome of his action.

It is hard to keep hope going at moments like this, but it is important in these dark nights of the soul, to remember and pay tribute to all the good people out there who continue to serve despite the great risks to their life and limb; when a Covid patient calls in the throes of his struggle, “I can’t breathe”, there is a person who sees his humanity and reaches out to help alleviate his suffering. We can hope this gift of compassion is felt amongst those who serve the people in their various ways.

From Megan in Brisbane: The Seven Stages of the Coronavirus Social Experience – and Counting

May 27

The social media reflect the clear stages we have been through and continue to experience as the coronavirus restrictions change from the earlier days of strict lockdown or isolation guidelines to the present situation in which some easing is taking place in the interests of the economy and, perhaps, sanity.

Stage 1 was definitely the jokes. They came thick and fast and were on all platforms that I know of – Facebook,Tiktok, Instagram, WhatsApp, email and text. Fortunately, nothing came in the mailbox.
Jokes were about increased weight and not being able to get through the front door when this is over; working from home and drinking on the job; homeschooling memes and drinking on duty; looking after children and drinking while in attendance.

Next came the entertainment videos. I have never seen so many fathers and daughters singing along to the strumming on an ancient guitar, each staring lovingly at the other as they bang out ‘Over the Rainbow’ or ‘Beauty and the Beast’ or ‘The Prayer’. The Prayer has about 100 different renditions.

Stage 3 is the photography – of just about anything. I have seen people’s feet as they recline on their decks, feet up on the table, photograph to prove it. There are sunsets, sundowners, sunrises, guinea pigs, selfies of smiling faces and miserable faces, colourful masks, selfies wearing the colourful masks, more jokes alongside the colourful masks.

Stage 4 is Finding Nature and Becoming One with it. Tapping into the great energies around us as we learn to understand the silence, then identify the rustle in the leaves, or the call of the birds. We see Nature  Correcting Itself without our interference and are told all will be well with the planet if humanity can stay inside for longer.

Stage 5 heralds the inspirational phase. Lots and lots of quotes sent daily to lift our apparently failing spirits.
‘There is nothing to fear but fear itself.’
‘Life changes very quickly, in a very positive way if you let it’. (You got that right!)
Don’t worry. Be happy!
‘This too shall pass’

And so we come to Stage 6 – not as prolific as the previous five, but still in evidence: the religious guidance we surely all must crave. God loves us; He will not forsake us. We will be carried through the storm. We will never walk alone.  A few mixed metaphors, all the better to understand the great power of the Divine.

Stage 7 brings many, many articles and reports from Heads of This or That for Infectious Diseases from different parts of the world, describing, explaining and advising us of what we should be doing during this time of coronavirus. Get out there! we are told. Studies show that you need to build up your immunity – it doesn’t help staying in your sterile environment. Go to the beach. Go to the markets. Go to school. Go to church. Go, go, go. And by the way, the virus doesn’t survive on surfaces, so all that cleaning – waste of time.

The most interesting part of this is that, while we are exhorted to follow the advice from countries where the infection rate is upwards of 1000 times more than ours, and the death rates just keep on rising, the advice from our own Queensland Premier is being criticized. She is going slowly and cautiously, resulting in strong adverse reactions and comments that she won’t get the votes if she continues easing the restrictions so slowly.
But her roadmap has resulted in Queensland having 1057 cases of coronavirus and 6 deaths. The population of Queensland is 5.071 million. One of the articles I was tasked to read for its excellent advice came from a head of a clinic for Infectious Diseases of a university in an American state which has 5 million people, 33000 cases, and 1650 deaths.
Go figure.

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: no man is an island

May 20.

John Donne – Meditations 17

Good news for Queenslanders – Restrictions have been eased, and what is allowed is clearly depicted in the visual above.
After carefully studying this roadmap, I set out with a neighbor and my dog Holly for a walk along the creek near our respective houses. The path winds through trees and bushland, with the sound of the water running over the rocks as a soothing background. There are about four children’s parks on the route, outdoor gyms, and an off leash area for dogs. Very well designed public space, catering for the needs of the community.

It’s the first time I’ve been for a walk along this path in two months, and I was quite overwhelmed by the experience. ‘Every man and his dog’ has now taken on its literal meaning. I couldn’t move for the number of people on the path and was amazed at the size and number of the dogs out walking. Great lumbering animals thundered down the path toward Holly and me, dragging their bedraggled owners, who were trying to appear in control,  behind them, and my neighbour was lost somewhere in the crowd.

So much for 1.5 m distancing. It was every man (and dog) for himself. Dogs were bounding along, desperate to greet other dogs, people were trying to extricate themselves from the mess of harnesses and leashes and pretending that theirs were not the dogs snapping and growling or doing their ablutions on the path, causing holdups for the rest of us; theirs were not the dogs sniffing these ablutions and causing more holdups, traffic jams and even  “bumper bashing”.

Despite this chaos, the general spirit was much better than any I had experienced before. People were more willing to engage, to exchange friendly words, to have brief conversations. Isolation is not normal for social creatures and the people out walking that day served as a reminder of our need to engage with others, that no man is an island, and that 1.5m distancing does not come naturally.

From Megan in Brisbane: It’s a Cruel, Cruel World

14 May: After reading my entry, One Rule too Far, one of my grandchildren, aged 12, phoned me and in a puzzled voice, asked

Granny, why weren’t you allowed to floss?

I didn’t want to go into all the details, as it’s very much in the past now, so I brushed it off with trite comments about risk and staying well.

He persisted.

 But how would flossing harm you?

I think the doctors didn’t want to take any chances. They were just concerned that it might be a wrong thing to do for a while.

That’s cruel. Flossing has always made you happy. Is that why you insisted that you weren’t going to stop? Did you tell them that I taught you to floss? That you floss with all your grandchildren? That we have flossing competitions? Is that why they agreed?

Of course!  Flossing is the dance THEY do; WE talk about flossing teeth.

I was really moved by this – by his pondering why, in a critical time in my life, I was asked not to dance.

It’s a beautiful world after all.

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia. Let the pictures paint …

(Adapted from the title of a song by Bread)

During this time of coronavirus, I have been striving to do things that are creative and will last after we are allowed to go out and about and spend more time away from home.

I have been spending more time in the garden, and have a garden bed, some pot plants, a herb bowl (now that I’m cooking) and the beginnings of bonsai propagated from a few of my favorurite plants to show for it.

I hope the photos reflect my efforts.

From Megan in Brisbane: One Rule Too Far

2 May. People who know me will tell you that I am very law abiding. I follow the rules. If I see that they are reasonable, I do not argue; I don’t try to exercise my constitutional or any other right that one can manufacture these days. This compliant nature has been useful during this time of restrictions. I don’t find it too difficult, although I do sense a certain restlessness amongst the otherwise co-operative communities.

The sudden need to rebel reminds me of a time not so long ago when I rebelled over a seemingly small thing, but obviously it was the last straw for me. So I understand the prevailing atmosphere.

I was not well, and the doctor was outlining the treatment I was about to have. It was covered very comprehensively. Explicit details were given about what would happen to me –  the effects, the side effects, the after effects. As I say, every detail. All true, as it turned out.

I was also told what not to do. As I say, I’m better at this. Just give me the rules.
Don’t drink – ok
Don’t smoke – ok
Don’t go to crowded places – yip (good practice for what was to come, as it turns out)
Don’t try to do too much -ok
Don’t eat anything not on the list  (provided) – ok
Item 5,6,7,8,9 – ok. No problem
(An hour has passed)
Item 10 Don’t floss …

Don’t floss. Don’t FLOSS!  Am I NOT ALLOWED to FLOSS!!!!

And, I’m embarrassed to say, all hell broke loose. I wept – nay, wailed; great tears  gushed out. Soon I was hiccoughing and choking and needing water. My face was red and blotchy and eyes swollen shut.

The doctor said,
Floss! Floss! Floss as much as you like.

Thank you. Anything else I can’t do?


So I understand that it can take a small thing after such big things that have happened to us to bring us to our knees, if only for a moment.
Then we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, floss, and start all over again.

From Megan in Brisbane: Groundhog Day

29 April I have been reflecting on Brenda’s post of 25 April in which she spoke about routine and the need to find one during this time of social distancing when usual routines may not exist any more. Whether one likes routine or not, it’s probably fair to say that, no matter how we think we can design our day, the opposite is true. Our day designs us – it may even define us.
I think we know that children thrive on routine.  They like to know what to expect. It gives them a sense of security. I love watching my younger grandchildren unconsciously following the daily routines set out for them.  The routine of setting the table, washing hands (even before the time of coronavirus (let it be said)), taking turns in saying grace, clearing the table, stacking the dishwasher.  Comfort in routine.

The parents have had their day designed for them, whether they like it or not.

Dogs need routine.  My dog Holly actually designs my day because of her love of routine. The morning routine is making the bed, which takes up to 40 minutes because this is her play time. Cleaning the pool is next and her routine is to hide in the bushes, waiting to be found.
Walk time cannot be ignored. She know where the harness is and the walk bag and even where my walking shoes are. We follow the same route (routine?) every day. If I decide to go up the street rather than down the street, just for a change of scenery, she sits down and won’t move until we’re back on the right track.
5pm sees her waiting at the glass door, watching for a little girl who walks past our house with her mother and their dog ( their routine; dinner to follow. I’ll bet on it). Only then will she run to the gate, barking in the same excited fashion every day as if it is the first. Holly would never sit at the gate and wait. Too obvious. The little girl then decorates Holly with frangipani flowers she has collected on the way (routine?) which is really beautiful to watch. The mother and I have struck up quite a social distance acquaintance as Holly and her little friend show their mutual admiration.
Now it’s my turn. At 5:10 I’m inside starting dinner.
I say I have designed my day, that I’m flexible and free to choose how my day will go, but in fact there is a routine I have created, not Holly. I just raised her expectations of life. I think I may never be able to go back to the life before coronavirus. I don’t want to burst Holly’s bubble. Or be late making dinner and burst my husband’s.

From Megan in Brisbane: The People’s Anzac Day

27 April. I loved the piece written by Anne from Adelaide on the history of Anzac Day, the day which commemorates the sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in the First World War.

Anzac Day wreath

My daughter-in-law made the wreath herself. It looked really beautiful in the early morning light. Each of the six members of the family had a candle which she had decorated with rosemary. Rosemary is the herb considered to assist with memory, so it is fitting that it is traditionally used to decorate the remembrance candles on Anzac Day. They were outside their house for a memorable dawn service, different from any that have come before, and which may not be experienced again. Honoring the fallen in the time of coronavirus. My daughter-in-law said it was a very special occasion that she will remember for years to come.

people’s day candle

Families came out with their candles; someone had the recording of the Last Post which was haunting and moving as it echoed down the street. The silence was palpable and parents and children alike felt the weight of sacrifice in those moments of remembrance.

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: Anzac biscuits for Anzac Day …

22 April. I enjoyed the post describing the takeaway dinner which was savoured  at a well set table with a bottle of wine, and at the civilized dinner hour of around 7:30pm.

This led me to think about what happens in our house. 

Firstly, it is a long time since I cooked. The work I did saw me arrive home after dinner hour and my plate was kept in the warming drawer. My husband continued doing the cooking although I had stopped working. Because we live in an open plan lounge, dining room and kitchen, I know when he’s starting to make something and I say, just in case,

‘I’ll have what you’re having.’

This has changed since the start of the virus. I decided to pick up cooking and baking where I left off many years ago, and I have been enjoying the experience (#Greater Purpose). I now pull things out of a previously empty culinary hat that I never thought I was capable of.

It works like this. There are two specials of the day. 

I’m trying to create the restaurant atmosphere, you see. 

Only one special can be chosen. 

This is a small restaurant after all. 

Once decided, the preparation and cooking time are calculated and dinner is planned to be served around 6pm. The plates are placed on the kitchen counter, the food is dished up, and in accordance with the rules around restaurants in this time of coronavirus, we go to this takeaway counter and then set off to the TV room to eat. I love takeaway. 

I have made Mongolian Chicken, Cauliflower and Pumpkin Soup sprinkled with Chopped Chives for Presentation; I have produced Spinach and Feta Pie with a Hint of Dill; and Lasagne baked to a turn with a Slightly Crusted Cheese Topping. 

And now for the baking.

Two of my grandsons (in different houses) and I are participating in a bake off. So far, we have each made a batch of biscuits, which we shared amongst us. The parents are required to deliver and leave at the door (their #Greater Purpose). Other specialities have been dumplings, doughnuts and apple cake. We have our tasting time and report back. 

The next baking challenge is Anzac biscuits for Anzac Day on 25 April. I’m am reading up on every available recipe. I want to do better at this than I did at the algebra challenge (#Greater Purpose).

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: what an action packed musical weekend!

On Saturday afternoon, I watched”Phantom of the Opera” on YouTube. Andrew Lloyd Webber has made his musicals available for viewing during this isolation time. He started on 3 April with “Joseph and the amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat”; “Jesus Christ Superstar was on 10 April; and “Phantom…” on 17 April.

The announcement of the musical is made on the Friday, and it is available for watching for 48 hours. It was two hours of enchantment. At the end of the show, Lloyd Webber came onto the stage to make the acknowledgements. Very generous in his praise of all the people who bring his shows to life. A real treat was Sarah Brightmann coming onto the stage and singing one of the songs. All together, a wonderful afternoon.

I had told my children about this weekly treasure that Andrew Lloyd Webber is sharing with us, and on Sunday they marshalled their children to watch the performance.  

Afterwards, my youngest grandchild of six dug out a recorder and got his father to record him playing the instrument by creating notes with the exhaled breath from his nose. After his performance, he took a bow. 

 I wonder what the 24 April holds in store. And what might follow from one of the inspired grandchildren. 

Then there was the One World Together at Home concert on Saturday with a great number of performers sharing their talents with us – again, a great opportunity to see them perform. Lady Gaga was marvellous, as was Tom Jones, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, and more.

I continued with the musical theme. On Sunday, I started reading a book called “The Music Shop”by Rachel Joyce. The book comes with a play list which has the songs and music referred to in the book. So each time a piece is mentioned, I play it before I move on. I have had the pleasure of listening to music I would otherwise not have done, as my preferences in music have not stretched that far. So far, I have listened to Miles Davis, James Brown, Led Zeppelin, and some familiar Bach and Beethoven. I have now started “Tosca”, which may take me a while.  It’s a very rewarding and interactive experience. And the story is not too bad.

The Cambridge English dictionary defines a cultured person as having “…had a good education, and knowing a lot about art, music, literature etc”.

I think I may have my foot on the ladder.