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’.

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: Winter tennis and a daytime koala

Kensington Gardens Tennis Club in Adelaide

June 11. Our winter tennis competition started today, almost two months late. Its a more casual affair than our summer grass-court competition and is played in my local park about 3 kms from our home. We play 3 sets, first to 9. Surrounding the courts is a veritable forest of old eucalypts – most of them being the enormous and long-living River Red gums or Eucalyptus camaldulensis. A winter-rain river runs through the park and a new wetland is being planned in order to slow the river and clean its waters before they reach the Gulf of St Vincent.

Everyone was excited to start our tennis once more. Maybe even more so on a glorious sunny day with the temperature at 16o C. I stripped down to a tee-shirt. There is a greater sense that we are getting back to normal. What remains to be done is to open the state borders. West and South Australia, the NT and Queensland are reluctant as a few new virus cases are popping up in the most populous states of Victoria and NSW (7 overnight). Some of the cases are people in quarantine, newly arrived from overseas. Once our state borders are open, New Zealand’s government is considering a travel ‘bubble’ with Australia. Australians love travel and the snow fields around Queenstown in South Island, New Zealand are popular. They have real mountains there.

On the way to tennis I encountered a koala on the move. They seldom walk in the daytime. These are their hours of relaxation in a fork of a tree. This one was loping up the driveway in that strangely uncomfortable gait they have. The back legs look almost malformed and they have a grey patch of fur on their behinds. But once the animal reached a tree trunk it leapt up in bounds and I realised why HE was on the move. A female koala was perched on the next tree. The males smell the tree trunks to check on local ladies and this chap was hot on her trail. At night, we often hear the males proclaiming their territories. The sound is similar to a donkey braying. Not pretty.

We can start making plans once more: for lunches at local restaurants; for trips with my husband’s geology club to the Flinders Ranges in August; for our walking group to plan excursions and for more bridge sessions. What we are not planning is to apply for the 2,000 tickets for this weekend’s footy clash, or ‘Showdown’ of our two AFL clubs: the Crows and the Port Adelaide Footy Club. Even if we wanted to go, the tickets are in extremely short supply. Only 2,200 socially-distancing people will attend at the Adelaide Oval which seats 53,000+. But the show is starting….

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: breath

June 6. Parallel worlds

Today, across Australia, there were protest gatherings in all major cities. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest of the USA have caught on here. Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia has been an issue for many decades. In 1988 the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in Custody recognised the ‘underlying social, cultural and legal issues behind the death(s)’. At that stage there were 99 deaths in custody that were examined.

Since 1991 there have been 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody. (note the definition of custody is specific). Indigenous people are overrepresented in prison by a factor of 10. This is a shameful situation and one that the government says they have tried to find ways to improve. The crowds today did not agree with them.

When these protest gatherings were organised in our various states, the Prime Minister took action. Scott Morrison asked people not to go. ‘Our message is very clear that the health risks of gathering in such large numbers and into close proximity are real. Let’s find a better way and another way to express these sentiments.’

The medical advice across the country was the same: don’t go, don’t breach Covid-19 public health orders. Then came the NSW’s Supreme Court decision, in response to a police application, to ban the Sydney event. The NSW Health officer, Dr Cherry Chant, said the event would increase the change of community transmission. NSW protest organisers said they would go ahead anyway. Shortly before the now-illegal gathering, an appeal overturned the Supreme Court ban.

In South Australia the Premier, Steven Marshall, reached a different decision – he did not ban the planned gathering and march through the city centre, but asked those involved to wear masks and practice social distancing.

The protests have taken place and, I am pleased to say that, so far, they were all peaceful. 30,000 people gathered in Musgrave Park in Brisbane … (this park is an historic Aboriginal gathering place). Thousands gathered at the City Hall in central Sydney and marched down George Street waving banners. One read, ‘They say justice, we say murder!’  It was obvious that ‘social distancing’ was not and could not be observed. Some people wore masks; some police handed out masks and sanitizers. There were black tee-shirts bearing the large number 432 (for the number of deaths in custody since 1991). One organiser said, ‘we are marching in pain, anger and solidarity’.

It appeared to me that the crowd consisted mostly of young people. Many of the placards carried the now famous appeal, ‘I can’t breathe’.

Its moving to see the determination of these protestors, but for us it’s also a worry. By now, we all know how virulent Covid-19 is. One person can infect many. There is community spread – although low – in both NSW and Victoria. Also, on the news tonight was the story about a fruit-picker who flew on two flights from Sydney to Bundaberg and has been found to be positive for the virus. Contact tracing is now activated.

There would have been over 70,000 people protesting today in our bigger cities. Surely, this will result in a significant increase in infections.

Indeed, the right to protest is a basic right – BUT many rights have been held back, or deferred recently. We have not been able to go to funerals, weddings, visit our families sick in hospital or visit our grandchildren – all this was the price to pay to stop the virus and to protect the vulnerable.

A protester was asked, ‘Don’t you worry about the virus? And in the excitement of the moment, he replied, ‘BLM is too important, even if there are 100 deaths from the virus…’

We are told time and time again not to underestimate Covid-19. It is a horrible virus, attacking your lungs and reducing your ability to get oxygen to fuel your organs. Many have died on ventilators, gasping, struggling for breath.

That word ‘breath’. Those images of George Floyd, casually held down by the kneeling, hand in his pocket, policeman, will go down in history. George Floyd could not breathe, nor can people dying from Covid-19.

How many more will die as a result of these BLM gatherings in Australia today? Is that OK? Is that just life? Is this the price to pay for the right to protest at this time in history? It appears that the answer is – Yes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the Serengeti National Park

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

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

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

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

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

Second retirement is not so bad, so far.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: the plot thickens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: lest we forget…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Eventful Week: from from Megan in Brisbane, Australia.

This has been a very eventful week! The Prime Minister has announced more financial help – childcare will be free for those parents engaged in essential work. There will be more enforced social distancing – two people, with 1.5 metre distance between them, constitutes a gathering; exercise does not include sitting on a bench enjoying the view or taking a breather. On the move, do your exercise, go home. There are four reasons to go out – food, pharmacy, medical and exercise. Otherwise stay at home.
The word ‘lockdown’ has not been used, and in fact, we are definitely not there yet. Many retailers are still open and consumers continue to shop.
State government today announced the closing of national parks, bush walking trails and other outside areas that could see groups of people in proximity. It also announced stricter measures to prevent people crossing the state’s borders.
An ongoing saga is that of the seemingly never ending number of cruise ships arriving at the port of Sydney hoping to disgorge their human contents and set off into the sunset. However, this is not to be. Australia wants the cruise ships with their human cargo to go back to their ports of origin. This has not been accepted and there is a standoff. We await the outcome with bated breath. Will NSW government win the day? Is the Australian Border Force to make the decision? Will the Minister of Home  Affairs have the final say? Where is the Minister of Home Affairs?  Perth authorities in Western Australia have taken those people with the virus into hospitals and sent the remainder on their way. So this feeling of being hemmed in on both sides by cruise ships pulsating with the virus may soon pass.

In contrast to all this activity is the quietness of our street, which is normally quite busy. It is a side street with no parking restrictions, so we see cars coming and going, parking for stretches of time and using the bus service which has a bus stop conveniently placed at the end of the street. This activity has dried up. The street is empty. There are no cars. There are no people, not even walking their dogs. I took my Holly out this morning, and was the only living soul about.
 The lonely planet.
And the State Premier is warning that this will probably continue for six months.
Which brings me to my Tao guideline for the day, which I think is rather pertinent. Write down the names of those people who have had a positive impact on you and have helped you grow. The  reflection that comes from this is an encouragement to focus on your inner strength, which is vital in the days and weeks to come.