from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: We forgot to be Afraid.

2019-2020 Australian ‘Black Summer’

26 March, 2021.

The disasters keep coming. We keep telling ourselves in Australia that we are the lucky country. Covid-19 has not devastated our country; the numbers of dead are low – 909 with under 30,000 confirmed cases. Our lives have been little affected when compared with others. And vaccinations are now underway.

Yet Australia remains a country of extremes. At the beginning of 2020 we suffered the worst bushfire season in living memory. That summer is now called the ‘Black Summer’. Over 18 million hectares were burnt, almost 10,000 homes lost, and 479 died (including smoke inhalation). The toll on our wildlife is hard to comprehend. Billions of creatures died. In terms of cost the fires are estimated to have cost Australia 103 billion AUD. This is our ‘costliest natural disaster to date’ (Wikipedia). No one can count the cost of the CO2 emissions.

No sooner had the fires abated than Covid-19 arrived.

And now we have another disaster: floods. This is the result of the La Niña (little girl) weather pattern. Until recently this was OK – cooler summers and more rainfall, nothing extraordinary. And then a week ago, a weather system came down the east coast, settled and intensified – from Sydney up to Queensland.

A severe weather warning was put out for the entire NSW coast. Dams could not contain the inflows and rivers overflowed onto floodplains that for over 100 years had been thought to be flood-free. (Some 134,000 people had settled on these flood plains over the decades.) The rain came with high winds and high tides along the coast. The Defence Force were called out to help evacuate thousands of people. Animals were swept into the swollen rivers. Some farmers lost their entire dairy herds to the flood. Facebook was used to post images of rescued horses and cattle as well as dead animals washed up on beaches. One iconic video showed an intact house floating down the Manning river near Taree: the owners were due to get married that day.

The quantity of rain is hard to comprehend. Rivers rose up to 16 metres.

Rainfall totals in excess of 400 mm were reported along the coastal areas and Central Tablelands in New South Wales, and a number of locations in Queensland’s central and south-east coast districts. Locations in the Hunter and Mid North Coast districts in New South Wales received over 600 mm of rainfall, including the highest weekly total of 991 mm at Bellwood in the Mid North Coast, which has exceeded the long-term autumn rainfall average less than one month into the season.’

http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/rainfall/

Our annual rainfall for Adelaide is an average of 520mm and Sydney is 920mm a year.

The Australian insurance council has declared a ‘catastrophe’ for NSW as over 11,00 claims have been filed. However, I heard that many people could not afford the expensive flood insurance.

And now for the mouse plague. The generous La Niña rains allowed grain farmers to have a bumper year. And with this came an explosion in mice numbers in inland NSW and Queensland and the plague is moving south. Female mice can breed every 6 weeks and can give birth to 50 pups a year. The images are confronting: mice streaming across the fields at night in their tens of thousands. People are trapping 500 mice a night. Hay reserves held in barns are being destroyed. Locals describe the swarming mice as being in ‘biblical proportions’.

ABC image

Images from our ABC are confronting. The ABC reports that hospital patients have been bitten by the rodents. Those of us who dislike the idea of ONE mouse in the house would freak out!

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-18/mice-plague-nsw-worsens-and–affecting-crops/13255486

Apparently, mouse control is an expensive business and winter crops are threatened.

Meanwhile, I have been reading a couple of books that have darkened my view of the world. The first is the Booker prize winner, The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. (Why has McCarthy not been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?)  I first read The Road soon after it was published in 2006 and I remember I spent a month affected by its story. His vision of the post-apocalyptical world is devastating to say the least. I re-read it this month to give a presentation to my reading group. And the re-read is worth doing as I was prepared for the horror and could appreciate the beauty of the relationship between the man and his son. And what poetry is in his language! But still, it is a depiction of the end of times and the loss of civilisation. How thin a veneer is our behaviour in this society?

2006 wake-up call

The other book is Plague by Wendy Orent (2004 Free Press). Orent covers the 1,500 years of plagues across our world and wrote of the dangers that lay in wait for us (prescient!). Her presentation of historical accounts of plagues is mind-blowing. This is history that was not taught to us. How slow it was for humans to realise that the fleas on rats were the vectors of the plague. Alexandre Yersin in 1894 and Jean-Paul Simon in 1898 made the breakthroughs. It was not until 1947 and streptomycin that a cure was available. For centuries people believed miasmas (bad or night air) caused the plague. All this is not long ago and we might have made medical advances but it seems that we quickly became complacent.

We forgot to be afraid.

From Nike in Katerini, Greece: Golgotha

January 28, 2021.

Nike in Katerini, Greece

“Ahead of us is Golgotha.”

That’s what the news reader said last night. Golgotha. The hill upon which Christ was crucified. It’s the term Greeks use for a difficult journey. The journey is the year ahead. I would rather refer to this as our Odyssey. At least after the Odyssey ended, Odysseus was home again on Ithika with his beloved wife and family, safe and sound, Back to all that was familiar. On Golgotha there was just suffering and death.

Speaking of death, my father died a couple of months ago. It was not a tragic death. He was almost 93 years old and had well and truly lived his own Odyssey. The tragedy was that he died during this pandemic and only eight people were permitted to attend his funeral.

I still have no idea when I can return home to Australia. They’ve done such a magnificent job there but then they’re in such a unique position with their geographical isolation they could simply shut the borders. Also I believe the Australian lifestyle contributes to its success with Covid as well. I wonder if my fellow Australian citizens would agree with me. We tend to stay out of peoples business. Many of us go into our homes at night and don’t leave again till the morning. The once sacred ritual of morning or afternoon tea has almost disappeared. We simply don’t invite many people over and most of us don’t even know many of our neighbours names. Here in Greece it’s a completely different story. Life is lived outside – hail, sleet, snow, wind, rain or shine. Everybody knows everybody’s business. It’s the law almost.

People always go out. The lifestyle has been built around it, making people stop in the middle of the day to go home and have a nap so they can go out again. In Australia the first question someone asks you is – what do you do? In Greece the first question someone asks you is – whose child are you? Everybody knows who you are, what you’re doing there and what your background is and if they don’t know they will stop you to find out, many, many times till the whole neighbourhood knows exactly who they are dealing with.

Still speaking of death, I’ve discovered something since the passing of my father. He feared death more than anything. I once caught him praying to God to keep him alive, not for any noble reason such as to live to see a certain event or to achieve a certain goal but just to keep existing. The saga of his illness, his weaknesses, his dramatic decline and the intensive care he required – all administered by me – is a huge story itself. I’ll just go straight to the end and the moment I found him in his bed. He’d passed away in his sleep. The look on his face was of sheer wonderment. It was so beautiful all I could do was sit next to him and gaze upon him for several minutes. His wrinkles had gone and he looked young and handsome and happy. He died looking at something beautiful. Again, it’s so much to go into and it’s not appropriate on a forum for Covid 19 I suppose but the point I’m making is it made me not fear death. Let’s just say there were some experiences I felt and saw that made this cynical nonbeliever realise there is another dimension and it’s not a bad place.

I now know what we must fear and act against – is illness.

Death is not hell, illness is. When there is someone ill in the family the entire family get sick with them – in one way or another. Again that’s a whole other huge story but I think you all know what I mean.

I know there are so many other things to fear and act upon such as fighting for equality and preserving our environment and all that but taking care of our personal health and being responsible for our actions is the single greatest thing we can do for our family, our community and our planet. A healthy world needs healthy people. Other than non-Covid illness and accidents, take care everyone.

Here in Greece wearing a mask is not questioned any more – it’s just a fact. I’m developing a mask wardrobe. I have a nice leopard print one too! Boutiques are selling glamorous sequinned ones for night time – not that we can go anywhere yet.

However, the government made one significant step last week. Shops were permitted to open. Cafes and restaurants are still not permitted to operate normally but the shops opened up. They did declare it an experiment because people were becoming stir crazy after so much strict lockdown. We are still under curfew, no one is allowed out after 9 pm, but we can go shopping.

We are all very nervous about it though. Before the shops opened our daily case count was sitting at around 500. It dropped to low as 250 a few days ago for the last couple of days it’s gone up to 800 to 850. Tonight’s numbers might change everything again. We fear having to enter a third lockdown so much that I must say we are all super careful. You no longer see anyone unmasked on the streets and the shops have people at the door to ensure distancing is adhered to. There are no longer any arguments or declarations of lack of rights. Everyone now realises we are all responsible for each other.

So my friends I don’t think this forum is over. We still have our Golgotha to climb, our Odyssey to travel. Fortunately we live in this age with such technology and the ability to communicate and advanced medical treatments. It’s nowhere near as bad as our poor ancestors had to endure back in 1918.

It’s time for me to go out now. I’m masked up and I’m going to buy cod roe to make taramasalata, the real stuff not that pink dyed stuff you buy in plastic tubs.

How is everyone doing? Be great to hear updates from everyone else on how good or not good the situation is where they are.

Yia sou

Do you know what that means?

Yia sou? It’s the traditional Greek greeting for hello and goodbye and yelled out joyously before taking a drink. Yia sou is short for Στην υγειά σου. To your health. Stay healthy, look after your health, go in health, health is everything – all those cliches, but one thing I know is when you’re healthy you can do anything and everything, make money, make love, travel, explore, experiment, experience. When you’re not healthy you can’t do anything.

Στην υγειά σας.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Confusion and the Border Wars

12  January, 2021

It has been going on for so long.

At first, in March 2020, all Australians took careful note of the dos and don’ts, the rules and regulations – as a nation. There was a unity between the states.

And then there wasn’t.

On April 3rd last year, Premier Mark McGowan closed the West Australian border to the eastern states for the first time in Australian history. And suddenly, Premiers found their higher calling. Each one could now command their state like a mini-nation and this would only increase their popularity. Just too tempting.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was not slow to realise this. Her Labor government faced an election in October. In August 2020, with the LNP, the Opposition party, gathering strength and with Victoria still in lockdown, the Queensland premier closed the border. Labor won the election with an increased majority. They are calling it the ‘border wars’.

Each state premier is mirroring Palaszczuk’s statement: ‘And today is the day that we say we are putting Queenslanders first.’

The thing is the borders of the mainland states are not sharply defined, particularly between Victoria, NSW and Queensland and to a lesser extent, South Australia. The border towns are now beset with problems of access to services: to schools and hospitals. Farms extend across borders.

At no stage have the number of infected people reached the percentages of Europe or the USA but we all realise that the virus is so infectious that it does not take much relaxation in the rules for it to become uncontrollable.

So now we have 7 sets of rules and specific use of language from the 7 states and territories to be considered. And more specifically: your own state’s rules, which change regularly with the ebb and flow of outbreaks, and the rules for states where you plan to travel or where your family are.

It’s plain confusing.

South Australia: as of January 12, all travellers coming to South Australia are required to complete a Cross Border Travel Registration. Our authorities have declared areas to be ‘High’ and ‘Low Community Transmission Zones’. Rules apply to each of these if you desire to enter South Australia. There are special rules for border areas – a ‘Cross Border Community Travel Zone’. Applications are required.

Rules are changed so often and are so confusing that often the police and border officials get it wrong. And this is quite apart from mask-wearing rules.

Other government COVID-19 website travel information

Victoria has just come up with a brilliant new idea: coloured zones! They have green, orange and red zones. Like a traffic light. Which means everyone entering Victoria must apply for a permit – even from WA or South Australia. We have had no community spread cases since mid-November last year.

‘These are the rules as per the Victorian government. If you have been in:

  • a green zone, you will be able to apply for a permit and enter Victoria. Once in Victoria you should watch for symptoms and get tested should you feel unwell. ​
  • an orange zone, you will be able to apply for a permit and will have to take a coronavirus (COVID-19) test within 3 days of your arrival in Victoria and isolate until you receive a negative test result.
  • a red zone, you will only be able to apply for a permit as a permitted worker, or to transit through Victoria to another state or territory. You may also apply for an exemption. Exemptions are only granted in special cases. If you try to enter Victoria by road without a valid permit, exemption or exception you will be turned away. If you attempt to enter via an airport or seaport without a valid permit, exemption or exception you will be fined $4957. Victorians will be required to quarantine at home, and others will be sent back.
  • a NSW-Victorian cross-border community. If you are a resident, you will be able to enter Victoria without a permit, but you must carry photo ID and proof of your address. ​’

The Australian newspaper makes the comment today: ‘The extreme approaches of Victoria and WA are out of all proportion with Australia’s COVID-19 caseload. The nation had four new cases of community transmission on Monday, all of them in NSW. Nobody is in intensive care. The maze of confusing, costly, job-destroying over-regulation by some states is now intolerable…. But … the commonwealth (government) lacks the constitutional power to force states to open borders or abandon their ludicrous red tape.’

We were hoping to holiday on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria at the end of February. It’s not looking very promising. Point one: can we get through the border? Point two. When we are there, will South Australian stop us coming back home or make us go into quarantine?

To travel or not to travel, the decision awaits us.

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, Australia: 1,200 sheep outside my window

November 14.

Willow Springs Station

I am 530 kms north of Adelaide in the Flinders Ranges. My creative writing group is spending 3 nights at a working sheep station called Willow Springs. We booked the shearers’ quarters with its communal kitchens and close proximity to the woodshed.

This a different world controlled by the weather and long term decisions about stocking and de-stocking large quantities of sheep. The dramatic world of USA elections seems as remote as Mars.

the stock truck arrives – 3 stories of sheep

We arrived to see a stock-carrier vehicle discharging 1,200 8-month old merino lambs into an small paddock. The lambs had to be encouraged out of their confinement but once free they hurried to the piles of hay. Another 1,000 lambs arrived today.

persuading the sheep to disembark!
thank goodness it was not a hot day for their journey

The sounds of the ma-ing in all their varying tones has been the backdrop to our hours here. The Reynold family, owners of Willow Springs, are excited. They have suffered 4 years of drought with only 17 inches of rain over 4 years when the average is normally 12 inches a year. They are north of the Goyder line (north of this virtual line grain is not considered possible).

The fodder for sheep wilted and died and pastoralists in this region sold their stock. On our walk today we could see how huge numbers of the hardy native callitris pines and river red gums have also died. They stand as ashen sticks on the hillsides and in the creek beds.

Struggling River Red Gums

This year, Willow Springs has received 9 inches of rain and the hillsides are once more green with pasture. To the untrained eye the feed seems minimal but apparently there is enough for the lambs to survive our coming blast of a summer.

I have discovered that each sheep has a slightly different voice. Some high, some low. Why do they call so? It is strange to listen to them calling to one another and to watch them huddle together in the shade of the few river red gums. What I do see is how frightened they are of us and I can understand why – we are indeed a brutal lot.

Noises in the night

Mrs Reynolds told us that before the drought there were huge problems from dingoes (or wild dogs x dingoes) mauling their sheep. Distressing. The drought has decimated the dingoes – and the mobs of kangaroos that we used to see along the roads all over the Flinders Ranges. We have yet to see a kangaroo. The pastoralists are happy about this as the kangaroos competed with the sheep for the fodder.

Tomorrow morning, the sheep will be released into the larger paddocks of the station. It is forecast to be 40 degrees and they will need to find a cool spot in the dry but cooler river beds.

The dry creeks

At Willow Springs they are hoping for some sort of return to normalacy very soon. I hope this will also be the case in the USA.

Morning with the flock

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: ‘Democracy in Chains’

cover of the latest Economist

November 3. My husband tells me he doesn’t want to hear about Trump any more. Neither do. I wish he was still just one of the pantheon of narcissistic TV personalities that frequent the front pages of our weekly celebrity gossip magazine, Woman’s Day … old copies that you might pick up in the dentist’s waiting room … the junk pages you flipped over to move on to featured recipes.

For that is where Donald Trump belongs, where he started … in over-the-top gossip magazines.

I hope that after January 20, 2021 Trump can disappear into the background of the world and we will never have to hear from him. Apparently in Australia, about 25% of the population said they had confidence in President Trump trying to do the right thing for world affairs (whereas 87% supported Barack Obama during his presidency). This is very low for our country as usually we support our closest ally.

Within the USA, the trend of the population supporting the standing president has been declining since 2013 when it’s stood at 66% – being favourable support for President Barack Obama. This declining perception of the standing USA president is repeated across the Western World. I wonder to what extent American voters comprehend this.

From Australia, there’s nothing we can do about the unfolding events in the USA. We have two children and four grandchildren living there. This heightens my anxiety. And it is not just Trump and his bombastic ignorance and lies, it is the damage done to the body politic by him and his enablers: the loss of trust in the democratic system; the extent of the gerrymandering going on; the stark racial divide; the erosion of the separation of powers and the weakening of the media.

So, I am thinking about the beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes 3:1-3:22…about times in our human life. No doubt we are going to be doing some of this in a few days’ time.

(I like the old King James’ bible version. It is worth re-visiting.)

https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ecclesiastes-Chapter-3/

‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;’

They forgot about … ‘A time to be anxious’!

I have been slowly reading People, Power and Profits by Joseph E. Stiglitz (2019). Slowly, because there is much to absorb. This is what I read today. (Page 160 in the Penguin edition, Chapter 8 on Restoring Democracy.)

‘It is becoming clearer that the objective of the Republican Party is a permanent rule of the minority over the majority. This is an imperative for them because the policies for which they had advocated, from regressive taxation (taxing the rich at lower rates than the rest), to cutting back on Social Security and Medicare, and cutting back on government more generally, are anathema to the majority of voters. Republicans have to make sure that the majority doesn’t get control. And if the majority does get control, they have to make sure that it can’t put in place the policies that it would like, and which would advance the interests of the majority. As Nancy Maclean, professor of history at Duke University put it, they have to put “democracy in chains“.

What more can one say about what is at stake in the USA?

From Anne in Adelaide, Australia: a koala closer to home

27 October.

Why is he on the ground?

I was going to write a post about the relaxing of restrictions in Victoria. They have had a very serious lockdown in Melbourne for 164 days. Everyone is so relieved that at last Victoria has had two days of no infections.

Instead, I have another story about koalas. On my way to our garage I noticed a dark shape hunched under a small eucalypt. It was a male (a buck) koala huddled over in the shade. I thought he might need water – although it is not a hot day. So, I took down a basin of water and offered it to him. He did not seem to be scared at all but drank steadily for a while.

I know that one of the signs of a sick koala is a tendency to stay on the ground. The ground is a dangerous place for them. So, I phoned up an organisation called Koala Rescue. A young lady arrived within half an hour with a large pet container. Using a towel for protection she picked up the koala from behind and placed him safely in the box. She said you have to be careful as their claws are very sharp, but they are not aggressive. Just frightened.

With koala sound effects and birds singing

She thought that he had been in a fight and also he might have a virus. Koalas often get chlamydia. So my koala was off to hospital. I will be informed of his progress and when he’s better he will be returned to our property. Koalas are territorial. There is a shortage of habitat for koalas and they have been moving into urban areas. There they come into contact with domestic dogs. Furthermore, koalas have no road sense.

My koala did not seem to mind being photographed. So enjoy some close-ups.! Nothing much happens with koalas unless they are fighting.

Lots of chomping sounds. Eucalyptus leaves are not pliable or soft. They take some chewing! Note the signs of fighting on his nose. I think a doe was involved …

For anyone who is used to the animals of Africa, it is a very subdued wildlife interaction.

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: La Niña and the Rose Garden

The Veale Rose Garden, Adelaide, Australia

October 17. Two months ago, I wrote about the drought affecting us in South Australia. Since them we have received good spring rains: 130 mm. That is over the average: not a flood, not a glorious amount of rain but enough to make us delighted.

It’s all about La Niña, (the girl), weather event (as opposed to El Niño , the boy) centred in the ocean between Australia and the Americas. I don’t understand it, but it has something to do with the sea surface temperatures being below the norm and, in the way of the world, this affects Australia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. In Africa and Australia, it will be cooler and wetter; countries in Asia will receive heavy rains. The same goes for North America where snow falls will increase. South America, however, gets drought conditions along the coast of Chile and the Peru.

La Niña will last for about five months. She is welcome – bear in mind that our last summer was abnormally hot and dry and bushfires raged across our country for weeks.

So, in Adelaide this spring, our gardens are looking green and lush. The hillsides have not yet browned off. We all fear the advent of the ferociously hot spells in summer and delight in these mild mid 20 temperatures.

some of the 50 varieties of roses in the Veale Gardens

This week, for the first time in the 29 years I have lived in Adelaide, I visited the Veale Rose Gardens in the South Parkland of our city, to see the first bloom of roses. The gardens are named after a William Veale, Adelaide Town Clerk for 18 years. Our city centre is surrounded by a 500-meter-wide band of parkland: easy to get to and easy to park.

Indeed, the roses were magnificent. I am not knowledgeable at all about roses, but my companion showed me the intricacies of the blooms. It is a pity how few roses have any scent nowadays. All bending and smelling was to no avail! It appears that crafting exotic beauty is now more important.

This might be the City of Adelaide Rose – it was there somewhere and it was pink!

Some blooms were deep maroon, some pale lilac, some had darker pink stripes, some were old-fashioned climbing tea roses: rows and rows of roses – 50 varieties in all – and not a rose beetle in sight.

I cannot see roses blooming without remembering how my mother’s rose garden in Durban, South Africa, was attacked by black and yellow beetles the size of your thumb. They ate out the centre of the rosebuds. My mother employed my compliant daughter to extract them from the blooms, to gather the angry insects into a glass bottle. She was paid her for her industry.

With the benefit of Wikipedia, I have a identified those little nasties as the ‘garden fruit chafer’ in the family of scarabs. But in the Veale Gardens in Adelaide there was not a scarab beetle in sight. Every bloom was perfect. Enjoy the beauty of our Adelaide spring!

from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: Pinocchio and the consequences of lying

10 October.

My 1946 children’s edition of Pinocchio

“Once upon a time a poor wood carver named Geppetto lived in a country across the sea. He was little and old and he was lonely.”

So begins my copy of Pinocchio, given to me on my birthday 65 years ago when I lived in Mbeya, Tanganyika. The original story of Pinocchio was published in 1883 by Carlo Collodi of Florence. Little did Carlo realise that he had created a masterpiece that would resonate with children through the ages. Who has not heard about how the astonished puppet’s nose grew longer with each lie he told?

Pinocchio has been adapted and translated into over 300 languages and Wikipedia says it is the most translated non-religious book in the world and one of the best-selling books ever published with over 800 million copies sold.

Tonight, my husband and I went to the movies to see the 2019 film of Pinocchio, written and directed by Matteo Garrone and the featured film of our Italian Film Festival.

We booked our seats at the cinema complex in the East End of Adelaide which, being a Saturday night, was busy as anything, as busy as it used to be. Not a mask in sight. I said to my husband that we must be in one of the only places in the world where everyone is quite so relaxed. Long may this last.

We have no new cases today – but 3 active cases (returning travellers).

https://www.covid-19.sa.gov.au/home/dashboard

This version of Pinocchio was not a film for young children, in fact, I think it will be most appreciated by adults … magnificently filmed in Tuscany, Italy. It is a dark version of the tale, decidedly not a cute retelling. It also depicts poverty-stricken villages in Italy of the late 19C. At the same time the scenery and filming are spectacular. Digital manipulation was not used – instead prosthetic make-up brought the fantastic characters to life. I need to see the film again to fully appreciate the cinematography.

I remember well, as a child, being disturbed when all the little recalcitrant school boys were turned into donkeys – when they first found that their ears had grown hairy and large and they could not talk.

Going to the Land of Boobies where it’s Vacation Time all day long

“And while they were still giggling at one another, they found they now had hooves for feet, and tails. They opened their mouths, but they could only bray.”

I remember the shock when the crippled donkey – aka Pinocchio – was thrown into the sea with a stone tied to his neck. In this new film this is graphically shown. It did not worry me when Pinocchio was swallowed by a huge dogfish, after all I knew about Jonah and the Whale and it was safe and warm in the stomach of the fish! You could even light a fire!

Could a flock of woodpeckers visit the White House? Daily?

The story of Pinocchio is the story of a journey into adulthood, into responsibility, the story of our human condition. In this age of ‘fake’ news and blatant lies told by leaders of our Western democracies, it is even more poignant to watch a film about the consequences of deception. If only our world leaders could suffer some sort of immediate retribution for their lack of honesty.

And, BTW, we all sometimes need a Kind Fairy with Turquoise Hair …

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Sorry, but I don’t know either!

September 27.

Johannes Leak cartoon. The Australian 26-27 September, 2020

In late May and early June, our neighbouring state of Victoria was hit by a second wave of community infections of Covid-19. The numbers exploded rapidly, reaching over 700 a day as the authorities failed to track, trace and test to halt the spread. People started asking questions. How did this happen; where is the virus coming from? Soon it was fairly obvious: the hotel quarantine system for returning travellers had failed.

Cases continued to spread. On August 2, a state of ‘disaster’ with Stage 4 restrictions on Melbourne and Stage 3 on the rest of the state, was declared.

All other states closed their borders to Victoria. By then the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, had fielded questions about how his government had failed in their management of the quarantine process. He said he would appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the outbreak but since he was so busy handling the crisis, he would not comment further. So, the state and the country had to wait until September to listen to the Judicial Commission of Inquiry.

final witness – Daniel Andrews

September 26-27. After 25 days of hearings, 62 witnesses and 200,000 pages of documents, a 3 million dollar inquiry has not had the main question answered: who was responsible for appointing private security firms to manage the hotel quarantine of overseas travellers instead of the (more reliable and experienced) Federal police who had been offered by the Federal Government (these police had been appointed in other states)? The private firms had been hopeless in their job. They had subcontracted to untrained and underpaid workers. Lurid tales of security staff relaxing on the job, smoking breaks, shopping outings and co-habiting with the travellers, emerged.

“Some guards are saying they had no training,” Shah said. “Some were saying they had three minutes’ training.” (Kazim Shah, a United Workers Union organiser).

The quarantine system had failed with lethal results. Where was the culprit? Where was the failure?

Quotes attributable to the Premier Daniel Andrews on the occasion of appointing a Royal Commission. July 2, 2020, “It is abundantly clear that what has gone on here is completely unacceptable and we need to know exactly what has happened.”

https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/judicial-inquiry-hotel-quarantine-program

“The inquiry will begin promptly and will examine a range of matters including:  decisions and actions of government agencies, hotel operators and private contractors; communication between government agencies, hotel operators and private contractors; contractual arrangements; information, guidance, training and equipment provided to staff in hotels; policies, protocols and procedures.”

This weekend our newspapers tell the story. And what a debacle it is: no one is owning up. No one made the wrong decision – it just appears to have happened, willy nilly!! Be amazed! An immaculate conception-decision had emerged with no record, no minutes, no one there! Premier Daniel Andrews was the last to give evidence and yesterday he was full of ‘don’t knows’.

Everyone was waiting for Premier Andrews to appear. He was the last government minister, the final witness, before the commission. He held up the bible, swore to tell the truth – but it turns out – he did not know how or who made the decision to hire private security firms.

He said, ‘I want to say to you, Madam Chair, I await your final report, the conclusion of your work, so we can understand better what has occurred, So, I as leader of government can take appropriate action to ensure these sorts of errors never occur again.’ The Australian September 26-27.

A Monty Python moment – but remember, this is not a joke, 762 people died in the outbreak, 18,000 were infected. Only one minister has resigned – the health minister, Jenny Mikakos. Andrews blamed her, saying she was accountable. Mikakos has sworn before the commission that she did not even KNOW that private guards were being used.

Andrews is not resigning – he says he has work to do!

I will be amazed if processes change in the corridors of political power. Do Royal Commission findings and recommendations result in changes?

If my little Adelaide writing group meetings keeps minutes, why are the major decisions of the Victorian State government not likewise recorded? Nine ministers, PM Secretaries, Commissioners and Health Officers had no clue how this disastrous decision was made. Collective amnesia!

I don’t know, either! The mystery decision!

The editorial puts it succinctly, ‘Be it collective gross incompetence or a cover-up …Victorians have been treated with contempt by the government they voted in and pay …’