from Anne in Adelaide, Australia: the time has come …

7 November, 2021.

… to take a break.

We started this blog in March 2020 with the bold plan to record stories from connected friends and colleagues across the world. There was hope that we would all find the strength to adapt to Covid-19. There was a certain sense of excitement: a challenge, something that would cause our communities to work together to survive. Our diary was an ambitious plan to chronicle the events of our far-flung lives during Covid-19. We were energised; we were going to be proactive.  

However, I don’t think any of us imagined that the pandemic would last as long as it has, nor that it would change the world in the ways that it has. The numbers are staggering – between 10.5 and 19.7 million people have died. The story of Covid-19 will take years to process.

Here below are the November 2021 numbers of people who have died: on the left are the official statistics, on the right the excess deaths calculated by the Economist using a statistical model. It is more likely to be the true story of the devastation of Covid-19.

November 2021. Twenty months later. Slowly, our writers have stopped writing for this blog: for many reasons. As any writer will tell you, it is hard keeping up the energy and enthusiasm month after month. The pandemic has been exhausting. We all hoped for more out of life; our world has been squeezed shut. Being of an age, we did not have the sense of having a wealth of years left in which to travel, to feel free, to have options. Health issues are getting more stark for all of us. (For example, I asked a provider if I could get travel insurance that covered the possibility of getting Covid-19 while overseas. I found out that some insurance providers will comply – but at a price, and the cover is limited. Can I travel to the USA without Covid-19 cover? Not advisable.)

https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/our-services/resources/choice-travel-insurance-guide-covid-19

Recently, there were two of us still submitting entries to this blog: David Maughan-Brown and me. Gradually we have become more and more intermittent. For me, it is becoming harder to write. Do we want to spend our hours staring at a computer screen?

However, there are reasons to celebrate. The original team of writers have all survived Covid-19. Maybe we are coming to the beginning of the end of the pandemic. We are getting on with the minutiae of our private lives. My USA friends are visiting Greece, and our Australian borders have started the process of opening. Already our local skies have contrails: dissolving white lines across the blue.

The devastating effects of Covid-19 are known to all of us. The onslaught of news might be one of the reasons for our exhaustion.

In what ways has Covid-19 had a positive influence on our lives and the broader world? At first, I struggled to find any good news, but there is some.

  • A great value has been placed on medical research and innovation.
  • We have become closer to friends and family.
  • We are encouraged to be more aware of our health challenges: we appreciate good health. We have enjoyed meals at home more often, and we have tried to be more careful with our food choices.
  • More social services are available: many countries have rolled our financial support during Covid-19.
  • Working from home became a new normal for many people and will influence work routines of the future.
  • Online events posted by museums and art institutions became available.
  • The environment has had a breather. Emissions are down; biodiversity improved in many places as tourists were grounded.
  • Online learning techniques were improved: the classroom was digitised.
  • Where possible, we have exercised more!

So it’s goodbye!

Thank you to all who have taken part: the writers for their commitment to write and the readers who have taken the time to be with us. Take care of yourselves.

As Lewis Carroll said, so well, the time comes … but remember to avoid suspicious invitations!

O Oysters,’ said the Carpenter,

      You’ve had a pleasant run!

Shall we be trotting home again?’      

But answer came there none —

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: On the Move: Holidays, Food and Foraging

19 June, 2021

The arrival of winter rains over Adelaide

Australians are travelling once more. However, with our slow local vaccination rate and the fear of new variants, such as the Delta variant, the prospect of overseas travel is receding. So, we are confined within Australia. ‘No worries,’ locals say, ‘It’s a vast country, and I have never been to Darwin/Margaret River/Townsville/Merimbula/Broome etc’. Airbnb and Stayz are reporting heavy bookings. Popular destinations are full for the 2021 school holidays. Costs are surging.

We secured a late July booking to fly to Port Douglas: the stunning Queensland coastal holiday town on the edge of the Daintree Rainforest. We found a modestly priced apartment months ago. I have been warned that Port Douglas restaurants are full for meals and that I need to pre-book our evening entertainment.

In reaction, some of our retired friends are planning on spending big: travelling the Ghan, Adelaide to Darwin ($4,200 aud, one way per person); a 10-night cruise around the Kimberley coast ($30,000 average pp not including helicopter flights); Lord Howe Island ($3,500 for 7 nights pp including flights). Maybe these months of Covid restrictions have made us realise that the remaining time to make such trips is dwindling fast. Will I get to Zanzibar once more? Capetown to see family? The Zululand game reserves? Yellowstone National Park? Sanibel island? The wish list feels like plans made after enjoying a bottle of Adelaide Hills sparkling wine.

Life here in Adelaide remains good. (Aussies love the word ‘good’. ‘How are you?’ The answer is ‘Good’.  It’s like a check-up on your moral status). We await our second AstraZeneca vaccination scheduled for early July. Tonight, the government announced that the AZ would no longer be offered to under 60-year-olds. More cases of clotting have emerged. … called vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopaenia (VITT) or thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS). It is estimated that one in 80,000 is affected. That is enough to scare people, especially with the nightly news of yet another suspected case.

Meanwhile, I have been foraging. I love foraging. There is something childlike and primeval about searching and finding food in the fields. Figs are my favourite; they fruit at the end of summer – February and March. We have a generous neighbour with many trees. This year, I also gathered plums, loquats, Chinese guavas, white sapotes, cumquats and last week, fungi.

With the arrival of soaking winter rain – a month late – the fungi have fruited. I heard that pine mushrooms or saffron milk caps (Lactarius deliciosus) were plentiful in the Kuipo pine forests in the Adelaide Hills. Pine mushrooms are easy to identify, and there are few deadly look-alikes. It does help to have the latest book on fungi. I have Wild Mushrooms, a Guide for Foragers, by Alison Pouliot & Tom May, given to me by my Seattle daughter, a mycologist in her spare time. But it is wise to be warned, to be cautious and to observe simple collection rules: have separate packets for each species and not to collect what you don’t know.

The towering forests of mature Pinus radiata are not my favourite wild places. The undergrowth is sparse, and these forests don’t support our native birds and marsupials. But some fungi prosper there.

As the three of us began our hunt – and I had little clue about how numerous these delicious fungi were or how cryptic they would be – we met a local Chinese family who were staggering homeward with a large laundry basket full of pine mushrooms.

They pointed vaguely behind them into the depth of the woods. ‘There are many there. Five hundred metres away,’ they said.

Looking at their heavy basket, I wondered if they had left ‘many’. They made it sound easy: it was not. At first, we found nothing but luminous red and orange fungi and masses of large, slimy ‘slippery jacks’ (Suillus luteus), which form a symbiotic relationship with pine tree roots. My Wild Mushroom book says this about slippery-jacks, ‘Their slimy nature is revered by some and repulses others.’

The three of us walked in loops, searching the pine needles covering the ground. My daughter said, ‘Explore lumps and bumps in the pine needle ground.’ I think you develop an ‘eye’ for spotting fungi and we were beginners. We were not concerned about getting lost once we realised that our mobile phones still worked. As we turned for home, we struck lucky and collected about two kilos of the saffron pine fungi. I also gathered a few slippery jacks as my daughter told me that Russian people rave over these fungi. Later I found an interesting recipe for a slippery jack cabbage soup with beans and a dash of vodka. This recipe sounded like a perfect plan for a winter evening.

There is something so very pleasurable about hunting for fungi. With full baskets at our feet, the three of us sat on logs, drank hot peppermint tea and ate cheese and biscuits while watching the friendly grey fantails and superb blue wrens.

Neither of my friends wanted to cook our saffron milk caps, so I took them all home and researched their preparation.

I made pine mushroom soup, pasta sauce and an omelette with mushroom filling. The slippery jacks are more challenging as the slimy pileus can give some people dermatitis. I stripped off this surface skin and removed the puffy spore layer, although some recipes do not suggest removing the pores. I was left with a creamy circle of flesh. I fried them with the pine mushrooms. They were delicious.

It was a memorable day of successful foraging.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: a flight and a funeral

May 13, 2021.

Today, we undertook our first flight in over 18 months: a day trip to Melbourne.

I might have mentioned before that we hold credits with 4 airlines: Qantas, Jetstar, Garuda and Air New Zealand. All promise to honour these expended monies for flights that were aborted due to Covid-19. Generous?

Not so easy to claim, I am afraid. Qantas emailed us to inform us we would have to phone them to convert our $800 into new flights. If the new flights came to less than $800, we would forfeit the balance. Since domestic flight costs seem to have gone UP recently, I did not think that would happen. So, for many days I tried to phone Qantas to make a booking to attend the Melbourne funeral of a dear friend.

Qantas are obviously very popular or everyone in Australia is now travelling domestically. All attempts to phone them resulted in my waiting on hold for over an hour. Sometimes, I was told that the wait time was over 2 hours. Since the call centre is open 24×7, I decided to get up in the middle of the night. That worked! I woke at 4 am and rang Qantas on 2 mobiles using 2 different options (after all there is a sequence of negotiating through their many menu options). You would think that they would employ the new technology that allows a ring back. Anyway, after well over an hour the call was answered by a real person and she very efficiently converted our $800 (plus another $90) into two return tickets to Melbourne.

First, we had to apply to re-enter our home state of South Australia and get a Cross Border Travel pass. Secondly, we had to apply to enter Victoria – a Border Permit. Armed with 2 printed passes for two states, we arrived at the airport at 5.45am for our 7am flight. Everyone has to wear masks in the airports and on the flights. We have been fortunate during the last 18 months in that we, in South Australia, have lived mask-less. They are not much fun as you will know: we do not own designer masks. Ours were the cheap white and blue throwaways that sit close to your mouth. Thankfully, they served a sort of snack on the flight and obviously you are allowed to remove the mask. The trick is to take a long time over the snack. The flight to Melbourne is only 1 hr 20 minutes.

Since we lived in Melbourne – 29 years ago – the city has grown enormously. It is now home to over 5 million people and sprawls in every direction. Apparently, ‘Melbourne was voted the world’s most liveable city for seven consecutive years (2011–2017) by The Economist Intelligence unit.’ (Wikipedia). Coming from Adelaide, I felt rather overwhelmed.

We were there for a short time: to attend the funeral of Eric, a special friend. My husband has known Eric for well over 50 years. We went on many holidays, together and many adventures – exploring Australia from Kakadu to the Red Centre to sailing in the Whitsundays. Eric and his wife, Lyn, were endlessly generous to us and our family over the years. He was a committed and dedicated Christian and the eulogies during the service spoke of the many aspects of his life – spoken by his children, his grandchildren and his Christian friends. So we were pleased to be there to share in honouring and celebrating his life.

And we were pleased to get home again after the process of being interviewed – routinely questioned at Adelaide Airport by the border police.

Arriving home into Adelaide

Travel is not going to be simple anymore.

We had been hoping that with the rollout of the vaccination program in Australia and worldwide, Qantas would resume international travel in late October. They had started selling tickets in anticipation of this.

This week Qantas changed the plan – delayed the international opening to late December. There is even mention of mid-2022. The tourism section had this amusing comment: ‘The tourism sector has slammed the government for its vague plans on borders, suggesting Australia could become the “hermit kingdom of the South Pacific“.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-05-12/qantas-delays-restart-of-international-flights-in-wake-of-covid/100133772

I fear more and more people will have credits with Qantas and will join the late night queues to get refunds actioned.

It’s easier to stay at home.