Monday, 30 March 2020

Knitting is supposed to be relaxing,

calming, soothing...
I may need it in the coming months. Our Prime Minister informed us yesterday that humans over a certain age should "stay at home". It wasn't quite a lock down but close to it. 
Other people are being asked to stay at home if they possibly can. Take the dog for a walk? Yes. Get some exercise yourself? Yes, if you take a walk with one other person or ride your bike or - presumably - use your skateboard or whatever. 
The "one other person" provision is there to protect women in particular, women who might only be able to go out with someone else. I know the Muslim woman who lives in the group of units across the way and down the lane from us would not go out alone at any time - although I have seen her scuttle alone to the rubbish bin with a last load of rubbish. 
Will people go for walks? I hope so. 
And will they do other things? The state newspaper now has a section called "Hibernation" - full of things to do while forced to stay at home. So far I have not had time to look at it. I don't need any more to do. 
I want to finish the book I started writing almost two years ago. The "of course you can find time to write if you really want to" noise does not take into account a number of things that really do prevent you from doing just that. 
And I hope I can knit...and knit more than I usually do. Yes, it is supposed to be relaxing, soothing, calming and more. 
Interestingly I did very little knitting when my mother was dying. Looking back I realise I had very little time...and I needed more sleep than I was getting. Knitting was low on the list of priorities. 
It is higher right now. The Senior Cat is supportive, encouraging and interested. (That he fails to understand the process at all just adds to the fun for both of us.) I still don't have a lot of time but I have more ideas than ever. 
But, more important than ever, I need to make sure I keep in touch with people I know live alone or will simply need support. I spoke to one yesterday. I will try and talk to another today and another tomorrow...and so it will go on. They need to know someone is interested.  Most of them knit and all of them read or indulge in craft of one sort or another. We should be able to find things to talk about.
We could grow further apart - or we could grow closer together.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

There are almost no cars on the roads

as I do my lone pedal. 
Normally there would, even at this time on a Saturday, be plenty. People would be going to and from the shops and sport or the hardware store or simply be "out".  
I have never quite understood what it means to just go "out". I go out for a purpose but I know people who shrug and say, "We just went "out" - might have a coffee or something but really we just went out."
Right now they must need to say "in" unless they go for a walk or pedal - both things still allowed. I wonder what they are doing. The paper is full of ideas for "hibernation" - mostly things I would not want to do. 
Ms W and I had a conversation. She phoned me and said she was coming around and could I please meet her "over the fence". That phrase might become more common place. I met her "over the fence". It means me standing on the lawn and Ms W standing on the foot path. We are about three metres apart. We don't need to shout and can have a perfectly normal conversation. All I miss is her hug - and I do miss that. Ms W gives excellent hugs. 
She has had an entire week at home now. How was she getting on? So far she seems to be coping extremely well. They have eaten "properly". She has done all her set schoolwork and some more besides. According to her, "You can get heaps more done if you can just get on with it. I don't have to wait while people ask things I already know the answer to but you don't get ideas in the same way." 
Her father is not walking to the railway station and back - the way he usually goes to work - so they go for a walk or take their bikes out for twenty minutes in the middle of the day. That was her idea. I doubt her father would have thought of it. She is determined he should exercise. 
    "He's had heaps of on-line meetings and stuff like that. It's just like usual for him except he's not going anywhere."
They seem to have settled into a sort of routine for all that. I know her father does do a lot of work from home. What he does often requires intense concentration. He would be interrupted in the office.
    "And I'm lucky it is just the two of us because nobody else can wander in and interrupt either."
Her friends and class mates are finding it harder. A lot of them have siblings who will interrupt. They too often have parents working from home, parents who are not used to doing that. Their parents are certainly not used to working from home and supervising schoolwork at the same time. She also knows there are people who will be unemployed. That worries her.
But then she reminded me that I had bought tomato paste for her as well as us.
    "What are you making?" I ask
    "Pizza faces," she tells me, "We could do with a smile."
I showed her how to make those years ago. I thought she had grown out of them. It's nice to know she hasn't.
It's nice to know that some things are still the same.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Our immediate neightbours are Chinese

from Taiwan.
H....speaks almost no English even after around eight years here. For this I blame her husband R.... I offered to help H.... with English lessons. He declined. 
If the Senior Cat and I have ever tried to speak to her over the fence then R... will join in and take over the conversation. It has left her isolated apart from her children and some of the acquaintances R... made before he arrived here. Her grandchildren do not speak Chinese. They are growing up here but H... rarely sees them.  It seems that this is the way R... wants things.
Now she is even more isolated than before.
Yesterday I saw her coming back with her shopping. She looked as if she had been crying. I can't go to her and ask, "What's wrong?" and I can't go to her and hug her. I did hug her once. It was about a year or so after she arrived. Her husband's car was damaged in the car park of the hospital and someone phoned. Her limited understanding of English caused her to believe that R... had been injured. She was frantic. I took the phone from her and took the message and then told her carefully that R... was not hurt. I gave her a hug and she held on tight. It was what she needed right then.
A hug might not have helped yesterday. I can of course imagine all sorts of things that might be wrong. I did call out and ask if she needed help. All I got was a look of despair and misery and a shake of the head. 
I wonder how many other people are in this position? We tend to think of everyone as being able to communicate...even me whose working life involves helping others do just that. It isn't true of course. Right now there are people who don't have access to computers, who can't afford the sort of phone plan that allows them unlimited talk time and much more. There are many people here who speak almost no English. They are isolated at the best of times and it might be that they had one outing each week - perhaps to church or mosque or temple or a language class - and that has stopped.
If those of us who have multiple ways of communicating find it hard then how much harder are they finding it?
I am going to send my Federal MP a suggestion this morning - a temporary measure to reduce isolation. If anything comes of it then people will hear about it.

Friday, 27 March 2020

"Can I come and visit?"

was asked of me twice yesterday.
The answer was "no". One person thought it would be "fine" if she sat on the lawn and the Senior Cat was "six feet" away. No.  The other person was "just going to drop something in". No.
There are people who need to come into this house. The first are the people who help the Senior Cat shower. That means someone three times a week. I would rather this was not necessary but, realistically, it is much safer if they do it. We are taking all the precautions we can with that because it is very close contact. We just have to hope that they don't  bring an infection with them. We are balancing that against what would happen if I was helping and the Senior Cat fell.
The person who comes to help me two hours a fortnight with the heavy cleaning (floors, vacuuming, reaching the places I cannot reach) will come as long as she is permitted to do so. She is very, very conscious of the need for hygiene. She cleans a dental surgery and she has very elderly parents herself. When she is here she will, as far as possible, maintain a distance between  us - but she has been known to help the Senior Cat with things like shoe laces and shirt buttons in the past and that will undoubtedly stop. 
The person who does the really heavy garden maintenance will be here on Monday. He also comes once a fortnight. He has no need to come into the house and the Senior Cat will remain inside while he is here. S....and I can maintain that "social distance" too. Without him there will be other problems I cannot cope with.
The person who mows the lawn will simply pick up his pay from the front door and go. 
We need those people because they do things I cannot do, things that allow us to remain isolated.
Middle Cat will come if the Senior Cat needs help but will otherwise keep her distance. The neighbours will do the same.
We do not need "friends" calling in - even with the best of intentions.
It is hard on the Senior Cat. He doesn't have my Facebook contacts and having a conversation with L..., my godfather, is difficult because they are both so hard of hearing.  His other very close friend, K..., is now so advanced in his Alzheimer's that he cannot hold a conversation.
I am reminded of my paternal grandfather saying he had lived "too long" because all his friends had died before him.  I am reminded too of an elderly woman who said that she only chose people younger than herself as friends "so they won't die before me". 
The church the Senior Cat attends is setting up a voluntary register of names, phone numbers and emails - nothing more and only if you want to, for people to contact one another while in isolation. We need more of that.
And I am thankful for the friends who do phone and who talk to the Senior Cat and for the friends on FB who ask how we are coping. I like to know they are coping too. Keep it up please!

Thursday, 26 March 2020

The world is suddenly

much quieter. 
There have been no vehicles down our street this morning. People are not going to work. They are staying home and their cars are in carports and garages.
I saw someone out walking their dog and the elderly couple who walk each morning were striding along at their usual pace. Yes, you can still go out for those purposes - if you keep your distance. I wonder how long that will last?
The amount of work I have to do has dropped dramatically. Yesterday was the first day in more years than I care to think about that there was no new work come in. The reasons for that are not good.
I have been trying to "retire" for some time. Now, for the worst possible reasons, it looks as if it might be possible. Be careful what you wish for! 
People cannot travel. The sort of aid workers I try to help simply aren't going anywhere. They can't. People here cannot leave the country. Others cannot enter it.
It does not mean things don't need to be done. It means they can't be done.
We still have refugee camps. There are still wars being fought. People still need help for other reasons. 
Catherine Hamlin died recently. If you don't know her then Google her to see what a remarkable woman she was. I did a tiny amount of work for her once - many years ago. She was highly intelligent, courteous and compassionate. Her work has made a difference to thousands upon thousands and it needs to go on. 
There are other people like her working quietly and wondering how they will cope if C19 hits. One of the "micro-aid" workers I worked with recently managed to get to his home country just before the borders closed. His only thought was whether the people he had left behind would be able to safely insert a massive water tank into place and connect the necessary plumbing. That way a hospital which might well care for C19 patients will have water on tap instead of bringing it in a bucket at a time. Those things matter.
Let's not forget them any more than we must not forget our families, friends and neighbours.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

The supermarket was very quiet

yesterday. 
I prowled in with the intention of doing more shopping than usual - if possible enough to last a fortnight apart from fresh fruit and vegetables. 
Not everything I needed was available but there was enough and I will find ways around the other things if and when I can. The nice student at the check out arranged a home-delivery for me. 
There were people around but the place was not bustling the way it usually is. That gives me some hope for the future.
And it was quiet, unusually quiet. Even allowing for the fact that there were less people around than usual it was unusually quiet.
It took me a moment to realise what was different. There was no "music" in the background. I had, quite by chance, come in during the one hour a week set aside as "quiet" for those who have mental health issues. 
I had forgotten that they had started to do this several months ago. It was lovely!
The Senior Cat and I both prefer to work to "quiet".  I cannot work against the distractions of the radio,conversation or even music. At university I never could understand the students who would have their Walkman devices clamped to their ears. (Yes, I am "that" old.) I shuddered at the way they would flip the switch on their portable radios even before they flipped the switch on the light.
As a child the only time the radio was turned on was for my father to listen to the news service. We children were permitted to listen to "the Argonauts" - but only because our parents regarded it as an educational program. (It was and it was one of those things which encouraged me to write. I would sometimes have the thrill of my contributions being read on air. It is a program long gone but, for many children, it was the very best of  children's radio.)
We did not listen to "the top 40" or equivalents. Out in the rural and remote areas we lived in the reception was sometimes so poor we could scarcely hear the voices anyway. Even now Brother Cat, Middle Cat and I prefer silence. The Black Cat listens to more - but she does not read.
I pedalled home thinking of one of my favourite poems by Pablo Neruda - "A callarse" or "Keeping quiet" in English. If you are curious then there are translations on the internet - some better than others. I like the Alastair Reid one but there are others. It is a poem to think about right now and I had a small moment of time in which to do it.
A "quiet" supermarket was lovely. It would be nice if I could organise life to go at that time each week.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

My neighbours continue to astound me

in the nicest possible way.
Yesterday I was catching up briefly (and from the requisite distance) with M.... from across the road. His wife arrived back from NZ yesterday.
We are all glad S... is back although she has to be in self-isolation for two weeks and it will be hard, very hard, for her and her family. It is also hard because she had to leave before her mother dies but knows she won't see her mother again. Nobody in the family will as NZ has gone into what amounts to lock down. I am trying to sympathise but not think too hard about what S....is going through right now...on her own, not able to hug her husband and boys and grieving as well. It must be immensely hard. (It reminds me of a man I knew, now deceased, who was conscripted and sent to Vietnam. They did not allow him to return home for his mother's funeral. It was something from which he never recovered.)
But, back to the neighbours.With all that M... was still concerned that we were coping. Yes, thank you.  I intend to do a supermarket visit today and, hopefully, get enough that I need not go again for at least a week - and then only for milk and bread.
If I can get bread flour (not possible of late) then I won't need to be too concerned about that.
And milk? Well if I can't get fresh milk then L... from two doors down on the opposite side of the street came out as I was talking to M... She was carrying a disposable bag with a note taped to the side. She passed it over and said, "You mentioned powdered milk as a back up. I got  this for you. It was the last one on the shelf."
Yes, a packet of powdered milk. 
The note gave me her house and mobile numbers and the offer of help if we need it. I know she would mean it too. Until she retired she had a high level job in the public transport sector. She is efficient and reliable.
As kittens we had to do with powdered milk in one location. It was rare for people to own a cow. There was a school milk service back then but not for such remote places. Mum would measure the milk powder into a bowl, measure out water to go with it and then beat the two together with a rotary hand beater. The water quality was appalling and the milk tasted strange but it was all we had. (Our next move was to a dairying area and did we make the most of fresh milk. It was not pasteurised but Mum had ways around that.)
Thankfully powdered milk has improved since then. It mixes easily with cold water. I can use it as a substitute in cooking if need be. It doesn't taste like fresh milk but, apart from cereal, we can handle that. We will use it that way if we need to.
I hope though I don't need to try and find or eat reconstituted dried egg powder. I still remember that vividly from my time in hospital as a very young kitten. The Senior Cat was given "scrambled egg" in hospital last year and it is one of the few things he won't eat if can possibly avoid it. (He's easy to feed so he really detests it.) I hope it doesn't come to that and - with our good neighbours - I doubt it will.