Living under COVID-19 (1)

This may be the first of a regular, irregular or occasional series of posts about living under COVID-19 , probably occasional because I suspect that, once we settle in for however long it’s going to be, life will become same-same.

Like many bloggers – see Nancy in the Netherlands’ post, and Stargazer in London who said so on my blog – I am finding it hard to settle to reading and reviewing. I have one review half-written and another book read and not reviewed. They will be done, though – and next week, I hope.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d report on what the Gums have been doing.

People Stuff

Coincidentally with, but unrelated to, the start of the COVID-19 problem here in Australia, it became apparent that we would need to rejig my parents’ at-home care package to support their being able to continue to stay in their retirement village home. Using a division-of-labour approach Brother Gums took on negotiation of that care with Mr Gums and I doing the logistics needed to make that care work – all of course in close consultation with our nonagenarian parents who, while needing physical help, are perfectly able to discuss and articulate their needs. Indeed they will probably read this post, Father Gums having noted that my posts have been few lately! Anyhow, all this has made staying-at-home nigh impossible, but we’ve done our best to obey the spirit of the law. Things should be in place next week enabling us all to settle into more normal isolated living!

I just need to add here that Brother Gums has been an absolute Trojan, and we couldn’t have done it without him. Thanks Ian.

Otherwise, we have been keeping in touch with family, friends, neighbours and groups – including setting up new social messaging groups with neighbours and my reading group, and using existing ones with family.

Political stuff

I don’t like to engage much with politics here, as I am not keen to attract trolling or disrespectful commentary. I would just like to put on record that I am disappointed by our political leaders’ (on both sides) inability to be clear in their messaging. It’s impossible, I believe, to be completely consistent – unless, perhaps, you live in an autocratic, black-and-white world – but it is possible to be clear about your vision and priorities. This is exactly what, for example, I understand the Germans are being. Mr Gums, who watches the German news, translated for me that government’s very clear statement of priorities, and it is essentially this: 1. Get health care working well; 2. Look after the well-being of the people; 3. Consider the economy. Whether or not they achieve it, I like the aspiration!

Here is our Australian comedian Sammy J (who also appeared in my last Monday Musings) on the messaging we recently received in Oz:

Exercise Stuff

Social distance walking

We all know that exercise is important to our physical and mental health, but achieving that under these restrictions is difficult. My lovely little yoga class has had to suspend, and our Tai Chi venue was closed. However, Tai Chi can be done outside. So, on the understanding that the government’s rules allow outdoor physical training for groups of 10, with the proper spacing maintained, we have attended three outdoor Tai Chi classes in a public space (to the interest and amusement of occasional passers-by.) I’m not sure how long that can, or should, continue.

Otherwise, I, with Brother Gums and/or Mr Gums, have done a couple of walks in the section of the Canberra Nature Park across the road from our place, and I have continued my almost-daily at-home yoga practice.

Books and other cultural stuff

As I said, there’s not been much happening in this sphere, but what I have read will appear on the blog hopefully soon. Most of my TV watching has been news and current affairs to keep track of COVID-19 and what we need to know and do, with some light entertainment like Hard Quiz and Doc Martin thrown in.

However, with Ma Gums staying with us for the last week or so while the new care package is put in place, there have also been some Scrabble games, which I’d call cultural, wouldn’t you?


As for how we plan to spend our social-isolation time from now on, well, we have tasks galore, including gardening, digital photo cataloguing, decluttering – as well as, of course, virtual socialising, more reading and listening to/watching favourite and back-logged shows, and doing what we can to support and loved businesses which are still operating (such as bookstores and cafes doing online orders and takeaway food.)

66 thoughts on “Living under COVID-19 (1)

  1. We aren’t allowed to meet up with anyone and are only supposed to go out once a day for exercise, we walk for the Guardian in the morning. I feel for people who are cooped up in flats with kids, it must be murder and when the clocks change this weekend it’ll be even worse with the long light evenings arriving. I’m happy pottering around in the garden, but the bin men didn’t come this week, my brown garden waste bin will be overflowing soon. I think it will be like this for months and months. I’ve also found it difficult to concentrate on reading.

    • Thanks Katrina. I suspect what you’v got, will be coming here. And probably should come here. Like you I feel for those in apartments with kids, but I had forgotten of course that you are going into daylight savings. Terrible. It’s a real worry isn’t it – the impact of being shut in for some people in some situations.

  2. Predictably, in terms of my activities, I’m not minding it much at a personal level. I’m an indoor person, and an introvert, and I wasn’t going out at all because of the surgery anyhow, so life hasn’t changed much in that way.
    But when it comes to anxiety about family, friends, neighbours. the shops I patronise and visitors to my blog, that’s a different thing altogether. Normally all these aspects of my life take care of themselves, and needs such as there might be, are spread out over time. But now it’s different, everyone needs support in one way and another and I have never been so busy (or felt so useless) reaching out to the people I care about. What is breaking my heart is a neighbour with a testy little kid who just needs someone to drop in and give her a break, and I can’t do it. I mean, we’ve all been there with bawling kids, and I still remember the kindness of women I barely knew who got me through the tough times when I was a newcomer to a country town.
    Ok, ’nuff whinging. What have I been doing? I’ve continued baking as usual, and have also harvested the red peppers and two slightly different batches of red pepper pesto. I finished one book and did the review, and am working on another while I struggle with its successor. (Seriously weird, I may give up on it, I’m not much in the mood for it). I’ve been doing Latin & French every day with Duolingo, and some desultory efforts with the Latin textbook that’s no substitute for f2f classes at U3A. I’ve had a French lesson with Skype which was most enjoyable, not least because I could see my friends. And (would you believe?) I have finally started doing the scrapbook of my trip to New Zealand which was almost twelve months ago now!
    And of course I’ve been walking the dog. I love the way dogs ignore the social distancing while we owners stand at leash length away from each other:)

  3. Thanks Lisa … I hear that introverts are teaching extroverts how to do it! Sounds like you are busily occupying your time.

    I know exactly what you mean about all those others in situations much tougher than ourselves and how little we can help

  4. It is hard to concentrate, all over the world. I’ve been going out for very short (and very slow) walks down my street and back, since I can’t go to the pool anymore, and although it’s a little cold for my taste, it’s nice to venture out once a day.

  5. I thought Sammy J nailed it with this video!
    Sadly my little ballet class has stopped, there were only three of us, but we all need to follow the rules.
    Take care. I hope the reading will pick up for you.

    • I guess ballet has to be inside, doesn’t it Theresa. What a shame for you. Our saving grace is that Tai Chi is regularly done outside – so it was an easy option for us, and you have to be spread out because of the arm work involved. But it’s going to get cold soon, and anyhow, I think the rules will become more stringent just because people don’t seem to know how to socially distance themselves if the rules aren’t strict?

      • That’s my feeling too Sue. What is obvious to one person may not be to another which is why I feel we need to have very clear guidelines with fewer exceptions. I am not immune to the job losses, but on the other hand, with loose guidelines in some areas and strict ones in others, it makes a mockery of all those job losses. Why should all the hospitality workers now be unemployed but the hairdressers are business as usual? It’s examples like this that make me unsettled and unsure if the government is operating under the most accurate health information as opposed the most politically observant health information.

        • I can accept that it can’t be 100% consistent, but they need to be clear about what they are doing and the exceptions need to make sense. Why funerals 10 but weddings only 5. If you are going to make exceptions, I would have thought the numbers really need to be the same, with the distancing proviso in place of course.

          I can “sort of” understand that of all the beauty/grooming industry an exception could be made for hairdressing, but they really lost me when they reneged on the 30 minute limit. I think they implied, when they closed nail salons etc, that we are not talking about beauty and pampering now, but they were prepared to consider letting people keep neat and tidy if our hair really does go crazy. 30 minutes achieves that. In my experience any hairdresser or barber worth their salt can do a hair cut in 30 minutes.

          As I said in my post, I think the government is not clear about its priorities OR if it is, it’s not making it clear to us!? My philosophy is that you always start with the principles or the priorities and go from there. I don’t really feel they have.

          In the end, though, I think each of us needs to make our own decision – as many have, including many states. If we don’t think the recommendations or rules are tight enough, we just make our own tight?

        • Yes, reneging on the 30 mins was not good. I agree, a haircut can certainly ve done in that time. I cut my daughter’s hair last week and it took me 20 mins and I am nowhere near close to a hairdresser! Beyond 30 mins indicates to me that people are getting stuff done that is not essential. My own hairdresser, much to my disappointment, advertised specials after the 30 mins was dropped. That’s not in keeping with what we are trying to do here: limit contact. Personally, I am making the rules tighter for myself and my family and we’re all pretty happy with that.

  6. I want to know: can you beat the woman who wrote the Macquarrie Dictionary at Scrabble? When Milly and I were learning to communicate after our first breakup we played Scrabble endlessly though now we mostly do cryptics (together) and killer (separately).

    I’ve made it to NT, booked into a motel and will write a post this evening probably.

    • Mr Gums and I do cryptics together too Bill. We started that when we were dating, stopped through all the child reading years but have got back to it in retirement. We often do it in cafes, and I know some young servers think we are “cute oldies”!

      As for Scrabble, well remembered. Yes, I can and I have, but usually only when I get significantly better letters overall. She’s wily as well as knowledgeable.

  7. Lovely to read how everyone is doing WG. My heart breaks for so many people doing it tough at the moment and so sad that none of us can get out to help them. I read that UK is trying to get antibody testing kits in and I keep thinking how wonderful this would be.We could at least find out if we’ve already had the virus and, those of us that have, could get out and about volunteering.
    I am so damned lucky, as you know, to have my son and daughter-in-law providing isolation for us at one end of the house. They supply food through an outdoor servery. They have stocked our room with games and books. We have an outdoor patio and they left sporting equipment for us – boxing gloves, hula hoop, yoga mats. So very lucky. Like a five-star motel. And we are in excellent health.
    I hope that we come out of all this as a kinder collective of souls with a greater regard for our planet. Then again, I have always been a bit of a dreamer. 🙂

    • I hope so too Karenlee. I’m a bit of an idealist – or Pollyanna at least – though I fear that, as with everything, there will be those who learn kindness and cooperation and those who don’t. And you won’t always get right which way individual people will go!

      From what you wrote here and on your blog, I think you’ll be sorry to be out of isolation!!

  8. Though I am working from home, I actually have been pretty busy. With that it is a little easier not to have to actually get to out of the house and out to work. I also have not been reading a lot.

    I am glad to head that you and your family are doing OK. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Thanks Brian, nice to hear from you. It’s interesting how so many of us are finding it hard to read right now – though it’s probably not surprising. You keep well too.

  9. So, week one of strict social distancing for us… I miss going to the gym and I miss swimming. Very disappointed that I was supposed to be learning to scuba dive this weekend with my son (and the weather is glorious!). I had a bunch of other events this week that were cancelled, notably my son’s school project exhibition and a Melb Food & Wine Festival dinner.

    I haven’t done any book reviews (and I have six waiting!) – now that I am working from home, I don’t feel like sitting at my desk at the end of the work day. Can’t see that changing, so I need to rethink things (maybe shorter reviews? Monthly summaries?)

    On the happier side, I am loving being able to sleep in! Loving the fact that I don’t have frantic mornings getting kids off to school and afternoons coordinating all their activities. I am loving playing board games with the kids. I plan on tackling a few household chores next week, and reckon I’ll feel I’m accomplishing more when they’re done.

    Stay well!

  10. Thanks Sue. Most of my waking hours seem to be taken up with following the Covid-19 news, and though I’m reading and plan to blog about it, it feels oddly dissociated from Real Life. We’re having two weeks away from our granddaughter while she and we are in relative isolation. If none of us are coughing in a week or so we plan to resume contact, but it’s a hard separation, and hard on her parents who are both working from home while taking it in turns being with her.

    • It is a weird time given no one around most of us is sick, isn’t it, Jonathan, but watching that curve is scary. You are doing the sensible thing re Ruby but I know it must be hard. Our son and daughter are doing the same but our son is a teacher do at least he’s off school now. Of course we don’t live in the same city. We saw him in early March but now wonder when will we see him again?

  11. Good to hear that you manage to get out and get some exercise, I think that is important for our well-beeing. We are in total isolation in the UK and only “let out” to do the grocery shopping and for one daily exercise. I am starting to feel like a horse, which has been in the stable too long. I live in one of the most busy areas of London, where I normally have to fight my way through the crowds, but these days it is a bit like being in one of these dystopian novels, where the protagonist wakes up, goes out and discovers he/she is one of the few people left in this world. So weird!

  12. Thanks so much for this post….makes us all feel connected in these scary times.
    Also thank you for you kind ‘shout-out’.
    Update: 27.03.2020
    Trivia: I don’t want to see TV shows about
    rodeos, the Kardishians, wedding dresses, sharks, extreme engineering or
    ….Hitler’s bunker.
    Trivia: tried to play scrabble with myself…moving from one side of the table to the other.
    Mork wanted to play but has a limited vocabulary: meow! (…but that word does have a good point score!)

    • Ha ha, there are good word games online Nancy, that you can try when Mork gets bored. Wordstreak is a Boggle style game that you essentially play by yourself.

      I know what you mean about what you don’t want to see.

  13. Glad to hear you and all the Gums are doing ok! I am finding it hard to focus on anything for a long time. I have limited how much time I spend online because all the news and everything gets to be too much. But I find when just reading it takes a bit to settle in and then within half an hour I have to get up and walk around the house. The response from the US federal government has been atrocious and done more harm than good. I am happy to say though that my state’s governor has been amazing. He was not the one I voted for two years ago, but it has turned out that he is exactly the right person for what is happening right now. Stay safe and well!

    • Thanks Stefanie, seems like in the US the slates really have had to go alone, because your President’s response has been, from our POV too, autl. I’d like more strictness here but there has been serious response from the top even if not always as clear or as strict as it could be. Many of our states are going harder. Take care.

  14. Strange times. It all came so suddenly.

    It’s good to hear from you and know you’re all healthy and safe.

    Here we’re in lockdown and people have finally understood that they need to stay at home and respect social distancing.
    We’ll see in the next ten days if the government’s strategy is working.

    I’m in the right age category : my parents aren’t old enough to need help (and they stay dutifully at home) and my children are old enough to take care of homework on their own and help around the house.

    Some of my colleagues are stuck in flats with toddlers in the city and homeworking. I can’t imagine the mess it must be.

    So, this lockdown isn’t too hard.

    It took me an hour to get into the supermarket this morning, though. They only let a certain number of people in the store at the same time. Everyone was patiently in line, with a respectful distance between one another.
    Since I was reading Peter Balakian’s memoir about the Armenian genocide while in the queue, it just put everything in perspective. I just have to stay put in the comfort of my home.

    • Oh you are in pretty much the perfect situation. I don’t know what we’ll do re my parents if, as I expect will happen, we go into full lockdown. Their carers will continue I believe but what we’ll be allowed to do I don’t know. Keep well, Emma.

  15. Hi Sue, I do miss my daily socializing, but the house and garden are looking good. My dog is getting five walks and a run a day so she is very happy. My husband I are talking more – “who took the dog last?” A big park and creek are just around the corner from me and I am seeing more people and dogs out and about. People seem happy – nothing like fresh air. I am even cooking more. I am reading, but making sure I do a job before I begin, otherwise I won’t move. There is a bear hunt in progress so my ‘Raeb’ is getting lots of waves from the children in the area. The people I feel sorry for are the ones who are lining up at Centrelink, People who have lost their income. My son and daughter are still working. Though my daughter and her husband will be working from home next week.

    • Ha ha, Meg. I love that your husband and you are talking more. I’m cooking more too. I think that’s in fact partly why the supermarkets and grocers are so busy, and the shelves barer. I don’t think it’s all hoarding (though obviously some stuff is,) Like you, I feel horribly sorry and concerned for those who have lost their income. Both our kids are fine, and look to be so.. Daughter has been working from home for nearly 2 weeks, and son is a teacher.

  16. Not happy to be equated with an unintelligent lot who fell hook, line and sinker for a trick because they got too excited about getting a gift, WG (beware Greeks bearing gifts?). Still, it’s been quite a ride with more to come.

  17. Mr Books & I were off road-tripping in SA as everything began to change quite suddenly. We’ve made it back home again now and I hope to catch up on blogging stuff and reading and commenting etc, but it feels weirdly disconnected to what’s happening around me.
    Too much time on the my phone watching and listing to the news.

    But so glad to hear you’re doing as well as can be expected and that you’ve got a good solution for your parents now in place.

  18. We are on Community Quarantine as well. We cannot go out, we need to wait for our turn to go buy necessities in the grocery. It’s really hard but I know it will pass and everything will turn out fine

  19. I’m quite envious of your freedom at the moment to gather for outdoor Tai Chi. Outdoor gatherings are verboten here. We can go out once a day for exercise. Sadly some jobs worth police officers decided that doesn’t allow us to drive anywhere to exercise and they started taking drone footage of people walking alone in a remote mountainside. So now the new rule is we can exercise only in the vicinity of our home. Luckily we live close to the coast so can take advantage of that but I feel for people in the city who can only walk around boring streets,

    As for politicians clarity of message, this current crisis is showing who the true leaders are.

    • And here too now Karen, so your envy was short-lived you can be pleased to know! We are lucky too because we live across the road from a section of the Canberra Nature Park (it comprises many bush areas throughout the capital). But, not letting people to drive to exercise seems unreasonable. I wonder if that will happen here.

      You are right about the true leaders.

        • Oh, I think they are close to yours now Karen. In our state we still don’t have enforcement, though that’s coming. However, we are to stay at home, only go out for essentials (food, medical), no more than two people together outside and that really only for exercise. I think this is you? However, childcare and schools are still open for children of essential workers.

  20. Walking is keeping me sane, together with making some patchwork bookmarks. My concentration for reading is gradually returning. And the garden can always do with attention. But these are anxious times.

  21. From the massive response you’re getting here, I don’t want to bother you with another one. But just want to wish you well. My heart goes out to you as you need to take care of elderly parents. We’re just as tense here in Canada, my city having the most cases in our province. I can totally understand why you can’t focus on reading and blogging. I did push myself to do a little of both just to maintain some form of ‘normalcy’. Take care and stay safe, WG!

    • Thanks very much Arti … things are starting to settle down, we think, on the parental front, which is good for them and for us. I’m really pleased that you said something, as it’s important right now to stay in touch with our friends across the globe I think. At least, I’d like to! So, you too, stay and keep well!

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