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Living under COVID-19 (2)

April 12, 2020
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Just checking in to see what’s up with everyone in their neck of the woods. How are you coping with your COVID-19 restrictions? Are you getting stuck into those projects that have been hanging around forever? One of our friends is finally sewing clothes out of fabrics she bought on overseas trips years ago, another is starting to scan old photos, while yet another is decluttering one item a day. (Now that’s a goal I could probably meet!)

I haven’t quite been able to get seriously stuck into those sorts of projects yet, but we are gradually rearranging our lives, COVID-19 style. Here are some of the ways …

Exercise stuff

Anyone with any sort of social media account can’t help but come across programs/sites/apps offering to help you stay fit. As a ballet lover, I am particularly seeing programs coming out of ballet companies. My favourite, which I first saw on Instagram but which is also available on YouTube (and perhaps elsewhere), is Dancing with David (that is David McAllister, Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet). The first one is  How to do a plié:

But, he is adding other ballet exercises, including, to date, calf rises and port de bras. These are exercises you can easily do at home. They also introduce those who have never done ballet to some of the fundamentals, while for those who have, like me, they offer such a fun trip down memory lane – made even better by McAllister’s delightful personality. He makes me smile, and that is the best thing of all in thee difficult times.

Of course, we also do some walking, as I mentioned in my first post, and I have continued doing something I’ve been doing for years, Yoga with Adriene (who is also on YouTube, like David, though I have subscribed to her app.)

Finally, last week, our Tai Chi teacher test-drove a Zoom Tai Chi class with our group. It worked – well, enough anyhow – so we have that to look forward to next term.

Social stuff

Gradually, we are increasing our online social life with friends and family, matching the technology to the group – from simple email discussion times with older groups, through WhatsApp for those let’s-keep-in-touch groups, to all sort of Zoom events from committee meetings to classes to Happy Hours! (Almost anyone who is anyone is now a Zoom-pert it seems, though I’m not always sure why other free technologies like Skype and FaceTime aren’t used more! Anyone? For the record, we use FaceTime for our hookups with our Melbourne family members.)

Literary and other cultural stuff

Again, like exercise, opportunities to engage in literary (or other arts) culture abound, so I’ll just share a couple with you here that I’ve had time to check out (or plan to check out).

  • Living in Solitude: Donna Ward & Donata Carrazza: A Zoom conversation inspired Donna Ward’s new book She I dare not name, and focusing on “what it means to live alone during this new era of social distancing”. This was a free event promoted via Facebook, and took place on Thursday 2 April at 7pm. I attended a small part of it, but it was a difficult time for me so I wasn’t able to listen to it all. However, it did work as a good proof-of-concept.
  • Newton Review of Books started a new series of Friday book extracts, which is intended, I understand, to help promote new books which are missing out on all those launches and Festival appearances the authors were expecting. First up was Kirsten Krauth’s Almost a mirror (April 3) followed by Chris Hammer’s Silver (April 10). It’s a shame they’ve not “tagged” the series so readers can locate them easily.
  • Heather Rose Reads is an initiative by Australian author Heather Rose (see my review of her novel The museum of modern love) in which she … well, I’ll let her explain it:

Book coverDear parents of primary age children! Monday April 6th at 4pm Australian EST its time for Heather Rose Reads. We’ll begin with the first book in the acclaimed children’s series I co-author under the pen name Angelica Banks. Book 1 is Finding Serendipity for children aged 8 – 12 (grades 3 -6). If you have primary school children this is my way of helping you have a break for a little while on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’ll also post the readings on YouTube if you’re in a different time zone. See you and your children here on Facebook Live 4pm this Monday April 6th … it’s going to be fun.

As you can see, it started last week, but she is posting them on YouTube too. Her Angelica Banks co-author is Danielle Wood (whose Mothers Grimm I’ve reviewed). What a lovely idea.

  • This is History: The National Library of Australia has produced a video conversation between ACT-based historians Dr Chris Wallace and Professor Frank Bongiorno on “why it’s so important to document everyday life during irregular times” like our current COVID-19 pandemic. They talk about what citizens can do now to help historians of the future document and interpret the life we are living. We often don’t realise we’re living through a major historical moment until the time has passed, but we surely do this particular time. Anyhow, this 20-minute conversation is a lovely introduction to the work of historians and the importance of everyday lives to the study of history.
  • Nigel Featherstone, Bodies of menWriting War: A Panel Discussion: Still upcoming – Monday 20 April – but I’m sharing it now in case any of you are interested in attending. It features Nigel Featherstone (whose Bodies of men I’ve reviewed), Melanie Meyers (whose Meet me at Lennon’s I’ve reviewed), and Simon Cleary (whose The war artist Lisa has reviewed) moderated by author Cass Moriarty. This event is not free, costing a whopping $5! To book tickets check this link.

Final thought

“What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of plague as well. It helps men to rise above themselves.” (Albert Camus, The plague)

Wouldn’t that be lovely!

Meanwhile, how are you faring?

48 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2020 4:27 pm

    It sure would .. and in fact it has, here and there. Unhappily, mostly not where it is most needed.
    From North Geelong come no complaints. Coles in delivering again at last, to ancients who can demonstrate their fitness for same; Valerie’s Pantry will bring my orders because a delightful young worker there lives in the next suburb; my fortnightly Council cleaner- a woman whose companionship I greatly enjoy – has just been provided for evere other fortnight as doing my greengrocery shopping at Geelong Fresh; and a dear friend does a Woolies run to bring my lactose-free low-fat milk. I’m in the catbird seat,

    • April 12, 2020 5:09 pm

      That’s great to hear M-R. Sounds like you are set, and are getting a nice little serving of human contact as well!

    • nitagg permalink
      April 13, 2020 6:37 pm

      Really

  2. April 12, 2020 4:38 pm

    Well, I’m working from home and despite the challenges I am very conscious of how privileged I am to be able to do so. I’m tempted to join the decluttering one item a day movement!

    • April 12, 2020 5:11 pm

      Haha Rose … we should create a site when we all list our one item each day. Maybe some else might want them … on second thoughts …

      And yes, you are right I’m aware of how incredibly privileged we are too.

  3. Carolyn permalink
    April 12, 2020 5:05 pm

    I like how you’re attacking the whole coronavirus thing head on in your posts Ma Gums. I am mostly at home of course but sometimes I venture to the grocery store which is tricky with the recent rule requiring face masks and plastic gloves. There were some very odd masks today from repurposed American flags to actual gas masks. It also makes it a matter of guesswork if you think you’re seeing somebody you know. Today I thought I saw a friend but there was no recognition on her part. I ran into another friend and we both recognized each other but it was hard to make ourselves understood at 6 feet distance while talking through our thick homemade masks. I guess I’ll have to rely on Zoom meetings for any meaningful communication. This is an unsettling time.

    • April 12, 2020 5:15 pm

      Thanks Carolyn. Oh yes, you are right. It would be hard to recognise some people with masks on – and I can imagine talking at 6 feet (or 1.5m as we describe it here) through masks would be a challenge.

  4. April 12, 2020 5:09 pm

    I thought I might share my poem, though it’s a bit long for the comment space. I hardly ever write poems, but this one just came to me.

    Also, for anyone who is interested I’m taking part in a Facebook ‘Booklovers Tuesday’ event next Tuesday evening, a kind of Q&A featuring different authors every week.

    Smiling from a distance

    People smile at one another
    from a distance on the beach.
    I think we might perfect the shine of distant smiles.
    ‘Hello,’ we call. ‘Good morning, afternoon, or evening.’
    It’s become suddenly important to mark passage,
    mark the time, to speak, stranger to stranger
    across a measured space.

    Waves lift. Light dances on water, water drinks the light.
    The beach is still open to walkers,
    provided that they walk in ones or twos;
    open to surfers sharing drop and curl.
    While on the headland, there above me, silhouetted,
    a paraglider’s stopped by police in uniform.
    He would fly, or as near as he is able,
    but stands grounded, his sail filled with air.

    Inland, just a little way, my sister walks straight corridors,
    locked inside a nursing home.
    Yet on the phone she’s cheerful,
    pleased that she can walk at all, while many can’t.
    I send her a smile across the short, uncoverable distance
    separating us. Imagining, I place my feet just so.

    Can a smile be measured?
    I think the answer is both yes and no.
    One and a half metres, repeated like a mantra,
    becomes a background to the everyday.
    No need for tapes: the eye does just as well.
    Four women in a park sit properly, legal distance well observed,
    wearing coats and beanies, for the air is cold.
    They call out; one laughs, raising her hand to join the conversation.
    Across this open human space they smile.

    • April 12, 2020 5:20 pm

      Thanks Dorothy. That’s lovely – and gives a great sense of how COVID-19 restrictions are playing out in your coastal neck of the woods.

      It must be awful having a relative locked inside a nursing home?

      And, what time is this Facebook event?

      • April 13, 2020 7:28 am

        Thanks WG. The event is at 7 pm on Tuesday. Best wishes, Dorothy

        • April 13, 2020 8:44 am

          Thanks Dorothy. So many events are that time, but it’s so tricky if you are in a family situation it seems, because it’s dinner time. I know 6, 6.30 or 7 are traditionally the times when we went out to events, but when you are home with others it seems more difficult to manage. Does that make sense?

  5. April 12, 2020 5:19 pm

    Hello from France.

    Still stuck at home, not allowed to go further than 1km around the house, on foot.
    Grocery shopping is allowed of course and it’s challenging. (one hour queues to enter the store because they don’t let too many people in the store at the same time)

    I work from home and my line of work is such that this crisis increases my workload.
    While I keep hearing about how to occupy one’s time during the lockdown, I’m chained to my computer 10 hours a day.
    I don’t complain though, I still have a job and live in a house with a little garden and we have a lovely spring.

    Meanwhile, I’m reading Ada Cambridge and other stuff. Just published a billet about CH Spence’s autobiography.

    • April 12, 2020 5:24 pm

      Lovely to hear from you Emma. Glad to hear you are staying well and employed. Our daughter’s work has amped up because of the crisis too and she’s been spending many hours on the phone.

      I will come check your post on Spence! I’m very behind in post reading. I did a blitz on one blogger last night and will try to get around to other neglected ones!

  6. April 12, 2020 5:36 pm

    We are doing okay here. We are working from home and then only leaving the house for shopping so it is challenging. But I am very lucky to be stuck at home with my lovely husband, still working, so I am very grateful that the only impact for us is the restrictions to going out.

    We are starting to do the online social thing too which is definitely helping.

    • April 12, 2020 6:23 pm

      Thanks Marg. So many of us are lucky aren’t we. The online social thing seems weird in a way, but it’s better than nothing isn’t it?

  7. Moira Nolan permalink
    April 12, 2020 5:54 pm

    I also love the idea of decluttering one item a day! (is that one item a day or one project a day?)… We have also done more video streaming, discovering from our grown up kids that zoom is the flavour of the… (even the G20? seemed to use it!), I think it has a clearer screen and easier to connect to but we have also skyped. Unlike skype it allows many members to join a meeting and to have the screen divided up clearly showing all those present. I think facetime is for macs..
    Flurry of applying for things as the self-employed work has taken a nose dive. My partner says ‘he’s been preparing for this for forty years’ as he has always worked from home and barely goes out and doesn’t drive ! I, on the other hand, felt a rush of unexpected satisfaction when instead of feeling imprisoned, I felt liberated by the requirement not to go out much.
    This coincided with a pre-Covid decision to colonise our unused spare bedrooms so that each of us now has a working and on occasion sleeping den or scriptorum giving us each more time to self, this has been a great boon.
    Thanks for the dancing video tip; I have done exercise for school kids from the UK (too hard), two yoga classes, one via a UK nhs exercise website, then I got a bad back!
    I write my ‘covid diary’ from time to time and look forward to seeing that talk on historical importance of memoirs in disaster times, thanks for that!
    Rien où poser sa tête (nowhere to lay one’s head) by Françoise Frenkel is a beautiful memoir which we read in our French book group, I have also seen it in English translation as a paperback, about a woman’s years being chased by increasingly onerous Nazi regulations in France, eventually making it over the border to Switzerland. It really has the flavour of lived experience as it was lived. Patrick Modiano wrote a preface to a re-edition of it (it was published shortly after the war) it was supposed to have been found recently in someone’s attic in southern France.

    • April 12, 2020 6:28 pm

      Thanks for this lovely full response to Moira. I really enjoyed reading it. It was one item a day – we don’t want to make it too hard. (But I think a project – like a drawer is an acceptable interpretation!)

      Thanks for your discussion of the communications technologies. You are right that FaceTime is Mac. I used it just as an example. I saw a laptop screen (on Instagrama) of a friend’s Skype birthday party and that screen was tiled just like the Zoom screen so apparently you can do it. You would then, presumably, not be limited to the 40 minutes allowed for free Zoom users?

      • Moira Nolan permalink
        April 14, 2020 10:09 am

        Thanks again Sue, my 90 yr old mother and I just did some ‘Dancing with David’ ! (I also studied ballet – for five years as a teenager…!)
        Lovely and it woke us up after listening to the importance of memoir in COVID19 talk with the Canberra historians (also interesting).

        • April 14, 2020 2:15 pm

          Oh thanks Moira. I love that you did Dancing with David with your Mum – it’s gentle but good exercise as well, isn’t it. I’m really pleased that you listened to that discussion.

          PS My Mum is 90, and we’ve done some Tai Chi warm-up exercises with her.

  8. Meg permalink
    April 12, 2020 6:35 pm

    Hi Sue, I am still cleaning but only one small job a day – I don’t want to exhaust myself! I am trying to declutter. I put all my swap cards into albums and spent a lot of time admiring them. I have some wool and I am just waiting for the right time to begin knitting a face washer. Reading seems to be more important. I am now reading a book on Japan which you might find interesting to. It is Japan Behind the Lines by Ben Hills. It was written in 1996 by Ben Hills, who wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Victoria is in lock down mode for another month!

    • April 12, 2020 8:39 pm

      Haha, I can relate to that. You certainly don’t what to exhaust yourself!

      Thanks for that Japanese book recommendation.

      I’m not surprised about the lockdown for another month, given the recurrence happening in countries who may have been too soft or relaxed too soon? It’s going to be a bit nervewracking really, I think?

  9. April 12, 2020 8:02 pm

    Ah Sue, it’s very early on Easter morning and I’m home alone in California which I don’t mind so much but it’s been 3 weeks now! I read and do online stuff. My mom is in the hospital having had a heart attack and gotten a blood clot from it.. My kids are with their own families out of state. I was invited to a dinner and I made a potato salad but … I don’t know if I’ll go – we’re not suppose to be doing stuff like that.

    I did clean out my website yesterday – tomorrow the kitchen! LOL!

    • April 12, 2020 8:43 pm

      I saw and commented on your post about your Mum, Bekah … tough times for older people to be unwell, as I’m finding here too with my parents.

      I think here people on their own can visit others – but perhaps family, and make sure they social distance. Our daughter has visited her brother and family twice, but otherwise she is lying low. She is working from home so that gives strict to the day.

      The whole kitchen in one day! That sounds a bit extreme! Haha.

  10. April 12, 2020 8:46 pm

    Well, this week I have to sign up for French lessons by Skype, and I’ve been the conduit for Latin homework for my U3A Latin group, forwarding the work to an email group I have formed.
    But apart from that, it’s business as usual here… reading, writing, pottering about. It’s not so hard to adjust when you’re basically a homebody, which was how I grew up anyway…
    But I have more sociable friends who are struggling a bit… I am ringing them as often as I can, and the advantage of this is that (unlike Skype) no one can see how terrible my hair looks. Where are all the French Facebook videos that show us how to manage without this most crucial aspect of normal life, the haircut?

    • April 12, 2020 8:52 pm

      Oh yes, Lisa, the haircut. Mine was not quite due when it all stopped but I now wish I’d rushed in. Oh well, I can see that in around a month or so there’ll be a rush of bad-hair videos and jokes!

      • Neil@kallaroo permalink
        April 13, 2020 12:10 am

        LOL. I snuck in quick and got a short cut just before restrictions were brought in. Now I’m thinking of buying clippers with attachment combs and cutting my own. Fairly easy when your hair is short, and who is going to see me, anyway. Wife has not accepted my offer to cut her hair. I’m sure I could trim her edges.

        • April 13, 2020 8:18 am

          Haha Neil. Mr Gums snuck and got a short one too. I don’t know why G wouldn’t let you at her hair!

      • April 13, 2020 11:05 am

        *sigh* I am not vain about my appearance, but I hate looking shaggy.

        • April 13, 2020 11:44 am

          Yes, that’s me too … I don’t like being shaggy. If my hair’s cut neatly I’m happy! When it grows, being naturally curly, it tends to go bushy.

  11. April 12, 2020 9:01 pm

    Hi Sue, I’m at my daughter’s now, watching B grade movies (Bridesmaids!). Darwin is very free and easy – no pubs or restaurants but no restrictions on moving around. She wants me here a couple of weeks but that depends on what jobs come up. I’ve never used Skype or any of things. Louis did his 14 days hard, well he whinged a lot, and is now minding his sister’s primary school kids while she elopes with her boyfriend. Seriously! I’ll put him on to Heather Rose.

    • April 12, 2020 9:17 pm

      Thanks Bill. Very glad to hear from you. Have been wondering. That’s interesting about Darwin.

      Maybe Lou whinged a lot because he could? That’s a great thing he’s doing to look after his sister’s primary school aged children. For how long? I hope Heather Rose helps him out.

      Bridesmaids! Good for you. Never heard of it.

  12. April 13, 2020 1:02 am

    It’s amazing how adaptable human beings are. Despite of obviously being concerned about where this is all going, I found it surprisingly easy to get used to a new routine, working from home, doing exercise using Youtube and having conversations via Skype (yes, I still use Skype rather than Zoom). No big projects, though. Thanks for the Camus quote! I think a crisis brings out the best (and the worst) in people.

    • April 13, 2020 8:28 am

      Thanks Stargazer. I think you’re right about being adaptable. We find ways don’t we? Oh, and I’m glad someone still uses Skype.

      I think Camus says exactly that elsewhere in the book. It’s a favourite book of mine.

  13. April 13, 2020 1:45 am

    We’re working from home and growing increasingly agoraphobic, which is counter-intuitive but there you go. I haven’t tried any projects. It takes me all day to do my essential work, read three online newspapers, read books, and watch the films and plays that are being released for at-home enjoyment. I wish it would get warm enough that I could spend time outside, but it is still so cold here I have a hard time going for my short walk down the street every day, even with a coat and scarf. We’re also worried about flooding and power outages, with big storms blowing through.

    • April 13, 2020 8:30 am

      That’s interesting Jeanne … and helpful perhaps now! I do wonder how anxious many of us will be when things start opening up again.

    • April 13, 2020 8:33 am

      Oh, and the weather. We are having a nice autumn. I fear heading into winter though our winter days, 10-14°C max mostly are usually calm and sunny.

  14. April 13, 2020 2:10 am

    We’re all going through an extraordinary, surreal Easter this year. And it’s my deepest wish that this would be our only time experiencing this. Regardless, just sending warm wishes for peace and health in this most troubled time. Take care, WG!

    • April 13, 2020 8:34 am

      To you too Arti. I would have been at the National Folk Festival part of this weekend. So sorry to be missing it?

  15. April 13, 2020 3:30 am

    Very few adjustments to make. Probably the biggest is trying to propagate plants at home, but it’s an experiment I’m enjoying.

    • April 13, 2020 8:35 am

      Sounds like a nice challenge Guy. I think natural homebodies aren’t finding this too hard. Lisa is the same though she’s having to do her classes a different way.

  16. George permalink
    April 13, 2020 7:06 am

    I work with computers, and for the most part I might as well be three miles from those computers as three yards. I meet over Zoom with the rest of the department every morning, and get a phone call a couple of times a day from my closest collaborator. I sit at our dining room table in front of a laptop rather than at my desk in front of two monitors, but mostly my work is the same.

    My habits of exercise have changed–instead of a walk at lunchtime, I have a walk after work. Instead of my weekend runs taking me through the park, I go around the neighborhood two or three or four times. I do this because residential side street have fewer people and more room than the roads and trails in the park.

    My habits of reading have changed little. I’m not commuting, so of course I don’t read on the bus to or from work. I probably read the morning papers more closely than I would were I commuting. As for books, I don’t perceive much difference. We’ve ordered some books since this started, but a couple of them would probably have had to be ordered in any case, being hard to find in the Washington, DC, bookstores.

    I am thoroughly aware of how fortunate we are to be able to work from home, to have reserves in the bank, and so on. My neighbors with small children must work fewer hours or at a lower efficiency, but in general our neighborhood is only slightly affected. But I know plenty of people who work in restaurants, hair salons, stores probably not counted essential, and so on, who must be in bad financial shape.

    • April 13, 2020 8:41 am

      Thanks George. Your story sounds similar to many professional workers. I’m retired but like you am aware of our privilege. The lockdown is an annoyance rather than a trial.

      I don’t think my reading has changed much either … except I’m reading more COVID-19 news!

  17. buriedinprint permalink
    April 14, 2020 1:39 am

    I’ve very much enjoyed your thoughts here, and those of contributors in the comments, and I’m glad to hear that so many are doing well under these challenging circumstances. Yoga with Adrienne is a saving grace for me, too. I’ve lengthened my daily practices and make sure there’s plenty of breath work in them, to keep the respiratory and immune systems in good order (as much as possible, that is). And we are still allowed out to exercise, too, though, like George (above) we’ve had to adjust our timing and routes so that we have clearer passage ways (rainy days are surprisingly good for walking now – who knew). And, of course, there are all the usual indoor distractions, for which we’re sincerely grateful, for evenings and weekends (or, what I heard someone say on Twitter, the little weekend, now that Mon-Fri is the big weekend, for many people). Be well and keep safe!

    • April 14, 2020 8:16 am

      Thanks Buried. I love that you like Adriene too. When Mr Gums and I were walking yesterday he commented on keeping our cardiovascular system fit.

      I hadn’t heard that little and big weekend terminology.

      You keep well too.

  18. April 14, 2020 7:06 am

    We are getting along ok at my house. There is no yeast at the stores so James is experimenting with no yeast bread recipes and has made repeated attempts at a sourdough starter but it does well for a couple of warm days and then we get a cold snowy day and it dies. We are combing our house for an elusive consistently warmish spot where it might be able to survive! I am grateful for my smart trainer and zwift which lets me bike indoors and since all of my outdoor events have been cancelled I am training for a 900 mile virtual bike race in June. Glad to hear you are doing well!

    • April 14, 2020 8:43 am

      Oh yes Stefanie, with your cold winters you are well-practised at isolation I expect. I do hear that sourdough starters are challenging. Good luck to Bookman (can’t give up that name.)

  19. Jan Diclinson permalink
    April 14, 2020 11:13 am

    Lovely thoughtful post. Life suspended is very strange. But in some odd ways I am loving it. It has been a long time, since having long, quiet reflective days. I am writing, reading, cooking, eating, drinking wine (only dinner, not breakfast!), long walks with husband, having much longer conversations with friends and family that I might have before. If it were not for being separated from my grandchildren, I could do this forever. Instead, I am giving them their Italian lessons on Zoom, taking a Zoom session during their school work, when their mother needs a break, we are eating pizza night together virtually.
    I have managed to write nearly 20,000 words of my new manuscript.
    It make for lots of re-evaluation of what, in any given day, actually is of importance.

    • April 14, 2020 6:33 pm

      Thanks so much Jan. I was just thinking today that I am enjoying the forced slowdown. I love the things I’m involved in but sometimes it becomes an exhausting merry-go-round. When this started I did not want to start developing programs for an organisation I’m involved in. I wanted a break. We are lucky though aren’t we to be able to feel this.

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