Good Things From Bad Infections

Standard

Covid-19 inspires dread and may bring about the deepest economic recession of the twenty-first century. But it also inspires creativity, kindness and a true sense of community. Oh, and criminality and cruel hoaxes too, but let’s leave them aside for now. Let me mention two examples of what I mean…

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand, when we recognise the heroism of our armed forces and mourn the fallen. The day starts with a Dawn Service in every city, every town and everywhere worldwide where there are more than a handful of Aussies and Kiwis. These are always well attended.

Because of Covid-19 the normal gatherings were not allowed today, so our local RSL (Returned and Services League) delivered invitations to surrounding houses inviting us to stand in our driveways at 0615 holding candles, to at least hear the sounding of Last Post and the reading of “They shall grow not old…”; and then walk to the RSL Club for tea and an Anzac biscuit and a chat with club members – observing the obligatory 1.5m social distancing rule of course.

We accepted the invitation and it was a moving experience. We also got to meet neighbours whom I usually see only when I’m collecting for the Salvation Army. I’m expecting a repeat, without the social distancing, in future years.

My second example is the astounding success of an old soldier’s fund-raising on behalf of the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service). 99-year-old Captain Tom Moore resolved to walk 100 laps of his garden, with online sponsorship to raise a targeted GBP1,000 before his 100th birthday. He has actually raised close to GBP30 million. And to top it off, he now holds the record as the oldest person to have a single at No.1 in the British charts. If you haven’t seen and heard the video-clip already, click here now.

This is not the same record as ‘Ground Control to Captain Tom’. Click here if you haven’t seen that one.

Tom Moore’s effort is not directly related to Covid-19, but I have no doubt that the stupendous scale of the public response has everything to do with it.

Covid Musings

Standard

Vera Lyn

Covid-19 is at the top of everyone’s agenda, so I’m going with the flow. Here are some miscellaneous musings of mine…

  • There’s no standard way of writing it yet. I think the fully-capitalised COVID-19 is ahead, but I’m sticking to the Guardian’s upper/lower case version: Covid-19. After all, it’s not as if each letter stands for a word (as in ‘Carelessly Opened Vial of Incurable Disease’).
  • The artistic world, amateur as well as professional, has responded with amazing creativity and diversity. One might say that from adversity has been born a new genre. Click on these links for the Covid-19 versions of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘One Day More’ if you haven’t seen and heard them yet.
  • Newspapers and magazines are full of advice on how to fill one’s days of home-incarceration, as though we’ve all become so dependent on our work and external stimuli that we’ll go bonkers if deprived of them. I do hope that’s not the case.
  • We’ve suddenly been made aware of how numerous and big cruise ships are. At any time on the oceans of the world there’s a waterborne population the size of a fair-sized city.
  • Due to panic buying our usual supermarket was out of low-fat milk, so Mrs Stroppy Git went elsewhere and bought a different brand. I compared the nutritional information (that’s how I find amusement in these trying times) and saw the list of ingredients: “Skim milk, milk, milk solids. Contains milk.”
  • The Queen’s speech-writer should get an MBE (or better) for the final line of her Address to the Nation: “We will meet again.” With those four words she referenced Vera Lyn’s great wartime song, evoking an ocean of memories and associations that still resonate powerfully with her British subjects.

Covid-19 and Toilet Paper

Standard

Relative to China, South Korea, Iran and Italy, Australia has a handful of Covid-19 cases. But intense media attention and Government exhortations to keep calm have predictably given rise to panic buying. Hand sanitizer disappeared first from supermarket shelves, followed closely by… toilet paper. There have even been scuffles in the aisles as people try to prise the last pack of this prized commodity from the arms of rival shoppers.

This morning I received an email from the Australian supermarket chain Coles, where we do most of our shopping. It informed me that the limit of 4 packs per customer had now been replaced by a 1 pack limit, and they had told their suppliers to concentrate on the 30-roll pack size. The email added:

“… a pack of 30 rolls should last an average family for around 3 weeks.”

As is my habit, I did a little arithmetic. Let’s say that an average family has 5 members. The toilet paper we have in stock (bog standard, and not a stockpile), has 180 sheets per roll. So if 5 people get through 30 rolls in 3 weeks they are each using (30×180)/(5x3x7) = 51.4 sheets per day.

What on earth are they doing with the stuff? Eating it?!

Sometimes I wonder if I was born into the right species. Do you ever feel like that?

Creative Urge Again!

Standard

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I can’t stop these songs writing themselves in my head. Passing them on to the world is a kind of exorcism. Here’s another in the same genre and to the same tune as before…

Solzhenitsyn was another;
He was friendly with my mother.
I don’t know if he kissed her
But he looks just like my sister
And a little bit like my brother.

Disclaimer:
No Russian authors were harmed in the writing of this song or the last one. Nor is it intended to allege, imply, suggest or hint that any person, extant or extinct, has behaved in any way that could be characterised by a reasonable person as dishonest or immoral.

The Creative Urge

Standard

I hope you’ve noticed that I haven’t been posting lately. Sloth and indiscipline have played a part, but mainly to blame is the creative urge – in particular my absorption in writing the sequel to ‘Bobby Shafter’. It is now complete! Subject to proof-reading of course.

Despite being absorbed in that authorly project, dim regions of my brain have been generating poetry. Those regions are like the ones that keep us breathing, pump our blood and move food through our digestive tracts; whatever we’re doing they just keep on going.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

So what to do with this unconscious outpouring of creative… stuff? I have no choice. I have to share it.

What follows is to be sung to the tune of “Free, free beer for all the workers … when the Red Revolution comes!” or “Solidarity forever … the Union makes us free!”. Apart from the metrical scheme it’s much the same as “Mine eyes have seen the glory …” and “John Brown’s body …”. Please, please sing it, sing it loud, so my dim regions’ labours will be not in vain!

Dostoevsky was a writer;
Once I let him use my lighter.
He blew smoke in my eyes
And next day I realised
He’d stolen it – the blighter!

A Published Poet!

Standard

It’s a little sad, really. I must disown the sobriquet ‘possibly the most inspiring unpublished poet of his generation’. Why? I have just had a romantic sonnet published in an anthology of love stories.

The book’s called ‘Love Story: Volume I’ and you can click on the cover design alongside to start the process of buying it – if you want it delivered in Australia, that is. It’s only A$19.99 and the profits all go to charity. The perfect Valentine’s Day gift!

Broadband Down!

Standard

Please imagine the following diary entries being ticker-taped like news flashes. That’ll make the story they tell seem more exciting . . .

Wed 19 Dec
No broadband connection, so no internet and no landline! Never mind, it’ll be back soon. Went to bed.

Thu 20 Dec
Still no internet. Spoke to iiNet call centre in South Africa. Diagnosis: NBN Co* has probably reassigned my connection to someone else – happens all the time. No need for technician visit. All will be well.

Sat 22 Dec
Text message received: “Will someone be at home on Monday between 0800 and 1200?”

Mon 24 Dec
NBN Co contractors come and notice a wire dangling from a pole, and coiled wire hanging from a pole on the other side of the road. Hmm, this calls for a specialist, can’t do it today. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is Christmas Day, sir!

Fri 28 Dec
NBN Co contractors come. Hmm, this will need a special attachment to the pole. That requires a special specialist, can’t do it today.

Wed 2 Dec
An middle-aged man with a weathered look turns up with his young assistant, bits of bent metal, pliers, a hacksaw and a ladder. A specialist. Unfazed by having an inquisitive onlooker he sets to work. Three hours later we’re back online.

Two other wires were down in the same street, so the current theory is that an over-sized vehicle, perhaps connected with a nearby building site, was driven along the street and simply chopped through them.

It occurs to me that with all our relativity and quantum mechanics, with all our light-fast hi-tech whizz-bang technology and machines that go ping!, making things work often comes down to having a bloke up a ladder who knows what he’s doing.

* NBN means Australia’s National Broadband Network, and NBN Co is the state-owned company that is building and operating it. But customers access the network through competing retailers.