Sunday, March 22, 2020

Beware the ides of March?

Tuesday, ‎17 ‎March ‎2020
Fine and sunny on Tuesday afternoon, but only half as many people turned up at the Croquet Club as the last two weeks.  The streets are quieter than usual but the supermarkets still have a lot of empty shelves.

More and more it feels to me as though I'm an extra in a disaster movie.  Things are progressing rapidly -- stores and offices closing down, transport restrictions, friends advising you to stay home and avoid crowds,  politicians trying to put a spin on increasingly bad news.  The radio is so incessantly full of the Corona virus I switched it off tonight and listened to a Bossa Nova album on You Tube.

I would have said I wouldn't be affected much by the virus scare, but I don't know now.  The Bocce Club has shut down for the duration, the Quiz Team didn't meet this week, I didn't visit friends on Monday, all sorts of little things.  What the future holds for we 69-year-old diabetics seems hard to fathom. 

‎Wednesday, ‎18 ‎March ‎2020
The Radio Classics Store has finally straightened out the problem with my account that stopped me downloading the big lot of old radio shows I bought last year.  (Main problem was I didn't realize I had to download them all within a month!)  I have until May to download them now, but better safe than sorry, so I spent this evening grabbing the 18 episodes on the album CLASSIC ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES.  Still to come -- HARRY NILE, COUPLE NEXT DOOR and HOPALONG CASSIDY. 

‎Friday, ‎20 ‎March ‎2020
Another day of semi-isolation.  Some friends dropped in for lunch, bringing take-away food.  We ate out in the carport, being careful not to touch each other or anyone else's stuff.  It was pleasant enough, but conversation kept drifting back to the international situation.  I thought of going out to the K-Mart, but didn't go since I had enough provisions in the house for this week. 
The cat played with me for a while till he got tired, then I had a couple of hours undisturbed with the laptop while he slept under his blanket.  Then he got up and wanted attention again.  I fed him and he decided to take another nap.  Why aren't we all be more like cats?

‎Saturday, ‎21 ‎March ‎2020
As part of anti-virus campaign, the South Hobart Tip Shop is closed.  I wasn't sure if the Salvation Army would still be open but they were.  No plastic baskets unless you brought your own, to avoid cross-contamination.  Fewer people shopping than usual on a Saturday, so we could practice a reasonable amount of "social distancing".    Lunch at the Green Store, who were also still trading, though they were very pro-active in wiping and cleaning all the tables.   I await tomorrow to see how Sunday goes.

‎Sunday, ‎22 ‎March ‎2020
Sunday saw our first "Social Distancing" church service.  It was a strange experience.  Now I know how the footballers feel playing in an empty stadium. Not counting the minister and his helpers, there were less than a dozen of us spread around the church -- it's to be hoped that most of the congregation would have been tuned into the Internet feed.  "These are extraordinary times," the sermon began.   Indeed.
There were noticeably fewer people in the city.  That's the first time for about two years I've been able to park right at the back door of church. 


  • Following similar announcements in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia have announced tough new measures that will see both states close their borders to slow the spread of coronavirus 
  • Press reports say Sydney's CBD has fallen silent as Australia's increasing social-distancing measures and fears about coronavirus spark a mass exodus in business hubs and tourist hotspots.
  • Martin Place, Barangaroo and Circular Quay have become ghost towns punctuated with empty restaurants and deserted shops, and there's never been more room on the roads or train platforms of New South Wales.
  • Breaking news:  AFL football games suspended.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Summer of Fires

The spate of bushfires seems to be easing off, though the other states have had it much worse than Tasmania.  It is disturbing to those of us who remember the terrible 1967 fires
Back in the 1960s I was an Argonaut.  That would mean nothing today, but back then there was a popular ABC radio show for children and you could send off for a badge and certificate recognizing you as a member.  Among the many features and skits on the show was a short radio serial.  Already being aware of science fiction I enjoyed one serial they presented -- "The Stranger", in which a visitor turns out to have otherworldly origins.  I was slightly surprised to see it turn up on television a couple of years later.  And I'm very surprised to see it is now available for viewing again on the ABC's website.

10:39 PM 2/02/2020
Sunday didn't start well, but we won't go into   that. (I found a second broken window.)  It was mild and sunny when I went into church, so it was a bit surprising to see it was raining lightly when I left.  I had an invitation to go out somewhere, but this week had been so tiring I went home instead and lay down to rest.  I must have slept for an hour or two, then slowly awakened and stared at the ceiling, enjoying a faint breeze that cooled the house to a comfortable level.
I felt a rare sense of calm and peace.  For some time I just lay there, feeling relaxed and contented.  Moments like that are rare enough that they should be savoured and enjoyed for as long as possible.

Cool and mostly fine Tuesday.  Surprised that 15 members turned up at the Croquet Club for this afternoon's game.  The sun was shining non-stop and there was a cool breeze.  I took off my cardigan for the second game and was happy in my light t-shirt.  "Aren't you cold?" asked my opponents, two ladies wearing jackets zipped up to the neck.  I told them I was quite comfortable, did not add that after last week I found the cold wind quite refreshing.
In the evening, out to the quiz night.  Didn't really expect to win three times in a row, but our chances were laid low by the absence of our music expert.  I think we scored 4/10 in the music round, and two of those were guesses.  So coming second wasn't so bad.

9:26 PM 5/02/2020
Spent a lot of Wednesday relaxing around the house, listening to the ambient music of this week's "Hearts Of Space" program and munching my way through an unopened packet of Vegie Straws I found while looking through some stuff.
Friends rang to say they were coming through in half an hour and did I want to meet for lunch.  That went off all right, but I made the mistake of saying I'd bought some extra plastic crates and they decided this was a great time to come round and help me do some tidying-up.  I think we filled 6 or 7 crates and tossed out another one of rubbish before I said good night to them. 

10:56 AM 7/02/2020
Thursday was a busy day even for me.  Got off to the Croquet Club punctually so I could fit in a game before I had to go into town.  A few of us up on lawn 3 while the first two lawns were occupied by the earnest players in the Pennant match.  Then caught the bus into the city (to avoid those diabolical new parking meters) for lunch and the first meeting of the year for the Friends Of Mission group.  Back home and drove out to the Bocce Club for a couple of games and a sausage sizzle in the bright afternoon sun.  Home in time to watch DOCTOR WHO (disappointingly did not follow on from the plot of last week's episode) and receive a long drawn-out phone call from Keith Curtis who is more of a night owl than I am these days. 

Farewell to a Feline friend

The end of 2019 saw one of Julie's cats go into a decline.  Since my sister died, Livvy had been morre and more "clingy" -- she spent a lot of time on my lap and usually curled up next to me in bed each night.  Alas, she began to waste away, and it was obvious nothing could be done for her.  The final trip to the Vet was a sad note to end the year on. 

Wednesday morning some friends came round and we interred Livvy's tiny body in the front garden. We said a few words, then went out for lunch -- actually we detoured first to Harris Scarfe for a bit of what Helena called "retail therapy", which did take our minds off things a bit.
I spent the rest of the day at home, Nelson and I keeping each other company. He was visibly unsettled, meowing whenever he lost sight of me and curling up next to me for hours. I guess we will have to learn to manage.

I had vague ideas of going out to play croquet on Thursday morning, but the cat curled up on me and I didn't have the heart to give him the boot. So I spent the day quietly at home, apart from going out for bread and milk later.

In the evening, tuned in for part one of the DOCTOR WHO New Year special. It was interesting enough, but most of the hour seemed to be just a lead-up to the cliffhanger at the end. Next week we shall see if part two lives up to it.

With my new iPhone, I have managed to install the free Kindle app and can now read my e-books on my phone. I began with an omnibus of 99 science fiction stories that I think I picked up for a dollar. First story was "People of the Pit" by A. Merritt, which was first published in 1918 in ALL STORY WEEKLY. Only his second published short story I believe, but the description of the lost city in the Arctic will make your hair stand on end.

Saturday the forecast was for a hot day but smoke blowing in from other states shielded us from the sun. I left home about 10 a.m., picked up Keith Curtis and we spent the morning rummaging through places like St Vincent de Paul and the South Hobart Tiip Shop. Keith put in a lot of time going through stuff and occasionally it paid off (he was really pleased at finding that 1960s Pan paperback of a Simenon novel).

Lunch at one of my favorite eateries, the Macquarie Street Foodstore. After the meal, Keith gave me a long explanation of the history of Sun Books, one of the minor Australian paperback houses of the 1960s (of course in those days there were very few Australian paperback publishers).
We had to make a return trip to Vinnie's after lunch because Keith realised he had forgotten a book about Scarlet Macaws that he saw on top of one of their bookcases. Yes, it was still there. And we took the opportunity to go through the CD section -- I ended up with ten classical music titles for a dollar each. Now to find time to listen to them all...!

Today's short story on my Kindle: "Omega" by AMELIA REYNOLDS LONG, sort of a mix of Poe and Wells -- a hypnotist tells his patient to mentally travel forward in time to the end of the world and report what he sees. All right, but not that remarkable. From the July 1932 issue of Amazing Stories
"Come hither!" I cry,
But there comes no response.
Just a flicking tail.
-- Haiku No.4 for January[2014]

11:13 AM 7/01/2020
Monday seemed to be the end of the holiday season.  Traffic was busier and things started resuming for the year over the next few days.  In the morning, after my post-breakfast nap, I went out to meet friends for lunch after their visit to MONA [the Museum of Old and New Art].  In the evening I visited other friends who'd just returned from their Christmas break at Gordon, down past Flowerpot.  We chatted, had dinner and watched a DVD, and it was still daylight when I got home -- the wonders of Daylight Saving.

Kindle story:  THE Nth POWER by Arthur Train from The Saturday Evening Post, October 2, 1909.  A Wellsian tale about a stockbroker with an interest in the sixth sense who allows a scientist to experiment on him to enhance his five existing senses.  Be careful what you wish for!

Told anew by all,
Stories of the long past days
That make family.

-- Haiku for January No.5

1:09 PM 8/01/2020
Tuesday I woke from a confusing dream -- I had been living in the city again, but some buildings had moved around and roads had either lengthened or shortened without rhyme or reason.
At midday I set off for the Croquet Club and played two games.  The weather was surprisingly cloudy, with a sea breeze cooling us.   Picked up some stuff at the pharmacy, then just had time for a short nap before the first Quiz Night of the year.
We didn't do so bad, though we fared badly in some rounds (who knew bromine was liquid at room temperature?).  In the end we were back in our old spot, fourth place.  Afterwards I drew the winner of the raffle someone had organized for Bushfire Disaster Relief.  We raised $250 in one evening.

Today's Kindle story was "Adjustment Team" a science fiction short story by American writer Philip K. Dick. It was first published in Orbit Science Fiction (September–October 1954, No. 4) and filmed 2011. Early PKD story in which reality becomes unreal.

Look away a sec,
Then you hear the "cluck cluck" noise.
Your sandwich is gone.
-- Haiku for a rooster 2020

4:19 PM 9/01/2020
I had thought that if I rested up on Wednesday, I would be better prepared for a busy Thursday, but not so.  Felt so tired in the morning I didn't get to the Croquet Club at all.  After lunch, the NBN was off all afternoon, so I spent some time burning CDs from last year's downloads.  After that, I will transfer the files to my external drive, doubly backing them up.  It's not that I'm paranoid, but I hear there's a 50% chance any back-up method will eventually fail.

A visit to the Bocce Club this evening had mixed results.  A lot of us found the court unpredictable, with the result that our ball would head straight for the target and then just veer off and go past.   Aaaagh.

10:15 PM 10/01/2020
Friday things cooled down a little, and there was actually a light shower of rain when I went down to Blackmans Bay for dinner with friends.  These summer evenings are so long that we were able to stop and walk the dogs along the Cornelian Bay foreshore and still get me home before dark.

On the Kindle, this week I am reading REPEAT BUSINESS, a collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories by NZ author Lyn McConchie.  The gimmick is that each story features a character who has previously been one of Holmes' clients in a Conan Doyle story -- hence the title.

10:04 PM 11/01/2020
I can never resist those lists.  You know, the ones with titles like "100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die."  I plowed through the latest one and I counted up 19 that I've read.  81 to go  --  I'm obviously going to live to a great age.
Of course these sorts of lists are inevitably not one-size-fits-all.  I once looked at a list where I scored quite low, because a lot of the books they mentioned were collections by American poets I'd never even heard of.   Conversely, a list heavy on classic science-fiction and crime stories would send my score soaring but would doom many literate people to a really low score.
But 19% -- yeah, I guess I can live with that.

12:08 AM 12/01/2020

Published in the NEW YORKER January 6, 2020, issue, with the headline “Grief.” 
 The Strangeness of Grief -
A writer reckons with the different forms of loss.  
By V. S. Naipaul
(I was going through an almost identical experience with my black cat the week that issue would have been on the stands  --  perhaps the Universe was trying to send me a message.)

12:30 AM 13/01/2020

When was the last time you kept a diary? Turns out, writing down your thoughts is a proven (and simple!) mind-clearing technique. “Journaling helps you analyze and organize your thoughts, which is a great way to relax your mind,” says Sanam Hafeez, PhD, a neuropsychologist and faculty member at Columbia University in New York City. “Research suggests that expressive writing eliminates intrusive thoughts about negative events and improves working memory. These improvements may, in turn, free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities, including the ability to manage stress more effectively.”   --  Readers Digest website

2:22 PM 16/01/2020
Another Wednesday when I didn't have any appointments, so I thought I'd stay home where it was cool and just enjoy the peace and quiet. Yes and no, as it turned out.
About midday, I wanted another coffee and went to get the milk.  The cat, Nelson, was sitting on my shoulder and tried to jump onto the top of the refrigerator.  He missed, and bounced off my face on his way down.  I didn't see if he landed on all fours because he knocked my glasses off as he went past.
I had to get down on all fours to find my spectacles, then fetched the tube of antiseptic I keep next to my bed for putting on cat scratches.  (He also got me on the right thumb on his way to the ground.)
With all this, I somehow forgot to have lunch.  Forgot about it until the evening when I started to feel shaky and uncomfortable.  You may not be sure how to spell hypoglycemia but you know when you've got it.

1:56 PM 17/01/2020
Thursday I usually ponder on whether I'll play croquet, but some unseasonal thunder and a shower of (very light) rain in the morning made it a no-brainer  -- especially after watching Nelson eat his breakfast and curl up under his blanket without going outside.  But this may have been a good thing for my evening visit to the Bocce Club;  I made a couple of really good shots in the middle of the game, though I petered out towards the end.  Still, it's nice to see the balls go where you aimed for a change.

Home in time for this week's DOCTOR WHO story "Orphan 55" which has a couple of nods to the movie ALIEN in its script.  Some controversy about the script in on-line reviews but I liked it well enough.
Downloaded some old radio shows I bought from the Radio Classics website - SHERLOCK HOLMES, HARRY NILE, COUPLE NEXT DOOR and FAMILY THEATER.

9:24 PM 17/01/2020
For a change the cat decided to leave me alone and spent the afternoon dozing under his blanket.  I had lunch and listened to "Sentinels of the New Dawn", one of the Big Finish audio dramas based on DOCTOR WHO  --  it starred Caroline John, which is a big plus if you were watching the show in 1970 like I was.
Practiced my Bible reading for Sunday and after dinner watched the movie THOR RAGNAROK, which has a lot more jokes in it than you would have expected from the title.

Sunday I was scheduled to read the Bible in church at the morning service, which I have done many times.   What I haven't done before is read Matthew 5, maybe better known as The Sermon On The Mount.  I've read lots of other pieces from the scriptures, but this was one of the biggies.  Ideally I would have liked three weeks of rehearsal time instead of two days, but I got up there and gave it my best shot.   Maybe not up to the standard of the original, but I'm sure that He'll forgive me.
After that, I just had to sit back and listen to the sermon from Jon Brown. who (somewhat to my surprise) started off by quoting from "The Portrait of Dorian Gray"  -- I'm sure Oscar Wilde would have been surprised too.

10:52 PM 21/01/2020
Tuesday I was a bit slow out of the starting gate, but was determined to get to the Croquet Club.  A bit warm at first, but spent nearly two and a half hours playing then went home to rest up for tonight.  After finishing fourth in last week's quiz, we zoomed into the lead and stayed there tonight.  We did pretty well in most of the categories, but it really helped we got an extra ten points when Mark made an inspired guess and correctly tipped the answer to the puzzle question was "the Electric Chair" !   Now that's what I call an amazing hunch.

Under a clear sky,
the mallet sees its target;
the hoop lies in wait.
-  Haiku for a croquet ball, 2014
Saturday was a fairly busy day.  Out to the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul, lunch in New Town.  Then on to JB Hi-Fi, Cracked & Spineless Books, Harvey Norman, Coles Supermarket, the Cat Cafe and Barrington Lodge. 
By the time I got home I was ready to sit down, but the cat was so glad to see me he kept running back and forth, smothering me with affection.  After about four hours, he finally wore himself out and went to sleep. 


11:40 PM 26/01/2020
Slept all right, and got to church on time.  A few people away for the Australia Day weekend, but it was nice to see Owen & Sue there today.  After the service, I stopped in town for lunch and bought the SUNDAY AGE [interview with Essie Davis].
After that, I went over to JB Hi-Fi.  Keith had told me they were having a 30% off sale.  I was tempted and I fell.  The good news is I saved a third on my purchases, the bad news was I spent (cough) dollars.   Came home with a bag of boxed sets of old TV shows, including MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, STINGRAY, CAPTAIN SCARLETT, SAPPHIRE & STEEL and BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.  I really don't need to buy any more DVDs for a couple of years. 

6:59 PM 30/01/2020
Thursday morning I was completely flabbergasted.  Early in the week my remaining goose had disappeared;  I had looked around for him and found only a pile of white feathers and some bones.  Sadly I assumed that he had met an untimely death.  Not so !
This morning I went outside to take food and water to the poultry before the weather got too hot.  I stepped out onto the patio and there was the goose, sitting there in the sun in front of me.  I just stood there, staring.  It took me a couple of minutes to overcome my astonishment.
I used to tell Julie "Never assume."  Looks like I should take my own advice.

9:14 PM 30/01/2020
Thursday afternoon I shut myself inside where it was a bit cooler (plus that's where the electric fan was).  Once the wind swung round to the south we saw the temperature drop from 36C at 4pm to 18C at 6pm.  Whew.

This week's DOCTOR WHO was such a remarkabe story that we had the whole Internet being carpet-bombed with spoilers. It wasn't easy but I managed to avoid 90 percent of them. That still leaves ten percent of course.

2:13 PM 31/01/2020
Today will be one of the hottest days this summer, and one of the highest temperatures ever recorded for Tasmania, said ABC News.  It will also be warmer in Hobart than it will be in Darwin, which is forecast to hit a maximum of 33C.
So I made sure go out to the shops before midday, but it was still 30C by the time I got home.  The power had failed at the supermarket while I was there -- first time I've had to gather up my groceries in the illumination of the emergency lighting system.   
It was 40C by 2 pm.  I was settled on the couch with the electric fan going and just about to reach for my second iced coffee.   Hope all my friends and relatives are going all right too.