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Australia, Community, Mental Health

I was only just saying….

Sometimes a word or two can spark an outrage or can offer comfort. Other times words might even be prophetic.

Unfortunately, it seems the later is the case. I write about Australia’s Covid-free bubble and cautioned that we shouldn’t become too complacent and forget hygiene measures.

At New Year’s Eve, I noticed people were fast getting a too cocky with life, resuming normal practices like hugging and kissing, even though there were still a few isolated Covid cases in a few states, including ours. All cases were in hotel quarantine and out of public access, until now. Then:

Credit: Facebook meme

New Covid Outbreak in Queensland, Australia

A cleaner in hotel quarantine has come down with the highly infectious UK strain of the virus. The cleaner was catching public transport for a week prior to detection.

The region is now in lockdown from 6pm tonight and masks are mandatory. [You might remember I was prevented from wearing masks, last year in my workplace].

shopping centre with consumers

The announcement came at 8.30 am today, but at 8.20 am people were already out and about panic buying.

Toilet paper supplies, I suspect.

The lockdown is only until Monday morning, but they suspect it could last a week.

Has the public forgotten shops were once closed all weekend? Are we not able to survive more than one day without shopping? Are toilet paper supplies that thin? (Excuse the pun).

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One Covid case; (no new cases today) and wholesale chaos reigns at the stores. Think of the UK – or other states and countries that have been in lockdown for months.

The hotel staff in the quarantine hotels, are now going to be tested daily. I wonder why this wasn’t previously instituted?

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Australia, blogging

Social Distancing in Australia

So much for social distancing, I thought. Notwithstanding our relative safety here in Australia, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic.

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We’re allowed to attend social events again and in my state in Australia, we’re even permitted to sing, (something not all states, are allowed to do as yet).

How fortunate are we? Believe me, I do not take this for granted.

Apart from providing our contact details at all venues, society here has, by and large resumed to B.C. levels, [i.e. – before Covid]. Just in time for all that Christmas and New Year’s Eve revelry.

Until now, people were still hesitant to get close to one another. Would social distancing and clean hygiene practices be ditched for the sake of socializing and enjoyment in 2020, now a vaccine was on the horizon?

Being one of the unlucky ones with a respiratory system prone to serious illness, I was more than happy to continue to ‘elbow pump’ people, in the greeting that Covid made fashionable, until the ends of time. Hugging friends had become a thing of the past for me.

The 2020 pandemic, as well as my recent retirement, has meant that I’ve escaped the annual torture of suffering with each year’s strain of ‘Influenza’, as well as various bugs and infections that are an occupational hazard of working, as I did, with young children. 2020 was, for me, far healthier than previous years.

In fact, I’ve not seen a Doctor all year. Yay for me!

Fast forward to this year’s New Years Eve. Much of Australian society is back to normal, except for bans on large gatherings, as in city fireworks displays. *[Mind you, I still can’t fathom why Cricket and football matches in stadiums are exempt from this ban. Is there an invisible force field that protects sports spectators from the pandemic?]

cricket match

My plan for celebrating 2020 NYE at the Home by the Sea, involved attending a Karaoke Dinner at a local restaurant, with around 8 of my neighbours and friends. Dutifully, all of us scanned in our particulars, using the QR code on the table, upon arrival, for the purposes of contact tracing should anyone come down with the dreaded ‘Corona’ virus. We then looked forward to an evening of singing, good food and company. And it was indeed a fun night.

Yet, my heart did skip a beat as the waiter removed our individual plates after the first course, stating that the rest of the seven courses, would be served from disposable paper boats. Therefore, we should hang on to our cutlery, for the duration of the evening. Share plates of cheese and crackers and dessert had my hygiene radar twerking mildly, as did my wonderment at our used knives and forks scattered ominously across the table between courses.

Was I being a little paranoid about germs?

Singing into the Karaoke microphone, shared with 30 or so other drunken folk, was not encouraging for hygiene either. I couldn’t find a disinfectant wipe for the mic, anywhere on site, although there was plenty of hand sanitiser at the bar, which was well utilised. After my allotted drink or two, I relaxed, as did many others and begun to really enjoy the evening.

Abba, Shania Twain, Queen and Pink tunes were an absolute hoot to sing and really got everyone joining in with gusto. It was as if the floodgates of pent-up social energy had opened, energy they’d been harbouring for much of 2020.

Around Midnight, whilst our table was chinking glasses at a socially approved distance, a recent acquaintance I knew sitting at an adjacent table walked straight over to me, hugged me and without any warning landed a big sloppy, slightly drunken kiss, on my cheek.

“Eek! What if she has Covid?” was my very first thought.

To say the kiss felt strange, was an understatement. Something quite natural a year ago, now felt like a personal violation!

To put this into context, I haven’t kissed anyone other the ‘Moth‘, since the pandemic began! The legacy of Covid means I’ve not even kissed my elderly parents and now, this felt so – weird and wrong! Quickly noticing my shell-shocked response, the lady did offer a swift and heartfelt apology. But the damage was already done. A day later, I had my head perched over the toilet bowl/bucket, throwing up. The usual New Year’s Eve ‘Gastro’ Virus had found me. For many years, it appears regular as clockwork, in that first week of January after the New Year’s Eve parties. Was it the kiss, the unsanitised microphone, or just coincidence? Surely not the alcohol?

The silver lining, I could say was this 24 hour ‘wog,’ helped me lose some of those extra pounds I’d gained over Christmas. However, the dynamics of physical contact with friends has now completely changed in society.

Now recovered and back at the keyboard, I pondered the events as they unfolded. More worrying for me than getting a mild case of ‘gastro,’ was that folks are so quick to abandon safe hygiene practices and social distancing in the name of fun.

As far as the pandemic goes, we are not out of the woods in Australia, yet.

How quickly people forget.

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blogging, Mental Health, Motivational, Philosophy

A New Year and Dealing with Intense Emotions

Happy New Year 2021 png

Christmas time may be a source of stress or joy. Compounding those yuletide stresses, the Covid pandemic continues to rage, so there was little cause for joy in many parts of the world.

Marlene inspired me to think of the year’s outcomes in terms of ‘gifts,’ some good and of course, some bad. We’d do well to focus on the better aspects for our own well-being. So, what if any, positives can be noted?

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Lessons from the Pandemic

Whether we like the lessons or not:

  • This awful year has taught us patience and more appreciation for things at home.
  • This dreadful year has been a godsend for parts of the environment and animal world.
  • The pandemic afforded us time to develop or re-discover DIY home projects.
  • This deadly virus has potentially increased family tensions but has given extra time with loved ones. I will take as a blessing option, thanks.
  • Rates of family violence and alcohol consumption rose, yet levels of air pollution diminished due to fewer vehicles on the roads. The night sky was/is full of stars hitherto unseen in cities, as air quality improved.
  • Peak hour traffic congestion eased and commuter accidents lessened.
  • Workplaces were forced to become more flexible, benefitting those caring for someone, at home.
  • Money from saved travel and workplace costs, (uniforms, ancillary items, office durables and rentals), could instead be spent on other items that bring joy.
  • Extroverts suffered from social isolation but many introverts thrived.

..some Australian online [alcohol], retailers have reported 50% to 500% increases in sales compared to the same period in 2019.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7300689/#dar13092-bib-0018
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Negative Impacts of the Pandemic

This pandemic has uncovered a festering mal-contentment at the interplay between politics and society and offered diametrically opposed opportunities and grief.

Unemployment rose sharply and many lost businesses, their livelihood, or their lives. In some places, political decisions and divisiveness led to civil unrest. Financial ruin became rampant. Mental health nosedived.

For each one of us, the impacts may be very individual. With no short term end to Covid in sight, the heightened emotions the pandemic brings, remain uncomfortable and difficult for many folks to manage.

How do we deal with those difficult emotions?

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Dealing with Difficult Emotions

Write Down Your Thoughts

Sometimes it can be cathartic to transfer those strong emotions into written words. Blogging can be great therapy.

female writing

Slow Down and See Each Moment

Ironically, the pandemic has made me feel grateful.

Grateful for things I DO have and it ensured I did slow down and appreciate the individual moments that pass by.

Grateful for our country’s relative safety bubble.

We can be grateful for modern science working hard to solve the virus riddle.

Grateful that I have not been touched by financial ruin, separation or Covid itself.

Grateful that even though my workinglife ended prematurely, I now have time to enjoy retirement activities with the Moth.

Grateful that I have daily incidental conversation with the adult children who came home due to financial reasons.

Grateful that I can let unimportant things slide.

Grateful to have the awareness I am so much more than just my emotions/feelings.

Grateful that emotions and feelings change as the world moves and changes. Everything must change for, just like bad weather, nothing ever lasts.

2021 Mantra

In this New Year of 2021:

If I feel sad, I will sit with that feeling of sadness.

If I feel loss, hurt or rejected, I will accept that feeling, not deny or think that I ‘shouldn’t,’ feel that way.

If I feel frustrated or inadequate, I will sit with that until the feeling passes. I won’t feel tormented that these emotions are wrong or bad, but rather let them ‘slide.’

Let it slide.

Not quite the same ‘sliding,’ as the lyrics of the song suggest, but the personal reminder is contained in that catchy melody; the melody that is today’s earworm.

“Let it Slide.

Happy New Year

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Preparing a Music Trivia Night in a Pandemic

Musicians

Our Neighbours at the Home by the Sea would like a Music Trivia night. Not having been at a trivia night for decades, let alone hosting one, I consulted the net: as one does when one has a question, these days.

Pandemic Limitations

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I need to stress I haven’t fully committed to this event, given the pandemic bubble our State of Queensland has been in, (with no new Covid cases), is under some threat. Gatherings have, from today, been limited to 10 persons until further notice.

Why are Group Numbers Restricted in the Pandemic?

Unfortunately, some people don’t get the instruction that if you feel sick, stay home and get tested! A 70 something-year-old worker continued to attend work for five days whilst sick, until it was evident something was wrong. As most of us have heard, Covid can be fairly mild for the first few days. On Day 5 you can suddenly go down very quickly, by which time you have infected goodness-knows-how-many people, around you. I am unsure of this person’s motive in attending work.

Did she/he need the money as they worked casually? If so, we rapidly need a political solution to the dilemma of the Casual worker who is not paid unless they go to work, as the whole economy suffers if they do attend work whilst sick, and the whole community has to lockdown in order to contain the outbreak!

Did she/he not think, or not even consider that being sick, at work, where people are housed in an institution-like facility, was very high risk, should a Covid contamination arise and furthermore, that such infection could spread like wildfire through the vulnerable residents, who could then be released inadvertently, at any time, into the community?

Despite the looming wave of new cases, I will, for the moment, press ahead with the organization for the Music Trivia night and set a date P.C. (post -Covid).

So what do I need/ do? The net did give me some ideas:


Steps To Take in Organizing a Music Trivia Night

1) Choose a Format for Hosting a Trivia Night
Live Pen and Paper/ Tablet/ TV or Smartphone-Based Trivia
2) Select Questions
100% DIY: Write Questions – a wonderful neighbour has volunteered to do this
Professional Trivia Host and Questions
Hosts Using Professional Trivia Questions
3) Write Out an Event Plan – Probably unnecessary given the group number limitation
4) Gather Equipment
5) Prepare Awesome Prizes and Food and Drink – Essential

SmartPhone/Digital Trivia

With the advent of smartphones, there is the option for digital formats for answering trivia questions. Like pen-and-paper trivia, smartphone trivia still involves a host who reads off questions and paces the game and the guests use their own smartphones to submit answers. We could even do this virtually if a FULL lockdown, if necessary.

Apprently there is also TV Trivia: These are trivia questions that run on TVs. Guests don’t “submit” answers, they just think about the questions or chat with friends about the answers. I like this option without the TV.

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Prizes

I would whip up a painted wooden tray as a prize and some alcoholic beverage never goes astray either! Prizes: SORTED

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Food and Drinks

We have some wonderful cooks in the community, so this aspect is already catered for Including gluten-free/coeliac options, gourmet nibbles and cocktails to keep us in the merry mood.

Cheers!

Breaking the Ice/Getting to Know You Games

I am the first one to say that I absolutely HATE those painful introductory games, which are designed to make people relax, feel comfortable and get to know each other better.

They mostly just piss me off and make me hugely uncomfortable sharing personal facts that I don’t wish to publicly share. When forced to participate in them at work, I couldn’t help thinking they were a dreadful waste of my valuable time, and did nothing to enhance Team bonding, which I assume was their objective!

Right?

However, there was one game, I participated in, that was a little fun.

Here is how it goes:

  • Each person, in turn, states three random facts about themselves that may or may not be known to the group.
  • Two of the facts are true and one is false.
  • Everyone has to guess the one fact that is false.

To test the validity of an introductory game, such as this for the Music trivia night, I invite you to play along by choosing one answer below:

The answer will be revealed in a forthcoming post!

Conversation Questions

* Do you have a curly music trivia question I could include in my trivia night?

* Tell me about a less than dreadful, “Ice Breaker – Getting to know You,” game that you have played?

Australia, blogging, Food, Mental Health, Philosophy

Hollow Online Experiences

When the internet came along, it was suggested that everything would be done online, from shopping to employment and communications. Individuals would not need to leave home to live their consumer lives.

The public however, has shown that we are primarily social creatures and are reluctant to embrace a completely virtual lifestyle. Whilst online shopping has undoubtedly increased, it wasn’t the tidal wave envisaged by the tech industry, until Covid 19 came along.

Our lives have become more virtual, whether we liked it, or not.

Getting takeout or takeaway doesn’t seem to give us the same experience as dining in at a restaurant or cafe. Neither does the online shopping experience feel quite as satisfying as the benefits of browsing in person at a store, feeling the fabric in a garment, physically trying on clothing, or chatting to another shopper, seeing what is around.

Because it is not just the objective alone, that is important.

It’s the whole consumer experience.

The atmosphere at the cafes and shops is attractive to us through our senses: the watching of people; the smells, sights and sounds; (overwhelming for some), or the conversation with friends you meet whilst shopping; the interaction with Cafe staff and fellow diners; the inspirational decor on the walls, or from the books on the shelves in a bookstore; even the art on the walls.

All of this, together, gives us a pleasurable sensory experience that is clearly important to us, as a comment on my second blog alluded.

“We human beings are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”

Dalai Lama

Benefits of Covid and Virtual Lifestyle

During the Covid lockdown, skies, streets and air appears cleaner and we have more time on our hands. None of that horrid sitting stuck in traffic on the way home from work, or rushing to catch a crowded train with a million other commuters at 5pm.

Other people discover there is time to get to know their kids, becoming involved, by choice or necessity, in their education, or generally engaging with them more because there is little ecternal events to absorb their time. (Albeit for some, this could be far more stressful and family life might suffer from a lack of outside exposure, stimulation or influence).

All wonderful benefits of an enforced, semi-virtual life.

scenic cafe window- pensive

Yet, it seems even introverts or socially phobic individuals have struggled with being cooped up during the Covid pandemic.

We, as humans, seem to value social interaction above any virtual experience.

Cafe Society Lifestyle

Prior to the appearance of Covid, the Cafe society was a popular lifestyle choice in Australia. When cafes closed down in lock-down, no one knew what would happen. Aussie Cafes/Diners and Restaurants were legally allowed to operate only on a takeaway, (takeout), basis.

Many chose to close, temporarily, or permanently and the alfresco cafe dining experience came to an abrupt end.

al fresco dining restaurant

The Beach Esplanade, near my home, is lined with popular cafes and restaurants of all persuasions and cuisines. Being smaller businesses, most have closed completely, but some remain open. Last night, I placed a phone order for a ‘Quarantine Pack’, at one of the restaurants. Being a Friday night, I wondered what I’d find when I arrived for the meal.

At the Italian restaurant itself, a makeshift pick-up counter was laid out with social distancing markers in the formerly packed out al fresco dining area. Customers awaited their order in silence, or hushed in conversations with their partner, spaced well apart from each other. This was a very different picture to the regular Friday night.

On the opposite side of the road, overlooking the sea, couples and small family groups sat on benches or rugs, at the required social distance, eating their takeaway meals and watching the moonlight filtering over the waves, lapping the shore.

It was another life, but it was okay. Not ideal, but it had a beauty all of its own, even a little nostalgic or romantic perhaps.

It begs the question as to how much of a virtual lifestyle we can lead?

Is it possible for human beings to live like this, at all?

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