Friday, 31 May 2019

Jane Austen and exercise

The weather the last few days has been bloody awful - we've been catapulted from a relatively mild autumn to something redolent of the first days of Ragnorok.

Rain, fog, more rain, and the only decent day we had in the middle of it was cold and windy, all of  which means of no exercise, or certainly no going outside, and somehow on a cold damp day I couldn't face going to J's studio for an early morning half an hour on the cross trainer, even though I know I should.

Cycling is out, as is any serious walking. Too wet, too cold.

But it's not as if I've done nothing.

Like many people, I have a fitness tracker on my phone and it records the number of steps taken (more or less).

Like many such programs the app has selected 10,000 steps as a daily target even though the desirability of 10,000 steps is built on poor science. In fact there's been another study that suggests that in some cases 4500 steps could be enough to confer some benefit. But the benefit of the fitness tracker app is that it can give you a sense of scale as to how much, or how little exercise you're taking.

And what has this to do with Jane Austen?

Earlier this month there was a slightly silly piece on Radio National about how some writer became fit by living like a Jane Austen character for two years.

It wasn't a great revelation - basically walk everywhere and eat a good diet of fresh vegetables and meat - no packaged or prepared meals - but it did contain a germ of sense.

Eating a good diet is a no brainer - we buy fresh as much as possible, and where possible buy local.

This involves a certain amount of planning - our local supermarket doesn't get a delivery of fresh fruit and veg every day, and sometimes things stay on the shelves so long, so sometimes we end up driving to a local Coles (60km round trip) or Woolworths (75km round trip) to stock up, but then we try and buy all the extras we need - clotheswash, cat food, toilet paper in megapacks to minimise the total number of kilometres driven - in fact despite having two cars and living in the country we've done less than 8000 km since Christmas.

The rest of the time we walk. It's 1400 steps to the supermarket and back from our house, 2000 if I go via the post office to collect our mail, or 4000 if we combine collecting our mail with a half hour walk to the lake and along the creek.

And that I think is the key to exercise. By all means go to the gym a couple of times a week, or go for substantial bushwalk at the weekend, but to support healthier lifestyle walk or cycle as much as possible - to the shops, to the post office, and that way it becomes part of your life, rather than being something special that involves lycra.

It's not always practical I know - having to wear business clothes does not always work well with cycling, and sometimes your shopping is too bulky to carry home.

Well, we're lucky, we're retired and we live in a small village where it is perfectly possible to walk up to the shops and buy stuff as we need, but we also have invested in a cheap shopping trolley to carry home heavy or bulky items - after all no one really wants to carry a load of shopping and a couple of bottles of wine.

And I'm sure that if you're busy mum with kids to pick up, or on your way back from work, driving and stopping off at the local shopping centre can seem to make sense - I know, we've been there, but equally, by making some small adjustments in your routine, you can make some big changes in your health and fitness regime ...

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Election day ...

Yesterday was election day.

We'd been out the night before at a community theatre even so we had a slow start, scrambled eggs, toast, coffee, that sort of thing and then strolled up to the polling station to vote, chatted to a few other people we knew, cast our votes, and because it was such a nice day we went up to our favourite cafe for a danish and a coffee.

We were quietly confident that the day would bring a change of government, and one that would do something about climate change, the abuse of refugees and the rest.

So confident were we we watched the Freddie Mercury retrospective instead of watching the election results as they came in.

We were shocked when we eventually watched the election news. In fact so surprised were we we thought that they must have got the exit polls wrong.

But no, we were condemned to another three years of being governed by pudgy men with a penchant for ill fitting suits and dodgy real estate deals.

A hundred thoughts flickered through my mind - Vicxit? a Victorian republic unshackled by right wing evangelicals from Queensland suddenly seemed like a good idea, but no, I was being silly.

People had voted honestly and fairly, and this was what we had got. We might not like it but this is what democracy has delivered.

We'll just have to keep on protesting and hope that next time around it's not too late to do something about climate change and human rights, and the growing inequality in society ...

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Eta-Aqurid meteor shower of 2019

Well, we got kind of excited about seeing the Eta-Aquarid meteor shower.

There had been a report about it on SBS news last night as well as coverage in the SMH and the Age.

So this morning, at around 5am, when the temperature was hovering about zero we got up, put on our warmest down jackets and ugg boots and went out into the yard,

It was pretty dark, streetlighting in our street consists of a dim globe or two at the intersections of the cross streets, so we stood there facing eastish and let our eyes adjust.

Well we saw a couple of satellites, a plane flying north, and a single meteor, which was cool, but not quite what we expected - the tv news and the papers had oversold the event.

After we'd retreated inside I found a blog that was a little more realistic about what we were likely to see, which kind of matched our experience. If we'd started earlier and set ourselves up for sitting out with blankets and coffee we might have seen more.

We probably won't have a repeat tomorrow - the forecast is for cloud and showers tomorrow, so I guess that's it for the Eta-Aquarid shower until next year ...

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Storms (again) ...

Back at the end of March I posted about our storm preparedness (or lack thereof).

Well, it was a good thing we had a dry (?) run in March because we had an absolute humdinger of a storm on Thursday night.

It started with spectacular sheet lightning to the south of us, lighting up the evening sky like in old film of bombardments on the western front in World War I, and with great rumbling peals of thunder, which was  followed by torrential rain - what I describe as being like God flushing the toilet, so massive was the downpour and the speed of its onset.

This happened at around half past six. after the sun had gone down, and when we getting dinner ready, an Italian style chicken stew.

We were doing normal thinks, cooking, half listening to the evening news on the tv, and enjoyimg a welcome glass of pinot noir - we'd been out all day in Albury -our nearest approximation to a city - dashing to dentists (cancelled at the last minute), getting flu shots, picking up stuff ordered via click and collect, and a host of other tasks. All in all a pretty normal weekday evening.

And then the lights went out, came back on, and went out again. And stayed out. Leaving us in a very dark house.

Fortunately we always leave a torch on the kitchen bench, so we flipped into our storm routine:

  • go collect the camping head torches and camping lantern from the study
  • brave the elements and get the camping stove from the shed
  • find the AM radio and tune to the local ABC station - totally useless on this occasion as there were just too many lightning strikes
  • grab the 4G modem and an ipad and check the power company outage tracker which gave us an expected fix time of eleven that night.
All the time the storm was battering down. 

I was a little worried by the ferocity of the storm as we've had  problems with an intermittent leak - really just a very slight drip - in the roof when we get heavy rain, but this time, mercifully, no leak.

Given the power company's time to fix of several hours we finished cooking our stew on the camping stove, and sat and talked.

About half past eight the power came back for about ten minutes, went off, came back, and went off again, and then just before ten it came back, and this time it stayed on.

Once the internet came back, I ran round restarting the internet tv boxes - three of them, all different brands just to make my life more complex than it need be - fixing clocks and resetting the internet radio.

We waited about half an hour, guessed that the power was staying on, put the dishwasher on, and went to bed, being careful to take camping head torches with us just in case we woke up to a dark, silent house.

In the event we needn't have worried. The power stayed on all night. The rain finally stopped about four in the morning.

Daylight brought a wet and soggy morning, leaves stripped from the trees, but no real damage, except to my Asian green seedlings in their cold frame - the wind had got in and flipped it open, and the rain had flooded the seed trays, but enough seem to have survived that the loss was annoying, nothing more.

On the way down to Chiltern to my documentation project  I half expected the road to be flooded, or blocked by downed trees, but no, while there had been a bit of flooding the road was more or less clear, and while there were branches lying about you could get through without difficulty - I'm guessing the roads people had been round at first light to do a preliminary clean up, unblock flooded culverts and so on.

Being prepared meant that something that was a bit of drama, never got close to being a crisis ...