Saturday, 15 January 2022

Well, at least we got to paddle

 This week has been dominated by our trip to Melbourne for J to have a post op checkup.

Worried by Omicron, despite both being triple vaxxed, we opted to stay in the same serviced apartment we used when J was having to self isolate prior to her shoulder surgery. In another time it would be wonderfully convenient, close to the train line into the city and an easy walk to the beach (and her surgeon's consulting rooms).

That said, we tried to be sensibly paranoid. We have microfibre masks that come with a pouch into which you can fit what is described as a disposable N95 filter. 

I'd first come across these masks at the start of 2020 when we were choked by bushfire smoke, and the only disposable masks readily available were rigid industrial masks that were uncomfortable, and tended to make one look like an extra from a lo budget scifi film.

And being designed for industrial use they had a degree of unconscious sexism in that they were designed for larger male faces. They fitted me, but not J who has a smaller face.

However I'd  seen these microfibre masks  being used in Hong Kong by prodemocracy protestors while  being tear gassed.  While I had my doubts about whether they were properly certified, I reckoned that even if they weren't certified they were obviously effective enough against tear gas particles, otherwise nobody would use them. So I bought some via ebay and as well as a pack of filters.

And they certainly did help against bushfire smoke looking at the state of the filter after a few hours use.

There is of course a kicker in this - tear gas particles are around 0.5µm in size, while coronavirus particles are smaller at around 0.1µm in size, so given the lack of certification they could have simply been 'good enough' for larger particles such as smoke particles, and completely useless against coronavirus.

Well, given that proper certified N95 masks are hard to get just now, we went on the assumption that our dodgy ones were probably better than nothing.

So, we wore our masks, and when we ate out one night we went to a place where we could eat outside and there was plenty of air circulation - commonly called a sea breeze, and contented ourselves with walks along the beach where we could socially distance.

We abandoned all our earlier plans of going to see the Van Gogh show in the city, or even doing some big city shopping. And it was noticeable that a lot of people seemed suddenly to be wearing masks again and distancing from each other.

Despite this, even if the wildest thing we did was have a paddle, we enjoyed our days away. J's post op examination went well - she's making good progress and should be able to drive in a week or two.

Coming back home, we discovered that one of the gastro pubs in town had been struck with Covid, which is a bit of a worry given that the PCR testing system has collapsed and that rapid antigen self test kits are unobtainable - or almost so - I've managed to order two from Amazon for delivery probably the week after next.

I know full well that the country will be awash with them by early February, and that I've probably paid too much, but it's worth it for peace of mind.

Otherwise it has rained, been disgustingly humid, and all the weeds have grown making the backyard a jungle. In the dry years I used to miss the exuberance of the vegetation in wet years.

Not any more.  Given that it's basically ideal conditions for snakes, next week will have to see some serious chopping and clearing ...

Sunday, 9 January 2022

A slow start to the year

 We did very little this week, other than get our Covid booster shots and do some supermarket shopping.

Like many people we have been a little bit spooked by the sudden and rapid spread of Omicron, and the impossibility of getting a test if one suspected one had contacted Covid.

The health service in town only does walkup PCR tests on Wednesdays and Rapid Antigen Test kits are rarer than hen's teeth, so you can't even self test.

So, we've simply decided to hunker down and isolate as much as possible until the storm passes, and yes, while we have to go to Melbourne next week for a post op checkup for J, even then we'll minimise contacts as much as possible - no shopping in the city or trips to the art gallery.

However it's not all been doom and gloom. 

Spooked by Omicron, our friends postponed their new year's eve picnic cum party, which was a pity.

We'd bought stuff to make little sandwiches, like the ones posh hotels sometimes serve with afternoon tea, and prawns and avocado, so we went ahead and made the sandwiches and salads any way, intending to have a little picnic of our own in the back garden. However, even by mid evening it was still stupidly hot and uncomfortably sticky, so we ended having our picnic indoors in the air conditioning and watching the ABC's New Year's Eve show from Sydney.

J has given up her rented studio space in the old Lunatic Asylum - she's been unable to use it seriously for the last few months and it's going to be several months more until she's totally fit, so just before new year we went and emptied her studio, and dumped everything from her rented studio in the converted garage at home that will become her new studio. 

I started the week with the full intention of getting up early to do weeding and perhaps start organising the outside studio, at least as much as to allow me to get my bike out for an early morning ride, but Tuesday night the weather broke and we had three days of bucketing rain, making yesterday the first dry day in ages.

As it was I did very little other than bake some bread.

During the last two years of lockdown I've started making our own pizza bases and latterly baking bread.

My loaves are not wonderful, competent yes, but nothing special. The local artisan bakers make a better loaf, but during the various lockdowns you couldn't always be sure of getting fresh bread so I baked our own.

I'm not a sourdough fiend - my loaves are distinctly workaday made from unbleached flour and baker's yeast with a touch of semolina, but they work and I've found the process of baking strangely calming and therapeutic.

I had originally planned to go down and do some documentation at Chiltern on the Wednesday, but I realised that was a little too early in the piece as J still needs some help getting dressed in the morning, so I cried off for this week at least.

That said, she's healing up nicely and no longer needs to wear her sling all the time, and has some use of her right hand again. She's still unable to do some serious artwork, but I bought her an Apple Pencil for Christmas and she's having great fun producing Hockneyesque ipad drawings of the back garden and the cats. It's also of course helping her rebuild strength in her arm.

We never did eat the lobster we bought for New Year - it's still in the freezer. Perhaps we'll have it on Australia Day ...


Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Boosted !

Just before Christmas, the government decided that the waiting period between your second Covid shot and your booster shot should be reduced to four months, meaning that I could get my shot as soon as the state vaccination hubs reopened.

I'd already had an appointment booked but I jumped on my computer as soon as I heard the announcement and moved my appointment to today.


I couldn't get an appointment locally, but could get one at the big vaccination hub at Wodonga where I had my first shot .

So off I went this afternoon, suitably equipped with a bottle of water, the dogfood tablet, and a hat that made me look like one of Mr Thurloe's men, in case I had to queue outside in the sun, given it was in the mid thirties this afternoon.

I was about twenty minutes early to the vaccination hub, and a good thing too. There was a queue round the block of people, possibly panicked by Omicron, wanting shots as walkup users, and the queue marshals were overwhelmed by the sheer numbers, and putting people through in batches, rather than separating the booked from the walkup clients.

So, nothing ventured, nothing gained, I went up to one of the marshals, showed my booking, and said that I had just driven 50km to get here, and to their eternal credit they put me in the next batch of clients  rather than make me wait.

After that it was pretty smooth. They checked my eligibility, checked my immunisation history, checked that I knew why I was there and what sort of booster I was getting (Pfizer), and stuck a needle in my arm.

After that it was fifteen minutes with the dogfood tablet, and back out into the heat.

I must say I feel fine, much less of a reaction than my first and second Astra Zeneca shots ...

Sunday, 26 December 2021

A slightly odd Christmas ...

The last few years, we've eschewed driving stupid distances in holiday traffic to visit family and opted for a more relaxed version at home where we listen to jazz, drink champagne, and try and catch up on our reading.

Gentler, slower, but just as much fun, and given these times, perhaps safer.

And this year, that was what we had planned.

Now you might recall we'd managed a few days R&R at the start of December down at Yanakie, and also a couple of days with J's nephew to see his and his partner's new and slightly stunning house, and just hang out with them. We then planned to go on and stay in the city for a couple of nights for some Christmas shopping.

Well we managed the first two. The third one, not so much.

J likes to paint at a traditional stand up easel. Recently she's been getting pain in her right shoulder, and a scan showed some damage to the muscle tissue but no arthritis. The next step would normally have been a referral to a consultant at a local hospital for a more detailed assessment, but because they suspended a lot of non life threatening surgery last year due to the pandemic, there's currently a backlog, which means J couldn't even get an assessment locally until March or April.

Now, earlier this year, J had managed to get a labral tear fixed at a big city hospital, as a lot of people had been cancelling procedures, not wanting to be stuck in a hospital during lockdown.

So we called the surgeon's office in Melbourne, and explained the problem and asked if there was anyone they could suggest.

They came back with the name of a specialist shoulder surgeon and suggested we give him a call.

Fortunately, he said he could see J the day we were driving from J's nephew's place to the city, so we had a little detour.

He looked at the scans, looked at her shoulder, and said 'surgery'. The damage was fixable, but would require surgery to reattach damaged ligaments.

So we took a deep breath, said when could he do it, and to our utter amazement he said 'Next Tuesday morning, I've had someone pull out at the last minute'.

So we said yes. You don't knock back a chance like this, especially now.

This buggered our planned day shopping in the city, especially as the surgeon needed some additional pre-operation tests and scans. To be fair, his staff did the legwork for us booking us in for the various tests the next day, but as it was last minute we ended up crisscrossing the city between various hospitals, as they couldn't all be done at short notice at a single hospital.

Then home, and then our next task was to find somewhere to stay near the hospital - one of the complications of these Covid times was that J had to have a PCR test the Friday prior to the surgery and then self isolate to avoid bringing Covid into the hospital, which of course meant I had to self isolate as well - fortunately we found a nice serviced apartment within walking distance of the hospital that fitted the bill.

The surgery went well. 

The hospital didn't allow visitors due to Covid precautions, but they were happy for J to chat using FaceTime, so I could see how she looked.

Again, the next day when I picked her up, I couldn't go into the building but had to wait in the car park while they wheeled her out, followed by a fairly straightforward drive up the freeway in pouring rain.

This was ten days before Christmas, and we had done nothing by way of preparation.

That, and I had to be a full time carer for the first few days, helping J shower and dress, and cut up her food as she only had one working hand, the other one being strapped up with her arm.

In the event it wasn't too bad and we managed a decent if quiet Christmas.

We managed to squeak in just before the cutoff date for an online order from our local fish merchant, and get an online order for booze - even though I had to collect it as they couldn't deliver - and one for all the standard groceries. 

I also managed to get an organic chicken (missed the boat I'm afraid  on ordering a turkey breast), and all the fresh fruit and veg we needed locally, not to mention all the other domestic tasks, including cutting the grass which was up to the cats' navels.

Busy, chaotic, but we got there.  We got out our old Christmas tree just because we could, but I didn't get as far as putting up any fairy lights on the back deck, so things looked a bit less Christmassy than normal, but that's just window dressing. We had each other, and that's what mattered.

We roasted the chicken on the morning of Christmas eve, and had Balmain bugs, potato salad and a bottle of champagne that evening, and a day listening to jazz and reading on Christmas day itself, with cold roast chicken, salad and more champagne on Christmas evening, followed by a movie on Netflix.

All very low key, but very relaxing after the chaos of the run up to Christmas.

The next milestone is having them take the stitches out at the local medical centre on Wednesday, followed by a trip back to Melbourne for a post surgical check up in the new year.

I've prawns and a lobster in the freezer for new year's day, champagne in the fridge, and some friends have invited us to a socially distanced picnic on New Year's Eve, so Omicron permitting, we should be fine ...

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

A geeky walk in Brighton

After my trip out to St Kilda cemetery, I did something geeky.

I didn't mean to, but that's how it turned out. As the train went through Middle Brighton station I'd noticed a sign for a walking route to the Brighton Beach boxes - huts that people have as beach huts on Brighton Beach.

Very photogenic, and most definitely a local attraction as some of them have some quite funky paint jobs

The walk wasn't quite as simple as I thought, as all the signage disappeared at a critical point, but as I could just see the Bay at the end of one of the streets, not all was lost. I headed down to the Bay, and hey presto there were the huts !

So, I walked along the rather blowy beach and then up on the esplanade. Rather than walk back to Middle Brighton I decided to walk on to the next station, Brighton Beach.

This is where things became geeky, along the way I came across an 1861 68 pounder canon in a park

I'm guessing its origin lies in an outburst of post Crimean war paranoia about Russian expansion in the Pacific, something that wasn't helped by the Confederate commerce raider Shenandoah putting in to Melbourne for repairs in January 1865 - if the Confederacy could do it, the Russians certainly could.

The canon itself is a fairly boring bit of Victorian armament, and now mounted unglamourously on a concrete plinth - there's no VR crest, unlike some other bits of Victorian weaponry scattered along the coast, just a war department broad arrow, asset number and a date.

From there I walked on to Brighton Beach station. Like a lot of nineteenth century railway stations Victoria, it looks as if it had been copied from a British original of the same period, albeit with a corrugated iron canopy and roof in place of the British tile or slate roof.

However I noticed one interesting little variation on the station building

- there's a row of patterned tiles beneath the eaves of the station building - something I havn't noticed on other stations on the Sandringham line. It could be that this extra flourish is because, until the 1880's, the line only went as far as Brighton Beach and the station was originally a terminus - something reflected in the rather impressive station building

(picture © Phillip Overton)

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Not having a daily paper - six months on

 Back in March we took what seemed a momentous decision and stopped having a daily paper delivered.

Due to the bizarre way The Age manages its subscriptions - rolling over the the money paid for times when you had suspended delivery rather than crediting the money to your account against future months and never giving refunds it actually took two months to mid May for our subscription to finish.

So it's only now we've been without a paper for six months. 

Basically, we haven't missed it. 

Yes, we bought the weekend edition a couple of times and then wondered why we had, and we've used up our quota of non paywall articles once or twice but really we have not missed it. 

Online news through the ABC and the Guardian, plus news aggregators like Google News have kept us informed, in fact possibly better informed than previously. 

It is a sad fact, but our experience suggests that quality print journalism has had its day, and it is only hanging on because some people still have the newspaper habit... 

Friday, 1 October 2021

Two cats ...

 When our old cat died just before Christmas last year, we decided that we would get a kitten.

Since she was a little girl Judi had always wanted a Siamese or Tonkinese cat, and, after a lot of to and froing, we managed to track down a local breeder, and that was how we ended up with Oscar a couple of months ago.

When we were picking up Oscar, we were chatting to the breeder, and we explained that this was the first time we'd had a pedigree kitten as all our previous cats had either been rescue cats, or cats in need of rehoming.

The upshot was that the breeder said that Lucy, who had been Oscar's foster mum - his own mum had got a nasty infection after giving birth and couldn't look after her kittens - and Oscar had been given to Lucy who had only had a very small litter, and Lucy was due to be retired and did we want to take her?

We said yes, and we should have been able to pick Lucy up a couple of weeks after she had been neutered.

Well, even though the breeder is only ten km inside NSW, covid lockdowns and restrictions on interstate travel meant that Lucy was spayed later than intended and we couldn't pick her up until yesterday.

(Incidentally, China, Oscar's real mum, has made a full recovery, and has had another litter and is now about to be retired.)

Less than ideal, as we were worried they might have forgotten each other, and certainly las night there was a lot of yowling, hissing and cat whacking, but when I woke up this morning there seemed to be an unusually large cat lump on the bed, and there were two cats cuddled up together.

They've since moved to the bed in the spare room and seem to be getting on well enough even if Lucy is still a little wary of being in a strange house with an annoying kitten ...