Grappling with Life After Lockdown

I have been struggling these last few weeks/months. As I have mentioned before, I do tend to be the Glass Half Full guy. In the current world pandemic situation, is is definitely getting harder to keep afloat, even though most of Australia has, seemingly, been making good progress.

None of us in Australia should be complaining too much – maybe my current negative feelings are more a product of Survivor Guilt. So many others in the rest of the world are dealing with situations far worse than us. I heard a theory a few months ago that, when singer David Bowie died, we were all propelled into an alternate timeline. As each month of 2020 has brought more new and unusual surprises – Australia’s horrendous bushfires, the awful smoke hazes, a drought (and water restrictions) that killed off any greenery that had not already been burnt… – that alternate timeline theory became more and more believable.

It was delightful to chat with a long-lost friend on the phone a few weeks ago; it really made my day to catch up with him after over 20 years, but I deliberately kept the first call short. I tend to talk way too much and I had this nagging thought that a brief conversation first might be wise after such a long time. But his followup emails of gossip and news have not been coming through to me. We have now had several more shortish calls trying to ascertain what was happening. His phone doesn’t receive texts, and emails seemed sensible. I’m trying not to be too paranoid, but he’s not the only one sending emails that apparently disappear into the void. With the prevalence of Junk Mail and phishing schemes in recent years, it is rare enough that I get many emails that I actually want to read (most of them are correspondences about online purchases these days). When you are really looking forward to an email – one that never comes, but supposedly was sent – it gets hugely frustrating. In my desperate searches, I have found a Social drawer, a Promotions drawer, a hidden email Junk drawer… So many places a stray, important email can hide.

Complicating matters, I had recently created a new Googlemail e-address because temporary codes to enter various sites were taking to long to arrive in my regular mail before expiring. When the new system asked if I wanted to copy across the full address book from my usual mailbox, it sounded a rather useful thing to do. What I actually managed was to let it pull across everything into the new, empty In-box. Now new emails come into one box, sit there a few minutes, then get whisked away to my new account. Sometimes they sit just long enough for a copy to come into my iPhone from the iCloud. While this accidental strategy has cut down on incoming email to my phone, the rest has to be checked manually via the laptop – and for both accounts. Do I really need more apps on the iPhone? I am hesitant to attempt to undo the transfers, but if mail keeps going missing, I will have to resolve this issue.

Several of my concerted efforts to make sure my life stays full and interesting into retirement have been unravelling. The “New Normal” we are having to expect and accept. My monthly writing group has to meet with Zoom, which is a totally different experience. Some benefits, but also some pitfalls, resulting in more preplanning. My literary agent is now semi-retired and no longer taking on any new children’s book manuscripts at all. (I can’t believe such a great advocate of mine is now essentially gone from my future plans. I really missed the boat with that, just as retirement had granted gave me the additional time to write – and rewrite.) The Young Adult novel manuscript still needs at least two more drafts before it is ready to show anyone.

But the old days of gregarious Star Trek clubs seem to be long gone, despite my best efforts to revive the local groups. The mainly US-based action figure collectors’ group, Playtrek, has, however, met twice by Zoom during the lockdowns. It was a fun way to lift everyone’s spirits.

PlaytrekFest on Zoom in June

My Diploma of Remedial Massage course has had to tread water with weekly Zoom lectures – where would we be without Zoom? – but the college has now exhausted all the remaining theory classes that can be converted to online modules. Most of the next two terms (extending our course, now, to an 18-month commitment instead of only one year) are highly practical Clinic sessions, requiring members of the general public booking in for remedial treatments. It is sounding like social distancing and full PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) are to be part of our New Normal. At this point, massaging through single-use nitrile gloves seems almost incompatible with using my newfound palpation skills. I know it’ll be possible – and is mandatory – but I do feel that some clients might have to be in considerable pain before they seek out a massage from gloved hands.

My doctor once asked how I was feeling (about a year before I retired) and I told him I was worried I was becoming depressed and he said, “You’re not depressed, you’re just lonely”. That line has given me much to think about. So many things were happening that were cutting me off from my reliable positivity networks, and several more were about to be lost (or at least strained) due to retirement. I was hating that I was getting invitations to funerals, but hearing about other gatherings after they had happened. I know other doctors who probably would have written a prescription on the spot, not that I was asking for one. I think he was probably right. I am trying to monitor the situation and firm up some networks, but building a new friend network is something that gets harder each decade, I think.

Online friendships are good, but different, and no replacement for what I am needing at the moment. The best thing about Facebook, for example, is its immediacy. Several of my penpals have become Facebook buddies, meaning the wait times between letters is greatly reduced. Especially now that interstate and international snail mail services have become so unreliable. I recently reconceived the Instagram account I set up (then ignored) years ago, and it is finally pulling some interest. I am digging up some old pics of various vacations. My Andorian Sock Monkey travel buddy is quite a drawcard, although a dedicated Facebook page for him, created a few years ago, received no traction at all.

Spinning globe in the Daily Planet building

I suspect I am not the only person feeling a cut off from reality in this New Normal of social distancing. Remember that line people used to put in autograph books? “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver, the other gold.”

Hopefully the “old” is not too tarnished, eh? Wish me luck.

An ideal week

The reflective task this week is to consider my typical weekly schedule and review/identify my “stress-combating” time and activities. Of course, my schedule in retirement is already far from the old “typical” – and in the current situation of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, it doesn’t resemble much of anything recognisable.

Last term, my college commitment required three weekdays (Mon-Fri) of early starts, on a peak-hour train into the city. The 50-minute ride provided a useful block of time for revising anatomy theory, or playing on Facebook, or some recreational reading. The return journey was usually more study time, followed by television watching and probably a little work on college assignments. I would often travel into the city again on the Thursday afternoon, coinciding with the arrival of new books at Galaxy Bookshop and new comics and collectibles at Kings Comics. This left Fridays and the weekend free, so walking around the block had become a positive habit for exercise Thurs-Sun. One Friday afternoon/evening per month is dedicated to a meeting of my writing group. There probably should be some time set aside for housework each week, but this usually resembles turning old piles of books and papers into new piles, and definitely needs a more disciplined approach. I have recently cleared out a four-drawer filing cabinet and made room for new things to file.

Towels

This term should have resembled last term, but the Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions has seen my college commitment reduced to a weekly online Zoom each Thursday morning. (All practical Clinic sessions will be compressed into next term, covering the required time of two terms once lockdown ends.) Without the predictable 50-minute train rides, it is harder to make time for study, but I have tried to use this blog’s scheduling facility to have a reflective piece written and uploaded each Friday evening. A disciplined way to keep up with the online readings and force myself to continue being reflective. The Mon-Wed part of the week can vanish in the blink of an eye. Once the television goes on, it’s quite easy to waste the entire day multitasking on mindless TV viewing and Facebook frittering. Travelling into the city has only been possible in recent weeks and I have ventured in only three times so far. New comics at Kings Comics have only just started being imported again and, as their new shop set-up has been delayed by the mandated Covid restrictions and the building codes on a newly renovated shop it its heritage status. Luckily, I have been able to organise packages to be posted out. Daily walks around the block are now possible, but as the days grow colder and more inclement with the arrival of winter, this schedule has also been shaky. One Friday evening per month is now dedicated to a Zoom meeting with my writing group, and this new way of meeting has been quite popular.

My usual stress-combating time and activities have lost effectiveness as the lockdown requirements through my term into havoc, but walking is definitely a useful distraction when I get frustrated. This year, I have also noticed that I rarely use my extensive library of movie soundtrack CDs as I would have, mainly due to a change in the way iTunes works on my computer. Any albums downloaded to my laptop have now vanished – supposedly they are “in the Cloud” but I have not been successful in retrieving them, and working out new ways to use Apple Music has just been put in the too-hard basket for now. Many of my old favourite CDs are still in storage. I find I have now fallen out of the habit of playing music, and a previously-hassle-free way of de-stressing is not stressful, so I ignore it. Going to the movies or live theatre have always been great for de-stressing, and both of these activities have been impossible in Covid-19 lockdown. The home theatre option is there, but not really different enough to normal TV-watching to have the desired effect. Eating out has only just returned.

The activity in the lecture notes then suggest to “set out your ideal professional week” and I find that almost impossible to imagine or contemplate at the moment. My retirement funding arrangements mean that, when fully qualified as a remedial massage therapist, I am restricted to only doing ten hours of paid work per week. Whether I will scatter times in short blocks across the week, or restrict the allotted time to certain days, I am really not sure. It will depend on the local clientele, and whether I can reorganise a part of the house into a reliable workspace for massage treatments. Continuing to rid the house of old clutter and finding new locations for books and collectibles that have never had a permanent location would be my biggest hurdle at the moment. A routine for regular work on that problem would help.

So how sustainable, realistic and achievable is my “Ideal Week”? Again, I find imagining the next term (and how two term’s of practical Clinic will merge into the one remaining term), and the subsequent setting up of my future home clinic, is already totally different to what I had imagined when creating my Business Plan assignment at the end of last year. Things that seemed readily achievable then are now less so. My retirement fund advisor has urged me to plan for only ten hours per week of employment, and not the twenty hours I was originally told. The new short-term goal has to be readying the house for the future renovation. I have already procrastinated too much during lockdown. After that goal is achieved, maybe then I can reevaluate my new “Ideal Week”.

As if 2020 isn’t weird enough already?

Merry Christmas!

Have you been wondering why no updates?

Currently I am on Long Service Leave, preparing for retirement. I guess there will be irregular blog updates as they occur to me. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas!


John Lewis Christmas advert 2018 featuring Elton John | The boy and the piano


The making of The boy and the piano | John Lewis & Partners Christmas ad 2018

CBCA Book Week 2017: Escape to Everywhere

BW KF 3F

Here are this year’s class displays to celebrate CBCA Book Week!

Click HERE to view a slideshow.

Jimmy Cook

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BW 3W

We also had a visit from author Bruce Pickworth, a former teacher at our school. He introduced his book The godwits to students in Class 23, and all of Stage 2 and Stage 3.

Godwits

Bruce Pickworth 2

Bruce Pickworth

BW 56N Godwits

And here are some old friends…

Bear and Chook 3

Buster the boxer – persuasive digital stories

Each year, UK department store, John Lewis, hires a team to create a special ad for the Christmas season. These ads are excellent examples of persuasive visual texts.


John Lewis Christmas advert 2016 – #BustertheBoxer

Previous annual links to John Lewis ads are HERE.

Read: Myriad possibilities 2016… 12th Conference of the CBCA

Duelling Mr Chickens

Thank you everyone for a thoroughly enjoyable conference last weekend (Menzies Hotel, Sydney). Gail Erskine, Felicity Jagavkar-Baker, Margaret Hamilton, and all the volunteers, did a spectacular job. As a veteran of many science fiction media conventions (as an attendee or committee member), and a number of TL-focused PD seminar/conferences (sometimes as presenter, or attendee/volunteer/committee member) over the decades, “Read: Myriad Possibilities 2016” compared very well.

This was my first CBCA Conference. The two full days had wonderful variety and no dead spots at all (that I noticed), and it appeared to be very seamless. I loved that the early release of the “Notables” enabled publishers to have every shortlisted title available for sale on the day of the Shortlist announcement on the Friday. (I know there was some trepidation about this when first announced.) I ordered my school’s books from Paul Macdonald on the Friday, and they arrived at school on Thursday, a day earlier than promised.

The authors and illustrators at the conference made themselves very available to all, and autograph sessions were well timed and well promoted.The Committee appeared unflustered most of the time, and glitches were quickly addressed. (And in the timeslots where I volunteered, everything seemed to be set up for success. Much appreciated!)

I also attended the Leigh Hobbs’ Masterclass (see pic above) arranged by the Australian Society of Authors in Ultimo, on the Sunday after the conference! It, too, was excellent. Worth every cent.

And then, on the Monday, it was back to Week 2 of my school’s Book Fair. Stop the world, I wanna get off! #CBCA2016

50 years of decimal currency in Australia

Several classes are researching the 50 years of decimal currency in Australia. Here are some useful Youtube clips.


Dollar Bill and Australians keep the wheels of industry turning


Decimal currency, 14 February 1966 – Television advertisements


New decimal coin designs


50 years of decimal currencyStudio 10 segment


Decimal currency – Behind the News


Royal Australian Mint Tour – Behind the News

More information is available HERE, the website of the Royal Australian Mint.