Posts Tagged “Covid-19”
A year ago, I left wintry weather behind to spend three months travelling the USA with a couple of forays into Canada. Ever since, I’ve been intending to write about it and share some photos, so this made a convenient deadline to finally get it over the line.
The other day I was reading the Prologue to Out of Oz, the fourth and final novel of The Wicked Years. And I found a simple quote that made me smile, and I wondered if the author had fun writing it.
We’ve now been in 2023 for a month, so I wanted to remember the year gone and look forward to the year ahead.
In the more than 400 years since he wrote his first play, Shakespeare has been re-worked, adapted, and performed in a wide variety of settings. His plays have become a source of inspiration and a marker of culture. They’ve even made it into the Star Wars universe.
I’ve known about William Shakespeare’s Star Wars for a while, but it wasn’t till last year that I finally picked up the
first fourth one, Verily, A New Hope. I expected it just to be a joke, but quickly realised it was a serious work. Yes, it made me laugh, but it also made me think - and I find that’s usually a good combination.
The week before Christmas last year, I went to a Christmas concert at St Paul’s Cathedral. Due to that I ended up in isolation over Christmas waiting for Covid test results, though I did eventually receive a negative. I wrote about it at the time, but never finished it. I thought it was an interesting comparison to when I actually caught Covid.
Well, it finally happened: Earlier this month I tested positive for Covid. It wasn’t a big surprise: Multiple family members had already tested positive, and I’d had a worsening sore throat and cough. But it was still something that made me think.
With Covid changing our lives in so many ways, perhaps it’s not surprising that it enters our dreams. I’ve certainly had some interesting dreams over the last two years: There have been public gatherings, coughing and sneezing, masks, injections - and even scarlet fever.
In 2020, Covid-induced work from home allowed me to see more sunsets than usual. In 2021, I added some sunrises to the mix (it turns out that, like sunsets, sunrises can be slightly addictive - though they’re still too early in the morning). So what better way to mark the transition to 2022 than watching the final sunset of 2021, and the first sunrise of 2022?
“The world envies us”. Ever heard these words?
Here in Australia they’ve often been rolled out by politicians to excuse failures: Yes, we might not have got it perfect, but we’re still doing better than the rest of the world. And there’s some truth to the words, but there’s also a lot of complacency - past success is not a guarantee of future success, and we can’t expect Australia to be immune to what other countries are experiencing.
Last year, Covid hit and made 2020 an exceptionally unpopular year. At that time, I feel like we heard a lot about “returning to normal”. Maybe this would happen later in 2020, maybe it was for 2021, but it was going to be sometime in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, Australia was (largely) CovidFree and we were told the world envied our freedoms.
Fast forward to mid-2021, there were major outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne, over half the population of Australia were in lockdown, and the message had changed to “living with Covid”. Other countries were managing it (which perhaps gave them a break from envying us), so why couldn’t we? Vaccination targets were established for re-opening, the vaccination program was sped up, and both NSW and Victoria are now officially “living with Covid”.
The politicians have been out in full force for months selling it. But what exactly is being sold?
This time last week, we were still in lockdown, with our curfew continuing to apply right up to midnight. We’d been told that we weren’t going to have a UK-style “Freedom Day” where all restrictions were ended at once - and we didn’t. But somehow the “70% fully vaccinated” target morphed into a moral obligation to the people of Victoria, and so we got a “Freedom Midnight”.
It was a big deal. A time to celebrate. It was supposed to be the end of lockdown. Not just the end of the lockdown Melbourne had been in since August, but the end of lockdowns in Victoria forever.
So how better to celebrate it than a moonlit walk?
Here in Melbourne, today is officially the last day of lockdown. With the highest total number of days in lockdown due to Covid, we’ve been declared the “lockdown capital” of the world. This has included six lockdowns, three short and three long.
Recently, as restrictions have eased slightly, I’ve been reflecting how lockdowns shrink my world, and how that then affects me when coming out of a lockdown. It can be a conscious effort to choose to go to places or do activities that I would have gone to and done without a second thought in 2019.
Six months ago, I wrote about a year of working from home. At the time, things were going well in Melbourne. Since our long lockdown we’d largely had the great summer we were promised. There had been a couple of scares, including a five-day lockdown, but most mask requirements were gone, we were able to have 100% capacity at the office, and were planning to return to full-time in mid-April.
Well, that lasted around six weeks, before lockdown #4 struck. There were a few opportunities to return to the office in June and July, but since mid-July it’s been back to working from home again.
So I wanted to talk about a (non-)typical week: Last week. A week in which I admired cygnets, saw deer, was chased by chickens, discovered a WikiLeaks bus, and even managed to get some work done.
For months now I’ve heard the narrative - presented with all the nuance that Twitter encourages - that calling a snap 3 - 5 day lockdown is the one infallible way to defeat a Covid outbreak. That led directly to claims that the current situation in Sydney (and NSW more generally) is largely due to them defying this orthodoxy for political reasons. And yet here I am in Melbourne, nearly three weeks into a lockdown that did all the right things and still has no end in sight.
This time last year, when Melbourne was in its second lockdown and case numbers were taking off, I heard a number of people asking why the numbers were still going up. The same is true of Sydney right now, which has been in lockdown for three weeks. People are scared and looking for someone to blame, and harmful narratives build.
Here in Melbourne we’ve been in lockdown for a couple of weeks, so I wanted a fun post that was also a reminder of travel. And so I was reminded of the time I was asked whether software developers were scared of the sun. Spoiler: We’re not.
Last post, I asked whether I was addicted to hiking. One thing that made me reconsider my hiking was actually measuring it, and watching how the act of measuring it changed me.
In March, we had a friendly competition with our UK colleagues on Strava. The main goal was to encourage people to get out of the house and moving, particularly I think our UK colleagues who were coming out of winter and still under lockdown. Personally, I felt that I was already doing enough walking, so I really signed up to show that I didn’t have to go out of my way to log a respectable number of kilometres.
Have you ever heard someone say about a particular habit “I can give it up any time I like (honest!) - I just don’t want to”? Well, sometimes it feels like that with me and hiking. It’s one of the things that gives my life meaning, but it can also feel like it’s out of control.
Yesterday at lunch time I was out walking in my local area, and I saw some colourful autumn trees that I’d seen last year. In fact, I’d seen them on the day I first discovered my local bear hunt, shortly after transitioning to working from home for the first time ever. At the time our first lockdown was approaching, there was a lot of uncertainty, and I could never have guessed all the things that would happen over the next year.
Yesterday was also the day when my company announced plans to return to full-time office work within the next few weeks. And so, with that chapter coming to something of a close, I got to reflecting on a year past and all that I’d experienced and discovered and become.
Covid-19 restrictions were a cynical attempt by Democrats to undermine Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. No need to live in fear. It wasn’t really dangerous - it was just like the flu. And it would go away after the election anyway.
That’s what we were told. Guess what? It hasn’t gone away. Instead, this kind of rhetoric in the US has undermined public trust, brought partisan politics into efforts to control the spread, and left a body count.
Last week, I went to a concert for the first time in nearly a year. Indoors, no less, and with masks. And in 2019 that wouldn’t have been a significant event, but coming now it got me thinking about hope.
Near the end of March last year, as I was walking near my house, I saw a small, blue teddy bear hanging by a peg from a log. At the time I wasn’t to know it was part of the Bear Hunt movement, intended to entertain children with school closures and lockdown approaching. Nor did I know that I would end up visiting Bear Hunts in all weather and taking hundreds of photos of a wide variety of soft toys.
With the Covid-19 pandemic changing the world, it was only a few months in to 2020 that people were calling it the worst year ever. By the middle of 2020, this meant some writing off the year, then acting as if everything would be magically back to normal in 2021.
Well, as I write this, it’s 2021 here in Australia, and if anything the situation looks worse than it did a week ago. So I wanted to share a carol I wrote for 2020 (with apologies to Christmas).
It’s fair to say that 2020 hasn’t gone as I planned. And sometimes it’s tempting to just write it off and forget about it. But as the halfway mark slipped past, I started to consider what I really want to achieve this year and how I want to be able to remember it.
In popular culture, the rainbow flag has come to symbolise the LGBT movement, and I’ve heard relatives complaining this interferes with the “real meaning” of the rainbow. Some conservative Christians have called it “cultural appropriation”, while others have tried to “reclaim” it. However, the rainbow has been used for many things over many years and belongs to all humans, not just to Christians.
Covid-19 has completely changed our world, and we don’t know how long the disruptions will last or what will come next. When people talk about living during a “historic moment”, this is what they’re talking about.
So I wanted to record some of my personal impressions, starting from the time when the novel coronavirus felt like a distant problem affecting other people, not something which would change my life.
Like the rest of the world, what I’ve been writing about has changed as a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. But I didn’t expect that would mean writing in defence of my favourite bat colony.
Melbourne is privileged to have a colony of flying foxes in a park by the Yarra close to the city. However, some residents have been worried by the risk of disease, so their MP has called for the colony to be moved on or culled. I don’t think anything is likely to come of it, but I still have strong feelings about it.
In these difficult times, almost everything seems to about Covid-19. It is a pandemic that is already bad and looks like getting a lot worse.
However, many Christians feel almost contractually obliged to look for the good side of the pandemic, and this just ends up showing the bad side of their religion.
After recovering from a flu-like disease, I felt in need of a longer walk. I was also curious to find out whether people were out hiking and how they well they were following Covid-19 inspired social distancing rules.
Since I knew kangaroos were much more sociable than wallabies, I thought it would be fun to try and get some illustrative pictures. Thus was born the first version of this guide, which I’ve expanded in the last week.
The current Covid-19 epidemic is changing the world. Many places, including Victoria, are discouraging non-essential travel and going into increasingly strict lock-downs. Here’s my personal perspective on where hiking fits in to this.
Two weeks ago it was International Women’s Day, and I was part of a large crowd from many countries watching the final of the Women’s Twenty20 World Cup 2020 at the MCG. Promoters, players, and fans alike were eyeing the record book, and #FillTheMCG had been trending on social media. Unlike England, Australia had been fortunate to qualify in a rain-hit semi-final, and were facing India in hope of a home title and a chance to confirm their dominance over women’s cricket.
It all seems so distant now: Australia have banned crowds over 100 and enforced social distancing, there is a blanket “Do not travel” warning for foreign travel, the borders are closed to outsiders, residents returning from overseas must self-isolate for fourteen days, and I myself have been in isolation with a mild fever (probably not Covid-19). As a result, I’ve been a little hesitant to write about it, but I think it’s worth remembering.