Autumn 2020

My Autumn 2020 daily video compilation was almost #CancelledByCovid back in March. The videos I'd been expecting to make - nights out at the Fringe Festival, trips to the pub, the first footy game of the season, the city's transition from shorts and thongs into puffy jackets and scarves - all suddenly seemed very far away.

But as I kept filming I realised what I was recording was snapshots of my life as my society adjusted to a pandemic. The Autumn video was always going to be the season that showed the most dramatic of changes. What I ended up capturing would be a historic record of the transition to a new way of living. Which, in Adelaide, was kind of anti-climatic and the new normal turned out to be a lot of videos of trees.


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If you met yourself from the future, what would you ask your future self?
What if they wont tell you anything?


Restrictions Training

image 2070 from bradism.com

After another stage of restrictions were lifted today I returned to the gym for some non-essential weight lifting.

On arrival, I queued outside with the other gym members and we took turns to enter. There was hand sanitizer at the door, and arrows on the floor to follow to navigate. The music on the sound system was upbeat, but I looked on distrustfully at the other gym members, who gave me exaggerated berths with mirrored looks on their faces in return.

The rower I wanted was unavailable so I had to use a weird one with no screen. I'd planned to bench press afterwards but they were out of benches. I later saw a guy with two.

Basically gym in June feels like grocery shopping in March.

Silver Linings

I visited the Nespresso store today to buy more pods to sustain me through the next few months of working from home. There was a guy standing at the door with a silver bottle of hand sanitizer on a fancy tray. He squirted a generous dollop onto my hands for me before I entered the store.

I know coronavirus is super bad, but I gotta say, that was like a dream come true.


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The Wave - A Reflection

I’ve written a lot about COVID19 and its impact on Bradism at a micro - down to the legume - level, but I’ve touched less on the macro. I have also been reading The Splendid and the Vile this past week which is a narrative retelling of Churchill and the Battle of Britain, sourced by Erik Larson from a multitude of personal diaries and other secondary sources. I’ve found it fascinating.

South Australia marked the end of all known cases of coronavirus yesterday (for how long, who knows) and I thought it was a good a time as any to reflect on the events of the past few months, and hope that someday perhaps a narrative retelling of Coronavirus might feature some of my words read in the audiobook in a suitably formal Adelaide accent. I wanted to remember what the new normal was before it became the new normal.

Adelaide Oval and the empty footbridge.

No football crowds on this sunny Sunday afternoon.


I flew domestically to Brisbane in early January, not fully appreciating it might be the last opportunity in a long time to stand in a packed queue at an airport; sit shoulder and knee to shoulder and knee in an aeroplane seat. I’m not sure where breastfeeding in the back row of the plane will land in the new normal, but back then I just read my book and watched the outback stretch by without a second thought.
At the hotel I stayed at with my brothers we had a stack of board games. Steve had brought Pandemic, but something we shared in our hearts meant it was the only game we didn’t touch that weekend.

From an Australian point of view, previous attempts by the world to spawn a pandemic during my existence have petered out well before they affected my life beyond something I read on a news website while drinking a smoothie, or eating cereal and yogurt. In February 2020 it became clear to me COVID19 was something different. Maybe it is South Australia, where isolation is almost like elevation, that allows a perspective different to other places in the world. COVID19 was a wave, a zerg creep spreading through the transport hubs of the world towards Australia, Adelaide. In late February in the office I was advising my team to buy sanitiser, and wash their hands. Actually I did that last year too, but in mid-March when the stores were all out and every craft gin distillery was horizontally diversifying I felt a little bit proud to see one litre tubs of sanitiser on each of my staff members' desks. Of course by that time almost all of them were working from home. On my final day in the office - March 25 - it did cross my mind that I could probably harvest a few gallons of sanitiser from the hundreds of empty desks on my level alone, to augment my income throughout the economic apocalypse which was sure to come.

The first wave broke over Adelaide that week of March. Seventeen cases, 31, 38, it seemed inevitable that the virus would run rampant, there’d be exponential growth in infections, everyone would shit blood and die, I’d never eat four bean mix again. I felt relatively safe myself. I already had exceptional hand hygiene, I protect my personal space on public transport and I keep my mouth shut when I’m walking. Back then it wasn’t as evident that surface transmissions were so potent. It was hard not to take a little delight in the available seats on the tram in peak hour, or the quietness of the gym despite knowing these were signs of circumstances that could negatively impact me and my family immensely. (Though the squat rack always seemed to be occupied regardless.)

And then the staying home intensified. For weeks all we did was stay home, other than essential trips once or twice a day to the supermarket, or Big Box Hardware, or some other shop to buy the things we'd need to continue staying home. (Plus extra trips back to the supermarket due to half the shopping list being out of stock that morning. To be fair, at the time I did unfortunately have to deal with two homes). The streets were quieter during my morning walks around the block. South Road as desolate as the toilet paper aisle at the shops. The malls were empty. The parks were empty. It felt not like everyone was staying home, but that everyone had been eradicated. Like most westerners I’m more familiar with zombie movie tropes than I am with epidemiology and while I wanted a more comprehensive understanding of the latter the day to day experience was like the former.

A highway with only a single car.

Peak hour on a Thursday morning in April.


Venturing out to the supermarket in particular felt like being a hunter/gatherer when man first picked up tools. Survival instincts flushed me with adrenaline. Free hand sanitizer flushed me with adrenaline (and sanitizer). You could trust no-one. Everyone was a carrier. Supermarket shopping had already been an all-senses experience before COVID19, satisfying my lizard brain with food and my monkey brain with bargains and pretty colours. Now it took on a new dimension, triggering gambling pleasure centres. Getting discounted steak and not having coronavirus a week later felt like a jackpot.

April turned into May and staying home became less intense, and more normal. New routines emerged. I walked thousands of steps without leaving my neighbourhood. We stopped experimenting in the kitchen and live streaming events we wouldn’t have gone to in normal times anyway. On Zoom even the managers had stopped wearing collared shirts.
Everyone else in Adelaide must have been getting used to staying home too. The new daily cases kept going down. The testing coverage expanded, hunting for the infected and coming back with nearly nothing. Somehow - with respect to the handful who lost their lives and livelihoods - in South Australia the first wave hadn’t even touched the goolies. There’s almost, almost the feeling like we missed out on the adventure. 2020 FOMO. I’m sickened and heartbroken for some of the cities I’ve had the privilege of visiting in the past, and thrilled my state has been relatively unscathed healthwise. I recognise these thoughts are irrational, survivor’s guilt, the implication I’m a bystander in the universe. But honestly I wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world this year. At least so far, it’s only May after all. Who knows what twists the remaining seven months of 2020 have in store? Maybe a second wave, the collapse of society, the rapture - dinosaurs raised from their graves, roaming the earth. That banana fungus taking out Cavendishes. I’m counting nothing out. Maybe 2021 is going to be even worse?

Play equipment covered in warning tape that has come loose.

Playground throwing off the shackles of government restrictions.


What I hope is that there’s a vaccine, we all learn a valuable lesson and all subplots are wrapped up in a satisfying way. I will settle for the world going almost back to normal, but there's more hand sanitiser everywhere and everybody else is as hesitant to shake hands with people as I am.

Whatever happens next, I’ll try to journal it.

Eased

I went out and bought my first coffee in about seven weeks this morning, feeling a little bit shocked when I reached the outdoor dining already happening at 8:30am on a Monday morning. I'm still working from home, a bit too far from a little city cafe, and I had to settle on a little city-fringe cafe instead.

Look, the coffee wasn't amazing. It was on the smaller side, for a "large", and pricey at that, but I didn't complain. It was hot and it tasted like coffee and the sky was blue so I leaned against a fence near an arterial road and sipped it in the sun. And I don't know if it was responsible, but I felt like I was a little more chilled out during the morning stand up later that day. I even changed out of my North Face alpine hoody and into a stripy polo for the rest of my meetings.

Maybe we can control reality. Sometimes when I'm trying to solve a technical problem at work I think really hard about the issue and surrounding context and after a bit of Googling I find the perfect blog post for the situation . Maybe if we all think really hard about the future we want, it can happen too.

What's On My Mantle

I’ve been guilty in the past of putting in a token effort performing some home maintenance in order to justify cracking a beer at the end of it. Ironically in these days of Coronavirus isolating I feel like the opposite has been occuring. Vanessa and I exhibited some proper diligence repairing a broken cupboard door today and I didn’t even touch the kristal or the dunkel in the fridge afterwards. This while it seems like most of the people I know are taking the Winston Churchill approach to this current threat to our nation - minus being in charge of anything. And also possibly the amount of bathing.

I was thinking about my lack of drinking recently, as well as the British Mass Observation diarists of the aforementioned era, and this inspired me to do some calculations on what I’ve been saving money on this pandemic. Craft beer, for one. In the twelve months before a state of emergency was declared (which, apparently, does not mean you can use that little hammer thing hanging on the bus windows) I drank quite a few craft beers and while it would not add up to a huge amount of litres it did add up to a significant amount of cash. A fresh pint of craft beer always tastes bad to me unless it costs at least thirteen dollars. So let’s call that $65 a month.

Isolation has also made it harder to procrastinate when responding to unimportant emails by going out and buying a coffee. I can still go downstairs and make a pod coffee (~80c) but at that price I’m still making a profit compared to the $4.50 for the “medium” coffee with keep cup discount I used to fork out two to three times a work week. On the downside, I do need to pay for my own milk now (~30c/coffee). I do not give myself a keep cup discount, although I have taken to using my keep cup at home to preserve the warmth in my autumn coffees all the way up the stairs and through the Zoom meeting I’m probably running late for.

There are other areas where I’m saving on costs. No public transport. No basketball participation or football games/beers. No gym costs. Yes home gym costs. I’m extending the life of my stripy polos an extra six to twelve months, and probably extending the life of my shaver even longer. Nash has gone from five Dentastix a week to about that many a month. I haven’t seen my physio since early March and I haven’t seen the dentist since 2019. Oh and I’ll also be saving at least $10K by not travelling anywhere overseas.

And yet, I’m still not drinking.

Cycles

Two weeks ago I was trying to cut a wooden skewer into pieces to fix a broken cabinet hinge so I could defrost some chicken breast while rescuing some frozen sausages that had fallen behind the freezer drawer, while simultaneously trying to make a giant salad for lunch.

My brain and handyman skills were not up to this task, given the context of so much parallel processing.
I considered myself a bad handyman before that day, and this was not improved whatsoever by the scissor-tip-shaped incision I put into the fleshy part of my left palm.

In the slowed down time between the wound appearing and the blood flowing I had time to reflect on how annoyed I felt with the universe. The COVID19 Pandemic already had me in a holding pattern - waiting patient and useless - as scientists I’ll never meet work to find a vaccine so I can go back to my important life of catching trains, pooping in the office, going to the gym and playing board games in real life. Now I was going to have a secondary period waiting patient and useless, unable to perform bodyweight exercises or ride my bike or wash the dishes until cells under my skin that I’ll never meet stitch together my muscle and flesh whole again. A cycle within a cycle.

It’s most likely you have never cut the fleshy part of your left palm, but if you have you’ll know it’s one of the hardest places on the body to bandage even if you have a wife to help you. By the time the blood clotted and the antiseptic was dry my left claw was more strapping-tape than skin. A cramped talon that, with every flex of my thumb or wrist, seemed to still be exposing the wound somewhere under there to the environment. I grumpily ate my salad. I grumpily stared at the broken cabinet. I watched the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan and empathised with the bodies being shredded at Normandy. I went to bed and slept and waited.

As they say: time heals all global pandemics, and while COVID19 is still affecting thousands in ways far worse than a cut palm at least my hand has healed enough that I can ride a bike and move the view around in Tabletop Simulator. I’m a lot less grumpy now. It took a while to cure that. It wasn’t only waiting that solved my mindset. It was, ironically, more cycles. Counter-spinning cogs. Innovating patterns for my new way of life. Finding a way to shower and feel clean on a regular basis again. Designing new workouts that didn’t need my fingers. Walking, working, washing in a repeatable routine that took the anxiety out of waiting.

I haven’t fixed the cabinet yet.

Easter Beer Hunt 2020

On Wednesday night a super moon rose above Adelaide which was supposed to herald the coming of the 2020 Easter Beer hunt. Alas due to the nature of current events I wasn't able to compete for glory on the fields of a reserve or park near someone's house after a BBQ with friends.

Fortunately I have my own backyard now and Vanessa volunteered to hide a few beers for me after dark. This was a new experience for me - single player beer hunt. I'll openly admit my proficiency in past beer hunts has been less due to my clever locating skills and more down to my speed across the ground and enthusiasm. I'm not good below my knees and I have a preference for not getting my hands too dirty.

I allowed Vanessa free reign to hide my two beers as trickily as possible, with the only condition that it was in a drinkable state afterwards. She set about outside and a few minutes later, head torch donned but no need for a basket, I was off and searching through the nooks and crannies of my new property racing only the clock and my desire for a beer.

If I'd done this hunt with Vanessa in my old townhouse's courtyard I think I would have been faster. As it turns out there is a lot of places to hide a beer in even a modest sized backyard. After I started lifting up pavers Vanessa gave me a few clues. In the end it took me over 30 minutes to find all the beers - a refreshing mental distraction from the isolation of COVID 19.

My final haul: 2 beers and a spare sprinkler head for the irrigation!

My final haul: 2 beers and a spare sprinkler head for the irrigation!

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