Foggy brains


https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/apr/14/brain-fog-how-trauma-uncertainty-and-isolation-have-affected-our-minds-and-memory

I read this, and much of it made sense to me. I’ve seen this in others over the last 6-9 months or have had them describe it to me. I suspect this is quite a common experience in the aftermath of extended and repeated lockdowns.

I feel as if much of it is true for me also. It was only the other day that I described my own foggy brain. I sensed no cognitive decline or inability to think or concentrate, and I think these pages attest to that. What I have felt, particularly when it comes to work, is an unwillingness to extend myself mentally. I feel that’s more by inclination than it is a functional deficiency, but it fits the pattern.

What really stuck with me is the need for rest and the probability of burning out without it. I think I’m burnt out now, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get worse. I feel badly in need of a rest – but then, I think I said exactly the same thing on Monday, and in the months before.

In reality, I’m about to embark on a big muthafucker of a project that’ll keep me busy and fully engaged for the next few months. I’ll manage, but it might get ugly by the end of it.

The things we keep


From what I can tell, there are many through the pandemic and the various states of lockdown who have taken the time to re-organise and reset their home. It’s a convenient occasion to do so, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a psychological reaction to the times. Locked in, uncertainty all about, and peril at the door, it seems natural that people would attempt to assert some order on their life, however, they can. There aren’t a lot of options, but the decision to spring clean is one of them. Out with the old, and what remains is re-sorted and classified.

I know of a few people who have done this, Donna foremost among them, and I’ve had several unusual conversations on the subject – that is, unusual if these were normal times, but quite standard these days.

I’ve certainly indulged in this, though it could easily be argued that it was long overdue in my case. I’ve got a lot of stuff generally and, while not a hoarder, am inclined to hang onto things.

Early days, I spent a lot of time going through stuff. I threw out or gave away a fair bit from my kitchen and study, and even books, of which I still have boxes full of them. I sought to get rid of the containers in my study with bits and pieces spilling from them and spent a lot of time going through the various clippings I’d collected over the years and either tossing them in the bin or digitising them. All of this is ongoing, and there’s a permanent pile of stuff by my front door that I’ve either got to throw out (including DVDs and CDs) or stuff I’m waiting to get the proper storage for (my old photos).

The other day I came across another cache of stuff dating back to the late nineties, I reckon. It was interesting to go through it and a bit lame, too. There were a bunch of work emails I’d printed out, most of the type that people used to send (but no longer) of jokes or interesting stuff. I still chuckled at some, but to the bin, they went.

Then I came across a poem I’d printed out. I couldn’t recall doing it, and all these years later wondered what it was that inspired me? Was it a woman? Was it a simple appreciation for the poem? Or was it something else?

We do that, and me more than most – we squirrel things away. I guess most people don’t save poems, but I’m a sucker for good poetry. For many years, I had a party trick I’d trot out occasionally whereby I’d recite Byron’s poem, So We’ll Go No More a Roving from memory, line by line.

As it happens, the poem I came across the other day is another by Byron (who is a favourite, along with Donne and Marvell, Yeats, Rilke and some of the modernists like William Carlos Williams and Cummings).

As I’m about to toss this in the bin also, let me first record the poem here for posterity:

When We Two Parted

When we two parted
In silence and tears,
Half broken-hearted
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.

The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow –
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell in mine ear;
A shudder comes o’er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.

How many moments like these in our life, where we’re so moved to write something of it or read something meaningful and copy it out? And how many of them are forgotten? I’m grateful at least that for the last 20 years, almost those moments have been recorded here, more or less, even those now passed from mind.

It’s a beautiful poem.

Never be the same


Now that we’ve had 30-odd days free from locally acquired Covid infection, we’re all clear to return to our offices to work in Melbourne. That’s the theory, though it appears very few are getting anywhere close to that. There’s still some caution and uncertainty, and after working from home so long, most of us have become used to it. Tap any average Joe on the shoulder, and chances are that he’ll tell you that he’s happy to return to the office for a day a week, maybe two, but any more than that would be a return to the dark ages.

I’m much the same. I can manage two days a week at a stretch, but just the thought of anything more than that feels hard. We’ve all settled into routines working from home and found ways to make it feasible. It’s far from perfect – I’d rather meet face to face than via a screen, and managing projects with disparate groups of people is a real challenge.

But then, there’s the time saved not having to commute and the convenience of being close to home. There’s the option for parents to pick up their kids from school and to have family meals at a respectable hour. Its loosened boundaries and introduced flexibility that was unimaginable a little more than a year ago. It’s also blurred the boundaries too, but nothing is perfect.

I don’t think we’ll ever get close to the 100% target ever again. The working convention broke in this pandemic. Forced to make do and work from home, we discovered it was actually possible and liberating after generations of workers making the drear commute to and from work each day, like automatons.

Still, there has been a general drift back to the office as the circumstances have improved. In my office, we are rostered for one day a week, though it’s not mandatory. There’s an acceptance that things have changed and that it’s permanent. Logistics play into it also. It’s no small thing gearing up for a return to the office after a year away from it. I was involved in the development of a return to work app late last year. We’re now hot-desking, though that introduces disinfecting challenges. And, even if we were all made to return to the office, there’s no longer enough desks for us all.

I’ve been back to the office perhaps half a dozen times this year, most recently last Wednesday. It’s a strange feeling. We return as a team, but across a floor that could accommodate perhaps 120, no more than 10-15 sit. I visited the 18th floor on Wednesday, which is where I used to sit. This contains the call centre normally, and closer to 150 people back in the day. On Wednesday, there was not a single soul to be seen. Tumbleweeds drifted down the empty corridors.

My brief experience working back in the office is that it’s a bit pointless. At this stage, it feels tokenistic. There’s no real benefit to being back in the office when the people you need to speak to and meet with are still at home. The idea of returning as (small) teams seems sensible, but in reality, has little real value. Certainly, we take advantage of the situation to schedule meetings and planning sessions, but they’re small plusses. There needs to be a more sophisticated solution.

Nonetheless, I’m glad to be back, though – out of practice – getting myself out of bed and organised, for it is more of a struggle. A day away from home and in the office adds a bit of variety to my schedule and introduces a hint of unpredictability in what is otherwise a very predictable routine.

I catch the train in the morning as I would before, only now I wear a mask, and every day is Friday casual. I sit by the window with my headphones on, just as I ever did, but even with the trains are getting fuller, there’s a distinctly different feel to it. I feel like an outlier.

By comparison to the days before, the city is quiet. The shop where I used to buy my coffee has been closed for a year. Many other shops are also shut, and the streets are not nearly as busy as before.

I’m glad to go out on my lunch break and visit places I would before, but it feels very different. In days gone by, I almost had a weekly routine – lunch one day with a friend, coffee with another the next day, then a selection of shops and stores – and the market! – I would rotate through one week to the next. In retrospect, it felt like a system, a habit almost, comforting in its predictability. But then, most things were predictable then (and sometimes I would complain at it).

These days I can only go for lunch with a workmate. Cheeseboy unexpectedly cycled past me in Swanston street the other day on the way to work, but in general, the friends I would catch up with for lunch or coffee are home now. Some of the shops I would visit are no longer there. And in general, there’s none of the bustle or urgency I remember, none of the big-city vibe of people rushing from here to there, the clang of tram bells, the toots of car horns, the ring of the GPO clock – everything has slackened.

There are people, but no-one’s in a hurry, and anyway, there are only half the people there were. Everything has slowed. You get none of that jolt of being part of such a large, living mechanism. The blood isn’t flowing as it did before, and the beat is much slower.

It will improve. No doubt, more and more people will return to the office in some form, and that’s a good thing. It will liven up again – but I don’t think things will be the same again, or not for years, anyway. Under cover of a pandemic, a revolution has occurred. Things have to be re-worked – re-imagined – if we want to get back that vibrancy.

I’ll be curious to see how all this has panned out in five years time.

The jab


Been a busy week, though nothing special has happened. Just constant work and things to deal with. Next week will be busier, though for different reasons – it’s my birthday, but also Cheeseboy’s and Donna not long after. Few things scheduled already. And work.

The expected good news is that come Saturday, we’ll be back to what they call Covid normal conditions. Got to do all the sensible things still, but with an easing of some restrictions, including wearing masks. It’s not definite yet, but I’d put my money on it. I look forward to it.

This week, the vaccination program finally commenced in Australia, though in a small way. It’s a relief that it’s happening at last. Frontline workers and the elderly are being vaccinated first, as it should be, and some political leaders. It’ll take a while until it gets any real momentum and begins to make a real difference, but we can look forward to a time in the next few months when we can feel a bit safer about our health.

I fall into the 2A vaccination category. I think that means, roughly, that I’ll be due for my jab in May – though I’m tipping June is more likely given the pace of the roll-out. I can wait until then and have no qualms about taking it. Anti-vaxxers, in general, sort of confuse me as I think the case for vaccines generally is so obvious. Or, put another way, scientific.

That’s been one of the features throughout the pandemic – the battle between science and paranoia, leadership and populism, rationality and stupidity, not to mention the difference between the majority of us who have a sense of community – that is, look out for and sacrifice for each other – and those purely selfish.

I was surprised on Friday to find that JV, an intelligent, educated, thoroughly decent human being, was a sceptic about the vaccine and was considering opting out on the basis that he would be safe regardless once herd immunity was achieved.

He doesn’t doubt the efficacy of the vaccine, but he’s worried about the side effects. You can vaguely understand that, but of course, there are over 200 million people who have taken the vaccine now dating back to December. On top of that, the delay in getting the vaccine released here was because it was being tested before being approved for use by the TGA. They’re the medical professionals and scientists I choose to trust – though I guess JV will be vindicated if every vaccinated person turns into a zombie in six months.

I think it’s selfish to let everyone else carry the risk – minimal as it is. It’s a part of my make-up that I take my responsibility as a citizen, and member of the community, seriously. The effectiveness of this is directly correlated to how much of the community is vaccinated. It can be virtually eradicated here if we all pull together – but that’s weakened with every person who chooses to opt-out.

I’ve felt safe throughout the pandemic. I’m confident that I would remain safe regardless, but that’s not the point. And a practical level, I feel sure that vaccination certificates or passports will come into play at some point, and fair enough. I think JV will have to deal with that.

The working day


Whether in lockdown or not, my working day at home doesn’t change much.

I start at about 8.30. As I would if I was in the office, I check out my emails and messages to start with, replying and following-up as needs be. That eases me into the day, though there’s every possibility that I’ll be contacted through Teams at any point.

When I’ve done that, generally I’ll check out the status of any service desk tickets outstanding, and the new one’s coming in. That’s less of a focus these days, but I’m still responsible for making sure any digital-related tickets raised by the business get looked after.

The guys are pretty good, and I rarely need to get involved. Generally, they’ll pick up the tickets as they come in and handle them. Mostly, I’m just checking that everything is up to date and the priorities are being looked after. Occasionally I’ll post a question to one of the guys, or ask someone to look at something. Sometimes, I’ll have to forward a ticket to someone else or go back to the caller seeking clarification or giving instructions.

Then there are meetings, which are every day and occasionally all the time. Every day, there’s a stand-up at 10.15 where disparate members from different teams tune in and give updates on what’s going on. I won’t say I hate these meetings, but I find them a waste of time mostly. It’s rare the activities of others have any effect on what I’m doing, and for me, I’m letting people know what’s going on from good manners.

Not that my manners are exemplary. Occasionally, I’ll skip this meeting. Other times, though I seem to be one of the central figures in these stand-ups, I’ll opt to listen in without contributing anything. That’s because so often what I say today will be the same as what I said yesterday, and very similar to what I say tomorrow. Mostly I do contribute, however, though rarely with great detail – that would only confuse them as I’m left field for most. Often I’ll throw in some wit, just to prove I’m not a drone.

Today, I had an earlier meeting at 9.30. This is a weekly meeting with one of the app developers checking in on what’s happening and reviewing current issues.

At 10.30 today I made a cup of tea, as I do most mornings, then I caught up with my immediate manager updating him in detail on the POC project that’s kicking off. I’m pretty candid with him, and he knows there’s a chance I’ll be heading off. We discussed contingencies and back-ups. Almost certainly the POC would be canned or postponed, which would be a big thing for the business.

I checked in with a few others after that by Teams, following up on random issues and updates.

As I do most mornings, I then left to walk up to the local shops. Today it was simple. I went to the supermarket and bought a few groceries, then headed back. Yesterday I stopped off for a flat white on the way back. Today I didn’t bother.

Back at home, I put the TV on in the background and tuned into the daily Covid press conference. I don’t do that much these days – I don’t have the stomach for the journo’s – this was just a change. I glanced at it occasionally and might stop for a moment, but it’s in a separate room from my desk. After a few minutes, I put it on mute and made a call to the vendor I work with.

I spoke to him for about 15 minutes discussing minor issues and getting updates. After catching up with a few little things, I killed some time knowing there was a steering committee meeting at 12.30. I updated the notes for that, only to get an update at 12.20 that the meeting was being put-off until tomorrow.

Today, I decided I would have dinner for lunch – that is, the main meal at lunchtime and something lighter for dinner. I reheated last nights cumin beef with rice and sat down to eat that. The tennis was on the TV, muted. I sat there listening to an audiobook, which I continued to listen to after I finished eating. Audiobooks are a big part of my daily routine, just to break it up a bit.

Back at my desk, I interacted with a few more on Teams, checked emails, etc. Yesterday I had back-to-back meetings about this time, first, with the other vendor conducting the POC. Then another meeting – a stand-up – with the team, which we have every second day. I’m much more involved in this because it’s our stuff. That went for about 30 mins.

Today, I have no more meetings, which is unusual, and a blessing as well, but it’s only the case because another of the POC meetings – workshops really – was cancelled. There’s another meeting I’ve opted not to attend because it barely relates to me and I don’t think I can contribute anything. And it’s 2 hours, which is way too long for an online meeting.

I sat down before and read a couple of chapters of a new book after making myself a coffee. Sometime in the next hour, I’ll give Rigby his daily walk. After 4, I’ll mix a drink – half the time these days, it’s non-alcoholic. By this time I’m wrapping up loose ends and hoping nothing big pops up. I’ll ask questions and answer others. I’ll check in to make sure everything is on track. I’ll begin to plan the next day, though I generally know the meetings I’ll be attending.

Often, I would get dinner started between 4.30 and 5, backwards and forwards from my desk. That won’t happen today. Generally, I’ll finish up at about 5.15, though often I’ll go back and respond to late emails or queries. I’m connected by phone as well, so I always know what’s going on. As I prepare dinner, I’ll listen to my audiobook through my Sonos until dinner is served, and the evening stretches out in front of me.

Last drinks


A couple of hours ago I got an SMS from Cheeseboy asking if I wanted to catch up for a drink tonight. Sure, I said, of course. About five minutes later the news came through that Victoria would be going back into lockdown from midnight tonight.

It was not unexpected. The rumours were swirling this morning that lockdown was imminent. A few cases have escaped hotel quarantine in the last week, and because they’re of the more dangerous UK variant, it’s something that needs to be stopped. The result is a five-day lockdown, which is hopefully sufficient, but probably necessary.

I have to say I’m weary of it all, though the lockdown doesn’t worry me too much. Five days is manageable, and we’ve done it all before. The hardest part will be wearing a mask outdoors again. I weary of the cycle, of it never going away completely and more so, sick of the inevitable narrative and general idiocy that follows it.

I would guess that most Victorians accept this. We’re well seasoned by now and fearful of the virus getting out and about again. We’ll do what we have to do and be grateful when it does the trick.

Not everyone feels the same, and generally, they’re the loudest. I can barely stomach it. Much of it is just plain stupid and ill-informed. Some of it is bigoted and extreme. Some just like to grizzle, and quite a few have a sense of entitlement that disgusts me.

I’ve learned not to argue because sense makes no difference to someone with notions set in stone and others either unwilling or incapable of an intelligent assessment. That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally rap someone on the nose, but it’s no more than futile sport.

It means that I’ll probably avoid the more populist news services and, if I’m smart, much of social media. It’s hard enough dealing with covid itself and the danger it represents, as well as lockdown, without having to deal with the level of malevolent stupid out there.

On a more concrete level, I’m bloody annoyed that while most of the world is well along with vaccinating their population, not one Australian as yet has got the jab. The reality is that as long as we keep bringing in infected people that it will keep getting out here and there, no matter how diligent we are and how tight our protocols. This virus is hard to kill and keeps mutating, making it more difficult to contain – especially in hotels not designed for that purpose. We can minimise, but we can’t prevent, not without a vaccine.

All it takes to start with is for quarantine workers to be vaccinated to greatly reduce the chances of the virus being spread to the public. We could have been doing that a month ago had the government been on top of it. As it is, it’s now out, and we’re still a week or two from the first person being vaccinated. Even then, the roll-out will be much slower than it should be.

Realistically, we’re many months away from being safe, though maybe we can begin to mitigate the spread sooner. For me, I can’t expect to get the jab until May, and I’m in one of the higher priority groupings. In the meantime, we can only hope the virus doesn’t jump the shark and become something different again.

Tonight, I’ll go out for a wine with Cheeseboy. Tomorrow I’ll walk with him, with mask back on.

New year, but…


I guess the news here is that Covid is back in Victoria. Not a great surprise, even after 61 days being free from it. It came from Sydney, where the outbreak has been awfully mismanaged – though unmanaged might be a better descriptor. It was almost inevitable, especially at this time of year, that the virus would make it’s way over the border and infect us once again.

There’s a lot of cranky Victorians today. Most of their anger is directed at Gladys, who has failed to mandate mask-wearing in Sydney as the outbreak continued to spread. Her communication has been unclear and wishy-washy, and often at odds with itself. Watching from this side of the border, Melburnians have been wringing their hands and exhorting them to make mask-wearing compulsory, and tighten restrictions – even lockdown. (They haven’t because of brand management, I suspect, and because Gladys is too weak to stand up to the PM – I feel sure that NSW is following his directives.)

Too late for that now, though had the NSW government acted with more certitude sooner I suspect this would all be over by now. As it is, it’s out in the community and spreading across the nation. Borders are closing again, naturally, and restrictions tightening.

So far, there are eight reported cases of community infection in Victoria. The source is a returned traveller from Sydney, and it caught hold in a Thai restaurant only a few kilometres from where I live – and about eighty metres from where I had dinner last night, in Black Rock.

All this had an impact on New Years eve plans. I wasn’t planning a big one anyway, but after the news yesterday there was no way I was going to attend a crowded bar or pub, as was the plan for later in the night. As it was, we had a good dinner, returned to someones home for a drink, and I left a little after 11 – I was in bed with the light off at 11.35. So much for the new year.

I’m hardly upset by that. I don’t feel obliged to celebrate just because of the date. Today will be an easy day.

It’s common to reflect at the start of a new year, and there’s more to reflect on now than most years. I have no resolutions but for general intentions. My biggest priority is to get myself healthy, physically and mentally.

Physically, it’s a worry. There are two issues. Firstly, sleep. I used to an Olympic standard sleeper, but it’s gone way off over the last 6-9 months. I hoped this break would help, but it hasn’t. I stay longer in bed, but I sleep no better, and oftentimes, my sleep is diabolical. It leaves me weary all the time and generally lethargic. I don’t know what to do.

More concerning is my digestion or metabolism or whatever it is. I reported a while back at how bloated I was feeling – well, nothing has improved. If anything, it’s got worse. It’s a very uncomfortable feeling, as most of you will know. It’s got so bad that every time I eat it ratchets up as if I’ve just consumed a big three course meal.

Imagine that – the feeling you have after a big Christmas dinner perhaps, unbuttoning your pants to ease the strain and finding a good seat to vegetate in undisturbed while your meal is digested. That’s okay, you’ve earned that, and it’s only a few days a year you get to feel it – except, for me, I feel it every time I eat now. It’s as if my stomach has reduced to the size of a walnut and everything fills me up.

I churn and brew. It makes sleep even more difficult, and everything else problematic. Basically, it means that I’m eating less – averaging one meal a day, with perhaps nibbles in between. It mitigates the frequency but doesn’t fix the problem. And, perversely, I’ve ballooned.

I’ve wondered if it was particular foods that did it, but there seems no pattern. I stuck to proteins, and had the problem, then went off them, and it continued. It might seem frivolous, but it takes the edge off every activity I do. I’m short of energy and the will to do anything much. Altogether, I feel worn down.

I’ll get on top of it, but I’m just not sure how. I made some poached eggs for breakfast, and my intention now is to fast until tomorrow. It’s a shot in the dark, but my doctor is away, so it’s all I’ve got right now.

In the meantime, it’s 2021. I’ll make other plans, whenever…

Re-alignment


On the way back from the shops earlier, I stopped by the local cafe to get a take-away coffee. As I paid for it I told them to charge another one to me and to gift a coffee to someone deserving of it, their choice.

I’ve never done that before, but it felt like something I needed to do today. It’s quietly therapeutic to give, and good for the soul in general, I reckon. It’s underrated, but after a tough year, it feels entirely appropriate.

I’m better today than yesterday, though a long way short of being just right. I still feel vaguely nauseous, and still feel vaguely tired. I figure the nausea will go away in due course, but the tiredness won’t unless I do something about it.

As I’ve said before, I reckon as much of it is psychological as it is physical. I spent ah hour in bed last night thinking about it. I felt in a bind, but at the same time felt as if I’d reached a point that there was no possibility that the old ways could work for me. I’m not who I used to be and I have to adapt to who I am now – but there’s the bind.

I suspect many are feeling some variation of that after the year we’ve had. I spoke to Donna yesterday and she reported much the same as I did. She’s intelligent, vivacious and a high-achiever, but it was months since she’d felt motivated, she said, and had little interest in what she was doing. I’d said that I no longer had the will to do the things I did before, and she leapt on that – yes, the will was gone.

For me, that’s a hard one to swallow. As much as anything, I defined myself by my willpower. I would make things happen. I was a man of steel and iron will. I would persist, I would defy, I would prevail. It came to me quite naturally, without effort. I think many still see me as that man, but I’m not anymore. I’m still determined, I still have some attitude, but I don’t have the hunger anymore, nor the belief, and certainly not the purpose. The will to be more and do more has lapsed.

That’s a hard one for the ego, but perhaps it comes with age and a certain maturity? I don’t know – this is the first time for me. Perhaps it is part of a re-adjustment that most of us have to make at some stage?

The challenge for me, and for Donna, and for all I know, for countless others, is managing that adjustment – and knowing what we’re adjusting to. If the will is gone, and the hunger and desire that drove you before, then what takes their place? There has to be something else if the old things and old ways no longer work for you. What are those things? What feels that hole?

With lockdown passing and a return to the office next year imminent, perhaps this little crisis will pass. I expect that’ll be the case for many. They’ll just slot back into the old groove and be grateful that it’s so easy.

I doubt that’ll be the case for me. I’m a more complex dude, and I’m at the stage of my life where these junctures are significant. To be honest, I don’t really want to go back to how it was. It feels false now. Inauthentic. And I guess that’s the proof that I am a different person now.

I don’t have the answers. I never do. I’m worn-down and impatient and just a little sad, but I can’t push it. It’s something I need to negotiate my way through. Get my strength back first, mental and physical, and then figure out what I’m meant to be doing.

A new year is an apt occasion to re-align, thought I don’t think it’ll be anywhere near as easy as that.

Bone tired


Woke up this morning feeling crook in the stomach and, rather than soldiering through it – as you tend to do working from home – I decided to stay in bed. I sent a message to that effect, expecting I’d be up and about and back at my desk by lunchtime. And in fact, late morning I attended a meeting I couldn’t afford to miss and sent an email while it was fresh in me, and gave a few general prods.

At that point, I expected I was back. I was weary though, and then it hit me hard – not the crook tummy, but the exhaustion, like a tonne of bricks coming down on me. I think it was mental at that stage. I’d decided to let go and found myself overwhelmed with weariness, to the point that I could barely do more than stagger, and my eyes were like lead. Bone-tired.

It’s no surprise I’m in a bad way. I’ve been sleeping poorly for months. On top of that, there’ve been the challenges of lockdown, most of which are psychological. I haven’t felt up and about for ages it seems, and felt ‘off’ generally for a while, and probably half the time before that through lockdown. And I’m getting older.

I saw a specialist on Tuesday – not for anything serious. It was more a check-up and to inquire about some nagging things. Nothing serious came out of it, though I’m booked in to visit every fortnight over the next couple of months. More than anything, I came away with the sense of getting older and the inevitable physical decline that comes with that. I was warned by the doctor that if I didn’t watch certain things, the consequences might be a bit ugly – but for now, under control. It was pretty depressing.

I’m up again now after going back to bed. I feel tired, but I have a reluctance to give in to it. Part of that is stubbornness, but I also worry that if I lay down, I’ll find it hard to get up again. I feel on the cusp of – what? – not collapse, but…regression. I’m fucked, but thankfully there’s only a week to go.

Then there are bigger things to worry about.

Mask free


For the first time in months, I went outside yesterday without wearing a mask. I’ve heard others comment that it felt as if they went about naked. I didn’t feel that, but it was odd and quite liberating.

The routine of wearing a mask became ingrained quickly. There were missteps along the way – everyone has a story about how they’ve gone out forgetting to wear their mask – but generally, it became habitual before leaving the house – wallet, keys, phone and yes, the mask.

Dogs are very observant beasts and slaves to ritual. It got so that every time I put on my mask, Rigby would get excited because it meant I was going outside. Now that’s changed/

The requirement to wear a mask out in the open was eased at 12.01 am on Sunday night. You have to carry your mask with you and must still wear it when in an enclosed place, or where the crowd makes physical distancing difficult. But walking the dog, I no longer need it, nor walking to the shops.

Things have opened up more generally since the weekend. It’s not back to normal, but you wouldn’t really notice the difference through the course of a typical day. The restrictions are at the margins now, and by degree, rather than front and centre as they were for so long.

I’ll say it again: that we have made it to this point is a testament to the good sense of people of this state and the leadership that held firm to scientific principles.

While the pandemic ravages much of Europe and the states, peaking further each day; and while it re-asserts itself in places where it had become dormant, such as Japan, we in Australia can look forward to a safe and relatively healthy Christmas, touch wood. We have been lucky on many counts, but we have also worked hard – and here, in Victoria, we fought it back.

The war is not won, but there are now several promising vaccines being tested. By the first quarter next year some, at least, should be released for use.

We need to survive till then. I’m confident we can do it in Oz. But in other places, I wonder how many more must die until that salvation comes?