Ending lockdown

The removal of restrictions is happening quickly.

Our state government said there’d be fewer restrictions once we hit 70% and more at 80%. We’re nearing the 80% mark.

Given I am busy with work, I didn’t rush out to a pub or restaurants last week when we were allowed. My hair appointment isn’t for a few weeks as I only really have time on the weekend. (Well, this year. Have I told you lately I am having an Adult Gap Year next year?) I certainly didn’t line up at the shops to buy tat. (I sometimes despair at people – shopping for recreation.)

I did go back to my personal trainer in the gym. A few days after my PT session, I realised the benefit of continuous exercise. All the walking I did was no replacement for squats and abominable abdominals.

I had some joggers that I’d ordered online to collect. (All the walking I’ve done wore out my joggers!) They were meant to be ready weeks ago but went missing. The collection point was a local discount store that was only open for collection of online orders.

By the time my shoes were found, shops had reopened. I left it a few days, anticipating the shops would be packed. When I went, the car park was almost full. It was almost at Christmas level. Madness!

The biggest “freedom” was Friday evening spent with neighbours. We all brought nibbles and bubbles. Twelve of us. All sharing stories and checking in and shooting the breeze and celebrating birthdays.

Truth be told, the host originally wanted it for Monday – the first day of “freedom” and also one neighbour’s actual birthday. But he was busy. It was mooted that we sneakily meet on Sunday before “Freedom Day”. In our sleepy suburb, surely no one would see. And look at all the illegal gatherings in the beachside suburbs.

Well a visit by the police to my house on Sunday morning put paid to that. Someone had made an allegation that one of my sons held a party on the Saturday night. “No, officer, he most certain did not. I wouldn’t allow it.” Police apologised and left. (Son didn’t host a party but I could hardly say I don’t break the Public Health Orders, and then be found, less than 10 hours later, to be doing that same thing! And we don’t know made the allegation or why they did.)

So Friday night it was. Much better to allow some kicking back with no work the next day.

Next freedom: catching up with friends who live in other parts of Sydney.

Ranty Tuesday: people who sleep well – grrr

In particular, Mr S.

When Mr S puts his head on the pillow, he falls asleep instantly.

Not in 10 minutes.

Instantly.

If I wake him to tell him a story, which I do without remorse and do frequently – look, it’s not my fault, he goes to bed early so I have to wake him to tell him something that I’ve just remembered about someone or something that happened or a news item that’s just come on the tele. Anyway, I wake him, tell him the story and when he shuts his eyes, he goes instantly back to sleep. Instantly.

(Hence, my lack of remorse at waking him to tell him stories. It’s not going to disturb him. Even if I do if two times. Three is probably pushing my luck.)

When I wake him up because, say I’m flapping around because say there’s a moth or two dive bombing me, Mr S is all cross and snarly. “Stop flapping about!!!” But within minutes, nay seconds, of me stopping my flapping and fidgetting and flicking the sheets (to see if the moth is under the sheets), he’s back asleep. Hardly worth snarling at me, now is it?

When Mr S has an afternoon nap, he falls asleep – you know already – instantly.

When he wakes up, he has to tell me, “I must have needed that nap, I fell asleep instantly.” He tells me this EVERY time Like it’s something novel.

“No, you always fall asleep instantly. ALWAYS!!!”

If he gets up during the night, which he routinely does, he’s a man who drinks lots of glasses of water just before bed, ‘nuff said, or he remembers jobs like putting out the rubbish or writing himself a note so he doesn’t forget something for work. Anyway, he gets up, does whatever needs doing, slams himself back into bed (waking me up) and instantly falls back asleep.

You know what I’m not doing? Sleeping. Cause after I finally fell asleep, he woke me by slamming into the bed like a bear.

Are you an “eyes shut, fall asleep” kind of person? Or a “where are you sleep” kind of person? Me, if I miss the moment I feel like falling asleep, because I have to do something so mentally engaging like brush my teeth, then it’s too late. Missed the boat. Have to hang around waiting for it to dock again. Which could be hours away.

Lockdown Pivoting in schools

I generally don’t post about my work, except to talk about how I won’t be doing it soon. (Have I told you lately I will have next year off? Pop over to my other blog which is about my adult gap year.) Partly as an explanation for my ongoing absence from blogging, and partly as a record of this time, I am going to write about work.

During the Term 2 break it was announced we were going into lockdown, for the first four weeks of Term 3. Staff left work on the last day of Term 2, thinking they’d be back for the start of Term 3. Yes, we were told to anticipate a lockdown and be ready for remote learning. And there was that feeling it’d be coming, so we told staff to take their laptops. Still, to be able to teach without resources and collegial support is pretty amazing. Teachers at my school did amazing work. Parents were overwhelmingly appreciative.

Anyway, it was only going to be for four weeks. Right?

No, it was extended without an end date. All of Term 3 was off site. Teachers were struggling as much as families. They wanted to be with colleagues, onsite. Early career teachers were without the daily support of colleagues and their supervisors. To answer questions or plan something as simple as an assessment or to access IT support, it all took much longer to do.

By the end of Term 3, things in the community weren’t looking good. Infection rates, ICU admission rates, numbers on ventilation, deaths were all high. The Premier announced return to school dates “to give parents and schools certainty”. But the talk among parents and principals was that this was optimistic, given the numbers.

Still, we planned for the announced staggered return of students and mandatory vaccination of all staff in mid Term 4.

And then things looked better. Not the deaths, they were still up. But vaccinations were going great guns.

So the Premier brought the return forward. Announcements (including a Year 12 study bubble lauded publicly and with spin but without the details that schools had to provide making the whole thing not as it was presented) were made during the holidays cause, you know, teachers should be working through the break. Yet, the top bureaucrats told us not to work because we’d been working so hard and we’d be putting in mental and emotional efforts with long hours next term.

Oh, but still those same bureaucrats emailed us in the break to plan for changes. (Later saying they respected us by not holding any webinairs during the break. Mmm.)

Politics rolls on quickly and the premier was replaced. New premier makes new announcements, “sensible and measures ones”, bringing the return to school dates forward again.

So hours spent in planning, wasted. Dates for mandatory teacher vaccination no longer meeting the new dates. Parents not feeling certain. Staff not really able to say we’re prepared. But hey! There’s pages of checklists to check off and proformas with vacuous words that schools have to fill in the important detail.

Pivoting. Schools do it and make it look easy, even though leading and organising schools and teaching and nurturing young people is incredibly complex.

Managing emotions and anxiety of staff, students and parents. Soothing nerves. Calming fears. Helping families through tough times. Reorganising the school to meet the new COVID safety requirements. All while, continuing with all the normal business: teaching, assessing, reporting, child protection reporting, building upgrades, parent complaints, filling vacancies, departmental data and evidence collection, reviews, etc.

Green Thursday: recycling, regifting

Long term readers would know I’m on a constant mission to declutter. Trying to declutter without adding everything to landfill is hard.

Op shops are closed at the moment even so, I often worry how much of the really good clothes I put in a clothing bin actually make it on shelves of the op shop.

What I prefer to do is offer friends or colleagues first dibs.

Before lockdown, I offered a friend a quick look at things I was going to donate. She took a couple of items. In return she gave me a Sheridan bedspread, in excellent condition. It has been acquisitioned by my oldest boy who needed a warmer bed cover as we moved into winter. (His doona stays on his bed in our house.) Win, win all round.

The same friend gave me several items that were glamorous aunt’s. Look! An Armani jacket.

I’ve joined a local Buy Nothing Facebook site. It’s a freecycle group, the slight difference is that you need to be local.

I like the concepts of passing things on and keeping it local.

I also like the idea of giving things a new life, giving them to someone who will use them rather that having the items taking up space in my home, unused. Or worse, going to landfill.

Several people have suggested I sell, or try to sell, the items I want to declutter on Marketplace.

I’ve resisted that. Not only can I not be bothered with all the fuss of taking photos and posting and dealing with people who will haggle and maybe not even turn up, but I like the karma that comes with this site.

I have gifted away things big (like a squatters chair which the recipient fixed up$ and small (garden hose attachments)

I have been gifted a nearly new queen bed and a vintage plant stand. The former I was about to buy, at a cost of hundreds, for the “new” guest room; the latter I have been looking for for ages. So happy.

Ranty Tuesday: more racism

Remember the 1950s social studies text and its blatant racism?

Well, the author doesn’t confine racist descriptions to First Nation peoples. It must be reassuring to be so certain your way is the right way, the only way. But how unsteady must the ground feel, when the world changes, when orthodoxy is questioned, when values are shown to be hypocritical and views proven to be views, not facts.

The section sweetly titled “Peeps at Peoples of Other Lands” covers quite a diverse range of countries far from Australia. But the attention on the differences seems not to highlight our common humanity. Rather, it’s like a freak show of oddities and amusing tidbits.

  • The Lapps and their Reindeer
  • The Eskimos and their Igloos
  • The Dutch and their Windmills
  • The Arabs and their Date Groves
  • The Malays and their Kampongs
  • The Javanese and their Tea Plantations
  • The Chinese and their Sampans

Some of the descriptions are positive, but while understandable given the one page brevity, vastly generalised. So, it is nice to know the Javanese are fond of music and plays and they work for very long hours picking tea. The author’s advice “when you hear mother telling father that the price of tea has risen again, [it] may be due to some increase in the wages of the poorly-paid pickers and poorly-paid packers” may be to induce some sympathy for the hard working but poor Javanese. To me it reads like blame ‘cause the reality is the price rise is probably to give more profit to the company shareholders.

But the Gold Logie to Racism in this section, the following description of Chinese people:

These cheerful, yellow-skinned people with their straight black hair, slanting eyes and flat noses differ from us in many ways.

So they differ not just with their slanting eyes and yellow skin? But with even more ways?

Ah yes, the author tells us they put their family name first and their “Christian” names last. (Christian! Did you just spurt your mouthful of tea over the device on which you’re reading this? Yes, the author calls the given name, the Christian name.)

The author goes on to say, they “lift their food to their mouths” with chop-sticks. I don’t know, but that just strikes me as strange. They don’t eat? They lift food.

All in all, not as bad as the resoundingly negative picture given of the First Nation peoples. It’d be another decade until Aboriginal peoples were considered citizens in Australia, their own land. Still, there’s no question, all these “odd little peoples” from around the world are amusing and oh! aren’t we lucky we live. in Australia are linked to Britain! [Lets be clear. This isn’t my view but the clear message from the textbook.]

I haven’t kept this book – threw it in the recycling bin.

I wasn’t surprised by the racism of a much earlier text I just read – Captain Cook’s journals. But the violence inflicted was breathtaking.

I know we should judge the past by our own standards but when that past is not so long ago and when the actions contradict with those own espoused values, it’s quite easy to judge. And be shocked.

The whole bravery of travelling in a small boat into the relative unknown is amazing and brave, but the violence is quite distressing. And obviously the precursor to the 1950s text book.

Where have I been? What have I been up to?

Where have I been? Almost to Bathurst.

I left you at the start of August when I joined a friend’s family in the Tour de August. Our goal: to walk across the Blue Mountains to Bathurst. I walked more than 170km in August.

Of course I didn’t really cross the mountains. Stay at home orders meant I was walking in my own area. Luckily I live in an area with lots of bush. Everyday we logged our walk and the organiser mapped us on the road across the mountains.

Nearby rock face.

Turns out I’m a tad competitive. I walked and walked. And then walked some more. I found walks that didn’t involve many hills, so my energy would be expended in miles rather than gaining elevation.

Come the awards night, I won the Most Competitive Award. Apt but slightly embarrassing.

When The Tour de August finished, I lost the drive to walk everyday. Probably I’m just over doing the same walks, bush or no bush. Still, I have been stepping out. Somewhat. I do rise to having little challenges.

As well as walking, during lockdown, I’ve continued my never ending decluttering. Mr S calls it my new religion, as I practice it everyday. I call my challenge in this area Creating Space. A new spare room created where the boys’ junk was stacked, higgledy-piggedly. A study from the room where I had loads of paper from decades and Mr S piled up other stuff, including clothes and multiple pedestal fans and nanna shopping trolleys and stuff.

The study has proved very useful. For ten weeks of the term, my eldest moved home; as he was working from home and as we have more space, he would be less claustrophobic. That’s Teacher 1. Mr S was also working from home three days a week. That’s Teacher 2. The Dreamer was also doing his practicum from home, five days a week for six or seven weeks of the term. That’s Teacher 3. (The youngest moved home from his harbourside flat at the start of the term as he knew he’d not be able to earn money while doing his prac.)

I was working from home two days a week, with daily zoom meetings and phone calls. Mr S and oldest son are very loud (and as I’m known for being a loud speaker, that is saying something.) Working onsite was a relief.

Lockdown, originally meant to go for four weeks, went for the whole term. It was lovely having both boys here, but also a relief when the oldest moved back to his flat for the holidays. Not sure if he’ll return when term resumes but this week. Younger boy is not as messy or smelly as older boy.

In Creating Space, I have also been creating space in cupboards. You know that just because there’s space on a shelf, you don’t have to fill it?

By no means am I minimalist. And I still have clutter and hot spots. Still getting at least one thing out a day has kept me on track.

I’ve been following Diane in Denmark on Instagram and YouTube – she’s a FlyLady coach and Hygge & routine coach. And the Netflix show, The Home Edit, has given me ideas.

Seems I have converted Mr S to my religion. Amazed? Shocked? I am too. This week is our council cleanup and Mr S has released a huge quantity of stuff he’s stored under the house, “just in case” and for “maybe I’ll use it” and for “you never know” and “I like this” and “it’s my stuff” and “it’s still good”. Mostly it is “Im not ready to let it go yet”. But he’s letting it go!!!

I’ve also been gardening and reading. (And that thing that gets in the way of my life – work. But let’s not think of that.) Reading is part of my decluttering. I read to declutter. Clever hey? Read a book and then pass it on.

A post in which Lucinda takes a stand on flannelette sheets

Dowdy? Grandma-ish? Lacking in style?

I suppose flannelette sheets are all of these.

They are also these things:

Snuggly. Warm. Cosy.

As a teen, I used to be very cold in bed with icey cold feet. I had to have flannelette sheets in winter.

I went off them for a while. Probably about the same time as locally produced products ceased and cheap Chinese flannelette sheets swamped the market and local producers went offshore. The cheap ones pilled awfully. Fluff everywhere. Despite lots of washes. I also felt they dried my skin. I could feel them sucking the moisture from my skin. No really. I’m not exaggerating. I could feel it.

On the recommendation of a friend, last winter, I bought a set from Aldi. A couple of weeks after they were part of the special buy! As luck would have it, there’s a local Aldi that always has special buys past their set day (it’s a hidden secret that only locals know and seemingly do not buy the special buys – or the alcohol). The sole set of flannelette sheets left were my bed size. It was meant to be.

From the start, they have been wonderfully cozy.

I love lazing in bed. Even more so with the soft, warm, cozy flannelette sheets.

(As to the piling, they are but not annoyingly so. Only a little to start with.)

But I won’t use the flannelette pillow case. Don’t like the feel on my delicate face. I let Mr S use them.

I know! I’m so generous.

So it’s still winter?

We’re in lockdown again. Just finished the fifth week. (I think it’s the fifth week – time is both elongating and slipping away.)

We can’t go more than 10km from home which means the paths through the bush around our suburb and the footpaths along the streets of our suburb are like Pitt Street (Sydney’s main shopping drag).

I’m a little bored with the tracks. I would like to venture further afield. But of course, we can’t.

A friend has given me motivation. She invited me to a group where her brother will track our mileage from his home to a small town in the country. He had planned on doing a long distance walk – but, you know, lockdown. It’s not just the competition – will I hold my own? – it’s the joy of seeing my walks virtually mapped.

We also share snaps from our walk. Here’s my walk today:

We left for our walk after the 11am briefing on the current COVID numbers. (The briefing marks our day on the weekend – from long, leisurely breakfast to “time to do something”.)

“First of the month,” said Mr S. “Feel the warmth. You should have worn a short-sleeved t shirt.”

And I was instantly too hot.

“Yeah, but isn’t it still winter?” (I always forget what months are which seasons – only remembering summer is December, January, February so I have to work the season out every time.)

It is, dear readers. It is still winter. But it’s 25°! And the sun has bite. The cool as we descended to cross the little creek in the photo above was delicious.

I hate heat. Walking at midday in 25° knocks me about. I know. I’m meant to be an Aussie and used to the heat. But I don’t like it. And I don’t cope very well. Much prefer walking in the rain.

Yeah, that’s my winter gear. Bare ankles! Not really that cold. But oh how I like it.

From now on, we will have to start walking early in the morning, unless there’s a welcone cold snap.

Please can we have a cold snap!

Weekly catch-up: escaping

It was Mr S’s 60th birthday earlier this year. We didn’t do much because I was helping my mother move and, with the COVID restrictions we couldn’t plan a big do.

Younger son wanted to do an escape room together. He suggested both boys pay for the four of us Dad’s birthday gift. Last weekend was the day.

Younger son cooked dinner for us at his flat, making a fine chicken tikka masala.

While he was cooking, we enjoyed a few beers on the roof of his flat. After the week of rain, Sydney turned on a sparkling afternoon.

The walk along the harbour to the train station, just as the sun was setting, had the magical twilight feel.

It’s only a short walk to the station from younger son’s flat, but it was dark by the time we got to the platform. Nearly full moon before Easter. (Both my boys were born on Easter Sunday, so the full moon before Easter is theirs!)

The only spot left in the escape room was the last shift in their hardest room. Luckily, older boy has a brain for number puzzles. We solved it with minutes to spare. (With a few hints from the operators.)

This was my first escape room. Mr S enjoyed it but said he wouldn’t do another. I would like doing another, maybe one that was less maths-y and had more physical puzzles. The boys and I agreed we all will do one together again.

It is great to have such fun as a family.

What I’ve been reading: Honeybee by Craig Silvey- a kind of Aussie transgender The Outsiders. And Ikigai: the Japanese secret to a long and happy life. Not really a secret but still an interesting read. Basically, keep busy doing what you enjoy, keep moving, eat well and surround yourself with friends.

What I’ve been watching: more Escape to the Chateau and Fisk and Gogglebox and Space Invaders and Vera.

Exercise: I’ve gone back to the gym. I knew I had to break the hiatus and just go or I’d keep not going. Obviously. I still watch the clock in classes and I was dog tired the first class I went back to after work so I repeatedly yawned which didn’t endear me to the instructor. But hey! At least I was there. And I have been walking everyday. Just a short walk. But still: moving!

Ranty Tuesday: teaching racism in the 1950s

I’ve been reading an old primary school social studies book. The casual and explicit racism is beyond belief.

There’s been a lot of head shaking and OMG-ing. And calling out to Mr S, “Oh my god, listen to this.” And, “Are you ready for more?” And sharing bits with my oldest son, he’s the one who has been very active in Labor politics and is very left. He just stares, bug-eyed and open-mouthed. And then laughs, “Did they really write that for primary kids?”

So what caused such a stir in the House of Lucinda? What is it in the 1950s social studies textbook for the young in NSW schools that has left us outraged?

Let’s start with the worst bit. The unnamed author is giving an account of the first British settlement and the new animals and flora they encountered – the platypus, lyre-bird, wattles, dingoes. OK, you’ve already guessed part of it. The next bit is on the local Aboriginal people. Like, they are just part of the flora and fauna. But it gets worse. They are referred to as the natives and the blacks. Still gets worse.

The author says Phillip, the first British governor, did all he could to “win their friendship.” Even when attacked by spears, he didn’t allow his men to fire guns as “he wanted the good-will not the ill-will of the Australian people. To learn their words and ways, he sent a party of sailors to Manly to catch a couple of them.”

What the actual fuck!

Catch them like some animals to observe! And the author doesn’t even realise the absolute oxymoron – writes of good will and in the very next sentence writes of kidnapping which is downplayed as “catching”, maybe she wants it to sound like a game of chasing in the playground?

Anyway, it still gets worse. The poor blighter who was kidnapped, allegedly “settled down” and taught Phillip some words. Then comes the closing sentence: “Everyone was sorry when Manly fell sick and died.”

Holy shit! No acknowledgement of the role played in his lonely death.

Then “another blackfellow [was] caught… He was a vain, cheerful fellow who talked a lot about himself.” This is what stands out? His immature nature compared with the clever, brave early British explorers!

What of the frontier wars? You’ve got to be kidding. Of course, there is no such thing. Rather, a story of justified action.

About 80 years later, the blacks in … Queensland speared a brave explorer named Edmund Kennedy. They were angry with him because, to save his party, he had to shoot some of them.” (my emphasis on brave.)

Can we unpack this? The European is brave. The local Aboriginal people are emotional and act unreasonably but Kennedy had no choice? Why? What had happened? And “some of them” – how many is some? We’re they dead?

A cursory search turns up interesting facts. No mention of shootings. I think the local people were engaged in warfare – it’s the 1840s and they would know what destruction arrival of the Europeans herald. As to brave, I think the European explorers were brave. But also so stupid. Most of Kennedy’s party dies. From starvation, and one from accidentally shooting himself. They got hopelessly lost and stuck in mangroves. It’s worth a quick Google. Or read this. You know who’s brave, Jackey Jackey, the Koorie from Port Jackson who carries Kennedy in his back , holds him as he dies and makes it to the supply ship without food while still being tracked and attacked by the local Aboriginal people.

This ignorance seems a recurring theme in Australian explorer tales – they ignore that Aboriginal people live in these areas, ignore that there may be things to learn, ignore that they may wish to defend their land.

But back to the racism in the text book. All the info given about the Aboriginal people’s is negative. Dampier, the English explorer, is quoted at length, thinking them the “miserablest people in the world … with great bottle noses… are of unpleasing aspect, having not one graceful feature in their faces.”

As Older Son says, if the English were on the ships, how’d they know what the First Nations people said?

Cook is quoted as saying they had the worst canoes he has ever seen. And when he came near to two fellows on land, they were unable to understand that he came in peace, so had to shoot them when they threw spears at his landing party. I mean he tried to tell them in the King’s English, what’s wrong with them!!! (Luckily he was able to use beads to coax the childish natives!)

I found this next quote strange, implying as it did that the Aboriginal people were defending their land against invaders (given that this was not the norm for textbooks or common opinion in the 50s) and strange as it went against the Australian orthodoxy that Australian defence personnel are the bravest in the world. After hearing the guns…

Very much afraid, they ran and hid themselves, just as other Australians did in 1942 when they heard the roar of Japanese bombers over Darwin. p24

Have you had enough?

Well, it continues. Banks is quoted as describing their huts as wretchedly built with “nothing more than pieces of bark” and their beards rough snd their bodies very dirty. Cook is said to have spat on his finger to rub off some dirt to see the actual skin colour. I mean, how bloody rude! And it is written as if it is the most natural and understandable thing to do. Why wouldn’t an English explorer have the right to touch someone with spit to check out the skin colour?

Of course, the Aboriginal people are described as having “odd habits”. This written straight after describing the spitting as skin wiping scene. I suppose that’s not an odd habit, it’s just disgustingly rude.

The Aboriginal peoples are portrayed as stupid and lacking knowledge or adult commonsense – for example, being puzzled by the clothing – but the author doesn’t record how the Europeans are ignorant – obviously because the author herself doesn’t think there could be purpose or reason for the actions of the Aboriginal peoples and their ways of living based on knowledge and culture.

I do wonder if Miss changed her views.

You know portrayal of Aboriginal history and culture wasn’t much better in the text books in the 70s. I remember my high school history textbook refer to Aboriginal people’s living a Stone Age like existence. No recognition of the diversity of lives. Nothing on frontier wars. Nothing on racism. Nothing on fight for land rights. I think the latter may have been a little sentence on Whitlam and his revolutionary government.

There’s more on people from other countries but I think we’ve covered enough for one post. I will save Miss portrayal of Chinese and Malaysians and Muslims for another post.

Remember the young students taught this in the 1950s are only just retiring. I know the owner of this textbook went to an expensive private boys school, whose students went onto to being leaders in business, law and politics. The owner of the textbook is a lawyer with an Order of Australia for his work. How did the students shake off the racism they were taught? Did they shake off the racist beliefs?