Do you like a good thriller for entertainment? I really like well written who – dun – it with a clever plot, well formed and intriguing characters and an outcome that you cannot predict. It’s a curious form of entertainment where goosebumps, flinching at knives being drawn and mild hyperventilation are considered normal reactions. That’s Entertainment!
One crime drama worth watching is a British TV series called LIAR. The first series screened on ITV in Britain in 2017 and it drew a following of 9 million viewers. It was also screened on Sundance TV and now in Australia, the 2017 production, series one is available on STAN. Written by 2 brothers, Harry and Jack Williams it’s the story of 2 people whose initial attraction results in a heart stopping story of lies and intrigue, resilience and human drive. Subplots abound and layer neatly into the overall storyline. The photography is stunning, the content confronting but engaging and it’s well worth a look.
One of the central characters is a smart, attractive teacher, Laura Neilson played by Joanne Froggatt. You may remember her playing Anna Bates in DowntonAbbey. In Liar she shows her acting range and is utterly engaging in this slightly nervy, intense woman whose marriage has fallen apart. The Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd is also smart and attractive and he plays the utterly charming Andrew Earlham, a successful cardiac surgeon and single parent. The two meet, an attraction forms and the rest of the story plays out over six episodes. The series has some strong messaging and can be emotionally intense so bite – sized watching rather than bingeing is recommended, but it’s definitely worth spending spending the hours on this engaging drama.
As with all good dramas there’s an element of personal connection in a good plot line. The subject matter is demanding yet engaging. We want justice for the victim. We want good to win out over evil. We want fact and evidence to win out over smug deceit. We want justice to triumph and truth to conquer all. But as in life, power and influence have a big role to play in outcomes. The craft of a good crime drama is that it is relatable at some level to ourselves or people we know and it’s in the story that our fears find a home…at least for 6 episodes.
Season 2 of liar was released in March this year. It is available on free to air channel 7plus in Australia. I’ll definitely be travelling the story road with these characters again.
It’s the perfect storm for creating anxiety and fear, particularly here in Melbourne at this time, but also across the world. A summer of ” unprecedented” bushfires. Then an ” unprecedented” Covid-19 pandemic for which there is no cure. A predicted ” unprecedented” economic disaster and images of Australians in dole queues. The Lucky Country. Lock-downs, isolation from family and friends and for older people the grim figures of daily deaths of people in their age group. Children are schooled at home. Families are struggling to keep working if they are lucky to be able to work from home and in fact have a job. Add in winter gloom and it’s no wonder that 4 times the usual number of people accessed mental health services in the last month.
In Victoria were waiting for Sunday 6th September, Father’s Day, when the premier, Dan Andrews announces, we hope, the easing of restrictions. For 6 weeks now, Melbourne has been under curfew from 8pm- 5am. Some 2.6 million Victorians are unable to travel outside a 5 km radius and with only 1 person leaving the house to shop. Regional Victoria has been under stage 3 restrictions which means no visitors and only essential services are open. Viva 70 readers outside Australia are amazed at the compliance of the Victorian community to these severe restrictions for so many months. But we are all working to reduce Covid-19 numbers. It’s estimated that 99% of the second wave of Covid infections in Victoria can be genomically traced to returned overseas travellers living in a mismanaged quarantine system in hotels for 14 days.
For individuals every day brings bad news and it’s been a long haul. There are daily conversations about mental health implications, additional funding for mental health services is being distributed to agencies. At a community level the initial burst of novel Covid activities has somewhat fizzled and people, especially older people are hunkered down, keeping safe and having no visitors. For many Australians a sense of dark times began in November last year with the ferocious bushfires. For all of us, especially those living in Victoria, life has not been ” normal” since February. After a while the inspirational quotes really don’t do it any more. The Instagram quips raise a gentle smile some days but the overwhelming feeling is of a slow, long haul in the dream that we can spend Christmas with our families. Life is about numbers. No. of new infections, death rates, unemployment numbers, Job Keeper numbers. It’s depressing for even the healthiest mind.
Against this deeply felt and worrying backdrop it’s interesting to find a paper written by THE BLACK DOG INSTITUTE, a respected mental health research institute. The paper is entitled Mental Health Ramifications of Covid-19: The Australian Context. It’s a well-researched, evidence based paper written in April 2020. At this stage we didn’t know how Covid would play out, particularly in Victoria, so its interesting to look back at their advice and use their insights as a way of assessing how we have travelled in managing the mental health implications of this crisis.
Looking at previous pandemics, the Black Dog Institute estimates that between 25-33% across the whole population would experience high levels of anxiety and depression. There are also those groups where mental health challenges are going to be long term. Vulnerable groups they have identified are health care workers, those who have been in mass quarantine, the unemployed and the casualised workforce.
In April of this year, what were the strategies advised by the Black Dog Institute to reduce the mental health consequences of Covid-19?
Practical Support to address basic fears- financial strategies, plans for job growth, Job Keeper, Job Seeker, employment, sick leave and rent support. Research shows that job insecurity increases anxiety and depression in the community 3 fold.
Good quality information from a trusted central source. Specifically, accurate, evidence based facts about causes, risks, symptoms. One primary website for information that is current and has authority. The Black Dog Institute also talks about the need to emphasize PHYSICAL distancing doesn’t mean SOCIAL distancing. It’s critical people pick up the phone and speak to each other and continue to engage with the world around them.
Technology enabled delivery of medical services- doctors, psychiatry, psychology
And this one is very interesting…….. The negative mental health impacts of mass quarantine need to be understood and managed. Think back to the lock down of public housing towers in Melbourne and also the returned travellers confined to a hotel quarantine room for 2 weeks. The institute talks about the need for clear protocols and management of these situations. They also say that residents in the towers and in hotel quarantine need to be valued and the community needs to appreciate their altruism in keeping the community safe. This is critical for mental health of these groups. I think this is a key failing. These groups have been demonized rather than applauded.
Strengthen the mental health support system for health care and frontline workers. I’m not sure how well we have done this either.
Mental health screening for Covid-19 patients especially those with long term health damage because of this illness.
Hindsight is a great thing. Clearly governments and agencies were advised in April of the possible mental health impacts of the pandemic. But it’s easy to be a critic with the knowledge and experience we now have. The suicide rate has not increased in 2020 but it was alarmingly high before the pandemic at 9 suicides a day in Australia in 2019 with young people and indigenous people being the most vulnerable groups. (ABS data) It’s clear that aged care and the quarantine system have failed to keep people safe. Support for health care workers is not as effective as it needs to be.
But from a helicopter, Australia is doing an effective job of managing both the health and economic impacts of Covid-19 compared to USA, UK and Sweden. The long term mental health impacts are yet to emerge.
How well do you think we’ve done in managing the metal health impacts of Covid-19?
The feature image says it all! I hope you’re having a good week and you’re managing to find joy in this very strange world. What are you looking forward too? What are the new and interesting things you are doing right now?
For me life is really simple…Pack up a whole household! Never again will I say that I have a minimalist existence….RUBBISH! I have tons of stuff and then I find more………..Marie Kondo has not visited this house!
I have 21 sleeps until the BIG truck arrives to scoop up my worldly goods and unpacks me in my new, even smaller home. I’m a reasonably organised person so there’s a plan of what I need to do and when…not quite a Gant chart but close! I don’t have the budget, nor do I want to hand over the total pack and removals to a large removals company who whoosh in and pack everything for you and decant it all at the other end. But it doesn’t matter what you do in life there seem to be lessons learned at every turn of the corner. So at the mid packing stage this is what I’ve learned so far………
Secure at least 1.5 times your original estimate of boxes and wrapping
Buy second hand if you can but in Corona times this can be difficult. Bubble wrap is a climate disaster so use towels, sheet, duvets etc where you can. Cushions are great packaging but inevitably you will need some material like bubble wrap. Compostable biodegradable wrap is available but its very expensive. Corrugated bubble, Greenwrap and Indented kraft paper are available but again an expensive alternative. You can find these at www.ecoenclose.com
My way of managing my conscience on this one is to gift all my packaging to family who are also moving house. They will then sell/ gift all the packing materials on to another family. At least it’s not single use. Any cardboard boxes that are damaged will end up as mulch on my new garden.
Most boxes will go into the garage until I am ready to arrange the contents in the house. It’s a good idea to keep boxes out of the house until you are ready to thoughtfully decant the contents. Garages, carports or the back verandah come in very handy. At least three quarters of all my boxes will be stored in the garage for a slow unpack. Security is a consideration and you may not be able to stagger the unpack this way.
Use a labelling system. I had a few coloured manilla folders left over and cut them up for labels. Unless the box has a coloured label it goes to the garage at the new house. A box with a yellow label will have Bathroom written on it. A box with a red label has BEDROOM 2 written on it.
Tape cables to the electronic devices.
Don’t take clothes off the hangers. Just wrap a large tough garbage bag around the hangars and lift 10 hangars off and into the car in one go.It helps if hangars are all the same size.
Use suitcases on wheels for heavy items.
Clean out the frig and washer well before removals day in case there’s any water seepage.
2.Dealing with Service Companies
The operating principle here is ” The computer says NO” and ” No our systems don’t allow us to do that!” Organising Disconnect at this address on this date and Connect at this address on this date seems a reasonably simple request. But alas it’s taken 4 days of calls, waiting queues and reworking information. Some insurance companies have very clunky systems so you can’t set up cover on the new house more than a week in advance. ” We’re the Sales department not the Service department.” ” They are just contractors we use. You can’t contact them.”
Australians will know the problems with the National Broadband Network (NBN), this took 2 days to sort through.
My tips are
Have all the information at your finger – tips especially your customer number and the exact name of the plan you want to set in place
Calm yourself and always start the call with charm and grace. This may soon disintegrate!
Changing service plans with utilities, telephone, insurance etc is best done 1-2 weeks before you move. That way you won’t end up having to sort out why you were billed twice! Certainly in country Victoria this would work.
Check the service connections in the new house. The section 32 on my new home said it did not have a telephone line at the house. I spent a day trying to source other options and the cost of running a telephone line to the house. In conversation with the current owner we found there was actually a line to the house she just didn’t use it and used a mobile ” dongle” instead. Getting these details right at the start of the process can save you a lot of time.
Stay on top of text messages, emails and phone calls from companies. Many messages are standard Do not reply. We don’t want to engage with you. Keep a record of the date of your conversations and who you are talking with.
If you can, take one service at a time until all arrangements are confirmed. Then tackle the next service provider.
3. Stagger the move
Moving house demonstrates that you really are older than when you moved house 10 years ago! The wear and tear on our bodies needs to be acknowledged and managed. Where possible stagger the move. You may be able to negotiate to ” rent” the house for a week before settlement so that you can move in and then take artwork, mirrors and other fragile items slowly over a week. Your solicitor can quite easily create a letter that acknowledges this is not an ongoing rental agreement. It last from date until date for the amount of…. This has been the arrangement when I have moved house twice before. Unfortunately it’s not possible for this move but I am able to bring across a trailer full of things a few days before the move and store them in the garage. A very kind gesture by the current owner.
On my removals day September 18th the removalists arrive at the “old” house at 7am to load. Meanwhile 2 settlements will be electronically conducted by my solicitor. I’ll clean the old house as the rooms are emptied. Then the truck heads to the storage unit and empties this facility. At lunch time I’ll pick up the key to the NEW house. The truck drives 2 streets away and after lunch the big truck is unpacked……. 2 settlements. 2 moves. 1 day…. I’ll sleep like a baby at night!
4. Enlist friends with trailers
You don’t have to do this alone! I was staggered by the amount of ” stuff” stored under my house. I’ve managed to reduce the amount with give -aways and trips to the tip but clunky things like wheelbarrows, hedge trimmers and all the gardening paraphernalia may be more easily transported in a trailer than with your cream linen sofa! Friends are helping transport clunky items.
5. The Everything Bag
Set aside a bag which travels with you in the car. It contains all the little essentials you may need in the move. Scissors, a stanley knife or two, tape measure, cleaning products, blu tak, dishcloths, screw drivers, hammer, paper, pens, snack tubs of trail mix, water, first aid kit. Also think about a First Night Bag with toiletries, clean clothes, sleepwear, medication. Food essentials and pet bowls and food also need to be accessible.
6. Start Early
I started packing 6 weeks before the move so I can factor in rest days when my back is sending messages that it’s had enough. Each week there was a particular focus starting with the least used items. The guest room was packed up in week 6. All ceramic decorator items were packed in week 6 also. Week 5 saw a major clean out and pack of the storage under the house and also a documents clean out and pack..except for current documents. Memorabilia and collections were also packed in week 5. I’m up to week 3 and there are rooms like my bedroom were all is packed except 3 weeks of clothes and 2 sets of bedding. all the wall art is packed and cupboards and wardrobes empty.
Gracie the cat has been feeling a little unhinged as boxes take the place of her known territory. I’ve kept her things in place like her favourite fur rug, food bowls, litter tray but she’s a little tetchy so extra cuddles and treats are the order of the day. She’s booked into the cattery for a week over the move so I can organise the new house before she arrives. She will need to be house bound for 2 weeks in the new home before being allowed out into the garden.
8. And finally…….
If you’re a home decorating fanatic like me it’s hard to not be able to start work on the new house. So I’m gently treating myself to little adventures in homewares stores and sourcing ideas online. Covid -19 restrictions doesn’t help! With an eye to future adventures the frustration with service companies and endless boxes is softened with planning a new garden and sourcing kitchen companies, pricing appliances online and generally planning a lot before the move. It’s the start of spring so my new trees and specialist plants have been ordered for delivery once I have moved in. Appointments with Kitchen designers have been booked and a landscaping team I have used before are booked in for 2 weeks after I move.
It was great fun finding a stunning ceiling pendant lamp reduced from $130 to $35 which I simply had to have! Let the fun work begin!!!
The future calls and with the blink of an eye I’ll be in my new home.
One of the things I most love about travelling to the UK is watching television! That’s right. Skip the Tower of London, turn right at Madam Tussauds, do a wide arc on Buck Palace and instead watch British TV!
I always seem to find high quality drama series running what ever time of the year I visit London, After walking the parks, hitting the galleries and navigating the tube, nothing is better than an evening bath and a good engaging drama on TV. Brits do great crime dramas. Think Line of Duty, Shetland, Luther, SilentWitness. There’s the quirky, easy watching, scenically beautiful Doc Martin, Miss Marple, Grantchester and Father Brown. But there are also dramas such as A very EnglishScandal with Hugh Grant and Years and Years with Emma Thompson.
Stephen Graham is one of my favourite British Actors, appearing in series 5 of Line of Duty. Last year in London I saw him in The Virtues, a TV miniseries about a man struggling with alcoholism. Brilliant. He also appears as Tony Pro Provenzano in The Irishman with Al Pacino and Robert de Niro, currently streaming on Netflix. Take a look….
Then There’s This is England. Stephen Graham is outstanding in this gritty, social realist drama series of working class ordinary people struggling to make a life for themselves and often disarmed by crime and booze. (Think Ken Loach films like I, Daniel Blake and Sorry we Missed You that are a socially critical commentary of working class people’s lives.)
Graham plays a racist, criminal skinhead with such conviction that it makes your skin crawl. After the original pilot there was TIE 86 and This is England 88. It’s a coming of age series where a skinhead gang, unemployed and living on council estates find kinship, love and identity in 1980’s England. Bleak, tough, life-hardened people who have learned how to survive poverty, domestic violence and tough sometimes brutal lives by the time they are adolescents. The series was filmed in Nottingham and Grimsby. It’s a bleak landscape of derelict council estates, boarded -up shops with betting shops and pubs being the most vibrant fixtures in the town. In the 1980’s it was also the corner store and video shop. The backdrop is the Falklands war and Thatcher’s England. What shines through is the loyalty, kindness and love these bruised kids find in each other’s company and how together as a ” family” they survive. Later series shows the kids forming relationships, becoming parents themselves and the bitter, steely grip of inter-generational poverty, violence and unemployment.
In Australia This is England is released on STAN. I can do an episode a day. Too tough to binge -watch this one. This is not Mary Poppins. The violence and rape scenes are deeply disturbing. Equally disturbing is that this is still the reality of life for many people, not only in England but in communities around the world. Ghettos of poverty exist in all countries. The housing estates that are no-go zones to outsiders still exist. The pandemic only exacerbates poverty as people make the gut – wrenching choice of feeding their kids or paying the gas bill. But This is England is a good reminder of our privilege as we complain about having to wear masks and the closure of the golf club.
I’m waiting for the streaming service Brit Box to hit our shores so that in Australia we can access good quality British Programming. It was scheduled for late 2020 but in a Corona world who knows. BritBox is available in US and Canada. This brings together ITV and BBC programs. Currently I understand you can watch BBC programs in Australia using iplayer but I haven’t gone down this path. Otherwise you wait for streaming services such as Stan, Netflix and Amazon to pick up this content…or plan a trip to London as soon as planes are in the air…!!! YES!!!
words by Nora Vitins Feature Image with thanks Vectors Icon.
Currently, we need permits to cross from one state to another within Australia. If you live in Victoria you are persona non grata interstate. Think …… The Black Death. Cross border travel permits are few and far between. There are exceptions. I’m thinking here of the member of a wealthy, society family man with a truck license who was allowed to travel across borders and rent a plush Gold Coast home. He can now swim and surf his way through lock-down with his family while Melbournians have to be inside their homes by 8pm for night curfew. Perhaps the freight he is hauling (an essential service) is the family dog and jet ski?
But we will be let out at some stage. The skies will eventually be full of planes. We might complain less about the length of queues at Heathrow and kids will limit the amount of ” Are we there yet?” on family trips. There will be a time when Jetstar flights from Bali spew out hundreds of holiday makers returning from Bali with scorched skin and braided hair wearing Bintang singlets. There will be times when at Easter in Victoria, we pile our cars with camping gear for the last fling trip to the coast before Melbourne’s winter hits.
Prehaps we’ll tip toe into the world with cautious optimism. Others are already packed and ready to adventure as soon as borders open with a renewed zeal and lust for life. So the big question is….where will you travel once borders open?
Here’s my shortlist.
My usual spring ritual is to head to Tassie for a week or so every spring. It’s stunningly beautiful with gentle weather and still chilly evenings. I head to Launceston in Northern Tasmania. Pick up a car and then stay at the wonderful Brickendon Farm – a working farm dating back to the early 1800’s, outside Longford with farm cottages that look out on the big wide rivers and mountains. This is my base for a few days as I catch up with friends, have dinner at the local pub, visit Ross, Campbell Town and travel through the back country around Cressy and Poatina. The lush farms, staggering mountains and historical Georgian manor houses of the area are breath-taking.
Then I head to the seaside town of Stanley weaving my way through Westbury and its village green and Deloraine, a pretty little town hugged by the Western Tiers mountain range. Stanley is an old fishing village, reminiscent of parts of Cornwall. The Nut is a huge rock formation reaching out to see. I stay in a cottage by the beach, buy wonderful bread, cheeses and wine from the local providore and spend a few days walking beaches, catching up with friends who own local gallery and generally breathing the clean air. Its bliss. If its crayfish season I treat myself. It’s a great place for photography and writing and marvelling at nature’s gifts.
I have unfinished business in Scotland. I left my heart there and need to head back for an extended period to further explore and revisit the jewels such as Edinburgh, Glasgow and the islands of Skye and Mull. I want to rent a place for 6 months and soak in this wonderful country, explore its mountains and sing its songs. There is so much more I need to see. This goes beyond a little holiday. It’s an urgent driving force to return to a country I discovered only last year but a country that spoke to me in its gentle lilt.
3. The Baltic States – Latvia and Lithuania
Last year I revisited my childhood sites in England with 70 year old eyes. It was wonderful and I’ll return to the Midlands and London as soon as I can. But the final piece of my history lies in the birthplace of my parents in Latvia and Lithuania. My first language was Latvian yet I have never been there. I want to understand more about the places that shaped my parents and their lives. I want to walk through birch woodland and see fast flowing rivers. I want to mingle with blonde, arctic blue eyed men like my father. I’ll walk its charming old cobbled streets in medieval towns. I want to hear Latvian choirs and buy beautiful Lithuanian linen. I’d like to feel the undertones of these places and get in touch with what my parents knew as children.
So that’s my short list. I feel I still have places I must see soon while I am fit and able to travel, hike and cart around a suitcase. It’s likely 2022/23 will be the time for the big adventures..until then I dream. What about you?
It’s a hum – drum day of calendar watching to see when lock – down in Melbourne ends and I can see family again. I’m packing for the impending house move and the cat weaves her way among boxes and lashes out at the giant rolls of bubble wrap invading her world. Another ping on my phone to let me know an email has arrived… a bill for sure…………
But this one is different. It’s an email from a woman I don’t know, responding to an article that I wrote in Viva 70 about Dr David Potts. (50 Faces 50 Lives, 17th June 2020) He is a family member struggling with dementia at the age of 83. The email was from a young woman named Jasmine, currently living in New York. A photographer. She talked about putting together a family history and that her grandmother was David’s aunt. Her email was warm and friendly and very lovely and she included a number of family photos of gatherings including photos of David’s family and one of him as a young man. This is extraordinary.
I sat on the email for a day or so processing the noise in my head. How to explain all this to David when his short term memory lasts 5 minutes but his long term memory comes and goes? Who to involve? I know very little about David’s family and don”t have any photos. But his niece and nephew know about their family history. And then.. with all the media hype about identity theft, cybercrime etc there’s the inevitable paranoia about…ah yes but what if this is a drug syndicate in some obscure African fiefdom!?! All this against a backdrop of sheer joy that a simple article in Viva 70 had connected to a family member living across the world. After checking with David’s family there was lots of surprise and excitement and the family jigsaw puzzle was scrambled together in phone calls and emails. With their permission I passed on email addresses of family members to Janice and chatted to her via email. She sent a batch of photos and articles about David”s family. A warm and generous response. I’ve assembled these photos as a book for David with simple explanations. We’ll revisit it anew many times when I’m able to visit David at last. Thank you Janice. He will love this.
My paranoia has been packed away but I am cognisant of other people’s privacy. What’s exciting is that I’m enjoying a warm and interesting conversation with a lovely young woman who looks like Debbie Harry with pink hair, grew up in Brisbane and currently lives in New York, New York. ………all as a result of a Viva 70 article! Six degrees of separation indeed……….
A rainy Sunday and a random exploration of Netflix concert films. I discover Bob Dylan’s The Rolling Thunder Review directed by Martin Scorsese and the Rolling Stones Shine The Light also directed by Martin Scorsese. What a great afternoon!
While concerts are no – go zones in our new world film documentaries are a great way to connect with the energy, life and passion of music shared by thousands of people in a unique way.
Bob Dylan has always been a hero of words and sound in my book. A strange creature who both loathes and courts publicity and is an interviewers’ nightmare. He’s aloof, tetchy and obscure. Can Dylan sing? Who cares! The lyrics and melody are so unique that he is forgiven for any unusual melodic interpretation. I remember my father listening to Dylan’s meaningful whining in 1960’s and 70’s. While I was rapturous, dad winced and suggested Dylan should send him the words and dad would do a better job- and with the accompaniment of a piano accordion!
But The Rolling Thunder Review attests to Dylan’s genius as a poet, writer and storyteller. His performances such as Isis and Like a Rolling Stone remind us of his great talent to enthral an audience, and bring a song to its knees. Scorsese strikes the right balance between concert clips, following Dylan around backstage and jamming with friends. Allen Ginsburg, Neil Young, Patti Smith and an older Dylan as commentator make for a great two hours of viewing.
I first watched Shine the Light on a plane heading to the UK many years ago. Crazy memories of the man in the window seat and me in the aisle seat both watching this great concert film as we drank wine and bopped around in our narrow seats, high over the oceans heading to London. The guy in the middle seat just slept! It’s a fabulous film and Scorsese captures gentleman Mick charming Hillary Clinton’s mother, a guest at the benefit concert. Meanwhile Keith Richards sniggers and smokes his way through the meet and greet. It’s a wonderful contrast. The concert clips are powerful, exciting and great fun. Sympathy for the Devil slays and Jagger is magnetic. Another great pick for a rainy Sunday afternoon!
How are you travelling? Is life good, bad or indifferent, or a mix of all of these? What do you enjoy most in your current world? What gives your life meaning? What are you waiting for? If these were your last days how would you use them differently?
These are the questions that percolate to the top of my otherwise mush brain on most days. I’m in the mood for a little soporific, self indulgent reflection around these themes so if you have better things to do please head in their direction while I waddle through the mud!
Numbers seem to loom large in my world and that of many other people living in Melbourne/ Victoria at present. Melbourne is in lock down as Corona virus numbers soared to 700 plus a day last week in greater Melbourne where my family and many friends live. In regional Victoria the streets are largely empty too as we march to the drum of stage 3 restrictions. Each day I check the numbers of new cases, number of deaths, number of active cases and recovered cases. I try to make sense of trends. It seems the number of new cases is dropping in response to the lock downs. I waiver between a good, strong grasp of the meaning of these trends and patterns and days where I ask really simple questions………” Elimination? Yes but where does the virus go? How do you get a virus to fizzle out? How come Brits are on holiday in the Greek Islands? Is the virus taking a holiday too when it saw sunshine and pasty white people in bikinis? New Zealand’s elimination lasted 102 days now its back in small but growing numbers and the country is in lock down again. Where did the virus go for 102 days? Some holiday!
Numbers! Selling house. Buying houses. Numbers. These numbers worked out OK. But now different numbers take the places of price points, margins and dreams. How many days until I can move into the new house ? When I was a kid and mum and dad mentioned we’d be renting a caravan for our annual seaside holiday I’d rush from the table and start packing- even though the holiday may have been 2 months away. Nothing’s changed. The numbers tell me removals day is September 18th. That’s 35 days or 840 hours until I walk into my new home. The boxes are packed, the storage unit full. I have 2 plates, glasses, mugs available for use and yesterday I wanted to cook Asian food but realised the wok was packed. The cat still has her bedding and bowls but looks askance at the bubble wrapped chaos that swirls around her.
In March this year I set goals. I would emerge from this corona mania svelte and sleek, panther like, fit and strong. I would be cosmically aware, centred and calm from all the mindfulness courses I was doing. I would have written 2 books, have weekly zoom chats with the family and friends across the world and used the time to think deeply about humankind and my place in it. My next ten year plan would be in shape and I would emerge like a butterfly from the Corona haze ready to do my best life’s work. Instead I scratch at the pages like a broody hen, nest in soft furry throws and candlelight and Netflix is my best friend. There’s not much to share to create scintillating conversations with others. Recipes have outlived their interest after 6 months of life in this altered state. Food and wine are most enjoyable and packing boxes is my gym. So its back to the numbers. How many days until, if all goes well, Melbourne emerges from stage 4 lock-down and I can see the family again?
It’s now 839 hours until I move house. I’ve already designed the new kitchen and booked the builder. The trees and new planting are on order and arrive the week after settlement. I’ve purchased some new furniture that should arrive at this time. The new paint colours are chosen and the garden design for the first stage is done. All I need is a key to the front door and an empty bank account.
Stay well. Be happy…..Just 838 hours and 55 minutes to go…… Nora
” There is nothing older than not wanting to grow old. Our world presents us with a disastrous image of old age. We are afraid of dying badly, of ending our lives alone, unloved, perhaps dependent or suffering from dementia. Instead of confronting this fear, we ward it off by clinging to our youth, in a rather pathetic state of denial. In so doing we run the risk of missing out on what I call” the work of growing old”- that is to say cultivating a positive awareness of ageing.”
These are the first words in Guy Robertson’s book, Ten Steps of Positive Ageing. He’s quoted from the work of Marie de Hennezel, a French psychologist and palliative care expert.
” Ageing is inevitable but getting old is optional” is the tag line of Robertson’s book. Published this year, 2020, his book explores personal change in later life. I’m usually suspicious of STEPS books… whether it’s ten steps or sixteen. They often become a reductionist approach to complex issues and ageing is very complex, personal and culture bound. The Balinese, Aboriginal or Tibetan peoples have very different perspectives on ageing than we do in the West. I’m also a hardened cynic when it comes to the ” think positive” movement. when your partner dies positive thinking won’t hack it! But I’m curious, so when my little parcel of books arrives after some late-night online shopping, I’m interested to see what this book contributes to our understanding of ageing.
Robertson’s book is a mix of inspirational quotes, some research in the field, self-help surveys and reflection tasks. It’s well – organised, easy to read and has some useful insights. He acknowledges cultural and social influences on ageing but the exploration is minimal and probably outside the scope of this short sharp read. Robertson tries to do many things- appeal to publishers, attract the target age group, send key messages and straddle the divide between a book grounded in research and a self help manual that engages individuals with very different starting points in their approach to ageing. Oh and if that’s not enough he also offers a positive ageing playlist! Yep. This includes Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran and even I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair by George Jones!
What are the key messages of this book about ageing well?
Step 1: Facing up to your own mortality
We collude with others – our families to pretend it wont happen- it will! Death will knock for us and eventually for them. ” He who is not busy being born , isbusy dying.” says Bob Dylan. Facing the fear of death, making it an acceptable conversation topic, using reflective practice, dealing with our own regrets and disappointments, finding peace in who we are- these are all elements of ” the work” of acknowledging our ending.
Step 2: Fact check the fake news about ageing
These are the false assumptions we scoop up from the world around us without critical examination- sex stops after 60, ageing is miserable, memory loss and dementia is unavoidable, old people are a burden on society, and so on. Robertson explores and dispels these myths and gives practical advice on brain training and wellbeing.
Step 3: Watch your attitude
This is an exploration of your attitudes and beliefs about ageing and lots of surveys.
Step 4: Safeguard your convoy
Who is coming along the journey with you? Partners, friends, family, a good doctor, support specialists, community? Happy individuals are socially connected. there’s also material on relationships, bereavement, loneliness and more surveys!
Step 5: Adopt a mindful outlook
“At the end of the day I can end up totally wacky, because I’ve made mountains out of molehills. With meditation I can keep them as molehills.” Ringo Starr.
The benefits and practice of mindfulness is explored here.
Step 6: Broaden and build your well-being
Measuring and maximising your optimism and practising gratitude are key components here.
Step 7: Learn from your past
Conduct a life review. Re author some of the stories about life that you have been carting around for years but no longer serve you well.
Step 8: Establish what is most important to you
I love this quote form Mark Twain… “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” So true…this chapter explores purpose and meaning in your older years and is I believe a crucial conversation in the ageing process….one with yourself and your ” convoy.”
Step 9: Create a vision for a new later life
Motivation, a positive ageing vision and visualisation are explored here.
Step 10: Build your resilience
Developing a resilient mindset is central to this chapter on positive ageing.
This is a good book. I miss research rigour and probably want less is more – fewer steps , more depth, but Guy Robertson has identified some of the critical issues of ageing well and I’m glad I put in the time to read, do the survey and journal on some of the issues raised..along with listening to the Ageing Positively playlist of course!
Guy Robertson The Ten Steps of Positive Ageing is published by GREEN TREE- Bloomsbury Publishing UK 2020