It’s mostly good

To all of you out there who’ve been so supportive this past week.

I got my MRI results yesterday after 8 days of extremely anxious waiting. It’s mostly good. I have DCIS: precancerous areas that need careful and regular watching because of my previous history, but the bad stuff is not back, nothing is too urgent and I can breathe again. I was offered surgery for peace of mind, but I think I’m probably going to turn it down.

I have to weigh the significant risks of autologous reconstructive surgery against the risk of monitoring and only acting in response to a change of status. I’d rather save the risks for when I need to act, rather than acting before it’s absolutely necessary. DCIS is in itself not particularly dangerous, it sits there quietly just being ‘changed cells’ until one day it tips over into something else and becomes invasive. If we’re watching for it, we’ll see it start to grow and that’s when I’ll pounce! I’ll have to have that surgery one day. Just not yet. And that level of uncertainty is one I can live with, versus the level I’ve been enduring the last 8 days, which was not knowing if what they’d found was already invasive and probably metastatic, in which case my long-term chances were not nearly so good, and much more aggressive treatment would be needed.

I see the surgeon again on Monday to give him my decision, and then it’s 6-monthly MRIs for some time while we see if the thing decides to kick off and start growing.

I can live with that. It’s mostly good.

Do we not bleed?

From Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Act III, Scene 1 (with minor adjustment for topicality):

“I am a Man of Colour. Hath not a Man of Colour eyes? Hath not a Man of Colour hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a White Man is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die?”

“And if you wrong us shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that….”

“If a White Man wrong a Man of Colour, what should his sufferance be by White Man’s example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute…”

We have not deserved the forbearance of our Brothers and Sisters of Colour. Despite our example of centuries of oppression, torture, rape, slavery and theft, they have not returned to us our just deserts. Our arrogant, stiff-necked Christianity has not shown them the example of loving kindness towards our fellow men they have deserved of us, despite our cramming it down the necks of people we have oppressed. What they ask is not mercy, but justice. Mercy is shown by the strong to the weak. Justice is for equals.

I ask forgiveness for my assumptions, my arrogance, my ignorance, my unintended blindness to the suffering of my fellow man. I don’t feel prejudice against any colour and I try not to make assumptions; we are all the same under the skin, but I am ashamed because I have not seen, I have not called out and I have not fought for your rights – because they are just as important as mine

I am a privileged white woman, and I am sorry for it.

Mend it Monday #6

An idea devised by The Snail of Happiness

This is an odd one. First, a little background. I like a windchime, something that makes a melodious noise when the wind rises. I’m not a huge fan of the enormous cathedral chimes that bong away loudly in a minor key, I like a gentle tinkle. The Husband and I went on a delayed honeymoon years ago to the West Indies, Barbados to be precise. It’s where my oldest friend lives, and we had a fabulous time. One of the souvenirs we brought back from our trip (apart from amazing photos and memories) is a windchime. It’s small and pretty; hand-made unglazed ceramic birds interspersed with ‘rustic’ ceramic beads, strung from a ceramic doughnut ring by fishing line. It has a lot of sentimental value for us both.

Over the years, it has suffered the effects of cyclones and the extremes of heat. The fishing line deteriorated and broke. Birds fell and clashed hard, and also broke. I decided enough was enough: time to repair it before I lost any more bits and it became a pointless piece of debris.

First on the list was heavy gauge fishing line, much stronger than the existing stuff and also UV-resistant. Then I took it all apart and laid it out to see what I still had. Over time, I’ve lost the equivalent of two whole strings; there should be 6 and I only had enough birds for 4. So, OK, I’d make 4. They’d still sound pretty. I replaced the rusted hanging ring with a steel curtain ring. That’ll rust over time too, but it’s easy enough to replace.

I started each string with a bird, tied onto the line with a uni-knot. This is easy to form, slips until you need it to lock, and is designed to work with fishing line as well as other forms of string or line.

Loop the line through the hole and hold the two parts together, with a long tail on the looped part.

Double the tail back, and wind it round the doubled part 3-5 times, depending on how strong you need the knot to be.

Pull the tail gently, till the knot starts to form. Slide it down towards the hole without pulling it tight yet.

When it reaches the hole, pull the tail with a pair of pliers (you may not need these for string or nylon cord, but you definitely do for fishing line) until the knot is tight. Clip off the end of the tail.

Between the three birds in each string I threaded a bead, plus an extra one at the top. Each string was then threaded through a hole in the ring, and held tight by another bead on top, knotted down. The strings were finished at the top by threading them all through single beads and knotting off, forming a loop with the tails to hold the curtain ring. Job done. I tested it in the stiffish breeze we have this morning, and everything held.

That’s better.

Lest we forget…

Today is ANZAC* Day

It is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations” and “the contribution and suffering of all those who have served.”

ANZAC Day 2020 was not like the ANZAC Day that so many of us are used to participating in. There was a Dawn Service at dawn, with wreaths laid by 4 dignitaries, but the service community and the public stayed at home. The public’s observance was not cancelled. It was just different. The millions of people around the country who would normally attend, at 6.00am stood instead on their decks, their balconies, their drives and their front yards, holding a candle to Light Up the Dawn, wearing their own or their loved one’s medals, and Stood To.**  Those who could, bugled the Last Post or piped a bagpipe lament. Millions of red poppies were placed in front lawns, grass verges and footpaths. Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with our neighbours, we stood in sight of each other, together but apart.

As the Last Post was played during the ANZAC Day Dawn Service, we observed the minute of silence to respect and pay tribute to our veterans. Many people took a photo of how they and their neighbours had observed the day, and shared it on the RSL (Returned & Services League) Facebook page using the hashtag #STANDTO. It will be a moving testimony of how much we value and respect the sacrifice of those who served. 

I’m only an ‘honorary’ Aussie, adopted late in life, so I have no Australian forbears who served in WWI to commemorate today. My grandfather did not fight at Gallipoli, where the ANZAC tradition began, but in the killing fields of the Somme. He entered the war as a private, received a battlefield commission to 2nd Lieutenant, was wounded and spent the end of the war in a German PoW camp, while his fiancée, my grandmother, believed him dead.

These are my grandfather’s medals, normally proudly displayed, but this morning, I wore them in his memory.

On the right are three medals: ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred‘, which are the nicknames given to three WWI campaign medals: the 1914-15 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. The medals were automatically sent out; soldiers did not need to apply, but the recipient needed to have fought in a theatre of war; they were not given for simply turning up. (The medals’ nicknames come from a popular comic strip of the time from the Daily Mirror newspaper. Pip was a dog, Squeak a penguin and Wilfred was a baby rabbit.) On the left, the fourth medal shown is the Military Cross, granted in recognition of “an act or acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land“.

My grandfather carried a wounded comrade to safety under heavy enemy fire.

Lest we forget.

*Australia and New Zealand Army Corps

**Stand To‘ is short for Stand-to-Arms, the WWI practice of standing to arms at dawn and dusk in preparation for possible enemy attack under cover of darkness. 

Pot calls kettle black

Essentially, it means that you shouldn’t point out the faults in others unless you yourself are faultless.

(Warning: Ranty post follows)

Recent well-documented public comments have got under my skin and continue to infuriate me. The facts in the case are documented, verifiable and unarguable. The opinions expressed here are my own and I reserve the right to hold them.

You may disagree. If you feel moved to express that disagreement, please do so politely or your comments will be deleted. I have no issue with disagreement, just rudeness.

The coronavirus has wreaked havoc across the globe, spreading to more than 1.4 million people and killing more than 81,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It’s more infectious, more aggressive and more lethal than any other SARS-type respiratory disease in living memory, facts which were apparent already in January.

The World Health Organisation started sounding the alarm on the outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, China in mid-January, designating the COVID-19 pandemic as a global health emergency on Jan. 30 when there were just 8,200 cases in 18 countries across the world. However, at one early stage, they recommended against travel bans because they gave people a false sense of security and didn’t really work. This turned out to be unpopular advice. However, most countries put a ban in place at an early stage anyway. That said, most countries also implemented other measures, acknowledged and prepared for the pandemic. The US President implemented a travel ban against the WHO’s advice…. and then went away to play golf. Now, the US has by far the most COVID-19 infections in the world, and the most deaths. Yup, that travel ban sure did the trick.

“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the WHO,” Trump bawls. “We will look at ending funding because you know what, they called it wrong.”

Wait, excuse me?

This is the US President who for 10 vital weeks dismissed it as just another flu; “we have it under control, it’s going to be fine”; nothing to worry about; a ‘Chinese virus’; claimed the US was in “very good shape” and that everyone would be able to access testing; “we are totally prepared”. Also, the US would be back at work by Easter; that 100,000 – 200,000 US deaths would mean “We’ll have done a very good job”; and that a totally unproven and potentially hazardous malaria drug is ‘a game changer’ remedy.

(For more examples of Trump-Truth vs reality, go here.)

The United States is on trajectory to suffer more sickness, more deaths, and more economic harm from this virus than any other comparably developed country. Over six million people out of a job and out of options. No testing, no tracing, and rapidly depleting resources. Mass graves. A quarter of all confirmed coronavirus cases on Earth.

So, remind me, who was it who called it wrong?

He is now contradicting his own earlier statements, wherein he said the WHO was doing a good job, that China was being transparent about its coronavirus figures, and so on. If it wasn’t already such appalling behaviour in the President of the United States, it would still be horrifying to realise that he truly believes we’re all so stupid we won’t notice, and that he thinks he can get away with this opportunistic double-speak.

So, if Trump is pulling contributions from the WHO for making errors of judgement, I wonder: what sanctions are the American people going to impose against a president who has so consistently, spectacularly – and dishonestly – ‘called it wrong‘…?

My heart aches for US citizens, as I sit in a country whose leaders took early, decisive action, who had adequate stocks of medical equipment, who have managed to prevent widespread and uncontrolled community transmission, and who have done more testing and contact tracing than any other country in the world. Humans make mistakes (you only have to look at the horrendous Ruby Princess cruise ship fiasco to understand that), but no-one here has pretended the problem didn’t exist, that it wasn’t going to touch us, that we were prepared when we weren’t and that a dangerous and shambolic ignoring of unpalatable and inconvenient facts was going to leave us ‘in very good shape’.

And now, I’ll take a deep breath and move on.

I first wrote this post on Easter Sunday, but decided that its tone was just not appropriate to the day. I’m rescheduling it after yesterday’s Presidential press conference. Lacking a holy day of hope and renewal, I was unable to justify holding back any longer…

More on this subject, from a non-US perspective: The Guardian, The Conversation

Together, apart

Togetherness is a state of mind. Apartness is mostly an expression of physical distance.

A great emptiness and peace, walking Mouse yesterday morning…

While we are now encouraged to avoid touching, conversing and even breathing each others’ air, we seem somehow to be drawing closer together. We applaud, encourage, offer aid and make sacrifices for each other. Apart from a small and entitled minority, we refrain from whinging and moaning. Of course, there are the infamous TP battles, the thieves, the massive stockpilers, the would-be profiteers, but then even the most enlightened society has its dregs. Adversity is making most of us nicer. Could it be that CV19 is actually… good for us as people, in some bizarre fashion?

Outward signs of togetherness and cheerfulness

The world is suddenly a little quieter, a little cleaner. Carbon dioxide and pollution levels are falling as people stay home. There is less noise of traffic and industry (although perhaps this is counterbalanced by the whine of lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and power tools, as stay-at-homes take advantage of the unexpected bonanza of time to catch up with yard work and DIY). We show solidarity by decorating the outsides of our houses. We applaud the frontline soldiers enthusiastically. We shield each other from this horrible illness as well as we can. We adapt to the constantly-changing messages as well as we can.

Here in Australia, our bilateral political system has abandoned its endless adversarial bickering and entered into rational cooperation to get bills passed. Our government is showing unnerving signs of acting sensibly and in the interests of the country and the people instead of Big Business.

There is little to no posturing, credit-grabbing or mudslinging except that our fearless reporters have managed to find an investigative bone to worry, and it appears some behind-the-scenes skulduggery in the business of infected passengers being waved off the Ruby Princess cruise ship before test results came back* may emerge. I await developments with interest; there is sure to be a lot of wriggling, denying, passing of hot potatoes and potentially, falling on swords. We have many things to pride ourselves on in our management of the virus, but I suspect this is not one of them.

I hope the togetherness continues, long after we cease to be apart.

 

*It appears these passengers may represent at least 576 confirmed cases of CV19 out of a total of 5,529 in Australia, and 5 of the country’s 30 deaths. Not enough is known about passengers who passed on to other points to determine how they affected the figures at their final destinations..

You’ve gotta roll with it

Is it happening where you are too?

I’m talking about the current Australian passion for TP jokes, especially visual ones.

It’s not as if we’re short of interesting news at the moment, and this is the sort of thing that normally gets a 3 minute slot on a very slow day. But somehow, toilet paper humour has tickled the nation’s funny bone, and we’re laughing at ourselves.

And a couple more in the Newcastle Herald.

On the other hand, if you like the more traditional silo art, this link will take you to a good selection. In these locked-up days, you can’t do the real art trail, but thank heavens for the wonders of websites and viewing this stuff from the comfort of home, without the need to spend hours in the car. (Did you see what I did there? Virtue out of necessity, and all that?)

We have to take our humour where we can find it these days, don’t we?

Only connect…

These immortal words are the epigram at the end of E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End.

Although they signify a different idea, they also express perfectly the idea I’d like to put forward today.

In these strange times, when so many of us are confined to a much smaller world than has been our habit, wouldn’t it be marvellous to expand that world in other ways? Let’s actively write our blogs and express ourselves. Let’s create something meaningful from the ugliness of fear, disease and confinement. Let’s do what we so rarely do properly these days.

Let us speak to each other.

Not face to face, of course. That would be silly and irresponsible. But we can still use the technological marvels our lovely world gives us. No-one who blogs lacks a communication device. Whether it’s talking by Skype or FaceTime or Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, Line, Viber, Tango, Kakaotalk or WeChat, on a desktop or laptop, tablet or phone, there are many ways to talk face to virtual face with others.

I already talk with several blogging friends. I actually meet up with a few of the closer ones, and they have become valued members of my social circle. I’d love to do more of it. Yesterday, I had a great conversation with Sue of From the Magpie’s Nest. Sue and I have been collaborating on F2F for years now, but since a couple of initial conversations, we haven’t talked face to face. Yesterday, we caught up. It was great! There was a lot of laughing, our dogs got involved, we walked each other around our sewing rooms… I couldn’t imagine why we hadn’t done it sooner.  I also had a lovely chat with Dale of daleleelife101 about something I’d sent her and our recent visit to her tiny corner of paradise. I’d really love to widen the circle.

So, is anyone else up for it? I can only offer Skype or FaceTime; my phone isn’t an iPhone and for a smart phone it… isn’t very, so I don’t want to overburden it with more apps than I absolutely need. If you have a PC desktop or laptop you can do Skype. If you have a Mac desktop or laptop or iPhone, you can FaceTime. All it takes is a user name for Skype, or an email address or phone number to hook up for FaceTime. If I can expose my grey hair and wrinkles and double chin, so can you, or whatever you might be self-conscious about. This isn’t a beauty contest, it’s friends making meaningful contact in ‘interesting times’, through the wonders of technology.  Go on. Give it a try.

I’m looking forward to hearing from some of you. As a famous 1990s ad for a phone company in the UK used to say:

“It’s good to talk”…

One thing not in short supply

Well, we’re shut down.

No surprise there; the only surprise is in how long it took. The Federal Government has mandated the closure of ‘principal places of social gathering’ with effect from midday today. Shops and businesses will close unless they can offer their employees and customers a safe distance to work in, which translates as 4 square metres (13 square feet) per person. Essential businesses remain open: supermarkets, petrol stations, convenience stores, banks and pharmacies. Oh, and the bottle shops (liquor stores or off-licenses). Of course…

We don’t have to stay in our homes, it will simply be harder to gather with a large number of other people and share our viruses around, and at home, at least you’re probably safe.

Knowing it was coming, I went into town this morning. I mailed something, I went to the pharmacy to get each of our prescriptions filled in case of emergency, I got some blood test results and I bought a bit of food. Bread, eggs, fruit and vegetables, that sort of thing. I maintained a safe distance, sanitised my hands and waited behind safe lines to pay with a card tap instead of folding money. Others were not so compliant. I had people reach across my face for things, hanging around in the centre of the aisle talking on their phones and preventing others passing them safely, and worst of all, abusing the checkout lady because they couldn’t bulk buy whatever they liked. As if she had any control over bogan buying behaviour, or the timely decisions of her head office in limiting quantities so everyone could get a bit. I couldn’t buy flour. Well, too bad…

But there’s one thing my online community has in abundance, and which it’ll never run out of.

The more you have, the more you make. Use it, share it, give it freely. It doesn’t need sanitising, it can’t carry the virus, and it will nourish your soul.  In the ugliness of restriction, fear, disease, social isolation and shortage, shine a light. Make something beautiful, clever or useful, and share it. Bring a bit of beauty into the lives of others. Build community in the midst of isolation, invite friends into your virtual creative space. Blog as you’ve never blogged before. Encourage and support, rather than scoff at fears and reject ideas.

Because we need this.

We are humans and have to feel connected. Without the reliable physical contact and emotional support of normal life, many of us are going to feel lonely, afraid, depressed and despairing. Creativity and virtual contact can help bring us all through this.

Yes, out there is the monster: COVID-19, the Coronavirus, SARS CoV 2, however you want to name our enemy. But in our hearts we have love, solidarity, courage and hope.

We will not be defeated.

The bottom line

The TP shortage continues unabated.

I’m down to 13 rolls. Small ones. This is not a scary number if you know that next week you can go and buy your usual 24-pack. But I can’t. I’m also not prepared to stand in a queue of potentially lethal bogans on the offchance of snaffling a single twin-pack. There is another way.

(In the interests of full disclosure, these links are unaffiliated and I don’t get anything for posting them. I’m just showing you what I’ve been looking at.)

I can’t afford to install a fabulous all-singing, all-dancing bidet toilet. The Husband secretly lusts after one, with multiple programs and sensors, adjustable water temperature, a variety of spray intensities, warm-air drying and a heated seat. For a couple of hundred, you can buy a bidet attachment to retrofit to your toilet. But it doesn’t heat the water or dry you after. I can afford a shattaf hand spray which can be installed by a reasonably competent DIYer. Which I am. That’s what I’m after, ideally. The Husband, tropical-climate princess that he is, feels that the cold-water-only spray may be a bit chilly in the winter. Or what they call winter here in the tropics, which is a balmy spring day to the rest of us. So we’ve agreed to try an intermediate stage before we agree on a long-term solution.

I’ve ordered a ‘portable bidet‘ from amazon.com. Squeezy bottle, long stem with right-angled spray head on the end. There’s an amazing selection of these devices out there, so I read all the user reviews and picked the one that gave the strongest spray for the smallest size. Sadly, the vast majority of these items are now out of stock, as it seems the toilet tissue issue has bitten deep. Got in just in time!

To accompany this device, I have made a selection of dry-off cloths and a pump bottle of lavender water. Do your business, spray with water till clean, dampen cloth with lavender water (still a work in progress), and wipe. There should be nothing visible to worry about. If there is, you haven’t sprayed enough. I’ve seen a YouTube video demonstrating these things in action and she was able to dislodge a large lump of very sticky peanut butter from an apple. Very tastefully done, but enough to show it worked. I’ve seen another, demonstrating another device, using Nutella and the top of a clenched fist. Much less tasteful, especially when he licked off the Nutella afterwards…. The device is effective but initially a little challenging to use if you’re new to the concept. The used cloth goes into a lidded container. No, it’s not smelly, except if you count lavender water. It’s just water, remember?  You could get in there with soap if there’s a lot of clean up to do.

For small jobs, my cloths are 6 inches square and made of flannel with serged edges. For the bigger jobs, I halved old face washers and serged the raw edges. These are 12 x 6 inches. I have a spray pump bottle filled with water and about 5 drops of lavender oil. I’m looking at adding some glycerine, aloe vera gel, etc, to see if that increases long term bum-comfort.

While I wait for the portable bidet to arrive (mid-April, eek!), I’ve had to resort to a temporary solution. Voilà. The bottle formerly known as Toilet Duck or other local variation, henceforth to be known as Bottom Buddy. Wash it out well. Fill it fresh for each use – unsurprisingly, the Husband likes warm water, the great big girl’s blouse. It works surprisingly well. Scoot forward on the seat and lean forward for rear cleansing and aim the nozzle at the, er, bullseye… In other words, hold the bottle as you would for toilet cleaning, but pointing at yourself. For front cleansing, scoot back and lean backwards. Simples, peoples… Squeeze, gently at first and then to the pressure that works for you. Release and repeat. Use all the water. Take a cloth, give it a couple of squirts of lavender water. Wipe and dry. Put the cloth in a lidded container till it’s time to launder them.

I repeat, this is not stinky or chunky. There are no Klingons,  dags or dingleberries. However, wash the cloths hot, as you would with terrycloth nappies/diapers. This is no grosser than pullng your underwear back over a bottom that hasn’t been washed at all after doing your business. Hot water and soap takes care of it all. If it works in the shower when you wash yourself, it’ll work in the washing machine.

If you can, wash the bottle and nozzle after use. It shouldn’t touch the body, but a little back spray is possible.

I know how much damage ‘foreign materials’ flushed away can do. I’m not ever going there. To one raised on the paper scrub-clean, this takes a little getting used to. To most of the Asian world, it’s normal. If you’ve been using a ‘wet wipe’ after anyway, as I have for years, it’s not so weird. The big downside about this? Forgetting what you’re doing and dropping the cloth in the toilet. Yup, you’ll have to get in there after it. So don’t forget.

I’ll let you know how it goes. So far, I’m really pleased with the result, but I think the purpose made bottle will be a bit more user friendly than the Bottom Buddy. I may also need to make more cloths, or change the spray formulation. This is simple, cheap, and easy, and you know what?  It feels good!

I’m also working on a small travel-sized kit with a small squeezy bottle you can fill from a tap, a small spray pump of lavender water and a couple of cloths, in a zippered waterproof bag .

And yes, visitors will remain untraumatised. I’ve kept my remaining TP rolls for them.