Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day we celebrate the gift OF mothers.

I am lucky enough to have known four generations of mothers. In the first generation there were my grandmothers, born before Australia was a nation. They were unfortunately not geographically close, and it was a special treat to visit and receive their loving cuddles.

My own dear mother was lost to us fifteen years ago and I think of her often as the memory becomes progressively dimmer. Being a family historian I have learned a lot about her life both from herself and as well as other research. She grew up in a different world, one of depression and war, then raised four children and cared for a husband who had suffered greatly in that war. In a simple home we wanted for nothing of importance and especially love. Although it was still the era when the man was the head of the household, there was no doubt that Mum was its heart.

Fast forward to today and I am surrounded by mothers: my dear wife and two daughters.

As a husband and father, of course I have never had the same physical and emotional attachment as a mother to the child she has carried. Despite a father’s love, the connection is different, and as well as awe there is even some envy at being outside that “mothers’ club.”

I have watched our children and am now watching our grandchildren being mothered, and am so grateful to have these wonderful women in my life.

Happy Mother’s Day.


Corona Chronicles and FODI

Some months ago I bought tickets for the two-day Festival of Dangerous Ideas (FODI), which is billed as Australia’s original provocative ideas festival, and run by the Ethics Centre. Of course Covid-19 changed all that. As with many events during this crisis, FODI when online and today was the first day.

It was not possible to have the proposed program and presenters so the focus was changed to be partly pandemic-oriented topics – the twin crises of health and economic. One dangerous idea is that this has also become a moral crisis.

Some countries are handling the pandemic better than others. But irrespective, it is appropriate to ask if we could have been better prepared or reacted differently. Some countries, unfortunately the “superpowers,” are not cooperating, which raises the question that if a pandemic crisis like this can’t bring us closer together, then what can.

Dangerous ideas are those that are not necessarily commonly held and are challenging. Dangerous ideas often come from dangerous questions?

What will the post-Covid-19 world look like? Is there a need to step back and ask serious questions about how we got here? Are our views, institutions and systems so fixed that we will return to the status quo? Do we need to think beyond the current situation to enable decision-making within a wider framework?

Morally, it is hoped that QALY (quality of adjusted years) considerations will not need to come into play. It is also hoped that we can find an appropriate balance between health and economic in the Covid-19 recovery.

I am looking forward to day two of FODI tomorrow but tonight I am watching the movie “Contagion.”

We’re all in this together!

With the advent of Covid-19, along with terms such as ‘social distancing’, ‘self isolation’ and ‘hand hygiene’ we have heard a lot about the fact that ‘we’re all in this together.’

This is not a new phrase or sentiment and has been widely used in the past. It was popularised not long ago in a song from the movie and stage production of ‘High School Musical,’ and recently by an advertisement in Australia for a superannuation fund. Politicians all over the world are currently using this phrase as a means of engendering a spirit of cooperation to overcome the pandemic crisis.

The need for a community oriented approach would seem rather obvious – all the medical advice confirms this. Yet there are some self-important people among us who seem to believe that it doesn’t apply to them or that their individual “rights” over-ride the community good. I have always understood that ‘rights’ go hand-in-hand with ‘responsibilities’ in order to make a society work. During the pandemic and in the face of imposed governmental restrictions communities are relying on the efforts and dedication of ‘essential workers’ many of whom are among the lowest paid in our communities to keep economies ticking over as effectively as possible.

Their conclusion is that flaws in capitalism are proving fatal for America’s working class (defined for the purpose of their study as being white, middle-aged and without a college degree). The US experience is that since the 1960s wealth has been skewed towards the richest Americans and the educated elites. This however is not just a US phenomenon but common to one extent or another in all western (capitalist) economies.

In the US, Case and Deaton put the blame for ‘deaths of despair’ squarely on the poor health systems. Apart from any conclusions that might arise from the current pandemic, they point to the fact that the life expectancy of Americans has fallen over the last few years (which is against the worldwide trend). Almost all wealthy nations, with the exception of the USA, provide universal health care. Why is it that the world’s supreme capitalist economy and arguably the richest country has one of the worst health care systems?

By definition capitalism is a market-driven economy where the state does not intervene in the economy, leaving it up to market forces to shape society and life. The US is proving to be an object lesson on where capitalism is deficient leading to increasing inequality (and deaths of despair). Case and Deaton suggest that all is not lost (and socialism is not the answer) but that left to itself the market will not address existing inequalities and the problems these cause. The answer they suggest lies in legislation to provide improved social outcomes applying egalitarian economic practices. European countries, Australia and others have these stronger safety nets and healthcare systems, but is more needed to avoid going down the the American path to death and despair?

There is no doubt that we are all in this together to fight the Covid-19 both nationally but also in many respects internationally, and even as a whole human race. As the tide of the virus is turning, people and governments around the world are looking towards a post-Corona future. What does the future hold?

Will the future be a return to the past “normal” or will we have learned some lessons from a time when were all in this together?


Corona Memories

How will we remember the Corona Virus in years to come? Only time will tell, and I guess will depend on our personal experiences together with the wider national and international impacts.

So far the Australian community is faring relatively well and I believe among the factors contributing include: our geographic isolation and smallish population, our systems of government and leadership, and a culture where individualism can become secondary to the community good when necessary. With due respect to those who have and will suffer through the pandemic, it is hoped that our Corona memories will be of an overall positive outcome for our nation.

My earliest Corona memories were not medical in nature but automotive, when I bought a new red Toyota Corona SE in the late 1960s (I am not sure of the exact date).

Toyota Corona (similar to the one I owned)

My Corona Beer

At the time I was choosing between the Toyota and the Datsun and for some reason the style of the Corona’s shovel nose won me over. I really did like that car and enjoyed driving it for several years until I called home from Europe in 1975, running short of funds, to say “sell it and send the money.”

As one who enjoys a beer, I have had the pleasure of sampling Mexico’s finest Corona Extra Cerveza from time to time, with or without a slice of lime or lemon. It also has a style all of its own.

I understand that the pandemic has not reduced the popularity of Corona beer and for the moment there are ample supplies. However with the Mexican Government temporarily shutting down non-essential businesses, it seems I will have to stick the local brews for some time into the future.

During this time of ‘hibernation’, my non-shaving is continuing as I am ‘social distancing’ myself from my razor, so here is a progress report on my ‘Corona Beard‘.

My Corona Beard

It is still a ‘work-in-progress’ and whether it becomes permanent or just another Corona Memory remains to be seen.

Corona Golf

No, its not the cerveza that is drunk at the 19th hole, often as a penalty shout that your playing partners impose on you for a tee shot that is a FRAT (Failure to Reach the Associated Tee). It is the type of golf we are now playing in conjunction with Covid-19 pandemic restrictions.

As a regular club golfer used to playing two rounds of competition a week, I am very grateful to be able to get out of the house, get some exercise and indulge in my passion. But it is a different game at the moment.

Golf Clubs are taking pains to enable their members to continue playing by imposing quite understandable ‘social distancing’ measures. To maintain distancing we are not to touch flag sticks, no (shared) bunker rakes are used, we mark our own cards (no exchanging), etc.

Playing in groups of two instead of four puts a different complexion on the game. It often feels somewhat lonely with only half as many players as usual on the course. This also means it is important to select your sole player partner more carefully as you have only him/her to talk to for the next four hours. But I jest.

Like every other part of our current world, even the golf course feels different with this kind of invisible cloud hanging over us. However one of the benefits of golf is that the concentration necessary to play the game can mean that other issues have to put out of your mind during those four hours.

But one of the worst aspects of Corona Golf is that there now isn’t a 19th hole, so it is straight home after the game. They talk about how life could change in the aftermath of this pandemic and I fear that we golfers are already setting a dangerous precedent.

Corona Chronicles – Sydney, 10 April 2020

Yesterday morning, rolling over in bed, the clock showed 6:59 – I am a minute early.

What mean is that I am constantly amazed how if I wake up during the night, it is very often right on the hour, 1:00, 3:00, 6:00, etc. I haven’t worn a watch for several years now, relying on my smart phone instead, but my internal clock seems to be working pretty well.

Before checking the time I had been dozing and thinking about what I should do on another Corona virus day. It seemed to be a good day for family history, which is somewhat of an obsession for me, and there was a writing project that had been gnawing at me for a while.

One of my favourite ancestors is Thomas Walsh, and I have previously blogged about him at Thomas Walsh (1777-1810). The Society of Australian Genealogists runs an annual writing competition, the Croker Prize for Biography, and this year the theme is My Most Elusive Ancestor. I thought that Thomas Walsh would come in that category, so I embarked on the exercise.

The elusive aspect of Thomas, was not finding him among all the Irish Walshes even though the Walsh surname is the fourth most common in that country, but it was about the story of uncovering some really unexpected origins of this particular Walsh family.

Now, Thomas had a very full life in his short 33 years, and the challenge of this competition is to fulfill the requirement of producing a “well written, informative and entertaining” biography in 800 to 1,000 words. I could write many times that number about Thomas.

Well, I achieved it with 994 words after an all day effort writing, editing, rewriting, editing, and so on… In the future I hope to write a much fuller biography of Thomas.

This morning I rolled over and checked the clock. It showed 7:01.


Corona Chronicles – Sydney, 8 April 2020

Well the weather has turned grey and showery again and after two days of painting the en suite bathroom (now finished), and then a longish bush walk each afternoon, I was ready for a rest day. A chance to do some blogging and writing.

My first blogging effort was to describe that bush walk, and it can be seen in some detail at my other blog site:

There are a number of writing projects “on the books” but in my “spare” time (but isn’t it all spare these days for some of us) over the last couple of days I have been pleasantly distracted. It was not by television, as there isn’t any sport to watch without the golf majors, but by podcasts.

What attracted me was the fact that these particular podcasts are a consolation for an event to which I really excited about, that was canceled – FODI. The Festival of Dangerous Ideas. So far I have listened to the two podcasts from previous FODI events in 2014 and 2016, that the Ethics Centre has made available. These podcasts really make one think about things other than just what we are obsessed with at the moment, which must be a plus. What is also exciting is that we have been told that we should:

” Stay tuned. We have more coming to keep you in good company.”



Corona Chronicles – Sydney, 5 April 2020

What day is it? They all seem the same now with no “appointments” in my calendar to distinguish one from the other. That is not quite true – I did not forget a couple of family birthdays this week.


But life does go on. The daily walks continue, often with a stop at The Shop for a cappuccino on the way home. We have had a couple of “Zoom” meetings with family and friends over the last couple of days and this will surely become the new norm. The over-the-fence drinkies are occurring every couple of days.

My non-shampooing has come to an end – too uncomfortable, but the beard is progressing.  When talking about beards and spasmodic shampooing, my mind went back to back-packing in Europe in 1975 and I dug out what is not one of my most appealing photos.

Back to the present, or firstly last year when we were enjoying a cruise across the south Pacific – it seems so long ago now. Was that our last cruise because it may be necessary to think carefully about another.

But with plenty of time on our hands, now maybe is the time to go through all those holiday photos that have be sitting neglected on a smart phone or computer. I have realised that I actually took some really good landscapes shots and snaps of friends.

Cruising the Pacific in 2019

They are good memories and there is time to organise these and perhaps get that promised photo book produced to be able to readily revisit some of our holidays and short breaks overseas and around Oz.



Corona Chronicles – Sydney, 2 April 2020

Yesterday was a quiet one for me, and I expect there will be many of them in the coming weeks. My morning walk was a wet one – caught in the in a light shower, but at least it was before the heavier rain. I shouldn’t have stayed in bed for an extra half hour (timing is everything).

So what’s new and what has changed?

I stopped shaving a few days ago and am wondering whether I can go the distance to a full beard. I have also stopped shampooing – horror, you say. I recall some time ago on the ABC when Richard Glover endeavoured to kick the shampoo habit. He said it took several weeks. So, I have started and will persist with plain water hair washing until “she who must be obeyed” objects to greasiness or (unlikely?) odours.  Call me a slob, but with very limited outside contact it is an opportunity to pursue these alternatives with fair less ridicule than normal.

The morning walks are different, though. I am not one who necessarily enjoys crowds, but in my normally quiet neighbourhood I feel an eerie almost lonely sensation almost everywhere. But, there are more people exercising and they, along with their animals, will probably emerge from this crisis much fitter. I have also noticed more activity in maintaining gardens and I would expect much improvement in that area over time.


An alternative for afternoon drinks is available at our local watering hole, where they are selling the draft beer of your choice in take away bottles. Not for everyone everyday perhaps, but a nice change.


Corona Chronicles – Sydney, 31 March 2020

Day two of my Corona blogging and it is a most lovely warm sunny day. Clearly autumn is a wonderful season and a day like today does tend to lift one’s spirits.

How was yesterday spent? A walk for an hour after too long away from my routine and my hamstrings were complaining, but they should be OK tomorrow. Some essential shopping to the post office to send a birthday present to our granddaughter in Melbourne then to the supermarket for some fresh fruit and a visit to the grog shop. The latter purchase was for afternoon drinkies with our next door neighbour across the side fence; social distancing, but at least social. Which reminds me to message him to find out what time today.

Looking forward, and it could be a long way forward, a silver lining to our current situation is that there will more “me time” of which to take advantage and achieve worthwhile things. I plan some more serious writing for projects already started, but there will also be the opportunity for some other endeavours that have been on the back-burner (when I was more time-poor).

So yesterday I pulled out the electronic keyboard that we are looking after for my daughter to see if I can develop some degree of proficiency as well as some enjoyment.

Now as a septuagenarian, my fingers are not as nimble as they once were, but the main problem I encountered was one of memory, or lack thereof. In the workplace I used a computer for two or three decades before I retired, and I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I my typing skills barely got past the two-finger stage. It was difficult to remember where that blessed “&” was and who hasn’t always had problems with the “x” and “z.” It would seem that a musical keyboard will be quite a challenge.

There is some time to mow the lawn and enjoy some more of that sun…

It is only a small lawn…