Tag: COVID-19

Ideas are like rabbits

The postie delivered copies of the FAW NW anthology last week – a very well put together volume that includes seven of my poems. It actually looks like a thumping good read, and I’m not just saying that because I have work included in it. Going on the pieces I’ve already read we really do have a wealth of writerly talent in this state – and the majority of contributions are by Tasmanian writers.

The book is available online through Dymocks, Angus & Robertson, and Booktopia as well as direct from the Burnie-based editor. I understand sales are quite brisk so a second print run is looking highly likely. As is the way with so many of these writing group anthologies, the majority of which are produced on a shoestring budget, there is no payment for contributors. It seems poets are rarely remunerated for their efforts unless they’ve developed a significant following and reputation, and been fortunate enough to achieve publishing success with a mainstream publisher, so it’s kudos only in the case of this book. No wonder that hackneyed phrase about starving in garrets is applied equally to poets, as well as artists.

But publication is a validation, and this book is a nice addition to the CV. It also firms up that decision to put together my own volume of work, and have a crack at sending off some more of what I judge to be my better efforts to those small press magazines considered ‘literary’ that are among the few publishing opportunities for poetry. And the ones who pay their contributors!

And if you’re wondering about the title – it’s from a quote by John Steinbeck.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”


It’s just hay fever. I do not have COVID-19!

Along with many others the spring months of October and November are characterised by the need for a steady supply of large tissues to help counter the runny nose, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat that are all symptoms of my response to hay fever.

Hay fever is a relatively recent complaint for me. I blame it on all that grass pollen swirling about in the breeze down our way. Growing up it was my brother who was always laid low, and he suffered with it to a far greater degree, and for considerably longer, since it lasted all summer for him. No wonder he was happier when the arrival of autumn and winter heralded colder weather, and he could breathe easier again. At some point in his 20s though he became hay fever-free, while at the other end of the globe, and when I landed in my 30s, those tell-tale symptoms transferred across to me.

Working with flowers didn’t help of course, so the combination of working in the flower shop we owned, and picking and processing the flowers we grew for the shop, arguably triggered a pre-disposition that had laid dormant until being overwhelmed by forces it could no longer cope with. I’m told there are few florists who don’t display at least some of the symptoms of hay fever at some point in the calendar, and depending on the varieties of blooms they are working with. So it was a double whammy for me as we were also living in a semi-rural area by then as well.

This year’s exceptional spring rains, and now the extra warmth that comes with sunny days has caused an explosion of the grasses that line the roadsides where I walk with Della dog. They are attractive in their own right, especially in the early morning when they sparkle with dew, but this benign view will inevitably become more jaundiced when those seed heads literally explode and all that pollen is released to infect my eyes and nose, leaving me red-eyed, itchy and reaching for yet one more man-sized tissue.

But this year is also exceptional in that we are contending with COVID-19, and anyone seen blowing their nose, appearing red-eyed, or sounding a bit croaky is immediately clocked as a possible infection risk, and urged to get tested. And wear a mask. Or both. In my case – and in that of the vast majority of Tasmania’s hay fever sufferers I suspect – COVID is unlikely in the extreme. Certainly at the time of writing. But those suspicious glances will probably still leave me feeling a bit defensive, keen to apologise,  and anxious to explain my sniffles are just due to hay fever. Nothing more.

I’ll be glad when hay-making starts, the grasses are flattened,  I can breathe more freely without wheezing once again – and I’m not longer regarded as potentially contagious.

Heartbeat- a reminder of home

When it comes to watching television it’s either ABC or SBS. Commercial television doesn’t rate in our household. I can’t stand ad breaks interrupting a program I’m just getting involved in, or a film that’s just successfully managed to capture my attention. I find the ads infuriating, and the way they seem to both speed up, and increase in length as the show gathers pace, the more infuriating I find them. Totally ruins the experience so far as I’m concerned. Obviously I have to hold my nose a bit when watching SBS, but at least there is a mute button on the remote. The only other time the TV is tuned to the commercials is for John to watch sports programs, and they’ve been few and far between in this brave new world of COVID.

But there’s only so much COVID-related news we can stomach, and after a day when pandemic stories seemed to have saturated the airwaves even more than usual, John turned in desperation to the TV guide we – unusually – had that particular week, and said Oh gosh, you’ll never guess what’s getting a re-run on one of the commercials – Heartbeat!

For those unaware Heartbeat is a UK drama series first broadcast in the early ‘90s. It’s  set in a North Yorkshire village during the ‘60s and was hugely popular, running for several years. It certainly became essential Sunday evening viewing for us. I clocked early on that the location of the fictional village of Aidensfield seemed remarkably similar to the actual village of Goathland – a detail my UK-based mother was able to confirm in one of our weekly exchange of letters when I posed the question. Goathland and its surrounding North Yorkshire Moors is an area I was very familiar with from spending so many holidays there with my closest friend and her family, who had a cottage close by when we were growing up. Mary has since returned to live in the area.

With UK visits off the agenda for the foreseeable future – and this year’s planned trip already a COVID casualty – revisiting Heartbeat’s Aidensfield, looked like the closest I was going to get to soaking up those moorland vistas again for some time. An opportunity to watch episodes again therefore was a no-brainer, even if it meant watching the show irritatingly and regularly punctuated with mind-numbing ad breaks.

So for the duration, Heartbeat is on Monday night’s viewing agenda, an unexpected opportunity to remind myself of the familiar and comforting Yorkshire dialect, and those windswept moors, while enjoying some  comparatively undemanding stories that unfold against a background of the uncomplicated energy that was popular music in the ‘60s.

It’s also a relief to inhabit a COVID-free zone for an hour or so.

It’s snowing!

Together with the entire population of Launceston I was amazed to wake up to a serious covering of snow blanketing our back garden last week. It was short-lived, lasting just 24 hours in most places, but it certainly provided some respite from the relentless and cheerless COVID-19 news that looks set to dominate the media for the foreseeable future.

Della dog was certainly nonplussed at seeing snow for the first time, and was very hesitant about negotiating it on our early morning walk.

Whether it’s print, TV, radio or digital, the media is filled with little else but stories that are in some way associated with the virus. The issue is of course dominating our lives. How can it not when so many people around the world are restricted now in how they are able to live. Here in Tassie there’s no doubt we’re existing in a bit of a bubble, protected from the worst health fears, mask-free – at least for now – and able to move about quite freely. Albeit slightly more physically distant than we were a few short months ago, and with considerably cleaner hands.

So for now our island state is in a safe state of isolation. Before COVID-19, this was considered a disadvantage, economically speaking. Perhaps more than any state or territory Tassie was regarded as a drain on the country’s coffers, the prodigal that always needed a hand up and a handout. It’s a view that has probably been revised, and not just because we appear to be virus-free, but also because our economy is chugging along better than it is in the mainland states. Certainly there are many people who’ve lost their jobs here as well, and/or are relying on JobKeeper and JobSeeker, but on balance our state economy is doing OK. Tasmanians do seem to have answered the call to support local businesses, and have enthusiastically embraced the idea of ‘holidaying at home’ grabbing the opportunity to visit our iconic tourist spots that are currently free of overseas and interstate visitors. My hope is that for some this will also spark an awakening to just how precious these places are, and a greater appreciation and understanding about why they must be protected from inappropriate commercial developments.

The unexpected snow played its part in Tasmania’s unique point of difference. It might have been a 24-hour wonder, and while not quite the clichéd once-in-a-hundred-year event – as it was ninety-nine years, almost to the day – the snow certainly helped to showcase Tasmania’s magical aspects, and perhaps gave more locals a clue about why the island is regarded by so many people as special. There are now calls to use this pandemic as an opportunity to reshape Tasmania’s future economic prosperity. It’s to be hoped those calls are heeded.


Under the cloak of Covid there are real fears the Morrison government is operating far too secretly, and attempting to push through legislation that has not been through proper processes, or been subjected to the scrutiny it would normally face. With attention focused elsewhere as people worry about their job, or lack thereof, of simply trying to keep their heads above water, financially speaking, it’s no wonder people are not paying close attention to some of the Coalition’s suspected slippery deals. It’s also no wonder that people are becoming increasingly suspicious. Myself included which prompted me to pen this piece earlier today.


you expect us to listen
and heed what you say
warn what could happen
and how we might pay

but why should we hark at
or take note of your words
and stay physically distant
away from the herd

you don’t heed those directions
you just conveniently ignore
that such instructions are mutual
even if they’re a chore

so you go to the football
stand close, clap and cheer
but say parliament can’t sit
‘cos you’d all be too near

large gatherings at funerals
or weddings – no longer allowed
nor are marches or protests
all pose too big a crowd

mixed messaging Scotty
it’s not a good look
and come time for elections
we’ll remember you took

time off on leave
left the country by stealth
when our country was burning
you cared zilch for our health

when shamed into returning
you showed no remorse
just annoyance you’d been rumbled
while fires took their course

so why should we trust
what you say, or believe
you deserve one more chance
when you lie and deceive

© 2020


Cost of COVID-19

There’s no denying the world has changed forever this year, and there’s no going back however much some people hope and believe it might. The past is now a different country; we’ve gone through the back of the wardrobe (with apologies to LP Hartley and CS Lewis), to enter a world that’s similar, but is also radically different. There was no choice about passing through the COVID curtain, and there’s no certainty about our future either, if indeed we have one. The harsh reality is that millions won’t, because this virus shows no signs of abating or even slowing down, and we’re all at risk. COVID has shown no respect for age, ethnicity or bank balance, and that’s the scary part. This deadly genie is out of the bottle, and it’s quite possibly our fault; we’ve collectively allowed it to happen through selfishness, arrogance and greed.

Whatever the origins of the virus – and theories abound – it couldn’t have spread so easily and rapidly if our species hadn’t also been multiplying with alarming thoughtless selfishness and greed, and at an unsustainable speed.

In the plant world, the marine world, and the animal kingdom, scientists know that disease is likely when environments are out of balance. Farmers know when single species of trees, grains, fruits or vegetables are grown in a concentrated or confined area, they will attract pests and fungus diseases that have to be controlled. Usually by chemicals or poisons that just cause further harm to the land, or to other insect or wildlife, that then result in other manufactured products designed to restore environmental and ecological ‘balance’. It’s a vicious cycle that rarely works, and will never result in a ‘normal’ environment. Similarly when marine environments change due to interrupting the food chain through the over-fishing of certain key species, for our consumption, jellyfish blooms and predator species then proliferate, so ocean ecology and biodiversity is disrupted and the number of ‘dead zones’ expands.

When humans deem a species has become a ‘pest’ or ‘feral’, as is the case in Australia with out-of-control populations of kangaroos, and parrots, or wild pigs, horses, and camels in northern parts of the country, or cats, rabbits, cane toads and foxes that have been unwisely introduced – or misguidedly released – steps are taken to cull their numbers and stop their spread. Mostly with limited success.

The jury is likely to be out for some time about what triggered COVID, but there is every likelihood homo sapiens played a major factor, unwittingly or otherwise. We may never know. What is certain is that our species has proliferated beyond the capacity of the planet to sustain us, and half the planet has greedily and selfishly sucked the other half dry of food, water and natural resources in a relentless and mistaken economic belief the planet is a magic pudding that will continue to endlessly provide – at least for those who are powerful enough, and wealthy enough.

So the virus could well be a wake-up call for humanity, a sharp and brutal reminder that we aren’t the boss after all. The Earth is. Nature is. And too many of us have selfishly and greedily abused and exploited both for long enough. Their patience is rightly exhausted and it’s our turn to be culled and brought to heel. It remains to be seen if enough of us will learn the lesson, and change our way of life, difficult though that will be for many. I can only hope so. And COVID is likely to ensure it will be so.



This disconcerting summer

It’s been a strange summer alright. And a challenging one. Since writing my last blog post in the middle of what has been a catastrophic bushfire season across much of the mainland, followed by floods in other parts of the country, and now the new and unknown reality of coronavirus – or COVID-19 – most of the world is now living in lockdown, physically isolated from family, friends and work, and existing in a surreal kind of silence.

The pandemic has certainly changed the face of Australia, and although it’s concentrating the minds of our leaders, most state premiers have risen to the challenge very well. Others not so much, but it’s been surprising and encouraging to note, (after a rocky start in the case of PM Morrison), that Tasmania’s premier, and Scotty From Marketing, are handling the crisis efficiently and with authority. I’m no fan of either man, but credit where it’s due and they do appear to be steering the state and the country well at the moment.
Certainly these extraordinary times put into perspective the mundane and micro nature of the personal everyday. Those raspberries and tomatoes that were proving to be so tardy back in February have more than made up for their production delay in the weeks since. The natural world shows scant regard for the concerns of humanity, and both crops have forged on regardless. Until a few days ago picking them was a daily task that took at least an hour, such is their time-consuming abundance, but the dessert of raspberries we’ve now enjoyed every evening for weeks has been a joy. Unsurprisingly, tomatoes have also been a fixture in all but a very few of our meals – with the exception of breakfast.

As anticipated processing tomatoes has also been a regular item on my To Do list during the past few weeks, so the freezer is now full to capacity. Few meals are served without tomatoes featuring somewhere on the plate, and although friends and neighbours have thankfully helped relieve us of some of this excess bounty, there are few signs production is slowing. It makes up for their earlier tardiness of course, but I will not be upset when I can finally declare this particular harvest over.

Lockdown life is otherwise proving no hardship, which is my good fortune, and I’m well aware of that fact. We have space to move, a garden to keep us exercised and occupied – and plenty of tasks indoors to catch up on. And quite apart from anything else there are books. Plenty of them, and for the first time in years, a bit more time to read them without feeling guilty.

And, even more importantly, there is time (and fewer excuses!) to write my own major project, even if in my determination to catch up on some of those aforementioned tasks, it’s taken a little while to settle down to doing so on a regular and determined basis.