Spring is Sprung

It was August 1988. Princess Beatrice–she of the recent controversial wedding dress fame–had been born on 8/8/88, and my friend had been beside herself wanting to be the one to write that date on the class board. Chalkboard, you young folk.

Who wore it better?

Late August/September was Work Experience season for Year 10. I had a week’s work experience at The Lithgow Mercury. One of the staff writers, Jeff, turned to me cheerfully one morning and said, “Come on; it’s time to go do the ‘Spring is Sprung, the grass is ‘riz’ story.” And then I was propped up against some cherry blossoms in a park on the highway, and this image was plastered across the front page.

Slow news week, clearly.

So as I sit here looking at the buds on our deciduous trees outside, reminders that it is now officially Spring here in Australia are kind of what stops everything feeling a bit … Groundhog Day.

Don’t drive angry.

I am still painting. I’m in Robert’s room now. It’s a bugger of a job, because the room is small and has some extra angles and with the bed in the middle, I can’t quite get to every wall in the way I would like. It took darn near two hours to get one coat on last night, and in the harsh light of day, I’m thinking it’s going to need three. Plus I need to come up with a plan to reach the bit I was unable to reach. And I need to do it soon, because both kids are coming home this weekend, so he can’t bunk down in his sister’s room the way he has for the last two weekends.

The ScoMo Jigsaw Puzzle continues at an incredibly slow pace, but the puzzle preserver I ordered in March is now in the post, so I guess I’d better pick up the pace. After painting, of course.

The never-ending videoconferenced meetings continue, but each day seems to bring new surprises in the higher education sector. The reforms package is headed to the Senate; locally, we have (as of an hour ago) a decision on who will be our new Vice Chancellor. This week, I was asked to give input into key enrollment metrics. At the moment, it feels like a game of academic pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. There are potential changes in students’ enrollment patterns because of bushfires, COVID, floods, unemployment, a recession (to be officially announced later this week), and the reforms before the parliament. It’s an extraordinarily difficult environment in which to try to make predictions.

One bright spot on the horizon: I’m heading up to the Southern Highlands campus for a visit on Friday. It will be my first in-person visit to any of the other regional campuses since February. One of our staff is taking an extended leave of absence and Moss Vale is close enough to not require an overnight stay, so it’s not so much “travel” as “working on campus … just at a different campus.” I’ll pack masks in case there are other tutors in the office, but in all likelihood I’ll be every bit as socially distanced as I am here at my dining room table most of the day.

No cats to sit on the laptop up there, though.

Broken Run

I missed WordPress Wednesday next week, after six (?) weeks of being good. I took last Wednesday as an annual leave day. Since we can no longer travel anywhere on “proper” holidays, I’ve taken to nabbing a mid-week stay-at-home-and-potter day when the odd day pops up that’s not back-to-back online videoconferenced meetings.

My exciting news for the day is that I have submitted a Revise and Resubmit that has been looming over my head for some time. I had told the editor I needed a month, which would have been up on Monday. Despite my best intentions, I stayed at work until 6pm the last two nights to try to finish it up, and it still took until 3pm today. There should have been dancing on the tables, but instead I headed off to another online meeting.

This week has already been endlessly long, and going to the office and staying until teatime hasn’t really helped. It’s also meant that when I get home, I can barely manage to sort out some dinner and make it to the couch, where mindless television hums along in the background. With a very few exceptions, I wouldn’t even say that what I do is watching TV. It’s more passive than that.

I’ll always make an exception for this.

So, very little more has happened on the reno front. Rob and I made an attempt at clearing his room when he was home last weekend, and I’ve been in a few times to remove mold and cobwebs and try desperately to make it all look and smell cleaner before I really attack it with the Sugar Soap. I hope he wasn’t expecting it to be finished and ready for him to move back in this weekend!

I also haven’t worked on the ScoMo memorial jigsaw puzzle for a bit, but that may be just because it’s getting hard.

Rookie error: thinking a night time image featuring reflections is “pretty.” It’s hard, is what it is.

One thing I did manage to do was to encourage a regional colleague to not be scared of blogging. Erin, our admin assistant at UOW Southern Highlands and a proud recent addition to the ranks of UOW alumni, has started a personal blog where she tells the story behind some of the photos in her Instagram account (an account which sometimes makes me envious, right before I remember I’m older and more sedentary and apparently too lazy to even persist with a jigsaw puzzle when it gets a bit hard!). You can check it out here.

Flooding Rains and COVID closeness

Things in NSW seem to be gradually hotting up on the COVID-19 front. Not like Melbourne, but more than Auckland and New Zealand more generally, who’ve reacted swiftly and hard overnight, in response to just four cases. We’ve had four cases within proximity of our regional campuses this week (2 in Batemans Bay and 2 in the Shoalhaven), and we’re still muddling along with non-mandatory masks and open pubs.

The Batemans Bay cases are a bit close to home, because we had both staff and students who were at the impacted schools and then on campus the next day. So far, all the test results have come back negative, so things seem to be fairly contained. The two cases from Sydneysiders visiting the Shoalhaven have impacted my son who works in retail in Nowra, and who suddenly had masks become compulsory midway through a shift on the weekend. Luckily, he had one in his bag. My friend’s daughter made one for each of us and sent them as a care package with a heartfelt message. They are “over-engineered” (in the words of her mother, who designed them), and very soft. Rob has been raving about his, and dutifully washing it and laying it out to dry overnight between work shifts.

My mask. My daughter has cats, my son has stars, and my husband has a dark animal-print one.

I really haven’t had a chance to wear mine yet, because I’ve barely left the house.

Part of the reason I’ve barely left is another bout of flooding–the worst in thirty years, we’re told. Certainly it’s the first time we’ve had water come into the garage, and we’ve lived here thirteen and a half years.

Tony very nearly got the swimming pool he’s always wanted, by default.

(I also have video of our normally dry creek bed as a raging torrent, but I’m not prepared to pay an annual fee just to share it here. I’ll see if it can be added to my personal website.)

On the homefront, the ensuite is finished so while the house is untidy and three bedrooms still haven’t had their paint refresh, everything is actually functional, which is nice. The fear when doing renovations at the speed of cash is one of inadvertently doing more damage while saving, but karma seems to have been on our side in this instance.

Ta-daaa!

And in more big news, we finally found a local company that will check and clean solar panels. This has literally never been done, because the company who installed them went out of business not long afterwards, and we’ve struggled to find anyone in our area with the correct certification (well, I did find one, but he didn’t actually show up at the appointed time!). By my calculations (by which I mean, I know we signed the contract on the last possible day to get the then-60c feed in tariff and I had a quick Google) they were installed in 2011, so I’m well aware that the prognosis might be dire. But they’re currently earning us all of about $10 per month, so I’m hoping that a clean and service might provide some sort of return on the investment of getting them looked out.

Now that I don’t have a renovation project to manage, I have found something else to fill my time. Back in April, I did my civic duty and ordered a couple of “essential” jigsaw puzzles. One order was cancelled, and the other only just turned up about a week ago. Apparently when the PM tells the nation to buy jigsaw puzzles, it mucks up the supply chain of jigsaw puzzles just a little bit. Anyway, mine is here just in time for a potential second lockdown, and it’s already testing my patience significantly. I chose a lovely image of the Venetian canals, thinking we could frame it and hang it on the wall.

I hope they have big walls in whatever aged care facility I wind up in, because this looks and feels like it is going to take decades to complete … and that’s assuming the cats don’t knock it over or push a few key pieces off the desk in the interim!

On Not Travelling

**Content warning: Suicidality, bushfires

Today was the worst Coronavirus day on record in Victoria. Again. The NSW Premier announced tougher border restrictions (anyone coming in from Vic now has to go into supervised hotel quarantine at their own expense), and the QLD Premier announced tougher border restrictions heading North, as well. Apparently the whole of NSW is now a “hot spot.” Which is kind of darkly humorous, because while places like Bunnings and Maccas are masking up, the State government is still taking a “meh … if you feel like it … you can” approach to face coverings.

Now, I had no intentions of taking a wee trip at all, but with one best mate in Vancouver, two in Vic, and one in Tassie, as well as elderly and frequently hospitalised in-laws in Queensland, the thought of not being able to pull some cash from the Emergency Fund and get myself to a place of usefulness should I need to, is not at all pleasant.

Apart from not physically being able to travel, I’m also “not travelling well” at the moment. This morning we had a very long meeting of all the folks who have been awarded Global Challenges funding relating the the rolling crises on the South Coast, and began to figure out how the researchers and regional campuses will work together on these projects. Now, this is generally a very good thing, and it’s very exciting to hear people who really care trying to make a positive difference to our people and communities. But lots of talk about being careful not to re-traumatise community members impacted by the bushfires can be a little re-traumatising in and of itself, if you were in fact one of the community members impacted.

This coalesced with a couple of other thing with which I sometimes struggle- and here’s where the content warning really kicks in, so if you need to protect yourself, please do a better job than I unwittingly have the last few days.

So a while back I got a revise and resubmit on a pop culture/disability paper where I got “Reviewer 2ed”–and one of their criticisms was that I argued that multi-(mental illness) diagnosis households are rare onscreen. And so they cited Please Like Me as also having one. So I dutifully over-compensated and watched the series in its entirety. And it does, for quite a small fraction of time, have two housemates who met as in-patients in a private facility. Rose is played by Debra Lawrance (known to many Australians as the second Pippa from Home and Away) and Netflix breakout star Hannah Gadsby plays her roomie, also named Hannah. And (Spoiler Alert – in case you’re like me and haven’t yet seen it, and are, like me, silly enough to watch it without first Googling it) despite the character of Rose having multiple suicide attempts as a major part of her narrative, I was blindsided when her son found her body in one of the very final episodes.

I watched it yesterday.

Suicide onscreen upsets me enormously and my family are all very aware of how much it unsettles me, and why. They are also aware that I am more sensitive at two distinct times of the year: around Australia Day, and right around now. And sometimes we forget why I’m grumpy and unsettled and then look at the calendar and realise. You see, today would have been my better-than-best friend’s 48th birthday, and he died at his own hand in late January when we were both 23.

The “better than best” is an old in-joke of ours. It started when I went to Japan on student exchange, back in 1990. You see, I’m so old that back when I went on student exchange, we had to communicate by mail. And people who’d been through the experience before us would always warn that you’d have a very special letter-writing friend, and it wouldn’t be your “best” friend. And so it was that my “best” friend wrote like twice the whole year I was away, but this very quiet guy who used to hang with our group sometimes and whom I sat next to in roll call, surprised and delighted me by writing hilarious and detailed letters at least once a fortnight. I still have them. His name was Jamie, and he’s the reason our daughter is named Jamie.

I still miss him terribly, and I worry about sharing the story. I try to be careful to only tell my bit, and not encroach on the grief of his family (who have been absolutely wonderful to both our Jamie and her brother alike). But today, as always, he is very much loved and remembered. And I’m going to try show myself some kindness and compassion over the next day or two — the way he did.

Still going …

For the third Wednesday in a row, there are tradies here. The time we made up in the middle there we kind of lost again between the East Coast Low (I think the builders were diverting to working on an ark) and a few of the pieces we were trying to recycle have protested violently at the idea of being recycled.

This is actually where my kids used to play soccer; not where they learned to swim. Lyrebird Park. Photo: Greg Lawrence/South Coast Register

Jamie and I took advantage of the lull over the weekend to get in there and paint the ceiling and walls in that glorious period post-tiling and pre-fittings going in. Painting bathrooms is the painting I hate most of all, because there are so many fixtures and fittings to work around, and it’s really hard to get a painting platform over a toilet or half into a shower or into a bath. So to be able to sneak in while it was essentially a tiled shell was just about perfect. And Jamie deciding that she needed a weekend at home with her family- and being OK with once again jumping on the end of a roller!– certainly made everything faster and more pleasant.

Progress

I think today will be the final day, and then we have twenty-four hours of waiting for the silicone to set. Twenty-four hours where I can clean up and repack the vanity, which will mean a good clean-out and we’ll once again have a functional bath (which is what we are currently using to store that which normally lives in the vanity cabinet). We don’t use the bath much, but having it off limits has perversely made me wish I could.

In other news, the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) variation at work has been agreed by staff, so we’re off to Fair Work to ask for our pay to be reduced over the next couple of years. Against this backdrop, we’re all trying to come up with additional efficiencies. I feel sorely disadvantaged in this respect, because there’s not much accountancy in Arts or Education programs. I know I’m mathematically capable, I know I can (and do) manage a household budget, I listen to a lot of finance podcasts where people like Dave Ramsey throw around terms like “profit and loss statement” or “retained earnings” and I’m pretty sure I understand what they are on about, but inevitably I still feel I’m missing stuff.

So far, the readings are making sense but my confidence is not shifting much. We had our first (of four) virtual workshops today. I remain mildly terrified but I’ve paid my money and done 30% of the coursework, so I guess I’m committed!

Back to more “core” business: today I read the final draft of an application the University is putting forward to get some recognition for our staff and the amazing job they did during the bushfires. This is timely in a way, because our thoughts on how to plan, based on what happened over New Year, is due at the end of this week. So in between looking at columns of numbers, I’m looking at columns of recommendations I made earlier, and trying to prioritise them.

In the background, I have two writing projects on the go. Yes, we’re still looking for submissions about The Vampire Diaries! I’m also working on a Revise & Resubmit for a paper about mental illness on television. It was written more than a year ago, and bits and pieces of it have, of course, been adapted into our latest book, but it’s now about shiny-ing up a particular bit in a particular length for a particular audience.

So there it is: a pretty typical week in the life of a pretty typical academic, in many ways: researching, writing, doing admin. With a small side of mid-pandemic bathroom renovation project and local flood warnings thrown in, just to add to the degree of difficulty!

Ten Fingers, No Frostbite

One week on, and I am again sitting here cursing the cold as we again have tradies here who “need” all the doors wide open. Despite my complaints, no fingers have actually frozen and broken off in that time.

This week, it’s the tilers. Now this is massive progress and has been the cause of much jubilation in our household. You see, we stopped using the ensuite quite some time ago, because we had leaks into the wall, the floor, the bedroom carpet; and from the shower, the vanity, the drainpipes; and just to make sure we had the whole set of malfunction, the toilet had a busted seal so would randomly start –and almost immediately stop–the flushing process several hundred times a day. And night. In the end I turned the water off to it and we moved out.

So we and the builder were anticipating some massive plumbing rectification works might need to be added to his otherwise reasonable quote.

Imagine our excitement when the main cause of the issues turned out to be just a small missing bit of waterproofing at the site of the leak, no bigger than a twenty cent piece! And when the drain problem turned out to be silt and gunk that had built up – much of it, apparently, from the last time we unexpectedly had to rectify waterproofing problems in there, just after we moved in thirteen years ago. Because obviously, shoving it into a pipe that is required for drainage makes more sense than sweeping it up and binning it.

(Well, I was excited. My husband is mostly cranky at the dudes from last time. Since I can’t even remember their names, I figure that ship has well and truly sailed).

So the upshot of this is that everything is progressing faster than expected, and the tilers did the floor yesterday and are moving onto the walls today. This is about a week ahead of schedule. Which is good, because I’m just beginning to struggle with the juggle.

Our tilers are what you might call “traditional” tradies. I’ve been having flashbacks to when my dad used to bring people in to “help” on our ever-changing and ever-growing family home. Think playing the radio from the car, lots of smoko breaks, beanies and flannos. Which is fine most of the time, but sometimes challenging when you’re working from home just on the other side of the open door.

For example, I’m having no problems listen to Outkast second hand while typing this. Yesterday’s Dua Lipa while trying to take notes from an academic journal article, however, was a bit trickier. And Zoom calls with the Boss while tiles are being cut are very interesting indeed.

Subtle background noise

I am sure I can deal with it for a few more hours. I’m hopeful the tiling will be done today. The floors are dry enough for them to walk on, so it’s all systems go. And the builder says he’s not coming back until Friday to start the reinstall, which gives me an opportunity tomorrow to sneak in some painting before the fittings go in.

We have a floor! Which looks exactly like our old floor, because in addition to not actually waterproofing 100% of the floor last time, dudes miscalculated the number of tiles required, so we had another ten plus sq m in the laundry cupboard. Surprise!

These days, my idea of bliss is being able to put a painting platform right up against a wall, rather than trying to suspend myself over the top of a toilet or perch atop a vanity.

It’s the little things.

New Leaves

This is the third week in a row that I’ve actually blogged during my dedicated blogging time. I think that might be a record.

This is just one of a number of renewals going on around here. First and foremost, I am sitting here wrapped in a blanket and cursing my lack of foresight because I have been so desperate to be able to use our completely non-functional ensuite again one day, that I inadvertently agreed to have it torn out in what is the coldest week of the Australian winter, each and every year. I know it is the coldest week of the year because where I grew up, it snowed about one day per year, and that day was always just before mid-July. So while my husband is happily reading his book in a gas-heated room, I’m in the room near the wide-open front door, watching my fingers turn blue as I type, because this is where the computer monitors are.

Because I’m apparently incapable of this “taking it easy” thing of which I hear people speak, I decided that I really “needed” to “finish” the interior painting before this all took place. Following on from painting the peeling bedroom as a coronovirus project back in late March, I’ve been slowly but surely deconstructing, painting and then reconstructing the rest of the house. (There was a forced break in there in May, when I took a tumble while trying to peel off masking tape, and smashed my leg up pretty well). So this past weekend I took a couple of extra days, inveigled my long-suffering daughter to give up her extra days, and we did another three rooms, just in time to still be putting one back together this morning when the builders arrived to tear the ensuite out.

This will leave me with the two kids’ bedrooms, the ensuite and the master to deal with post-renovation, and then we will be done. As in, I’m too old to suit up for this task again. Save pennies and pay someone next time. Done.

We also hit a bit of a milestone in my quest for backyard contentment and moves towards self-sufficiency. During the bushfire crisis earlier this year, we had to evacuate to our kids’ flat in Wollongong and bunker down for close to a fortnight. We took the cats with us, but our nine feathered babies had to be boarded out with a friend of a friend (now an actual, first-degree friend) in Corrimal. Jane and her family took beautiful care of our girls, who all came home mid-January.

Unfortunately, we had a number of horrendously hot days after that, and lost the bulk of our flock to the heat. One particularly horrendous morning we lost five girls by mid-morning. Our response was to bring the survivors into the air-conditioned loungeroom and hope for the best.

Poor girls were confused, as were our (indoor) cats. But it worked. And the three companions have been doing OK ever since, but me – notsomuch. “Three is not a flock” has become something of a mantra around here.

And so on Sunday, Jamie and I took a break from painting and headed out to adopt our newest companions; Ruth, Romana and Leela. All three are quite cuddly personalities so far, and have found themselves a spot as far away from the olders girls as they could possibly manage within the confines of our coop. All three have taken up residence inside my late Pop’s mower catcher. It’s pretty snug.

We dusted everyone for mites and gave all six pedicures (ie an oil coating on their legs, which both moisturises and repels nasties). They are all in the coop and run for today with all the activity going on around here, but once the builders go, I’ll let them free range during whatever sunlight is left.

So that’s the home front. But to circle back to the writing stuff, I do have a call for abstracts out. So if you are a fan of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and/or Legacies, I have an opportunity for you.

You can read the Call for Abstracts here – which is the also a new project. Presenting my website, https://www.kimberleymcmahoncoleman.com/. Essentially, this is a landing page out to the three blogs, and also a spot to list for sale the books Ros and I have published; together, alone, or with others. Hopefully in 2021, Critically Reading The Vampire Diaries will be listed there, too.

It’s A Small World

One of the first signs that things were bad on the COVID-front, for me, was the news that Disneyland was closing. And it has now been closed for months.

I’ve written before about how I love Disneyland, despite an awareness of how Disney changes/whitewashes history, as well as significant discomfort with unreconstructed gender roles in the Princess films (although there does seem to be some progress in more recent iterations). My current visit count is Tokyo Disneyland (twice), Paris Disneyland, Disneyland Resort/California Adventure (five times, I think?) and Disney World. During various trips to the US and Canada, I’ve learned that I can cope with jetlag relatively well if I land on the West Coast, but if I head straight over to the East Coast, my body just can’t cope. At all. So my last couple of trips, we’ve flown to LA and stayed in Anaheim a few days to recover before heading off to see our family on the other side of the country.

A quick explainer about how I have family in the US: about a million years ago when I was a teenager, I went on student exchange to Japan through an organisation called AFS (hence the first Tokyo Disney trip – number one on my Disney Bingo card). Then when my kids were little (as in infants/toddlers), I got re-involved in the organisation as a way to meet people in my new home of Nowra. And on three separate occasions, I was asked to support some incoming students. The first of these was my daughter Ellyn. I didn’t see Ellyn again until we went to the US on a dance trip. She flew across the country to see us, and must have decided we were OK, because she came out to visit and stayed with us not long afterwards.

Reunited. One of my all-time favourite photos, I have this one hanging on a wall in our home.
The days before Zoom – ten years ago, possibly to the day if Facebook memories are to be believed.

The last couple of trips where I enacted the Anaheim plan were with my son to see Ellyn marry David, and later, with my daughter to meet their daughter, Emma. I had hoped to get over there this year to meet her newest addition, wee Carter, but that has been delayed indefinitely.

One of the coolest of the many cool things about Ellyn is that she comes as part of a package deal with her large and loving family. We’ve hung out with her parents, siblings, in-laws and niblings in various locales across the States. Her sister-in-law, Erynn, and I used to joke that the universe might implode if we were ever in the same place, because we share so many interests (I am happy to report that it did not). She’s interested in popular culture and special education, so has actually read a lot of my stuff. Voluntarily.

So when Erynn put out the call via social media for some help to keep the Disney magic alive, of course I offered to assist.

The network of global parks has meant that for a great many years, the most famous earworm of them all, Small World, has played somewhere every hour of every day. So with the parks closed, we decided a network of people playing it in their homes would just have to do, for now. I picked a time that was early evening here, to save our Stateside folks from being up at a most inhumane hour.

Every night during the evening news, my phone plays the song.

Suffice to say, my family are very much looking forward to the parks’ scheduled reopenings over the next week or two.

Small World DLR Xmas Overlay, November 2017

50/50 of 2020

Today I’m celebrating that 2020 is half over. It’s been an accursed year, starting with bushfires, and traversing coronavirus, race-based violence overseas and closer to home, an international recession, and massive challenges in the higher education sector. And here in Australia we’ve only just passed midwinter, so the weather feels as bleak as the nightly news. It makes it hard to want to get out of bed and do the voluntary stuff that you know makes you feel better–going for a walk, writing. So it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. “WordPress Wednesday” time is blocked out on my calendar each week. And each week, I move it down, around, and eventually delete it in favour of other projects.

This is life in the time or corona. Plans are not things that are easily followed. Every Facebook memory reminds you of happy times, travelling and visiting people. Incidentally, this time of year is usually PopCAANZ season, so there are a lot of (academic) travel memories at the moment!

Since I last posted, a few things have happened. I spoke to the local St John’s Ambulance division about working with patients on the Autism spectrum. Which I probably should have written about on our autism blog. I’ve been working from home, and working on the home, and stressing over looming changes in the higher education sector, which might have been good fodder for this blog, a la my previous post that included musings on painting and productivity. And the book Ros and I have been working on for ages went through its final corrections and was published, which we’ll no doubt soon mention over on our shared blog.

Gratuitous Plug

Which prompted me to reconsider the messiness of my writing life, such as it is, up until now.

Earlier in the year I was visiting friends in Victoria (back when we could do that without fear of being quarantined or fined). I was chatting with a tech-savvy teen and wishing I could somehow link all the blogs, without having to move them. And we came to the conclusion that it might not be as big a deal as it felt in my Gen-X mind.

So this week, I ponied up and set up a new website, which will serve as a launch pad for all three blogs, as well as housing an online shop where you can purchase any of my publications, as well as Ros’ first book. (I’ve been “fostering” her copies since she up and left the country!)

It kind of feels like turning over a new leaf for the new financial year.

Here’s to a less messy second half of the year. We could all use the restart.

#isolyf

Like the thug life, the iso life chooses you.

Strictly speaking, I’m not in isolation, and I’m certainly not in quarantine. I am, however, practising social distancing. Extreme social distancing, in fact. Since March 20, I’ve left the house just three times: to go to the chemist and top up the petrol tank; to mail some employment contracts to the HR department; and then last Saturday I went to the University campus when I knew no one would be there, so that I could print a long document I needed to edit.

You’ll hear more about that long document in due course, probably over at our Shapeshifters blog.

MH cover
Here’s a pretty big clue as to what Ros & I are editing … now available for preorder!

I’ll probably make a similar sneak trip sometime in the next couple of days, because I have another long document to read and critique: my PhD student’s complete draft. These are good tasks for long days spent sitting at your dining room table, and provide a welcome alternative to seemingly endless Zoom and Webex meetings.

My other big academic task is watching The Originals and later, Legacies, for another book project that’s a bit further behind in the queue. I’ve been trying to watch and take notes on episodes as my almost-last-task of the day, when my brain is sluggish but I’m not quite ready to start packing up/getting ready for the next day.

theoriginals
Another supernatural show with one token human.

The problem with this approach, of course, is that it would take me until July to even get up to Legacies. So I’ll be spending some of my weekends trying to turbo-charge these efforts.

As I write this, the Prime Minister is giving a speech about COVID-19 and its impact. Already this morning, the state premier has given a presser. It’s only a little after 10am. No wonder we are all exhausted. This feels like the daily updates during the bushfire crisis–which was, after all, only a couple of months ago. Students who lost everything in January are now transitioning to an online study environment, virtually overnight.

It’s tough.

There are other, less obvious ways in which university life is being impacted. Students are not able to lie on the lawn and plan the kinds of social activities that we all think of being pretty representative of that season of life. And then there are the really big milestones in the academic lives of some students. Graduations postponed, indefinitely, for one. And the international experiences are missing, almost in their entirety. Most of our expected international students are not here. And our own, who had planned to be studying overseas, are not.

My daughter was supposed to go on exchange this semester. Her high school bestie and she were both heading to Liverpool. I was well advanced in my plotting of potential leave dates so that we could go and visit her over Easter, and indulge in our greatest Beatles-fan fantasies.

Strawberry_Fields_History_from_1800's_to_Today

She couldn’t get credit for some of her subjects, so it would have extended her degree. And despite my protests that six months or even a year was very little in the course of a lifetime, especially when compared with traipsing around Europe with a dear friend, she withdrew.

I am a huge advocate of student exchange, having been both an exchange student to Japan in senior high school, and having done a short stay as part of my own university studies. One of my isolation tasks has been cleaning up and renovating the spare bedroom, which unearthed my long-forgotten travel diary and even photos from the latter trip. I’ve also been a support mum to incoming students, leading to our South American adventures last year, and multiple trips to the USA, usually in April, which is causing some bittersweet Facebook memories right about now. Jamie is herself no stranger to the benefits, having already completed a high school program to Italy and a short program in Argentina as part of her university studies last year.

It has only been in the last three weeks or so that I have thanked all that is good and shiny that she made what I had first deemed to be a bad call. My anxiety would have been in overdrive.

Her lovely friend Sky still went. Sky was recalled by our University a little over fourteen days ago. She had planned to spend her 21st birthday in Paris. Instead, she spent it quarantined; isolated even from her family, confined to her bedroom in Wollongong, with her family picnicking in the hall, and her friends video-calling her.

You can read Sky’s story, in her own words, here.

brisky
Hard to separate since Year 10 … Brianna, our Jamie, and Sky.