Update

There’s not a lot new to update since my last post.

The VC’s Strategy Event pivoted to online (remember when “pivot” was synonymous with this, and this alone?) and her visit was postponed.

I’m under regional restrictions but my husband, who works in a school in the Shellharbour area, is under stay-at-home orders, so I can’t really go anywhere or do anything, either. I could go places without him, I suppose, but that’s not really in the spirit of the marriage nor the lockdown–if he is in any way an infection risk, you’d have to imagine I would be, too, what with living here in close proximity and all.

Theoretically his order will lift on Monday because he’ll have been home for two weeks and revert to being regional. But we’re anticipating an extension of orders in a bit over an hour’s time which would mean that if he goes to work for their staff development day on Monday, the clock resets.

Today is a day or great excitement in our household because our new oven is being delivered. Unfortunately it’s also a day of some disappointment since the sparky can’t come to install it until next week. So my plans to bake up a storm as I head into my leave period are on hold.

Tony and I turned on the Aussie v Aussie Wimbledon quarter final at 1.30am.

Six years ago today I was en route to London to see my dear friend and longtime collaborator, Ros Weaver, and we just happened to squeeze in a trip to Wimbledon on the finals’ weekend. It was a longtime dream come true and I still get quite a jolt during the coverage when I see the local shops or the Dog and Fox and have “I’ve been there!” moments.

It was an amazing trip. In addition to watching the doubles’ finals on Centre Court, I had a few other pop culture and high culture highlights, as well–ranging from Womble-hunting on Wimbledon Common, finding Sun Hill Station, Abbey Road, and Mamma Mia on the West End, to watching Richard III at the Globe.

One day, we will travel again. But it’s just been confirmed that for the next week, we’re not going anywhere.

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.

#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.

Clayton’s Lockdown

Our Prime Minister says we’re not in lockdown, and cautions against using such “alarmist” language. But we are only supposed to be leaving home to work or study (when that can’t be done from home), to buy essentials, to assist others or to get necessary healthcare. Our state Premier has listed 16 legitimate excuses to be outside your home, including the above. You can cop a fine of up to $11 000 if you’re in breach. It feels pretty locked down, I have to say.

This is Day 8 of working from home, for me. If I could actually sleep at night meaning that more than two neurons fired at any given time, I think I’d be quite productive. In my non-work time, I’ve cleaned the oven racks (!), baked, made soup, and painted a room that was badly in need of it.

 

In addition to dealing with whatever new crises COVID-19 throws at us, I’m watching The Originals because being aware of the full gamut of the Vampire Diaries universe may come in very handy if a book proposal on TVD–of which I will be co-editor–is accepted by our preferred publisher. Taking notes is about the right speed in these times, I think. I do have a couple of other deadlines in the next week or two that will require me to write and organise some cogent thoughts. But for now I’m trying to follow all the advice about transitioning to working from home (and in the face of a pandemic, no less), and show myself a little bit of the grace I’m extending to others in our newly-more-distributed team.

co worker
This coworker hasn’t left my desk.

relaxed coworker
She’s right at home.

Things remain oddly surreal. I sold a dozen eggs this morning – the customer, a semi-regular, works in health. So she organised to drop off the money in a zip lock bag, and asked me to leave the eggs out the front. We waved through the front windows and had a conversation via Messenger. This is our new normal.

As you can see from the images of Scout above, my laptop which comes home daily anyway, has now been joined by the computer monitors and webcam from work. We won’t be eating at the dining room table anytime soon. Last week some colleagues called me while they were having a socially distant lunch, and we all sat outside –they in their location and me in mine–and caught up on each others’ lives.

My husband has started working from home, but is rostered to go to work one day a week. That day is today. It is eerily quiet and somehow lonelier without him here.

The sky is grey and it’s threatening to rain, so the whole “go for a walk outside for your mental health and some Vitamin D” advice is unlikely to be followed anytime soon.

Big corporations like Coles and Woolies have stopped their home delivery services in order to redeploy their delivery trucks to the elderly and disabled. I typically used them because crowded shops can trigger my anxiety, even at the best of times. A local wholesaler and a local fruit & veg market have both started a home delivery service in the last couple of days. I’ve placed my order. I’m not sure the conglomerates will have as much of a market share when this is all over.

Unlike Scout who has taken up residence under my monitors, her litter-mate Tinkerbell is freaked out by the humans being home as much as they are, and is making herself scarce. (Yes, the ex-English teacher gave the cats literary names). Tink did decide, however, to join me yesterday after work, to survey the newly completed room.

TinkSo, yes there are some definite advantages to this working from home gig. I leave on time, and my commute is from the dining room to a couch or a bed to listen to a podcast and quickly decompress. I’m saving on petrol. I’ve cut my coffee intake back by two-thirds.

And I do get to have my pets in the “office,” which is a first.