Covid Vaccines

If I ruled the whole world, not just my little enclave, I would do things very differently for the vaccine roll-out.  I would not consider where they were made, who can outbid the poorer countries, nor even the death rates as these are people who have passed out of consideration.  I would attack the virus by sending the available vaccines to the hot spots of new infections to halt it in its tracks before new variants emerge.  This was the model and plea of the WHO prior to any vaccines being released, but they were shouting into a storm and I am sure they knew that.  It is ironic that many of the rich countries are indeed among the most at need, like the US where new cases are 70,000 per day, Germany having a third wave etc.  So, as was quite predictable, there is an unseemly and desperate scramble to get hands on vaccine and the winners are……. the rich and powerful.  No surprise there.

And perhaps it is all in vain as the virus is likely to sprout so many variants that re-vaccination will be required in less than a year, long before most of the world is even vaccinated the first time.  This was brought home by an interview today with Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC (Center for Disease Control in the US) who tossed the script and said she had “An impending sense of doom”.  As have many leading epidemiologists who see us on the losing side with this virus which has already mutated so many times.

I have decided not to seek a covid vaccine inoculation.  I have been eligible for a couple of weeks being a septuagenarian, but have been watching the roll-out world wide.  I am by no means an anti-vaxer, or have any doubts about the efficacy of the vaccines, it is just that I have seen the inequality of distribution.  It is mainly produced in rich countries and mainly distributed to rich countries.  That doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  This is not some self-sacrificing stance based on long-held beliefs in equality (well maybe a little bit), but some rational thinking that the virus has to be tackled first in the worst hit places to be able to knock it on the head.  I think it will be in my interests and Australia’s interests to tackle this as a worldwide problem, which it undoubtedly is, to send the vaccines to where they will do the most to control the virus.

As WHO feared and railed against even before the vaccines were available, the rich countries have snapped up the supplies, no doubt due to having more purchasing power.  It is also true that some of the countries most in need are the rich ones.  Europe and the US are having a torrid time dealing with continuing infection rates and in any equitable distribution system should enjoy some preference.  But many other places with major outbreaks, they are not able to get sufficient (or any) supply.  PNG springs to mind.  They have a serious outbreak and rudimentary medical facilities.  Well, we could congratulate ourselves with our minimal infection rates and send them a few doses to “do the right thing”, which we have done with I believe 8000 doses.  Actually, it would be in Australia’s interests, and mine, to send them a whole heap more to help contain the outbreak there.  Perhaps Scotty doesn’t realise that Australia extends to within 4 km of PNG.  Perhaps he doesn’t realise that due to PNG’s weak public health system, the infection rates and deaths will be hugely under reported.

I did my weekly shopping in Atherton today and it was a bit eerie.  Nearly everyone had masks on.  I haven’t seen any masks since April last year, and even then only 20% had them.  I was handed a mask at the entrance to Bunnings and told I wouldn’t be allowed in without one.  Had I missed some emergency health warning?  Perhaps, because just everybody had a mask on.  The supermarket didn’t enforce masks, but the bottle shop did.  Everybody stayed subdued and distant and for the first time I wore a mask.  I didn’t like it.  It was hot and suffocating and I could no longer read smiles or scowls and felt alienated from people by being no longer able to have communication by facial expressions.  I suppose most of you are much further down the track than I am, but it is a track I do not want to go down.

So, after brief glimmers of hope, I am back to my original ‘gloom and doom’ prognosis of Feb 2020, that this disease would be a “permanent scourge of mankind”.

Treats and Toil in the Jungle

I have sought and found a different lifestyle than most people in Australia and I hope dear readers find some interest and amusement in me relating tasks and events and trying to give some impression of what it is like to live and work in rainforest.  First off, I don’t commute.  My work and pleasure is all around, me so I can step out the door and do something.  I guess there are a lot of people who could better use the time and money commuting bleeds from them.  Also being self-employed and the B&B business requiring work mainly in the middle of the day, I can get up when I feel like it for a leisurely shower and breakfast.  I am past the morning scramble to get the kids to the school bus.  So life is not too demanding so far, and I do have the choices of what I do.  My own priorities.

First some treats.  I enjoy talking and socializing with guests.  Most I treat with respect and care and having shown them round and orientated them to Possum Valley, I leave them to their own devices.  Some who return and show some interest in conversation I get to know better, invite to dinner, or get invited and have a most convivial time.  Recently I had an evening with frequent flyer guests of two young teenage boys and their father, as the mother had stayed home to look after a newly acquired puppy.  The boys expertly taught me some new card games and we had a lot of fun.  Also I heard the tale of the heroic mother, hi Nadege, who saved the puppy from a large python.  The boys and puppy were asleep in a room of their home in Cairns, when Nadege heard some disturbance.  She entered the room and the boys were fast asleep and a python had the nose of the puppy in its jaws and coils around its body.  I had always seen the gentle side of this lady, but had suspected there was also a fierce side.  The fierce side sprang into action and ripped the python off the doomed puppy and flung it towards the door but missed.  I am sure you know how difficult it is to aim a heavy and powerful wriggling serpent at a target …. or perhaps you don’t.  It hit the wall with a mighty thud and dived for cover in the boys bedroom.  The household and serpent were in uproar by this time, blood everywhere, the dozing father now on the scene and the snake chased out.  This will go down in family legend.  Don’t mess with Nadege or her loved ones.

A little treat of an azure kingfisher on my veranda

My last weekly supplies run to Atherton had a happy end when I came back along the track to see a cassowary striding along.  It took off into the bush and when I pulled up to where it disappeared, just waving bushes to be seen.  So I drove off and 70 m later it dashed out of the forest right in front of the car and crashed into the foliage on the other side of the road.  I think this is one of the wild ones.  A couple of hundred meters later, I met guests on the way out and cautioned them to take care on the road because of a cassowary.  They would have loved to have seen it, but didn’t.

Now some of the toil.  Bom had forecast that a low off the coast would turn into a cyclone category 3, but would not cross the coast.  On Monday I woke up to gale force winds and and lashing rain driven by vicious gusts.  But the eerie bit was how dark it was.  The whole day my solar panels couldn’t harvest a single amp of power.  Which would have been useful as about 9am the hydro went offline not producing any power either.  I thought about the rain raising the creek and bogging the turbine, but there had not been enough rain to cause that so it was likely an open circuit with a break in the transmission line or a fallen branch bringing the lines together to produce a short circuit.   Either way I had to shut down the turbine.

I got into my wet weather gear and went to shut of the turbine which resolved the diagnosis of the problem.  The turbine was going slowly with the water pounding out past the nozzle inlet completely reversing its trajectory from the nozzle.  I will point out the nozzle speed of the water is about 70 km/hr and the blow-back is quite spectacular.  This told me that a) there was a dead short in the transmission line, and that b) the generator hadn’t burned out yet as it was still valiantly trying to produce electricity.  If there was a break in the transmission, or open circuit, the turbine would have been thundering around at double speed and the power of the water making great noise as it hit the rear casing.  I shut it down by turning off the inlet and put my hand on the generator to see how hot it was.  Ouch, yes hot.  Now to find the short.

I blundered up the power line, but in rainforest the light is about 2% of the intensity in open ground and with the very dark conditions I could hardly see the lines.  Also I need specs and every time I looked up I was blasted by teeming rain further obscuring vision.  I finally found a fallen tree across the power lines and where they had crossed over.  I went for my tree destruction tools, a pole saw and machete and my power line fiddling tool, a long light pole with a vee notch at one end and a hook at the other.  A couple of hours later I was drenched to the bone but had the power back on.  Just as well, as the solar panels were on strike.  It was so dark that they couldn’t raise an amp between them at midday.

More toil.  I had seen so many branches down and a carpet of green leaves on the ground so I suspected the track in through the rainforest would be a mess.  I tooled up with chainsaws, machete, axe etc, and set off in the car.  There was plenty to do.  Sticks and branches every 20m and about 8 sizable trees across the track that completely obscured it.  After about 4 hours hard yakka of chainsawing and hauling off the debris, I had reached the end of the rainforest and thought I had finished.  Might as well check my mailbox at the end of the track.  Just as well I did.  Not far from the Highway, a mighty old wattle with a trunk over a meter in diameter with a huge number of branches had fallen over the road with the crown right in the middle.  More than 2 hours work there sawing and pulling the branches off the road.  My pulling power was reduced by slippery red For those of you shuddering at the mud and even more slippery cow pats, as the cows had congregated there for shade or shelter.  I had to use the full reach of my pole saw (5.3 m) to get to the higher branches.

For those of you shuddering at the thought of floundering in mud, getting scratched and bloodied, wet and tired and wondering how to down a broken tree without ending up underneath it, well, I would rather do this than paperwork.  Just as well because such efforts are required just to live here.  So all you keyboard jockeys just don’t know what your’re missing, and now you do know, you probably think “thank goodness”.

News from the Fungus Farm

We are in the middle of the wet season now, but nothing dramatic like cyclones to laugh at.  The rain has come in moderate amounts and with about 770 mm YTD, it isn’t a failed wet either.  The only thing I can complain about is lightening sneaking up on me without decent warning.  In the last week there has been distant thunder gently rolling about the hills just adding a bit of constant background noise, and distant and silent lightening throughout the night at less than a second between flashes.  But a few days ago I was in the kitchen there was a loud crack I knew was the answering machine blowing up.  I was in the same place about a month before when when the previous machine was blown up so immediately knew what it was.  I had the leisure to count the seconds until the clap of thunder arrives.  About 3-4 seconds, so it was just over a kilometre away to the west where the lightening had struck.  It wasn’t even raining.

Dear regular guests, I will no longer have an answering machine on my phone, so the best way to contact me is by email.  A phone which only lasts a month is ridiculous, and they are so complex to set up, I can’t be bothered.  I still have a phone and you can try your luck with me being near it to answer in person, but no more incredibly fragile and complex answering machines thank you.  I remember when I bought it last month, I remarked to the brisk and efficient young guy at Harvey Normans checkout that they make very good lightening detectors.  He politely ignored my remark.  So the phone I have is irreplaceable.  It is so old it has capability for pulse dialing.  Anyone remember when you stuck your finger in a hole and turned a dial until your finger hit a stop and it clicked back?  And that was for each number.  The phone is the size and feel of a brick.  I think it was cream coloured, but has now turned mostly yellow.  It doesn’t require power, can withstand lightening and was connected to the phone line when the super-duper modern one was blown off the wall.  I estimate I have had it for 35 years.

Another casualty of the rogue lightening strike I discovered an hour later when I went to connect to the internet.  I couldn’t.  The connection box, aka modem, had no lights and no heat.  It is the hottest electronic device I have ever had and is alarmingly hot even when doing nothing, which is most of the time.  It doesn’t even have a power switch and is intended to permanently connect to the satellite.  It belongs to the NBN and I can’t buy a new one, but the good news is that the NBN replace it for free.  When they can get a techie to come out here and replace it.  I spent an hour and a quarter with my ear clamped to my brick phone, as it doesn’t have speaker, as I waited in a phone queue to talk to a techie to report the fault.  I wished I had had the foresight to gather a book and a cut lunch to while away the time before I was connected to a human.  Only 4 days offline before the techie arrived.  The same guy who had replaced it just 2 years ago.  This modern electronic shit really doesn’t like lightening.

I recently had a guest’s dog killed by a red-bellied black snake.  They are really common here but very docile and I have stood on them half a dozen times without one attempting to bite.  That is pretty tolerant.  But the dog ran up and bit the snake, the snake bit the dog and within a minute it lost the use of its back legs.  Note to guests:- they are pretty easy going, but don’t bite them.

A couple of weeks back a tree fell over the track near Blackbean Cottage.  It had many branches and was festooned with creepers which made it hard work clearing it up.  I got about 4 tons of firewood for the sauna even without taking the trunk which would have been too hard to split.  I like my new battery chainsaw doing most of the cutting of the smaller branches.  It is light and easy to use and as powerful as the smaller petrol chainsaws.  I opted for a mid-range battery which gives 40 mins of actual cutting time, which translates to nearly a couple of hours of work as there is much heaving of branches and chopping of creepers to be done.  By that time I am about ready for a break myself.

Me and grandkids Xmas 2020

I had a great Xmas with my daughter Josie and family staying a week having driven over from Darwin.  My other daughter Alice lives just 15 km away and came over so my 4 grandkids could have time together.  Aged 4,5,6 and 7, they had a lot in common and could play together well.  As reported in my last blog, I had made machetes for Henry and Philip who live down the road.  Huon, the eldest at 7 really, really wanted one too.  Despite some misgivings from his mother, I got the nod and made him one too.  The three boys spent hours thrashing away at the undergrowth.  I had offered to make one for Evie, 5, but she declined.  It’s a boy thing I guess, as I remember as a boy taking a stick to some weeds and imagining I was an explorer in some trackless jungle.  And that was in the middle of Manchester!  Things have come full circle I guess and my grandkids are really in the jungle with real machetes.

It has just struck me with astonishment that I have actually been living my childhood dreams!  I have actually written a blog about making my own machete and how much better it is than a store bought one and how I treasure it.  Sure is an upgrade from a stick!  I had thought my life as random and unlikely events that brought me here, but perhaps my child mind was steering me without my special wonder or knowledge.  If I don’t know, I suppose the question will have to be thrown on the trash heap of philosophy where many good ideas go to die.

Happy Days

It being the school holidays, I have the pleasure of the company of two grandsons for a couple of days a week.  Recently, they persuaded to make them a machete each.  It may seem a little reckless to arm a 6 year old and a 4 year old with a machete, but I judge them to be more responsible than most and they can take instruction.  Also they live on a farm with machinery and tools from a D7 bulldozer to tweezers, and I have a shed stuffed with tools most of which are potentially dangerous, including an array of 6 chainsaws.  If that wasn’t enough, they have a heap of uncles who each have a farm.  Their father takes safety seriously, and often has them with him, so lays down the law about what they have to do.  So do I.  Parents and trusted carers should take risks with their kids I believe, after the kids have been well briefed about what the risks are.  The alternative is ‘cotton-wool’ them and keep them from activities they dearly wish to try as they see the adults doing these things.  If you take that approach, you also miss the opportunity to instill a culture and mindset of safety.  They will get hurt and that will powerfully reinforce the lectures, so parents can just hope they are not badly hurt.

Anyway, I found some steel of a suitable gauge and hacked out suitably sized blades with a cutting disc.  A broken handle from some ancient tool became new handles, properly bolted, glued and bound with tape.  They asked for the tape and were quite specific it should be red to be easy to find when put down in the rainforest.  It is from clues like this that I realise they remember things I said from long ago.  Alas I didn’t have red so they had to settle for white.  Then we had a discussion about cleaning the blade of rust and sharpening.  Both wanted clean and sharp.  I used an orbital sander to clean and a bench grinder to sharpen.  I limited the sharpening.  For my own superb homemade machete, I continued with refining the angle with a belt sander, then lovingly stroked it with an oil-stone until the edge was razor quality.

Henry & Philip with machetes

They immediately went out and attacked the local vegetation with much gusto.  I had to remind them that one of the rules was that they had to keep apart by at least a few meters, but apart from that they certainly got into the swing of things.  They took their weapons home with them and you might be surprised to know that they were not promptly confiscated.  A few days later they were back in my care with their machetes.  My daughter Alice told me these were the best things they had ever had and they virtually slept with them.

The first thing they wanted to do was go and widen the road by cutting back the vegetation on both sides.   So all of use, armed with machetes, went up the road and started the long, laborious task of hacking back the ever-pressing growth along the track.  Have you ever had a problem keeping little kids on task?  Or getting a break from their constant chatter?  We were there about an hour and a half with constant work and very little said.  Just a couple of reminders for them to stay further apart.  I had equipped us all with water bottles, because any hard yakka in Oz requires a frequent drink.  And I was the one to call off the session, claiming my wrist was aching (true).  Henry didn’t want to leave until I promised another session later.  For them to be so engaged in an activity it must have a great deal of value to them.  I have some idea what the value was, but I leave you to ponder.  Hint:- emotional rewards are the arbiter of value.  We did another hour of track widening in the afternoon.

Yes, I fed them, they played in the creek, splashed water all round my patio, trashed my house and then we went back to the hard yakka of hacking track for another hour.  These kids know what hard work is, and that it can feel good and be satisfying.  I think the next time they are here on Thurs, I will up-grade the sharpening which will increase the effectiveness of their tool and the satisfaction they gain, making the point they have shown responsibility and control.  Kids really respond to praise and reward where it is justly earned.

I had a good day, the grandkids had a good day, we all learned a lot, the sun shined and what more could we hope for.

 

I Don’t Like it … It’s Too Quiet …

The title is an old western (film) cliche from when that genre existed.  A few seconds later the unfortunate actor would be hit by an arrow between the shoulder blades and sink to the ground.  I had that “too quiet” feeling about a month ago when I realised that I had not had a phone call for about a week.  I had not tried to make a call either, but that is not unusual as looking at my monthly bill I only make about 4 or 5 calls a month and those are mostly in response to calls fielded by my answering machine.  This probably does not reflect your own phone usage.  I am of course talking about a landline and I do not have, or have ever had, a mobile phone.

Call me a dinosaur, a technophobe or whatever you like, but I simply don’t want a mobile.  They are brilliant devices that give access to amazing amounts of information and will become a right-of-passage event when little kids have them implanted in their brains, but I don’t want one.  I graduated with hons in engineering, follow Scientific American and astronomy sites and have built this website, so I don’t tremble in fear of technical stuff and complexity, I just don’t want a mobile.

I definitely didn’t have a phone way back when

I came to Possum Valley 43 years ago after travelling the world for 5 years with a backpack on the hippie trail.  I met thousands of people from hundreds of cultures, so I claim not to be antisocial or introvert, but I don’t want a mobile.  Gads, anyone could call me anytime!  I don’t want that.  I came from crowded England to remote north Queensland to buy a vacant rainforest property to have space and quietness for myself, with the very modest aims of creating a comfortable living space in a rich and natural environment far away from the hustle and bustle.  I wanted to be a semi-hermit only occasionally and reluctantly crawling to civilization to get things I couldn’t grow or make.  Then I got married and had kids.  If you want to wreck your idealised lifestyle, that is the quickest way to do it.  Don’t get me wrong, no regrets, it is the best thing I ever did, but it did require certain mental adjustments.  Or a total reboot.  Then after 5 years of blissful isolation, my wife got pregnant and thought it would be a good idea to have a phone.   A pretty radical idea, but I couldn’t deny the safety considerations.  So I applied to have a phone put on.   Hang in there, I am gradually creeping round to the topic.

Back in to good old days, there was a standard connection fee of about $170.  For this fee a city dweller would get a techie to connect a few wires with a little electrical screwdriver.  I got a whole crew for a week with a D7 bulldozer, a ditchwitch and other heavy equipment to lay and bury 2 kms of wire over hill and dale and through a farm dam.  I also leveraged that out to bury 200m of water pipe in their nicely cut trenches.  I certainly got my money’s worth, but there was a sleeper problem in the phone line insulation.  A certain sealing gunk used at that time proved to be deficient and water could seep into joints and corrode connections.  A multi billion dollar problem for Telstra and a slightly smaller problem for me.  In the wet season the connection pits fill up with water and the line has failed a couple of times before.  It has taken up to 6 weeks to fix.

This time I think a week went by before I noticed nobody had called and I picked up the phone to find no dial tone.  Then I went online to report the fault to Telstra but wherever I went on the massive site I was told to call this number or text this number.  I only had email.  My phone line was down but I could only report this by phone.  Catch 22.  I am 5km from my nearest neighbours who I don’t even know and would probably be an hour or two on hold anyway, so to borrow a phone would be a bit presumptuous.  I finally found a little chink in the armour of the impregnable Telstra fortress as the only place to send an email was to ‘complaints’.  So I complained.  Days later I got a reply saying the account for that number was cancelled in 2015.  WTF?  I have been using the line for 37 years up until a few weeks ago when it failed to function.  They asked for more info and I sent them heaps but to no avail.  After 2 fruitless week I contacted my ISP Skymesh to ask them if perhaps they had stopped paying the Telstra bills, because for simplicity I had bundled the billing for the phone line rental and calls with them.  Then I got some sense.  They provide my internet connection from a satellite 32,000kms up in space and have nothing to do with copper wire buried underground, but I had to report the problem through them so they could “raise a fault” with Telstra.  How silly of me.  I had been thinking of techies with boots and shovels to fix a line fault when I should have contacted a satellite company, via satellite, to fix it.

This morning I picked up the phone in passing and there was a dial tone.  I now have a working phone.   I didn’t miss it much, and don’t think I missed much business, but I can now chat to my daughters again.  I know the days for copper wire are numbered and it is relic technology, but I’m going to hang on to it for as long as possible.  So I quite enjoyed my recent guaranteed days of uninterrupted self-indulgence, but also pleased to have the service back.  There are also safety issues if I manage to cut a leg with one of my 6 chainsaws for instance.  Would be comforting to know I could call an ambulance.

Under the Pump

A few days ago I started the ram pump and went away expecting it to to fill up the depleted tanks over a couple of days.  By the time I realised that it had stopped working, the top tank which supplies Maple Cottage was perilously low just a couple of rungs above the outlet.  Guests arriving and I am sure they expected water when turning a tap.  I was pretty sure the problem was in the drive pipe where I had been bodging the last threaded connection before the pump.  I had used pipe clamps and epoxy resin, rubber gaskets and twisted wire and even cling wrap and bits of string and they had all worked over the last couple of years.  But now I realised that my bodging resources had reached their limit as corrosion took its deadly course and an engineering solution was required.  I had been putting this off because of the heavy labour required.

The actual repair was to cut 150mm out of the 75mm diameter steel pipe containing the rusted and threaded connection and weld the bare pipe ends together.  Doing the cutting, shaping the ends and  welding would only take a couple of hours and I really like welding.  It is such fun to see the molten pool fill the gap and build the joint, and such satisfaction to get a strong and useful solution.  To keep the arc, to build the weld and to hear the constant sound like sizzling bacon, feels like recreation to me.  The heavy labour was just getting the job to the workshop and assembling the pipes later and took 2 days hard yakka.

To disconnect the pipes of 6.5m length I needed to use my 2, 1 meter long pipe wrenches working in opposition.  Unfortunately, the workplace was on the waterfall where there are three levels of traction.  Dry rock traction is very good, wet rock is treacherous especially with wet rotting leaves, and rock that is permanently wet smoothed by the water and debris over the ages is coated with slime mold and the traction is like ice.  Close to zero.  Cannot even stand still on the 30% slope, let alone move or work.  Of course the pipe went right down the permanently wet bit and the threaded joiner was 1/3 the way down.  To get there I had to belay myself to the pipe further up.  Fortunately I remember my rock-climbing days a did a nice tight bowline knot round my waist.  A bowline because it is a secure knot that doesn’t slip or tighten up and cut me in half.  And I did slip over several times even steadied by the rope, but I didn’t go bouncing down the rocks to the pool below.  I was encouraged by a first ever bone density scan just a couple of weeks ago kindly provided by the government now I am a septuagenarian.  I have strong bones which is handy with rock collisions.  With a big heave of my big pipe wrench I got the thread moving a few degrees, so I knew that it hadn’t frozen rusted.  When assembling I had coated the thread with Stockholm tar, usually put on horses hooves to keep them in good condition, but also used by plumbers to stop corrosion even years later.

The next problem was that the pipe was bent for the last 1.5m to fit the profile of the waterfall and still meet the pump on the horizontal.  So I had to elevate the pipe so the end was about 1m high so I could turn it.  I constructed a wooden tripod connected by bolts so I could alter all the lengths and angles with multiple holes drilled in for legs of different lengths because it had to sit in the pool where I couldn’t even see where the legs grounded.  So now I could turn the pipe and get it disconnected.  The pipe weights about 80 kg I think and I had to haul it up the waterfall with a piece of rope, and then the 100m to the workshop 5 m at a time with much gasping in between.  I knocked off for the day.  During the day I had serviced a cottage for the next guests.  These special emergencies I have to fit in the middle of my normal workload.

worksite

Next morning was the good bit of cutting, grinding and welding and only assembly required.  Only…. I wish.  I grunted the pipe back to the waterfall 5 m at a time.  Just screw it in.  Except that the free end had to be 1 m in the air to rotate, that the alignment of the pipes had to be exact to prevent cross-threading which would be disastrous, and the 80 kg pipe had to be thrust firmly up the hill to engage the threads, when it’s natural inclination would be to slide down the hill.  A strong assistant shoving the pipe up from the bottom whilst allowing rotation of the bent end while I rotated the pipe with wrenches would have been ideal.  I was lacking the strong assistant as I usually do.  I set up the tripod again at the bottom end and elevated the pipe threaded junction the just the right height using the log round in the picture and other shims to get perfect alignment by sighting along the pipe.  Then I rigged a rope from above and below the junction and tightened it using a truckie’s knot, which give a 3 to 1 increase in tension like a pulley system, to stretch the rope like a strong spring so it wouldn’t slacken off as the threads engaged.  All the while belayed on the waterfall skating rink.  Carefully, carefully I turned the pipe getting about 3 turns before the rope had spiraled round the pipes fortuitously tightening the rope and it’s pulling power, but now threatening to snap.  I was feeling for resistance from crossed threads as well as one can with 1 m wrenches.   All good, so I released the tortured rope and could now pull the pipe up with the thread.  The rest was easy except that I lost one of my nuts in the pool.  No, not a painful accident, just careless handling of the flange bolts.  Then refill the system with water and see if it works.  It did.  Better and quieter than it has worked for years.

I give you this labourious and perhaps tedious account to be able to brag about the numerous practical skills I have acquired in my decades of independent living.  Beginners guide to building pyramids.  You have got to start, you have got to believe you can do it, and you need the stamina to finish.

PV Trivia

I feel a bit like Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings.  Storms, disruptions, crises, plagues and depressions have swept by leaving me quite untroubled in my little enclave.  Nothing disrupted Tom’s daily joy in the beauty and bounty of nature and little intrudes to inconvenience me in a traumatic year.  I have no financial worries being free of debt, I can’t be fired, the B&B is busier than ever as people can’t go overseas or even interstate and are seeking private individual accommodation rather than crowded venues.  So as usual, I’m about the luckiest person on the planet.  Luck does take a little planning and an appreciation of what you have rather than what you lack.  Bad luck often comes from bad choices that leave people vulnerable.  Then there is genuine bad luck that no encouragement can fix.  The Guinness Book of Records cites a man who has been struck by lightening 7 times.  Somebody should have told him to lie flat on the ground.

So in the tail end of winter Possum Valley is basking in 26C temps and cloudless skies.  Being a big country, the south of Oz has blizzard warnings from Tasmainia to the Blue Mountains.  Very welcome winter warmth at Possum Valley and entirely predictable as global warming tightens its grip.  California has record temps and out of control bushfires in record temps.  Nothing new here folks, move along.

Last week I was entrusted with an echidna by my friend Margit, a wildlife rescue worker, to release into the rainforest as my place is far from roads.  Most wildlife and especially echidnas do not negotiate roads very well.  When threatened or surprised they hunker down in a defensive posture presenting spines to the world.  On roads, this doesn’t work very well for them.  So I took this rather unsocial (Margit’s description) echidna in it’s happy home (plumbing pipe) and deployed it in old forest with lots of dead wood and all important termites.  I gently laid it next to a dead log as night came on, lovingly sprinkled it with leaves for camouflage, and waited for it to emerge into its new home.  And waited, and waited.  It backed up to the end of the pipe presenting its spiny posterior, but did not emerge to explore its new home while I was watching.  Next morning it was gone and has not retreated to its former home.  Not seen since.  One can view this as a successful wild release, or an abandonment of a helpless creature.  Not surprisingly, I choose to view it as the former and a completely successful enterprise.  I hope it adds it’s bit to the local gene pool.

I have refurbished the meditation hut which had a crumbling floor due to it’s location in a most humid and hostile environment.  It was an overdue repair, but I hope honoured guests will forgive me waiting until the weather was favourable.  Union rules forbid working in the rain despite management desire that work continues.  Fortunately sense prevails and I have a lie-in.  So nice to lie in bed as the rain drips or cascades off the roof.

A Smaller World

It has long been an accepted saying that the world is getting smaller.  And so it has seemed, as the speed of transport has increased so much and the ease of getting visas has been relaxed with the rise of international tourism and the promise of foreign currency flowing in.  I traveled the world with ease in the 1970’s, with the occasional exception like Myanmar (then Burma), which had to be flown over and  seemed such a drag and expense to an impoverished backpacker.  I carried a British passport which imperiously demanded countries to let the bearer  “Pass without let or hindrance”.  And so I did through about 60 countries.  Even places like Afghanistan where visas and customs for a busload of people seemed to require 8 hours and 3 pages of my solid passport but didn’t make anything difficult.

Now it seems the world has expanded again with the collapse of international transport.  Just a few hours ago I was talking to guests whose friends were supposed to accompany them, but were locked down in Melbourne, and whose son was stranded in Poland.  Suddenly, that seems a very long way away.   For most of us in Australia our personal worlds are smaller being unable to travel interstate right down to not being able to leave the dwelling except for stated purposes.  I can’t even imagine being banged up in an apartment block with 3 little kids.  Indeed, I am fortunate to be amongst the least affected.  Even ‘staying in’ on my own property lets me get outside and do what I usually do.  My B&B business has been little affected also, or perhaps made even more in demand by C-19.

Nobody in authority it seems has any long term plan about what to do about the pandemic except local patchwork lockdowns and test and trace, and pray for an effective vaccine.  I have already blogged why that might not be easy, or might not happen at all.  So are we stuck with rolling lockdowns and some businesses opening and closing like a toilet door at a folk festival?  Seems like it.  With little international or even interstate travel to selected ‘safe’ destinations and then running the risk of the door home slamming shut behind you like England and Spain.  People’s patience is already quite thin, which might be a large factor why the second surge is harder to control than the first wave, despite procedures, equipment, distancing habits, testing etc being already in place.  The economic system is also creaking and groaning under the stress of disparity of incomes, massive unemployment, unpayable debts, etc.

So we seem to be stuck in a forky stick, between a rock and a hard place.  Lockdown with mass unemployment and struggling to put food on the table, or ‘stuff it’ and business as usual and accept the deaths and illness on the way to ‘herd immunity’.  The chief of WHO said today we may never find an effective vaccine, a depressing but realistic assessment I came to months ago.  30 years since AIDS and still no vaccine despite much money and effort.  It does seem worth the effort to do what we can with basic pandemic precautions to limit the spread, such as hand washing, sanitising spray in public places, social distancing and especially masks.  These thing are relatively easy to do.  Shutting down whole industries might be too much.  If we have to admit that we can’t control the beast and we can’t all be in prison, then a middle way has to be found.  Reduced economic activity leaving us all poorer than we were before, but perhaps there is an upside to that.  A concentration on what is really important to us and a simplification of our lives and our consumption.  And an acceptance that C-19 sweeps through the population be delayed as much as it can be, to allow the health system and society generally to cope.  Then there is hope at the other end of the carnage, when the fit, young, able and resistant are left, and the sick and elderly are culled.  Nobody yet has used the word ‘culled’, but that is what it might come to.  Not deliberate killing, but the realisation that old people like me shouldn’t command the resources of humanity to keep ourselves alive at the expense of a decent life for the younger generations.

I find a grim ironical satisfaction that the transfer of wealth and opportunity from the young to the old that has occurred in the last 30 years may be at last reversed as the virus clears the dead wood so new growth can spring green and fresh.  It may be a purging of society that we need.  I am still trying to think my way through this serious and complex problem and would welcome any thoughts you may have.