COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART III

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Stonehaven Guest House. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

July 2

If I had ever entertained the idea of going up to Mount Tamborine and relaxing with my spa and backyard my wishes quickly evaporated. Sprung loose from our regular dwellings Karen was ready to seize the day. So Thursday we drove a short drive to Gallery Walk.

Gallery Walk is what a lot of us think about when we think about Mt Tamborine. It is where all the niche shops are lined up on one long street like so many small towns that cater for couples of all ages getting away to a romantic B&B, staying nearby as somebody they know gets married our just hoping to live it up at a winery.

You know the type of strip I’m talking about, there was a German cuckoo clock shop with stein mugs, there was a crystal shop, a leather shop, a retro clothes shop and a few liquer shops.

 

 

Karen and I walked up and down it twice figuring out what gifts we were buying and for whom. Karen’s main goal was to pick up a bottle from the Tamborine Mountain Distillery. Years ago this had been located elsewhere and the owner was a bushy white bearded man who’s wife had come from the former USSR.

I have memories of going up there to get a bottle for my sister and send it to her in the UK. It felt like I had wandered into a garage shed and picked up a Soviet knickknack. The new location and owners lacked this sense of discovery or character. Now it was just another business sadly but Karen liked her liquer and I liked that she was happy.

She also wanted to check out the Red Baron airplane at the Bavarian Cafe which I had gone to by myself years earlier while attempting to go hiking. This is where we saw the beginning of the trail for the Witches Fall circuit. We did see some of the beautiful sunset as well as a crowd gathering but we were hungry.

 

 

That night we had a booking at Belvederes to sit and eat inside where we were served by wonderful staff and ate some great wood-fired oven made pizzas. Highly recommend.

The shop is hard to miss, just look for the place painted in the colours of the Italian flag. I clocked four other couples dispersed across it, every one of them looked like city people on holidays at a B&B. Must be interesting to live in a town where people are constantly coming to your place to get away from their own.

 

 

That night I went down to the backyard again in the evening where a voice called out to me in the dark. He told me not to be alarmed, his name was Quacker and I had met him earlier that week.

A duck came out from the shadows into the light. I said “Hello,” and he replied “How’s it goin?”. After exchanging pleasantries he informed me that he had a couple of mates who were trying to sell their house.

 

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Quacker when I met him earlier in the week. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

I sympathised given the market, I myself was still trying to save up for a deposit. He told me the house wasn’t too expensive because his mates were fairies.

He took me up the creek where I met his friends who had a beautiful home with a stepping stone path. I asked how much and their price was very reasonable.

The fairies set one condition, they were hoping to stay in Brisbane from time to time and would the new owners let them stay overnight during these times. They would be out by morning they promised and would leave the place spick and span.

I said I thought I knew some owners who would be happy to accommodate that. So I bought the house and thanked Quacker and the fairies and handed the house to my niece and nephew the following weekend and asked them to honour the deal which they seemed more than happy to agree to.

It had been a productive day so I went inside to have my spa and go to bed.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART II

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

July 1

Karen and I awoke Wednesday to enjoy our holiday at Mt Tamborine. We walked down from where we were staying to enjoy a hearty breakfast at a local cafe where a Kookaburra sat outside from a nearby creek.

 

 

The Curtis Falls walk was just outside the cafe.

This set the pattern for the next couple of days, brunch followed by walking so our pants wouldn’t be too tight when we stat down for an early dinner followed by an early dinner and a spa bath.

In fact you can skip the next couple of posts after that paragraph. That is pretty much what happens.

We went up to Curtis Falls which had quite a few people on the track, it was school holidays. We tried to maintain social distancing and it seems most people were on board with that but it is important to note that at the time the number of active cases in Queensland were single digits. There were still some restrictions in my place but we were feeling a little safer.

It was a quick 1.5km circuit walk although we were to find that we are not as fast as we used to be when covering these small distances.

 

 

Next up inspired by Curtis Falls I was keen to check out one of the more epic waterfalls I knew this area had to offer. We ended up at Purling Brook Falls circuit at Springbrook National Park.

This was 4km which involves quite an descent and ascent but it was pretty easy going. For the sights it is quite worthwhile and unlike say Mapleton Falls in the Sunshine Coast this walk allows you to climb down to the valley floor and take the waterfall in from another angle.

As we descended a group of young people came up behind me. Out the front was some gym bunny with a blonde ponytail and tight bike pants that she had probably never worn while actually riding a bike.

There was no “Excuse me,” or a polite inquiry if I could move aside. She just came barreling down on top of me hoping the sound of her voice as she chatted on with her companions about some people she knew right now right behind my head would be hint enough that I should just jump out of her way and let her inherit the world as clearly my time had passed on.

 

 

I paused and turned as the blonde black blur passed me still informing the valley about her latest personal developments. I smiled at her companions who smiled back, they seemed grateful for my courtesy and I appreciated theirs.

I didn’t hear Bunny Girl much after that as I was too busy doing an impersonation of her for Karen’s enjoyment or probably more accurately my own.

We never saw her again but we did take in the beautiful views, listened to the wildlife around us or took time to take pictures of our lovely surroundings.

There was even a moment when I went fairly close to a ledge up high. Just cause.

Down on the valley floor the falls looked spectacular and once we got to the job I went back on the track to the first look-out just to take it in one last time.

It was not lost on me that people were having to isolate home and worse and yet here I was on holidays looking out over a valley. I guess when you’re denied so many things long enough you have a new found appreciation for well..anything..all of it-life!

 

 

On the way back we stopped at the top of Mt Tamborine. Cars all pulled over to the side of the road and people walked over to a lookout hill. We were spread far and wide, metres apart, socially distancing but we sat down together as one and we watched the sunset.

There was something communal and comforting in that small window of time after weeks of being cut off from groups.

Many years ago I worked long hours in a job that stressed me out. On weekends I would go into the office and on a sunday afternoon I would walk across the road to Eagle street pier and watch the sun set over my river.

It seemed to help and it has never been lost on me that perhaps we should take time more often to watch the sun set rather than racing home or setting out dinner which is how it often seems to be.

Anyway Karen and I picked up pizza from a place called Belvederes at North Tamborine, ate our fill from the box and went outside to the backyard which was beautifully lit up.

The night was fairly cold so we eventually went in for our spa and bed.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – EATING AND WALKING, WALKING AND EATING – PART I

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Karen and I on holidays with the last days of my beard. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

As the year moved on I was told at work in the strongest terms despite the pandemic or even because of it, I should give myself a break. At the time there was a possibility that people may only be able to travel up to 250 kilometres from home. So I planned around that.

I had not taken recreational work from work in many years. We had gone to Newcastle for a long weekend in 2017, my first holiday in six years. I had attended my sisters wedding in London in country for 58 hours in 2018, there had been stays in hotels for a night or two but this was me taking recreational leave from work for the first time in a long time.

I did not want to stay at home on the couch and watch Netflix but I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

I also wanted Karen to have a holiday too.

So while thousands died across the world, I went on holidays and I am going to write about it. I’m sorry if that seems tone deaf. I guess I was following health advice from my government, maybe spending money in the area was good for some businesses but I went on holidays. I had a nice time and know that is only due to the grace of God.

June 30

Karen and I drove down to where we were staying at North Tamborine.

It was a Scottish themed manor named Stonehaven Guest House, by that I mean there was a lot of wood in it and Scottish themed paraphernalia everywhere. We stayed in a room called Edinburgh. Next day was Balmoral. One day I walked downstairs musing to my wife about the Australian battle Coral-Balmoral during the Vietnam War and wondering how Balmoral related to Scotland.
It’s where the Royal Family holidays of course which my wife reminded me of with the patience of a saint. Damnit and I’m the one with the Scottish heritage.

We loved the place, the staff were great but kind of left us alone which suited us. There was a beautiful backyard with a creek and a gazebo that was lit up at nights.

 

 

Our first night we walked around our up the road and got a layout of our surroundings. Up the road was a series of shops and the local ANZAC Memorial.

 

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Tamborine Mountain ANZAC Honour Roll. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

We went to a nearby Irish pub but they were booked out until later with the spacing required due to COVID-19. Fair enough. I looked around on my phone and made a call to a place called The Fox & Hounds Inn.

The gentleman on the other end said he would be happy to take a booking and asked me what time and I said now was fine. He laughed and told me he still didn’t open for another 8 minutes so we agreed to half an hour.

The pub was cosy on a cold winter’s night and even with social distancing there were a few customers that night. I got some salmon with a thing called bubble and squeak. I didn’t mind but didn’t love the bubble and squeak but my goodness the salmon was amazing. Karen really enjoyed her Guiness pie too.

Some of the pub is made with parts of a pub imported from England contributing to the construction of the inn.

 

 

There were also English ales available with a range more varied and authentic than say what you would get in Brisbane at the franchise Pig’n’Whistle. Nothing against the Pig’n’Whistle which I love but when in Rome you hope you’re enjoying something you can’t get back home.

There is also the Foxy Lady Ginger Cider which is brewed locally and exclusively for them.

We finished off with dessert, I got a Raspberry Eton Mess which basically was a mixture of cream, meringue and raspberries in a glass and my goodness it was good.

I think Karen had an apple and rhubarb crumble but I didn’t care because I had the best dessert after she beat me with the best meal. An even draw.

All night there was one waitress working the floor, taking orders, delivering food and passing good vibes along to every customer as they waited for food or got served drinks.

The owner out the back worked the entire kitchen by himself and the food was delicious and kept coming.

The waitress was so good, I called him out from the kitchen to pass on how much of a credit she was to the place and he agreed advising me he didn’t have her there full time because she was still going to school.

A lot of us will live entire lives without being able to remain that calm and quick under the pressure of a restaurant setting. I think she’ll go far, I wished I had also passed on what a great job he did.

 

 

It could have been being on holidays for the first time in a while but there was a little magic in the air.

The kind of magic you have when you’re on holidays and you find a little place to eat that just fits the bill and the staff are so good and the place is so nice you feel it was almost done all for your benefit.

We had a similar night at a place in Maleny in 2008 called Capriccios and it was nice to have it again.

Now though we made our way back to Stonehaven, our home for the next three nights and the spa we had in our room.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – LOCKDOWN POSTCODES

SES volunteers set up a gazebo in a street on a sunny day

 

June 29

Monday I was on holidays and so didn’t go into work.

In Victoria things were beginning to escalate.

People who were in hotel quarantine who refused to get tested were going to be kept in quarantine for another 10 days.

10 suburbs were going into lockdown in Melbourne with only four reasons for people to move in around or enter those postcodes.

Premier Andrews had also announced that some parents had refused testing for their children for the nasal swab test and so a saliva test would be available.

Ten suburbs received a testing blitz, Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir, Hallam and Pakenham.

There had been daily double digit increases in COVID cases for each of the previous 13 days.

There were 70 Australian Defence Force members deployed to help.

 

June 30

Premier Daniel Andrews announced ten postcodes were going into lockdown for the next month.

There would only be with only four reasons for people to leave their homes, for work or school, for caregiving, exercise or to get food or essentials.

In these hotspots gatherings will be limited to family or two people, cafes and restaurants were back to take-away only and gyms, swimming pools, cinemas, playgrounds and community activities were over.

These suburbs were back in lockdown while the rest of the country enjoyed a different way of life.

Hotel quarantines or people returning from overseas were no longer going to be coming into Melbourne.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SURGING AHEAD

 

Calls to nominate departing CMO Brendan Murphy for Australian of ...

 

It’s been few weeks since I wrote my blog, I had over a dozen posts scheduled for the entire month of July and that covered right up until what was then up to date events of the 21st of June.

Then I went on holidays and started a secondment and four weeks have gone by in the wink of an eye and I am back playing catch-up. This time I wonder, particularly given the secondment if I will catch up.

I never planned for this site to regurgitate the news or to be political but it has always been personal and it has been fascinating to write about things from the perspective of a few days after the events.

COVID is going to be with us for at least a year or two in a very consuming way.

Do I really want to write about all of that?

I guess I do so I will just have to try. Thank you all for reading.

 

June 26

Friday.

I had worked in the office all week. With leave planned for the following week, the numbers continued to rise in Victoria.

The Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy and the Prime Minister strode up to the microphones on the 26th of June for what would be the last time. They were wearing scarves in support of Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid from the night previous to host the Netball World Cup. Their jovial mood reflected some relief in what they had shared together.

It was now over three months since COVID cases had really taken off in Australia and while developments in Victoria were of concern they did not prove to give people pause.

There had been 63 cases in the state in the previous 48 hours. Out of 30 cases from the previous 24 hours, five were travellers quarantining in hotels, seven were linked to clusters already identified, five from routine testing and a final 13 were still being investigated. 

Professor Murphy was moving on to Secretary of General Health, a promotion delayed due to the crisis. His position having unexpectedly elevated into a more public role had not suited the reserved Doctor but his consistent demeanor throughout had been of some comfort and would be missed.

Bracing for surge, PM announces billions in health measures

 

COVID-19 case numbers were taking off in the third world and this was not lost on the Prime Minister.

On, obviously, a more serious note, there are a million new cases being reported of COVID-19 around the world every week. We are seeing the virus take hold in places like South America now at a level difficult to imagine and we are anticipating similar types of scenarios in Africa and other parts of the world as the virus makes its way. The challenge being faced globally only gets more complicated, more complex, more difficult. And against that backdrop, Australia’s performance is remarkable, and that is a tribute to all who are involved.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to assure Australians that outbreaks were to be expected and that the government was prepared to respond and that while the outbreak was currently in Victoria that it could easily be somewhere else in another instance and that we had to show solidarity.

And what this should say to Australians should be a message of confidence. There will be outbreaks. What matters is the response. There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks. As you see the response on the ground, that is a reassurance to Australians all around the country that we can deal with this, and we will continue to deal with this.”

The outgoing Chief Medical Officer also had a few things to say.

So as the PM has said, this virus is accelerating around the world. We are in a very fortunate island, but we will remain at risk of importation of cases for the foreseeable future. Every day in Australia we have cases in hotel quarantine, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, because they’re taking the lion’s share of that hotel quarantine hotel. Hotel quarantine is never going to be 100 percent perfect and importation our borders, whilst we have done so well with borders, we can’t be absolutely sure that there won’t be more and continuing imports of cases. We also, as we’ve said, can’t be sure that there isn’t small amounts of virus circulating in parts of the country. So the outbreaks, mini outbreak, we’ve seen in Victoria is what we predicted.”

“What we planned for. When I took to the National Cabinet the plan for reopening, removing restrictions, we assured National Cabinet that the likelihood of outbreaks was high and that we were ready to respond to them. And that is exactly what the Victorian health authorities are doing right now. They have a huge team, they’re contact tracing over a thousand people. They’re testing extraordinary numbers of people. And that’s a way to bring a localised outbreak under control, to go to where the problem is, engage with the population test, isolate, quarantine, standard public health response.

There was also a change in policy with returning citizens and permanent resident going into hotel quarantine advised Professor Brendan Murphy.

We are going to start testing people on entry to quarantine and testing people before they leave quarantine to see whether a testing regimen might help in the future to modify that quarantine in certain circumstances. But at the moment, even though we know it’s a burden on our returning citizens and permanent residents, it’s something that the great majority are very happy to put up with because they know it’s protecting their fellow Australians from the importation of this virus.

The Prime Minister also spoke on our behalf in thanking Professor Murphy for his work.

Outside of that, this is the Chief Medical Officer’s last briefing is the Chief Medical Officer. He’s been in the living rooms of Australians now for many months. And I know, Brendan, you have been a person of great assurance to Australians with your calm way of explaining what are often very complex things. You’ve given Australians, I think, a great peace of mind. Brendan is taking up the role of Secretary of the Department of Health, which we delayed because of the seriousness of this issue and his keenness to continue on in that role and until he was in a position to now hand it over to Dr Kelly. And so I want to thank you very much, not just for the way you’ve reached out to Australians, Professor Murphy, but the outstanding leadership you’ve shown across the AHPPC, the medical expert panel, and the unfailing advice that you’ve provided to me and to my ministers and to my Cabinet. And so we thank you very much.

 

The ABC’s excellent program Four Corners did an episode on nursing home Newmarch house in Sydney which that week which I watched that weekend.

The program was saddening in how we had failed to take care of our elderly in these vulnerable nursing homes.

As residents got COVID-19 they were all isolated in their rooms and not allowed visitors. Staffing was an issue and despite measures put in place the virus spread through the home.

The level of care suffered in the home as well which meant often the last days of the residents were lonely and full of ill health regardless of COVID itself.

In the aftermath the Anglicare Sydney’s Chief Executive Grant Millard, which runs Newmarch house, conceded more should have been done even NSW Health were not looking to take aged care residents into hospitals automatically.

“Look, if I had the time again, I would be insisting people who are COVID-positive go to hospital,” Mr Millard told ABC Radio.

“In hindsight, that would have been my preference.”

In the end 19 residents died in Newmarch house, the last on the 2nd of May. Her name was Alice Bacon and she was the 100th Australian to die from COVID-19. Two of those 19 residents who died after recovering from COVID-19 are not counted towards the national tally.

Alice Bacon’s daughter Mary Watson told Four Corners, “I don’t believe for a minute that the infection in the residents or in the staff occurred from that one person initially. There had to be cross-infection across the way. They didn’t want it anywhere out of there. They wanted whatever was going to happen to stay at Newmarch and be contained and not have it any spread anywhere else in the community.

There is a little bit of shame in me for not really having cared too much about those poor souls dying in nursing homes or their families cut off from and worried about them.

 

On the 26th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been in Australia 7,558 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37. There had been 104 deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there had been 102,242 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 279. There had been 8,484 deaths with a daily increase of 30.

In the United Kingdom there had been 307,984 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,118. There had been 43,230 deaths with a daily increase of 149.

In India there had been 490,401 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,296. There had been 15,301 deaths with a daily increase of 407.

In Russia there had been 620,794 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,800. There had been 8,781 deaths with a daily increase of 176. Hmmm…..???

In Brazil there had been 1,188,631 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 42,725. There had been 53,830 deaths with a daily increase of 1,185.

In the United States of America as case numbers declined in the states first and worst hit by the pandemic numbers began to surge in the south and mid-west. California got no respite either. There had been 2,367,064 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37,061. There had been 121,645 deaths with a daily increase of 690.

Numbers were on the rise in South America, Africa and South East Asia as Europe began to see a decline.

For what it is worth, stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken