COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART I

Australia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout: International travel, vaccine  passports and who we trust to deliver the jab - ABC News

February 17

The vaccine rollout began in earnest in Australia.

Come next Monday the first Pfizer jabs in Queensland would hit 100 frontline healthcare worker arms.

The plan was to have all healthcare workers and all people over 70 over the next two months hitting up hospitals and aged health care workers.

The aim was to have people over 18 to have received a vaccine by the end of October.

There’s so much riding on this and whether it all goes to plan depends on Canberra delivering vaccines and enough of them on times,” said Channel 9 State Political Editor Lane Calcutt.

These words would only resonate more in the weeks to come.

February 19

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged at the online G7 Summit that the whole world must be vaccinated not just individual nations.

He pledged to donate the majority of the UK’s surplus vaccines to poorer nations.

WIth 400 million doses on order, the UK had enough to vaccinate its population three times.

While the vaccine roll out continued in Great Britain though he would not set a date for when the surplus vaccines would start be delivered elsewhere.

There is no point in us vaccinating our individual populations – we’ve got to make sure the whole world is vaccinated because this is a global pandemic and it’s no use one country being far ahead of another, we’ve got to move together,” Johnson said.

“So one of the things that I know that colleagues will be wanting to do is to ensure that we distribute vaccines at cost around the world – make sure everybody gets the vaccines that they need so that the whole world can come through this pandemic together.”

Great Britain’s leader also pushed for more funding of Covax, a multilateral vaccine supply scheme led by several international agencies including the World Health Organisation.  The world leaders issued a joint statement afterwards agreeing to “intensify co-operation.” This included more sharing of information about new variants, accelerating vaccine development and dispersal and 7.5 billion US dollars spent in aid fo Covax.

Why we need to share vaccine doses now and why COVAX is the right way to do  it - News | Wellcome

They committed to accelerating global vaccine development and deployment, including improving the sharing of information about the discovery of new variants, and cited 7.5 billion US dollars (£5.3 billion) of support coming from the G7 for the body behind Covax.

I had to say I couldn’t agree more, in the race to vaccinate more lives would be saved if we could clamp this thing down across the world to avoid new variants. Whether this would be possible logisitically was a big questions. And politically with cases numbers still very high in Europe, North America and South America. If these same nations were first in the queue for delively of vacinnes there was going to be huge politcal and even moral obligations to see that they do everything in the power to avoid a second winter next year proving as deadly as this current one had been.

Vaccine rollout finally gets underway | Western Advocate | Bathurst, NSW

February 21

Sunday and the first COVID vaccines were given in my country.

They included the Austalian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and Australia’s Chief Nurse but first up was 84 year old Jane Malysiak.

Born in Poland, as a child she had grown up in war torn Europe. She later immigrated to Australia and ran a corner shop in Sydney with her husband.

I didn’t expect such a lot of people, I just thought they’d do the jab and take two pictures. Aussie is my country now,” Malysiak said.

In true Australian fashion when it came time to pose for the camera, Malysiak proved a little unorthodox. The Prime Minister by her side asked for her to shoot a V for vacinne sigh with her hands echoing Churchill’s V for Victory gesture during the dark days of World War II. Which she did but with the back of her hand facing camera which is a gesture that can mean something else.

There is a little part of me that likes to think the elderley nurisng home resident knew exactly what she was doing when she made the gesture and wanted to see how people would react. Either way it proved delightful and memorable on her part.

Jane Malysiak has seen many historic days in Australia over the course of her more than 80 years of life. To have her here, and so many others have joined us — this is an historic day for Australia,” said the Prime Minister.

There were other nurisng home residents in the group to receive the first vaccines in Australia but also Corporal Boyd Chatillon, a team leader of Quarantine Compliance Monitoring program in Sydney hotels and Alysha Eyre and Jon Buttenshaw from Australia Border Force.

A group of people standing and sitting in a room

Starting Monday there would 16 vaccination hubs across Australia to dispense jabs to frontline health care workers, quarantine staff and border forces.

Three of those sixteen hubs would be in Queensland at the Cairns Hospital, Gold Coast University Hospital and the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

There would be 240 centres set up to deliver to aged care in Australia too.

Every day that goes past from here gets more normal,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The plan was for the roll-out to increase as local production of Aztra-Zeneca ramped up in late March.

200 million doses had been dispensed around the world already. Now Australia would be dispensing the vaccine to its populace too.

On the 21st of February, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 110,758,037 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 378,953.

There had been 2,461,184 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 9,457.

In Australia there had been 28,920 confirmed cases with a daily increase of two. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 840,586 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,089. There had been 21,576 deaths with a daily increase of 78.

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,114,371 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10,376. There had been 120,365 deaths with a daily increase of 445.

In India there had been 10,991,651 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 14,264. There had been 156,302 deaths with a daily increase of 90.

In the United States of America there had been 27,702,074 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 73,240. There had been 491,894 deaths with a daily increase of 2,543.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – REVIEW OF FIGHTER WORLD AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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February 15

We awoke Monday morning, checked out of our hotel, drove out of the basement and made our way to Newcastle.

Long term readers will recall, Karen and I stayed near RAAF Williamtown three years ago on a trip to Newcastle but did not go to Fighter World which was literally down the road. I was hoping to make amends for that on this trip. Driving out of Sydney on a monday morning was interesting. It seemed like we were perpetually in a school zone of 40kms per hour for the whole city.

Eventually we got out on the open road and made it to our destination.

We fuelled up at the same servo we had years earlier near the airport.

Many years ago a friend of mine from high school served at RAAF Williamtown. He told me there was a great cafe at Fighter World and so that is where we were lucky enough to have breakfast and he was right – it was excellent! As we ate jets flew past low level outside.

Upon arriving at Fighter World we had noted huge crowds.

I wondered if it had something to do with the RAAF’s Centenary this year.

When we got to the front of the line we were handed a brochure and told to go in. I asked where we paid and the door greeter informed me that we had arrived on the annual open day. Admission was free.

Many years ago I went to the RAF Museum at Hendon in England which was just a smorgasboard of all kinds of aircraft types. There is nothing in Australia that can compare to Hendon but there is something a little special about taking in history that you feel belongs to you.

Like I said a friend of mine actually served in the RAAF, in my home city the F-111s flew overhead from nearby RAAF Amberley at Riverfire and did their famous Dump and Burn. Afterburners igniting jet fuel dumped to light up the night sky before the fireworks display. There was nothing like it in the world and here was the aircraft that did it – for me to see up close for the first time.

Early jet aircraft like the Meteors, Vampires, Sabres through to Mirage IIIs and then a bomber in the F-111 known affectionately as The Pig for its ability to fly low level.

For a while there we always seemed a little behind the curve, Meteors first flying in the closing days of World War II were sent to Korea by the RAAF and quickly found themselves outmatched by the cutting edge MiG-15 and switched to the ground attack role.

RAAF Sabres missed that war but served in the Malayan Emergency and were sent to Ubon, Thailand to fly air patrols during the Vietnam War at a time when the  F-4 Phantom was a generation ahead of that aircraft. We leased some Phantoms in the early 1970s but had procured instead the French made Mirage IIIs which proved versatile if not terribly sophisticated.

Working through the teething problems of acquiring the F-111 in the early 1970s and acquring the F/A-18 Hornet in the late 1980s changed everything.

The Aardvark was a medium range bomber and state of the art – there was nothing like it in the rest of South East Asia.

The Hornet would go on to fly Combat Air Patrols over Diego Garcia during the war in Afghanistan and drop bombs in anger in Iraq.

Though a little outdated during the peak of their service in the RAAF, these early jet aircraft were still game changers and beautiful planes to see up close that served our nation valiantly over the years.

The first aircraft to break the sound barrier in Australia was a Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation built  Avon Sabre A94-101 flown into a dive by RAAF test pilot Flight Lieutenant William Scott on the 21st of August, 1953 near Avalon Airfield, Geelong, Victoria.

Karen and I arrived on the look out deck of the museum just in time to see what appeared to be Hawk Jet Trainers fly past us low level. A real treat.

Fighter World was a real delight. We got glider planes for Karen’s nephews to play with and a whole raft of posters too that Karen picked up. On our way out an older couple had their posters fly loose across the driveway leading me and the husband to race off after them. They seemed in pretty good nick.

Not for the first time did I marvel at our RAAF personnel who served our nation. Plenty flew humanitiaran missions as well as in war time. Plenty lost their lives or had their health affected to keep those birds up in the air flying. There is a rich history preserved by the staff and volunteers at Fighter World that I was grateful to get to see.

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You can read my review of FIghter World at Weekend Notes Fighter World – Newcastle (weekendnotes.com)

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

It was well past midday now so Karen and I started off again for Brisbane and home.

I didn’t want to stop at the same old places so on the way back I took a turn off the highway and ended up at a place called South Valla Beach. We parked and looked out over the ocean. A woman nearby in a car looked at me with distrust and befuddlement.

As if she was thinking, “What the hell are you doing here? Nobody comes around here to our place.”

Next we went to a cafe that was shut and parked around the back where there was a pharmacy.

I asked the pharmacist if we could please use his bathroom and he said yes. After we did they closed the shop.

Must have just got in.

As the drive carried on I got white line fever but Karen got thirsty. Husband and wives may know where this conversation led. There are a few twists and turns in such a conversation but in the end I parked outside a servo far off the highway as the sun was setting.

I did however get to see the beautiful area around the town of Grafton. It would be nice to go there sometime properly.

The sun set, we drove past big trucks, big trucks drove past us, the country roads got dark and high beam lights were turned on and off with traffic. I was reminded of my tense late night drive back to Newcastle from Sydney three years earlier, as we passed Byron Bay and headed for the border of New South Wales.

But the darkness didn’t last as long this time, the road didn’t curve and slant as dramatically as it did outside Sydney.

Familar landmarks that let you know you are close to home do make you rest easy for some reason. That’s how I felt as I crossed the border back into the state of Queensland.

My second holiday in twelve months came to a close with 213,556 kilometres on the odometer.

A new record 902 kilometres driven in one day.

That was a 1,785 kilometre trip all up, a jam packed weekend, a wonderful wedding with friends.

I feel very grateful and fortunate to have attended my friend’s wedding, to have enjoyed a night out in Sydney and a day at Fighter World.

Some have not been so lucky.

On the 15th of February the World Health Organisation reported there had been 108,610,574 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 343,411.

There had been 2,403,419 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 10,076.

In Australia there had been 28,898 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 823,353 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,047. There had been 21,228 deaths with a daily increase of 66.

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,045,589 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,751. There had been 117,166 deaths with a daily increase of 258. February 12th Great Britain had reached more than 4 million cases with 4,011,961 reported.

In India there had been 10,916,589 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11,649. There had been 155,732 deaths with a daily increase of 90.

In the United States of America there had been 27,309,503 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 87,896. There had been 480,464 deaths with a daily increase of 3,317.

The highest number of reported daily deaths occurred the day before on February 14th with 5,512 recorded. 5,182 had been the previous record set on the 6th of February.

This thing was not over but we had a really wonderful weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE BOOK OF LOVE

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February 14

The wedding of my best friend to his bride was a wonderful affair.

I barely spoke to him on the day.

But I saw him smile. I saw people cry.

I met a lot of new people who lived and worked in Canberra and were in the life of the bride and groom in a way that I just am not.

They were amazing people to spend time with and get to know. I kind of fell in love with them and felt like I knew the bride and groom just a little better because of them. Just one more reflection of what I have always known that they are good people – the best people – my people.

The wedding took place at the Fucntion Centre at the Taronga Zoo, there were not many people there but quite a lot for COVID, we ate a high tea and the food was really nice. It was a lovely day and a lovely wedding following a lot of anxiety and holding their nerve to get to the day.

I can only imagine what it felt like to have the day occur after everything that preceded it.

On my wedding day a million years before COVID, I had unexpectedly shed a tear the second I went to sign the registry. I think somewhere deep inside I thought, “It’s done.” or maybe I was just so moved by Gabriel’s Oboe by Ennio Morricone being played.

There are three of us in this Band of Brothers.

We went to Scouts together as kids.

In our twenties we spent often a late night out, not partying or in the clubs but in lounge rooms watching old movies or in video game cafes and cinemas. Unpacking the mysteries of the universe the way young people do.

It moved very slowly, very organically but we all ended up working jobs, getting married and one of us is now a father.

Would you believe me if I told you that they’re still my best friends even if I barely see them now.

One afternooon not so long ago we were driving somewhere and I told one of them, “I sure do like being your friend.”

He answered, “Me too.”

Nothing else needed to be said.

So all three of us were in Sydney on Valentines Day and one of us got married to the love of his life, the best person in the world for him and the other two were there to celebrate that.

I’m fond of the expression the ties that bind.

I am not in their lives the same way anymore but somewhere in those nights in our 20s we became bound together and I still feel and honour that link.

Whenever I have needed them, they were there and whenever I am needed I will be there.

They’re my friends.

The best.

And I feel very grateful and pleased that now all three of us have met and married our best friends.

Now we turn away from the wedding and people who shall retain their privacy.

Karen and I headed out into the night to get dinner in Sydney Harbour on Valentines Day without a booking.

Well we hadn’t been told what the plan was after the wedding.

Despite driving my car to Sydney I had no interest in driving around Sydney.

We caught a cab to Taronga Zoo and now we caught a cab to Circular Quay.

Unlike the cabbie earlier who couldn’t find the lobby of our hotel, this guy knew his stuff and made sure we saw the city right as we headed to our destination.

In 2008 I had stayed a week with the groom in Sydney not far from Circular Quay.

It was an amazing week and Sydney had been such an amazing place back then but Circular Quay was not quite how I remembered it.

We went and got our obilgatory shots outside the Sydney Opera House that was cordoned off with security guards.

I decided we would head to Darling Harbour even though that is where we ate three years earlier.

We still didn’t get to Star Casino this time either, my Dad took me there to have a great meal in 2003.

I headed back up to the jettys wondering what the hell I was going to do.

I saw people boarding a boat and trampled down the jetty and introduced myself to the Captain.

I told him I didn’t know how this worked but I was wondering how I could get to Darling Harbour.

He informed me that he was a privately chartered boat but pointed me to a sign and said I could use the number on it to order a water taxi.

I was about to thank him when a head popped out from behind him and asked where was I headed?

I told him Darling Harbour.

“That’s where we’re headed. Hop on!” he told me in what I think was a Lebanese accent.

I looked at Karen and we hopped on that boat.

The man didn’t want any money.

And that is how we came to sail out over Sydney Harbour at sunset for free.

In a handful of minutes we were in Darling Harbour, all our problems solved and a memory to last a lifetime thanks to the random generosity and kindness of a stranger.

Don’t give up on the human race just yet.

I say this as a proud Queenslander, you have to give it to them.

There is something special about Sydney Harbour.

When we arrived in Darling Harbour our fellow passengers jumped off and were gone. The guy who offerred us to hop on board said to this friends he’d already paid for the trip.

We thanked him but they were off.

Karen and I now had to figrue out where we were going to eat. I’m not going to lie, we went into a few places after checking out the menu only to find they were booked out.

Then we reached the Cyren who were churning through couples having dinners. They told us, if we were happy to wait, they would give us a table as soon as one was available. We weren’t the only ones and sure enough minutes later we were ordering a seafood basket and a Greek salad.

I had a dinner in Darling Harbour on Valentine Days with my wife.

Afterwards we caught a cab back to the hotel.

It had been a big day and the drive home awaited us tomorrow.

We did look out over that harbour again though.

We were here and it was so beautiful.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ROAD TRIP TO SYDNEY

February 13

On Saturday Karen and I set off to drive to Sydney to attend a wedding.

Longtime readers may recall my first real holiday in six years in 2017 was a long weekend drive to Newcastle and back.

We went to Fort Scratchley the only Australian military fort that ever fired its guns in anger.

We also ducked in to Sydney and ate at Darling Harbour.

The drive to Newcastle on Saturday and the drive back to Brisbane from Newcastle was the furtherest I had ever driven in a day.

Now I planned to drive further to Sydney in one day.

I had taken the Friday and Tuesday to give me a buffer of a day to prepare and recover in between the trip and being at work.

We didn’t get away early on Saturday morning but off we we went witht the odometer reading 211,771 kilometres.

I haven’t travelled very much but this would mark the third time I was driving down the east coast of New South Wales.

In 2012 I drove to Port Macquaire to meet coincidentally the bride newly dating the groom for this wedding. A lot of the highway was being worked on at the time and constantly the speed limit was set at 80kms per hour.

In 2017 it was a lot smoother going to Newcastle.

In 2021 there was no question where the first stop would be and sure enough we stopped at Ballina.

In 2017 we parked at the Bunnings car park and made our way across a road with no traffic lights and heavy traffic to grab something to eat from a bakery/cafe. This time we parked in their car park and didn’t have to cross the road.

It was a perfect beautiful temperate sunny day in the morning at Ballina.

We went into the Wicked Delights Bakery, I spotted a bread role and asked what was on it and they mentioned salami and some condiments. It was soooooooooooooo good. I think I had a jam and cream doughnut too or something.

After we had finished eating I waited a while the person there served someone else and told her this was the place to always stop going down the coast.

I had waited to be able to thank her.

Anybody who goes on road trips knows the joy of eating at such places and how their reputations tend to travel.

Last time in 2017, we stopped for KFC at Coffs Harbour but I didn’t want to hit all the same places again on our second trip.

Except for the Wicked Delights Bakery in Ballina!

We filled up for fuel in in Coffs.

Then ended up on some turn off road around Taree for a bathroom break.

I was keen to drive on and reach our destination as soon as possible. It was getting late.

The weather changed on us.

We drove through rain.

Sometimes cars passed us, sometimes I tore up the passing lane myself on those wet wet roads with the rain so thick that visibility was poor.

It was getting dark but still light as we drove along road cut into mountains around Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. The indidcation we were about to reach Sydney.

Karen activated google maps as we entered Sydney traffic. One of the wipers had reached the end of its usefulness. It was the one on the driver side. It was still raining and visibility was now at an all time low as I made my way to the hotel but made it we did.

The odometer read 212,654 kilometres.

The most kilometres I had driven in a day – 883.

I had been sucked in by the photos on the website, I’d checked other things but I saw that window looking over Sydney Harbour, looked at the price, looked at the room and thought yeah that will do.

It turned out View Hotels – Harbourview was an interesting mix of the sublime and pecuilar.

The rooms were nice even though full length window in the bathroom that would facilitate some kinky acts if you didn’t pull down the draw sheet.

The carpark was underground and looked suitable for shooting a horror film.

On the other hand after we checked in, we went down to the restraurant in the lobby as we fast approached 9pm and were given a table last minute by the excellent staff. Our meals were delicious, I’m not a big pork belly guy but I loved the one I ate there.

I had checked in with the groom and a third great friend who were staying elsewhere in Sydney.

I looked out over the Harbour.

Tomorrow my friend would get married to the woman he loved and Karen and I would be there.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – REVIEW OF QUEENSLAND MARITIME MUSEUM AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

Weekend Notes 21

February 06

Karen and I set out on a very warm summer’s Saturday to the Queensland Maritime Museum (QMM).

The QMM was set up in 1971 at an old dry dock.

I remember going to it around the time of Expo ’88 as a kid. The showpiece of the museum was an old anti-submarine warfare frigate named HMAS Diamantina. You can imagine how exciting it was for an eight year old to walk across the planks, the bottom of the dry dock metres below. Climb down step ladders and walk along railings in the guts of an actual naval warship.

HMAS Diamantina had not long been retired at that point having served decades before coming the martime musem in the early 1980s.

Years later as a young university student studying a journalist subject across the river at QUT I went across and looked for someone to interview.

I found a volunteer who had served in World War II with Z Special Force and had previously been a coal stoker on corvettes in the navy.

He had lied about his age to join, he had also been working in a munitions factory before his service.

He was in his early 80s then, having spent his life working many jobs and beating cancer, with the sprightly energy of a toddler he danced on his feet.

His life and stories were fascinating but he never talked about the combat he may have seen.

If I can find the old assignment I will post it here with his name. For now of him I took back in 2003.

QMM Volunteer

There was another R.A.N. veteran who volunteered at QMM at that time who had served in the Korean War. He told me of a stop over at Okinawa during their voyage north. He told me how the trees had still not grown to a proper height years after the battles on that island.

These were the kind of people who kept the Queensland Maritime Museum running and still do.

In 1974 Brisbane was flooded and so was the museum situated on the banks of our river.

In 2011 Brisbane was flooded again, volunteers came down and repositioned the ropes to ensure that is the water in the dry dock rose HMAS Diamantina was not damaged by crashing into its own dock.

Expo ’88 came and went replaced by Southbank. The city and the area changed but HMAS Diamantina and its museum remained.

After 16 year old Jessica Watson sailed around the globe, her 10 metre long ship became part of the collection at QMM.

Floods, recessions and the Global FInancial Crisis all came and went but when COVID hit all of sudden the huge workforce of volunteer of over 60s could not do their work and attendance was also affected.

The financial situation of the museum radically changed and quickly.

They closed their doors.

But they were not out for the count yet.

A petition was raised to secure the future of the museum which you can click on here and put your name to Petition · Secure the future of Queensland Maritime Museum · Change.org

You could also donate money to helping them keep open which I did and when they opened their doors in late January I went to buy tickets but they were sold out.

So um I bought them the following weekend and we went.

The museum was a little different then I remembered with some new interesting stuff and slightly younger volunteers. We could walk the deck but to COVID restrictions we could not go below decks on HMAS Diamantina. I also got to see Ella’s Pink Lady up close.

I wrote a review of it which you can read here at Weekend Notes Queensland Maritime Museum – Brisbane (weekendnotes.com)

I took a lot of photos and put a lot of thought of where they were placed in the narrative of the review. The review was featured on the Facebook site of the Queensland Maritime Museum.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

I wish the Queensland Maritime Museum all the best, it is a wonderful Museum that should be ensured for generations to enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – REVIEW OF THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY FLYING MUSUEM AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

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                                    Copyright Lloyd Marken. The view of Oakey airfield.

At the gym on Friday night I saw on the TV that India became the second country to pass 9 million COVID-19 cases. The only one since the U.S.

Per chance I was about to catch up with my brother from another mother the next day who had family in India. 

It was a scary time but we intended to have a nice day out in each other’s company.

 

November 21

 

We were driving out west to the small town of Oakey.

Famous for the race horse Bernborough and where I had recently been reminded my grandmother had been born.

As a result I wore a hat that my grandfather had worn in travels when I was a boy. The hat fitted his head better but I wanted to wear it and pose at the statue of Bernborough like he had in a photograph many years ago. 

It’s true.

They live on in us.  

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                                Copyright Lloyd Marken. Me with Bernborough.

I was with my wife Karen, her sister and her husband, as we had been a few weeks earlier when we travelled to Capriccios Pizza in Maleny in the wake of his Uncle passing from COVID-19 in India.

I’ve never met a man who didn’t work harder. As we drove along he passed along information of everywhere we went. A ride share worker who had previously driven cabs and worked his way up in trucking to drive semis interstate. He knew when we were coming up to the well known Fernvale Bakery in Ipswich, he told us of businesses off the main track he’d gone to as we started to get out in the country. He quietly advised and offered stories of so many places.

We did stop at the bakery in Fernvale although I went for the sweets rather than their famous and beloved pies. We will have to return and partake properly.

Around people I truly love I relaxed a little and even started to sing songs like Don McLean’s American Pie and Cold Chisel’s Flame Trees. I am not a singer so spare a thought for the poor people in that car who had to conjure their best poker faces as they realised, “Oh man Lloyd’s really going for it!”.

It was a beautiful sunny day,  the Museum is housed in a hangar that is located on the perimeter of the fencing of the defence base. You do not need to enter the base to enter the museum as a result. Very cleverly located. 

 

Maintained by local volunteers it is a wonderful display of aircraft and stories from Australian Military Aviation. 

I wrote a review which I was lucky enough to have published on Weekend Notes which you can read here Australian Army Flying Museum – Brisbane (weekendnotes.com)

 

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Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

We had a late lunch at the Oakey RSL Club.

 

 

Having driven north from Ipswich through Fernvale, past Wivenhoe Dam and through Esk I decided on the way back we would drive through Toowoomba.

I was hoping we would find the University of Southern Queensland campus where there is a beautiful Japanese peace garden but we actually googled just a public garden in Toowoomba and ended up there. A callback to simpler times when sometimes you just turned down a road and found you were where you wanted to be.

The Japanese Garden are well known and are quite beautiful and peaceful in these troubled times.

At one point we went over a bridge and looked down at ducks in a pond. In the late afternoon I exclaimed with excitement when I saw a creature underneath the water and realised it was not a fish. I grabbed everybody’s attention and the words escaped me on instinct “Look a platypus!”

A platypus sighting at that time of day with those amount of people would have been very special indeed but alas what became abundantly clear in the next couple of seconds was we were looking at turtle.

Oh well, still pretty special.

 

 

As we drove out of Toowoomba my sister-in-law spoke of working as a speech pathologist in the town years ago making long commutes for the job. My wife had also worked around as a speechie. 

In the late spring of Australia, the jacarandas were in full bloom in Toowoomba and so much more beautiful there. 

It was only a 2 hour drive out of Brisbane but it had been years since I had come to Toowoomba and I had no memories of Oakey. Seeing this part of the world buoyed my spirits in the way only getting out and about can. I understood I was becoming older and now came to understand weekend trips as a child where we were packed out and driven out to dams and beaches that held no interest for me then.

As much as I appreciated my freedom which earlier in the year had not been possible and was not currently for so many around the world. 

What I appreciated more was the company I kept. 

It was a good day out.

 

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                                                             Copyright Lloyd Marken.

November 22

On the 22nd of November the World Health Organisation reported there had been 57,939,958 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 625,981.

There had been 1,380,494 deaths globally with a daily increase of 9,831.

In Australia there had been 27,807 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18. There had been 907 Australian deaths.

In Canada there had been 320,719 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,968. There had been 11,334 deaths with a daily increase of 69.

In the United Kingdom there had been 1,493,387 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 19,875. There had been 54,626 deaths with a daily increase of 340.

In India there had been 9,095,806 with a daily increase of 45,209. There had been 133,227 deaths with a daily increase of 501.

Coronavirus news highlights: Delhi continues to post high Covid-19 numbers  with 7,486 new cases, 131 deaths | Deccan Herald

In the United States of America there had been 11,789,012 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 191,033.

America surpassed a quarter of million deaths due to COVID-19 on the 21st of November, 2020.

250,607 with a daily increase of 2,036.

On the 22nd of November there had been 252,460 deaths with a daily increase of 1,853.

Ballbag played golf over the weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A BEAUTIFUL OLD TOWN CALLED MARYBOROUGH

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Copyright Lloyd Marken.

August 16

The World Health Organisation reported 21,570,528 COVID-19 cases globally with a daily increase of 253,701.

There had been 767,267 deaths with a daily increase of 5,374.

In Australia there had been 23,288 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 253. There had been 396 deaths with a daily increase of 17.

In Canada there had been 121,889 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 237. There had been 9,024 deaths with a daily increase of four. Spring was a good time in Canada in terms of decrease in numbers compared to earlier during the pandemic.

In the United Kingdom there were 318,488 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,040. There had been 41,366 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In India there had been 2,647,663 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 57,981. There had been 50,921 deaths with a daily increase of 941. This was the day the number of deaths in India reached more than 50,000.

In the United States of America there had been 5,312,940 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 54,375. There had been 168,345 deaths with a daily increase of 1,144.

August 17

Monday I was on holidays.

I also attended a Doctor’s appointment.

I know how to party.

Things were further developing in Victoria while we all held our breath about what would would happen in Queensland.

The below clips are again the excellent ABC program Four Corners on the second wave in Victoria and the next is from 60 Minutes Australia for nurse Dan Collins who contracted COVID-19.

Dan Collins is one of many extraordinary heroes who have served us, saved lives, comforted others and suffered. The courage of him and all our health care frontline workers cannot be honoured enough and when people try to justify ignorance and risk they should ask themselves – would they do what our nurses are doing?

Dan Collins is 24 years old. 24 years old. I stand in awe.

August 19

With the number of active cases in Queensland still relatively low and on holidays I was keen to strike out and support local areas with tourism dollars.
I have travelled as far north as Longreach in my home state but had never driven in my own car further north than the Sunshine Coast.

So Karen and I drove up to a town called Maryborough for the day.

Maryborough is the hometown of Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and a beautiful old town. I didn’t know it at the time but I was about to interview two teachers who live and work in Maryborough in the days ahead.

I chose to drive the 255 kilometres from Brisbane to Maryborough after a doctor’s appointment starting late so there wasn’t a lot of time when we got there. We walked around the town and looked for a place to eat but nobody would have us. We instead took in prawns from the Parkyn Parade co-op at Mooloolaba which was a real treat on our way home.

However we did get to see the Maryborough Colonial and Military Museum which has been developed by local volunteers into a first rate place in recent years. Nearby Hervey Bay famous for whale watchers is where a lot of veterans have retired too.

Model airplanes hung everywhere as well as some military vehicles and uniforms adorned the place. Most impressive was the number of medal collections of former serving members. Both military and civillians who had risked their lives and been recognised for gallantry.

These included Keith Payne who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Vietnam War and served in Korea, Malaya and Oman. His work with veterans post military service saw him awarded the Order of Australia medal.

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Keith Payne’s Medals. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Western Australia Police Constable Timothy Britten was on leave from his overseas posting to the United Nations Mission in East Timor in 2002 in Bali when the Sari club was bombed by terrorists. In a singlet top, shorts and thongs Constable Britten ran 800 metres to the club and went into the fire to try and retrieve a woman as gas cylinders exploded around him. Forced out by the flames Britten went back into the fire three times and with a man named Mr Joyes he got her out. He pulled survivors out of the club all night. 202 people were killed in the terrorist bombings including 88 Australians. Constable Britten’s efforts in saving lives and risking his own saw him awarded the highest civillian award for gallantry – the Cross of Valour.

Major Harry Smith served in the Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War. He was the Commanding Officer of Delta Company 6RAR when it was pinned down in the rubber plantations of Long Tan in a desperate fight for survival from a numerically larger enemy force. A long contested battle over many decades saw the veterans of Delta Company recognised more appropriately for what they lived through that day.

James Runham witnessed a bank robbery and followed the robber being fired upon point blank and wounded. He received numerous death threats leading up to testifying at the trial. He has served in the Queensland Rural Fire Service through several natural disasters, been a Cadet Instructor for Naval Cadets and formed the Australian Bravery Association. His bravery in this particular incident saw him receive the Star of Courage.

Major General John Cantwell you may recall me writing about a long time ago. Cantwell served in the Persian Gulf War, the war in Iraq and commanded the deployment of Australian forces throughout the Middle East and during the horrendous Victorian bushfires of 2009. An extraordinary man who has worked through PTSD. I once went to a welcome home parade for troops from Operation Slipper, Australia’s operational deployments to Afghanistan. I was absolutely delighted to see a retired General Cantwell at the head of it marching in uniform. This will sound extremely stupid but I had wanted to give thanks to those who served and having him be one of them was such a delight and surprise.

All of these individuals have shown exceptional courage and shown lifelong service to the community at great risk to themselves. Just like nurse Dan Collins.

-Lloyd Marken

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Dinner at Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

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

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The Polish Place. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

July 3

Friday morning we packed up our gear and headed off into the morning for our last brunch and walk of our holiday.

We had made a 10am booking at The Polish place which boasts spectacular views. My in-laws had stayed in the accommodation there previously and were very happy with their stay. It is well known on the Mountain.

We got an early booking because like every other establishment we had eaten at that week they could only make bookings for their indoor area at 50%. Random show-upperers could probably get a spot but booking capacity was limited by COVID. I didn’t run to risk it and just as well. Despite not being a morning person we rocked up at 9:30 with cars parked outside and a few couples waiting in the courtyard outback as it was watered down with a karchered down.

A popular joint.

We were given an option of outdoors and shown to the table we picked. Karen and I ordered Polish coffees (a bit too strong for us) and potato pancakes.

Suddenly two lorikeets popped up on the railing next to our table, they didn’t flinch when I shooed them with my arm. They just stood there for a while before toddling off.

When the young waitress came back, I asked if the birds were going to be a problem. She assured me they absolutely could be known for jumping up on tables while you’re your meal. She did helpfully point out however they seem to be go for the sweet stuff so the delicious cream in a jug that came with our coffees must have gotten their attention.

I’ll put you out of your suspense. We never saw the lorikeets again.

The next bird we saw was The Polish Place’s signature dish a roasted duck for two. Stuffed with Granny Smith apples and marjoram and served with red cabbage, Polish gnocchi, fried apple and cherry sauce.

It was bursting with flavour, I wasn’t used to a savoury dish with lots of sharp tart and fresh flavours mixed in the meat. I quite liked it and again, as tempting as the chicken in creamy dill sauce looked, we were enjoying something that was possibly fairly unique to this place.

As soon as we were done with the duck I looked to a nearby tree where three magpies flew into view and perched themselves. As soon as we stood up they flew down and the waitress did have to push them out of the way as she cleared our plates. Karen was surrounded by the three before she left the table. This amused her as I walked over to her and asked her to come with me.

We hadn’t really bothered been bothered by the birds, the staff was lovely, the views spectacular and the food amazing! Still I wondered if next time I would dine indoors.

 

 

Then we walked up the road to the beginning of Witches Falls, a 3.5km circuit I believe. There was a sign at the beginning that said not to work it during rainfall and as we went along I could see why. The path was narrow, elevated and would be very tricky if it became muddy due to rain.

Thankfully it was a beautiful day and as we descended there was literally a metre where the path was covered in vines and as you walked through it you moved from bush to rainforest. Amazing.

There was a fork in the circuit where you could go on and find the lookout, go back the way you came or continue and finish up the circuit. We went on to the lookout, when we came back we noticed a lot of people pausing and so I offered directions.

I had dressed for the restaurant so with my jumper off I was wearing a dress shirt with suspenders and black trousers.

This amused a lot of people, as a group of older women came by and I offered directions they noted I was very dressed up and one of them even offered “I hope she says yes.”

This cracked Karen up.

We began our ascent and left a scrunchy we found on the path on a post.

 

 

We got back to the car and just started driving back to Brisbane.

I left gifts for my Mum and Dad in their backyard and then called them. To my surprise they offered to talk to me through the window.

Instead when I went to the backyard they set up chairs for us to sit apart and chat.

It was the first time I had seen my mother in person since the 8th of March and my Dad the 15th of March. It was the 3rd of July.

A reminder sometimes you have got to push your luck.

My parents had not entertained visitors as restrictions lowered and active case numbers became single digits in Queensland. The wisdom of this strong stance was only going to bear out as the right call as the situation continued to deteriorate in Australia.

Yet here was a little respite for me, for them, for the country.

The perfect final touch to my very unlikely holiday in years during a pandemic.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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