Thoughts on, or about, being self-isolated during Corona Virus outbreak

Like almost everyone in the first world just now, both my wife (Lotty) and I, as we are both well over 70 years old, are in voluntary isolation, which is a very odd situation for us both in different ways.

For my part it has meant that I no longer lead the life of a Professional Volunteer as I am in the habit of doing (see several other posts on this aspect of my life) and as a result I am feeling more than a little discombobulated to say the least.  For Lotty it has meant the end of her regular walks with our pooch, Gizmo, and a number of friends, followed by a happy hour or two sitting in one or other of Samford’s many cafes solving the many problems of the world or taking several Alpacas for their daily walks at a local riding school.

On the other hand it has meant that she has almost unlimited time for her garden, which is great, as her garden is a self-created jungle in a near vertical slope.

All of that is is pretty normal I suppose.  If one is suddenly unable to pursue one’s normal activities for whatever reason.  But given that we are healthy enough (for our ages) and at peace with the world, it is an odd feeling that it is unimportant to know what day of the week it is, the almost total silence on the nearby roads (we live in the country about 35 km outside Brisbane) and our normally well filled calendar (Literally, that is how we keep track of our various activities) is now empty – apart from a dental appointment I made this morning for the 1st October to make sure that I beat the rush when this isolation finishes – assuming it ever does of course.

Also the lack of having to be anywhere or do anything special at a given time is an odd feeling.  We are able to wander around in our garden so we don’t feel that we are in prison, which I can well imagine those who live in flats in cities can do, so apart from not having used either of our two cars for days now we are living in a reasonably “normal” fashion by and large I suppose.

So basically, we are living in a more or less normal way but with a feeling of isolation at all times, as if the outside world has ceased to exist – which is very odd to say the least.  We are sort of living in a small bubble, just our garden and a small section of the road outside our house.

The other main change is that we see none of our friends any more – occasionally one passes on the road and we shout greetings at each other and then they go on their way, so apart from via Facebook and the phone, we have really no contact with anyone else in the whole world and it is now several weeks since I was away from our house – not even in the local village to shop as our son is dealing with all of that.

So we are living in more or less complete isolation in the middle of thousands of other people doing the same – really an odd thing.

Oh well, assuming it will ever be open ( and humanity still exists), I assume it will all return to what we consider to be normal, which is really a pity I feel.

More On The Positive And Negative Effects Of The Dreaded Corona Virus

As I remarked in yesterday’s blog, there are numerous very positive aspects to the current dreadful virus attack, not only the up-welling of creativity that has occurred and which gives me so much hope for humanity (with a number of reservations of course) but also numerous side effects – the beautiful lack of huge environmentally dangerous airplanes roaring along overhead – yesterday I heard on the news that three (3!!!) international flights would be arriving at Brisbane International Airport. Isn’t this wonderful?

The road outside our house is superbly quiet all day, no large groups of overweight men on ridiculously huge motor-bikes roaring past our front gate all weekend or huge gaggles of people on racing bikes all chatting away at full volume disturbing our peace on a Sunday and during the week it is also so much quieter than normal – a sort of absence of sound that is hard to describe, but has a sort of empty quality and is totally delightful.


Also those webcam views of the centre of normally bustling cities, showing empty streets with only occasional lonely policemen to be seen – not only spooky and weird, but pleasing as well.  To be honest I am enjoying the whole experience, but then, I am not sick, nor do I live in a small flat on the 10th floor of a sky-scraper so I can wander around in our 5 acres of land without any worries.

Sadly people living in Luanda or any other city in Africa or pretty well any third world part of the earth will have another experience – I have plenty of water to wash endlessly and space to wander around easily without coming closer than the limit of 1.5 meters to another human.  Those poor souls have no water to spare for endless washing of hands, nor do they have the space to indulge in “Social Distancing” so I presume that the illness associated with this virus will wipe out thousands of such people.   This gives me considerable pause to put it mildly!   I have no idea how to help ameliorate their situation, sadly.   So in my more depressed moments I assume that places such as Africa, Pakistan, India and such-like will come out of this experience almost empty.

One thing that is certain, once all of this is over and we set about reconstructing our “normal” world again, things will likely be very different from how they were – I hope in a positive way, but we shall see………………………………………….

One Of The Positive Results Of The Corona Virus Plague

One of the more surprising and pleasing aspects of the current Corona Virus plague is the increasing amount of wildly funny or simply beautiful videos that people are creating in order to deal with their boredom of being effectively in prison.

It started simply with musicians standing on their balconies in Italy and playing with other musicians who happened to live near them in a version of open-air concerts and someone videoing the whole thing.  It developed from there to encompass a wide range of public and informal performances – singing, juggling, shouting jokes, dancing and so on.   An up whelming of performances of all sorts and types, and a joy to see!

It has now gone one step further, and people are now making their own videos of all manner of visual jokes, multiple takes of them performing with themselves, in the manner of those 1000 voice videos we have all seen in the past.    Some of them incredibly beautiful, such as this one.

Woman singing 4 part song with herself.

Apart from having a superb voice, she also has one hell of a great smile!

We also have other videos in which people make fun of the whole situation of being in”Lock-down” some of which are surprisingly sophisticated – which I suppose shouldn’t really surprise me, as all manner of professional performers, video makers and similar are also in “Lock-down” of course.

A good example of these silly ones is the following one, which takes straightforward film of people crossing a road and similar activities and gives it a sports program type of commentary, I really enjoyed this one!

Crossing road as a race

As you will see if you follow this link, there are a whole set of these silly “sports commentary” videos on his Twitter page to amuse you.

I have also seen no end of performances by people who are trapped in their houses by the events of the last few weeks (as am I) and who have dealt with the boredom by means of silly videos – as I am sure you know.  If you are a user of Facebook, Twitter or any of those sort of things on your phone/computer, you will have seen endless such photos, videos and so on..

All a highly creative way of dealing with the problems we are all facing and a very happy result of the situation.   I have noticed that all over the world such things are being created and enjoyed.   In the horrible plague we are all enduring some very good things are happening, and I hope that they will continue to happen once this is all over – not that I am particular optimistic about that in fact – after the plague of 1918 the world very rapidly descended into its normal horrible way of doing things, so I assume this will happen once this one is over – assuming there is any humanity left of course.

Ah well.



The Life Of A Professional Volunteer

Having settled in Australia as a thoroughly retired old man, I had to find something to do which would interest me and make a good change from the house building I was doing and would keep my brain alive.

So, I discovered the life of a volunteer………

Since about 2011 I have been a very active volunteer in a very wide range of enjoyable activities, ranging from doing all the computer work for a local farming group to working on a wide range of festivals in Brisbane, such as the French Festival, the Writers Festival, the World Science Fair and a number of that sort of event.

I have also worked (as a lavatory cleaner) on the Woodford Folk Festival, which was not as bad as it sounds.   We didn’t have to deal with blocked lavatories or similar horrible things, but simply make sure that the lavatories and showers were equipped with paper and so on, and clean.

Since this work entailed starting at about 5 am and finishing at about midnight, we in our team divided the days up between ourselves, which meant that we were able to attend any concerts, talks or demonstrations we particularly wanted to, which was pleasant and rewarding…  We were part of a team of people doing the same work all around the Festival and its huge camping grounds – up to 100 000 people attend this festival, and there are about 3000 volunteers who make it all happen.   Our group were officially called The Intergalactic S-bend Warriors, and we had T-shirts that proclaimed that name.

We have also worked on The Planting, which is a much smaller Festival in the same place, but more about planting trees, vegetables and similar, but it also has lots of talks, so there both Lotty and I were working as Stage Managers, in separate venues.

One of my favourite “jobs” was at the Brisbane Jazz Club, where I worked for about 4 years setting the club up for the night’s show, looking after the patrons and tidying up after the show was finished.    This one I worked on about 2 nights a week, and absolutely loved the huge range of jazz that came our way.. everything from Big Band Jazz, Gypsy Jazz, dixieland and every sort of jazz you could imagine, and all of a very high standard…  Good folk to work with too.

However, after those years, I became a bit tired of the work, so I stopped and started working at La Boite instead.   This is a moderately experimental theatre attached to the Technical University Of Queensland, where shows are put on at, curiously enough, a theatre called The Roundhouse, so I have sort of come full circle and am ending my life and starting my life working in a theatre called The Roundhouse.

Here we have all manner of shows, ranging from wildly experimental shows to relatively low key productions, as well as regular student performances..  All good fun though.

Roadkill – The Depressing Side Of Driving In Oz

One of the most distressing aspects of doing much driving in rural Australia – which includes Tasmania obviously- is the high rate of road kill here.  When driving outside cities or largish towns for every kilometer one drives, one will see probably two or three dead animals that have been hit by cars during the night.  

One of the most distressing aspects of doing much driving in rural Australia – which includes Tasmania obviously- is the high rate of road kill here.  When driving outside cities or largish towns for every kilometer one drives, one will see probably two or three dead animals that have been hit by cars during the night.


Every sort of wild creature that lives here is represented in this depressing parade of corpses – kangaroos, wombats, crows, ichidnas, wallabies and so on, literally every sort of wild animal will be seen sooner or later lying dead in the road or on the edge of the road.

As far as I can see, no one clears away their corpses, as one sees them in all states of decay.   From freshly killed to a bag of skin around a skeleton and all stages of putrefaction in between.

The crows are obviously very happy with this state of affairs, as it represents a continuous source of easy food for them to gobble up, and being crows they generally judge to a second how long they can stay eating as a car approaches, only leaping away at the last minute – or slowly stalking away in time for the car to pass harmlessly, before returning to their feast.

Even they miscalculate on occasion and end up as a sad bundle of disordered feathers lying next to their last meal – sad to see.

Last year we camped in parts of Tassie that are famous for the high numbers of Tasmanian Devils that live there, and hunt every night, so we had hoped both to see and hear them while we were there – but nope, the only one we came across was a very dead one on the road..  Another victim of the car.

It is not for nothing that someone years ago produced a book called ¨Flattened Fauna of Australia¨, made up of photos of all the different types of animals and birds this amazing country has, but all as corpses on the road.

So, as I said, seeing this mass of dead creatures when driving is deeply saddening, but a very typical aspect of this country – always has been and probably always will be.

The Death Of Creativity – Two Looks At This Idea

Almost all education systems in the world are basically aimed at destroying as much creativity in our kids as possible – and then work carries on this dreary effect.

Sadly for some reason, just about every system for educating (training) our kids seems to be aimed at killing off any creativity or curiosity and originality in them – And then our adult lives (or at least those of the great majority of us) work and society sets about killing any of those qualities that might have survived childhood and our schools.

Here are two looks at this depressing phenomena, one in a moderately serious talk by Sir Kenneth Robinson at TED, and the other takes a different route to give us the same message, this one being a wonderful animated film by  Daniel Martínez Lara & Rafa Cano Méndez.

Both of these differing approaches to the same problem show us both the problem but also give us hope that there might be a way to avoid it, in that they also indicate that it does not have to be like that, it is possible to educate our kids in such a way that they retain their curiosity.   And that it is possible for adults to force their lives onto a different and unexpected track.

But it remains depressing, this attitude so well summed up in the Jesuit saying “Give me your child before he is 7 and he is mine for life”.    It is this sad fact that allows for the continuing existence of religions, political divisions and all the other dreary and negative influences on our lives.

So, here is the Robinson talk to start the ball rolling:-

And now, to see the same problem from a different perspective, here is the superb short film by the two Spanish animators “Alike”.

Well, I hope that one or both of these films got to you and gave you food for thought.

Any thoughts that either of them may have prodded you into thinking, please do share with us here.  Always interesting to hear what people think about things……

Circus? The Most Terrifying Art There Is

We love clowns? No we don’t! We are terrified of them, and for good, if deep reasons too.

We all love a circus – Well actually, this is not true.  A large part of going to a circus is being bored or scared out of our wits by supposedly funny clowns.  I know, there will be animal acts, jugglers and acrobats of various persuasions as well, and occasionally they are enough to make it worth the effort of going to the circus.  But generally (with the exception of the Good Old Cirque du Soleil) most circuses are tatty, boring and amateur.  But one thing that we can always rely upon is that the clowns will scare the hell out of us.

RBBB Clowns jung stevens burnes

Of late there has been a sort of move in the clown profession to clean up their act a bit, and to become less scary – but this is doomed to fail, as actually the whole point of clowns is to be seriously frightening.

The ones in the above photo show exactly what I mean – they are all friendly looking, grinning away at the camera, but can you imagine meeting even one of them late at night when you are alone on the street?   You would run a mile I guarantee it.

I have never really understood why they are so frightening, or even why they should be so…   Surely the idea is to make us happy not scared.


Looking at the photo above, the little girl’s reaction to that dreadful creature beside her is totally appropriate, and is typical of how kids really react to clowns – adults pretend to find them funny, but actually underneath, they are also scared and appalled by the creature in front of them. Continue reading “Circus? The Most Terrifying Art There Is”

Laughter Track Makes A Show Funny

My attention was drawn to a rather curious fact last evening.   One of my favourite TV shows is The Big Bang Theory, and it has been for quite a few years as well.   I simply find its gentle humour pleasing, and I had always found it very funny as well. However, last evening […]

My attention was drawn to a rather curious fact last evening.   One of my favourite TV shows is The Big Bang Theory, and it has been for quite a few years as well.   I simply find its gentle humour pleasing, and I had always found it very funny as well.

However, last evening a friend told me about the huge number of Big Bang videos on Youtube that have had the laughter track edited out somehow, and he suggested I might find it interesting to watch a few of them.   So I did.

But before I show you any of those “laugh free” videos, here is a short one with laugh track to sort of set the scene and point the way.

Now that I enjoyed, and even laughed at some of their comments.    But unfortunately, having also seen a number of the “no laugh” videos, I found myself listening much more critically, and my enjoyment was markedly less than normal.

So, now for the Moment Of Truth.   Here is a video with that laughter edited out, so it is just the words the cast speak, and no audience reaction to help things along. Continue reading “Laughter Track Makes A Show Funny”

Ereaders Offer Dyslexics A Way Of Reading More Easily

A 2013 study has shown that ereaders can offer help to those suffering from certain forms of dyslexia to read faster and to understand better what it is they have read.

A 2013 study has shown that ereaders can offer help to those suffering from certain forms of dyslexia to read faster and to understand better what it is they have read.

As you may not realise, there are in fact a whole range of reading disabilities that are covered by the somewhat blanket term, Dyslexia, and each form obviously presents its own problems and potential solutions.

Image with thanks to

In the case of this experiment, they were concentrating on the form that finds difficulty in separating and comprehending words on a normally laid out book. i.e lots of words in each line of text.

Continue reading “Ereaders Offer Dyslexics A Way Of Reading More Easily”

The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain On Satan

As you will know if you are a fan of Mark Twain’s writings, he was very much opposed to the Christian Church and all its works.   And as his life went on, this loathing simply became worse and worse (a view I share with him by the way). His views on the Church and […]

As you will know if you are a fan of Mark Twain’s writings, he was very much opposed to the Christian Church and all its works.   And as his life went on, this loathing simply became worse and worse (a view I share with him by the way).


His views on the Church and humanity are best summed up in a short book he wrote at the end of his life, and which was not published in the USA until about 1960, as his daughter felt strongly that this book did not really reflect her father’s views, and that it was simply too sacrilegious.

This short book, which I first read in about 1966 is called Letters From Earth, and is supposed to be a series of letters written by Satan to his two good friends, the Archangels Gabriel and Michael.  The idea is that he (Satan) has nipped down to earth to see how we are all getting on, and he is appalled by what he finds.

I shan’t go into the storyline here, as you can read the whole thing for yourself on-line if you follow this link (Letters From Earth).   This short book gives a very good idea of how Twain regarded organised religion and humanity as well.

He wrote a number of other stories which were basically attacks on the Christian Church, and several of these have been turned into very pleasing claymation films, which I will post below for your viewing pleasure.

I feel that these short films speak perfectly well for themselves (the storylines were written by Mark Twain after all), so I shan’t tediously analyse what it is that they are trying to say, as it is totally obvious and clear enough I feel.

So, without more ado, here are the two films that show very well both his feelings about religion, and also his very misanthropic feelings as well.

So, to start with, here is his take on religion’s ideas about the ultimate reward – Heaven.

And now his views on humanity……………………. Continue reading “The Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain On Satan”