Day 20

Day 20

I almost broke the chain of blogs today, but no way. I could hear the 1pm press conference echoing in my ear – STAY HOME AND WRITE! – or something like that so lucky I’m compliant.

I had a call with someone outside work today who reckoned that I was just a featureless blob on the screen. I blamed the sun streaming in behind me but she didn’t let up and insisted we find another option. I was concerned that I’d become either featureless or a blob or both but I checked the mirror and I found features, admittedly in two degrees, but that’s the nature of a mirror. Later on we had a telephone call.

It might also be that this third week – three weekends in – has made us all a little stir crazy. Since school, have you ever felt so dependent on another adult for what you can do in your life? Will we get out? What will we be able to do once we get out? Can we go home early after PE? Okay so maybe the last one really was school, but you get the drift.

As I said on the D-Day Home-D blog, Freedom is my most important value. I don’t care much for unnecessary control as a consequence, so the dangling, the hope, the scolding, is all a bit much at times. But hey, we may, if we’ve done the right things, have 8 days to go until the worst is over.

There were four more deaths today. A nurse on Checkpoint this evening texted in and said that the annual influenza cuts through the elderly in rest homes in much the same way as COVID-19 does when it takes hold. A podcast of a Saturday morning interview by Kim Hill with Dr Chris Smith, a UK virologist was replayed tonight (yes I’m boring). Dr Smith said that they expect the death rate to be significantly lower than currently described once the data is in on the very large numbers of people with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic. The story of this virus will have remarkably different headlines in three years time than it does now once full information is known.

But governments can only be expected to act on data that they have available to them at the time. When they data shifts, the politics of owning the decision suddenly make it more challenging. That’s fascinating, especially given that we’ve all been under the impression that most key decisions were political, when in fact they’re not.

There’s a leadership learning here and relevant to leaders everywhere.  Have you put so much leadership or political capital into a decision that to change course unbalances the ship?

It truly was a winter’s walk tonight – 14 degrees –  dark, wet and cold and that chain, the walking chain, stayed intact too, although it was only 4 kilometres. The police approved I’m told.

And it’s Wednesday already! Plan for that last weekend – or maybe don’t just in case it’s not.  After all, Saturday week is ANZAC day and we might just sneak out and make our own freedom parade if we’re not ordered to stay home!

Stephen

Day 17

Day 17

It was like I was in a scene from the charming British series Detectorists. I had been trying to get rid of some wasps that had made a couple of homes on my bore pump shed when I lost one of my Apple Airpods in the long hay. I’d already had to replace the entire set when it fell out of my bag dashing for a flight late last year. Hands and knees searching to no avail. I’d used the Find my Device function without success last time, but  as a last resort I gave it a crack. “Chirp Chirp Chirp“, GPS pinpointed the missing pod to within centimetres.

I’m a great fan of new technology. Watching the first two series that have been released on Netflix, Detectorists in High Definition with high speed fibre is a delight. Impatient for the third series I bought it on DVD. Great stories, but disappointing quality.

I love the countryside. I’m growing feed for the neighbouring farms on my bit of paradise and, armed with suitable documentation, I headed out today for essential maintenance. The motorway was clear and my journey there and back was uninterrupted and uneventful. I’d move out there tomorrow if the journey was that easy usually!

My earliest memories of farming life was staying on Uncle George’s dairy farm. He had me driving his Bedford Truck – I can still smell it – accelerator jammed with a 2×4 while he put the hay out and I steered. He was no doubt a beneficiary of the then government schemes that effectively subsidised dairy farmers but it appeared a charming lifestyle as a young boy looking on.  Sometimes you don’t realise who the influential people in your life were until way after you’ve lost contact.

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We now have four deaths said to be from COVID-19. I remember from my police days when you attended a sudden death (aren’t most deaths, like, well, sudden?), but anyway, if you didn’t have a doctor who could certify cause of death, then it was off to the Coroner. The training we had was that when the cause of death was certified without an autopsy, there was a high error rate.

To establish the cause of death, according to WHO, the doctor starts with the direct cause of death, then goes back to the preceding conditions until you get to the condition that started the sequence of conditions leading to death. This is said to be the underlying cause of death, which is described by WHO as ‘the disease or injury which initiated the train of morbid events leading directly to death, or, the circumstances of the accident or violence which produced the fatal injury”

So what? Well if you’re a keen reader of all things COVID-19 you would have seen articles in overseas newspapers that bring perspective beyond the “underlying conditions” that we know most victims of the virus sadly have. COVID-19 may be the direct cause of death, but on the research I’ve seen it’s unlikely to be the underlying cause of death.

So I think we need to be very careful about all of this attributing of cause of death to COVID-19. This isn’t some sort of alternative reality – it’s what WHO says – and explains headlines that describe almost all deaths in Italy early on as being of people with underlying health conditions. That’s not to make light of those deaths, or to underestimate the strain on any health system of so many occuring at once, but that’s a different alarm. Of course the underlying call to action – the 80,000 deaths if we don’t do anything – the medical crisis and so on got us moving, quickly.  Thanks to those government steps we don’t have a medical crisis which is great news and we have cause to be thankful.

Next step?  Daily updates on the economic measures being taken too. That’s got most people in New Zealand worried. The dire warnings spurred us into action that worked, but I think most people now realise we’ve passed that hurdle and we need to get onto the actual crisis we have.

shed2Otherwise we’ll all end up like Uncle George and subsidised by government for the foreseeable future. That won’t work. Although I could do with cheaper red paint.

But it’s Easter still! I think tomorrow (today when you read this) is the actual Easter Egg day and the first time in living memory we’re allowed to go the Supermarket. Such excitement, but for me having been at my land today, I have all things rural on my mind again. Love it.

Stephen

 

 

Day 15

Day 15

If my European trip had gone ahead I would have landed back in Auckland today. It would have been Singapore, Paris, Ireland – to see my son and his family – and Barcelona.  It would have been a cool Auckland to have arrived back into, a much cooler Auckland than I’d left, although I would have been oblivious that it only turned cold today.

Dusk view of Barcelona, Spain. Plaza de Espana

Walking through Cornwall Park this evening it was very much a late Autumn feeling, and I wore a walking jacket for the first time this year on my 118th walk of the year.

It looks like we’ve broken the back of COVID-19 in this country. They’ll be some further stern words – STAY HOME! – and big pronouncements about what restrictions stay (most), but in reality, we’re over it, yes it worked, at what cost, and what now?

I think a hangover will set in really quick. The enthusiasm, village spirit, the dobbing in, the adulation, the jokes, will fade quicker than summer just did.

COVID-19 was and is not an evil, random hideous silent killing stalking us like the Alien.

It’s a virus, mostly avoidable, and when it’s caught it can be very serious, mainly to some vulnerable groups.  There will be a time to reflect on this in the future I hope, although now is not the time. 

But we will rise again. Speaking of which it’s Easter! Time of the Easter Bunny and the Cross. So it’s time for  – a new word! Syncretism: the merging of belief systems which for Easter is about the fertility rituals that underpin Easter, a celebration adopted by Christians to mark the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ isn’t the only religious figure said to have died and born again – here’s ten others – and there are others too.

I’ll miss the Church bells at Easter this year. You might have guessed I wouldn’t be there, but it’s a restful sound that somehow captures community. And we need that now more than ever.

So let’s hope we come back from this and go forward. No flying for us after the comeback though, so my visit to Mum for her 89th birthday later this month might be on hold. Don’t tell her, she doesn’t know I’m (supposed to be) coming.

And do have a community Easter in your Bubble, however that is done. We’ll never forget this Easter so we might as well embrace it, and those who share this moment.

Stephen

 

 

 

 

Day 11

Day 11

It’s already late! And we’re supposed to have had an extra hour to make us get to bed early. It was dark by the time I got back from a walk and shop and it was only 6.45pm. This was after an afternoon of home-admin: financial planning, an insurance claim for overseas travel postponed due to COVID-19, and other bits of “shallow work” that take time, but need to be done.

Not that financial planning is shallow work. It’s most definitely not. I’m giving serious thought to the changing environment – following my Barefoot Investor* rulebook – and devoting deep work time to it as described in Cal Newport’s book* of the same name.

There’s an awful lot out there right now, that we can’t control, but as I’ve said earlier in on the Lockdown I consider that this is a great time to focus in on ourselves using Windfulness and what is truly important to us. In my experience, narrowing my focus in a way that brings meaning to the things I can control reduces anxiety, and increases my life contentment (or satisfaction – you can choose the work that suits you here).

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Much of what we can’t control is the strong alarm soundings everywhere – the flashing red news site banners (did you know that the colour red raises anxiety) – and strong opinions on the Lockdown in Social Media and the Media generally. It does nothing for me to read much of it. That’s not to say I don’t keep myself informed or that I do have opinions on some matters but can I control it? No. Essentially, no one person can, so I refuse to unnecessarily bother worrying about it, if it’s upsetting for some reason.

This is why I endeavour to remain upbeat and in good humour about the current events. I consider I am much more use to those that need me and rely on me for support – family, team, colleagues.  I’m well aware there are thousands of personal tragedies, directly or indirectly related to COVID-19 and I have empathy for those impacted. But I refuse to let it get me personally down.

And about those opinions we’ve all been reading (that’s most news items in case you hadn’t noticed!). Well, what if you didn’t have an opinion? Is that acceptable? In his book The Art of the Good LIfe, Rolf Dobelli says that it can be immensely liberating not to have an opinion on something. My son Thomas, who’s a great reader, put me onto this and I agree. For example, I don’t have an opinion on either the Cannabis or End of Life reform legislation that are going to a referendum.  I hope I get one when the time comes! But it’s freedom – my most important value – and like Marie Kondo does with your house, you can do it with your mind.

Take the Lockdown time to do some deep work, clean out the shallow work and home clutter that are getting in the way, free yourself of unnecessary opinion, and focus on facts, not on-line windups.

That’s me for the next 17 days at least!

Happy working week 3 (can we call it that? Why not)

Stephen

*There’s no financial or other advice implied or provided here of course. These are just my personal reflections only.