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 14

Day 14

Are we there yet!

Could we be half-way? Well we could be, but at least we can be certain we are halfway through the minimum sentence! But I get the feeling that although we’ve generally been well-behaved, it hasn’t been perfect so there might be a little more time.

But no more time for the almost 400 pilots at Air New Zealand about to be laid off, the 300 Flight Centre Staff who are laid off, or the other 100,000 tourism jobs estimated to be lost. Wellington Airport is in discussions with its banks and half of New Zealand’s hotels are closed. And this is just one sector.  Sounds like a crisis to me.

To its credit the government is in discussions to “re-start” the Tourism sector, which means domestic tourism only, as we have no community immunity, and unless I’m missing something, we can’t possibly permit any overseas visitors until there is a vaccine.

So it’s time to “Don’t leave town until you see the Country!” again. I love a good road trip. I’ve driven from Cape Reinga to Bluff and most places in-between. There’s so much to see! The gorgeous bays of Bay of Islands, Molesworth Station, Ophir, the giant canals of the South Island’s Hydro-electric schemes, Lake Paringa on the West Coast, Arrowtown, the square of Palmerston North, the Redwoods of Whakarewarea Forest at Rotorua, the Hokianga Car FerryMona Vale Gardens and the Wairarapa to name but a few places I’ve been to on road trips.

ABARTH

And no disappointment if your favourite isn’t mentioned, the list is almost never-ending. In fact the only two places I think I haven’t driven to are Gisborne and Farewell Spit. Makes me want to wrap my hands around the leather steering wheel, press “START” and head off.

My personal favourites from the top of my head: the Giant Te Paki sand dunes, Otira Viaduct at Arthurs Pass, Gibbston Valley in Autumn, and – one I visit every week – Cornwall Park.

Te Paki Sand Dunes

Right now, we’re not able to do any road trips – STAY HOME! – but it’s an ideal time to plan the next one, to reflect on places you’ve been to – get the photos out or on the screen and relive the memories.

Taking time to reflect on past adventures enriches us. We should allow ourselves the time and space to take a journey in our minds. Reflection is not just about learning.

It’s also an opportunity to luxuriate in past pleasures and times of great satisfaction.

Are we there yet!

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.

Asleep while the world wakes up

Asleep while the world wakes up

A few quick looks showed no emails of any note over the holiday although a couple of my team were working on urgent matters  – they’ll get their pay back later when we’re at the grindstone!

As each day passed I felt the mind relax, initially almost imperceptibly, then quite noticeably. I felt stronger thoughts about what’s important to me. Really important. The things that bring true contentment, satisfaction, or happiness, or whatever word works for you. Mine is freedom.

The world hadn’t stopped of course. A political assassination, a royal couple who declared that wealth and privilege don’t necessarily bring meaning, and dreadful fires, the signs of which we saw in the Central Otago sky.

This morning the world seemed to have woken up, although I’m still on holiday – emails, lots of them –  calls, and texts. On my walk this morning, the elders were out and about for some reason- off to the morning movies by the look of it – walking slowly like my mind, but not like my feet, I’m going faster than ever. Couriers were at it and the traffic and trains seemed back to normal service.

If you’re like me and still asleep while the world is waking up around you, hang in there for the most important things: exercise, sort your financial goals out, and do things that give you meaning. Maybe it’s obvious.

Over the holidays I re-read Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor. Reader warning! – he doesn’t like the big banks – but regardless of whether that works, the messages on financial freedom and bringing meaning to your life are extraordinary for a finance book. I also read Bill Bryson’s “The Body:  A guide for Occupants” – did you know that there’s no scientific evidence of harmful effects of MSG? And I walked. Quite a bit actually.  Then I saw this video this morning about the impacts of exercise on the brain.

So, a holiday about the body, financials and doing what brings meaning. My path to freedom.

Stephen

The banner photograph is one I took from Chard Farm Winery in Gibbston Valley, Queenstown, showing the Australian Bushfire sky.

Both books were audio books. Can you say you read them? I have but I wonder if that’s right.