Day 29

Day 29

Victor Harris was one of my best friends at Linwood Avenue School. I remember coming back from an “after school” visit to Victor’s house and telling Mum that Mrs Harris had told me she was only 29. I remember Mum laughing out loud. It wasn’t until years later that I understood what she thought was so funny. But it stuck with me, the 29.

Linwood Avenue School was the former school of Norman Kirk – “Big Norm”, prime minister for just under two years until he had a heart attack and died in office, aged 51. We were so enamoured with Mr Kirk at school during his premiership, that the class wrote to him, suggesting that we should have a holiday on his birthday. He wrote a lovely letter back to “Room 4”, or whatever it was, saying he was very touched by the idea, and that given his birthday was on 6 January during the school holidays, we didn’t need an additional holiday!

Twenty-nine and fifty one.  Both sound pretty young to me now. When Victor was thirteen, out on a boys’ weekend with his father, cousin and other friends walking along a river in North Canterbury, a rock came down from the cliff above and killed him.

I’ve never forgotten Victor and certain things make me think of him. School children rugby, his birthday, the Hurunui River and sometimes, 29.

It’s very easy to become self-absorbed in your own everyday problems. Right now there are plenty and I’ve spoken of many of these, and some of my frustrations too, about the current situation we find ourselves in.

But I think it’s important to remember what we have too. There are plenty of people with big challenges flowing from the economic shutdown, but I’m determined to count my blessings from a pretty full life, and not really being in need of anything, in relative terms.

Feeling grateful.

Stephen

Day 28

Day 28

It should have been the final chapter. Really. But not quite. It’s a few more days only including our second long weekend of the Lockdown. So not only have we been in Lockdown we’ve had two precious long weekends in the year taken from us although Easter was actually ok for me. First world problems really!

It was a very busy day at work and I’ve done something to my Iliotibial band which has slowed up my walking. People tell me that I need to get a golf ball into it and roll over it!

It’s felt like routine hard day of work today, without any real break. One thing I like about the work at home is when I have a break I can just lie on the couch – or bed, don’t tell anyone – catch up on the news, relax, then back at it. It’s one of the things you don’t have at work. Well I don’t although in days gone by I’ve been to offices where people have couches. Mostly before a financial crisis!

So as we get ready to come out of Lockdown, what happens? For knowledge workers, not much as far as work goes, although you can visit clients in certain circumstances. Speaking of first world problems you can have a cleaner again – but get out of the house while they do their business – you can buy takeaways and takeaway coffee, and take a car for a test drive, contactless (with the salesperson I assume).

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After two or three weeks we’ll be out of Level 3 and most people can get back to normal working. I’ve been thinking about what it is that I will capture and hold going back to normal life.  Not working in the evenings or weekends combined with more structure during the days – I’ve discovered these two things are strongly related. Staying in touch with more people – geography has had less meaning and we talk on video all the time now. Has the age of the video phone finally arrived after 20 years of false starts?

We had another COVID-19 related death today from the Christchurch Resthome making for a total of 14. There’s now 2 people only in ICU and 401 active cases. Globally these are very low numbers and really, we can say that the pandemic has not arrived, didn’t arrive, and we desperately need to start focussing on economic and social recovery.

One of my three readers told me today that he was impressed that every day I get up with a new blog. I’m worried about the remaining days. I wonder if I’ve run out of steam. Can I come up with something for five more days!

Four weeks, we did it, it felt like a long way off on 25 March, but we got there. For some people the economics have been enormously challenging: jobs lost, prospects derailed, plans upset, businesses shuttered and the entire international tourism sector gone.

We can recover. I’ve lived through quite a few big crises – the average person didn’t know the crisis was upon us until it was well underway. For many people, especially pre-Kiwisaver, the stock market was a remote and distant construct. But this time the pace of movement into crisis has been virtually overnight. We even know the night – 25 March 2020. Which is a great start to get moving and rebuild.

I’m quite optimistic that we’re move quickly into recovery and rebuild. I admit to even being a little excited about it all. I’ll do my bit where I can. The next chapter.

Stephen

 

Day 27

Day 27

It could have been the penultimate Lockdown blog, but we’ve still got five more days. David Bowie’s Five Years comes to mind for no other reason that it’s five, although that song is about the end of the earth coming in five years.

Thinking, hoping that it might be only one day to go I went back and looked at the earlier blogs of the Lockdown. Quite a bit of talk of anxiety and being indoors. It did kind of scare me a bit at the beginning.  The 80sqm apartment, my love of freedom,  I think I was a bit sceptical reasonably early on – or more questioning – as it worried me and still does, that the media have acted like an arm of the official information bureau, rather than any deep questions. I mused about what I would do – watch all 25 Bond movies – I’ve watched one only.  Moonraker with Roger Moore – great sets, actually a really good story, but the lines. Ouch, James Bond 007 The Sleaze!. I finished the third series of Ozark and nothing else on TV has really held up well in comparison. As the days stretched into weeks I’ve felt my rational mind more active and have read lots about COVID-19 and consumed a lot of data, some of which I’ve shared here.

People I know have a range of views but many people, sadly I think, appear consigned to defeatist – or they would say realistic – unquestioning compliance. At the risk of sounding like a consultant, that’s not to say that we’re not doing the right thing.  But I think we should, must! question such a massive imposition on our lives the impact of which is long term for many.

On our leadership programmes we really encourage the leaders on the programme to do serious self reflection. At first it’s not natural – it can be seen as time consuming when real work could be done. But as we do more of it, there are real moments of clarity and insights that can cause material and long-lasting change for people in their lives. This is the unquestionable beauty and satisfaction of this work. But it needn’t be a programme or a special event that drives reflection.

This electronic, public diary has helped me to process my thoughts. The changes forced upon us these last few weeks have given me deep and unexpected insights about my own behaviours. I’ve realised that I derive quite a lot of contentment from being much more structured that I have in the past. I feel confident that this new structure is something I take forward. It’s happened on the back of other reading I’ve done – Cal Newport’s Deep Work – is the main reading, so it’s been a happy coincidence. I don’t know whether reflecting each day has been the deciding factor in these insights, but it’s almost certainly accelerated it.

As a police cadet there were a few unusual things we learned. We learned a lot about death and dealing with it practically and emotionally. This has come up quite a bit for me these last few weeks as there’s been lots of dialogue about death, and as my rational mind has come forward, it’s played out here. I’ve felt it’s been quite healthy and therapeutic for me to discuss it here and I do hope it’s not been too confronting.

Another thing we learned about at the Police College was what act is the act that makes an attempt. That is, how close to the crime does the act of the suspect need to be to be an “attempt”? If you’re going to rob a bank, does buying the guns cut it? Does getting into the Ford Transit van to drive to the bank do it? Does marching into the door and demanding to be let in through the sliding doors do it? The answer is, you look for the “penultimate act”, which would be the last example here. The one before is the anti-penultimate act and doesn’t cut it. Of course there might be conspiracy, possession of weapons etc, but not attempted robbery. Some things stay with us forever. Hopefully yours are more useful than the need to explain anti-penultimate just because you started a short dialogue using penultimate. And I haven’t gone all totally structured!

Reflection using everyday tools of deep thought, writing, processing, sharing and being honest with yourself can bring amazing changes for the better for anyone who wants to give it a crack. Those things can stay with us forever and for good.

Stephen

 

Day 26

Day 26

 

If you want to know what your favourite film is, doesn’t it have to been the one you’ve watched the most? (excluding children’s films). For me a favourite film is a happy warm place, a comfortable seat (and set) with characters I know, places I love and a story that never grows old.

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s 2011 film is mine and I watched it tonight. I should be embarrassed to say how many times I’ve watched it, but it never ceases to capture my imagination, and if it’s forty times or more I wouldn’t be at all surprised. Gil Pender is a Hollywood screenwriter on holiday in Paris with his fiance and future in-laws, when he is transported back to the 1920s each night and mixes with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso and others.

The warm and fuzzies have finished in politics with the announcement today. During the last four weeks, it seems that if anyone had the temerity to contradict the wisdom of the imposition of the state of emergency, then that was tantamount to the person wanting the ‘rona to attack your neighbour.  Media and all political parties played ball.  I’m glad that’s ended. We went into this thing with the prospect that 80,000 people were going to die if we didn’t. Of course that was never going to happen – we don’t have the population density or age demographics of Italy or Spain. We may not have known that then in fairness, but we do now.

Modern society shields most people from the realities of life and death and it’s been very easy for leaders to frighten us with death rates. Seeing as I’ve become semi-addicted to statistics, according to Statistics New Zealand 3097 people will have died in New Zealand during the Lockdown.  About 100 each day.  Every one of those deaths will likely leave loved ones behind and there will be great sadness and grief attached to it, but we’re all just timing differences, as a boss of mine once said. Our turn will come!

So, I think we need to take the emotion out of the normal run of events and not scaremonger each other about the ‘rona. Yes, the curve needed to get flattened to avoid a health crisis and avoid building the tent hospital. That’s a great thing. Time to get back to work now with appropriate controls. I may have failed to redefine our understanding of death in the context of the crisis, but a verb got redefined today.

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Elimination is not, as you might expect from the ordinary meaning – the complete removal or destruction of something – but rather, the, um, not complete removal!  Common sense has prevailed as it had to – we can’t possibly expect to eliminate the ‘rona – any more that the common cold or any other virus for which there is no vaccination. That could never work.

We need leadership with empathy and understanding, but leaders also need to harness the directness of a Hemingway. Telling it as it as. I’m not sure that trying to redefine the meaning of a word that was so much part of this campaign was a good idea.

But I doubt we have eliminated our desire for food we can’t have. So 27 April 11.59pm is the date for a Big Mac at the Greenlane drive through! The queue alone will be worth being there for  – history in the making surely! When the time comes it’s Japanese for me – Salmon Sashimi and Yakitori dishes. With a favourite film. Can’t wait!

Stephen

 

Day 25

Day 25

It was like one of those old school Sundays where it’s a bit cold outside, there’s nowhere to go anyway, and the inside is full of warmth and activities. I read The Calculus Affair today. Yes I know the story but it’s got some of my favourite components of Tintin – Marlinspike Hall, the Trains in Europe and the cities with amazing details. And funny too.

It wasn’t exactly funny, but the 1pm press conference did seem fairly upbeat. After saying that no decision has yet been made,  in response to a question about business the prime minister said that retail, hospitality and other businesses should be getting themselves readied for opening with social distancing. She said that although level 3 will mean some relaxation for business, the social relaxation is not a thing. Perhaps we should tell her we’ve actually been doing quite a bit of relaxing! Or did I just get my relaxings all mixed up. Anyway, I’m pretty relaxed about it.  Someone mentioned that they’re getting ready to start working on Thursday in a cafe although they probably don’t know any more than the rest of us. Either way, expectation is building of a partial release – let’s say it’s going to be a pre-release work experience type of thing.

As well as Tintin, I also did some reading on Worldometer.  It seems the whole world is obsessed with infections and death rates. For a while there, it had a bit of Olympic Games medal table feel about it – who would get the top of the table, but it’s serious of course – people are dying. It looked like China at the top for many weeks, but that seems a life-time ago and the infection rate in the US is now just less than one-third of the total infections, but only 24% of the total deaths. Dare I say it, they must be doing something right, having let the ‘rona loose.

Since I last looked, the rate of those in serious condition as a percentage of active infections is down to 3%. The percentage increase in deaths has been on a decline for two weeks now. It doesn’t matter what data you look at, the vast majority of deaths are in the 65+ age group, and most have underlying conditions. That doesn’t mean that there are exceptions to this rule and everyone knows of an example that doesn’t meet the majority. Not so in New Zealand though. On the information available none of the deaths in New Zealand had COVID-19 as the underlying cause of death. We don’t know all the actual ages of those whose deaths are attributed to COVID-19 in New Zealand, but using an assumption that someone described as in their 80s is 82.5, and 90s is 92.5 and so on, so as to not overstate it, then the median age is 82.5 and the average age 83.5. We are not an outliner. In Italy 83% of deaths are in people aged over 70.

Here’s some predictions. When we look back the death rate of humans on the planet for 2020, it will not be materially different to other years. The virus squeezed the mortality rate into a compressed time frame. That compression of mortality is without doubt the main reason why action was required to not overload the health system, as is happening in the States. Sound harsh and unfeeling? 150,000 people die each day on earth. At least 500,000 people die each year from influenza and you’d have to think that social distancing and isolation measures will reduce that materially.  Will the ‘rona cause worse rates of fatalities in Africa? Unlikely, the age demographics are wrong – median age in all of Africa is 19.7 years, compared to Europe at 43.  But it won’t be a picnic either, as health services are likely poor.

So 4pm is when we’ll crowd around the radio, Michael Joseph Savage style, crackling reception, have the valves even warmed up yet?, waiting “Where she stands, we stand“.  Okay, so it’ll be “Breaking News” on the television even though we know it’s coming.  Hopefully it’s breaking the Home-D.  Either way it’s a significant leadership opportunity.

Leadership is not for the faint-hearted. In this matter, we have replaced a possible medical crisis, with an absolute economic and social crisis. Breaking the cycle of STAY HOME! will not be easy and requires courage and an acknowledgement that it’s time to let go.

Credit to Peter Bromhead for the cartoon. Captures it perfectly I reckon.

Stephen

 

 

 

Day 24

Day 24

Writing the titles for this series of blogs has been pretty straightforward, obviously.  Writing it today I had a sense of it coming to an end soon. Slightly melancholic feeling, which is weird after wishing the time away.

The Lockdown will probably end to be replaced by another form of restriction, but the Lockdown blogs will end with Level 4 ends. OK!

The sharemarket – as if its a being – appears optimistic about the current economic prospects. Shares have largely rebounded strongly, not regaining all the gains of the last few years, but quite a bit of it. Investors are seeing signs that COVID-19 as a medical issue is largely dispatched, and the economy can fire up again. Yes it’s more complex on both fronts, but I think that’s the perception.

The government led us strongly into economic freeze to stop the ‘rona spreading. It will say there’s still lots to be done, but by the look of the amount of traffic on the streets today, many people have stopped listening. Business is coming back ready or not I think.

I went on a walk again today, a long walk, Maungakiekie and Cornwall Park, Te Kopuku/Mt St John and Maungawhau/Mt Eden. The body needed a big workout to match the mental energy this past week and it paid off.

Do watch Unorthodox on Netflix which I finished tonight. If you don’t need to wipe your eyes you might be a sociopath! It’s only four episodes.

Although there’s quite a few things I like about the Lockdown, I do miss the weekend drive, the coffee in the cafe and riding my motorbike.

So the challenge is to hold on to new ways whilst grabbing back the best of the past.

Leaders can make this their mantra in the refreshed world in a week or two.

Stephen

Day 23

Day 23

Who would have thought that almost the entire New Zealand inside is painted the same colour – more or less? Or that it took only 2 days and everyone started wearing Saturday morning sloth clothes?

I started the day on a video call – Hangout as Google calls it – with Ireland, and then it never really stopped until about 7.15pm. You see lots of the inside.

Working days at home on constant calls I’ve found really quite tiring, so I was tempted to break the walking chain. Of course not! But it was only 3 km and now I’m watching Unorthodox.

It’s the story of a young woman who escapes from her Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn community and goes to Berlin.  She’s taken in by a group of musicians. It flashes backwards and forwards from her old life to her new one: charming, funny and poignant all at the same time. It’s only four episodes so it’s a pleasant change from ten episodes in Sweden about a series of murders orchestrated by those high up in society!

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We’re all living out of our normal environment right now. When you’re outside your norm you can learn unexpected things about yourself. I haven’t minded at all the  non-contact. I’ve enjoyed the meetings that start promptly on time. Everyone gets heard. I’ve lived in a more structured manner, and enjoyed it. I work less in the evenings and weekends than I ever have. I walk a lot. I eat better. It’s okay, but the economy can’t survive this indefinitely, or much more at all.

Brandenburg Gate In Berlin. Germany

The finance minister said today at the 1pm briefing that the government had paid $9.8b in wage subsidies. We can’t run an economy for much longer by borrowing. So let’s hope the projections of the 2 weeks in Level 3 then down to the working level – level 2 – turn out to be true. By the way, why is the 1pm broadcast orchestrated like a piece of propaganda? The flashing banners to dob in companies about prices, the STAY HOME! warnings, the repeat instructions telling us what to do and not do. That might be newsworthy but it shouldn’t be pumped out as instructions. That’s not the media’s job. But I forgot, we’re in a national state of emergency. Is it supposed to feel like this?

So whatever the level, I think us knowledge workers will still be working from home for some time yet.

It won’t be so bad, in fact the new environment is an ongoing opportunity for personal growth for all of us.

Have a great weekend. I’m thinking about a COVID-19km walk.

Stephen