Business As Unusual

Surreal is the word I would use for this week. It’s been hard watching the dominoes fall as businesses continue to close and the subsequent loss of customers and jobs across the board. It’s been heartening to see essential industries in the opposite position putting on people who’ve been stood down or lost their jobs. While I feel extremely grateful to still have a job – it’s been completely overwhelming to see the human cost and economic impact in our community. I spent most of this week ensuring La Trobe alumni could access LinkedIn Learning (one of our alumni benefits) and liaising with the team at LinkedIn regarding contractual issues, which has not been great timing given the demand for all things online by alumni and in general.

#ActivationInIsolation Website

Within the La Trobe community, my colleagues have pivoted and launched the Student Crisis Appeal which went live yesterday. Like many people, our students rely on casual jobs in retail and hospitality to pay their rent and buy food as well as study. La Trobe University will match every dollar raised from alumni and private donors and our Senior Executive Group have already donated to the cause with 100% of funds going directly to students – many of who wouldn’t be able to continue to study without financial assistance.

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Locally, if you can support Banyule businesses that are still operating, please do. While my friend Jonno from Valiant Barbers has temporarily closed up shop, Nikki Ellis from Cinch Training has moved to Zoom sessions online and limited outdoors sessions and I picked up four super delicious takeaway burrito bowls from Luis at The Pioneer Cafe yesterday in Rosanna.

If you can’t afford to pay for Zoom sessions, Yoga with Adriene is free on YouTube as well as La Trobe Sport’s #ActivationInIsolation series which will hold #MobilityMondays, #WorkoutWednesdays and #FlexibilityFridays. I’ve seen P.E. with Joe for children being promoted online and I know it’s really hard at the moment for working parents at home who have young children.

One of the reasons we moved to the suburbs was to give our children a backyard. As much as they’ve outgrown the cubby and sandpit, we have a basketball ring which may be our saving grace and I bought a badminton set online the other day which has brought out our competitive side as a family. If I had a garage, I’d definitely get my Miao Miao on and go full Asian buying a table tennis set – nothing like a bit of ping pong over winter!

Establishing a new routine will become really important in the coming days and weeks. I’ve already started walking to ‘work’ in what would ordinarily have been my morning car commute, setting up my home office (with a better outlook and a mostly well-behaved office dog who is loving the 24/7 company) and will be setting up similar spaces and routines for my kids as they move to online learning, which will definitely happen. I’ve already moved the social events I had on with friends to Zoom so we will still catch up online instead of in real life and I know younger friends are using Houseparty for group video chat or Netflix Party to watch movies with mates.

Hang in there – if you are one of the unlucky people who lost their job this week, then I am thinking of you. Please take care of your mental health, as much as your physical health. The coming months will be a test of our true character, courage and resilience dealing with the unknown and unknowable.

Brave New World

Brave is what we are all going to have to be in the coming weeks and months. It’s been a long week for most of us. Like many, I had a trial day working from home during the week (and one of my children trialling online learning) before moving indefinitely to working and learning from home from tomorrow. In the space of 48 hours, I had to ensure my VPN was working and move to Zoom video conferencing, Cisco Jabber and a private WhatsApp group with daily check ins with my team and weekly catch ups with my manager. I did joke to my Director that he’ll be a digital native in no time.

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Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash

All jokes aside, I think many people are in shell shock – at least the ones who are taking coronavirus seriously. I’ve already witnessed real fear and worry from people in my circle and it’s justified given that dreams and plans for this year have been impacted and livelihoods are now at stake. Fear and worry are no good to you, you must take action and do all that you can to buy yourself time in terms of talking to your bank regarding your mortgage or business loan, your private school if you have children there, moving to an online format if you’re a service provider (my pilates teachers are going to do this) and if you provide a personal service of some kind ensuring you have adequate resources available if you need to close up shop or reduce staff – many cafes have moved to takeaway and home delivery including my friend Luis at The Pioneer Cafe in Rosanna. The National Debt Helpline is offering free advice from a financial counsellor on 1800 700 700 if you need to speak to someone about your situation. I am hopeful that some people can quickly move from denial and panic to acceptance and innovation – necessity is the mother of all invention.

I am feeling for all casual and gig economy workers, the frail and elderly, those who have disabilities, chronic illness or homeless and other vulnerable people out there in the community who are at most risk in terms of paying rent or having somewhere to live, losing their jobs or their lives. And its these people we need to keep in mind, as well as our own parents and grandparents, instead of frolicking carelessly on the beach at this point in time. As things become incredibly serious and much more deadly in the coming months, I hope the messages of our government and Chief Medical Officer start to hit home especially for those people who seem to think they’re invincible.

Ensure you’re subscribing to a credible news source like the ABC, The Age or The Guardian rather than relying on social media (and also limit the amount of times per day you check the news if you are feeling anxious). I worked with Dr Norman Swan (and Shane Delia) a couple of years ago on the Bold Thinking Series lecture on the Mediterranean Diet. He is a smart and funny man who is currently hosting the ABC’s Coronacast but even he is deferring to official news and medical opinion. Shane Delia in the meantime has temporarily closed his business for the next two months and he sadly won’t be the only person in hospitality who now needs to do this.

While Coles and Woolworths are ramping up and re-starting their home delivery grocery service soon, I have been able to place an online order with Your Grocer and I know some local mums who subscribe to Hello Fresh. Mr Rosanna and I also dropped in to Leo’s in Heidelberg yesterday which was surprisingly calm and were able to do a shop sans toilet paper but have managed to find an online supplier. Farmers Markets too are still open for business at this time but I’d encourage you to please practice social distancing.

Mental health is just as important as physical health at this time. While I use Simply Being, there are many other meditation apps out there including Smiling Mind and Calm. Buy yourself some indoor plants if you don’t have a pet, backyard, courtyard or balcony and give yourself something else to look after during this time. Also make sure you’re properly set up at home with an office chair and desk (or makeshift desk), adequate lighting and any other office equipment you might need – keyboard, headphones, monitors etc if you are working from home as it could be a long haul ahead of us.

Take care, stay safe and be well. One day at a time…

Whatever it takes

It feels like an age ago since I last posted and it’s a new world we now find ourselves in. I never thought I’d live in a time where a global pandemic would strike, but here we are. It has hit home this weekend with the Banyule Festival being cancelled as well as my children’s usual Saturday morning sport. Rather than being ‘out there’, the coronavirus is now here on our doorstep.

There’s never been a greater need to stay calm and to plan and prepare, while we still have time, to minimise the challenge that is on its way. My media and communications colleagues at La Trobe have spent the past few weeks and months in critical incident team meetings planning for all the different scenarios, including the one which emerged this week. Many workplaces have also enacted their crisis management plans with Telstra instructing two thirds of their entire workforce to work from home for the next two weeks. Much of its workforce has already been doing this on a regular basis in terms of business as usual so they are well placed to weather the storm in terms of moving entirely to working online.

As for me, working at a university where there has been one positive case is unsettling, however we can only continue as instructed by our leaders who have consulted with leading health experts from all the relevant areas and follow their advice. Like our fellow teaching and medical professionals including friends who are nurses (my personal frontline heroes), academic and professional staff at the uni are being asked to step up and keep going.

I think a state-wide (and possibly national) shut down is imminent and it may now be a question of when so my advice would be to ensure you stock up grocery-wise without panic buying (knowing that essential services like supermarkets and chemists will stay open) and be prepared to receive a text or email from your childcare centre, kinder, school or workplace at short notice regarding moving to online learning or working from home (if you can). Social distancing and getting on to things early have helped countries like Singapore and Hong Kong deal with coronavirus better than others.

I think if you can look at a prolonged confinement period at home in a positive light, it may be an opportunity to catch up on your reading, podcast or movie list or sign up for some online learning. Or tackle other life admin like de-cluttering, paperwork and all those odd jobs around the house you never seem to find time to do. If you’re a cook or gardener, some time spent cocooning at home may be an unexpected boon. I’ve also been loving some of the scenes of Italians singing together from their balconies that are doing the rounds on Facebook. If you are a creative and imaginative person, then there are all sorts of possibilities.

Don’t forget to exercise, keep up your liquids (especially hot water and tea) and spend time in the sun, living in the present. It is a gift to be alive and health is wealth; this has never been more apparent than now. Time to assemble people…

Spirited away

Happy International Women’s Day! I hope you have done something to celebrate the women in your life today. I’ve been out and about doing chores and catching up with two female friends this morning for coffee. The coolest thing I’ve seen today is a Wonder Woman wrist tattoo on one of the girls who works at Petbarn in Preston, while Mr Rosanna and I were washing our dog.

The weeks have felt very long at the moment because everyone has hit the ground at work running wanting to make their mark in the first few months of the year when energy and resolution to do things are the strongest. I think it’s also important to stay calm with everything else that’s going on in the wider community – I’ve been aghast at all the panic buying and think people have started to lose the plot. I keep coming back to the Buddhist concept of equanimity for all sorts of reasons – the unshakeable mind – to be able to see, without being caught by what we see. If you can stand in the middle of all that is going on and remain centred, then that is a super power. It takes time to condition your mind in this way but it can definitely happen with practise and awareness.

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As mentioned, we’ve still been going out as a family but being very mindful of hygiene especially in public places and when visiting grandparents. We spent last Sunday morning at Camberwell Market – still a great place for second hand clothes and retro wares at bargain prices. I picked up a Buddha head and cast iron teapot at one stage but ended up leaving them after some consideration. My kids walked away with a book and a comic and we all enjoyed a jam donut at the end.

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We had a special Sunday night last week at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl sitting on the lawn watching Music from the Studio Ghibli films of Hayao Miyazaki with pianist Joe Hisaishi conducting the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra along to scenes from the different Studio Ghibli animated films including Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and My Neighbour Totoro. It had been advertised on Broadsheet so it was a surprisingly young crowd we found ourselves sitting with and the performances were mesmerising. Particularly beautiful were the special appearances by opera singer Antoinette Halloran and Hisaishi’s daughter Mai Fujisawa who sang the theme song One Summer’s Day from Spirited Away. We made a quick getaway before the crowds through the gardens during the encore after the standing ovation, listening to the haunting sounds of the orchestra as we left.

If you have a budding pianist in the family like we do, you may be interested in visiting Hunter’s Piano Works in St Hellier Street Heidelberg Heights. Laurence Hunter buys, sells and restores pianos (and is a pretty mean player himself) and there are some second hand beauties on display, including a baby grand Steinway, if you get a chance to visit next time you’re visiting Valiant Barbers or Sunnyside cafe.

And carry on

Welcome to Autumn – I’m glad to see Summer 2020 behind us as it’s not been an auspicious start to the year. I was very saddened to hear about Shark Fin House restaurant, where I had a number of family yum chas last year, closing down and Secret Kitchen in Doncaster is struggling as people avoid going to Chinese restaurants. Mr Rosanna and I have made a point of continuing to buy food at Diamond Chinese Restaurant in Heidelberg and Dragon House Restaurant in Rosanna these past few weeks and I will also be booking yum cha at the original Shark Fin Inn in Chinatown or locally when we can.

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Rick Astley on stage

There’s a saying about seeing the world with love not fear and if you allow fear to rule your world, then you’re already living in a prison of your own making. While we can plan for the worst, I still want to approach life expecting the best. It doesn’t help that the media tends to focus on the most negative and extreme news events and as someone who has studied and worked in the industry for many years, I am trying to teach my children how to critically think in terms of what’s presented to them and to know much more good news happens, that doesn’t get reported, in every day life.

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a-ha concert opening song light show

That being said, I have been out and about at public events spending last Sunday night reliving my teenage years at the sold out Rick Astley and a-ha music concert at Margaret Court Arena. I have to say that Rick Astley was more than a one hit wonder in the Stock Aitken Waterman group of musicians – the man can sing and his voice was more brassy than I remembered sounding a bit like Sam Smith mixed with Elton John at one stage. He was also very funny – the perfect warm up to the main event and his rendition of INXS’s New Sensation went down a treat with the home crowd, along with his very cool female backing singers.

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a-ha on stage

And while a-ha’s Take on me is their most famous song, the Norwegian band did not disappoint – they played all their hits from their Hunting High and Low album and put on an amazing show. I had also forgotten they were as big as Billie Eilish back in the day, like her writing No Time to Die – they wrote The Living Daylights James Bond theme song at the time, which they performed along with all their other super cool 80s rock music (those keyboards!).

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Lead singer Morten Harket

My group of friends weren’t the only a-ha fans there on the night. I was surprised to look up and see writer Marieke Hardy sitting next to us with her man, completely ensconced in the music and mouthing all the words to their songs. There was a lot of screaming, singing and dancing to be had – the eighties have a lot to answer for!