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A Melbourne-wide lockdown

When I wrote to you last week my suburb was one of ten postcodes that had been put into lockdown. Numbers of positive cases have continued to grow, and so all of Melbourne has gone back into lockdown. Last time the numbers were mainly from overseas travellers. Disturbingly, this time numbers are from community spread. There has been a huge amount of testing and each positive case has to be traced, and contacts contacted and isolated. It is a mammoth job, requiring personnel from other states.

Our Premier, Dan Andrews, has likened it to a bushfire ~ and we are very familiar with them. There is the front of the fire that has to be brought under control, but we also know that there are spot fires that cannot be allowed to get out of hand.

[Andrews has copped a lot of flack because of the spread from hotel quarantine to security personnel. My friend Meeks points out that others, including the federal Liberal Government, had a big role to play in the outbreak too.]

Borders to other states have been closed. Like everything to do with this pandemic, closing the physical borders with South Australia and New South Wales, has thrown up many associated problems. Along the Murray River, the border between Victoria and NSW, are twin cities and towns. Like Albury and Wodonga; the former is in NSW, the latter in Victoria, but in so many regards they are the one city. People cross the border to work, go to medical and other appointments, visit friends and relatives and all those other things of daily life that we used to take for granted. Now they will need a permit to cross. No surprises to learn that the website approving the permits crashed because of high demand.

However, there has been a far more disturbing development.

A spike of cases has been identified in nine tower blocks of public housing on two separate sites in Flemington and North Melbourne. On Saturday the state government determined that those nine towers go into immediate hard lockdown ~ nobody was able to leave their flats for any reason at all. There was no warning for the 3,000 residents. The first they knew was a massive police presence on the estates, stopping people from leaving their homes.

This must have been so distressing for the tenants. Social housing means that residents have been doing it tough. There are many refugees, recent migrants, unemployed people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities. I can only imagine the trauma they felt when they saw the police on their doorstep. Many had memories of police and army brutality in their birth countries, while over the years policing on the estates has been very heavy handed.

Then it became clear that many issues had not been thought through. The main one was getting food and other essentials to the residents. The community rallied, providing food, meals, sanitary items, kids’ activities and so on. However, there seemed to be a long delay, sometimes days, before the food was able to get to people. Early on delivery was of culturally inappropriate food, food that was out of date or missing basics like nappies or milk. I don’t know why it was not possible for the food that was literally at the bottom of the towers to get to the residents. I am hoping that these supply chains have been built and that people are getting what they need.

I understand that public health action was needed. However it needed a public health response and not a policing one. If there had been a smaller police presence and a greater nursing/social worker/interpreter/community leader presence the anxiety of residents would have been minimised. It was always going to be difficult to ask people to not leave their home for at least 5 days, but I think the government created so many more difficulties by not communicating effectively, in as many languages as necessary.

I don’t want to give the impression that residents have been ignoring the public health advice. I am sure they abided by restriction in the previous lockdown. The problem is the conditions where they live ~ conditions, like small flats and lifts, that they have no control over.

However, this outbreak in the tower blocks has exposed so much more about the deep problem we have with our social housing, which is our lack of decent social housing.

These tower blocks were built in the 60’s, and there are a number dotted around Melbourne. They have never been the answer to public housing. The flats are small, with poor ventilation, and probably little maintenance, much less upgrade in those years. There are two small lifts in each block, expected to carry everyone up and down twenty stories. No surprise that they often break down.

Into these we put our most vulnerable citizens. People who usually have no ‘fat’ ~ no well stocked pantries, no extra in their bank accounts, little superannuation to draw on, no sick leave. Often jobs that are casual and/or precarious or in industries that can’t work from home. And no space. Such as a family with seven children in a two-bedroomed flat, where the girls sleep in one room, the boys in another, Mum and Dad sleep in the lounge room. There are many single parent families. Families could be multigenerational, which increases the likelihood of co-morbidities.

It is no wonder that we are seeing positive cases on the rise here. This virus is showing us the cracks in our society. It thrives where people are vulnerable, where they can’t distance, where they have to use communal spaces. We see this time and again around the world.

So, surely it is our job as a compassionate society to make make life as safe as possible for everyone. I hope the lessons from here are being applied in the other tower blocks. That hand sanitiser is freely available on all floors, in lifts, at entrances, and that it is replaced when it runs out. That all communal areas, especially lifts, are cleaned regularly and deeply. That the communication is ramped up, and provided in all languages necessary. That residents are involved, as this is their home. That community leaders are involved as well.

Residents in these tower blocks are not ‘other’, not ‘them. They are us, they are part of our vibrant community. And what an amazing job they have done. They have been at the front of this bushfire coronavirus, battling to help protect all of us.

Well, here I go again….Lockdown #2

The northern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, have seen a disturbing number of COVID-19 cases over the last week or so, most of them coming from community transmission. Compared to many other places the numbers are still low ~ in the 60s and 70s each day ~ but still enough to know that it must be brought under control. We can see from other countries how easily low numbers can increase to numbers that overwhelm.

So the Victorian Government has declared that 10 postcodes (zip codes) are to go into lockdown. My postcode is one of them. And I am perfectly fine with this. Action needs to be taken now, and we know that isolation works at suppressing transmission.

It is interesting to think about why Melbourne has been affected, as the other states have either very low or no new cases. This is my interpretation of the information I have gleaned from the authorities…..

International arrivals, ie returning citizens, are quarantined in hotels for 14 days. Quite a few of these arrivals seem to have come with the virus. In Victoria security at these quarantine hotels was farmed out to a private security firm, while in other states it is the job of the state police. I suspect that some of the security guards caught the virus from returned travellers. That was compounded by breaches of hygiene protocols by these security guards. Sharing a cigarette lighter has come up a few times, as well as crowded tea rooms and lack of protective equipment. So, a couple of the security people caught the virus, and inadvertently took the virus to their families.

At this time restrictions were being eased and families could gather in groups of 20. We love our families, and I can imagine how exciting it was for these families to see Grandma or Grandpa or cousins for the first time for ages. It is hard (but necessary) to maintain that 1.5 metres in a loving family gathering. So the virus was shared around. Then it moved to other family groups, and so it spread.

Now we have too much spread and these 10 ‘hotspots’ have to go into isolation.

We can only go out for the usual four reasons:

  • shopping for food and essential supplies
  • exercise
  • care and caregiving (this includes medical)
  • work and education if you can’t do it from home

It all feels very familiar.

And comforting in a weird way. As restrictions were gradually being lifted I felt a little confused. Not confused about what I could and couldn’t do, that always seemed clear to me. Rather I was confused about assessing the level of risk. Should I go to the hairdresser? I answered myself “No”. Should I go back to pilates? Probably not. Would lunch at a restaurant with friends be okay? Yes, as there were only 3 of us, and I knew they had been very cautious. I assumed the restaurant had the right protocols in place. Each venture out needed to be weighed. Now any dilemma has been removed ‘cos there is no option to go out!

The other thing that strikes me about this lockdown is that my level of anxiety is lower. Were you like me back in mid-March, or whenever your lockdown began, worrying about all manner of things? Will the rubbish still be collected? Will supply chains hold up? What happens if our electricity supply can’t cope? Would I have enough food? I even remember wondering if the parklands would be maintained. And I didn’t even have the worry of job losses or loan repayments or how to keep a business afloat.

I know what this quarantine period will look like, and that I can deal with it. I am confident that things will hold up, that the rubbish will be collected and the lights will stay on. And I know that there are others, like my wonderful family, on the ‘outside’ who are there cheering me on.

We are still at the beginning of this pandemic, and numbers in many countries are frighteningly high. So uncertainty is our new normal, our Covid normal for quite a while. We know what we have to do ~ practise excellent hand and respiratory hygiene, socially distance (at least 1.5m, please), wear a mask and don’t go out if you are feeling unwell. And if you do have to go back into lockdown, please do it.

On the practical side, the exhibition where I had two pieces hanging has been put on hold. The Incinerator Gallery has been caught up in all of this. Disappointing, but that’s how these things go.

Let me finish on my lovely librarian. You know how I love my library, and how happy I was to have it open, even though I couldn’t browse. I went in yesterday, before the lockdown, to confirm that they had to close. The librarian asked me if he could select a bundle of books for me to borrow. So between us ~ me standing behind the desk and him at the shelves asking if I like this author or that style ~ I borrowed a stack of books. I wouldn’t have chosen some of them myself, but I will certainly give them a go.

So, between my art and my book supply I feel that I am well equipped for another month at home.

Stay well.

SAL ~ The Forest Regenerates

Progress! Yay! This is where I was last time

contemporary embroidery

and now I have filled in the bottom left section, turning them into trees.

A close up of where I have been working

I am not sure that the trunks are right, but they are easy to take out and restitch. I’ll evaluate them later. Sometimes it helps to just let things sit, doesn’t it?

While I have finished the canopy it is not time to do the Happy Finished Dance just yet. There is still some touching up to do.

I started at the top and gathered confidence as I worked my way down. Some of the early work needs going over and I need to work out what I am doing right at the top. Some of those darker chain stitch areas may come out. It will depend on what looks right.

So, close to being finished, but not quite yet.

These Stitch-A-Long posts are hosted by Avis, and we do them for pleasurable stitching, stitching just for ourselves. Do go and have a look at the other fabulous stitchers from around the world ~ just follow the links below. I am sure you will be amazed by their creativity. (Their posts may not be up just yet due to time differences.)

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayleyMeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLauraCathieLindaHelen

Some Odds and Sods

A few bits and bobs, odds and sods for you today.

I was procrastinating about the second square for my sister’s grandson’s quilt. I got some excellent ideas from many of you. Thank you for your helpful suggestions and ideas; in the end I went with a stylised car.

Can you tell that I had a little trouble appliquéing smooth curves? I wouldn’t want to travel too far with those wheels!


If you read my fortnightly newsletter (and the next one is due this weekend, sign up here if you would like to know more about my art) you will know that I have two collages accepted into an exhibition at our council gallery. It is a community based exhibition, designed to celebrate the opening of the gallery.

My two works are abstract representations of the wetlands that I have become fascinated with over the last few months. You may remember my post about it.

Both are so different to the fine, detailed realistic work of my previous botanic art. However, I have been moving in this direction over the last few years.

The paper for the reeds was created by smearing acrylic paint around on photocopy paper, mainly using an old credit card. Then I cut around the shapes that look to me like reeds. The papers for the sky and water were printed with my gelli plate.

If, by chance, you are around Moonee Ponds at any time soon, drop in. The exhibition opens next Tuesday, 23rd June at:

The Incinerator Gallery

Holmes Rd

Moonee Ponds

You may wonder about why it is called the Incinerator Gallery. Check out their website to find out more, including opening hours and social distancing measures.


The other news is that we sold out caravan the other day. If you have been reading my blog for a few years you might remember some of the trips the Fella and I did in our little Avan. The last big trip was the dash over the Nullabor Plain to Western Australia. Unfortunately it is a few years since we went travelling, and when we did it was obvious that it was becoming more and more difficult for the Fella.

We had tossed around the idea of selling it. However, whenever we thought about it, the problems associated with getting it ready were too much. The big issue was that it is difficult to park it in our suburban street and we have no off-street parking. To get it ready for sale would mean having outside our place for an indefinite period, irritating the neighbours, the school over the road and the parking inspectors. It was easier to leave it out the back of our friend’s large country block.

Then we got a phone call out of the blue. The buyer, John, is a friend of the friend in the country. He had seen the van, understood that maybe it needed a new battery, regassing of the air-conditioning, new seals etc, but offered to buy it without even going inside. An offer too good to refuse! It got better when he was happy to do all the paperwork and clean it out.

So now our little van is off on different adventures.

Will I miss it? I miss the idea of being able to take off. There were still lots of places left to explore, and I never did get to travel up to the Kimberleys. However, I know that currently it is not realistic. So I am glad there is one less thing to sort out, one less little niggle to be dealt with.

What will I miss? I will miss the chance to immerse myself in different habitats, being able to wander; but you don’t need a van to be able to do that. I will miss the quiet and stillness, especially in the evenings. The Fella always goes to bed way before I do, so evenings in the van were a time to read, sketch, journal, catch-up with myself, to listen to the night sounds.

Camped at Moody Bluff Rest Area, Nullarbor Plain, New Year’s Eve, 2016 (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

And lastly, a photo of the framed collage I dropped to the Incinerator Gallery. It is being guarded by a snake, created by my talented brother. His iso-art has been to create mosaic snakes!

This is where I stand

I was shocked and angered to see the casual murder of George Floyd, the chilling mockery of the protest stance of ‘taking a knee’. From that moment the United States erupted. I am, of course, looking from the outside and don’t pretend to understand the broad outlines much less any finer details of the protests.

However, I do understand that a great wrong has been committed, not just this instance, but many, many times over. I understand the demands for justice and the demands to create a world where racism cannot rear its head. My heart soars when I see so many people marching together to demand change. (I also worry about the spread of the coronavirus, but let’s put that to one side.)

I found Ryan Holiday‘s latest article to be very profound.

“I’ll say it again: Not being extrajudicially murdered is not a privilege, it’s not an “exception,” it’s more than a tragedy. To try to categorize it as those things is to woefully fail to describe the injustice that is being done in modern America (and elsewhere). Callous indifference to suffering by the authorities towards minorities or the poor or the voiceless is not just a lamentable fact of modern life, it’s an active crime. “

In this post Jeff, from On the Fence Voters, writes another powerful piece. It ends with a list of about 30 things that, because of his privileged white skin, he can do while African Americans have been killed doing. Simple, daily things like shopping at Walmart, reading a book in a car or go jogging.

Of course no one can predict where this is going, and how it will end. We can see that this maelstrom this perfect storm of events creates will alter the world. To me there are some small indications that it is going to be wider and stronger than just the current protests.

For instance, bus drivers in Minneapolis refused to be commandeered by the police to take arrested protestors to police stations. Hundreds of unionists ~ teachers, postal workers, health workers, hotel workers ~ have signed a petition pledging that they will not assist the police during the protests.

As an Etsy seller I received a strongly worded letter from the CEO, Josh Silverman. Part of it read:

“We stand against police brutality in all forms.

We stand against a criminal justice system that disproportionately targets Black Americans.

We stand against the widespread disenfranchisement of Black and Brown communities whose voices are silenced at the polls.”

In Australia Channel 10, a TV station not known for its progressive stance, displayed this statement on air:

‘We stand in solidarity with our black colleagues, storytellers and viewers in Australia and the world because #BlackLivesMatter.’

In Australia we cannot be smuggly complaisant either.

Racism and social injustice exists here. White Australia was built on the dispossession and genocide of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Peoples. We can’t say “Black lives matter in the USA” and ignore the black lives here that are being lost and abused. 432 Indigenous people have died in custody since 1991. There have been very few charges laid against officers involved in those deaths, and never a successful homicide prosecution. 432. We are far more familiar with the names of African Americans who died than we are with the names of our fellow Australians.

The deaths are the tip of systematic racism towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Looking at any marker ~ life expectancy, education results, housing, employment, incarceration, etc, etc ~ you see that there is a marked difference between Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous.

Change is not easy, but there are some points from which we can start.

  • Firstly, move Australia Day from January 26th to a date that is less traumatic to Indigenous Australians.
  • Secondly, let’s have a proper response to the Uluru statement from the Heart. It is a beautiful, thoughtful document, a document that should be prominent in all places. How powerful is this statement:

We seek constitutional reforms to empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country. When we have power over our destiny our children will flourish. They will walk in two worlds and their culture will be a gift to their country.

The Statement has three key elements for change ~ enshrining a First Nations Voice in the Constitution, the establishment of a Makarrata Commission to supervise agreements with Australian Governments and the Commission will also oversea a process of truth telling about colonisation. You can read more about it here.

This year has been such a tumultuous one. In Australia there has been searing drought, horrendous bushfires, floods and then the pandemic. For me the turmoil actually began six months earlier with my partner needing medical care. It is no wonder that we are all reeling, wondering how much more there is to absorb and how much more we can take.

However, let’s not loose sight of the incredible generosity and courage shown in every one of these happenings ~ from truck loads of hay to drought-stricken areas to millions of dollars donated from all parts of the world; from fire fighters to hospital workers risking their lives to protect others. In the protests we see hundreds of thousands coming together as well as the individual acts of courage where a person is protecting another from the police. And of course, the big one, the shut down the world endured to help save the lives of people more vulnerable than themselves, and often at high personal cost.

I do love a good quote, and this one from Howard Zinn is one of the best. I will leave the ending up to him:

”To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic.
It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty,
but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness.
What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives.
If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something.
If we remember those times and places — and there are so many —
where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.
And if we do act, in however small a way,
we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future.
The future is an infinite succession of presents,
and to live now as we think human beings should live,
in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

SAL ~ the Forest Regenerates (or maybe not….)

It is always lovely to have read the comments that you lovely people leave about this work. Last time they enthused me to get going to finish this work. Unfortunately…..I still didn’t get to put any threads through the material.

So this is where I was last time

contemporary embroidery

and this is where I am now

contemporary embroidery

Still the same!

However, I have been creating. In this post you may have seen a couple of the things I have been making. Lots of other creations made with paper have appeared….little accordion books, bigger collage paintings, folding, printing…… just not sewing.

Well, not quite no sewing. My sister is making a quilt for her little grandson. She has asked Mum and me to embroider two squares each to go into the corners. I helped Mum work out a couple of ideas for her blocks, which left me with no ideas for mine! A star has emerged on one of my squares

but I am out of ideas for the second. I had thought of a big capital C. Mum is working on an A as his first name is Archie. The C would be for his surname, so it doesn’t have quite the same ring. Mum’s other block is a train. Any ideas? I know you are all very creative and supportive, so I would love your input.

There is a world of talented stitchers for you to discover. Click on the links to see their beautiful work. Thanks to Avis for reminding us every three weeks!

AvisClaireGunCaroleSueConstanzeChristinaKathyMargaretCindyHeidiJackieSunnyHayley,MeganDeborahMary MargaretReneeCarmelaJocelynSharonDaisyAnneConnieAJJennyLaura,CathieLindaSherrieHelen

Concertina artist books ~ or are they maps?

I have been really busy creating; too busy, it seems, to be writing here. So I am just popping in to show you two things I have listed in my Etsy shop.

Remember my post about how the wetlands were inspiring me? They have continued to be an inspiration, and these artist books are some of the things I have been working on. [I have been writing in more detail in my newsletter, so if you would like to get the letter from my studio, you can sign up here.]

I am not sure what to call them. They are not really concertina books (and I have been making lots of those), and they are not really books at all. Maybe they are folded maps? Any thoughts?

Anyway, the fold is called the Turkish map fold. I am enjoying it as it allows the inside to be a surprise, almost a secret. Does it bring back childhood memories of treasure maps and secret compartments? It does for me, which is probably why I am finding them so satisfying to make. It’s a lovely mix of childhood feelings and adult art work.

One of the ‘books’ has the watercolour map on the outside and a crazy abstract painting of the reeds inside.

The other has the abstract painting on the outside and the map on the inside. This one has a couple of glass beads that sort of closes it.

I like that these are taking me in a new direction, while keeping the old of the watercolour and feathers. And what’s not to love about folding paper?!

Hopefully soon I will post more about my work. In the meantime, if you would like to see these books/maps in more detail……

Click here to see the first one.

Click here to see the second.

SAL ~ The forest regenerates ~ update

Running a little late with this post, but I do have progress to report 😇

Last time I was here, musing about how to finish off the work.

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Now that section is finished! Yay!

contemporary embroidery

And a close up…..

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So, that last little section to go, and a bit to tidy up around the top. Almost there.

Avis, Claire, Gun, Carole, Sue, Constanze, Christina, Kathy, Margaret, Cindy, Heidi, Jackie, Sunny, Hayley,Megan, Deborah, Mary Margaret, Renee, Carmela, Jocelyn, Sharon, Daisy, Anne, Connie, AJ, Jenny,Laura, Cathie, Linda, Sherrie, Helen

These talented embroiderers are all working on their personal sewing projects. Do go and have a look at what they have been sewing. (Welcome back Helen!)

I hope you are still well. Restrictions are being lifted in many countries but remember that the virus spreads very quickly and it is important that we maintain our good hygiene habits and social distancing. Stay safe everyone.

Coffee and cake

I am joining in with Meeks, inviting you for coffee and cake, cos we can’t meet up at the coffee shop.

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The cup is a very pretty one from my Mum, and the biscuit is quite delicious. It comes from Celia, her quarantine cookie recipe. It uses dried fruits and oats. Celia puts in chocolate chips, but I didn’t have any. Just as well, as these are quite dense, so don’t count the calories!

So what would I tell you while we ate biscuits and drank tea?

Firstly I would tell you way more than you want to know about the gelli printing and collage work I am doing. I am loving printing, making backgrounds and textures, chopping them up and pasting them on paper again. I actually wake up thinking about what I am going to work on!

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I might mention too that when footballers were asked what they are looking forward to doing again, many answered meeting friends in coffee shops and having brunch!

I am sure our conversation would have Covid news, because all conversations for the last six weeks have. A big part of today’s natter might be about whether to down load the Australian Government’s app to locate and trace people who have been exposed to the virus. After thinking hard about it I downloaded it, believing that helping to protect people is what all of this is about. I wonder whether you would have it on your phone?

Of course we would catch up with all the news from family and friends. That would probably lead on to a chat about how successful, or not, we have been with chatting on Zoom!

And before you go, I would tell you one of my pet peeves about washing my hands. Like everyone I happily wash them quite a few times a day. My peeve is that the sound of the water as I wash makes me want to go to the toilet….and then I need to wash them all over again!

Stay connected my friends. One day you will meet friends for coffee and cake.

SAL ~ The forest regenerates

Welcome to this latest Stitch-A-Long, where a group of us post updates on our personal stitchery. It seems like the last SAL post was just the other day, but 3 weeks have flown past. (Do you find that your sense of time is warped at the moment?) I had done very little on my piece, as I didn’t know how I was going to finish the bottom part. So last night I mapped it out. There is not much to show as most of it is still in my head. At least now I know where I am going…..and I think it is going to work.

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Those wiggly lines at the bottom are tree trunks. They may change, may become more defined and less random.

Close up…

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My other reason for not getting a lot done is that I am doing an online mixed media course, which I am loving. Read my earlier post if you would like to catch up with that.

The other members of the group are very talented embroiderers, and a very warm welcome to Sherrie. Use the links below to have a look at the stunning work that they are doing.