Wednesday, May 27, 2020

2020 - After It Turned To Shit

I have been trying to think of something to write for just over two months now. Well, that isn't quite right. For the first four or five weeks after mid March I had zero desire to write anything at all, with this blog being the furthest thing from my mind.

Let us wind things back a bit - March 27th was my last day at work. 

My last pushback at SY.

The company had just announced a 50% reduction in the schedule. Within a day or so this became a 90% reduction. Just a few days later States closed their borders with all inbound travellers required to spend 14 days in home isolation after interstate travel. This sounded the death knell for both Qantas and us, with all domestic flights ceasing Australia wide.

Very, very sad times. VA965 was us. 18 minutes early due to no traffic.

Airlines have massive fixed outgoings and ours is no different. With zero income we were going to be in big trouble and quickly. In mid to late April, with about $1B still in the bank and no let up of the restrictions in sight, the board decided to put the company into voluntary administration (VA) to gain some protection from our creditors and restructure the business. Despite the positive of the company still having plenty of cash at hand and not going into VA because we were broke, let me tell you, some tears were shed that night.

I kept busy those first few weeks by doing a mega deep clean of the house. I mean a clean that goes just short of repainting as I didn't want to spend a cent. Not knowing if I would have a job in the coming months put a real halt on ALL outgoings bar essential food shopping.

Mid March -not hoarding or panic buying, just stocking up so as to manage the budget.

Lots of little jobs around the place that had been annoying me for years were seen to. A couple of retaining walls that needed fixing weren't fixed, despite me having all the time in the world. Again, the great unknown of having ongoing employment stopped me from expending any funds. Jobs had to be zero outlay to get on the to-do sheet. Some painting occurred at my wife's work. Painting that she had been at me to do for about 18 months..... I am glad I waited as it gave me something useful to do.

Many an early ride was followed up by a full cooked breakfast for the bride and I. Not much else to do for the rest of the day. Home isolation was easy as I had nowhere to be.

Evenings spent on the deck, by the fire with a glass of red in hand.

Apart from one ride at the very start of the official home isolation period to grab a physically distanced coffee with two mates at the Flying Bean Cafe', I have had no desire to get the R1 out of the shed. It will just cost me money to so much as thumb the starter.

Luckily Will was keen to wash it for me when I got back from that ride. I miss my F800 and so does he now that the R1 is registered as a solo. The R1 just doesn't have the same appeal to go for a cruise anyway.

The one good thing has been my unimpeded ability to go ride my bicycles. Sure, there was a month of isolation but exercise was allowed in pairs and we have so much forest right on our back doorstep that I was out every day. When we got sick of the forest, bingo, there is a road right from my front door.

Early on, a mate with a few acres needed a hand shifting crusher dust onto his new pump track. 12 cubic metres of crusher dust!
We moved it, spread it then rolled it in. Lunch was provided. It was a great day out.

He also had some newly cut mountain bike trail that needed the finishing touches applied. As skools were closed, Will came along for the morning to help out.

Another love job with #2 child.

But so nice to be out in the forest.

More riding occurred. 
Lucy dusted her bike off and began a regular riding routine. She even came for a ride or two with me!

#1 child

I have so far met my "ride every day of 2020" challenge. Being "technically" employed, but told to stay at home has clearly helped with this. 
Shame the challenge doesn't pay.

I am lucky enough to have some great mates who have really tried to take my mind off things by keeping me busy. One mate needed some drainage work done and offered it to me. I managed to turn two days work into two weeks - but the distraction was very, very much appreciated.

Clearly not a plumber.....

About two weeks ago I got a call from Steve to say that Mum wasn't looking too well. She has been battling cancer for just on two years now. After slowly sliding down hill for the last 12 months, last weekend she picked up the phone and called an ambulance to take her to hospital. She is a tough old bird so we knew this was serious.

Jumping in the cars we all headed down to see her and Dad. We arrived with a couple of days to spare, which we spent at her bedside. 
Mum lost her battle at 12:15pm on the 14th of May, surrounded by her family.

In the whirlwind of the last two weeks I have found solace and some peace in the simple act of riding my bike. Mostly just for short periods but nonetheless these rides have given me time to reflect. Riding around my home town, enjoying perfect Autumn weather has also been a comfort in this time of uncertainty.

With an interest in aviation, at 15 I found out that you could learn to glide and go solo at 16, a year earlier than in powered aircraft. So, on the 15th December 1984 I took my first glider flight and so began on the path toward a flying career.

Now, mowing lawns for pocket money was only going to get me so far. Mum stepped in to support me - all along the way, over many years. She kept me on the straight and narrow when it seemed just too hard for a dumb kid from the bush to crack the aviation scene. 

Pax off - the crew of my last flight 27th March 2020

Put simply, I would not be where I am today without all of the sacrifice Mum made to help me.
For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Steve and I stayed with Dad for the rest of the week, then staggered our departure. Mum and Dad were just three days short of 51 years together. It is going to be tough for him as he isn't in the best of health himself, though doing well for an eighty year old I guess!

I drove all the way home in one hit on a freezing cold day. Across the high tablelands from Tamworth all the way to Glen Innes the car O.A.T. showed 4C as the maximum temperature and reminded me of a trip we did a few years back. Despite this cold, I needed to get a fifteen minute pedal in to keep the "ride every day of 2020" active. I also needed to wake me up a bit after seven hours in the car! Fifteen minutes around an icy Glen Innes certainly did that!!

I arrived home late on Saturday night to find Brisbane had shivered through it's coldest day in 100 years. I had definitely brought the cold with me! I had also been feeling the weight of reality slowly pressing down on me as I got closer to home. 
The company is still deep in the administration process and it feels like I have been holding my breath for the last ten weeks, waiting to see what our future will be. Now I am not alone, with over ten thousand other staff (and six thousand contractors) also holding our collective breath. Not knowing one way or the other if we will have a job. If I knew I would have a job in a few months I could get on with things but the uncertainty is excruciating as we keep getting the "we are all in this together" bullshit regarding Covid19 rammed down our throats by the media and the government. 
We may be "all in this together", but we aren't all in this equally. I have looked around these last few months and see most people still working - be that from home or in some slightly modified form - but still working nonetheless. Many industries have never been busier in fact!
This Covid thing is more like a storm at sea. Some people are watching it from an ocean liner, some are pitching around in a 40ft yacht and some of us are clinging to a piece of driftwood.

It is frightening how fast one can go from having a comfortable, predictable life to staring into an oblivion. Flying is a highly specialised game and 99% of pilots have nothing else to fall back on. I am sure we have some readily transferable skills but unfortunately we posses no written qualifications (pieces of paper) that other industries recognise and hence to gain other forms of employment seems very difficult. We are essentially unskilled workers in their eyes. Clearly I should have been doing a degree or running a business or something these last eighteen years - just in case.


All I can do is continue to hold my breath and hope that the company finds a buyer, that there is no second wave of this stupid virus so they open up the borders and that we can all get back to living our lives. 

Or, is this the new normal? I bloody hope not!

Mum, rest in peace. You have earned it.