It’s some months since I wrote a “living under COVID-19” post, as things have been pretty much pottering along here in the Australian Capital Territory, but I’ve decided it’s time to do an update (for posterity if for no other reason.)
There’s been much talk about living under COVID-normal, though what that means is, I suspect, a movable feast depending on where your jurisdiction is at.
Here in the ACT, where we’ve had fewer than 10 cases since May (and only one since mid-July), COVID-normal means, primarily:
- sanitising, everywhere
- cleaning, particularly in cafes and restaurants after each client
- checking-in, via QR-code apps, QR-code websites using phone cameras, or good old pencil and paper. Privacy? What privacy!
- social distancing: public venues – shops, restaurants, etc – are currently restricted to one person per four square metres of “usable indoor space” and one person per two square metres of outdoor space rule, but larger gatherings in larger spaces are allowed (thought still with some upper limits).
- no masks, except by personal choice or for certain health workers
We have no limits on household visits, so my reading group has been meeting in person (woo hoo) for some months. Cinemas have been open since July with strict social distancing, which the cinemas have been handling very well through allocated seating with enforced separation, and spaced scheduling creating quiet foyers.
I can visit my father in Aged Care, as long as I meet certain requirements. Visits have some limitations, but the constraints, though a little irritating, are minor. We certainly can’t complain, and our older people feel safe.
Online eventing – book launches, musical events
As I’ve written in previous posts – and something you all know – the main plus out of this pandemic has been the ability to attend remote events that we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to attend. I haven’t got to as many as I’d like because the timing frequently conflicts with other commitments. (How does that happen?) Anyhow, events I’ve “attended” since my last COVID-19 post are (in case you are interested):
- Writers in Residence: An online festival
- Yarra Valley Writers Festival: Damascus; crime panel; climate and nature; place, family and weekend; Robert Dessaix
- Melbourne Writers Festival: short stories; literature and education
- Book (re)launch of Sara Dowse’s West block
More consolation than plus – though we’ll take it – are the streamed live performances. We’ve not attended many of these, once again due to timing and commitments, but we have enjoyed some Discover Musica Viva Concerts with accordionist James Crabb and cellist Julian Smiles, and then classical guitarist Karin Schaupp. These were short concerts, but delightful with the performers introducing their pieces. I always enjoy hearing musicians talk about the pieces they play. I was devastated to have missed my beloved Griffyn Ensemble’s event (though we paid for it).
Spring has sprung – big
As if the universe knew we needed it – as if! – we have had a beautiful spring down under with enough blossoms (and flowering weeds) to cheer the saddest heart (I hope).
Need I say more? (From our garden, except the tulips, which are from Moss Vale)
Helen Garner’s lockdown diaries
You all know how much I love Helen Garner, and how much I enjoyed the publications of volume 1 of her diaries in 2018 (my review), so I was excited to see her “lockdown diaries” in The Monthly, October xx, 2020. One of the things I enjoyed about reading this piece, besides the writing, was that I could track the trajectory from COVID-19’s earlier days in Australia to around August/September. Garner, for those who don’t know, lives in Melbourne, so her diaries include the only significant second wave lockdown we’ve had here in Australia.
We’re supposed to observe physical distancing. Everyone is to have an area of 4 square metres. “These are not suggestions,” says the chief medical officer. “These are civic duties.” The phrase “civic duty” thrills me.
I love the idea that ‘the phrase “civic duty”‘ thrills her!
Stage 3 lockdown. People over 70 are ordered to stay home for three months. A stab of stir-craziness, then, again, the stoical feeling.
Cadavers encased in white plastic are trolleyed out of New York hospitals and trucked in refrigerated vans to mass graves. Are they old people? Rash people who kept going to clubs? People with delivery jobs or “co-morbidities”? Who are the unlucky ones? Why are they dead, and we’re not? Is there a reason? Will we ever understand what’s happening to us?
Good questions, Ms Garner!
The old professor calls. He talks for a good 20 minutes, he can’t stop, he is flustered, agitated, distressed, veering among the wrecked shards of his mind. His sentences have no content but they are so perfectly jointed and polished that they make me dizzy with admiration. When at last he begins to peter out (…) I produce from behind my back the syringe of praise and give him a huge shot: “Your English is admirable and beautiful. Your syntax is faultless.” He becomes relaxed and sunny, like someone who’s had a hit of Valium: “I am a man. I am vain. You have entered my soul.”
This pure Garner – the interaction (with her old German neighbour, recently moved to aged care), the tone, the language. I love her description of producing from behind her back “the syringe of praise” to “give him a huge shot”.
Numbers of new cases rise and rise. Hotspots here and there. The big flats shut down. Quarantine hotels. A new lockdown, from midnight. People are refusing to be tested. How can people refuse? The world I’ve spent my life in is coming to an end. I keep myself half turned away, my eyes narrowed. On some deep level I’m terrified.
Do you feel as Helen does? And, overall, how are you faring?