It’s three months since lockdown started for me leading to a period that has put my sense of time out of kilter – oddly the 12th of March feels like ages ago but at the same time very recent.
By the time we went on our much delayed Canberra trip – originally scheduled for January but put back because of the bushfires – the idea of a world wide pandemic was beginning to emerge. Wuhan was all over our news services – a place Joe had visited with Kim and hitherto known to us only as the hottest province in China and home to pristine car plants.
Now it was all about a strange new virus no-one knew much about except it was very contagious and people were dying in large numbers. People were being isolated in their homes and whole cities were being placed in quarantine. This all seemed far away.
Except here the Premier was saying we had to be prepared for a major health crisis. On the 10th of March, announcing a Covid 19 Action Plan he warned extreme measures were coming. It was hard to visualise what that might mean but we knew hospitals and other agencies were being put on what seemed like a war footing. All very strange.
Returning to Melbourne on the 12th of March I was asking myself whether I was in the at risk category; over sixty and having ongoing monitoring for lung cancer? Probably. Trying not to be too anxious. In the event I haven’t felt anxious about acquiring the virus at all. Head in the sand maybe.
The Melbourne Grand Prix was cancelled at the last minute the next day, Friday the 13th of March – even as fans were entering the venue. Our Chief Medical Officer had to have nerves of steel to call it but events proved him absolutely right.
In this frame of mind, and context, I didn’t go to a celebration of 20 Years of Labor in Macedon that day. Though having heard keynote speaker Bracks on the subject a number of times already I wasn’t sure the virus was the sole reason for my apology.
This was the day the Prime Minister and Premiers in Sydney for a COAG meeting decided to establish a National Cabinet to deal with all matters relating to Covid 19. Unprecedented, and a measure of how serious things were getting. Until then Morrison was intending going to the rugby on the week-end. He didn’t go.
Back in Melbourne however we did think celebrating Angela’s 70th was worth the risk. Joe and I ventured out to a party and a birthday luncheon on the 14th and 15th. No social distancing at either, but at lunch Angela was providing sanitiser for all. Luckily the birthday brought Milena to Melbourne just as lockdowns occurred around the world and she was here for the duration.
While a State of Emergency had been declared on Monday 16th of March there were no restrictions on people eating out. So on the 20th, Eleanor’s birthday, we went out to dinner at Marion wine bar in Gertrude Street; knowing it would probably be our final restaurant meal for a while. We were sufficiently concerned about the virus to ask to sit outside only to be thwarted by the weather. Andrew McConnell was in the restaurant – in serious discussions, presumably about how to deal with the coming calamity. Afterwards we weren’t so concerned about the virus as to avoid the Elysian Whisky Bar.
It’s in Brunswick Street around the corner from the restaurant. Here’s what we tasted.
Keeping Abreast of the News
From then on Covid 19 dominated our lives. I started each day trawling through Twitter; increasingly appalled at what was happening elsewhere: Lombardy, New York, London. The internet was full of statistics; data nerds from the Financial Review posted a daily graph comparing how different countries were going flattening the curve, a phrase with which we all became familiar. A BBC crew filmed a hospital ward in Lombardy. War metaphors – on the front line, battle-lines drawn, new fronts opening up – reverberated around the world.
I was drawn to the many accounts of personal experiences: people who had recovered from the virus – who recounted the strange symptoms (lack of taste and smell), the eery experience of being treated by people in full protective gear; family members wrote of their distress at not being with relatives who were sick or dying. The New York Review of Books posted blogs from people around the world describing how the virus was affecting different places, communities, people.
In Australia we had the National Cabinet meeting weekly, sometimes early on twice a week. It was a good idea although in practical terms it’s the same as COAG in the early days before it became bureaucratised. The name was clever; evoking something more. Some argued the Opposition Leader should have been included, but this is a council of government leaders so that wasn’t appropriate. I don’t think Labor pushed the point. Not much an Opposition can do in these circumstances but point out errors or gaps. We all want our Leaders to work effectively in a crisis.
Many, including me, think that this move was the saving of Scott Morrison who has a remarkably tin political ear and a propensity to strike the wrong tone, say the wrong thing. Daniel Andrews and Gladys Berejiklian were critical in forcing his hand at different times; especially in pushing for stronger measures at critical times. Following each National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announced the decisions agreed. This delivered a message of reassuring collaboration around a national approach. A phenomenal effort.
In Victoria following the State of Emergency declared on Monday 16th of March there were daily media conferences with the Premier, Minister for Health and Chief Medical Officer (CMO). I liked to watch these directly as it gave a much better sense of what was happening than the very partial news reports that emerged.
An expert in communications tweeted that the Premier was providing a master class in good communication. He was calm and assured and most of all consistent. All in an environment when journalists wanted something else always at variance with Government measures.
At the start this was tougher restrictions. Various self nominated experts were calling for stronger action to be taken immediately with no regard to economic or social costs. The Premier patiently advised that more measures would be announced in a timely fashion based on advice from the CMO. Why not now? was the cry. Well because these measures are going to have a profound effect on peoples’ lives.
As soon as a new restriction was announced journalists trawled through the detail asking questions about the minutiae. I was impressed with how everyone – politicians and health officials – was across the detail. Sooner or later the media found someone who considered themselves egregiously affected.
3AW took up the cause of a young woman being taken for a driving lesson (she was from the leafy Eastern suburb I wondered whether they would have done so for a youngster from Broadmeadows) and of a fellow who just wanted to take a midnight drive. As I was taught many years ago; hard cases make bad law. For journos they deliver a sugar hit of headlines.
Rules are rules said the Premier, if you have too many exceptions you don’t have rules. He remained calm and reasonable in the face of intense pressure. It’s so confusing, screamed the journalists. No it’s not – if you can stay at home, you must. Can’t get clearer than that.
Later the journalists wanted him to criticise the Prime Minister when differences emerged over whether schools should be open or closed. Question after question invited him to express some / any sort of disagreement. He refused to do so.
It reminded me of the 2004 State election when Steve Bracks would only ever talk about more nurses, teachers and police officers. Journalists were desperate to get him to say something new – anything please other than those boring lines; a personal aside, a snide comment about the Opposition – but he wouldn’t. If asked, on the basis of internal polling, to say more about nurses and less about police he would do that too – for the entire day. Drove the journalists mad.
Daniel Andrews had the same discipline. I certainly couldn’t have managed it. Later when it looked increasingly as though Victoria had escaped the worst the pressure to close down from the beginning was reversed and now became why don’t you ease the restrictions straight away? Again, the response was to stay the course. Very impressive.
That consistency in messaging worked. When the State of Emergency was announced people were already heeding the message to stay away from each other. Here is Veen on Monday the 16th of March in Cumulus during what is normally its busiest time, 8.30 in the morning. Amazing.
And here are the streets around Eleanor’s work a week later after the requirement to work at home had been announced on the week-end of the 21-22 of March. She was in town to collect what she needed from the office.
And here is the shopping arcade nearby – normally teeming with people.
Lockdown’s Impact On Us
So how did it all affect us? Being retired, it didn’t really change as much for us as others. My daily routines remained much the same; breakfast, a walk, a shop for something to cook, reading, gardening, catching up with friends and family. But there were adjustments to the year we had planned.
The State of Emergency resulted in the shutting down of major events and cultural activities across Melbourne; theatre and concert performances and, directly impacting on us, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Our meals would have rolled out from the 23rd of March – at Cutler & Co (with the Uruguay-born chef from New York’s Estela restaurant), Pasture at Lesa and something at San Telmo. I was only truly sorry about missing the Cutler & Co event.
Melbourne Cinematique screenings were next to go; replaced on the 19th of March by weekly screenings of films via different platforms. They put together a great list of films some of them listed here.
I was really pleased to have the opportunity to one in particular. This was a film called Love (Szerelem) by Károly Makk which I have always remembered for having the tenderest love scene between a long married couple I’ve ever seen in a movie! I think I saw it first while a student at Melbourne University in the nineteen seventies. I have tried to find it in the past without success; without lockdown I wouldn’t have seen it again. Beautiful film.
We watched a few other movies over the weeks in lockdown and a little bit of television which I’ve blogged about here. The end result is that I haven’t felt at all deprived of movie experiences over this period. We’ve probably seen as much as we would have in normal circumstances.
Next we were advised that that the operas for which we’d bought tickets were cancelled. These are all still marked in my calendar and I see them pass by sorrowfully. Opera Australia’s Lohengrin on the 29th of May, Rembrandt’s Wife on the 30th of September and Lucrezia Borgia on the 13th of October. We’d also signed up for Victoria Opera’s Die Tote Stadt on the 21st of August and Pinchgut’s Purcell & Charpentier on the 11th of September. Alas, not to be.
But technology was to hand to ease the situation. The Metropolitan Opera in New York commenced free streaming of some of their productions in March. These were available for twenty four hours so you had to be quick. But we managed to see the whole Robert Leplante Ring Cycle over four nights commencing on the 25th of March and concluding on the 28th. Starring the magnificent Jonas Kaufman in Die Walkure.
We managed to miss the Met streaming of Parsifal but were loaned the DVD of the Met production and another earlier Staatskapelle Berlin production with Daniel Barenboim conducting. We did catch the Met production of Lohengrin which was streamed in May starring the splendid Peter Hoffman seen below in all his regalia. So that makes seven operas seen during lockdown. A bit more than usual; I’ve blogged about them here.
Staying Healthy / Eating Out
The restrictions that had the biggest impact on us were those announced after the National Cabinet on Monday the 25th of March. These were that all gyms would be closed and that cafes and restaurants would be closed except for take away services.
Healthy Fit closed straight away. I couldn’t bear the thought of having a couple of months off and then having to start exercising all over again – that hurts! So I devised three little work-outs that could be done with the equipment we have to hand; different sized weights, a step, roller and exercise bike. A good thing we didn’t have to buy anything as there was a run on this sort of equipment and it became hard to get. As a result I’ve managed to do some exercise each week during lockdown. Based on exercises that I’ve done at the gym and some new ones that the trainers have been posting on Instagram. Hopefully it won’t be too bad when we finally get back sometime after the 22nd of June.
All of our local cafes, transferred to take away following the order made on the 25th of March. Being very keen to ensure that our favourites – Mitte, Cavallini, Cafe Legato – stay viable and available when life returns to normal we bought from them the occasional take-away – pies, lasagna, cannelloni, muffins. Lots of locals did the same and their were lots of queues – but everyone social distancing. Another term we became familiar with.
Some places also started selling grocery products; pasta, sauces, salads. Etta and Bar Idda on Lygon Street were selling terrific foodstuffs, including wine as was Estelle in High Street. We wonder if they will keep doing so post lockdown.
Given how much time I usually spend in cafes and restaurants and entertaining at home, people were surprised when I said that during lockdown I my life was much the same.
But I didn’t feel the lack of socialising as much as I might have thanks to Zoom which I’d never heard of but which worked well for us. Perhaps because we were zooming mostly with small groups of two to four. I know people found larger groups and formal meetings harder.
Starting on the 28th of March, via Zoom, we had drinks with friends five times, two lunches and five dinners – with family, neighbours, friends. Here’s the first of two dinners with Pauline, Ross and Terry. This one on the 31st of March, we had another in April. It felt to me as though they were just sitting at the table across from us. We’re just getting accustomed to the technology here; the artists in the family managed their visuals better than us.
But later we got better. Advice was circulating on social media about how to arrange your Zoom studio – a white cloth to reflect light and your device up high for a better perspective for faces!
So our socialising continued during lockdown albeit in different forms. It was nice to be able to catch up with people in different places; Sydney, Geelong, Woodend, Aireys Inlet. We wondered whether this would become the norm.
But that was not to be. As soon as we were allowed visitors – from 17 May -we’ve had four lunches, two lots of drinks and one small dinner party.
We became familiar again with preparing three meals a day; something we haven’t done since the children were very small. We had great meals. Including poached eggs and avocado, even black pudding and bacon for breakfast. Homemade pizzas, falafels and humus, cold meats and salads for lunch and very gourmet dinners if I say so myself!
I wondered whether we would continue this post lockdown. But it hasn’t been the case. Open it and they will come! As soon as cafes opened up for indoor services from the 1st of June I’ve had three two lunches and one brunch.
Here’s Joe at Industry Beans in Fitzroy on the 2nd of June. They had a nifty app that allowed you to leave names and contact details via your phone. They also had their tables nicely spread out. It felt quite safe.
And here’s Eleanor back at Tinker in Northcote on the 3rd of June . Old fashioned – pen and paper – recording of names and numbers and tables suitable separated.
We’ve had only one truly flash meal during lockdown. It was on Mother’s Day and came from Recreation. We had to wait until 2pm for it to be delivered so it seems they had plenty of other customers. It all came in little cardboard boxes. I loved the duck pithivier with puy lentils.
Joe and I had one other take-away dinner; slow cooked lamb and polenta from Estelle. And on an other occasion pizzas from Supermaxi. It looks as though all these places have survived.
When all this started we thought we were sufficiently well stocked to have no need for panic buying of anything. The ridiculous run on toilet paper had started in early March when we were in Canberra. Joe, for reasons best known to himself started buying 48 roll packets a while back so I thought we would be fine, but not so, by the end we had to call on Eleanor for supplies via her regular delivery of Who Gives A Crap.
Our local supermarkets arranged separate entrances and exits so far as possible and had staff allowing people in as others exited. There were signs on lots of stores exhorting people to be polite to staff – incredible that this was needed.
Strange behaviour from people; which highlights how successful the public messaging from Government was regarding social isolation: if you can stay home you must stay home.
In the main we shopped as normal. Taking Otto for a walk and buying our food daily. And we had no trouble finding whatever we wanted to buy.
We did go in for a bit of internet shopping and put this notice on our front verandah to assist delivery people. Bit scrappy but it worked!
Right at the start we ordered hand sanitizer from Four Pillars Gin because contrary to what I’ve just said, none was available early on. It was delivered quite a while after ordering by which time other cheaper sorts was available. But this is very high quality – quick drying and not sticky – who knew we’d become experts on aspects of sanitizer. It smells incredibly like gin! We were told not to drink it! We’ve put it into smaller bottles and I take one everywhere in my bag. And use it! My hands have never been cleaner.
Next was shampoo. No hairdressers open so I found my favourite brand – all plant-based products – on the web. And ordered about five years worth! I couldn’t decide between the different types – my old friend, National Secretary of the AMIEU (meatworkers union), Tommy would tell me they all come out of the same barrel!
At Easter I discovered Summerfield Winery was having a big sale. I think this may have been because restaurants were not buying wine to the same extent but I don’t know where that idea came from. Anyway we bought a dozen. My sister’s husband Ross designed this label many years ago. It’s fantastic wine.
Another early purchase from Bunnings was a replacement bonsai starter. Required after the seeds from the one the children gave me for Christmas were inadvertently thrown out of the fridge. I’m delighted with progress to date – three of the seeds have sprouted!
I couldn’t believe I’d run out of salt and lo and behold the shop in Carlton where I buy it was closed. So I had to order it on-line. I love my salt. It took a long time to come and initially the wrong order was delivered. That was a bit frustrating but it was eventually fixed. They harass you in the shop about bringing in a reusable container but on-line there didn’t seem to be the option of buying it in bags which is what I normally do, having my own jars to hand. It’s great salt.
I discovered that the Persian Blue I ordered and received was not what I remembered and required a salt grinder. So after the shop opened I went back and purchased both a salt and matching pepper grinder. Objects of great beauty and utility.
I have always loved salt – especially the Fleur De Sel Guerande and Sel Gris Di Guerande. But I’ve not used it in cooking much due to much publicised health concerns about too much salt consumption. That advice is being challenged by the author of this cookbook, Samin Nosrat. There’s a whole chapter on why you should use salt in every form of cooking! She also has a four episode Netflix series of the same name which is terrific. The book was a gift from the children on Mother’s Day. Great book; except if you use salt in cooking, you don’t need my flash table salt!
I ordered Hyacinth bulbs from Tesselaar on-line. Thirty all up. That’s the trouble with on-line shopping – it’s easy to go overboard! But terrific looking bulbs. Silly names – Apricot Passion, Blue Star, China Pink, Purple Voice, Blue Giant, Yellowstone. I’ve always had hyacinths but after over a decade they were done a year or so ago. My new ones, some with lots of baby bulbs attached, are now all safely planted in pots with netting to protected them from pesky birds.
I was not affected by the shortages of flour that emerged after a few weeks. Including in our local supermarkets. I already had a full crock of my bread making flour at the start of lockdown. Then I noticed that our local bakery, Loafer, was selling bags of it. So I took the opportunity to try out new ones. Like this wonderful French Red Stoneground Flour from Tuerong Farm in NSW.
There was other bread flour from Woodstock in Berrigan NSW which was also wonderful – Stoneground White and Spelt. There was also Classic White. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with it all. This loaf is a combination of Classic and French Red.
And these are my baguettes made with French Red which is a quite heavy white wheat flour.
I was so enthusiastic about this flour I unwittingly bought some Woodstock cake flour!
Which meant I had to use it. Hence frangipani tarts. Delicious. Great flour. Wholemeal.
A purchase later in lockdown came via Twitter. The Social Studio, a not-for-profit organisation providing training and work for people who have experienced being a refugee. They have a shop in Smith Street Collingwood which I often pass but haven’t entered. The studio posted a picture of this cushion cover, made by one of their students during lockdown. I tweeted back that I’d like to buy it. After it was delivered I ordered a second. I love them; so cheerful!
I only went shopping for clothes once during the entire three months! But walking with Linda I was so surprised to see a shop open for customers in High Street I went in enthusiastically without really thinking about it. This was on the 5th of May, the same day I bought the wool for my scarves. Here are the pants I bought. I think I needed cheering up – hence the colour.
The whole lockdown experience has further cemented my love of social media – may family would say it couldn’t possibly be further enhanced. I am addicted to Twitter and during this period enjoyed Instagram.
Twitter was great for delivering news. I felt very informed about what was going on both locally and in the world at large. But it was also great for entertainment. Very good writing gets circulated around and eventually finds its way to you. This could be on any topics. There was obviously a lot related to Covid 19 which were terrific: how people were dealing with the disease itself; patients, carers and medical staff. Also what people were doing during lockdown. Reflections on life itself.
I follow opera companies and people interested in opera, including some performers. There were lots of terrific things tweeted. Whole orchestras posted films of concerts they all played individually in their own homes. The Met put on a fund-raising concert with artists from across the world singing in their homes. Here’s Jonas Kaufmann participating.
There were lots of micro performances – singers, pianists, violinists, cellists – and I loved them.
On Instagram Sam Neill and Alec Baldwin were both posting little films to keep their followers amused during lockdown. Sam in Sydney, Alec in his country retreat North of New York. They were both terrific.
Sam read poems, sang songs (very badly) accompanying himself on his ukele and reflected on childhood memories. All the while telling us not to be anxious and to stay safe. He also collaborated with actor friends making little films that were very creative – filmed across two location and then put together. David Wenham, Hugo Weaving, Helena Bonham Carter. My favourite was the drug deal gone wrong with Bryan Brown playing the shadow of a policeman.
Alec was a bit more robust. Starting off he gave us recommendations for great musical performances. He is associated with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and has self educated himself about classical music. He also recommended writers, although as he pointed out, surrounded by young children he reads articles rather than books these days. Nevertheless as time went on he made book recommendations as well. He also gave a few pointed political speeches. Also terrific.
I also started watching Maggie Beer giving cooking demonstrations on Instagram. Other cooks and chefs were doing this but I found Maggie’s best – perhaps because she reminded me of Aunty Irene! We’ve subsequently cooked her apple and potato bake and her walnut pasta sauce. I have also taken up her way of cutting up a chook and being bold enough to leave it resting for far longer than I would have thought possible. Like Samin she’s keen on cooking chicken with lots of salt!
We walked every day – as, it seemed, did everyone else in the local area. Amazing numbers of people were walking the streets, in the parks and along the walking tracks. I stopped going to the Edinburgh Gardens they were so crowded. Instead I walked to the Darling Gardens and if I wanted a long walk proceeding along Roseneath Street to the Merri Creek walk. Privileged to live in a place with so many options.
We also participated in the neighbourhood bear hunt exercise which had people putting toy bears in windows so that children could count them. I don’t know who thought of this and how it became widespread, but we loved the book We’re Going On A Bear Hunt; a classic and that most wonderful thing, a children’s book that could be read over and over and over again!
Its author, Michael Rosen spent a long time in hospital in England suffering from Covid 19. Fortunately he is now recovering.
As it got colder Joe took to wearing a hat inside. Is this an indication of old age? No doubt it keeps one warmer. Here he is in his beanie. Bit hippyish?
I prefer the one I brought back for him from Kazakhstan many years ago. He just needs a smoking jacket to go with it.
While I spent a lot of time on the couch reading on my iPad – either twitter, the TLS or a book.
Though I went back to a paper book to re-read Albert Camus’ The Plague which remains a great book. This is my old copy from school. Everyone has been writing about it during this pandemic. Here’s my blog talking about it.
I took time out from reading to knit. I was prompted to do so after a zoom drinks session with friends Matt, Liz, Mary-Anne and Graham during which Liz popped up knitting a shawl. I’ve always liked simple knitting during winter; scarves only. So I ventured up to Northcote and purchased wool and patterns. I was very pleased with my first effort.
That one was simple and I was able to watch films and operas and listen to TLS podcasts while doing it. I also talked to people on the telephone. That’s something I rediscovered in lockdown – talking to people on the phone! I rang lots of people and had long conversations. It was nice to do so; better than my normal texting. But normally my texting is to suggest a catch up at a cafe!
My second scarf was not simple and I was not able to talk to anyone nor watch television because I needed to concentrate on this one. I had to constantly count as well as write down which row I was up to. So lovely outcome but not to be repeated I think.
Having had a malignant melanoma removed from my leg some time ago, I have an annual check up with a dermatologist. It was due early in lockdown and so the appointment was cancelled. It was rescheduled on the 19th of May. A strange experience. I was told to tell them when I arrived and then to wait in the car until I was called in. Then I had to don a mask before entering. It was a quick consultation! But as is now usually the case; all clear.
Joe and I also had flue injections through the Clifton Hill Medical Clinic. These were delivered in a tent out the back. It’s the first time I’ve had one; not from any antipathy to them on my part, just that my doctor never pushed me to have one. I raised with her a few times after my friends all insisted I should but her line was that I’d never had the flue, wasn’t working and in an environment likely to spread it and therefore it wasn’t necessary. This wasn’t the view of the doctor investigating nodes on my lung last year. He said I should have one in the interests of herd immunity – another concept we are now familiar with. In any event, now I’ve had one.
I hurt my lower back in mid-May and so visited my local physio. He thought it may have been caused by my knitting but I’m not so sure. He told me I had the same condition exactly a year ago. So I’m blaming the onset of cold weather. In his case it was he who were the mask and it was a normal consultation. Not like my dermatology one – which was quite discombobulating.
I have a CT scan of my lungs due in August, so I was pleased when a few weeks ago it was announced that diagnostic procedures were being re-commenced after having been cancelled early on.
A Covid 19 Funeral
Maureen, Joe’s Mum, died during lockdown. Expected but unexpected all the same. She was less than a week away from turning ninety; a milestone she always assured Joe she would not reach.
She was, as she had been for some time, getting frailer but seemingly managing okay. Luckily Campbell Place in Glen Waverley had not banned visitors. They had put in place some restrictions which resulted in Joe, on his weekly visits, having Facetime calls with other relatives; Martin in Brisbane, Joe and Erica in Sydney, Mary in Williamstown, so she had seen those close to her recently.
She was in good health when Joe visited on Sunday the 19th of April, and he has a lovely memory of her blowing him a kiss from the dining room when he left her. But on Wednesday the 22nd we got news that she had died – suddenly, peacefully – that morning. The quickness meant none of her family was with her but it was a blessing for her. As was the peacefulness. No emergency interventions, toing and froing from hospital. Her heart, long a concern, finally gave up.
The next little while was spent dealing with everything that a death in the family requires. Lovely flowers and messages help us deal with grief. The ones below are from friends Jen and Chris.
These were from our lovely neighbours of many years; John and Sharyn.
As does the ritual of finding pictures to celebrate a life. Eleanor made up a lovely video which I can’t upload. I liked this one. That wallpaper graced my family home’s living room as well. And I remember the pink tie and belt.
Ten people only at a Covid 19 funeral but it was streamed live for those who wanted to participate; and there were many who did. Maureen’s ashes were laid to rest with her husband John in the beautiful Anderson Creek cemetery – a peaceful place full of gum trees and birds. Joe and Eleanor made lovely speeches. Here they are waiting for the ceremony to start.
Patrick drove down from Canberra the day before the funeral, on the 29th of April. Complete with lockdown haircut courtesy of his flatmate Louisa. It was lovely to have him down with us and in the end he stayed for nearly three weeks, only returning to Canberra on the 17th of May. The day of the funeral itself, the 30th, was a cold day and bad weather was predicted but stayed away.
It was a beautiful ceremony conducted by Maureen’s long time friend and colleague Father Duggan. He gave quite a contemporary homily; referring to the media’s current focus on death and dying. Subjects that were daily filling our news services whereas usually in our culture all reference to death is hidden away. Joe gave a beautiful overview of Maureen’s whole life; restoring our memory of an active and passionate woman rather than the older frail version of herself in her later years. He received lots of messages from Maureen’s friends and colleagues afterwards attesting to her importance in their lives which was lovely.
Eleanor spoke on behalf of the grandchildren as well as thanking those who had cared for her in recent times. Mary spoke of Maureen’s central role in the family by describing a typical week-end which resonated with friends of mine who watched the service. All quite lovely.
Emerging from Lockdown
So now we are emerging from these strange times. Blinking as we emerge from our burrows. Actually I don’t feel like that at all. As I’ve been saying to people I feel that life has gone on substantially as normal.
But that’s not quite right. There were things that we needed that we couldn’t get. It was strange having to queue to get into supermarkets and wait outside before entering small shops. As some suggested; echoes of Eastern Europe. I was in Russia in 1990 and there were empty shelves and cafes there. But it didn’t really feel like that. Things were quite orderly here in North Fitzroy.
I also truly felt that I wasn’t particularly socially isolated given our zooming and telephoning but I’ve been surprised how much I have enjoyed the face to face socialising I’ve done in the short time it’s been allowed. So I think deep down I must have missed it.
I also didn’t notice how much I needed and would be cheered up by a haircut. But I was, after travelling to Bacchus Marsh on the 27th of May to get it. Although I didn’t spend the time required to get it coloured. That was one of the few mis-steps by the National Cabinet, when, despite the presence of Gladys and Anastasia, it announced haircuts could continue only they would have to be limited to half an hour. There was mild uproar as women everywhere noted this was nowhere near long enough. Mine, cutting only, took a full hour (not counting waiting time – which was another hour). The order about half hour haircuts was swiftly changed.
Joe and I managed to get along okay although there was a period when I was getting cranky with him. It didn’t last long. He’s been able to continue his Kung Fu and German lessons via zoom. And we are lucky to have a big enough house for us to spread out. And to live in an area blessed with so many outdoor areas; gardens, walking paths etc. All within walking distance.
People working had a tougher time although they seem to have managed it. Even my sister and her husband who are teachers. That was a challenge. Although it appears everyone has a new appreciation of the work teachers do!
We probably interacted more with the children than in normal times. It was lovely having Patrick with us working from home. We got a much better idea of his daily working life. And Eleanor working from home in Collingwood has been in touch quite a lot. Our family WhatsApp group has been going strong; sharing meals, book recommendations and exercise routines.
Hopefully restrictions will continue to be eased although it seems we still don’t know enough about this virus. Nor do we have a vaccine. But we are accustomed to new ways of engaging: socially distant, coughing into elbows, no more hugging and kissing for a little while, washing our hands.
We now have a new appreciation of coffee catch ups with friends, restaurant meals and having people over or going over to other people’s houses.
We’ll see how things go with other activities. While other people get excited about sports starting again, I’m interested in cinemas, theatre and concerts. It may be a while before I venture out to those things.
And at this stage I’m not desperate for a change of scenery. Lots of people are getting out and about; off for short holidays somewhere else. I’m a village girl and happy where I am. We’ll see if I’m wrong about that when we finally do venture out.
A permanent outcome from the lockdown experience is that I’m going to go local. Local health service providers; we already have a local GP but now I’m going to a local optometrist instead of into the city. I already shop mostly locally but will double down on that. And we’ll stick to local dining establishments, at least for the moment. All in walking distance. That this is possible is another reason to be thankful for where we live.