It is now mid-winter and I am in a state of semi-hibernation, which is strange because winter is usually one of the most academically and professionally active times of the year. I do my job on my laptop, and go into the office twice a week, but I see no point in taking holidays, and I am not exactly doing much else right now.
The 8th of July marked 3 months since I started growing my isolation beard. My friends say (mostly when they see me on Zoom or Skype or What’s App video calls) I look like a rabbi or an ayatollah now, with lots of streaks of grey and white in it. (It has been almost a decade since I last grew a beard, and never for this long, so I do get a bit of a shock when I get these reminders of ageing.)
Officially, I think I started working from home on my laptop on 31 March, so we are now about three and a half months into this surreal self-isolation.
April was the cruellest month, as T.S. Eliot would say (I have a life long propensity to quote him which I still can’t outgrow!), with the hard lockdown keeping most shops shut and Melbourne almost On-The-Beach empty.
May started to see shops reopen, mostly because landlords are rather ruthless about rent relief unless they are dealing with someone more ruthless than they are (like a certain rag trade billionaire), and businesses could not stay shut without trying do something to get some cash flow happening.
June saw the first signs of normality, with rules relaxing a little and restaurants and pubs starting to try to reopen. And then WHAM!
It looks like Victoria has got a major health catastrophe developing around our ears right now. Not only have we suddenly gone from single digit daily cases to high single digit cases, but we are now well into the triple digits every day. 288 yesterday, 216 today, and we are in lockdown til August 19th. I expect it will be much longer than that.
Hotel quarantine, where the problems seems to have emerged, is now subject to an official enquiry, which will report in several months. Hopefully this enquiry is conducted properly, and reported on openly, rather than with the secrecy and lack of transparency which is becoming systemic (if not pandemoniac) in the Andrews regime.
Chairman Dan is now asking people to wear masks in public, and with growing anger and resentment towards him and the need to hold him accountable for what has gone wrong (just as he was taking the credit for things going right), it looks like he will need to wear a mask in public to avoid rotten tomatoes being thrown at him.
He is good at finding scapegoats (as we now see from how he acted decisively when the long standing branch stacking problems inside his party finally became front page news), and he enjoys a healthy majority in the legislative assembly, so he probably is considering whom he should throw to the wolves to protect his own job. [Hopefully he flushes out his ill-considered belt and road agreement which is another step towards selling our state to Communist China.]
Of course, the alternative premier is the colourless Michael O’Brien, who is unknown to most voters, publicly described by the press gallery as somewhat abrasive (I know this to be an understatement), and only got the job by default when the chap with the numbers lost his seat at the last election. The idea of O’Brien as premier fills me with dismay. Indeed, his very colourlessness means that the only lively member of the state opposition, Tim Smith is being touted as a possible challenger.
Tim Smith, however, is not exactly a big picture thinker. He has most recently gotten publicity for demanding that the golf courses are reopened and that the flying foxes in Yarra Bend Park in his electorate be driven out of his area. I suppose he wants to be in relation to fruit bats in Kew what St Patrick was to snakes in Ireland. But that does not make him a credible challenger to the one shade of grey that is Mr O’Brien.
There are two years and four months until the next state election. That is a long time. They say that Oppositions do not win elections, Governments lose them. Indeed, the only effective state opposition leader in my lifetime was the loud and sometimes gaff prone Jeff Kennett, who took three elections to finally win, and then proved to be a very effective premier. He was always out there, for about a decade (aside from two years of exile), loudly leading with his chin, but always making an effort and always being noticed. Compare that to the mumbling insipidity of Mr O’Brien, who is more invisible than a Baggins when wearing a magic ring.
Hmm… perhaps I have underestimated the talents of Tim Smith. Maybe he will be a more credible Opposition Leader.
Grumbling about and making unkind comments about political leaders of either colour is quite fun, although not as fun as throwing tomatoes at them (I knew a bloke at uni who suddenly turned a few years later into a serial pie thrower at politicians – it got him into a fair bit of trouble). But I think there are lots of other aspects about self-isolation I can reflect upon.
I once said to one of my friends that I would love to own a larger house, so that I could have one room as a dedicated man-cave. He observed that my entire home is a man-cave, and indeed it is, although I do not have a dedicated bar, pool table, jukebox, pinball or 80s arcade game machine, or framed sports memorabilia on the walls.
So you might surmise that living alone in a three bedroom brick veneer home adapted to my own unique wants and needs in what is now an intermediate suburb of Melbourne is not exactly an uncomfortable way to hibernate during this pandemonium which is the local resurgence of the pandemic.
I reached ‘peak library’ several years ago, and I am not intending to add to the 2000 books on my shelves. I tend to give most books I read now away. But I do have about 80 unread books in piles in my lounge room. I do chip away at that pile.
Just before the pandemic started, I got my NBN installed, and upgraded my internet plan to unlimited data (I had binge watched a few too many shows between Christmas and New Year). Since then, as the days have gotten shorter, the nights longer, and the outlook darker, I have added Amazon Prime and Disney+ to the Apple TV+ subscription I was watching at the start of the year.
Last month, I finally bought a blue tooth speaker, so I can get halfway decent sound quality when streaming my Apple Music, and now I have music playing in the background almost constantly.
I have since 2013 kept a large supply of toilet paper for emergencies, and I have tripled it since the pandemic started. I also have more tinned food and dry pasta stored than I am likely to use. And if we run out of fresh fruit and vegetables at the supermarket (as was the case briefly a few nights ago), the orange trees I planted 17 years ago fruit in sequence (Navel, Mediterranean Sweet, Blood Orange, Valencia) between June and October, giving me a supply of fruit unlikely to run out before December (so I am not worried about scurvy).
In recent weeks, I have noticed that compared to around this time two years ago, or even six months ago, all the food delivery apps I use from time to time, Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Menu Log, have lifted their game and are more reliable and faster than ever in getting my orders to my door.
As for keeping up with friends? I have What’s App, Zoom, Skype, and even Web X loaded onto either my phone or my desktop.
I do have an abundant cache of fine red wine at home, although I have run out of table wine lately. But as restaurants are shut and I cannot socialise in person with friends, I have decided to observe Dry July as a preventative health measure, and have not had a drink in almost two weeks. I don’t exactly miss it.
So staying at home most of the time, in my extremely comfortable home, is not a hardship. Worrying about the possibility of my family or friends getting sick from the Covid is my main concern. But staying inside a warm home rather than going out is a first world problem, the kind that I bet my grandfathers, both veterans of the First World War, would have wished they had had.