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The Virus Chronicles: Enough is Enough

As Restrictions Ease, Will Our Time in Isolation Bring Some Positive Changes?

May 7th, 2020

My sister said she has saved a lot of money since going into isolation. She is no longer buying coffee and lunches everyday or takeaway dinners during the week. These were the little treats she gave herself as a reward for the 9 to 5 slog. Instead, she is cooking at home from scratch and has even started a veggie garden.

Similarly, I have been making some economies at home. The Friday night takeaway has been replaced by homemade pizza, more delicious than any we have ever bought, and I am saving a small fortune on petrol, public transport and maintaining a business appearance.

Now that I have the time and energy to sort and launder them, I have decided that we all have enough clothes to last a lifetime. I clean the house myself rather than pay a fortnightly cleaner and we exercise by walking, gardening and doing things around the house rather than paying expensive memberships at the gym.

Our time poverty has created a culture of wastefulness, but hopefully, this is going to change.

As our leaders talk about easing the restrictions, I am noticing a change in the air. The tone on social media is more optimistic and a few more shops are beginning to open.

When I went to my local shopping centre the other day, I noticed chairs and tables stacked outside one of the cafes. They were still cordoned off behind red and white plastic tape, but at least they were there, ready to be set up again and used. And one of the clothing stores had opened. The lady stood at the door and squirted me with hand sanitiser before she let me in, but at least she was there. People lining up at the bakery talked about the “silly” rules as they stood 1.5 meters apart, on the painted feet that separated them.

A recent survey revealed that people are more worried about the economic threats of the virus rather than catching the virus itself. Australia has managed the situation very well and with the lowest rates of infection and death in the world, people are becoming restless and want to venture out again.

The other day, I watched a beautiful video about a father reading his children the story of  The Great Realisation. The story compared the world before and after the virus, with a world of rush and excess being replaced by one of peace and connection.

We have had to make many sacrifices during this isolation period. With financial constraints and lack of supply, many have been forced to live with the basics. I like to think that we have learnt something from this time.

Hopefully, we have learnt that things don’t make us happy and that it’s the love for each other that matters most. Hopefully, we have learnt that to appreciate what we have and stop chasing what we think we should have.

And hopefully, most of all, I hope we have learnt that enough is enough.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
The Virus Chronicles – Swimming Pool

The Virus Chronicles – Swimming Pool

One Day The Crowds Will Return to the Local Swimming Pool

April 9th, 2020

The road that leads to the swimming pool is completely deserted. Usually, it’s so full of cars that you’re lucky not to take out someone’s side mirror when you drive through. Especially during school holidays, which it is now.

Under normal circumstances, this street would be full of cars from the overflowing car park. Harried mums and their gaggle of kids would make a colourful, noisy parade, festooned with floating aids, towels and bright beach bags.

But today nobody’s here. Nobody but the tradies in their hulking, four-wheel drive utes. There are about half a dozen of them in the deserted car park, taking the opportunity to work in peace.

The back door of the swimming pool is propped open and a coiling, silver cylinder snakes out, like the spiralling slinky I used to play with as a kid. This door is for members only, I know because I used to be a member here. I wore a plastic band on my wrist that allowed me entrance through the Members Only door. I would hold it up to the sensor as I approached and the tall glass door would ease open with great reverence, heralding my arrival.

I would ascend the wide staircase that led to the members only change rooms, which would also require a swipe of my plastic bracelet. The change rooms were nicer than the public ones downstairs, small but immaculate with white washed brick walls and blond wood benches. Ladies would hang their business suits on coat hangers while they attended yoga, spin class or did a workout in the gym. The 6am classes were popular for busy professionals, allowing them to keep up with their fitness program and still get to work on time.

As a member, I had a special program designed for me. One that would help me achieve my weight loss goals. I had been required to get a doctor’s certificate before I was allowed to join the gym. I was overweight and had high blood pressure. But with a sensible diet and a proper exercise plan we would soon fix that.

I would get to the gym about three times a week and go through the exercises, as I had been shown. Medicine balls, floor mats, gym equipment. The gym was always packed at the peak times before and after work. Sometimes I was lucky to find a space on the floor. I would get annoyed when there were people lying on their mats, looking at their phones. Didn’t they know that just being in the gym was not enough? Did they think they would just absorb the vibe and let osmosis do the work?

No matter. I preferred the walking machine, anyway. There were lines of them overlooking the swimming pools below. There was the kiddies pool with spurting water fountains, the wave pool were people could enjoy the thrill of the tides without the dangers of open waters and the lap pools, with the designated lanes for beginners, intermediate and fast swimmers alike.

My dad used to take me to this pool when I was a child, and if he could see it now, he would not recognise it. There was no gym back then and a kiosk, not a cafe. The kiosk sold hot chips and ice cream, pies and lollies. The ladies couldn’t even get a salad sandwich, they had to bring one from home. Now there is a café, with spacious, comfortable seating. Smiling, aproned baristas bring you latte and frittata, chai tea and salads. If you want a pie and chips, you have to go to the takeaway at the back.

For reasons of time and money, I gave up my gym membership and reprised the one and only exercise I truly enjoy – walking. I like the freedom of putting on my shoes and taking off whenever I want. And my dog likes it, too.

I live near the pool now, where I used to be a member, where my dad used to take me when I was a kid. I walk past it every day, as part of my isolation fitness routine. I walk past the water fountains that have stopped flowing and the wide glass doors that have stopped opening. I look in through the windows at the empty kiddies pool and the deserted cafe. I follow the path through the native gardens to the back, where the outdoor pool sparkles behind the high cyclone wire.

I remember the days when my dad would bring me here to cool down on hot, summer days. I remember the crowds, the sunburned children laughing in the water, the teenagers doing water bombs and the mums frantically calling their children to stay in the shallow end.

I remember the days before the arching, elegant lines of the sprawling sports complex that’s here now, when the local pool was a boxy, yellow brick building, housing two single pools. I remember the days when we pushed through the stiff, rusted turnstile to a world of fun and adventure, a reprieve for the long, drawn out days of oppressive summer heat.

There was only one entrance then because there weren’t any members. There was only a rusty old turnstile, and everyone pushed through it.

I hope that one day, the people will return to the swimming pool. I hope to walk past and see kids and their parents enjoying the water.

I hope I will come back here on a hot summer day and feel the ice-cold water on my febrile summer skin.

Just like I did with my dad when I was a kid.

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The Virus Chronicles – A Changed Landscape

Returning to the outside world after two weeks quarantine, I found a very different place.

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Our quarantine period is over today, and we are free to go into the outside world, well some of it anyway. Even after being relegated to the house for two weeks, I’m not keen on going out. We can’t take a long drive, I can’t see my mum, I can’t cash in the book shop voucher I got for my birthday.

The only place we can go is to the shops. For essential items only. My sister has told me about the empty shelves and the circles painted on the floor. You can only stand in designated places don’t get too close to anyone else. She says there are no cafes, no clothing shops no hairdressers. She says there’s nothing to go out for.

“But you can go for a walk,” I say.

“Yeah,” she says, “but it’s not the same.”

My sister lives in a semi-rural area, with some lovely bushland walks. Sometimes, we go to a little café near her house for a breakfast of fat, juicy bacon, eggs cooked just the way we like them and buttery sour dough toast. Enjoying every mouthful, we don’t worry about the kilojoules. Doesn’t matter, we say, we’ll walk it off. And we do. After our sumptuous breakfast, we take a long walk through the creek, the Sunday markets and the horse agistment.

Now we can’t go to the café and we can’t take a long walk. At least not together, anyway.

I go outside to empty the coffee grounds on the garden and the wind has an arctic tinge. The sky is overcast and it looks like it might rain. Drawing my cardigan around me, I hurry back into the warmth of the house.

My husband comes into the kitchen, ready for Saturday morning shopping. Usually, I don’t go with him. Worn out by a week of 9 to 5, I delegate this task to him.

But today is different.

He holds up a pair of black latex gloves and a conical face mask. He had some PPE left over from a job site he was working on, which have been sitting in our garage till now. He passes the mask and gloves to me.

“You’ll need to wear these.”

I take a step back. “Are we going to rob a bank?”

“Very funny. Just put them on.”

We drive down the street that leads to our local shopping centre. This busy rat run passes the swimming pool and is usually choked with cars but today it’s deserted. We arrive at the usually chaotic shopping centre and get a park straight away. Right outside the door.

The place looks the same as it always does, but there are fewer people and most are wearing masks. It’s more like 7am on a weekday than peak time, Saturday morning.

My husband asks if I want a coffee and I say yes straight away. It will be the first store bought coffee I have had in two weeks.

We go upstairs to the food court and it’s here that I see things have really changed. The expansive, gleaming floors are devoid of chairs and tables and the usually pulsing food court is closed.

Last time I was here, the mouth-watering smell of popcorn filled the air. A girl in a peasant dress carrying a wicker basket handed warm paper bags of the salty treats to passersby. They walked the shiny corridors, munching as they went, chatting to the person beside them or making a picnic with their kids in the seating areas.

But today there’s no popcorn and nobody’s having a picnic.

My husband and I drink our coffees as we walk the empty corridors. A man in a face mask gives us a dirty look as he walks by. Maybe it’s because we’re together or maybe it’s because we have removed our face mask to drink the coffee. My husband is offended.

“Don’t worry about it,” I say.

Most of the shops are closed and I gaze through their darkened windows. The surf shop is still open which strikes me as ironic, considering the beaches are all closed.

We head down the escalators to the supermarket, where there are a few people browsing the aisles. We try to work out what we need for the next two weeks so we don’t have to keep running to the shops.

Flatten the curve.

We fill our trolley and stand on the painted little circle in front of the checkout. I’ve seen on the news that some cashiers stand behind a plastic screen, like the ones in banks. I wonder if this will become the norm, and if they will replace all the cashiers with automated checkouts. I wonder if there will even be anyone to help if you screw up, as I often do.        

Will the last of the sentient beings be replaced by a menu on the screen, an automated voice or a pop-up chat when all we want is someone to listen?

The lady on the checkout smiles and waves us forward. “How are you, today?” she asks. We load our groceries onto the conveyer belt and meet them at the other end, where we pack them into our shopping bags.

The lady holds up a bottle of pasta sauce. “I’ll have to put this back, you’ve already got two.” She puts it aside, under the counter, where I see there are a few other random items.

“Sorry,” I say. “I didn’t know the limit.”

The lady smiles. “That’s ok. Everyone’s still getting used to it.”

My husband and I leave the store and he says we will stop by Bunnings on the way home. I ask him what he needs.

“I’m going to buy a pressure cooker,” he says. “And some tomato plants.”

And I think that is probably a very good idea.

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