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 The Friday night takeaway has been replaced by homemade pizza, more delicious than any we have ever bought, and I am saving a small fortune on petrol, public transport and maintaining a business appearance.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
Goodreads Book Review – Ben Cousins: My Life Story

Goodreads Book Review – Ben Cousins: My Life Story

It’s been ten years since Ben Cousins: My Life Story came out, and a lot has changed since then.

After watching the latest documentary about former West Coast Eagles star, Ben Cousins, a friend recommended I read his autobiography. Written ten years ago in 2010, the autobiography describes Ben Cousins’s early life and his spectacular Australian Football League career.

Arguably the most talented player of his era, the book details every season of Ben’s career and will appeal to footy buffs. But even if you are not a sports fan, there is a lot here to keep the pages turning. The narrative style is light and often humorous and you can hear Ben’s voice coming through on the page.

My son was in primary school when Ben Cousins dominated the footy world and he and his mates idolised him. The most prominent memory I have of Ben Cousins from that time is of him shirtless and handcuffed, being forced into a police car. I could never understand how a hardened drug addict could also be an elite athlete, but Cousins explains this in the book. It was all about timing. Ben had his training and drug taking schedules down to a fine art. He knew when his training was due and he knew how long it would take him to recover from a bender. He explains that his footy training and drug taking worked in tandem as a warped kind of reward and punishment system.

Ben was able to navigate the drug testing because he had the opportunity to plan ahead. And as long as he delivered the goods on game day, neither the authorities nor Ben himself seemed to concern themselves with the long term effects.

Ben got himself in and out of various scrapes but it wasn’t until Christmas of 2005 that things really came undone. Ben “jumped too early,” and mistimed the start of his Boxing Day twister. As a result, he was in a “right state” on Christmas Day and ruined it for the whole family.

By now, the seriousness of Ben’s addictions were becoming obvious and everyone was worried. Even his underworld cronies. There is a very funny part in the book where they pick Ben up to take him on a “fishing trip”. Ben worries that he has done something to offend them and is thinking the worst, but his mobster mates take him aside and give him a good talking to, warning him of the dangers of ice.

There were a couple of half-hearted attempts at rehab in luxurious, overseas facilities. Whisked away at LAX by two mystery blondes in a Mercedes, Ben’s overseas rehab stint ends up in an ambulance ride to hospital.

Ben spent the final years of his career at the Richmond Football Club, where by his own admission, he was not the best player. However, he had a long period of being drug free and he retired from the club satisfied with his performance.

The book ends on an optimistic note. Ben acknowledges the harm he has done himself and others with his drug use and hopes to bring solace to those suffering from addiction. But unfortunately, things have not gone so well since then.

Fast forward ten years to March 2020 and the latest documentary “Ben Cousins: Coming Clean.” Ben is estranged from his family, has been to prison and is living “between joints.” The following month, in April 2020, Ben is in the news again, back in prison for drug possession and aggravated stalking.

It’s as though the words of a dying outlaw, tattooed across Ben’s abdomen, are becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Surely this is not the future that such a gifted young man envisioned for himself.

I really hope that is not the case and that Ben can finally turns things around. I hope that his life will become more than just a cautionary tale.

Posted by naomilisashippen in Book Reviews, 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.

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 0 comments
The Upside of Quarantine: How COVID-19 is Making me a Better Writer

The Upside of Quarantine: How COVID-19 is Making me a Better Writer

Having the time to write is an absolute gift for a working writer.

The dishes are done. The washing’s on the line. The homemade soup is simmering on the stove and it’s only 8.13am.

Usually by now, I would be in peak hour traffic. The dishes would be scattered on the kitchen bench, the washing would still be in the machine and homemade soup not even a thought in my mind.

But things are different now. I am quarantined because of COVID-19 and I have nothing but time.

Things have snowballed since last week, when my husband and I returned early from our ill fated trip. We set off for Japan at the time when things were iffy but more or less OK and were called home early with a dire DFAT warning.

We are required to spend fourteen days at home in isolation.

Disappointed but relieved to be back home, I am going to make the most of my time. As a writer with a full time office job, time is an absolute gift.

They say that it’s possible to write and hold down a full time job and many people do but having time and energy to devote to writing makes such a difference. I know I have achieved things in the last week that I could never have done if I had been working.

I have participated in online events during the day, like the live video critique I attended yesterday. I’ve submitted the first chapter of my novel to be critiqued by the group so it’s my turn next week. I joined in a Twitter event I usually miss and was able to follow it as it was happening and take my time to linger over the responses. I check in regularly with a Facebook writers group I’m in, where we support and encourage each. I joined a fun video catch up with some writer friends.

I’m having a go at writing short stories. Short stories are not my thing but I have a couple in the works so I’ll see how I go. I am beta reading an exciting new novel for a critique partner, one that will put me in the right frame of mind for my second novel.

Finally, I am working with my critique group on the final round of edits to my first novel. With a full time job, this project is usually the only thing I have the time and energy to do.

I know there’s a lot going on at the moment and I’ve probably got my head in the sand. But having our heads in the sand is probably the best thing to do if it means we are keeping away from other people.

Before I left for Japan, I resigned from my job and signed up with a temp agency. There is always plenty of temp work in my industry but I don’t know how I’ll go now that everything’s changed.

In the meantime, I choose to live one day at a time. I’m enjoying spending time with my family, writing and engaging with other writers.

I’m in forced quarantine for another week and there’s nothing I can do about it. This gives me the excuse not to make decisions, not to go to work, not to face the outside world.

I know I’m in a state of suspended disbelief and that reality is probably going to hit like a freight train.

But for now, I’m on holiday and I’m going to enjoy every minute.

#amwriting #writerslilfe #writingcommunity #writersinquarantine #6amAusWriters

Posted by naomilisashippen in The Virus Chronicles, 7 comments