from Melbourne, Australia – Clarice Ballenden

Born in South Africa I emigrated to Australia in 1976 and I am now retired. With my partner Andrew, we share 5 children and 12 grandchildren. My interests are reading, walking, nature, gardening and have recently taken up painting.

1 April Here is a poem I thought I would share with you:

30 March            Local networks – not that simple. Eleven days ago, I found a note in the letterbox from an unknown couple living in the street suggesting we set up a street contact list to support those who might need it.  Malvern Grove Neighbours was launched. Ours is a small road of 80 houses 40 on each side. Like so many urban citizens without children at home, we (in our house) do not know many neighbours, except the few to say “Hello” to on either side of us and across the road.  So, this new neighbourliness based on proximity, has proved interesting.

The first controversial issue was introduced by a woman who stated “the father of my children is Jewish and we love the community but” and went on to state that certain members of the Orthodox community were flouting the official gathering restrictions and as a result, we should all give the Kosher shelves in the supermarket a wide berth. A heated debate ensued including from a history teacher “that kind of attitude is not far from blaming Jews for causing the plague” to advice to “only shop when the Orthodox Jews are observing the Sabbath”! It only ceased when one of our close neighbours, a haematologist, working in a public hospital, said she was the person most likely to contract the virus.

The next bombshell came when someone suggested we ask the Council to make the walking and bike riding path around our local park a one way- street because social distancing was too hard to practice when people were walking towards you. “Just walk on the grass”, “take evasive action”, and “we will all be trapped by the slowest person in front like walking to a funeral” were the responses.

So much for neighbourliness. Is proximity enough to promote social cohesion? Would it have been easier if we had met at a street party before the lockdown and at least recognised each other? Perhaps there are many lonely and anxious people wanting to be part of group?

On a lighter note someone posted an invitation last night for passers-by to pick the rosemary and bay leaves from his front hedge.

 We have taken to entertaining by Skype; a 4year old’s birthday party, dinner with a daughter provincial town and a another with a friend a few suburbs away. It has worked well and helps us stay connected.

26 March   Quoting the Cricketer. I mentioned on 24 March that there is confusion regarding the communication and the regulations, surrounding Covid-19; that our politicians speak in platitudes, contradict themselves, as well as one another. I never thought I would quote our most infamous cricketer, (quite a lot of competition). Yesterday, in reference to the hour-long ramble of a speech made by the PM on TV on Tuesday night, Shane Warne tweeted: “Listening to the PM like everyone else in Australia what I understood was: ‘It’s essential unless it’s not. Then it’s essentially not essential. I can’t be clearer.’” Another comment from a media strategist was “Convoluted waffle.”This is laughable if it wasn’t serious. This confusion just hampers the effort to educate the population and sets back progress on the need to act in unity. Oh, for Jacinda Adern! a compassionate Leader, who makes tough decisions and doesn’t speak in riddles.

On a lighter note. The sun is shining. My ankle was miraculously better this morning. Still swollen, but I am not hobbling. I no longer wonder if this is an unusual symptom of the dreaded virus.

25 March. Closer to home. Last night watching the 7.30 Report after the news, we saw Andrew’s nephew Pascal describing his Covid-19 experience. He is an opera singer based in Munnster, in Germany. He said he, and the whole cast of the opera, some 25 people, have come down with it. He didn’t feel too bad in the first 5 days but then he felt seriously ill for some time before he felt well enough to give an interview. He is still in quarantine and boredom is the main problem.

I suppose the reality of someone you know contracting the virus, even if it is on the other side of the world, is concerning. The fact that he and the rest of the cast were healthy 30-40year old’s is also disconcerting. Especially in Germany which I thought had such a strict regime regarding isolation. Just a reminder that no-one is immune.

Having had a great day in the garden yesterday, I decided that I would cook today. I have no pretensions to being a domestic goddess, but I do remember hearty bone broth being cooked in emergencies. I reckon I am channelling my grandmother.

I was somewhat hampered by the fact that I woke up with a sprained ankle. I have had many sprained ankles in my day but always knew when it happened. The thought that it could happen in my sleep, even if I was dreaming, is a worry. I hope I wake up tomorrow to find it fixed itself while I slept.

24 March. Yesterday was much more interesting than today, as the Premiers (of the most populous states, (also the ones with the most cases) Victoria and New South Wales, shut us down. Pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and schools were closed.

All the other Australian states have imposed borders on people from other states, or from their own citizens returning, who must isolate themselves for 14 days when they cross the border. Tasmania has gone one better by stating “We have a Moat”.! You wouldn’t think so, but Australia, is a Federation with a Prime Minister who should be calling the shots. These recent events are examples of the confusion and frustration where everyone is an expert an even the word “isolation” seems debateable, neither do we know exactly what a “shut-down” is.  Is it the same as a lock down?

Today was much more tranquil, I worked in my small garden. Sowing seeds of snow peas, broad beans, leeks, silver beet and Bok Choy. I also divided and replanted irises and felt all was well with the world.