Written 15 November, 2020.
My birthday. Today it’s reported that South Australia has 3 virus cases, slipped out from hospital quarantine. So far no reports of bonking between security staff and Australians in quarantine who’ve come back from overseas, as happened in Melbourne. Daniel Andrews got such flack for that. No one knows how South Australia’s slipped out. And Norman Swan points out that it’s the first anniversary of the virus crisis. A year ago, the first man – or woman – had co-vid, as it’s now called. Corona was always a bit of a mouthful. One person in Wuhan, China. A young doctor was persecuted for announcing it to a group of fellow doctors. He was decried for causing trouble. He died of the disease. Now almost a quarter of a million dead in the US, and Donald Trump, still not conceding, still uncaring of his people dying. More than 55 million cases around the world, and more than one million deaths- 80% of them in older people.
Sarah from North Hampton, in the UK, rings me for my birthday. We talk for over an hour. She works as an admin person in a busy hospital, and is very relieved that Boris has now mandated that in hospitals, masks must be worn when staff are visiting patients, or in the corridors to their offices- but still not in offices. So Sarah is always at risk ,because people burst into her office, maskless, to show her their pics of their toddler’s first steps! No wonder there are 55 million dead in the UK! They’re about to go into partial lockdowns.
Do lockdowns work?
I tell her about Melbourne, now with double donut days. She repeats the name, delighted.
The policy here has been, go in early, go in hard.
She tells me that Boris’ lock-down is half-hearted. No one knows if he’s taking the advice of scientists. Whereas here,
the scientists have become celebrities. Yo can even buy a Brett Sutton cushion.
For my birthday, I’ve asked for an off-grid dishwasher. I sound like a 1950s woman grateful for an iron for her birthday, but the truth is, dishwashing is a major job here, and it usually falls to me, because GG is trying to seal up a broken fly -screen, fix up a dud garden sprinkler, or he’s underneath the sink trying to make a drain drain. As I’ve said before, converting a holiday shack and workshed into a home is thousands of exasperating little jobs. so I mustn’t complain if I’m the one getting most of the meals, and washing up. Anyway, I’m a better cook. I’m adventurous and like to try new recipes, whereas GG worries the food into life, or death. And never tastes it till it’s on the table, and he’s sitting down. GG texts our wonderful builder with his grey streaked with gold hair and his no-immune system about my birthday present. He texts back- he’ll do it “before Christmas”.
I’m longing to go back to my novel. I’s become my best friend. I’ve been going back to it for weeks now, in dribs and drabs, three hours here, four hours there.It feels more and more like my little corner of the world. I don’t want to give it to anyone. I’m so glad those women at the publishers hated it. They were right! I didn’t see it before, early in the lock-down. Do i have to thank the lock down for seeing that it was far too plot-driven, it had little humour, little humanity? It was good to go away here to this quiet place, to get out of the retrace, to stop justifying myself. I’d written it too fast. out of a blinding white rage. I’m finding that one of the themes that’s been unconsciously obsessing me is beauty – does a woman have a better life if she’s beautiful? I was the plain daughter of a very beautiful mother who relied on her beauty. I’ve had a much happier life, though plain. I needed time to see that theme.
I wander up the track because i see Gr and C’s boat at their jetty. Only Gr is there but we sit on rocks near his door and talk native plants. Gr is the person who started our bush regeneration by getting hold of a list of plants that used to grow here. Two hundred years of people determined to have English gardens, as I was, has yanked out a lot of natural beauty.
As we talk, a bird starts up nearby with a strange creaking noise.
That’s the blue satin bower bird, he says. This is Gr’s picture:
Then he shows me a photo of an orchid he found blooming at the top of the ridge. he describes exactly where- when you step off the path at the top, you head towards the point and look at the ridge below, left.
This is why I love conversations here. People talk what to me seems real talk. Gr is a mechanic, but enchanted by nature. Once I would’ve thought that was a contradiction. I had such limited views. As soon as possible, I’ll hike up to the ridge to see it for myself. GG won’t be able to come- his back is too bad.
But how to celebrate my birthday? I ask for a trip up the creek. Our creek goes for seven km, carving its way through high mountains and deserted bushland until it becomes a waterfall, which I’ve never got to. We don’t often go up the creek because you must judge the tides right – go up at the start of a high tide, and come back well before the low gets too low. GG has seemed uncertain about how to celebrate in a place without handy restaurants, by which I mean that he hasn’t a clue. I come up with a bright idea. Why not put my birthday off till tomorrow, when it’s predicted to be very hot? We’ll love the trip, it’s always cool up the creek, it’ll be a good way to hide from the heat. GG is relieved. So we put it off. Will we regret it? Every decision we make these days, seems fraught.