Life Interrupted – 10

We are back in lockdown. Six weeks; four reasons to leave your homes and wearing masks is now mandatory. There’s a judicial enquiry into how we got back here but from the outside it seems to be a mix of human frailty and doing things on the run.

This is just my life now and its alright. I have the sweet boys for company and cuddles, the frog orchestra plays on, magpies chortle and the daffodils have started to burst into bloom.

The virus is now affecting the most vulnerable in the community – that is both aged care residents, and people who work casually. I find this devastating. These workers are often from migrant backgrounds, doing low paid, insecure work. They are in a position where they feel they have to go to work because they have no other choice.

I worked casually for long periods in the last ten years. To pay my mortgage, I went to work sick because you don’t have sick leave (or holiday leave) and if you don’t work you don’t get paid. With casual work if you say no to shifts, it’s likely you will get offered less in the future.

In yesterday’s press conference Daniel Andrews said that prevalence of insecure work in society was a public health issue – he is right. The people who have gone to work have done so because they have no other options. – they need to pay rent, feed their families and ensure they have work when this is over.

The state government have taken steps to address this, which is a good start. But the pandemic has brought this issue into sharp focus, and a bigger conversation needs to be had about how we got here and what we need to ensure all people have access to paid sick leave in the future.

As a lover of history, I take great comfort in knowing people have survived through plagues and pandemics before. The Great Plague of London in 1665-1666 killed 15% of the population of London – around 100,000 people. With almost no medical knowledge and people literally dropping dead on the streets, it must have been terrifying.

In the book A Journal of a Plague Year, Daniel Defoe writes that one of the drivers of the spread was rich people coming to poor areas of London to view the situation. They then took the disease back to their families and communities. It mentions that if people just stayed at home the disease would not have spread so far.

Does that sound familiar? It’s comforting that in four-hundred years people haven’t changed that much. There were people not doing the right thing then and public health officials trying to minimise the impact. More importantly, they got through it and survived – just as we will.

Going out is incredibly stressful and wearing a mask is not much fun, even if I do have pretty ones. So far it’s a toss up between hyperventilating and trying not to throw up because my body thinks I can’t breathe. I can breathe but I have to consciously tell myself that I’m ok.

It’s just something I have to get used to, as do all of us for as long as we are told too. And except for a few people with valid reasons and a few dropkicks with none, most people are doing their part and wearing them.

It’s challenging, you get so many cues from a person’s expression that you can’t get now and you have to listen harder because everyone is a bit muffled. But at this point most people will do anything to help flatten the curve a second time, so we will all just do it.

Right now my thoughts are with those in leadership in the state, the health officials and frontline workers who must be exhausted. It’s with the people in retail having to wear masks all day, for healthcare workers and families grieving the loss of loved ones they can’t visit.

I’ve been writing these since March, watching the seasons come and go via my lounge room windows. It’s almost August and the darkest coldest part of winter. We will still be as the season change again. But spring always follows winter and new life starts to bloom.