After isolation

In the driver’s seat and turning the key I notice the windshield is dusty. It’s nearly a month since my car went anywhere. It’s been in quarantine too.


Having reversed out the garage I change gears. Crunch. Like a dawn golfer on the opening tee-block I’m easing into my routines.


Up the end of our street I see a girl, bent down in the driveway, admiring her chalk drawings of pink and blue on the grubby concrete. Home-schooled, her Art lesson’s done.


I’ve not been outside in Australia since early March. April 1st is a fitting date to tiptoe out. Over the past fourteen days the mostly imagined, newsfeed horror of supermarket fights, deserted malls and shut playgrounds has battered me. A girl drawing out the front of her home is a welcoming image; at once pristine and sweetly unknowing.


Heading towards the city Anzac Highway is quiet although a bus cuts me off. I almost applaud. The ancient annoyances are now likely to comfort. I see an old man at a bus-stop. Squatting next to him is his terrier. Both appear calm. There’s a patience about them. What choice do we have?


Triple J is playing something antagonising. Maybe now, I’m finally too old. I push the radio button for Triple M. Some dire 1980’s song. Maybe not.


I pass the monolithic and charmless Highway Inn, all shut except for its drive through. It’s mid-morning, but a couple utes are in there. Taking opportunities when they can. Never have I so acutely felt the tension between self and family and community.


Up near South Road a new petrol station is being built. Half a dozen tradies are in the forecourt, on the canopy, putting in windows. Previously, I’d connect this to cars, fossil fuels, climate change. But today it’s a reluctant symbol of growth and hope.


I then see an old BP. Fuel is 84 cents. This seems more 1991 and not 2020. I rub the back of my neck. No. No mullet there. The day before we flew to Sweden fuel was $1.40.


On our final night in isolation I shaved off the first-ever beard I’d grown. Confinement offered opportunity too. The patio pavers enjoyed their first pressure clean in a decade. Claire got stuck into the cupboards. I rang family and friends. Sat in the sun.


Arriving at work to collect a camera for the globally-compulsory Zoom meetings, I pulled into the barren carpark.


I was also there for my flu shot.


In our world of heightened immuno-consciousness, this seemed an urgent idea. I fumbled for my security tag.



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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Mickey my wife saw something strange the other day in the supermarket. A woman was standing at a side counter, mask on, looking around as if tense about the social distancing. Then she got served.

    “ Packet of Molboro Reds please”

    More frightened of the virus than lung cancer. Strange days.

  2. Marlboro

  3. Thanks Dips. My drive wasn’t as unsettling as I thought it could be. But there’s much to still see including a supermarket!

    The woman your wife saw reminds me of the folk who order a massive feed of FKC. And a diet coke!

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Welcome back to isolation from isolation Mickey.
    Half an hour ago I went out and started my car, it hasn’t been started or gone anywhere since last Wednsday. Happy to report it still goes.

    When I’m struggling with Triple J I now head to Double J. Fantastic station for those of us in our demographic, much better than Triple M and their offering of overplayed 80’s & 90’s rock.

  5. Mickey, did you consider extending your isolation ???

  6. Smokie- I was in no rush to leave. In many ways it had been an idyllic fortnight, but if I’d been alone it may have been nightmarish. If I didn’t need to go to work I may well have stayed home voluntarily at least for another day or two. However, just got back from collecting dinner with the boys (from the Broady- $10 schnitzels) and we went down Jetty Road and along the esplanade. It was reassuring to see people, mostly in pairs, strolling about and enjoying the autumn evening. Nothing too post-apocalyptic.

    Luke- I rarely feel older than when I hear a Triple J announcer say, “X has dropped a new album overnight.” I scream to myself ranting, “Dropped? You mean released!”

  7. My golf course closed today. Went down for the solitary last hit for likely a few months. Memories of learning the game at Yorketown when I was 14. Trial and error. Working things out as I go. Not much changed in 50 years. Today the Indian Ocean is the western boundary. Salt lake borders then and now.
    Family with dog collide head on half way down the third. Tell them it’s all theirs tomorrow but a certain distance advised today. Nerves kick in playing in front of such a crowd. The father jokes that I won’t have to worry about it tomorrow. Forced smile.
    Along the foreshore swimmers and walkers gather in wide circles. Lamenting the absence of work where last week they rued it’s intrusions. Maypole dancers with invisible ribbons.

  8. Rulebook says

    Mickey a scary world where we don’t know the direction still plenty of aussies with the attitude we will be right mate ever so slowly the realization is clicking in how serious this is the mental health problems and financially is going to be felt for generations

  9. Listen to Joy Division – Isolation. Depressing but early 1980s brilliant.

  10. Golf was among the remaining avenues of exercised and comraderie, but seems to have fallen too. At least we can still walk and run, or jog in my case, PB.

    Rulebook- I’d like to think the old saying that things are never as good/bad as they seem is true here, but I’m not so sure…

    Dips- last week I became convinced that if I googled “Iso Blues” there’d be at least a couple folks in kitchens strumming some basic 12 bar to some fairly obvious lyrics. But nothing and still nothing today. Step up, amateur musos!

  11. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Woke up this mornin’ de ner de ner
    Cain’t go out the front door de ner de ner
    Went to the shitter de ner de ner
    Got no paper no more de ner de ner
    Stale weetbix for breakfast de ner de ner
    Stale saladas for lunch de ner de ner
    Ain’t nothin’ on TV de ner de ner
    Just some old Brady Bunch de ner de ner

    I got them oooollllldddd I-sol-ation Blues
    I got them oooooooollllllddddd I—–sol I-solation Bluuuuuuueeess
    De ner de ner de ner de ner de ner ner ner ner

  12. Peter Fuller says

    I’m grateful for the existence of the Almanac community, as it gives us a sense of sharing the burdens of this troubled time. I’m uneasy even about running, as there is a feeling that we should be minimising any activity beyond the domestic sphere. I got caught out yesterday when I took my two cabin fevered grandsons out on their bikes to the local park. They raced ahead of me and climbed the monkey bars. As we approached from the “wrong” side, we were oblivious to the sign which advised the closure of the playground, which was drawn to my attention by a woman walking her dog. I withdrew with my tail between my legs.
    I was also struck by this article which suggested that Sweden is treating the crisis with unique insouciance.

  13. Where’s the YouTube video Swish?

  14. Swish- thanks for those. The double negative in line 4 is an absolute treat. While I’m sure your version would be excellent, I reckon Elmore James would handle it well too. Expect A&R to call soon.

    Peter- That’s unfortunate, but I hope the person who pointed it out wasn’t too brutal. Having just returned from Sweden a few weeks’ ago there was nothing in place to suggest the position we were in. It did seem to be an island and I wouldn’t want to say it was one of ignorance but crossing the bridge back to Denmark, the contrast was extraordinary.

    PB- I expect it will be pay per view.

  15. roger lowrey says

    Great to have you back Mickey. Pity about missing Oakbank but there’s always next year.

    A lot of it very strange around Geelong too. One notable exception is the fruit & veg shop I frequent. It rarely has any customers in it during normal trading as everyone seems to think it is wholesale only.

    As Johannes B-P would have said “they’re wrong wrong wrong Jana!”

    As usual I was the only one there this afternoon greeted warmly by the rather bored staff. And I get a 10% discount as well.

  16. Paul Spinks says

    Thanks, Mickey, for the scouting report.

    I get out tomorrow. Hasn’t been more than a minor inconvenience, though looking forward to a walk, which will probably take me straight to a take-away coffee and chocolate croissant for cholesterol realigning.

    Fully expect the real world to be much calmer than that portrayed by media dramatisations.

  17. Thanks Roger. Took me a moment to remember who Johannes B-P was! I initially thought of classical composers but Sir Joh would never be accused of that.

    Hope it’s gone well Paul. As always our media is largely ridiculous. I know it’s partly my fault but the first I knew of the passing of Bruce Dawe was on this very site and PB’s excellent tribute. At that point the Guardian hadn’t even covered it. Thanks.

  18. Sounds like you had a pretty great time in Iso Mickey. Your ability to observe simple scenes and find wonder and meaning in them greatly moves me. I wonder what your line; “Never have I so acutely felt the tension between self and family and community.” means? Thanks for a great read Mickey.

  19. Photos of the beard?

    Enjoyed your account Mickey.

  20. Thanks Someone. Very kind thoughts.

    JTH- appreciate it. Beard now just an eternally itchy memory.

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