Almanac Life: A postcard to Life

 

 

Dear Life,

 

Well it is mid-August here in Brunswick East and we are locked down, a phrase which here means “confined to our homes unless for a very good reason.” Glorious winter blooms of golden wattle fade from dazzling yellow to dusty gold and some now have fallen, where they collect in windswept clusters on the margins of the street. August sipped away; slipped away. Spring looms ahead of us and with it the coming fire season.

 

Since 2013 I have been lucky enough to have had stories published here at the Almanac. And by August most years, usually at least one story has been about footy. But not this year. This year my stories have been about this Time of Coronavirus.

 

I find this Time of Coronavirus episode compelling, hopeful, sickening, sad, galvanising and instructive of so much in the world. In March I felt hopeful. In April I read Albert Camus’s The Plague and by May I felt curious. By the June Solstice a journey by foot around my neighbourhood told me more than any opinion piece. And by July I was left with gentle piss-taking.

 

So I send this postcard to you, dear Life, from Melbourne lockdown.

 

Lockdown is a curious thing that I feel not as restrictive, nor punitive. Rather I feel lockdown as something performed with great care and with great love. Yes, I feel that observing and participating in lockdown are acts of love for ourselves and for our communities.

 

Life in lockdown can feel a bit faceless. Today marks Day 149 since I last travelled to my regular city office. Face masks abound. Every adult wears one; in the street, supermarket, park – everywhere. Under our current Stage 4 restrictions, we are not to move further than 5km from home. Curfew is observed from 8pm-5am. Three weeks have passed of what was announced as a six-week arrangement.

 

Thankfully I continue to work a 0.6 full time equivalent time fraction over five (predominantly) mornings per week. I work from our bedroom, on my work laptop, plugged into a work monitor with a work keyboard, a work mouse. In April we bought a small desk to support this arrangement. Nothofagus cunninghamii until recently worked from our spare room, while our daughters work from other rooms in the house on their remote schooling (Year 9 and Year 7), from where they dial into Webex lessons, learn and are assessed remotely by the local High School. We all break for “recess” and for “lunch.” Living school hours is good for all of us. At recess we break for a piece of cake and some trash talk. We sometimes discuss the day’s announced number of new COVID-19 cases. Sometimes we play battleships or Monopoly Deal. Before we disperse once more for our separate online worlds.

 

We meet again at lunchtime. I have been reading aloud to the Buds again; just as I did each night when they were very young. These past few weeks we have picked up Lemony Snickett’s A series of unfortunate events after a break of many years. I love it.

 

Recently N cunninghamii took on some work based in the city. We remain grateful that we each still have work. And thankful for laughter and music and fun in our house. And for our dog. We’re thankful for our dog Pip, who was always an object of overt affection. She has become a shared totem of love between us all. We’re going OK.

 

There seems to be a lot of hanging about. The Buds and I have always been good at that.

 

When I finish my work day, I look after household matters. Usually that means that I make a plan for dinner and walk to the supermarket. Once a week I vacuum the house and clean the bathrooms and the toilets. Sometimes I noodle around on the ukulele. Bud Oon often works a bit beyond her school hours. Bud Yum often goes for a walk or to climb trees in the park.

 

By around 5pm one of us takes Pip for her afternoon walk. Maybe we go the footy ground, maybe down to the creek. If that job is not mine, I stretch my legs with a walk around the neighbourhood streets.

 

 

 

 

Since 24 March, I have had precisely zero haircuts, worn my Blundstone boots every day and loaded 17 examples of me singing and playing ukulele to a YouTube channel. The ukulele business started in the week before Coronavirus hit in March, when some wonderfully supportive friends encouraged me to play and sing for the first time in front of a live audience (‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’) It was something I never believed I would do. But the encouragement and support of others allowed me to find something inside myself. During Lockdown 1.0, I recorded one song from The Joshua Tree album per day for 11 days and posted them to friends. Since then, I seem to have recorded other flotsam and jetsam of life, such as ‘Tangled up in blue’ by Bob Dylan, ‘Heavy heart’ by You Am I and ‘Nice dream’ by Radiohead. I see myself not as a singer nor as uke player, but as someone trying to raise morale. Aiming to raise a smile. Like a jester.

 

As for the writing – I don’t write much any more. Years ago, I would write after the Buds each went to bed. But that doesn’t happen until maybe 9:30-10pm these days. Or later. And by then I am too tired to begin creating much.

 

For a period, I harboured dreams of writing a long story (maybe even a book!) about my car accident, broken neck, head injury and medical model of recovery and recovering a sense of self, etc etc – which I did manage to start. I even had a manuscript assessed by Writers Victoria. Maybe I will concentrate more on that. I do probably have access to the odd block of 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there throughout a day. Though concentration is a major difficulty for me at the best of times.

 

Otherwise, in terms of COVID-19, I’m mostly OK. Lockdown is alright. Not great. But alright. I seem to have responded by posting those songs and photos to social media. Maybe doing so is a cry for connection. I’m not sure. Each day I enjoy taking photographs of things that inspire me. Which is healthy enough. For whatever reason, since 7 July I have posted 16 photos that describe my day, in the form of a matrix – inspired by the album cover of Achtung Baby. And I feel humbled to have been contacted by many people about those photos.

 

I usually take up the plan and cook the evening meal. Our gathering for dinner is the highlight of my day. We all sit around the big wooden table and the stories, opinions and personalities fly.

 

After dinner, Bud Oon usually shares video calls with friends. Bud Yum might send messages backwards and forwards. Often we sit down together to watch an old episode of Survivor or of The Simpsons. Old series are streamed on one of the many providers – we began our Simpsons odyssey at Series 1, Episode 1. There is something magical about sitting alongside my daughters (aged 13 and 14), watching and enjoying a program that I first saw when I was 14-years-old. The satire hits exactly where it did all those years ago. I guess that is partly a commentary on the brilliant writing of the show, partly an indictment on the ways of the world.

 

In terms of footy, footy season never really began in my mind. Local leagues here in Melbourne never began. This is not a footy story. I have not watched a second of Collingwood in 2020. The only footage I’ve seen was the first quarter of a game between Gold Coast and St Kilda, played somewhere green on a TV screen. Instead I find myself drawn to fiction and to art and to games.

 

I wonder what the future holds for us and for COVID-19. I wonder whether concepts of our own vulnerability (to injury, accident, misadventure, luck?) will ever take hold. I wonder about luck and about merit and I wonder about fairness and about justice.

 

And I know that these are not things that I can influence. So now I will put on my Blundstones and walk again with art. I will look to the sky. Taylor Swift will sing her sublime stories of Folklore right into my ears. Or Bob Dylan with his Rough and rowdy ways. Light will glint from a window. A dog will wag its tail. A tree will sway in the breeze.

 

This postcard will find you, Dear Life, I know it will. Because you are right here. You are writing this with me. You have not paused, life. You have merely changed course a bit, like a lowland river in a time of flood, reminding us that none of us is control. You taught me that in 1995, when I was a passenger in a car accident. And you remind me again now. The answer was always blowin’ in the wind.

 

 

Read more from E. regnans (David Wilson) HERE

 

 

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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. Very nice, e.r.
    There is a lot of time for ruminating at the moment, and it sounds like you have been doing your share.

    My concern is for the younger generation, such as your buds, and my sons who are all in their early 20’s. It seems as if their future has been put on hold through no fault of their own. They too want to experience the good times that we were fortunate enough to enjoy.

    Loose ends. So many loose ends.

    I often wonder what we will make of this time of Coronavirus in five years time, in ten years time.

  2. I think many will relate to your observations ER. I know our family does. We’ve been accepting of it all – and I wonder how long that will last.

    Much to consider in your piece, as always.

    The evening meal has certainly become a highlight. Discussions about what we’re having take place much earlier in the day! And the decision is sometimes cheered!

    I watched the Theroux doco on the Californian prison last night on the ABC – which made me contemplate the nature of incarceration. And to consider what we have at the moment in Lockdown Melbourne. I found his doco pretty chilling although the Australian doco ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ from the 1990s was even more chilling.

    Thanks for your piece – which was not chilling at all. Indeed, it was comforting.

  3. OBP as always lots to ponder likewise I have watched v little footy and extremely concerned re the future for our kids also almost a sense of guilt that,SA has been able to continue on it’s a incredible country with such varying circumstances at present thank you

  4. Thea Allan says

    Thank you ER. I live in the country so don’t have that lockdown to contend with.
    I like that you look at the lockdown not as a punitive measure.
    My daughter and family did live in Brunswick, but moved the week before Easter to Nth Coburg.
    They feel much better about lockdown because they have more room to move and work.
    I feel for all of you in lockdown and delight in seeing the numbers falling again.

  5. ER – this reads like a lovely floating letter to a God. Your God. Whoever or whatever that is.

    St ER’s letter to the Corinthians.

    Its great that old traditions; family building traditions like the evening meal are making a comeback. Even though it has been forced on many I hope that these little things begin to permeate through society again. They give our day substance.

    As you say, none of us is in control even though we might think we are. These times confirm we are definitely not. And that’s what makes things interesting. Perhaps not always good, but interesting.

  6. A catch up at the North Fitzroy Arms by any other name; that’s my feeling when I read your missives on the screen from my own work desk, E.r.

    Thanks again for putting your thoughts, feelings and observations into the universe. Go well.

  7. Thanks Er. I, too, read this letter of gratitude from my work desk as the week concludes and I venture into a weekend.

    I loved the journey through your life as it is and as Jarrod comments above it’s like the North Fitzroy Arms chat we might’ve had. I hope we can have this conversation next year.

    Best regards.

  8. Colin Ritchie says

    Magnificent ER! It can be difficult to put into words the feelings one has during these demanding times but you have done it so beautifully, and as always nailed it on the head. I eagerly await the publication of your book/s ER. Pleased Bob is getting mentions, check out his middle 60s stuff, it’s fantastic. Peace & love.

  9. Hayden Kelly says

    ER
    Thanks for that I found it comforting as well as it’s easy too relate to . Was reflecting last night when i was outside on little things i miss and thought jeez its Thursday night I wish i could see the lights at Keilor footy ground and hear the shouts of players at training to their team mates in their final prep for Saturday . I wish i could hear the siren on Sundays when the kids are playing . We will get through this but i have huge concerns re the impact on the 18 to 30 group as from the perspective of a 66 year old they are the most impacted group .
    For me having dogs is a huge bonus and i am privy to the joy of observations from two 6 year old kids both in Prep . My grand daughter and the boy across the road . I was thinking tonight i should write about them and your article has forced my hand
    That’s next weeks task
    Cheers
    Hayden Kelly
    The Muse

  10. Nicole Kelly says

    David, this is such a beautiful piece. I love the hopeful overtones of it. Yes, life is different and that’s okay. The idea of reading to your kids over lunch was full of feeling and I look for your photo montages each day on Twitter. I say definitely pull out that manuscript.

  11. Frank Taylor says

    Once again Tall man you have shared, written beautifully, on the contemplation of The 2020 Plague.
    And not with anger, as so many have. Whatever will be, will be. And, like me, footy this year just hasn’t done it for me, just hasn’t hit it. Feels like an Easter Holiday Round Robin prior to the season, and not to be taken seriously…….
    Had a lovely chat with one of my teenage neighbors yesterday and realizing that these are unprecedented times she was amazingly reflective and positive.
    Hope…..
    Cheers
    Frank

  12. G’day all.
    Thanks for taking the time to read & comment. Wonderful.
    It’s teeming down here on Saturday arvo.
    Smokie – yes young uns have it tough. We probably all find it tough in different ways. I also wonder how this time will be remembered in the future.
    JTH – acceptance comes & goes here. It remains the resting state. But yes, I presume that will not always be so. Our circumstances are relatively good (healthy, employed, safe). Very aware that many do not enjoy these things.
    OBP – long may your Adelaide remain relatively free of COVID-19. Damn thing is so contagious!
    Thea – I’m glad you do not live under lockdown. Yes, room to move is a blessing. Very grateful for the small things. We have a tiny back yard and we live close to a park. We are lucky.
    Dips – thanks. I find that an interesting observation. Last year I was asked to write a poem to “your God, to the universe, to a tree…” with the idea of communing with something bigger than ourselves. On that day I wrote to “Life.” I guess maybe that is my God, in some ways.
    Thanks Jarrod. One day soon.
    Yes Mickey. Soon. (or not).
    Col – I will definitely follow the path of B Dylan that you advocate. I feel pretty fortunate to be starting now.
    Muse – the dog has been enormous for us. I love your observation of the *absence* of sounds.
    Nicole – thanks for your vote of confidence. it helps.
    Frank – Hope, indeed. I’m guilty of overthinking many things. But hope is not one of them.

    Thanks again everyone.
    Stay safe. Love to you and yours.

  13. Luke Reynolds says

    ER- thanks for the postcard. Find your words uplifting in a very hard time.

    Love your home routine. Especially The Simpson’s from season 1, episode 1! As acclaimed as that show is, I feel it is still underrated in terms of writing and humour. It’s been top notch for a very, very long time.

    All the best to you, the Buds and Nothofagus cunninghamii. Write that book, I’d love to read it. Our next beer at the NFA will be superb.

  14. Enjoyable read david, meandering and winding; a bit like some of my walks.

    feel like im about to start scratching at walls though! esp after the weekends.

    greatest effect in our household is that of my 15 year old.. no car, no work, no escape. Challenging on so many levels for everyone.

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