In isolation in a Sydney hotel, what goes through your mind?

Richard Marlow Feb 2020 48 degrees below under the Northern Lights


I have been asked by my friend Stuart to reflect on what has been happening for me and how it has affected me from a personal point of view. In a recent phone call as we chatted, he commented on the fact that I am going through several stages of grief and it’s perfectly normal to feel what I have been feeling in my heart and my head. So here goes….


Yes, I have been denied true connection with family – and have found the issue of staying strong though to live out for the sake of my friends and stay positive to be exceedingly hard ,to say the least, and yet I snap out of it quick smart when remembering that a lot of people are worse off than me.


Now ,by the grace of God (as my partner reminded me), I’m not on a ventilator or fighting for my life in a hospital bed. Then there are those times when I am being fed various meals (which have been, at times, of dubious standard to say the least!!!) that have been character building in my negative reaction and yet I have to remind
myself that the Government is paying for me to be safe in a five star hotel in the centre of Sydney and the fact I am safe and in Australia and not in Spain or Italy or the USA is a sobering thought.


Yes, I have felt the power of frustration, so what causes it? Well, there is the denial for a tactile bloke like me to enjoy a look and a smile, of the celebration of true human connection, of not being able to hug and catch someone in the eye or tap them on the shoulder has been exceedingly difficult. Even prisoners get to go to an exercise yard and relate to each no matter how positive or negative the connection may be, it’s still a human connection.


Cabin fever struck me really badly yesterday on day 8 of my isolation. I was overwhelmed with a wave of emotion that was hard to duck, dive and swim through as it were. To make safely to the other side of the wave was hard to achieve emotionally. The Cabin Fever made me feel like the large squishy proverbial cow pat inside.


I have found that through these unique circumstances, to have been denied true family and friend reconnection, and the process of truly being able to grieve the fact of leaving the wonderful, mesmerising Arctic with the dancing northern lights and coming back into “normal society” has been hijacked in a major way. There will be no welcome home BBQ or party to celebrate and let’s look at Rich’s pictures. Whilst in the Arctic, I was craving just going to the shops or relaxing, having a good steak and some decent coffee and now……??


This begs the question: what is normal society? It’s been tipped on its head by the dynamics of social distancing ,and we, as a global society, are having to discover the true humanity of who we are. The profound idea that the superficial is suddenly not important… you know going and getting the latest fashion item or browsing at the shops is a luxury we cannot afford for safety’s sake at this time.


I realise that I have been in a unique situation where, in the community in Canadian Western Arctic that I was part of, there was no range of shops, just a co-op and a Northern (the old Hudson’s Bay trading store), no pharmacy, no newsagent, no magazines, no coffee shop, no movies, no hairdressers or barber (hence my Leo Sayer hairdo!!!), no sporting facilities, no places to hang out , no pub. Just good internet connections and warm places to live, and yet I could walk outside and feel the raw wonder of the cold of the mountains teasing me with their beauty in the distance or the fact that the silence of the wilderness was just so profound and haunting in such a life-lifting way.


I have spent the last 8 months in an isolated community above the Arctic Circle, so what is another 14 days to deal with, let alone another 14 days of isolation back home in Queensland that looms once I leave NSW, whenever that date is?


So, in my hotel room, like my one-bedroom place in Fort McPherson North West Territories Canada, I have a bathroom, good internet (most of the time), a comfy bed and the chance to connect through the phone messenger etc, and yet I am contained in an unnatural environment ….in spite of what people say about luxury hotels. As a result, I can’t go outside, I can’t hear the birds in the trees, or feel the scrunch of the sand or the softness of the grass between my toes. But all good things come to those who wait… I guess!!!


So what I am feeling? A sense of powerlessness and yet protection all at the same time. Being Easter time, it’s kind of like my “Gethsemane” moment where I know I have to go through it and trust that things will be OK but that I am still to face even greater challenges of what the future holds in terms of career, family dynamics, and just what happens next. The latest fashion or coffee variety is not going to sustain me or the self-gratification of a whole host of superficial things. The kernel of truth that I have discovered, and the overwhelming thoughtful insightful thing is that …


I must rely upon in a deeply profound hope that my faith, the wisdom of the eternal truth of God’s love in action, my family and those who call me friend or colleague is what will sustain me for the difficult days ahead.


check out my latest video Day 8 blues (with apologies to Green Day!!) Whilst there, check out my channel. I’ve uploaded a lot more videos of my time in the north for people to enjoy.



PS  Would love to know how you are going in your part of the world.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Richard Marlow

a humble middle-years teacher in a “middle of the road” private school in Brisbane having being a pastor, a youth worker, a school chaplain, a bank johnnie – 3 different banks, worked in Jails, driven a cab and been in bands amongst other things.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Great effort Richard, thoroughly enjoyed your exploits on the journey back home. You must be so relieved to be back!

  2. Your five star Sydney quarantine period sounds far more isolated than the time you’ve spent in the Arctic.

    I have found it hard to understand that there are no options for leaving hotel rooms to, at least, a balcony or like. The idea of being in a room unable to open a window, or get access to fresh air for 14 days seems completely unreasonable.

    Best wishes for settling back in.

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